The Airmen's Stories - P/O J T Johnston
James Thomas Johnston, from Brandon, Manitoba in Canada was born on 21st February 1914, the son of Peter (1863-1933) and Alice Jane Johnston (nee Hawking 1870-1962) of Brandon. Manitoba, Canada. His parents were Scottish immigrants.
He joined the RAF in January 1939 taking a short service commission. For reasons unknown he was called ‘Swede’. He completed his flying training at No.2 Flying Training School at Brize Norton before being posted straight to 151 Squadron at North Weald in mid-July 1940 and without any conversion training onto the Hawker Hurricane that was then flown by the unit.
To overcome this Johnston was given conversion training at North Weald under the tuition of F/O Frank ‘Barry’ Sutton of 56 Squadron, who was non-effective sick at this time. First converted onto the 2-seat Miles Master trainer belonging to the Station Flight, Johnston eventually qualified solo on the Hurricane and was declared operational.
In early August 1940, 151 Squadron were detailed to fly convoy patrols from Rochford and on 11th August, Red Section comprising S/Ldr. John Gordon, P/O Johnston and Sgt Gordon Clarke were patrolling above a convoy east of Clacton when they engaged an enemy formation consisting of Ju87 Stukas and Me109s. In the words of the Squadron ORB, Red Section, “... put them to flight .. ”
P/O Johnston claimed a Me109 damaged from this combat.
Photo above courtesy of Dean Sumner.
Three days later at around midday, Johnston along with S/Ldr. Gordon and Sub/Lt. Henry Beggs took on a large formation of Me109s west of Margate, with claims for one destroyed each by Gordon and Beggs and Johnston claiming to have severely damaged his target before he lost it in cloud.
On 15th August the Squadron, “... had a busy day ” After some successes in the afternoon, the Squadron took off at 6:45pm to intercept enemy aircraft west of Dover where they ran into a large force of Me109s.
Four of the Squadron aircraft were shot down including Hurricane P3941 of ‘Swede’ Johnston, who crashed into the English Channel near Dymchurch at around 7:15pm. He baled out but did not deploy his parachute (see report below).
A rescue launch reached him but he was found to be dead.
Aged 26, Johnston was buried at Hawkinge Cemetery.
A lake in Western Manitoba is named after him.
His brother Lt. HG Johnston was based in England with the Canadian forces at the time (see below).
Additional research by Dean Sumner.