John was born on the 8th March 1914 at North Adelaide, South Australia. He enlisted on the 22nd June 1940 also at Adelaide.
Before his enlistment he was employed by the BHP at Whyalla. In November 1939, he took up flying with the Spencer Gulf Aero Club at Whyalla and in December of the same year gained his A licence. He later qualified for passenger endorsement. At the time of his enlistment, he had 54 hours flying to his credit, and was training for his B commercial licence. At No.1 Initial Training School Somers, Victoria, which was part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, he graduated with honours and was recommended for the rank of Pilot Officer.
He embarked for England at Melbourne on the 14th March 1941. On arrival, he was a founder member of 457 Squadron and was with them between June and August of that year. He was later posted to 452 Squadron where he had one confirmed victory.
The following is an excerpt from the book, History of 457 Squadron by Phil Listemann which relates to the victory:
“On the 13th October 1941, (Squadron 452) engaged in one of its most exciting and successful operations while flying as close escort to four Blenheims in an early afternoon raid against Arques. Five miles from the target, a very determined attack was made on the bombers by enemy aircraft and No. 452 received permission to break formation to beat off these attackers. This was done, but as soon as the Squadron resumed escort, further attacks developed and the Australians were quickly involved in individual dog-fights during which six Messerschmitts were claimed destroyed and one probably destroyed in addition to three damaged. Truscott and Finucane (each two), Thorold-Smith and Sergeant Emery were the successful pilots, while Sergeant Schrader claimed the probable. The Squadron lost one pilot killed in action, and in addition, Elphick’s Spitfire was hit and he had to bale out near the English coast.”
According to the following report, John was killed on the 8th December 1941.
“Led by the CO, the Squadron of twelve aircraft took off at 1230 hrs to act as high cover to rescue a boat off Dungeness. They were later attacked by five FW190s and Sergeant Emery (Black 1) was believed to have been shot down. He was last seen chasing a FW190, and firing at it, towards the French coast.”
John is remembered on Panel 62 at at the Runnymede Memorial.
(Web Master: With thanks to Wikipedia, the Air Forces Memorial, or Runnymede Memorial, in Surrey, England is a memorial dedicated to some 20,456 men and women from the British Empire who were lost in air operations during World War II. Those recorded have no known grave anywhere in the world, and many were lost without trace. The name of each of these airmen and airwomen is engraved into the stone walls of the memorial, according to country and squadron.)
Updated by Vince Conant
The Spitfire Association