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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. J Mann

 

Jack Mann was born in Northampton on 11th June 1914 and educated at St. James School there. He went to work as an engineer at Phillips and Powis at Reading.

He joined the RAFVR on 6th April 1938 as an Airman u/t Pilot and did his weekend flying at 8 E&RFTS Woodley. Called up on 1st September 1939, he was not posted to 3 ITW at Hastings until December.

Mann went to 9 FTS Hullavington for No. 17 Course which ran from 6th March to 29th June 1940. He went to 5 OTU Aston Down on 7th July, converted to Spitfires and joined 64 Squadron at Kenley on 27th July.

 

 

 

He made his first operational sortie on the 29th. On 5th August he destroyed a Me109, on the 8th he probably destroyed two Me109s, on the 11th probably destroyed a Me109 and damaged another and on the 12th he probably destroyed another Me109.

Mann was slightly wounded in action on the 16th and he made a forced-landing at Hawkinge, in Spitfire L1038. He was slightly injured on the ground when Kenley was bombed on the 18th. He rejoined the squadron on the 25th.

Mann was posted to 92 Squadron at Biggin Hill on 12th September and on the 14th he damaged a Me109 but was himself wounded in the action. He was made non-effective sick and still was in November 1940.

Serving with 91 Squadron on 31st March 1941, Mann shot down a Me109 west of Cap Gris Nez. In the engagement, his Spitfire, P7783, was severely damaged and he was badly burned when he made a crash-landing at Mongeham, Kent.

He underwent plastic surgery at the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, becoming a Guinea Pig.

He was awarded the DFM (gazetted 25th April 1941).

Fit again, Mann was posted to No. 1 ADF at Hendon. Whilst still with the unit he was commissioned from Warrant Officer in July 1942. Mann later flew with Ferry Command on the North Atlantic run.

He married Dilys Pritchard, known as 'Sunnie' at Chiswick Registry Office in 1943, at the time she was an ambulance driver (below).

 

 

He was released from the RAF in 1946 as a Flight Lieutenant.

He flew with commercial airlines and eventually became Chief Pilot, Middle East Airlines, Beirut. He took up residence there and when he stopped flying Mann became manager of the Duke of Wellington Bar in the Marble Towers Hotel, Beirut. He later managed the Mr Pickwick Bar in the city.

On 12th May 1989 Mann was kidnapped as he drove to a bank in Syrian-controlled West Beirut. His captors, Armed Struggle Cells, said he was being held hostage against the release of Arabs jailed in Britain.

Aged 74 when taken hostage, Mann was held in solitary confinement throughout the entire period of his incarceration and frequently chained.

'They treated me as if I were some sort of goat' he later recalled 'and hit me on the head if I was in any way recalcitrant, which happened several times a day'.

His guards would hold a gun to his head then pull the trigger to reveal it was unloaded. His glasses were lost, which denied him the solace of reading and he resorted to endless games of patience.

Although he was given regular meals his dislike of Arab food remained insurmountable and he lost three stone. After 865 days in captivity Mann was finally released in Damascus on 24th September 1991, in response to Israel's liberation of 51 Shi'ite Moslem prisoners and the handing over of the bodies of nine Lebanese guerrillas two weeks earlier.

After being flown to Britain for medical treatment and rest, Mann and his wife later went to live in Cyprus. He was made a CBE in the New Years Honours List (gazetted 31st December 1991).

Mann died on 11th November 1995.


 

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