John, or Jim as he was known as his mates, was born on the 24th July 1924 in Auburn, Sydney, New South Wales. He enlisted in the RAAF in Sydney on the 12th August 1942 and was posted to the north of Australia to fight against the Japanese threat.
The following is an extract from Roy Felmingham’s, diary which was very pertinent to Jim’s experiences. It is a very good indication of the life Jim had while he was in the Northern Territory. Roy was a Leading Aircraftman. The photo is of Jim and Roy while they were out shooting in Darwin. Note huge ant hill in the background.
Both men left Sydney on the the Dutch vessel, Maetsuycker on the 11th January 1943 bound for Darwin.
22nd January – Off again. One sloop and one corvette for this run around the top to Darwin. This is the dangerous part of the trip.
24th January – Arrived Darwin and this place is a mess. This is what England was like when we left.
31st January – Moved to our new home on a strip cut out of the trees alongside the road. Ccalled Livingstone strip, our quarters are tents about a mile from the strip. All our spitfires are in camouflage bombproof shelters down a taxi way from the strip. Work from 7.30 to 4.00 p.m. then went to Darwin for night readiness. Nothing happened, returned to camp 11.30 a.m. Completed 28 hours straight, we expected a raid as it was moonlight and first anniversary of first raid. We were doing daylight to dusk readiness. Today is first day off for 14 days. First blood to the Squadron. Two pilots got one between them.
15th March – Scrambled early. Zeros and bombers over Darwin. My pilot fired and got a probable. After landing the under carriage collapsed causing slight damage.
2nd May – Japanese over again, 21 bombers and 30 fighters. The Spits chased after them as they left. Most ran out of fuel. The very best 14 Spits, not a good day.
(Web Master: Another unverified report indicates that, “The Japanese launched another of their many air raids on the Darwin air base at 10:30 am on the 2nd May 1943. The Japanese lost 11 bombers and five Zeros. The RAAF scrambled 32 Spitfires and lost 15 of them during the air raid. Five of the Spitfires had run out of fuel and and others were lost due to the sheer inexperience of the pilots. These embarassing facts were censored by the personal direction of Prime Minister Curtin.”)
20th June – Japanese over again today.
28th June – Japanese over again . Four Zeros destroyed, one badly damaged.
19th July – Found wreckage of recco our CO shot down, two Japanese bodies, not much left of the plane. Also found wreckage of Spitfire, pilot still in it, a cannon shell went through the cockpit.
17th August – Three reccos came over. We got the lot.
27th August – Our progress score till now is 24 destroyed, five probable destroyed, 18 damaged with a loss of nine Spitfires and six pilots. Only one body was found.
15th December – Left by Lockheed and flew to Milingimby an island strip near a mission station. Mosquitos and sandflies in abundance.
25th December – Got a comforts fund today. Turkey and Ham and veggies, jelly and fruit.
Jim was discharged on the 18th December 1945 from Morotai Advance RAAF HQ.
Ron Lambert, Roy Felmingham and Steve McGregor
The Spitfire Association