The Aerodrome Home Page
Aces of WWI
Aircraft of WWI
Books and Videos
The Aerodrome Forum
WWI Web Sites
Medals & Decorations
Search The Aerodrome
Today in History

Name: James Thomas Byford "Mac" McCudden
Victoria Cross (VC)
Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and Bar
Military Cross (MC) and Bar
Military Medal (MM)
Croix de Guerre
Country: England
Rank: Major
Service: Royal Flying Corps
Royal Air Force
Units: 3, 20, 29, 56, 66
Victories: 57
Born: 28 March 1895
Place of Birth: Gillingham, Kent, England
Died: 09 July 1918 Killed In Flying Accident
Place of Death: Auxi-le-Château, France
Cemetery: Wavans British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France Image
The son of William and Amelia McCudden, James McCudden joined his father in the Royal Engineers as a 15 year old bugler in 1910. By the time war was declared, he was an aircraft mechanic with 3 Squadron in the Royal Flying Corps. One of three brothers to serve with the R.F.C., he saw combat in France as an observer and gunner before returning to England for flight training in 1916. Flight Sergeant McCudden received Royal Aero Club Aviator's Certificate 2745 on a Maurice Farman biplane at Gosport on 16 April 1916. His talents as a pilot were so extraordinary that he became an instructor within days of receiving his aviator's certificate. By the beginning of April 1918, 22 year old James McCudden was the most decorated pilot in the Royal Air Force. Sadly, he was killed three months later when his aircraft stalled after take off and crashed to the ground.

McCudden's younger brother, John McCudden, also served in the Royal Flying Corps and became an ace before his death in 1918.
"I consider it a patrol leader's work to pay more attention to the main points of the fight than to do all the fighting himself. The main points are: (1) arrival of more EA who have tactical advantage, i.e. height; (2) patrol drifting too far east; (3) patrol getting below bulk of enemy formation. As soon as any of these circumstances occur, it is time to take advantage of the SE's superior speed over EA scouts and break off the fight, rally behind leader and climb west of EA until you are above them before attacking them again." James McCudden
Great Britain, Royal Aero Club Aviators' Certificates, 1910-1950
Great Britain, Royal Aero Club Aviators' Certificates, 1910-1950
Memorial at Sittingbourne, UK
Military Cross (MC) Bar
2nd Lt. (T./Capt.) James Thomas Byford McCudden, M.C., Gen. List and R.F.C.
   For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He took part in many offensive patrols, over thirty of which he led. He destroyed five enemy machines and drove down three others out of control. He showed the greatest gallantry, dash and skill.
Victoria Cross (VC)
2nd Lt. (T./Capt.) James Byford McCudden, D.S.O., M.C., M.M., Gen. List and R.F.C.
   For most conspicuous bravery, exceptional perseverance, keenness, and very high devotion to duty.
   Captain McCudden has at the present time accounted for 54 enemy aeroplanes. Of these 42 have been definitely destroyed, 19 of them on our side of the lines. Only 12 out of the 54 have been driven out of control.
   On two occasions, he has totally destroyed four two-seater enemy aeroplanes on the same day, and on the last occasion all four machines were destroyed in the space of 1 hour and 30 minutes.
   While in his present squadron he has participated in 78 offensive patrols, and in nearly every case has been the leader. On at least 30 other occasions, whilst with the same squadron, he has crossed the lines alone, either in pursuit or in quest of enemy aeroplanes.
   The following incidents are examples of the work he has done recently: —
   On the 23rd December, 1917, when leading his patrol, eight enemy aeroplanes were attacked between 2.30 p.m. and 3.50 p.m. Of these two were shot down by Captain McCudden in our lines. On the morning of the same day he left the ground at 10.50 and encountered four enemy aeroplanes; of these he shot two down.
   On the 30th January, 1918, he, single-handed, attacked five enemy scouts, as a result of which two were destroyed. On this occasion he only returned home when the enemy scouts had been driven far east; his Lewis gun ammunition was all finished and the belt of his Vickers gun had broken.
   As a patrol leader he has at all times shown the utmost gallantry and skill, not only in the manner in which he has attacked and destroyed the enemy, but in the way he has during several aerial fights protected the newer members of his flight, thus keeping down their casualties to a minimum.
   This officer is considered, by the record, which he has made, by his fearlessness, and by the great service which he has rendered to his country, deserving of the very highest honour.
Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
2nd Lt. (T./Capt.) James Byford McCudden, M.C., M.M., Gen. List and R.F.C.
   For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He attacked and brought down an enemy two-seater machine inside our lines, both the occupants being taken prisoner. On another occasion he encountered an enemy two-seater machine at 2,000 feet. He continued the fight down to a height of 100 feet in very bad weather conditions and destroyed the enemy machine. He came down to within a few feet of the ground on the enemy's side of the lines, and finally crossed the lines at a very low altitude. He has recently destroyed seven enemy machines, two of which fell within our lines, and has set a splendid example of pluck and determination to his squadron.
Distinguished Service Order (DSO) Bar
2nd Lt. (T./Capt.) James Byford McCudden, D.S.O., M.C., Gen. List, and R.F.C.
   For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He attacked enemy formations, both when leading his patrol and singlehanded. By his fearlessness and clever manoeuvring, he has brought down thirty-one enemy machines, ten, of which have fallen in our lines. His pluck and determination have had a marked effect on the efficiency of the squadron.
Date Time Unit Aircraft Opponent Location
1 09 Sep 1916 1315 29 D.H.2 (5985) C (DES) Houthem-Gheluwe
2 26 Jan 1917 1005 29 D.H.2 (7858) C (DES) Ficheaux
3 02 Feb 1917 1450 29 D.H.2 (7858) C (DES) 1 SE of Adinfer Wood
4 06 Feb 1917 1400 29 D.H.2 (7858) Albatros C.III (DES) Adinfer Wood
5 15 Feb 1917 1200 29 D.H.2 (6002) Roland C.II (DES) Monchy
6 21 Jul 1917 1930-2030 56 S.E.5 (A8946) Albatros D.V (OOC) Polygon Wood
7 26 Jul 1917 2015 66 Sopwith Pup (B1756) Albatros D.V (OOC) Gheluwe
8 18 Aug 1917 0630-0730 56 S.E.5a (B519) Albatros D.V (OOC) E of Houthem
9 19 Aug 1917 1630-1730 56 S.E.5a (B519) Albatros D.V (OOC) Gheluvelt
10 20 Aug 1917 1850 56 S.E.5a (B519) Albatros D.V (DESF) SE of Polygon Wood
11 20 Aug 1917 abt 1900 56 S.E.5a (B519) Albatros D.V (OOC) Polygon Wood
u/c 14 Sep 1917 1800 56 S.E.5a (B4865) Albatros D.V (DD) Roulers
12 19 Sep 1917 1215 56 S.E.5a (B4863) Rumpler C (DES) Redinghem
u/c 21 Sep 1917 1300 56 S.E.5a (B4863) C (DD) Gheluwe
13 23 Sep 1917 1800-1830 56 S.E.5a (B4863) DFW C.V (DES) NE of Houthem
14 27 Sep 1917 1555-1750 56 S.E.5a (B4863) LVG C.V (CAP) SW of Langemarck
15 28 Sep 1917 0800 56 S.E.5a (B4863) Albatros D.V (DES) S of Houthoulst Forest
u/c 01 Oct 1917 1450 56 S.E.5a (B4863) Rumpler C (OOC) Herlies
16 01 Oct 1917 1750 56 S.E.5a (B4863) Albatros D.V (OOC) 2 Westroosebeke
17 17 Oct 1917 1025 56 S.E.5a (B4863) LVG C.V (CAP) S of Vlammertinghe
18 21 Oct 1917 abt 1300 56 S.E.5a (B4863) Rumpler C (8431/16) (CAP) Marzingarbe
19 18 Nov 1917 0940 56 S.E.5a (B35) DFW C.V (DES) Bellicourt
20 23 Nov 1917 1200 56 S.E.5a (B35) Albatros D.V (DES) 1 mi E of Noyelles
