Unfortunately, we don’t know much about John’s early days. We can only assume that he was was born in England in about 1921. His parents lived at Waddington, near Clitheroe in Lancashire, so it may have been there. At the start of the War, he joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve, and after training to be a Spitfire pilot he was posted to 54 Squadron RAF. We do not know when he was posted, however during the early days of the War, 54 Squadron spent time patrolling the Kent coast before becoming heavily engaged in the Battle of Britain. It was following the Battle of Britain that Winston Churchill promised a fighter Squadron to Australia, and 54 Squadron duly departed Liverpool on the 20th June 1942, arriving in Australia about a month later to become part of No.1 Wing (Spitfires) RAAF. The Wing was tasked with the defence of Northern Australia against the Japanese. It was January 1943 when the Squadron had arrived in Darwin where it was to be based, and John was killed in an flying accident the following January.
Copies of the official acccident report are shown and following is an edited report from ADF serials:
Non-operational loss when A58-214 (John’s Spitfire) and A58-63 collided in flight above Humpty Doo, some 10 miles east north east of Strauss Strip 1530 hrs on the 13th January 1944. A flight of four Spitfires (A58-214/63/221/27) were practicing interception with one Hudson and two Beauforts of 2 Squadron RAAF. A58-63 collided with A58-214 which resulted in the tail unit of A58-63 to become torn off, and one of the mainplanes of A58-214 to be completely torn off, resulting in both aircraft to crash. Pilots; A58-214: Flight Sergeant John Hoyle Whalley Serv#1527082 RAF and A58-63: Flight Sergeant James Basil Gibbs Serv#1320096 RAF, both killed.
(Web Master: Strauss Strip was just off the Stuart Highway about 43 km south of Darwin.)
The photo is of 54 Squadron at Richmond in December 1942 and we are certain that John is in this photo. John is remembered at the Adelaide River War Cemetery near Darwin. The inscription on his headstone is, “In heavenly love abiding.”
The Spitfire Association