Herald Newspaper, Wednesday April 3, 2019
West Kilbride GC Member for 70 year
Bomber Command veteran who took part in daring raid on German Panzer Division FIQ
Born: December 16,1920;
Died: March 11, 2019
JIMMY Graham, who has died aged 98, was an RAF veteran who saw distinguished service in Bomber Command during the Second World War. He flew on 36 hazardous missions as a tail gunner with 576 Squadron over France and Germany. Each mission was dangerous and the tail gunner was in a particularly vulnerable position at the end of the aircraft and isolated from his colleagues.
The squadron played a vital role in the last years of the war and was principally engaged in night operations against German targets. From May 1944 the squadron was involved in precision bombing of the supersonic V bombing sites near St Omer in northern France. Such raids needed nerves of steel and Graham's courage never faltered.
James Graham was born in Irvine, the son of Andrew and Jean with two brothers and a sister. His father was a furnaceman. He attended Irvine Royal Academy and found employment initially with the local firm of Henry Brown and Company Ltd, Ironfounders.
On the outbreak of war, he was keen to enlist locally but he was in a reserved occupation. Ever resourceful, he enlisted at a Glasgow recruiting office and was dispatched to the RAF for his training as a tail gunner. He was sent to RAP Elsham Wolds in Lincolnshire and joined Q for Queenie, 576 Squadron and was recognised as a fine air gunner in the crew of Charles Wearmouth: His 36 missions were exhausting and demanded total dedication and skill. In 1944 alone he flew on missions to bomb Rouen, Dusseldorf, Karlsruhe and Aachen.
The most frightening was the raid on Mailly-le-Champ in May 1944 in northern France. The mission was to bomb a German Panzer Division headquarters - the raid was part of a strategically important "softening up" campaign by Bomber Command prior to D-Day. At the pre-fight briefing the crews were informed there was little in the way of defences. In fact, on arrival over the site, they faced fierce and determined opposition. The area was very well defended and the RAF Lancasters were greeted by a hail of ack-ack fire and German aircrafts. Graham's captain decided to go in and do the bombing run, ("let's go before we are picked off" he shouted down the radio). They released their bombs on target and returned home immediately. The losses for the squadron were considerable.
Graham kept in touch with his RAF comrades. For many years heannually travelled to Mailly in May commemorating the raid. His lastvisit was four years ago at the age 94.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal for exceptional valour, courage and devotion to duty. The town clerk of Irvine proudly recorded the incident and sent him a letter stating that "the town council unanimously instructed me to convey their heartiest congratulations and their appreciation and the honour you have brought to your native town". Last year Graham was awarded Le Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur by the French government honouring those who helped to liberate France.
He was demobbed and returned to his family in Irvine. Initially he worked at Prestwick. Airport in their flying control department. He joined BP in Ardrossan as a tanker driver and diligently wOtkèd his way up the ladder to senior posting. After a time as terminal manager at Old Kilpatrick and then time and motion study manager in the head office in Glasgow he retired as Scottish transport manager-for BP in 1980.
His retirement was busy and enjoyable. His family was a major passion throughout his life: as well as being a keen gardener he was a loving Grampa to his granddaughter Kirsty. He and his daughter Alison shared a great love of good food and wine and travel. They often visited Spain and France and Graham enjoyed the area round Alicante where he had a family home and played golf in the, glorious sunshine.
Golf was another life-long passion. He, was an excellent player- playing off a handicap of three in his earlier days. He joined West Kilbride golf course in 1949 and remained a popular member for 70 years. He loved playing many of the links courses throughout Scotland but had aspecial affection for Turnberry. He was proud to have made a hole in one and wore its distinctive tie with pride. He was often heard to say in the 19th hole, "Not too many people have these."
After a triple bypass operation in Spain, aged 80, he was advised by the cardiac surgeon on his diet. A glass of red wine with each meal was recommended. With a jaunty smile and, typical of the man, Graham asked, "Does that include breakfast?"
In 1948 Jimmy Graham married May Muir, She predeceased him and he is survived by their daughter and her granddaughter.