21 29 Nov 1917 0730 56 S.E.5a (B35) DFW C.V (DES) S of Bellicourt
22 29 Nov 1917 1315 56 S.E.5a (B35) DFW C.V (DES) Rouvroy
23 30 Nov 1917 1115 56 S.E.5a (B35) LVG C.V (CAP) SE of Havrincourt
24 05 Dec 1917 1240 56 S.E.5a (B4891) Rumpler C (CAP) Hermies
25 06 Dec 1917 1025 56 S.E.5a (B35) Rumper C (DES) NW of St Quentin
26 06 Dec 1917 1500 56 S.E.5a (B4891) Albatros D.V (OOC) Fontaine
27 15 Dec 1917 1105 56 S.E.5a (B4891) Rumpler C (DES) E of Bois de Vaucelles
28 22 Dec 1917 1205 56 S.E.5a (B4891) DFW C.V (DES) SW of St Quentin
29 23 Dec 1917 1125 56 S.E.5a (B4891) LVG C (DES) Anguilcourt
30 23 Dec 1917 1220 56 S.E.5a (B4891) Rumpler C (CAP) Contescourt
31 23 Dec 1917 1440 56 S.E.5a (B4891) Rumpler C (CAP) Gouzeaucourt
32 23 Dec 1917 1530 56 S.E.5a (B4891) LVG C.V (CAP) Metz-en-Couture
33 28 Dec 1917 1215 56 S.E.5a (B4891) Rumpler C (CAP) Velu Wood
34 28 Dec 1917 1230 56 S.E.5a (B4891) Rumpler C (CAP) Flers
35 28 Dec 1917 1255 56 S.E.5a (B4891) LVG C (CAP) Havrincourt Wood
36 29 Dec 1917 0855 56 S.E.5a (B4891) LVG C (CAP) Havrincourt
37 29 Dec 1917 1400 56 S.E.5a (B4891) LVG C (CAP) NE of Epehy
38 09 Jan 1918 1130 56 S.E.5a (B4891) LVG C (CAP) Graincourt
39 13 Jan 1918 0940 56 S.E.5a (B4891) LVG C (CAP) E of Le Haucourt
40 13 Jan 1918 0950 56 S.E.5a (B4891) DFW C.V (CAP) N of Vendhuile
41 13 Jan 1918 1005 56 S.E.5a (B4891) LVG C (CAP) Lempire
42 20 Jan 1918 1030 56 S.E.5a (B35) LVG C (DES) NW of Cambrai
43 24 Jan 1918 1355 56 S.E.5a (B35) DFW C (DES) Vitry
44 25 Jan 1918 1445 56 S.E.5a (B4891) Rumpler C (DES) Itancourt
45 30 Jan 1918 1115 56 S.E.5a (B4891) Albatros D.V (OOC) Anneux
46 30 Jan 1918 1115 56 S.E.5a (B4891) Pfalz D.III (OOC) Anneux
47 02 Feb 1918 1040 56 S.E.5a (B4891) LVG C.V (CAP) E of Velu
48 16 Feb 1918 1035 56 S.E.5a (B4891) Rumpler C (DES) SW of Caudry
49 16 Feb 1918 1045 56 S.E.5a (B4891) DFW C.V (DES) NE of Le Catelet
50 16 Feb 1918 1110 56 S.E.5a (B4891) Rumpler C (DES) Hargicourt
51 16 Feb 1918 1230 56 S.E.5a (B4891) Rumpler C (CAP) Lagnicourt
52 17 Feb 1918 1025 56 S.E.5a (B4891) LVG C.V (OOC) Guemappe
53 18 Feb 1918 0940 56 S.E.5a (B4891) Albatros D.V (DES) Vitry
54 18 Feb 1918 0945 56 S.E.5a (B4891) Albatros D.V (DES) Quiery la Motte
55 21 Feb 1918 1347 56 S.E.5a (B4891) DFW C.V (DES) S of Maricourt
56 26 Feb 1918 1120 56 S.E.5a (B4891) Rumpler C (DES) Oppy
57 26 Feb 1918 1130 56 S.E.5a (B4891) Hannover C (DES) Cherisy

1 Shared with Maj A W Gratten-Bellew
2 Shared with Lt Leonard Barlow, Lt Arthur Rhys Davids, Lt M H Coote (B1), Lt D J Reason (A8961)
The Air VCs
VCs of the First World War; Peter J. Cooksley / Hardcover / Alan Sutton 1997
Flying Fury : Five Years in the Royal Flying Corps (Vintage Aviation Library, No 15)
James McCudden / Unknown Binding / Greenhill Pr 1987
McCudden, VC
Christopher Cole / Hardcover / Kimber 1967
Aces · Aircraft · Books · Forum · Help · Links · Medals · Search · Today