Flying Officer James Hamilton Ballantyne DFM
FLYING OFFICER JAMES HAMILTON BALLANTYNE was born on the 14th January, 1918, in Toronto. His Father, also called James Ballantyne, was originally from Scotland and worked as an Aeroplane Inspector at the Department of National Defence. His Mother, born Rebecca Annie Baird, was from Ireland.
James was keen on flying from a young age. His Father said that, “He was never in the air until he joined the RCAF, but he spent a large part of his younger days making toy airplanes in the cellar and flying them around the streets.”
Prior to enlisting in the RCAF, in December 1940, James worked as a bookkeeper at General Accident Insurance for three years – he wanted to return to clerical work when the War was over.
Ballantyne joined Course 20, at No.1 Initial Training School on 6th March, 1941, and things went well at first. Reports said he was a ‘hard working, dependable airman with a fine team spirit,’ but James didn’t fair so well when his flying training commenced at No.1 Elementary Flying Training School, in April 1941. His conduct was ‘doubtful’, and though he was an average pilot he was found to be, ‘slightly timid,’ and lacking in confidence. Despite this, Ballantyne graduated from No.2 Service Flying Training School in August, 1941 and arrived in Britain on 2nd September.
He spent the winter at No.58 Operational Training Unit at RAF Grangemouth. He was considered to be a ‘first rate dog-fighter’, despite getting lost over Essex after a practice dog fight and having to force land in a boggy field at Little Baddow, when his radio packed up and his fuel ran out! Luckily, he escaped uninjured.
Ballantyne was posted to 222 squadron in January 1942, but he really came into his own when he arrived in Malta, on 3rd June, 1942, having flown from HMS Eagle. During a hectic six months on the beleaguered Island, flying with 229 and 603 squadrons, Ballantyne scored 5 1/4 aerial victories, was shot down twice and had only four days leave. He returned to the UK in November 1942 and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal in December. He was posted to 59 OTU, before finally being sent home to Canada for a months leave in September 1942, where he received a hero’s welcome.
He returned to combat with 403 squadron at Kenley, in January 1943, and crops up in the informal squadron diary on 1st February, 1944, though not for his skill as a pilot!
No flying was attempted and a great crap game, which will long be remembered, took place in the Mess. At one stage Jimmy Ballantyne owed Bob Smith (a new arrival) £700. He won it back, however, in three rolls.
Just over a month later, on 8th March, 1944, eight of Kenley’s Spitfires from 403 squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force, set off in the afternoon from Friston looking for ‘targets of opportunity’ across the Channel (Ranger 127/23). They swept the areas of Evereux, Paris, Melun and Creil, before encountering accurate light flak coming from a wood near St. Andre de L’Eure at approximately 16.45pm. Three aircraft were hit. Flight Lieutenant Goldberg had to make a forced landing and Flying Officer Preston’s aircraft was also damaged. Ballantyne’s Spitfire IX (MJ876) was seen to hit the ground and explode.
Jimmy now lies at rest in St. Andre de l’Eure communal cemetery, Eure, France.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.