Archiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2008-09 > 1220648603

From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [W-OBITS] MCKIE: Alexander Miller McKie 2008
Date: Fri, 5 Sep 2008 22:03:23 +0100

Alex McKie
RAF navigator who hunted the Tirpitz while serving with the Dam Busters

Last Updated: 10:52PM BST 28 Aug 2008


Alex McKie joined the RAF as an aircraft apprentice in 1938 Flight
Lieutenant Alex McKie , who has died aged 86, flew as a navigator on two of
the attacks made by the Lancasters of No 617 Squadron against the German
battleship Tirpitz.

In September 1944 Tirpitz was moored in Kaa Fjord in the far north of
Norway, which put her out of range of bombers operating from Scotland. A
force of Lancasters flew to an airfield near Archangel in northern Russia,
from where the attack was to be mounted.

McKie was one of the navigators to locate the remote airfield as 13 other
bombers landed or crashed in outlying areas. Approaching the airfield,
however, his aircraft was engaged by Russian fire and badly damaged. The
Australian pilot (Flying Officer D Carey) managed to land, but the bomber
could not be repaired for the operation on September 15. McKie and his crew
flew on other aircraft for the attack, which was thwarted by the
battleship's smokescreen.

By October 29 Tirpitz had been moved south to Troms, in range of Scotland.
Over the target, the Lancaster crews met poor weather, which made bomb
aiming difficult, and the battleship survived. McKie's aircraft dropped its
bomb but was then hit by flak; other crews saw pieces breaking off the
Lancaster, and it was last seen heading for Sweden. It was the only crew to
fail to return and it was posted as "missing".

A few days later news came through that McKie's Lancaster had crash-landed
in Sweden. It transpired that the crew had made six attempts to sight the
battleship before dropping the bomb. An engine was put out of action, and,
as they headed for Scotland, the Lancaster was hit again. The loss of a
second engine and much of the fuel made it impossible to reach the emergency
airfield in the Shetlands. The crew turned for Sweden and jettisoned all
surplus equipment, including McKie's navigation aids. Eventually, the pilot,
Carey, put down in a bog.

During the crew's interrogation they were asked why they had violated the
airspace of a neutral country; they blamed the leader's faulty navigation.
Carey went on to explain that the flares they had fired were to draw the
aircraft together before leading them away from Sweden, but they had been
ignored. This far-fetched story was accepted. A few weeks later, the crew
was repatriated.

Alexander Miller McKie was born on July 17 1922 at Crewe and educated at the
local grammar school. He joined the RAF as an aircraft apprentice in 1938
and trained as an aircraft fitter. In 1942 he was accepted for pilot

After training in Canada as a navigator, in 1943 he joined No 106 Squadron,
flying Lancasters during the most intensive period of the bombing campaign.
During the Battle of Berlin, McKie flew eight operations to the "Big City".
He also flew on the Nuremburg raid on the night of March 30, when 96 bomber
crews were lost, the highest casualty rate on a single raid.

After 30 operations McKie was awarded a DFM. He and his crew were due to be
rested, but they volunteered to join No 617 (Dam Buster) Squadron, which
they did in June 1944. They attacked the secret weapon sites in the Pas de
Calais, and on an operation over Brest a burst of flak wounded McKie and his
pilot, "Bunny" Lee, who did not return to operations.

After his Swedish expedition McKie flew two more operations with 617 and at
the end of the war was involved in the repatriation of PoWs. After a brief
period as a navigator in Transport Command, he left the RAF in 1946.

McKie then worked in the pharmaceutical industry and did not retire until he
was 76 years old, when he became a consultant.

He was an active member of the 617 Squadron Association, rarely missing
their annual reunions. In 1977, with three other association members, he
attended a reunion of the Tirpitz Association held near Coblenz, where they
had a memorable time as guests of the former enemy.

Alex McKie died on August 1. His first marriage, to Kathleen Jones, was
dissolved in 1969. In 1974 he married Rene Sampson, who survives him with
two sons of his first marriage.

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