George McElroy

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This article is about a Irish fighter pilot from Dublin. For the African American journalist from Houston, Texas, see George A. McElroy.

Captain George Edward Henry McElroy MC and Two Bars, DFC and Bar (b. 14 May 1893 — d. 31 July 1918) was a leading ace fighter pilot of the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force during World War I. He was credited with 47 aerial victories.[1]

George Edward Henry McElroy
Nickname(s) "Deadeye", "Mac", "McIrish"
Born 14 May 1893
Donnybrook, Dublin, Ireland
Died 31 July 1918 (aged 25)
Laventie, France
Buried at Plot I.C.1, Laventie Military Cemetery, La Gorgue, Nord, France
Allegiance British Empire
Service/branch Infantry, Air Service
Years of service 1914-1918
Rank Captain
Unit Royal Irish Regiment, 40 and 24 Squadrons
Awards Military Cross with two bars, Distinguished Flying Cross with bar

Life before aerial service[edit]

McElroy was born at Donnybrook, County Dublin, Ireland[2] to Samuel and Ellen McElroy.[3] He joined the Royal Irish Regiment[2] promptly at the start of World War I, in August, 1914, and was shipped out to France two months later. For a time, he was a motorcycle courier. He was commissioned in May 1915[2] but was severely wounded by mustard gas while serving in France, and sent home to recuperate.

He was in Dublin in April 1916, when the Easter Uprising erupted. Because he was still in the military, he was drafted to help quell the insurrection. McElroy refused to fire upon his fellow Irishmen and was transferred to a southerly garrison away from home until that autumn.[4]

Aerial service[edit]

He became intrigued by the air war. He transferred to the RFC in late 1916. He trained as a pilot at Upavon in February, 1917. From there, he joined 40 Squadron, where he benefitted from mentoring by Edward Mannock. He originally flew a Nieuport 17, but with no success in battle. By year's end McElroy was flying SE-5s[2] and claimed his first victory on 28 December.

An extremely aggressive dog-fighter who ignored often overwhelming odds, McElroy's score soon grew rapidly. He shot down two German planes in January, and by 18 February had run his string up to 11.[1]

At that point, he was transferred to command a flight in No. 24 Squadron RAF. He continued to steadily accrue victories by ones and twos. By 26 March 1918, when he was awarded the Military Cross, he was up to 18 "kills". He was injured in a landing accident on 7 April; he brushed a treetop while landing.[5] By then he had run his score to 27. While he was sidelined with his injury, on 22 April, he was awarded a bar to his Military Cross.

Following convalescence, McElroy returned to 40 Squadron in June, scoring three times, on the 26th, 28th, and 30th. The latter two triumphs were observation balloons. That ran his tally to 30.[1]

In July, he added to his score almost daily, a third balloon busting on the 1st, followed by one of the most triumphant months in the history of fighter aviation, adding 17 victims during the month. His run of success was threatened on the 20th by a vibrating engine that entailed breaking off an attack on a German two seater and a rough emergency landing that left him with scratches and bruises.[citation needed] There was a farewell luncheon that day for his friend "Noisy" Lewis; their mutual friend "Mick" Mannock pulled McElroy aside to warn him about the hazards of following a German victim down within range of ground fire.[6]

On 26 July, his mentor and friend, Edward "Mick" Mannock, was killed by ground fire. Ironically, on that same day, "McIrish" McElroy received the second Bar to his Military Cross. He was one of only ten airmen to receive the second Bar.[citation needed]

Death in action[edit]

McElroy's continued apparent disregard for his own safety when flying and fighting could have only one end. On the 31st, he reported destroying a Hannover C for his 47th victory. He then set out again. He failed to return from this flight and was posted missing. Later it was learned that McElroy had been killed by ground fire. He was 25 years old.

