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The Airmen's Stories - P/O A E Johnson


Allan Everitt Johnson was born in Huddersfield on 23rd October 1920, the son of Albert and Eva Johnson. His family later moved to Kenton, Middlesex.

He joined the RAF on a short service commission in October 1938 and arrived at 12 Group Pool, Aston Down on 24th November 1939. Here he converted to Hurricanes and was posted to 46 Squadron at Acklington on 22nd December, arriving on 1st January 1940.


Above: Johnson in a Harvard.



Above: 46 Squadron in 1940, Johnson standing third from left.


On 17th January the squadron moved to Digby, four pilots, including Johnson, remained behind recovering from illness.

The squadron operated from Digby and a forward base at North Coates, carrying out convoy patrols and training until 24th April when it was warned for a move to France. Johnson did not appear in the ORB for 1940 until 15th February, when he was aloft in Hurricane L1853.



On 22nd February he force-landed at Donna Nook in L1817 when fog reduced visibility to zero, he was able to return the following day. The early months of 1940 were plagued by the exceptionally severe winter weather.

The proposed move to France was countermanded within 48 hours when the CO, S/Ldr. K Cross, was taken to Norway by Sunderland to reconnoitre the landing ground at Andalsnes with a view to 46 Squadron deploying there.

On 9th May the squadron flew to Abbotsinch airfield in Glasgow, their Hurricanes were loaded aboard the carrier HMS Glorious at Greenock the following day. Glorious sailed on 14th May and arrived at its flying-off station on the Norwegian coast on the 21st. 46 Squadron was now destined for the landing ground at Skaanland but as it was not ready the carrier returned to Scapa Flow to refuel and was back on station on the 26th.

The pilots were to make their first take-off from a carrier. Before leaving Johnson wrote a makeshift cheque on a menu card to settle his mess bill (below). The cheque was presented at the Provincial Bank, Devonport on 7th June.



The first three Hurricanes to land at Skaanland were damaged by the very poor surface and the remainder, including Johnson in L1798, were diverted to Bardufoss.

On 28th May a patrol consisting of F/Lt. PG Jameson, F/O HH Knight and Johnson discovered two Do26 flying boats moored in Rombaksfjord, above Narvik, and destroyed both of them.

With the situation in Norway deteriorating, 46 Squadron was ordered to prepare to return to the UK. Their Hurricanes would have to be landed on to Glorious, another first. S/Ldr. Cross selected two pilots to accompany him in making the first landings with seven volunteers to follow if this was successful. This was accomplished.

Johnson, who had volunteered but was not selected, went with the rest of the squadron aboard the MV Arandora Star.

The following day Glorious and its two destroyers were intercepted and sunk by the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Only 39 men survived out of a complement of more than 1500, S/Ldr. Cross and F/Lt. PG Jameson the only surviving pilots.

The Arandora Star docked at Greenock on 13th June and the squadron moved to Digby by train, it would not be operational until 25th June.

Thereafter the squadron operated over the east coast until deployed to North Weald, with its satellite Stapleford, on 1st September 1940.

On 5th September 1940 Johnson claimed a Me109 destroyed, on the 15th shared a Do17 and on the 27th destroyed a Me110.


He married Leonora Sheldon in her home town, Gourock, on 29th April 1941. At the time that the 'Arandora Star' docked in Greenock she was serving with the WRNS there, assisting returning shipwreck survivors. Its almost certainly where they met.


Johnson reformed and then commanded 243 Squadron at Ouston near Newcastle and in North Africa from 1st June 1942 until February 1943.



Above: 243 Squadron lined up, Johnson's aircraft SN-M front left.



He returned to the UK and was posted to 53 OTU at RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey as chief flying instructor. On 14th July 1943 he was on a training flight in X4818 with another Spitfire flown by a student pilot.

The student accidentally released the safety catch on his guns and shot down Johnson's aircraft. He bailed out successfully, the Spitfire crashed in a field near Goole and Johnson landed in the River Ouse. Unfortunately he was dragged under by his parachute and drowned.

Johnson was 22 and is buried in Kirton-in-Lindsey Burial Ground.






Additional research and all images courtesy of the estate of Mrs. Leonora Quinton via Alan Quinton.



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