The WW2 RAF hero who won League medals with Rangers and Arsenal

dh1963

Well-Known Member
Ian McPherson was born in Glasgow in 1920, and signed for Rangers in 1939. A goal scoring winger, he made his senior debut in a 3-1 victory v Arbroath at Ibrox. This match turned out to be the penultimate match in the Scottish Football League before the competition was suspended at the outbreak of World War Two. Little would the 19 year old footballer realise just what this would mean for his future career.

McPherson was to play a big part in the rest of his first season, as Rangers competed for and won the Scottish Regional League Western Division. He played 11 times in the 1939/40 Season scoring 11 goals including a hat-trick v Clyde at Ibrox in a 3-1 victory. As well as the regional title, he helped Rangers to the Glasgow Merchants Charity Cup in May 1940. The next season saw him play in matches 2 and 3 of the Southern League, scoring 2 goals v Hibs in a 5-1 victory, before duty called.

RAF 105 Squadron, based at Marham, was Pilot Officer Ian McPherson's new club. Flying Mosquitos, a multi-role combat aircraft with a two man crew, McPherson was to see action on the front line over Germany in this fast fighter-bomber aircraft. Assigned to fly with McPherson on the majority of his missions, his navigator tells of three occasions their aircraft was hit by German Anti-Aircraft guns and had to return to Marham on a single engine. Another time, having lost their electrics and a lot of fuel, they were not able to identify themselves coasting over the English Channel and were fired at by their own gunners who fortunately missed. The pair also had the ordeal of a crash landing after their landing gear was punctured by shrapnel.

The Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded to McPherson in June 1944, having flown 57 sorties over enemy territory. Only 563 men were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the RAF. The DFC was awarded for 'an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy.'
In January 1945, having been promoted to Flying Officer and by then a veteran of 102 sorties behind enemy lines, he was awarded a Bar to add to his DFC. His recommendation read:

"Since the award of his Distinguished Flying Cross, Flying Officer McPherson has completed numerous sorties. Throughout all his operations he has consistently displayed exemplary courage and tenacity of purpose which, together with outstanding skill and fine leadership, are worthy of high praise".

After returning from serving his country Ian joined Notts County and played in the regional league in 1945/6 when there was still no return to competitive football. He was then signed in August 1946 by Arsenal manager George Allison, a return to Highbury as he had played for them as a guest player during wartime.

He played at outside right in the very first post-war league match for Arsenal – a terrible 6-1 defeat away to Wolverhampton Wanderers. Although four players lost their places in the team immediately after that opening game, Ian McPherson was not one of them and in all he played 37 league games that season, three at inside right. He also played in the three FA cup games of the season, scoring once.

Arsenal finished 13th and at the end of the season George Allison stepped down. In the 1947/8 season under new boss Tom Whittaker, Ian McPherson switched to the outside left position and won a league winners’ medal, scoring 5 times in 29 appearances. On his day, he terrorised full backs with his pace and fierce shot, although like many wingers he was somewhat inconsistent.

Although he played 27 league games in 1949/50 he did not make the team for the 2-0 win over Liverpool in the FA Cup Final.
By season 1950/51 he was more of a stand-in, occupying several positions across the forward line but never being selected regularly.
Ian McPherson left Arsenal in the summer of 1951 and returned to Notts County having played 163 games and scoring 21 goals.

He spent two seasons at Notts County playing 50 games and scoring seven goals, and finished his league career with four games for Brentford. He played non-league football for Bedford Town and Cambridge United.

Little is known of his life after football. In March 1983, he attended a testimonial lunch at Lords for the great Leslie Compton. But two weeks later, Ian McPherson passed away in St. Albans, aged just 62.

A teenage scoring sensation and league champion for Rangers. A courageous and decorated war hero. A title winner in England.

Ian McPherson 1920 - 1983.
We will remember him.
 

Rangerista

Well-Known Member
It reads like a Boy's Own Story, DFC AND Bar. Flying a Mosquito too, one of the finest aircraft of the war, he must have struck a dashing figure.

This is from the Arsenal website, strangely doesn't mention his Rangers career.

 

dh1963

Well-Known Member
It reads like a Boy's Own Story, DFC AND Bar. Flying a Mosquito too, one of the finest aircraft of the war, he must have struck a dashing figure.

This is from the Arsenal website, strangely doesn't mention his Rangers career.


Surprised it doesn't mention his RAF service.
 

senefelder

Well-Known Member
It reads like a Boy's Own Story, DFC AND Bar. Flying a Mosquito too, one of the finest aircraft of the war, he must have struck a dashing figure.

This is from the Arsenal website, strangely doesn't mention his Rangers career.

Most of British historical focus is on the Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster, however the Mosquito deserves to be just as iconic. Incredibly versatile and used as a fighter, photo reconnaissance, pathfinder and bomber. There is youtube footage of a later variant which mounted a single heavy calibre cannon used for attacking shipping.
 

deedle

Well-Known Member
Great stuff, dh1963.

Older Bears will remember Kenneth Wolstenholme, the BBC commentator. During his RAF career he was also a pilot flying Mosquitoes with 105 Squadron who was awarded a DFC.

While this unit carried out daring daylight raids it was eventually designated as a ‘Pathfinder’ squadron. This meant flying ahead of the main bomber stream using a navigational aid called Oboe and then dropping flares on the target.
 

Barca Bear

Well-Known Member
The mosquito was a very accurate bomber.
theres a story of it pinpoint bombing a German house/prison to help prisoners being held, I think in France.
excellent story op.
 

mummymonkey

Well-Known Member
Short Pathé reel of a daylight raid by light bombers (inc. mosquitos). Gives some idea of what it was like.

 

Rangerista

Well-Known Member
Most of British historical focus is on the Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster, however the Mosquito deserves to be just as iconic. Incredibly versatile and used as a fighter, photo reconnaissance, pathfinder and bomber. There is youtube footage of a later variant which mounted a single heavy calibre cannon used for attacking shipping.
It was made of wood, wasn't it, with two thumping engines and those guns in the nose. They also were the planes, weren't they, that were used to blow open the prison holding the French resistance fighters.
 

The Meik's Crombie

Well-Known Member
Great stuff, dh1963.

Older Bears will remember Kenneth Wolstenholme, the BBC commentator. During his RAF career he was also a pilot flying Mosquitoes with 105 Squadron who was awarded a DFC.

While this unit carried out daring daylight raids it was eventually designated as a ‘Pathfinder’ squadron. This meant flying ahead of the main bomber stream using a navigational aid called Oboe and then dropping flares on the target.
A number of Mosquito ops were also spoof raids ie attacking a target like Berlin to draw the German night fighters away from the real target designated for the Main Force. An example of this was in the build up to the Peenemunde raid in August 1943. Mossies sometimes had no guns and their only protection was their speed and operational altitude.

Ian McPherson must have been a special man to have been awarded DFC and Bar.

Thanks for posting his story @dh1963
 
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