Frank Hubert MCNAMARA VC, OBE

MCNAMARA, Frank Hubert

Service Number: Officer
Enlisted: 6 January 1916, Broadmeadows, Victoria
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
Born: Rushworth, Victoria, Australia, 4 April 1894
Home Town: Rushworth, Campaspe, Victoria
Schooling: Rushworth Public School & Shepparton Agricultural School
Occupation: Teacher
Died: Hypertensive heart failure, Amersham, Buckinghamshire, England, 2 November 1961, aged 67 years
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
Memorials: Keith Payne VC Memorial Park, North Bondi War Memorial, Red Bluff State School Pictorial HR, Winchelsea WWI Memorial
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World War 1 Service

6 Jan 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Broadmeadows, Victoria
16 Mar 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
16 Mar 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Lieutenant, No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, HMAT Orsova, Melbourne
9 Jan 1917: Involvement Australian Flying Corps, Lieutenant, No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, Battle of Rafa
20 Mar 1917: Honoured Victoria Cross, Battles of Gaza
20 Apr 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, SN Officer, Australian Flying Corps (AFC)
22 Dec 1917: Involvement Australian Flying Corps, Lieutenant, No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, Battle of Magdhaba
31 Dec 1919: Discharged AIF WW1

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Biography

"Frank Hubert (Francis) McNamara (1894-1961), airman, teacher and administrator, was born on 4 April 1894 at Rushworth, Victoria, son of William Francis McNamara, an officer of the Department of Lands, and his wife Rosanna, née O'Meara, both Victorian born. Educated at Rushworth local school and Shepparton Agricultural High School, he was appointed a junior teacher in the State Education Department in March 1911 and in 1913-14 studied at the Teachers' Training College, Melbourne, for a diploma. After graduating he was a temporary teacher in 1915 at four schools.

McNamara had joined the senior cadets while still at school and in 1913 was commissioned in the 46th Infantry Battalion (Brighton Rifles). He was mobilized on the outbreak of World War I and carried out garrison duty at Queenscliff and Point Nepean fixed defences before attending the Officers' Training School, Broadmeadows, in December 1914. He was then an instructor at the Australian Imperial Force's training depot, Broadmeadows, until August 1915, when he was selected for the military aeronautics course at Point Cook Flying School. He graduated as a pilot in October and after attending an advanced officers' course was posted to No.1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, as adjutant when that unit was being formed in Melbourne as part of the A.I.F. The squadron sailed for Egypt on 5 January 1916 but McNamara went on to England where he was attached to No.42 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, from May to July. He qualified at a course at the Central Flying School, Upavon, and returned to Egypt as an instructor with No.22 Squadron, R.F.C., before rejoining No.1 Squadron, A.F.C., later that year. While serving with this unit he became the first Australian airman to receive the Victoria Cross.

In March 1917 the allies were planning an attack on Gaza and an important Turkish supply centre known as Junction Station was subjected to repeated air attacks by No.1 Squadron, and No.14 Squadron, R.F.C. On 20 March an Australian aircraft from No.1 Squadron, piloted by Captain D. Rutherford, was forced to land after being hit by ground fire. Although his aircraft, a BE-2C, was a two-seater, he was flying solo at the time. A large body of enemy cavalry which was close by had seen the aircraft land and galloped towards it. McNamara, who had been on the same raid and had been wounded after encountering heavy anti-aircraft fire, was on his way home. He saw what was happening and despite a severe leg wound decided to attempt a rescue. He was able to make a safe landing beside Rutherford who at once climbed aboard McNamara's aircraft. However, this was a Martinsyde, a single-seater, and he could only stand on the wing and hold on to the struts. His weight made the aircraft very lop-sided and his presence in the airstream added extra drag to one side. Owing to his wound, and these extra problems, McNamara was unable to control his machine on the rough ground and crashed it badly on attempting to take off.

The two airmen, who were uninjured, set fire to McNamara's aircraft and returned to Rutherford's machine, which by this time was close to capture by the Turkish cavalry. Also, by then, the enemy had begun firing at the escaping airmen, and with bullets kicking up the sand nearby, McNamara managed to climb into the pilot's seat while Rutherford went to work on the engine. While McNamara provided what covering fire he could with his revolver and with the enemy almost upon them, Rutherford swung the heavy four-bladed propellor. Fortunately the engine fired at the first attempt and Rutherford jumped into the observer's seat as McNamara gave the aircraft full throttle.

Despite some damage to the struts and fuselage, and with McNamara fighting pain and close to unconsciousness from loss of blood, he managed to get them off the ground safely. He then flew them back a distance of some seventy miles (113 km) to their home base at El Arish where he carried out a safe landing but lost consciousness from loss of blood and an allergic reaction to an injection. For this brilliant rescue, carried out under extremely hazardous conditions and under heavy enemy fire, McNamara received the only V.C. awarded to an Australian airman in World War I. A painting by Septimus Power, depicting the dramatic escape of the two pilots, is in the Australian War Memorial collection." - READ MORE LINK (adb.anu.edu.au)

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