John was born on the 15th January 1922 at Brighton in Victoria, and he enlisted in the RAAF in Melbourne on the 21st July 1940.
Referring to a photograph of his “Extracts from Flying Log Book” we can see that John did some of his training in Australia and was at No.2 ED (Embarkation Depot) at Bradfield Park (now Lindfield) in Sydney before he embarked for more training in Canada. Then he was off to the UK via Iceland. On arrival in England, he completed his training at 58 OTU (Operational Training Unit), which was then at RAF Grangemouth, and became a day fighter pilot on Spitfires.
John was then posted to 457 Squadron where he flew Spitfires.
At that time, 457 Squadron was based on the Isle of Man and operated, initially from Jurby until the 2nd October 1941, and then from Andreas. The Squadron had had a slow introduction to active operations and it was not declared operational until the 7th August 1941. It then escorted convoys and patrolled over the seas to Britain’s west, but much of its time was devoted to training. The Squadron effectively became an OTU, preparing Spitfire pilots for other squadrons, particularly 452 Squadron RAAF, that were more actively engaged at the time.
John had volunteered for “overseas” service and consquently left 457 Squadron in January 1942 and was posted to 261 Squadron RAF. The Squadron had just been re-equipped with the Hurricane IIB and John was a member of the Squadron when it moved to the Far East in early 1942 to order to join the campaign in Burma.
The fall of Singapore resulted in it being diverted to Ceylon, where it flew off the carrier HMS Indomitable in time for the Japanese carrier raids in April. The Squadron remained in Ceylon until January 1943, when it moved to the Burma front. However, by this time, John had been posted again, this time to 273 Squadron RAF, arriving in August 1942.
Based at China Bay in Ceylon, he was again flying Hurricanes, and in early 1943 he moved again to 17 Squadron in Calcutta, India. There he would have been involved in ground attack missions.
Then, for the last time, he was posted to 82 Squadron flying Kittyhawks in Morotai, an Indonesian Island in the Halmerheras Group.
On the 5th April 1945, the Squadron’s aircraft arrived at Wama strip and John made his first flight with them on the 7th. When the Squadron became operational, it flew dive bombing missions against enemy occupied areas near Djailolo, in the Halmaheras. Operations from Morotai ceased on 22 May to enable the Squadron to prepare for the landing at Labuan, Borneo. John completed his last flight with the Squadron on the 21st May and he was discharged on the 27th August 1945.
The last photo is of John’s Half Yearly Return of Flying Hours. We can see that he was a very experienced pilot who served his country well. A reading of his RAAF Personnel File gives the impression of a young man with a larrikin spirit – Thank you John.
Phil Listemann (Author of the History of 457 Squadron) and David Hamilton
Updated by Vince Conant
The Spitfire Association