BAILEY James Richard Abe – SQUADRON LEADER – RAF NO. 74325


Although born in England on 23 October 1919, Jim Bailey was the third son of the South African tycoon, Sir Abe Bailey. Jim was raised and educated in England.  He attended Winchester College and Christ Church College, Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Jim Bailey sprang from an adventurous stock. His mother, Lady Mary Bailey held the solo London-Cape Town-London record in 1928-1929 in a DH60. His father, South African Abe Bailey made, lost and made again fortunes on the Rand. An Oxford undergraduate Jim joined the University Air Squadron in 1939 “because the food was good” and graduated to fly Defiants, Hurricanes, Havocs and Beaufighters. He flew principally at night, hunting by radar; savouring the chase, uneasy at the kill. Post-war, as founder/editor he published the South African magazine The Drum.


After attending Winchester College, he entered Christ College, Oxford, joining the University Air Squadron. Bailey joined the RAFVR in June 1939. The outbreak of war interrupted his studies; he joined the RAF in November 1939. He was commissioned on 26 September 1939. He attended 1 ITW, Cambridge and No. 1TW, Hastings. He was promoted to Pilot Officer on 14 October 1939.

He then went to Cranwell in January 1940. He was then posted to 5 FTS, Sealand, followed by 1 School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum.  Bailey was posted on 10 June 1940 to 5 OUT to convert to Defiants, on conclusion of his training, which culminated at Ashton Down OTU. He was then transferred to 264 Squadron on 19 June 1940. In August 1940 he took part in 264’s last day-fighting operations.   He was engaged in one major interception during the Battle of Britain, on August 28, when his gunner, Sgt. O A Hardy claimed damage to a He111, but the Defiant, N1569, was damaged by Bf109s of JG26, and he was obliged to make a forced landing. The unit was then withdrawn from the south, and in September he volunteered for transfer to 85 Squadron, which was to train for the night fighting role.


On 24 August 1940, the Luftwaffe savaged Manston for the last time. S/L Philip Hunter, dark, soft-voiced C.O. of 264 Squadron had at dawn led his Defiants down to Manston from Hornchurch sector airfield. Barely a month before 141 Squadron had been torn to shreds by Trautloft’s III JG 51.  Jim Bailey, barely 20 and a greenhorn of 264, had dared the previous evening to at Hornchurch to broach the subject that worried everyone to his CO. What was the sense in sending Defiants forward to Manston? Slow and clumsy as they were, they should be last, not first to meet the enemy. And Philip Hunter had answered quietly, ‘We are here in a place of honour, and we must accept it.’ On 28 August 1940 at 09.35 hrs Pilot Officer J R A Bailey and Gunner Sgt. O A Hardy were shot down by Bf 109s and forced landed at Court Lodge Farm, Pentham, near Canterbury. Neither crewmember was hurt. Defiant N1569 was Category 3 destroyed.

Casualty report for 28 August 1940. With thanks to Andy Long.

The Defiants were at seventeen thousand feet when a ‘flock of Heinkels’ came over Folkstone. Far above, like ‘black dots in the empyrean’ the top cover of Messerschmitts was already fighting back against high-flying Spitfires. The Defiants climbed up beneath the bombers. “The Heinkels looked as big as elephants” commented Jim Bailey of 264. Hardie, his air gunner, was firing into the belly of one of them then fell out with an engine on fire. If only the British fighters could have held off the Me 109s the Defiants might have routed the Heinkels before they bombed Eastchurch. While the Defiants were attacking bombers Galland’s JG 26’s Me109s were diving and pulling up under the unwary Defiants. Jim heard strikes against his aircraft and a voice; ‘I’m wounded.’ Flicking over he went for the ground in a steep spiral. It was most likely his Defiant that Galland came diving at but overshot. Jim’s luck still held as he glided beneath some high- tension cables and crashed through a hedge. Hardie was out in a flash. ‘I thought you said you were wounded?’ said Jim, squinting down a cut nose. ‘No, I said Starboard,’ replied Hardie. Jim Bailey recalls the incident as described above but adds “I looked for a convenient field, finding them all, however, studded with poles to forestall German Gliders.” When Hardie told him, he had slipped under high tension cables he replied:” What cables?” After the crash-landing a Messerschmitt pilot parachuted into a nearby field. He claimed to have shot down a Defiant that morning. The German pilot, when later interviewed by Bailey, said he judged the Spitfire better than the Messerschmitt, the Hurricane not so good and Defiants no good at all!

