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The Airmen's Stories - F/O J G Topham


John Groves Topham was born in Bradford on 18th March 1917 and attended Stand Grammar School, Manchester. He joined the RAF on a short service commission and began his initial training on 23rd January 1939 at 6 E&RFTS Sywell. He moved on to 11 FTS Shawbury for No. 12 Course which ran from 15th April to 23rd October 1939.

With the course completed, Topham joined 219 Squadron at Redhill. During the afternoon of 15th August 1940 he shared in damaging a Ju88 off Flamborough Head.


Above: Topham (right) and Berridge


In September 219 began to convert to Beaufighters and Topham was teamed up with Sgt. HWW Berridge, a night-fighting partnership that was to last over three years. Topham was detached to Debden on 8th December 1940 for a short AI course.

During the night of 13th March 1941 they destroyed a He111, on 13th June another He111 and on 17th July a Ju88.

Topham was awarded the DFC (gazetted 3rd March 1942).

On 25th/26th April 1942 they shot down a Do17, on 7th/8th May a He111, on 8th/9th June a Ju88, and on 6th/7th July a Do217.

Topham was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 14th July 1942).

On 25th/26th July Topham and Berridge destroyed two Do217s and on 19th/20th September they shot down another. Topham was posted away for a rest in December 1942, taking command of 54 OTU at Charter Hall.

He returned to operations in October 1943, taking command of 125 Squadron at Exeter with Berridge as his navigator.

On 26th/27th April 1944 they destroyed a Ju188, on the 28/29th a Ju88, on 27th/28th May they damaged a Me410 and on 18th/19th June they shot down two more Ju88s.

Topham was awarded the DSO (gazetted 1st September 1944) at the end of his tour.

His portrait was made by Olive Snell (below).



He was posted to 51 OTU at Cranfield as Chief Instructor. He later did the RAF Staff College course at Bracknell.

From 1946 Topham served with Air Command South East Asia on staff duties until January 1948, when he took command of a Spitfire Wing in Japan, serving with the occupying forces.

Topham was at the Air Ministry from June 1948 until 1950, when he was appointed Wing Commander Flying at the Night Operational Conversion Unit at Leeming, Yorkshire.

Topham held a further series of commands and staff appointments. His final one was as AOC Air Forces Gulf, as an Air Commodore.

He retired from the RAF on 20th August 1968 and died in 1987.


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