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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. J A Porter


John Anthony Porter was born on 6th August 1919 in Prescot, Lancashire. His father spent his working life in the printing trade. In the 1939 register he was recorded as a linotype operator/compositor. The family home was then at 146 Thingwall Road, Liverpool.

He attended Quarry Bank School in Liverpool (a later pupil was John Lennon).

He went on to Bristol University and commenced flying training with the University Air Squadron. He had also joined the RAFVR in November 1938 as an Airman u/t Pilot and trained at 4 EFTS Brough and 33 EFTS Whitchurch.

After graduating he was employed by the Bristol Aircraft Company as an engineer specialising in airframe stresses and strains. Called up on 1st September 1939, he completed his training at 8 FTS Montrose and arrived at 6 OTU Sutton Bridge on 27th May 1940 to convert to Hurricanes.


Above: presumably not long after being awarded his wings


After qualifying on Hurricanes Porter went to Hendon on 6th June for onward posting to France. He was posted to 1 Squadron at Berry-au-Bac. The chaos of the French campaign and subsequent retreat is documented in Porter's logbook where he records being flying from Le Mans, Caen, Vassincourt, Chalons-sur-Marne, Chateaudun, Troyes, Dreux, Rheims and finally Nantes. The squadron's ground staff was evacuated to St.Nazaire and many were later lost when embarked on RMS Lancastria which was sunk by German bombers on 17th June 1940.

The pilots then had to maintain and refuel the Hurricanes themselves, water being substituted for unavailable glycol. Food was obtained by bartering with local civilians and uniforms were depleted of buttons and epaulettes as currency. Aircraft spares were also traded.

He made his own way back to the UK, arriving at Tangmere with three other airmen in time to face a charge of being improperly dressed, this was of course quashed when common sense prevailed later.

Porter claimed two Me109s destroyed in the French campaign but there was no way of confirming these after the infrastructure collapsed.

Now an experienced combat pilot, he was posted to 242 Squadron at Coltishall in late June 1940, serving with them until 10th August 1940 when he was moved to 615 Squadron at Kenley. He claimed a Ju87 destroyed and shared in the destruction of another on the 14th.



Above: a leave pass signed by Douglas Bader (right click for larger image)


Porter was caught on the ground during the heavy raid on Kenley on 18th August. His room took a direct hit but luckily he was outside at the time being blown through the doorway of a shelter by a bomb blast.

Declared non-effective sick, he convalesced and after a Medical Board at Halton was posted away from 615 Squadron on 23rd September 1940 as an instructor. He served initially at 1 FTS Netheravon and 9 FTS Hullavington then on the 21st March 1941 he went to South Africa where flying schools had been set up. He was commissioned in November 1941.



Upon returning to the UK he converted to Mosquitos and Beaufighters at 51 OTU Cranfield and was then posted to Malta join 256 Squadron, operating the Mosquito Mk.9. The squadron was later based in Italy.


Above: while serving in Italy Porter found that the Allied harbour master at Ancona was his uncle


At the end of the war Porter was seconded to BOAC and flew Short Sandringhams (converted Sunderlands) on the Poole Harbour - Far East route. Six months later he was flying Handley Page Haltons on the West Africa run, later transferring to West African Airways. He remained with them, based in Lagos, Nigeria until 1955.



Above: aloft in a Sunderland



Above: in Bahamas Airways service


He then took up a position with Bahamas Airways which saw him through to retirement in the mid 1960s.

He died in Liverpool on 12th November 1998.


Additional research and all photographs courtesy of Nigel Porter (son).


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