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The Airmen's Stories - LAC J H Lewis


John Harding Lewis was born on 23rd May 1922 and educated at Warwick School until the outbreak of war. He joined the RAF in February 1940 as an Aircrafthand. After basic training he was posted to 25 Squadron at Church Fenton.

He volunteered for aircrew duties and was sent to the 604 Squadron Signals School at Middle Wallop for an Airborne Radar course. Lewis rejoined 25 Squadron, then at Martlesham Heath, in October 1940 as an LAC. He flew two operational sorties during the Battle of Britain, on 8th and 29th October.





The squadron began to receive its first Beaufighters from September 1940. Lewis was promoted to Sergeant in early November and he flew his first Beaufighter sortie on the 10th. In March 1941 Lewis began flying as regular radar operator with P/O MJ Herrick. During the night of 8th/9th May they attacked and damaged a Ju88 south of Hull.

From 29th June 1941 Lewis was attached to the School of Air Navigation at Cranage, probably for a Navigator/Radar course. He was commissioned on 14th July and rejoined 25 Squadron on the 19th.

Lewis later served with 1451 and 1456 Flights and at 54 OTU and 62 OTU before returning to operations in October 1942 with 255 Squadron at Honiley. He went with the squadron to North Africa in November, when it flew out via Gibraltar.

In July 1943 Lewis returned to the UK and went on a Navigation Leaders course at 62 OTU Ouston. In late 1943 he applied for pilot training and was selected. He was posted to Canada in February 1944 and, after passing out at No. 1 SFTS Camp Borden, returned to the UK in March 1945. Granted a Permanent Commission in 1947, Lewis served in Transport Command and commanded the Levant Communications Flight until the evacuation of Palestine in 1948. He flew many VIPs, including King Abdullah of Jordan and Glubb Pasha.

In 1948/49 Lewis was a flying instructor at RAF College, Cranwell. In 1949/50 he was seconded to the Falkland Islands Government, during which time he set up the Government Air Service there. In 1951 Lewis returned to Cranwell as a Squadron Commander at the FTS. He was at the Ministry of Defence in 1954 and from May 1955 he was leader of the RAF party with the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, under the leadership of Vivian Fuchs.

Lewis left for the Antarctic in November 1955 and returned to the UK in March 1956. He left again in November 1956 and finally returned in August 1958. He was responsible for purchase of aircraft and spares, organising and running air survey and providing close support for the expedition party in the field.

For his work in the Antarctic, Lewis was awarded the Polar Medal, which was conferred by the Queen at the same investiture at which Vivian Fuchs was knighted.

Lewis held a series of appointments and commands in the RAF prior to his retirement in 1972, as a Group Captain. He held the AFC and Bar.

He died in 1990.

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