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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. J Arbuthnot


John Arbuthnot was bom on 13th February 1914 at Cobbinshaw, West Lothian. He went to Braehead School and Carranshore Public School, Falkirk. He joined the RAF as an Aircraft Apprentice in January 1930 and passed out in December 1932 as a Metal Rigger. He later applied for pilot training and was selected.

When the war started, he was serving with 43 Squadron at Tangmere. On 15th December 1939 he baled out of Hurricane L1725, after spinning in cloud. The aircraft crashed on peat moorland, burying itself deeply. It was dug out in 1978.

On the evening of 8th April 1940 a force of German bombers was sent to attack the naval base at Scapa Flow. 43 was scrambled from its base at Wick to intercept. Arbuthnot was one of the first of the squadron to make contact and he emptied his guns into a He111 which dived into a layer of cloud.

Posted to France to join No.1 Squadron on 16th May, Arbuthnot was soon in action, returning to base at Boos on 4th June with his radiator shot away. He had been hit by return fire from He111’s over Rouen. At sometime during the Battle of Britain Arbuthnot was posted to 229 Squadron.


Above: 229 Squadron

P/O V Ortmans, Sgt. J Arbuthnot, R Berry (not BoB) F/Lt. JB Holderness, F/Lt. JFF Finniss
Sgt. FJ Twitchett, Sgt. GF Silvester, Sgt. CG Hodson


On the 4th February 1941 a flight of Hurricanes from No 229 Squadron stationed at Speke were ordered to fly to Ormskirk and escort the DeHaviland DH89 in which Mr Wendell Wilkie was flying in on his return from Dublin. Wendell Wilkie was the Republican candidate who ran against Roosevelt in the presidential elections and had come to Britain on a fact-finding trip.

Between Hooton and Speke the No. 3 aircraft V7078 piloted by Arbuthnot was seen behind and below the section after coming through a break in the clouds preparatory to landing. However he did not follow the other two aircraft in to land and it was assumed that he had decided to divert as there was coastal fog extending up to 3000 feet. He was reported as landing elsewhere and the following day S/Ldr. Rosier made three short flights over the river to trace the Hurricane and its pilot.

Arbuthnot's aircraft was spotted on a sand bank about half a mile out, the pilot's body being some 350 yards from the aircraft. The tide prevented immediate salvage, the aircraft was secured with buoys but the pilot’s body could not be recovered. On 14th April 1941 Arbuthnot's body was washed ashore on Cressington Foreshore near Garston.

He is buried in Wilton Cemetery, Carluke, Lanarkshire.




(Above image courtesy of the Scottish War Graves Project)


Battle of Britain Monument