• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

James Dodds

Wartime pilot

Wartime pilot

Born: July 22, 1921; Died: July 17, 2014.

James, "Hamish" Dodds, who has died in Duns, aged 92, flew Hurricanes in the Western Desert during the Second World War and Spitfires during the Battle of Britain.

In 1942, while flying over the desert, Mr Dodds made a dramatic escape in low cloud with one engine on fire. He landed in the desert, slept there all night, and somehow was able to fly to an army base the next day. He then had his Hurricane patched up so that he could return to his base and continue his war service.

The incident was typical of Mr Dodds who showed conspicuous gallantry throughout his years with the Royal Air Force and, with 13 'hits', was the top scoring Allied Hurricane ace of the war.

James Dodds - always known as Hamish in the RAF - was the eldest of four children of a Glasgow family. He attended Hyndland Secondary School in Lauderdale Gardens where he was a bright pupil and was expected to go up to Glasgow University. But on the outbreak of war he joined the RAF and attended flying lessons at Weston-super-Mare before flying solo in 1941 in Tiger Moths.

Mr Dodds was an adventurous and enthusiastic pilot. On his second Hurricane flight he had to make a forced landing in terrible visibility and then, when flying in formation, his engine cut out and Mr Dodds landed unceremoniously in a field.

He was then transferred to 173 Squadron which was principally a communications unit carrying vital messages between the command posts in the Western Desert.

Mr Dodds' heroics and calm resolve made him a much respected and admired pilot. From 1943 to '45, he was transferred to 124 Squadron which had been based at RAF Castletown in Caithness and was involved with the defence of Scapa Flow.

The squadron was transferred to Biggin Hill in 1943 and Mr Dodds flew Spitfires principally intercepting German reconnaissance aircrafts. In the celebrations after peace was declared, Mr Dodds flew the first jet aeroplane over Scotland and then joined the large contingent of aircrafts that flew over London on VE Day.

After being demobbed with the rank of Flying Officer in 1946, he  retained his interest in flying through his membership of No 11 Reserve Flying School near Scone in Perthshire.

During these post-war years, Mr Dodds lived at Rossdhu on the shores of Loch Lomond: the original home of the clan Colquhoun and now the Loch Lomond Golf Club. Initially he found employment with the King Aircraft Corporation in Glasgow but the love of active flying led him firstly to work as a charter pilot in Nairobi and then in New Zealand where he met his wife Robin.

In 1956, he returned to Nairobi where his spirit of adventure surfaced again when he volunteered to airlift nuns and missionaries to freedom during the Congo Uprising of 1960.

He also ferried many distraught civilians to safety in Uganda over six days of extremely hazardous missions.

Throughout the 1960s Mr Dodds and his family remained in East Africa where he much enjoyed his work flying tourists around the safari parks, playing golf and sailing on Lake Victoria.

The family returned to live near Inverness in 1970 where he built a fibreglass cabin cruiser which was then rented out for tours on the Caledonian Canal.

The business proved successful and he expanded into moorings and boat hiring.

In 1980 Mr Dodds sold the business and he and his wife bought a small holding at Ardnamurchan on the banks of Loch Sunart.

He is survived by his wife Robin and their three children.

Contextual targeting label: 
Sport

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

254006