Frank’s authorative works on RAF Fighter Command losses does not list Defiant N1569 as lost on or on the days around 28 August 1940.  This could be as it crashlanded. Brew confirms the date it crash-landed and that after being repaired at Reid and Sigist the Defiant was transferred to 24 MU on 16 May 1941. The plane was finally abandoned over Moray Firth with the loss of the gunner on 16 June 1942. In September 1940 Bailey was posted to 85 Squadron at Castle Camps, as it went over to night fighting.  He was promoted to Flying Officer on 26 September 1940.


Whilst at 85 Squadron Bailey flew Hurricanes and then Havocs, before being posted to 1452 Flight in July 1941 to fly Turbinlite Havocs. Later in the year he returned to 264 Squadron, now also on night operations, although still flying Defiants, but in the end of December he to the similarly equipped 125 Squadron as flight commander. The unit then re-equipped with Beaufighter IIs, and the flight commander’s post became of Sqn Ldr level, so he became second in command of his flight. Following the re-equipment with Beaufighter VI’s, he served in several detachments, hunting Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft by day over the Irish Sea and the Orkney and Shetland Islands, damaging one and shooting down another.

264 Squadron Defiants

Jim Bailey, flying a Beaufighter, describes his first night contact as follows: “It was my first enemy contact at night. I closed in on him. There he was a black stripe, opaque against the starlit night. His exhausts flickered. I raised the nose, aimed a little under him, since I was myself lower than he was, and fired three or four long bursts. He fired back, driving a hail of tracer all round us. I fired again, then my guns jammed. I broke away since I could not shoot. For ten minutes on my way back across the sea I was unable to speak; for I had become so excited that the muscles proper for speech would not function, and try as I would to use the radio, nothing came of it. We saw no results and we did not claim anything. The Armament Sergeant found that one gun had never fired, and the other seven had jammed for seven different reasons. The lesson that I learned was the danger of excitement. I decided that I must at all costs control my highly-strung self and become a precise, scientific craftsman; and this, so far as possible, I became.” Bailey, flying in a 264 Sqn Defiant, describes how he nearly shot down Bob Braham as follows: “…as we patrolled the narrow passage, a twin-engined aircraft passed ahead of us, flying at speed towards Belgium. I pursued as I could, but before I could identify it, and without being given permission to fire, Bob Martin opened up and sent a stream of pink night-tracer past the intruder. The aircraft turned, and as I saw its silhouette against the moon’s silver path along the sea, I recognized it for a Beaufighter.” He was promoted to Flight Lieutenant 26 September 1941

Jim Bailey, second from right, at Squadron Leader Peter Townsend’s wedding
With thanks to Andy Long.


On 1 January 1942 Bailey joined 125 Squadron at Fairwood Common as a Flight Commander flying a Beaufighter.

