Captain Jack McCleery RNAS, RAF

First World War and Second World War

McCleery was born in Belfast in 1898. He joined the Royal Naval Air Service in 1916, as a Probationary Flight Officer. In his first 10 months he flew more than a dozen landplanes, seaplanes and flying boats and gained his wings as a Flight Sub-Lieutenant.

He was an exceptional pilot and in July 1917 he became one of the world’s first pilots to operate from an aircraft carrier. Serving on-board the Royal Navy's HMS Furious, nicknamed the ‘Hush-Hush’, McCleery flew Short 184 seaplanes and Sopwith 1½ Strutters from the flight deck.

In 1918, McCleery was part of the support element for the Tondern raid; an attack on German Zeppelin hangars. This was the first successful carrier air strike in history.

As a test pilot McCleery conducted a series of dangerous and experimental deck landings and was a pioneer in the early days of naval aviation.

McCleery took part in more than a dozen operations in the North Sea, undertaking reconnaissance missions off the coast of Denmark. Aircraft carrier operations being in their infancy meant that pilots often landed in the sea to be picked up by waiting destroyers.

He was promoted to Captain in the RAF, retiring in 1969 and died in 1983.