Air Vice Marshal Francis (Frank) Hubert McNamara

Posted on 29 March 2021
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Frank McNamara was the first Australian airman to be awarded the Victoria Cross. He was born at Rushworth, Victoria, on 4 April 1894. Having completed his secondary schooling in Shepparton, McNamara studied teaching at the Teachers Training College and the University of Melbourne.

He taught at a number of Victorian Schools and joined the Senior Cadets in 1911. The following year he transferred to the Brighton Rifles and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in July 1913. In the early months of the First World War he served at Queenscliff and then Point Nepean before attending the Officers Training School at Broadmeadows. Between February and May 1915 he instructed at the AIF Training Depot at Broadmeadows.

In August 1915 McNamara was selected to attend the Point Cook Flying School, graduating as a pilot in October that year. He was posted to No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, as an adjutant in January 1916 and sailed for Egypt. In May 1916 he left for an attachment to No. 42 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps to attend the Central Flying School at Upavon, England. Upon completing his course he was attached to No. 22 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps as an instructor in Egypt before returning to duty with No. 1 Squadron.

By March 1917, No. 1 Squadron was making regular bombing raids against Gaza. On 20 March McNamara, flying on one such operation, saw a fellow squadron member, Captain D. W. Rutherford, shot down. Although having just suffered a serious leg wound, McNamara landed near the stricken Rutherford who climbed aboard, but his wound prevented McNamara from taking off and his aircraft crashed. The two men made it back to Rutherford's plane which they succeeded in starting and, with McNamara at the controls, they took off just as enemy cavalry reached the scene. For this action McNamara was awarded the Victoria Cross.

He was promoted to captain and appointed Flight Commander in April 1917, but his wound prevented further flying and he was invalided to Australia in August that year. His appointment with the Australian Flying Corps ended in January 1918 but he was reappointed in September and became an aviation instructor. In 1921 McNamara transferred to the newly established Royal Australian Air Force as a flight lieutenant. He held a number of senior RAAF appointments between the wars, and spent two years on exchange to the RAF in the mid-1920s.

At the beginning of the Second World War, McNamara was promoted to air commodore and, in 1942, air vice marshal. Between 1942 and 1945 he served as Air Officer Commanding British Forces in Aden before returning to London as the RAAF's representative at Britain's Ministry of Defence. In July 1946 he became Director of Education at the headquarters of the British Occupation Administration in Germany.

McNamara retired in England and died in London on 2 November 1961.