Bailey, flying a Beaufighter, met a Junkers Ju 88, and described the action as follows: “…We were flying at 15000 feet in an area which we had computed was most likely to be crossed. In due time ground control picked up an enemy aircraft a hundred miles south, coming north … I was surprised. I had so often searched within a maze of cloud for German aircraft that were not there, to actually sight one below us, a lonely black dot, astonished me. We moved into the sun and slid down it. The enemy pilot was flying just above the cloud-tops, so that he could plunge into them at a moment’s notice. I did not wish to lose him, and so descended upon him as fast as I could…. My windscreen was misting…. so that as I dived I was agitatedly rubbing it with my leather glove in the hope of being able to see something through it. Our prey grew larger, and we caught sight of the details and the German crosses on it as we approached. Partly because I could not properly see and partly because I was impetuous, I turned out of the sun and behind him a moment too soon. He still did not notice us; fearing that he might escape us if he did – for if his gunners had been keeping proper watch he must of observed us at once – I opened fire as we closed in on him, starting with a long burst from about 500 yards. As we closed fast, two shells exploded on the fuselage by the rear gun position. At this, he turned slightly port, dived into the cloud and was gone…He gained France.”

Bailey’s next combat was halfway between Scotland and Norway. He relates the combat as follows: “I opened full throttle and, climbed into the cloud above us and began to stalk him. I was forced to reappear once or twice to check his position, but he did not notice us. We had to be close to him before he saw us, for if he was given the smallest grace he could dive away into cloud and would be lost forever. In fact, we were lucky, for we broke cloud a thousand yards from him; we were well above him and could dive straight onto his tail as he passed from starboard to port beneath us. It was a Junkers Ju 88. He saw us at once and dived, releasing streams of tracer that passed us in abundance, above and below. I held my fire and concentrated on closing the range…. Our prey made one fatal error. I opened fire and struck him on the tip of the port wing, planting crocuses of light there. I imagine that our true airspeed was between four and five hundred, and had he continued his dive, spiraling for cloud, he must have escaped. Instead, on being hit, he changed his mind, and began a long climbing turn to port. We were now between two and three hundred yards apart; his aim was improving, mine remained weak. I saw bright flashes from the muzzle of his guns. I hit him several times on the port wing and engine, firing at him in small bursts, that nearly always registered, but never with more than one or two strikes. I had him full of lead, however, by the time that his gunner, who had unhappily survived all this, placed me in the centre of the pattern. There was a monstrous roar, a strange stink, and my starboard engine misfired. I broke away. I last saw the slender shape of this aircraft flying down towards the sea, in which, as we later discovered, it crashed…I remember quickly taking stock of my position. I cut the petrol on the starboard engine, which was failing, and switched off. A bullet had come through the perspex, passed through the flap of my right ear, blowing the earphones out of my helmet…. Another bullet had punctured the tank holding the de-icing fluid…Another bullet had penetrated the instrument panel and passed my waist…Later, I found there were two bullets in the port engine, one in the starboard, three in the nose of the machine, one through the starboard mainplane and others elsewhere.” Escorted by two Spitfires they made it back to base. This was Bailey’s first victory. He was flying Beaufighter VIf X8255, of Squadron 125, and was 118 miles east of Montrose. Foreman adds that it was on 20 September 1942 at 10:15 am and that Bailey damaged a Ju88. On 10 November 1942 Bailey shot down a Ju88 118 miles east of Inverberie ant about 09:00.


He became a flight commander again, but was rested in April 1943, being attached to the USAAF’s 415th Night Fighter Squadron as liaison officer and to assist in training the American crews for the night fighting role. In July he moved to 54 OTU as an instructor until November, when he flew a Beaufighter out to the Mediterranean area and was posted to command a flight in 600 Sqn in Italy.


On the night of 29 February/1 March 1944 Squadron Leader Jim Bailey and Flying Officer W Williams flying Beaufighter VIf V8407 “N” of 600 Squadron, shot down a Ju88 20 miles north west of Rome at 22:48. The Luftwaffe reported losing one Ju88 that night: Ju88A-4 WNr 141045 of 4.KG.30. Pilot and one baled out safely. Two killed in action.   

