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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. J K Norwell


John King Norwell was born in Perth on 4th October 1917 and joined the RAFVR about May 1937 as an Airman u/t Pilot. He carried out his elementary flying at 11 E&RFTS Perth.

In early 1939 he was offered six months training with the regular RAF and he joined 74 Squadron at Hornchurch on 3rd February. After completing advanced training, he returned to civilian life and the RAFVR on 15th August.

Called up on 1st September 1939, Norwell was posted to RAF Evanton then moved to 11 Group Pool St. Athan, from where he joined 54 Squadron at Hornchurch on 27th September 1939.

Over Dunkirk on 24th May 1940 he destroyed a Me109 and on the 25th shared another. Norwell shared in damaging a Do17 on 3rd July, shared a Me110 and damaged two others on 18th August, destroyed a Me109 on the 22nd, probably destroyed another on the 28th and shared one on the 31st.


54 Squadron

Sgt. JK Norwell, F/O DAP McMullen, F/O CF Gray, F/Sgt. PH Tew

P/O JL Allen, F/O AC Deere, F/Lt. JA Leathart, F/O BH Way, F/O DG Gribble


Norwell made his last flight with 54 on 9th September 1940, from a forward base to Catterick. He joined 41 Squadron at Hornchurch about 11th September and flew his first sortie on the 16th. On the 17th he damaged two Me109s and on the 27th and 30th he destroyed two more.

He wrote off Spitfire X4545 when he collided with a stationary aircraft, when taking off on 2nd October. Norwell was slightly injured and was non-operational until the 9th, when he returned from sick leave.

Soon afterwards Norwell volunteered for service in Malta and on 19th October he went to No. 1 RAF Depot Uxbridge to prepare for overseas deployment. He embarked on the carrier HMS Argus on the 23rd, destined for the Mediterranean.

On 17th November he was in the first flight of six Hurricanes to take off, led by F/Lt. JAF MacLachlan. Two were lost en route when their fuel gave out.

Norwell landed with two gallons left. He joined 261 Squadron at Ta Kali, Malta and was posted away on 7th April 1941, flying to the Middle East as a passenger in a Wellington. Norwell ferried a Hurricane to Greece and then went to ADU Takoradi.

He did not fly operationally again. Commissioned in July 1942, Norwell was awarded the AFC (gazetted 1st January 1945) and released from the RAF in 1946 as a Flight Lieutenant. He joined the RAFVR in 1947 and retired in 1954.

Norwell died on 28th May 2003 in Perth.

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