Alexander, or Alex or Sandy, as he was known by his mates, was born on the 27th July 1918 in Brisbane, Queensland, and enlisted in the RAAF on the 29th March 1941.
After completing his initial training in Australia, Alex embarked for Canada on the 18th September 1941 and arrived safely on the 13th October. Like all the others in the Empire Air Training Scheme, he underwent further training there and on successfully passing, he was commissioned as a Flying officer on the 16th January 1942.
On arrival in England, he would have been posted to an Operational Training Unit and then to a squadron, probably flying Spitfires. Alez was then recalled to Australia and disembarked in Melbourne 16th December 1942. He was rthen posted to 452 Squadron 23rd March 1943. At that stage, 452 Squadron was based at Strauss as part of No.1 Fighter Group defending Darwin against the Japanese.
Alex was killed on the 2nd May 1943. ADF Serials for his Spitfire A58-12 has the following record:
“Operational loss 1045 hrs 02/05/43: (Alex) departed Strauss as White 4 during the Darwin Raid #54. After the interception, his aircraft, heavily damaged by enemy aircraft fire, was returning from combat low level. Fellow pilots from 457 Squadron saw his aircraft break away and spiral towards sea level some 6 miles southwest of Darwin Harbour. Crashed into Sea during combat some 20 miles west of Perrin Island. Lost with Pilot, F/O Alexander “Sandy” Charles McNab Serv #405420 RAAF.
Not many people know about the raid. According to Ozatwar.com, the Japanese attacked the Darwin air base and floating dock at 10:30 am. They lost 11 bombers and five Zeros. The RAAF scrambled 32 Spitfires and lost 15 of them during the air raid. Unfortunately, five of the Spitfires had run out of fuel and others were lost due to the sheer inexperience of the pilots. These embarrassing facts were censored by the personal direction of Prime Minister Curtin. (Web Master: That explains the reference to 457 Squadron in the ADF Serials report above. Note that Alex was an experienced pilot having already served in England.)
Flying Officer Aleaxander Charles McNab is remembered at the Northern Territory Memorial, which stands in Adelaide River War Cemetery and is one of several memorials erected to commemorate the men of the Australian Army, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Australian Merchant Navy who lost their lives in the south-west Pacific region during the 1939-1945 War and have no known grave. Adelaide River is a township lying 116 kilometres south of Darwin, on the main north-south road from the capital to the railhead at Alice Springs. The photo is courtesy of the CWGC.
David Hamilton and Ron Rigg
Updated by Vince Conant
The Spitfire Association