Flight Lieutenant Wallace McIntosh – RAF 207th Lancaster Bombers
By Ray McHatton
Clan Mackintosh of North America
Flight Lieutenant Wallace McIntosh was considered the most successful WW2 air gunner in Bomber Command, having downed eight enemy aircraft during his career with the RAF. In a single mission the day after D-Day, he took down three German night fighters, which were radar-retrofitted, and much coveted targets.
The Early Years
McIntosh entered the world in a barn in Aberdeenshire in March of 1920. He was raised by his Grandparents, who moved from farm to farm as seasonal laborers. He left school at 13 to join the agricultural work force. In order to supplement his family’s table Wallace became an accomplished poacher, taking sheep, salmon & pheasant from neighboring estates. Ironically, he later found himself employed as a gamekeeper. I guess it takes one to know one.
At the outset of the Second World War, he rode his bicycle 30 miles to Dundee, aiming to join the RAF, but was rejected due to his poor education. At the urging of a local pastor, the RAF relented and he was recruited. Wallace’s ambition was to serve aloft, but his first assignment was as a service policeman, essentially an armed night watchman. He proved his mettle one evening as a German bomber approached very low overhead. He unleashed his Lewis gun, causing the craft to drop its payload far from the intended target. This incident led to a call to train as an air gunner with the 207th Squadron near Nottingham. On his ninth operation he shot down his first enemy fighter. He took part in major raids on Hamburg in July 1943 and a raid on the rocket research centre at Peenemunde in August.
On the night of June 7 1944 McIntosh was the rear gunner of a Lancaster, which took off from Lincolnshire to attack targets near Caen in Normandy. As the aircraft crossed the coast of France, a German Junkers 88 fighter attacked, forcing the pilot, Wing Commander John Grey, to take evasive action by “corkscrewing” under the direction of McIntosh and fellow gunner, Canadian Larry Sutherland. The combined firepower of the gunners set the Junkers ablaze, spinning earthward. A minute later a second Junkers appeared; there was an exchange of fire which ended in the explosion of the German aircraft. The Lancaster crew pressed on, scoring a successful raid on a contingent of Panzer tanks in the forest near St. Lo. On the return flight they were attacked by a Messerschmitt night fighter. Once again the two gunners opened up, and the enemy aircraft fell away burning as it crashed into the English Channel near Beachy Head. When news of this triple success reached Bomber Command, Air Marshal Arthur Harris telephoned RAF at Lincolnshire and asked: “Who the hell were those guys?” A few days later McIntosh and Sutherland were each awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and received a hand-written note from Harris, a rare accolade.
After the war he remained in the RAF, dropping supplies to feed cattle in remote areas during the severe winter of 1947. He did not enjoy serving in a peacetime air force, however and left the following year to work as a seed and grain salesman in Aberdeenshire, where he met his wife Christina, eventually having a son and two daughters.
Upon retiring in 1985, McIntosh spearheaded fundraising for two memorials to the men of the 207th, which lost nearly 1000 members during the war. His biography, “Gunning for the Enemy” by Mel Rolfe, was published in 2003, and two years later a painting depicting his Lancaster returning from a raid brought public attention to a modest man whose family knew little of his valor until late in his life. Wallace McIntosh passed away in June of 2007 in Aberdeen, after a battle with lung cancer.