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The Airmen's Stories - P/O J L Flinders


John Layton Flinders was born on 3rd August 1917 at Chesterfield, Derbyshire and educated at Chesterfield Grammar School. In January 1936 he joined the RAF on a four year engagement as a direct-entry Airman u/t Pilot.

He would be known throughout his service as 'Polly', after the nursery rhyme character Polly Flinders.

After completing his initial training at 2 E&RFTS Filton, Flinders went to 3 FTS Grantham on 13th March. He joined 74 Squadron at Hornchurch on 19th December 1936.

In 1938 Flinders obtained his Navigators License and was invited to an interview with Imperial Airways at Croydon. He later signed to join them as a Second Officer Pilot when his term of service expired. The outbreak of war caused this arrangement to fall through.




On 20th November 1939 Flinders was a member of a section which intercepted a Do17 at 26,000 feet east of North Foreland. The aircraft escaped into cloud after being badly damaged and regained its base but with three of the crew wounded.

Commissioned on 1st April 1940, Flinders was posted to 32 Squadron at Biggin Hill. He was appointed Training Officer, responsible for acquainting new pilots with squadron flying and fighting procedures. Flinders navigation experience was utilised with his flying ahead of the squadron, or sometimes the Wing, when it was assigned to patrol a specific area, or land at airfields in France.

On 18th May Flinders shot down a He111 over Arras during a bomber-escort operation and on the 19th he destroyed a Me109 during a patrol over Cambrai/Arras.

Whilst flying ahead of the squadron on the 23rd, Flinders aircraft was hit by flak causing the engine to leak glycol. He had almost reached the Channel when the engine seized at 1000 feet near Cap Griz Nez light and he crash-landed in an adjoining field. With the help of French soldiers and a Belgian ambulance, Flinders made his way to Calais and then by boat to Southampton. In the meantime he had been reported 'Missing, believed killed'.

A WAAF driver, Isobel May Clayton, was sent to bring him back to Biggin Hill. They were married in early 1941 in Chippenham.

Flinders shot down a He111 on 8th June during a patrol over Abbeville/ Aumal/Landen/Rouen-Boos. During a raid on Kenley and Croydon on 15th August he shot down a Me109 and on the 18th, during a raid on Biggin Hill, he destroyed two Me110s.

On 3rd March 1941 Flinders was posted to 55 OTU Aston Down as an instructor. He went to HQ 10 Group at Box on 22nd October, was posted to CFS Upavon for a course on 15th December, after which he went to 9(P) AFU Hullavington on 1st February 1942.

Flinders moved to 2 FIS Montrose on 28th March, was sent to Empire Central Flying School at Hullavington for a course on 10th November, returning to 2 FIS on 17th February 1943.

Flinders sailed for Canada on 29th May in the Empress of Scotland. He arrived at 31 SFTS Kingston on 14th June and was categorised an A1 instructor in August. From 29th March 1944 to 18th February 1945 Flinders was attached to the RCAF on the staff of CFS Trenton, Ontario, mostly with No. 2 Visiting Flight in 2 Command RCAF.

He returned to the UK in the Queen Elizabeth, arriving on 6th March 1945.

After spells at AFEE, Beaulieu and AAEE Boscombe Down, Flinders was released from the RAF in November 1945 as a Squadron Leader.

From November 1948 until September 1953 Flinders served in the RAFVR, at 69 RFS, Desford; 12 RFS, Filton and 15 RFS, Redhill.

After he retired in 1978 he emigrated to Burlington, Ontario, Canada. His wife died in 1991 and Flinders died in 1998.


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