May 19, 1918 - February 7, 1944
James Arthur MacDonald was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to Harold Anthony and Constance (nee Wilson) MacDonald, of Vancouver, BC. He had three brothers and three sisters. His youngest brother, Robert, was a Flying Officer in the RCAF. The family was Presbyterian.
He married Jessie Bosworth (nee Proctor) on July 26, 1941 in Vancouver. James was the father to Susan Elizabeth MacDonald, of Vancouver, BC, born April 14, 1943.
He worked for the Great Northern Railway as a clerk. He was a stenographer and timekeeper. He had no plans for after the war.
He started his military experience on November 22, 1940 with the 2nd Seaforths, at Training Centre 111. He spent one month at the Army Camp before enlisting with the RCAF in Vancouver in July 1941. "Appears to be good pilot material. Intelligence average or better. Stability fairly good. Reliability fairly good. Initiative good. Wants pilot, but will be air gunner if necessary."
He stood 5'8" and weighed 160 pounds, with brown eyes and dark brown hair. He smoked 4 cigarettes a day and consumed a moderate amount of alcohol, he noted. He liked English rugby.
At No. 6 ITS: November 10, 1941 - January 2, 1942: 71 out of 87 in class. "Keen alert; determined and enthusiastic in manner; shows spirit and initiative."
At No. 10 ETS, January 5, 1942 - March 13, 1942: "Instruments good, aerobatics good. He is keen on flying and has goo air sense. Smooth on controls and uses good judgement. Always punctual and courteous at all times. Will make good instructor material." In Ground Training: 24 out of 31 in class. "Possesses average flying ability. Could work harder. Has good attitude. General conduct and discipline good."
At No. 6 SFTS: March 30, 1942 - July 17, 1942: "Needs more experience on aerobatics and forced landings."
He was sent overseas on July 31, 1942 and arrived at the RAF Trainees' Pool on August 6, 1942. He was at 5 (P) AFU August 29, 1942 and at 55 OTU by September 22, 1942. Here he was assessed: "An above the average pilot who has done consistently well at this Unit. Discipline and punctuality very good."
He was posted to 198 Squadron on December 23, 1942.
F/O MacDonald was killed on February 7, 1944 in Typhoon JR242 when his aircraft failed to pull out of a dive. The circumstantial report stated: "...at 1303 hours on February 7, 1944, the above named pilots [J. A. MacDonald and A. B. Kirkwood] took off from Manston as part of a formation of four aircraft on a projected Ranger operation to German held bases N and NE or Paris. They proceeded to make landfall of Cayeaux via Dungess at zero feet, ran into cloud at 600 feet and climbed through two layers of 10/10 cloud to cross coast at 5500 feet and when some 20 miles inland, leader led formation down in a gentle dive. At the same time, he warned them to climb up again and out if cloud was not broken at 1000 feet. It was not, so Blue 1 an Blue 4 climbed and returned on reciprocal, R/T contact being lost with Blue 2 and Blue 3 (Kirkwood and MacDonald) from the time of the dive. No flak was experienced at any time and nothing further has been heard of either Kirkwood or MacDonald."
A report dated November 5, 1946 stated that there were ten to twelve witnesses to the crash of Typhoon JR242, but owing to the circumstances of the crash, very little further came to light. "The aircraft crashed after being hit by flak and was already burning when it hit the ground. There was an explosion and the pilot was immediately killed, his head being found at a distance of 500 yards from the main portion of the debris....the remains of the airman were removed for burial to Abbeville Military Cemetery...this grave has been exhumed...it failed to produce anything which could conclusively establish the grave as that of F/O MacDonald but it is considered that owing to the circumstantial evidence available, this grave should be registered as that of this airman."
He is buried in the churchyard at Poix de la Somme, France.
Within his files at the LAC, his logbook was discovered with photos (labelled), pictures of aircraft and some newspaper articles. He noted when Henry MacKenzie was killed. "Lost a good pal." Their service numbers were one apart, both must have signed up together on the same day in Vancouver. A few pages are shown above.