Arthur McDonald

Biographical information

TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameArthur William Baynes•McDonald
Used nameArthur•McDonald
Born14 June 1903 in Port Elizabeth (RSA)
Died26 July 1996 in Theydon Bois, Essex, England (GBR)
NOC Great Britain


Arthur McDonald was born in South Africa, where his father was a doctor during the second Boer War. He was brought up in Saint Kitts and Antigua, however, where the family had been settled for generations. McDonald attended Antigua Grammar School, then studied in England at Epsom College, and also read engineering at Peterhouse, Cambridge. He joined the RAF in 1924, and was later posted to RAF Selatar in Singapore. In 1933 McDonald started the Selatar Yacht Club. Before the outbreak of World War II, McDonald returned home to take up a post at Biggin Hill, working at the Experimental Flight station where he and his team worked on the use of radar as a form of defence against the German Luftwaffe, and they persuaded the Government to build a series of radar stations around Britain’s coastline. McDonald’s work played a key role in Britain’s victory in the Battle of Britain in the Summer of 1940, and for his work at Biggin Hill he was awarded the Air Force Cross (AFC)

After the War, McDonald was appointed Commandant at the RAF Staff College in Andover, and in 1958 was made a KCB (Order of the Bath) and became Sir Arthur McDonald. His last RAF appointment, between 1959-61, was as a member of the Air Council. He was the first technical RAF officer to obtain such an appointment. He retired in 1962, having attained the rank of air marshal.

After the War, because of his love of sailing. McDonald founded the RAF Sailing Association on the Welsh Harp reservoir at Hendon, and just like the one he founded in Singapore, insisted it would be open to airmen of all ranks. McDonald was a very competent dinghy sailor and took part in regattas all over the world, often crewed by his wife Mary. He won the 1937 National 12-foot Dinghy Championship in Farandole to capture the coveted Burton Cup, and in 1948 finished ninth in the Firefly Class at the London Olympics, with a best finish of third in race four.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1948 Summer Olympics Sailing GBR Arthur McDonald
One Person Dinghy, Open (Olympic) 9