Operating over Anzio and during the landings in southern France, he claimed five more victories, all at night, and was awarded the DFC on 8 September 1944. Once again Bailey was plagued by guns that would not fire. He describes the ‘combat’ as follows: “We were put onto another enemy plane, made contact with him, and closed in. I caught sight of his silhouette; it was a Ju 88 travelling north. I closed in behind and a little below and raised the aircraft’s nose to fire. The guns did not fire. I fired again, again nothing happened. Willie checked the guns; I checked the fire and safe mechanism, still with no result. We followed him, right under his tail…. Finally, resigned to my fate, I dived away and left him. It transpired that a piece of grit or a drop of water had entered the electrical firing mechanism from my muddy hands.

JUNE 1944

On the night of 2/3 June 1944 Bailey managed to down a Ju 87 whilst flying Beaufighter VIf ND165/N of 600 Squadron, a feat not to be sneered at as these elderly dive-bombers flew so slowly that Beaufighters overshot them at night. Bailey described the action: “We were put on to a bogey, an unidentified aircraft, and almost immediately I got a visual on a Stuka at six hundred yards range, weaving gently as it flew south. I dropped thirty degrees of flap, slowed down until the great gun-platform was wallowing in the air and then, as the Stuka crossed from starboard to port, fired at about two hundred yards range. One cannon shell exploded near the pilot’s seat and the Stuka dived for the ground. I watched it in the milky air. Streams of tracer hurried past me as the gunner, in place of parachuting, fired back. I saw it dive all the way down into the Alban Hills, where it exploded, with a flash that lit the countryside.” Shores & Williams give the location as North of Colle Laziali.

On the night of Friday/ Saturday 2/3 June 1944 Squadron Leader Jim Bailey and Sergeant N Wint flying in Beaufighter VIf ND165 “N” shot down a Ju87 north of Colli Laziah at 23:40. They were however not finished for the night as they shot down a Bf110  in the Tiber Valley north of Rome at 00:30. The Luftwaffe did report losing a Bf110G-4 Wnr 720039 shot down 35 km north of Rome at 00:50. Uffz Mrusek baled to safety. His gunner was killed in action. NSGr9 reported losing a JU87.

Bailey wasn’t finished for the night. He was successfully vectored onto another Ju 87.  Bailey describes the Stuka’s escape as follows: “We dived after him, but no Beaufighter could emulate a Stuka at this and he disappeared among the shadowy hills and was gone.”

The night was still not over for Bailey. This time, however, he was successful. He describes the third contact as follows: “…ground control gave us a third contact. The Shrimp was working with great skill at the back. The aircraft we were chasing seemed to suspect our presence, for the pilot was diving, twisting and turning, it would seem doing all that he could elude us. Then he flew straight a minute. We were above Tiber, at a point where it was small. We closed in and I saw the slender and beautiful form of a Me 110, a German night-fighter, out on the same game as ourselves. I closed in further and raised the nose and fired. There was a moment’s pause; two white parachutes opened beneath us like Japanese Paper flowers in a bowl of water; the plane turned on its back and plunged into the hills.” Bailey had a fourth contact but suspected that the Germans had figured out what was happening. Low on fuel he returned to base.

JULY 1944

Bailey, flying Beaufighter VIf ND165/ “N” on the night of 6/7 July 1944, was vectored to intercept an unidentified aircraft coming south. Bailey takes up the story: “It was flying low, they said, but they were doubtful of its height. We made contact with it and Shrimp brought us in. Then I saw it. It was far below us Black against the moonlit sea, flying just above the water. As we dropped onto it I saw it carried a distinctive tail, either of a ME 140 or a Ju 88. I had thought by strict self-discipline to cut most part of the risk out of our profession, but I was now faced with fighting in the middle of the night just above the waves. He seemed to be cruising at about 250 mph. I judged it essential to avoid a dogfight or we should both of us end in the sea, so I closed in fairly fast. He grew big. I could dimly see the waves speeding past just beneath my wing. The gun-sight is a ring of red light. I had to take my eye off the water and peer through this ring, which though it had been dimmed for night-work, still dazzled. I fired at the Ju 88 and missed. We were now close to him. I fired a long burst again: cannon shells and machine-gun bullets exploded the length of his port wing and engine. He returned fire, streams of scarlet tracer passing above my starboard wing. He climbed up to six hundred feet and lost speed. I climbed up after him but overshot. As I turned into him, he manoeuvred correctly by turning into me. I passed just above him. I made a wide turn to come in behind him but he disappeared. At that point ground control also lost him on their screen, and never saw him again. After studying the plot, we conjectured that he had gone into the water for he was full of lead. Pop Coleman found wreckage, oil, and empty dinghy and fluorescence there the next morning.” Shores & Williams give the location as north east of Elba.

