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Bailey, James Richard Abe

Date of birth:
October 23rd, 1919 (South Africa)
Date of death:
February 29th, 2000
South African (1910-1961, Union)


Service number 74325.

James Bailey was born in South Africa on 23rd October 1919, the youngest son of Colonel Sir Abe Bailey, 1st Baronet: one of the few mining magnates who were South African by birth. He was educated at Winchester College and Christ Church College in England.
At the outbreak of war, James was called up from the Oxford University Air Squadron in which he had been active as an undergraduate at Christ Church.
At Easter 1939, he hitch-hiked through the Austrian Alps with some friends. They fell in with Luftwaffe pilots. Jim hated the idea that they would soon be killing one another to satisfy the desires of racist politicians.
During the Battle of Britain he served with No. 264 Squadron, and then with No. 85 Squadron, from which 25 (out of 37) pilots were killed. Bailey initially flew the Defiant, with a rear-facing gun turret, a fighter which "flew forwards and shot backwards. Then he switched to Hurricanes, flying at night over Britain's burning cities, though without radar to help him find the enemy: a thankless task for a Hurricane pilot. Finally, it was the twin-engined and radar-equipped Beaufighter, which suited him very well. James hunted enemy reconnaissance aircraft over the Irish Sea, Orkney and Shetland.
In November 1943, James was posted overseas, and on 3rd December, joined No. 600 Squadron at Monte Corvino in Italy. As a relief from the horrors of the war Bailey tried bee-keeping, taking his bees from one airbase to another during the Italian campaign. But this only "confused the poor sods" he said and they never produced any honey.
In February 1944, fighting over Anzio, Rome and Elba, James destroyed a Ju 88, and on 3rd June a Bf 110. On 7th July, he shot down a Ju 88, and on 11th July a Ju 87. During the war he destroyed a total of 6 enemy aircraft
With his tour completed, James returned to Britain and was given a staff job at the Air Ministry. After that war, he returned to Oxford to complete his degree, rejoining the University Air Squadron. He obtained a BA in 1947 and an MA in 1949. He the went back to South Africa to take care of his father's estates. His father had passed away in 1940.
James Bailey founded Drum, the magazine for, and largely written by, black Africans, published several books of his own, poetry, memoirs and idiosyncratic history. 'Eskimo Nell' (1964, reissued in 1990 as 'The Sky Suspended') was an account of his war.

September 26, 1939: Pilot Officer
September 26, 1940: Flying Officer
September 26, 1941: Flight Lieutenant
July 1, 1945: Squadron Leader

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Second World War (1939-1945)
Acting Squadron Leader
No. 600 (City of London) Squadron, Royal Air Force
Awarded on:
September 8th, 1944
Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)