Australian Dictionary of Biography

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McCloughry, Wilfred Ashton (1894–1943)

by Alan Fraser

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

This is a shared entry with Edgar James McCloughry

Wilfred Ashton McCloughry (1894-1943) and Edgar James McCloughry (1896-1972), airmen, were the first and second sons of James Kingston McCloughry, draper, from Larne, Northern Ireland, and his Australian-born wife Charlotte Rebecca, née Ashton. Wilfred was born on 26 November 1894 at Knightsbridge, Adelaide, and Edgar on 10 September 1896 at Hindmarsh. Wilfred later changed his surname to McClaughry and Edgar became Kingston-McCloughry.

Wilfred was educated at Queen's School, North Adelaide, University of Adelaide and the Adelaide School of Mines. Commissioned into the Australian Military Forces in 1913, he transferred to the Australian Imperial Force in 1914 and went overseas with the 9th Light Horse Regiment. On Gallipoli from May to August 1915 he was wounded twice. Seconded to the Royal Flying Corps in March 1916, after flying training he served in a home defence squadron operating against German airships. He joined No.100 Squadron, the R.F.C.'s first night bomber unit, on its formation and in March 1917 accompanied it to France as a flight commander. He was awarded the Military Cross in July.

One of the experienced Australians in the R.F.C. selected to strengthen the expanding Australian Flying Corps, Wilfred joined the Second Squadron and accompanied it to France as a flight commander in September 1917. In October he was recalled to England to command the Fourth Squadron and took that overseas in December. Quiet but firm, he led one of the most efficient Sopwith Camel squadrons on the Western Front in 1918. He flew frequent daylight missions and undertook several risky night sorties against enemy heavy bombers in Camels not equipped for night flying. Credited with three victories, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Service Order and was mentioned in dispatches three times.

On General Birdwood's recommendation Wilfred obtained a permanent commission in the Royal Air Force in August 1919 as squadron leader. In 1922 he attended the first R.A.F. Staff College course and graduated from the Imperial Defence College in 1931. Promoted group captain in July 1934, he was posted to Egypt and in July 1936, as acting air commodore, he was appointed air officer commanding Aden Command. On 27 April 1940 he married Angela Grace Maria Segalir; this was his second marriage, the first having been dissolved.

During the battle of Britain Wilfred commanded No.9 Fighter Group and in 1942, appointed C.B. and air vice marshal, became Air Officer Commanding, Egypt. On 4 January 1943 he died in an aircraft crash near Heliopolis and was buried in Cairo war cemetery. Electric chimes in the Congregational Church, Brougham Place, Adelaide, were later dedicated to his memory and his portrait by Cuthbert Orde is in his widow's possession.

Edgar was educated at Adelaide University and the South Australian School of Mines. Commissioned into the A.M.F. in May 1915, he transferred in December to the A.I.F. After service in Egypt and France with the Australian Engineers he was seconded to the R.F.C. in December 1916 for training as a pilot, graduated in August 1917 and was posted to No.23 Squadron, R.F.C., in France. He was soon invalided to hospital in England after a serious crash. He was a flying instructor in the Sixth Training Squadron, A.F.C., then was posted in June 1918 as a flight commander and temporary captain to Wilfred's Fourth Squadron in France. Within four months Edgar was credited with shooting down nineteen enemy aeroplanes and four balloons and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar and mentioned in dispatches. A few fellow airmen, however, considered that some of his claims were over-enthusiastic. He was twice wounded. On leaving the A.F.C. in August 1919, Edgar, now known as Kingston, graduated M.A. at Cambridge in mechanical science, worked in the engineering industry, then joined the R.A.F. with a short service commission in December 1922, obtaining a permanent commission on 1 January 1926. His later postings included staff courses at Andover and Camberley.

Good-looking and ambitious, Kingston was reserved but at times outspoken. His closeness to leading political figures caused some displeasure to his service chiefs. In 1940, while an air commodore, he drew the attention of various prominent people to what he considered false information about Britain's effective aircraft strength presented to Cabinet by the R.A.F. This unconventional action was damaging to his career; he later attributed to it his failure to achieve the rank of air marshal and a knighthood. Of his several responsible positions, the most important was chairman of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force Bombing Committee which produced the tactical and strategic bombing plans for the invasion of Europe. He retired, as air vice marshal, in 1953, his last posting being chief air defence officer, Ministry of Defence. He had been appointed C.B.E. in 1943 and C.B. in 1950.

Kingston was the author of Winged Warfare (1937) and five books on air and defence strategy in 1947-64. He was an associate fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. On 16 January 1924 in London he had married Freda Elizabeth Lewis. They had two daughters, and were later divorced. Kingston-McCloughry died on 15 November 1972 in Edinburgh. He willed his body to medical research and his papers and manuscripts to the Imperial War Museum.

Select Bibliography

  • E. J. Richards, Australian Airmen. History of the 4th Squadron, A.F.C. (Melb, nd)
  • F. M. Cutlack, The Australian Flying Corps: In the Western and Eastern Theatres of War, 1914-1918 (Syd, 1923)
  • I. Jones, Tiger Squadron (Lond, 1954)
  • A. Morris, Bloody April (Lond, 1967)
  • K. Isaacs, Military Aircraft of Australia 1909-1918 (Canb, 1971)
  • S. Zuckerman, From Apes to Warlords (Lond, 1978)
  • A. H. Cobby, High Adventure (Melb, 1981)
  • written records section 1914-18 (Australian War Memorial)
  • Air History Branch papers (National Archives of the United Kingdom)
  • Kingston-McCloughry papers (Imperial War Museum, London)
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Alan Fraser, 'McCloughry, Wilfred Ashton (1894–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mccloughry-wilfred-ashton-7316/text12691, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 24 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2018

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • McClaughry, Wilfred Ashton
Birth

26 November 1894
Knightsbridge, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Death

4 January 1943
Cairo, Egypt

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence
Occupation