On the night of 10/11 July 1944, Bailey flying Beaufighter VIf  ND165/N, when he scored his last victory, 15 miles north west of Lake Trasimeno.Bailey gives this description of his last victory: “…Shrimp and I were above the mountains when we were advised of trade coming south. The Germans had not now many aircraft to spare and were still using the Ju 87 at night, whose slowness protected it. There was a sliver of a moon. We made contact with an aircraft, and a minute or two later I saw a Ju 87 ahead of me. As we closed in he caught sight of us, thrust his nose down and dived for the protection of the mountaintops. I pushed my Beaufighter down and opened fire, letting him fly through the pattern. I saw one cannon-shell explode amidships. We waited for a full minute and then the tell-tale fire broke out below.” Bailey describes his second encounter with a Ju 87 that night as follows: “We were put after another Ju 87 soon afterwards. We attacked it twice and I think missed it twice – why I do not know. The sight was a moveable one and it may have become unseated; or perhaps I had grown cocksure of my shooting. With the second attack a shell pre-exploded at the muzzle, the flash blinded me for a second and when I could see again, the Stuka was gone.


On conclusion of his second tour he returned to England where he joined the Air Ministry Manpower Research Unit at Marston Moor.

On the 1st of July 1945 Bailey was promoted to Squadron leader. At the end of the war he commanded a ferry unit briefly, bringing aircraft back to the UK from Europe, but was demobilized and returned to Oxford, obtaining a BA in 1947 and an MA in 1949, also rejoining the UAS.


The list of Bailey’s victories is as listed by Shores and Williams.

Date Victories Own plane Location Sqn
28 Aug
Defiant I – N1569 Dover 264  
20 Sep
Beaufighter VIf – X8255 65m SW Waterford 125
10 Nov Ju88 Beaufighter VIf 118m E Montrose 125
1944 29/1 Mar Ju88 Beaufighter VIf – V8827/ “N” 20m NW Rome 600
2/3 Jun Ju87 Beaufighter VIf – ND165/N N Colle Lazizli 600
2/3 Jun Bf110 Beaufighter VIf – ND165/N Tiber Valley, N Rome 600
6/7 Jun Ju88 Beaufighter VIf – ND165/N NE Elba 600
10/11 Jul Ju87 Beaufighter VIf – ND165/N 15m NW Lake Trasimero 600

Total: 6 destroyed and 2 damaged.


His war experiences from the Battle of Britain through Gibraltar and the Anzio beachhead to the landings in the South of France were published in 1964 as “Eskimo Nel” and was re-issued as “The Sky Suspended: A Fighter Pilots Story” in 1990. Jim Bailey has also published a book of Poetry “The Poetry of a Fighter Pilot” in 1993.  His second wife Barbara has published her autobiography title ‘An eccentric marriage’ in 2005. He also published a book of poetry in 1993, “The Poetry of a Fighter Pilot”

Later years The vision of the early Drum Magazine was to be a popular educator, and to connect Africans to Africans through its literary and visual work, as well as to highlight Africa’s independence struggle. The magazine has a proud history. In 1950 Robert Crisp and Jim Bailey started African Drum, which later became known as Drum. Jim Bailey became sole proprietor and by the late 50s was publishing 450 000 copies through Africa each month. It became a successful forum for articulate black people to express themselves and describe and define the world they lived in.

