The Airmen's Stories - F/O J C Martin
John Claverly Martin was born in Timaru, New Zealand on 6th May 1914 and attended the High School there from January 1929 to December 1932. He applied for a short service commission in April 1937 and after provisional acceptance sailed for the UK on 14th August 1937 in the RMS Arawa.
Martin began his flying training at 9 E&RFTS Ansty on 27th September. He was posted to 10 FTS Tern Hill on 11th December and joined 63 Squadron at Upwood on 9th July 1938. The squadron was disbanded into 12 OTU in early April 1940 and Martin was posted to 98 Squadron AASF in France, flying Fairey Battles.
After the fall of France the squadron was withdrawn to England in June and Martin was posted to 226 Squadron at Thirsk, Yorkshire.
In August 1940 Martin volunteered for Fighter Command and joined 32 Squadron at Acklington on 3rd September. He moved to 257 Squadron at Martlesham Heath on the 17th.
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On 5th November 1940 he married Edna Squire Brown at St. Georges Church in Forest Hill, London. Her nearby home had been bombed a few days earlier but was still utilised.
Edna was born in Manchester in 1913 and was an acclaimed dancer however she is mainly remembered for the 'Dance of the Doves', a risque (for the time) striptease. Specially trained doves would flutter above her head and then settle about her body at the appropriate moment.
A junior theatre manager at the time recalled that he was ordered to scrutinise people in the front rows in case they brought out a packet of birdseed.
Edna remarried in 1947 but sadly died in London in 1965 aged 52.
Photographs courtesy of Getty Images.
Martin was serving with the squadron until 7th March 1941 when he joined 485 Squadron. This was the first all-New Zealand fighter squadron, then forming at Driffield. He was made a Flight Commander.
On 20th June 1941 he was attached to 222 Squadron at North Weald as a Flight Commander. He claimed two enemy aircraft destroyed on 19th August.
The squadron was ordered to escort nine Blenheims to bomb targets in the Lille area on 27th August 1941. On the return journey German fighters made numerous rear and side attacks. Martin is known to have reached the Channel in Spitfire IIb W3723 but there was then a collision between two British fighters.
No-one in the air was able to identify the aircraft involved but Martin failed to return as did F/Lt. TB Little of 402 Squadron RCAF in Hurricane IIb Z5001 so it must be assumed that they were involved.
Martin is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, panel 29.
Above image courtesy of Dean Sumner