McElroy, George Edward Henry (1893–1918), leading Irish-born fighter pilot of the first world war, was born 14 May 1893 at 2 Beaver Row, Donnybrook, Dublin, eldest among four sons and four daughters of Samuel McElroy, BA, national teacher, of Co. Roscommon, and Ellen McElroy (née Synnott), schoolmistress, of Co. Westmeath. He received his preliminary education at Beaver Row School, where his parents taught and the family lived above the school. He was later educated at Mountjoy School, Dublin, where he played scrum-half for the school rugby team. On the outbreak of the war, he joined the British army as a motor dispatch rider and served during the retreat from Mons. In May 1915 he was commissioned in the Royal Irish Regiment, but in December 1915 he was gassed and invalided home.
After a period of garrison duty in Ireland, he entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich in June 1916 and was gazetted to the Royal Garrison Artillery. In February 1917 he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. Having qualified as a pilot, he was posted to 40 Squadron at Bruay, France, flying Nieuport Scouts. He became a protégé of fighter ace Edward (‘Mick’) Mannock, by whom he was nicknamed ‘McIrish’ to distinguish him from ‘McScotch’, the Scottish pilot William MacLanachan. It was not until the squadron was equipped with the SE5a aircraft that McElroy gained his first victory, on 28 December 1917. Over the next one and a half months he claimed ten more. In late February 1918 he was posted to 24 Squadron and, promoted to captain, commanded a flight. He had his first victory with the squadron on 21 February. During his time with the squadron he had a further sixteen victories. He was awarded an MC (February 1918) and two bars (March, April).
In March 1918 the Germans launched a major offensive, and as a result the squadron had to move airfield several times. During McElroy's time with the squadron, it was based at Matigny, Moreuil, Bertangles, and Conteville. On 7 April he shot down three enemy planes, bringing his total to twenty-seven; while landing, he crashed into a tree and was injured. On recovery in late June he rejoined 40 Squadron. He scored three victories in the last four days of the month, including his first two balloons. In July 1918 he had another seventeen victories, including a further balloon. This made him the highest-scoring pilot of the RAF for the month. Also during July he was awarded the DFC and bar. On 20 July his aircraft suffered engine trouble during combat, but he crash-landed unhurt. That evening a farewell party was held for Capt. Gwilym Lewis, who had been posted home. ‘Mick’ Mannock, now with 85 Squadron, attended. McElroy and Mannock chided each other for being too aggressive and for flying too low in pursuit of German planes. On 26 July, while flying low, Mannock was shot down and killed by fire from the ground. Five days later, on 31 July 1918, McElroy took off at 8.15 a.m. from Bryas, north-west of Saint-Quentin, in SE5a number E1310. He did not return. The Germans later dropped a message to the RAF. They said that he had shot down a German two-seater at low altitude over Laventie, but had been shot down and killed by anti-aircraft fire. The Germans buried him at Laventie cemetery, south of the Laventie–Armentieres railway. In a period of seven months he had scored forty-seven victories (forty-four aircraft and three balloons). He is commemorated on a war memorial in the grounds of St Mary's Church of Ireland, Donnybrook, Dublin. His brother William Alfred McElroy, who died in the second world war, is also commemorated on the memorial.