McElroy would receive the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously on 3 August, citing his shooting down 35 aeroplanes and three observation balloons. The Bar would arrive still later, on 21 September, and would laud his low-level attacks. In summary, McElroy shot down four enemy planes in flames and destroyed 23 others, one of which he shared destroyed with other pilots. He drove down 16 enemy craft "out of control" and out of the fight; in one of those cases, it was a shared success. He also destroyed three balloons.[7]


McElroy was interred at the Laventie Military Cemetery in northern France, as was Mick Mannock.[8]

Citations for awards and decorations[edit]

Military Cross[edit]

2nd Lt. George Edward Henry McElroy, R.G.A. and R.F.C. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He has shown a splendid offensive spirit in dealing with enemy aircraft. He has destroyed at least two enemy machines, and has always set a magnificent example of courage and initiative.

(M.C. gazetted 26 March 1918.)[1] [9]

Military Cross First Bar[edit]

2nd Lt. George Edward Henry McElroy, M.C., R.G.A., and R.F.C. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When on an offensive patrol, observing a hostile scout diving on one of our aeroplanes, he opened fire, and sent down the enemy machine in an irregular spin out of control, when it finally crashed completely. Later in the same day, he sent down another enemy machine in flames. On another occasion, when on offensive patrol, he singled one out of four enemy machines, and sent it down crashing to earth. On the same day he attacked another enemy machine, and, after firing 200 rounds, it burst into flames. On a later occasion, he opened fire on an enemy scout at 400 yards range, and finally sent it down in a slow spin out of control. In addition, this officer has brought down two other enemy machines completely out of control, his skill and determination being most praiseworthy.

Supplement to the London Gazette, 22 April 1918 (30643/4822)[1][10]

Military Cross Second Bar[edit]

Lt. (T./Capt.) George Edward Henry McElroy, M.C., R.G.A., and R.F.C. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. While flying at a height of 2,000 feet, he observed a patrol of five enemy aircraft patrolling behind the lines. After climbing into the clouds, he dived to the attack, shot down and crashed one of them. Later, observing a two-seater, he engaged and shot it down out of control. On another occasion he shot down an enemy scout which was attacking our positions with machine-gun fire. He has carried out most enterprising work in attacking enemy troops and transport and in the course of a month has shot down six enemy aircraft, which were seen to crash, and five others out of control.

Supplement to the London Gazette, 26 July 1918 (30813/8753) [1]

Distinguished Flying Cross[edit]

Lt. (T./Capt.) George Edward Henry McElroy, M.C. A brilliant fighting pilot who has destroyed thirty-five machines and three kite balloons to date. He has led many offensive patrols with marked success, never hesitating to engage the enemy regardless of their being, on many occasions, in superior numbers. Under his dashing and skilful leadership his flight has largely contributed to the excellent record obtained by the squadron.

Supplement to the London Gazette, 3 August 1918 (30827/920) [1]

Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross[edit]

Lieut. (T./Capt.) George Edward Henry McElroy, M.C., D.F.C. (Royal G. Artillery).

In the recent battles on various army fronts this officer has carried out numerous patrols, and flying at low altitudes, has inflicted heavy casualties on massed enemy troops, transport, artillery teams, etc., both with machine-gun fire and bombs. He has destroyed three enemy kite balloons and forty-three machines, accounting for eight of the latter in eight consecutive days. His brilliant achievements, keenness and dash have at all times set a fine example and inspired all who came in contact with him.

Supplement to the London Gazette, 21 September 1918 (30913/11248) [1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h [1]
  2. ^ a b c d SE5/5a Aces of World War I. p. 26. 
  3. ^ Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
  4. ^ McElroy biodata at
  5. ^ British and Empire Aces of World War I. p. 79. 
  6. ^ Franks, p. 27
  7. ^ 'Above the Trenches'; Franks, Bailey & Guest (grub street 1993)
  8. ^ CWGC website
  9. ^ London Gazette
  10. ^ London Gazette

External links[edit]