The Airmen's Stories - P/O J Benzie
John 'Jack' Benzie, from Winnipeg, Canada was born on 14th March 1915, the son of John Benzie (1882-1977) and Agnes Benzie (nee Ghillds 1887-1968).
His parents had emigrated from Ayr, Scotland just months before his birth, his father was a locomotive engineer.
Benzie was educated at Champlain School and St. Johns Technical School in Winnipeg.
He served in Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry for three years prior to joining the RAF on a short service commission and arrived in England on 16th March 1939 on the RMS Aurania.
He began his training in April 1939, going on to 8 FTS Montrose for No. 12 Course, which ran from 10th July to 9th December 1939.
Benzie then went to 5 OTU Aston Down before being posted to 242 Squadron at Church Fenton on 26th January 1940.
The squadron moved to France after the German invasion in May and on the 23rd he was shot down in Hurricane P2550 by Me109s near Ypres. Benzie baled out south of Dunkirk, wounded, and was evacuated to England by sea.
He rejoined his squadron on 11th July and attended a parachute course at Weeton, Lancashire on 2nd August.
Benzie failed to return from a combat over the Thames Estuary on 7th September 1940. He was 25 and is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 7.
Above photo courtesy of Dean Sumner.
Lake Benzie in Manitoba, Canada was named in his honour in 1953.
In 1976 the burnt out remains of a Hurricane were excavated from a field between Loughton and Theydon Bois in Essex. Human remains were also found. There was strong circumstantial evidence that this was Benzie’s aircraft P2962 but not enough for the Ministry of Defence to confirm his identity and the remains were buried at Brookwood Military Cemetery (Plot 22, Row E, Grave 1) as an unknown airman.
There is a detailed account of the excavation and subsequent research in ‘After the Battle’ issue 147 (The Battle for Cherbourg).
Above: he is also commemorated on his parent's grave in Winnipeg.