Ernest Archibald McNab OBE DFC CD BSc was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, son of former Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, Archibald McNab and Mrs. McNab. He attended the University of Saskatchewan where, in 1931, he received a BSc in civil engineering. He joined the RCAF Regular Force in 1928, qualifying for his pilotís wings on August 18, 1928. In addition he became an exchange officer with the RAF.
On November 1, 1939, he became a Flight Commander with No. 1 Squadron, later became Commanding Officer and became one of the first to fly a Hurricane aircraft in Canada. As the unitís first wartime commander his first duty was to move the squadron from St. Hubert, Quebec to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
On arrival in England the squadron was first based at Middle Wallop, then Croydon. On August 17, No. 1 Squadron moved to Northolt where it was stationed until early October. McNab commanded the squadron during the Battle of Britain which began in early August and ended in early October, after the German Lutwaffe had suffered unsustainable losses. On October 22, 1940, McNab was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his skill and valour. His citation reads as follows:
"Squadron Leader McNab has led his squadron with great success. At least twenty three enemy aircraft have been destroyed by the squadron. This officer destroyed four of these." McNab became the first RCAF ace and with the award of the DFC became the first in the RCAF to win a valour medal.
Postwar, McNab was appointed as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). His citation reads as follows:
"This officer proceeded overseas as the Commanding Officer of Canadaís first fighter squadron in 1940. He commanded and led his squadron in the air during the battle of Britain and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in recognition of his gallantry. His efforts during this period did much to enhance the prestige of Canadians in England.
After returning to Canada for a short period he again proceeded overseas where he commanded the Station and the Fighter Sector at Digby. The oprations which he directed and controlled whilst sector commander were instrumental in advancing the Allied cause to a very marked degree. His fine personal example, cheerful disposition and calm judgement were at all times an inspiration to those under him.
On his return to Canada he was posted as Senior Air Staff Officer to Western Command where he continued to discharge his responsibilities with the same high purpose which characterized his efforts overseas."
In addition to the DFC and the OBE, McNab was decorated with the Czechoslovakia War Cross. He retired from the RCAF in 1957 and died in Vancouver on January 10, 1979.