Squadron Leader James Joseph "Orange" O'Meara DSO, DFC & Bar (20 February 1919 – 1974) was a Battle of Britain Spitfire Ace with 11 kills, two shared victories, one unconfirmed destroyed, four probables, 11 damaged and one shared damaged.
Early life Edit
O'Meara was born in Barnsley, Yorkshire on 20 February 1919, and entered the Royal Air Force on short commission in April 1938 aged 19.On 18 June he was posted to 9 FTS, RAF Hullavington.
War Time Service Edit
His first operational posting was to No. 64 Squadron based at RAF Hornchurch with whom he obtained his first 'kill' while over Dunkirk on 31 May 1940, when he brought down a Bf 109. He had already damaged a Ju 88 off Calais on 21 May.
His next claim was a Bf 109 of JG 51, shot down in flames over the English Channel on 19 July and ten days later, while intercepting a raid over Dover, claimed two Ju 87s. On 11 August he claimed 2 Bf 109 'probables' and on the following day destroyed one more. He claimed a Bf 109 down on 13 August, and on the 15th he damaged three Heinkel He 111 bombers. On 18 August O'Meara claimed shared destruction of a Ju 88 and a He 111destroyed.
O'Meara was shortly afterwards posted to No. 72 Squadron at Biggin Hill, damaging a Do. 17 on 27 September. A D.F.C. was approved the same month and then he was sent for a 'rest period' at No. 421 (Reconnaissance) Flight RAF at Hawkinge, working up new pilots who would eventually form the nucleus of No.91 Squadron RAF.
O'Meara shot down an He. 59 of Seenotgruppe 3 on 26 November, a Bf 109 fighter-bomber of LG 2 that was attacking a Royal Navy Minesweeper on 5 December, and then damaged another one immediately afterwards.Whilst with No. 91, he was shot down by a Bf 109 and crash-landed near Folkstone on 17 February 1941. He was awarded a Bar to the DFC on 18 March 1941.
By late April 1941 he had destroyed another Seenotgruppe 3 He. 59. On 3 September he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant and temporarily returned to No. 64 Squadron RAF as a Flight Commander, bringing his score to at least 12 confirmed victories. He was rested from operations in October 1941, joining 1491 Target Towing Flight at Tain.
In July 1942 after a brief spell with 164 Squadron, he was posted to Nigeria, serving with 1432 Flight until August. After returning to the UK O'Meara was appointed RAF Liaison Officer to the Army Chief of Staff. In January 1943 O'Meara joined No. 234 Squadron until March then, with a second D.F.C. In April 1943 he was given command of 131 Squadron at Castletown until May 1944. he flew 170 sorties, and claimed an FW 190 damaged in August 1943.
He was then posted to 10 group HQ, and in October 1944 was recommended for a Second Bar to the D.F.C.. AVM Trafford Leigh-Mallory approved a D.S.O. on 27 October 1944 instead, as his length of uninterrupted active service warranting higher recognition.
His wartime score totals 11 and 2 shared destroyed, 1 unconfirmed destroyed, 4 probables, 11 and 1 shared damaged.
After several civilian jobs he re-joined the RAF in 1950 where he remained until 1959 and retired in 1959 with the rank of Squadron Leader.
Post-war years Edit
After his retirement he worked as an architect for Wimpey Homes before running several business enterprises. His daughter was hit and killed by a car in 1969 and his relationship with his wife deteriorated and they divorced. He then ran a restaurant before buying a Hotel in Port Gaverne, Cornwall.
He died in 1974 in the Barnstaple Hospital in North Devon after suffering for several years with a liver infection picked up from a parasite while stationed in India. He is buried in Old Town Cemetery, Bideford.