He knew very little about his family history, so asked me to take a look. Amongst many cousins, I found a D-Day war hero for whom this week marks the 71st anniversary of his capture by the enemy. Everyone has a fascinating story to tell, not just celebrities on television programmes that trace family trees.
Flight Lieutenant Patrick McDade was born in Moree, a northern New South Wales country town 600 kilometres from Sydney. He flew Spitfires in the Second World War, and flew them very well. McDade was based in the Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland in 1943 when he encountered German twin-engine fighter-bombers, Messerschmitt Bf 110s. He shot down two of them.
The D-Day Landings in June 1944 was the largest seaborne invasion in history. For weeks Flight Lieutenant McDade’s Spitfire harried the enemy. However on 26 July 1944 he was shot down and taken prisoner. McDade was sent to Stalag Luft 111, a POW camp still under Hitler’s deranged scrutiny following its recent mass-escape. Those events are today immortalised in the classic film The Great Escape.
McDade came home a hero, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for valour. “Throughout the intensive operations prior to the invasion of Normandy he led a flight in a brilliant and effective manner, and during the invasion he participated very successfully in support of the army formation.”
In early 1947 on the family’s proudest day, Flight Lieutenant Patrick McDade and his brother, Flying Officer John McDade who flew Lancaster bombers, both received DFCs. The siblings proudly stepped forward together in the vice-regal ceremony at historic Government House in Sydney.
Mark is continuing his genealogy research. There are so many enthralling stories still to discover.