Jim Bailey died at the age of 80, and was a renowned eccentric, sponsor of the arts, farmer and liberal causes. Although he held a master’s degree from Oxford, he advised his children against going to university as: “It dulls diamonds and shines pebbles!”

Bailey’s Aircraft

The Defiant Bailey was crash landed on 31 August 1940 would have been identical excpt for the code letters and serial number which would have been PS-?? and N1569.

Thanks to Wgr Cmdr Andrew Thomas

N1569 was the 122nd Bolton Paul Defiant to be built and was delivered to 10 Maintenance Unit on 14 July 1940 and to 264 Squadron on 25 August 1940. As we know it was damaged on 28 August 1940. It was then delivered to Reid & Sigrist for repairs on 10 September 1940. It was delivered to 24 Maintenance Unit on 16 May 1941 and returned to Reid & Sigrist SAS on 5 August 1941, then on to RAAA (Ready and Awaiting Allocation) on 3 January 1942. It went to 46 Maintenance Unit on 16 February 1942 and on 1st March it reached 256 Squadron. It was passed on to 287 Squadron on 24 May 1942, then to 289 Squadron on 26 May 1942. The engine cut out on a flight from Inverness for Army co-operation; it was abandoned over Moray Firth on 19 June 1942; Sgt M Munro was unhurt and Sgt H L Christian was killed.

Some idea of the camouflage pattern
Bailey also flew the night fighter version of the Defiant which was painted “night” black. Thanks to Andrew Thomas
Jim Bailey on his Night fighter Defiant, note the radar aerials on the wing in the foreground and on the fuselage behind his knees. With thanks to Andy Long.

The plane that Bailey was most successful in was a Bristol Beaufighter VIf, the night fighter version of 600 Squadron Royal Air Force. His aircraft was very similar to the aircraft depicted below, except its code letters were BQ-N and its serial was ND165.


  1. Bailey, Jim 1994. The Sky Suspended – A Fighter Pilot’s Story, Images Publishing (Mulvern), Upton upon Severn.
  2. Bailey, Jim 1993.  The Poetry of a Fighter Pilot, Images Publishing,
  3. Barron, Chris 2000, An Extraordinary who man marched to his own drum – Jim Bailey Obituary, Sunday Times South Africa, March 5 2000.
  4. Brew, Alec 1996. The Defiant File; Air-Britain.
  5. Foreman, John 2005. RAF Fighter Command Victory Claims of World War Two – Part Two – 1941- 30 June 1943, Red Kite, Walton-on-Thames.
  6. Franks, Norman 1997. Royal Air Force Fighter Command Losses of the Second World War – Volume 1 Operational Losses: Aircraft and Crews 1939-1941, Midlands Publishing Limited, Leicester.
  7. Franks, Norman 1998. Royal Air Force Fighter Command Losses of the Second World War – Volume 2 Operational Losses: Aircraft and Crews 1942-1943, Midlands Publishing Limited, Leicester.
  8. Mason, Francis K 1990. Battle over Britain. Aston Publications, Bourne End.
  9. McKee, Alexander 1960. Strike from the Sky, Odhams Press Limited London.
  10. Shores, Christopher and Williams, Clive, 1994. Aces High, Grub Street, London.
  11. Shores, Christopher, 1999. Aces High Volume 2, Grub Street, London.
  12. Shores, Christopher, Massimello Giovanni, Guest Russel, Olynyk, Frank, Bock, Winifred and Thomas, Wg Cmr Andy, 2018. A History oof the Mediterranean Air War 1940 – 1945 – Volume 4 – Scily and Italy to the fall of Rome – 14 May, 1943 – 5 June, 1944, Grub Street Endland.
  13. Thomas, Andrew, 2012. Defiant, Blenheim and Havoc Aces, Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 105,  Osprey Publishing
  14. Townsend, Peter 1974. Duel of Eagles, Corgi Books, London
  15. Wynn, Kenneth G. 2001. Men of the Battle of Britain, CCB Associates, South Croydon.