Tribute to WWII fighter ace

James "Ginger" Lacey,
James "Ginger" Lacey,
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Wetherby Civic Society has a blue plaque in sight to remember one of the town’s bravest residents 100 years after his birth.

Acclaimed World War Two fighter pilot Ginger Lacey was born on February 1 at Fairfield Villas, now the site of the new Aldi, where it is hoped the commemoration will be placed once finished.

Sherburn-in-Elmet, 1st March 1973

A course of flying lessons might seem to be a bit superfluous for a man who shot down 23 enemy planes during the Second World War.

But five years after retiring from the R. A. F. Squadron Leader James "Ginger" Lacey has decided to take up again his old job of flying instructor.

To get back his qualifications, Mr. Lacey, 54, must complete 60 hours of practical flying and studying.

His tutor, Captain Frank Morgan, chief flying instructor at Sherburn Aero Club, between Leeds and York, says, not surprisingly, that Mr. Lacey is a promising pupil.

Sherburn-in-Elmet, 1st March 1973 A course of flying lessons might seem to be a bit superfluous for a man who shot down 23 enemy planes during the Second World War. But five years after retiring from the R. A. F. Squadron Leader James "Ginger" Lacey has decided to take up again his old job of flying instructor. To get back his qualifications, Mr. Lacey, 54, must complete 60 hours of practical flying and studying. His tutor, Captain Frank Morgan, chief flying instructor at Sherburn Aero Club, between Leeds and York, says, not surprisingly, that Mr. Lacey is a promising pupil.

Peter Catton, of the civic society, said: “He is credited with shooting down 24 enemy aircraft during the Second World War.

“Amazingly he was shot down or crash landed nine times.

“Perhaps most remarkable of all, he survived the whole war physically unharmed; a credit not only to his bravery, but also his skill.”

Born James Harry Lacey, nicknamed Ginger because of his hair, he went to Crossley Street Primary and then King James’s Grammar in Knaresborough, which he left to become a trainee pharmacist in 1933.

He joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1937 and 1938 became an instructor at Yorkshire Flying School, Yeadon.

When war broke out in 1939, he was called into the RAF with the rank of Flight Sergeant and sent to France to support British troops.

“It was for his fighting during this period that he was subsequently awarded the Croix de Guerre,” added Peter.

“After the fall of France in 1940, he was one of the Few fighting in the Battle of Britain. He shot down one of the German planes which had bombed Buckingham Palace.

“He flew mainly Hurricanes and as a reward for his success he became Flight Lieutenant in 1941.

“In 1942 he was transferred to India where he fought the Japanese.”

At the end of the war he was credited with shooting down 28 confirmed, four probables and nine damaged - the second highest tally of all UK fighter pilots.

Ginger, who died in Bridlington in 1989, won a Distinguished Flying Medal and Bar, the highest bravery award below the Victoria Cross.

After the war he continued in the RAF but retired in 1967 and ran an air freight business and was an air instructor in Bridlington.

“We are hoping to put a blue plaque on the Aldi site once it is completed, in commemoration of this brave son of Wetherby,” Peter said.