James Young Malley (1918 - 2000):
James Young Malley, usually known as Jim, had a highly distinguished war record in the Royal Air Force, decorated for bravery several times; later, he was a right-hand man of the Northern Ireland Prime Minister and was close to groundbreaking events in Ulster politics, with ramifications for the whole island.
He was born near Aughnacloy, County Tyrone, son of a farmer and merchant; the family were originally from Mayo. He attended Aughnacloy Public Elementary School followed by Dungannon Royal School, before joining the Northern Ireland Civil Service in Belfast as a State Duty Officer. He had intended to study for a law degree, but in 1939 the Second World War intervened.
On 3rd January 1940 he joined the Royal Air Force and was commissioned as a navigator and bomb-aimer in RAF Bomber Command. He passed out with a mark of 79%, in October 1940, and further training in December saw him qualify with 70% in each of bomb aiming and gunnery. In February he was posted to 149 Squadron at Mildenhall which flew Wellington bombers; Malley's aircraft had a name, as was usual: "F for Freddie". This was the aircraft which featured in the documentary film of 1941, "Target for Tonight", which involved filming an actual raid and used exclusively RAF personnel. On 21 February, 1941, he flew for the first time as First Navigator, a position he would retain throughout his RAF career, adding to it the posts of Squadron Navigation Officer, Squadron Operations Officer, and Master Bomber.
One of his first bombing raids was against Kiel, the major port in northern Germany. At that time, navigation was largely by visual sighting, Malley's rôle being simply, or better crudely, to guide the pilot to the target. Coastal targets were relatively easy to spot, unlike targets in the industrial Ruhr area inland; accordingly navigation using this method required highly-skilled navigators, and Malley was often described in appreciative terms by his superior officers. He also took part in raids on Hamburg, and even at that time Berlin, which could be a 20-hour round trip. On occasion, there were raids against Milan, which required Malley to navigate his aircraft between Alpine peaks as the flight ceiling was 10,000 feet. Malley was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC; awarded for for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy".) in 1941. After 35 "ops" or "sorties", he was posted to RAF Mildenhall as an instructor, then to RAF Harwell from where he took part in the first thousand-bomber raids, on Cologne and Essen, and in raids on targets as far afield as Mannheim, Stettin (which was a nine-hour round trip over hostile territory) and Genoa (a ten-hour trip), as well as Hamburg and Bremen on Germany's north coast, and Brest in North-West France, where two of Germany's principal battlecruisers, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, were then based.
He was then transferred to RAF Middle East Command, having trained for the Consolidated Liberator bomber. In 1943 he was awarded a bar to his DFC (that is, he was awarded another DFC), especially for his actions during bombing raids against enemy shipping in the harbour at Tobruk, Libya, a very important strategic target, where an enemy destroyer was successfully attacked, though he was usually involved in attacking fuel dumps. Based in Palestine, at RAF St Jean near Akko (Acre) in what is now Israel, he also flew on operations over Crete, southern Greece and Italy. After 32 "sorties", and now a Squadron Leader, he was transferred to England to conduct navigator training, which he continued until May 1944. He then applied to return to active operations, for which he was required to take a full medical examination, which he failed. He appealed, however, and was effectively waved through by an Air Commodore called O'Mally.
He joined 139 Squadron, 8th Group, then based at Upwood, near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, flying Mosquitoes, which were agile, fast aircraft. This was a "Pathfinder" squadron; their main function was that its aircraft would fly ahead of main bomber fleets in order to illuminate their targets, divert enemy aircraft or interfere with enemy radar defences. They would be first over a target and last to leave it. Malley flew 53 operations on this tour, the last ten as a Master Bomber, a new rôle demanding highly skilled practitioners. For his service in this arena, Malley was eventually awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO - the second-highest military award for bravery in the United Kingdom).
Malley flew 131 operations over Europe, including 37 over Berlin, the greatest number by any RAF Bomber Command member during the war. He took part in the last raid on Berlin, on 20 April 1945; the Red Army was poised to take the city. Moreover, the fatality rate for Bomber Command personnel was, with 55,573 killed out of a total of some 125,000 aircrew, an extremely high 44.4%. Malley's sole injury was a partially frozen right hand, which he admitted was his own fault: while bombing Berlin, in an aircraft which at the requisite altitude was effectively unheated, he had forgotten to replace his right glove.
After the war he returned to the Northern Civil Service, Department of Finance. In 1956 the then Minister of Finance was Terence O'Neill who appointed Malley as his private secretary. When O'Neill became Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in 1963, took Malley with him, the two having established a close working relationship; in fact, O'Neill was planning some form of rapprochement with the Irish Republic, which was not altogether popular in his ruling Ulster Unionist Party, and so acted without consulting widely, except with a coterie which included Malley. He decided to entrust Malley with an important task.
One plan O'Neill had was to hold a summit meeting with the Irish Republic's Prime Minister, the Taoiseach, Seán Lemass. Seeking a pretext or context for this, he asked Malley to meet, in secret, TK Whitaker, then the Minister of Finance in the Irish Republic and a political ally of Lemass. O'Neill and Malley had previously, when O'Neill was Northern Ireland Finance minister, met Whitaker at the World Bank in New York, and Malley had struck up friendly relations with Whitaker (himself an Ulsterman, originally from Rostrevor, County Down). On one occasion which Malley related years later, they met on board the transatlantic liner Queen Elizabeth; The President of Yugoslavia was also a passenger and Malley played table tennis with his foreign secretary, and won.
At the beginning of January 1965, Malley travelled in secret to Dublin, liaised with Whitaker and then personally called on the Taoiseach, Lemass, to issue O'Neill's invitation to Belfast for 14 January. The meeting was kept secret from a lot of O'Neill's own government. Malley personally met Lemass at the border to escort him to Belfast.
Whatever O'Neill's efforts at reform, internal Unionist politics served to force his resignation in 1969, when Malley was appointed Registrar General for Northern Ireland, with responsibilities for amongst other things organising the decennial Census, and maintaining the Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths. He served in this post until his retirement. He had an active retirement, energetically working for the Milibern Trust which was set up to provide sheltered housing for former servicemen and their widows; the Churchill Memorial Trust; and he was a trustee of the Scotch-Irish Trust of Ulster, the body which today is best known as the principal funder of the Ulster-American Folk Park, County Tyrone. He was appointed Deputy Lieutenant for Belfast in 1985.
He enjoyed fishing, shooting and gardening, and was almost never seen without his dogs. His wife predeceased him and he died on 5 June 2000.
|Born:||28 July 1918|
|Died:||5 June 2000|
Dictionary of Irish Biography; http://www.aircrewremembrancesociety.com/bookreviews/bombercommandlossesrefbooks.html; Ulster Tatler, Sep 93, review of book, Max Arthur, There Shall Be Wings; John C. Hewitt: Ireland's Aviator Heroes of World War II
© 2021 Ulster History Circle