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The Airmen's Stories - P/O J S Priestley


John Sinclair Priestley was born in Wellington, New Zealand on 15th August 1913, the son of Josiah Oswald and Margaret Moore Priestley.

He was educated at Kelburn School and Wellington College. Graduating in 1930 he was then employed as a clerk.

He applied for an RNZAF short service commission in March 1939, was accepted but the scheme lapsed and he was not called up. Priestley volunteered for flying duties at the outbreak of war and entered the Ground Training School, Weraroa on 26th October 1939. He was posted to No. 1 EFTS Taieri on 21st November and moved to No.1 FTS Wigram on 16th January 1940.

Priestley was awarded his flying badge on 21st March and later passed out as a Sergeant-Pilot.

In late May Priestley sailed for the UK in the SS Mataroa. Arriving on 10th July, he was posted to No. 1 (Coastal) OTU, Silloth on 27th July 1940 finding that he had been commissioned while in transit, with effect from 4th May.



He joined 235 Squadron, operating Blenheims at Bircham Newton, on 22nd August. He took part in two operations, both convoy escorts. Priestley took off in Blenheim IV L9262 on a non-operational flight on 30th August. He crashed at Barwick Farm, near Bircham Newton after going into a sustained spin and failing to recover. He and his gunner, Sergeant EA Graves, were both killed.

Priestley is buried in St Mary's churchyard, Bircham Newton.




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