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Dogfight to Diplomacy. A Spitfire Pilot's Log 1932-1958.
|Air Cdre Donald MacDonell
CB DFC RAF, 22nd Chief of Glengarry.
|Pen & Sword Publishers.
Release Date 20 Oct 05.
memoirs of the late Air Commodore Donald MacDonell, 22nd
Chief of Glengarry, edited by Lois MacDonell & Anne Mackay
will be released on 20 October 05.
This is a
story of both human fortitude and vulnerability during the
life of an RAF officer who was born in Baku, flew Spitfires
in the Battle of Britain, was a prisoner in the 'Wooden
Horse' camp, coped with bringing up a family without their
mentally-ill mother, learnt Russian and became Air Attach�
in Moscow in the Cold War. He also inherited the title of
22nd Chief of the MacDonells of Glengarry.
Glengarry's Service career began in
the 1930s when he studied at RAF Cranwell. After a spell at
No 54 Squadron he went on detachment to the Fleet Air Arm
and was posted to the Middle East and Malta. Shortly before
the war he was promoted to Squadron Leader and worked at the
Air Ministry during the Phoney War. When hostilities
commenced he became CO of No 64 Squadron at RAF Kenley, B
Sector HQ in 11 Group, Fighter Command carrying out convoy
support operations and eventually fighting in the Battle of
Britain over Kent. Having won the DFC as one of 'the few', he
command of a squadron at Leconfield to train urgently
required new pilots before being posted to RAF Hornchurch. He
was shot down over the English Channel and was
rescued by a U-boat. This resulted in a lengthy period spent
at several PoW camps in enemy occupied Europe and Germany.
During this period he was involved with the famous 'Wooden
Horse' escape and was eventually freed by advancing Russian
troops. Upon his return to the UK he was promoted Wing
Commander and worked on the Cabinet Office staff before
moving to Headquarters Flying Training Command. He was then
appointed Chief Flying Instructor at Cranwell before
successfully applying for the post of British Air Attach� in
Moscow. Here he met the legendary leaders of post-war
Russia, Khrushchev, Bulganin and Mikoyan and assisted in the
organisation of the first civilian flights between London
was involved in some of the most momentous events of the
twentieth century, Glengarry constantly understates this.
The memoir has many amusing anecdotes as well as some honest
revelations about his love life, personal problems and
stresses. It will appeal to those who enjoy detailed flying
descriptions, personal observations of conditions in POW
camps and first-hand observations of the 'Long March' and of
Mediterranean with the Fleet Air Arm pre-war as well as in
post-war in appointments varying from the Cabinet Office to
the Joint Services Staff College, Glengarry makes some
pertinent comments on the workings of the RAF. The time
spent in Moscow will fascinate many readers, especially with
the 'post-script' in Brussels on his way home. it is all too easy to
underestimate the hardship he endured whilst captive and the
significant part he played in battle and then in diplomatic
This is a
must-have book which, although it doesn't document much of
the late Glengarry's work for Clan Donald, it does contain
some Clan photos and tells the story of a
fascinating career lived by a great man in interesting
times. I'll be reserving my copy! -RKWM.
Press and Journal Saturday November 19, 2005.
autobiography of a true hero: From
Dogfight to Diplomacy: A Spitfire Pilot's Log 1932-1958,
Pen and Sword �19.99.
Donald MacDonell of Glengarry, who lived in Fortrose, was a
distinguished Clan Donald chief whose life had more thrills, spills,
triumphs and tragedies than any one man should bear.
autobiography is a highly personal story, edited by his second wife,
Lois, but while early chapters suggest a tale told with a stiff
upper lip, it warms to its task and becomes a vivid insight into his
hectic, troubled, but ultimately happy life.
Trained as an
RAF plot at Cranwell in the 1930s, Donald rose to lead 64 Squadron,
at Kenley, where his Spitfires fought long and hard in the Battle of
Britain. He was shot down over the Channel in 1941 by German ace
Werner Mo�lders and captured. The clich� "for you, the war is over"
did not apply, as in Donald's case it was just beginning.
Four years in
grim POW camps are described with clarity and humour, as is his part
in the famous wooden horse escape from Stalag Luft III. He paints a
poignant picture of chaos and fear at the war's end.
His battle to
stay fit and sane had a sad counterpoint in the slide into mental
illness of his wife, Diana. Returning home, he found her a "cruel
caricature" of the girl he had kissed goodbye four years before.
were born, but Diana's worsening illness meant he was left to raise
them on his own, assisted by an extraordinary housekeeper, Nan, when
he entered the diplomatic service as an Air Attach� in Moscow at the
height of the Cold War. That, too, is a fascinating episode. Sadly,
the memoir ends in 1958, just when it seems there is so much more to
learn about this most extraordinary man.
See also the article from the
Mail, Saturday 29 October 2005:The
War Hero Clan Chief by Julian Champkin