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The Airmen's Stories - P/O J Coggins


John Coggins was born on 5th May 1913 in Barnet, Hertfordshire. His father is shown in the 1939 register as a Butler. John Coggins went to Nacton Voluntary School, Suffolk.

He joined the RAF as an Aircraft Apprentice in September 1929 and passed out on 19th August 1932 as a Fitter, Aero Engines.




He later applied for pilot training and became a Sergeant-Pilot.

Coggins served in Palestine in the thirties and was awarded the DFM (gazetted 22nd November 1938) and Bar (gazetted 14th April 1939) for gallant and distinguished services there.

He was awarded Aero certificate 19033 at Ipswich Aero Club on 11th July 1939.

He joined 235 Squadron on 2nd June 1940 and was commissioned in August.

On 7th September Coggins and other airmen were at a dispersal when Hudson T9276 of 206 Squadron stalled on its final approach when avoiding an off-course Hurricane. It crashed amongst the Blenheims and burst into flames. The sole pilot, F/O J Davis, escaped.

Coggins, F/O JH Laughlin and F/Lt. FW Flood immediately ran to these aircraft, started the engines and taxied them away. During this time two of the bombs exploded. Three aircraft were taken to safety without damage and a fourth, Flood's second, with only minor damage.

Flood was recommended for the George Medal, the citation read:

Recommended by the Secretary of State for Air.

On 7 September 1940, a Hudson aircraft, carrying a full load of bombs, crashed among four Blenheim aircraft and burst into flames. Flight Lieutenant Flood, accompanied by Flying Officer Laughlin and Pilot Officer Coggins, immediately ran to the Blenheims, started the engines of three and taxied them to safety. During this time two bombs on the burning Hudson exploded.

Knowing that the remaining bombs were likely to explode any second, Flight Lieutenant Flood ran back, started up the engine of the fourth Blenheim, which had its rudder in the fire and taxied it to safety.

Throughout, these officers showed complete disregard for their own personal safety in the face of the greatest danger, and it was due to their prompt action, especially Flight Lieutenant Flood, that three of the Blenheims were taken to safety without damage and the fourth with only minor damage.

Flying Officer Laughlin and Pilot Officer Coggins are recommended for appointment as Members of the British Empire Order.

In the event Coggins and Laughlin were awarded a MBE (gazetted 21st January 1941). As Flood was reported Missing before his award could be made, the only possible posthumous award was a Mention in Despatches, Flood's MiD was gazetted on 17th March 1941.

Coggins would never receive his award.

On 16th December 1940 he was captain of Blenheim Z5754 on a minesweeper escort operation. He and his crew, P/O NA Sadler and Sgt. PR Prosser were lost when the aircraft crashed into the sea, cause unknown.

Coggins was 27 years old. He is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 7.




His brother, F/O William Roger Coggins RAFVR died on 16th December 1943 (the third anniversary of the death of John Coggins) while serving with 255 Squadron. His BeaufighterIVf V8877 crashed on takeoff from Grottaglie. F/O AF Beckett was also killed.

He is buried in Bari War Cemetery, Italy.




Above image courtesy of Dean Sumner


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