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The Airmen's Stories - S/Ldr. A V R Johnstone


Alexander Vallance Riddell Johnstone was born in Glasgow on 2nd June 1916 and educated at Kelvinside Academy, Glasgow.

He was working for a footwear firm in Edinburgh when he joined 602 Squadron Auxiliary Air Force in late 1934.

In early 1938 he went to work for Scottish Aviation as a navigation instructor at 12 E&RFTS and No. 1 Civil Air Navigation School at Prestwick.

Still with 602 Squadron he went to RAF Manston in August 1938 for a service navigation course.

Johnstone was called to full-time service with 602 on 24th August 1939. On 16th October he shared in the damaging of two He111s over the Firth of Forth, the first engagement of the war with enemy aircraft over the British Isles.



Above: 602 Squadron

Rear row L to R: F/O CB Willey MC (MO), P/O SN Rose, Sgt. A McDowall, F/O JS Hart, Brazebrook (IO ?), Sgt. J Proctor, S/Ldr. AD Farquhar, Sgt. RFP Phillips, P/O A Lyall, Sgt. GA Whipps, P/O DH Gage, F/O PPC Barthropp, Taylor (? non-BoB), P/O HG Niven.

Front row L to R: F/Lt. CJ Mount, F/Lt. RF Boyd, S/Ldr. AVR Johnstone, S/Ldr. JD Urie, F/Lt. D Jack




He was detached from 602 to the Air Fighting Development Establishment at Northolt on 21st October 1939 for an Air Fighting Instructors course. He rejoined 602 on 2nd November.

Johnstone shot down a He111 at night on 25th/26th June 1940, shared a probable Ju88 on 1st July and damaged a Do17 on the 3rd. He had been commanding ‘B’ Flight until 12th July but he was promoted to Acting Squadron Leader on the 13th and took command of 602 on the 17th. The squadron moved south to Westhampnett on 13th August.

Johnstone claimed a Ju88 destroyed on the 19th, a Me109 and a Me110 destroyed on the 25th and a He111 destroyed and another damaged on the 26th. He shot down a Me110 on 4th September, got a probable Me109 and damaged a Ju88 and a He111 on 7th September, shared a Do17 on the 9th, destroyed a Ju88 and damaged another on the 30th and damaged another Ju88 on 6th November.

Johnstone was awarded the DFC (gazetted 1st October 1940).

His portrait was made by Olive Snell (below).


He left the squadron in mid-April 1941, became Controller at Turnhouse and in September was posted to the Middle East, going to HQ 263 Group, Beirut to help establish an air defensive organisation in the Levant.

Johnstone was given command of Sector Headquarters at Haifa in April 1942. In September he went to Malta, firstly as Deputy Station Commander at Luqa, then to Valetta, as Fighter Controller and on 27th January 1943 he was appointed Wing Commander Flying at Krendi.

Johnstone returned to the UK on 19th March 1943 and was posted to RAF Staff College at Gerrards Cross on 24th May. He went to 56 OTU Tealing on 11th September for a refresher course and conversion to Typhoons. He received a Mention in Despatches at some time in 1943.

On 11th November 1943 Johnstone was appointed Sector Commander at Fairwood Common. He was promoted to Acting Group Captain on 29th May 1944 and posted to HQ Allied Expeditionary Air Force at Bentley Priory as Ops 1. He moved across to Jouloville in France on 31st August but returned to Stanmore in mid-October.

In early January 1945 Johnstone went to the USA to join the RAF Delegation in Washington. He returned to the UK in late June, was posted to a staff job at HQ 12 Group and then in January 1946 was appointed Air Attaché in Dublin.

He went on to serve at the Air Ministry and as station commander at Ballykelly. In 1953 he received command of the Air Sea Warfare Development Unit at St Mawgan in Cornwall. The next year he returned to 12 Group as Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO).

His appointment in 1956 as deputy air defence commander in Malaya was followed by secondment to help form the Royal Malayan Air Force. This gave him a taste for service in the Far East. In 1964, after spells as station commander at Middleton St. George, at the Imperial Defence College, and as director of personnel at the Air Ministry, he was posted to Borneo as Air Commodore Commonwealth Air Forces.

In 1965 he returned home to become Air Vice-Marshal. He headed Coastal Command's 18 Group, while doubling as Air Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland and as Nato's north Atlantic maritime air commander.

Johnstone retired from the RAF on 1st December 1968 as an Air Vice-Marshal. From 1969 to 1979 he served as vice-chairman of the Territorial Auxiliary and Volunteer Reserve.

Meanwhile he engaged energetically as secretary of Glasgow Golf Club and as head of the National Car Parks Scottish operation. After moving south he became London director of NCP and secretary of Denham Golf Club.

He was made a CB (1966). Johnstone died on 13th December 2000.


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