Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
James Thomas Byford McCudden
James Thomas Byford McCudden (VC, DSO and bar, MC and bar, MM, Croix de Guerre) (28 March, 1895–9 July, 1918) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. McCudden was the most highly decorated British Empire pilot of the First World War and one of the longest serving, having joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1913. At his death he had amassed 54 kills, making him one of the highest scoring British aces.
During the period August 1917 to March 1918, on aerial patrols over France, Captain McCudden showed conspicuous bravery, exceptional perseverance and a high devotion to duty. As patrol leader he exercised the utmost skill not only in the manner in which he attacked and destroyed the enemy, but in the way in which, during aerial fights, he protected the newer members of his flight, thus keeping down the casualties to a minimum. By March 1918 he had accounted for 51 enemy aircraft, some single-handed, some while leading his men. As an example of his exploits, on 16 February 1918 he destroyed three two-seater aeroplanes in the morning patrol and added a fourth on his second sortie.
The citation for his Victoria Cross published in the London Gazette on 2 April 1918 read:
- For most conspicuous bravery, exceptional perseverance, and a very high devotion to duty. Captain McCudden has at the present time accounted for 54 enemy aeroplanes. Of these, 42 have been destroyed, 19 of them on our side of the lines. Only 12 out of the 54 have been driven down out of control. On two occasions, he had totally destroyed 4 two-seater enemy aeroplanes on the same day, and on the last occasion all 4 machines were destroyed in the space of one hour and thirty minutes. While in his present squadron, he has participated in 78 offensive patrols, and in nearly every case has been the leader. On at least 30 occasions, whilst with the same squadron, he has crossed the lines alone, either in pursuit or in quest of enemy aeroplanes. The following incidents are examples of the work he has done recently: on 23 December 1917, when leading his patrol, 8 enemy aeroplanes were attacked between 1430/1550 and of these 2 were shot down by Captain McCudden in our lines; on the morning of the same day, he left the ground at 1050 and encountered 4 enemy aeroplanes and of these he shot 2 down; on 30 January 1918, he, single-handed, attacked 5 enemy scouts, as a result of which 2 were destroyed. On this occasion, he only returned home when the enemy scouts had been driven far east; his Lewis gun ammunition was all finished and the belt of his Vickers gun had broken. As a patrol leader he has at all times shown the utmost gallantry and skill, not only in the manner in which he has attacked and destroyed the enemy, but in the way he has, during several aerial fights, protected the newer members of his flight, thus keeping down their casualties to a minimum. This officer is considered, by the record he has made, by his fearlessness, and by the great service which he has rendered to his country, deserving of the very highest honor.
He later achieved the rank of Major.
His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Engineers Museum (Chatham, England).
- Irish Winners of the Victoria Cross (Richard Doherty & David Truesdale, 2000)
- Monuments To Courage (David Harvey, 1999)
- The Register of the Victoria Cross (This England, 1997)
- The Sapper VCs (Gerald Napier, 1998)
- VCs of the First World War - Air VCs (P G Cooksley, 1999)
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