Scotland

Archie McKellar: The pilot who downed the first German bomber over Britain

Archie McKellar Image copyright 602 City of Glasgow Auxiliary Air Force Squadron
Image caption Archie McKellar fought in the Battle of Britain

The Scottish pilot who shot down the first German aircraft on British soil during World War Two is being commemorated in a new exhibition.

Archie McKellar's story is being told at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.

Who was Archie McKellar?

Born in Paisley in 1912, Archibald McKellar had dreamed of joining the army - but his parents thought it was too dangerous, so instead he started working as an apprentice plasterer in the family business.

He also trained as a part-time pilot before joining the Auxiliary Air Force in 1936 and becoming a Pilot Officer in 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron.

When war broke out in September 1939, the Spitfires of 602 Squadron were posted to RAF Drem in East Lothian.

The following month, he shot down the first German aircraft on British soil - a Heinkel HE-111 bomber - over Humbie, near Edinburgh.

Image copyright 602 City of Glasgow Auxiliary Air Force Squadron
Image caption Downed Heinkel HE-111 by Archibald 'Archie' McKellar

The following year he was promoted to flight lieutenant, and became one of The Few - the airmen who fought in the Battle of Britain. They were celebrated in the speech by Prime Minister Winston Churchill which included the famous line: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

Flt Lt McKellar was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar and the Distinguished Service Order for shooting down 21 enemy aircraft, including five Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters in one day.

However, the following year he was killed in action after being shot down over Kent on 1 November 1940. He was aged 28.

'He would be quietly moved'

Colin McKellar, one of his relatives, said it was "wonderful" to see his story on show at the Glasgow museum.

"I have long admired Archie's contribution to the war effort and it's fitting it is recognised in the new display," he said.

"I am sure Archie would be quietly moved to see his squadron's achievements marked in this way."

Image copyright 602 City of Glasgow Auxiliary Air Force Squadron
Image caption Pilots in the 602 (City of Glasgow) squadron, 1939-1940

The chairman of Glasgow Life, Councillor David McDonald, said it was important to raise awareness of the human cost of conflict.

"This idea is imbued in Archie McKellar's story," he said.

"It is evident to all he was an incredibly brave man and we are all grateful to him for making the ultimate sacrifice."

The exhibition features the wing panel from the Heinkel HE-111 bomber which was shot down by Flt Lt McKellar.

It crash landed intact, which meant it could be studied to understand German aircraft and their engine design.

More on this story