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Air Vice-Marshal J E Johnson (83267)


James Edgar                 

b: 9 Mar 1915                     r: 15 Mar 1966                     d: 30 Jan 2001

 CB – 12 Jun 1965, CBE - 1 Jan 1960, DSO – 4 Jun 1943, Bar – 24 Sep 1943, 2nd Bar -  1944, DFC – 30 Sep 1941, Bar – 26 Jun 1942, DFC (US) – 18 Jan 1944, LeoP (O) – 27 Jun 1947, CdeG (P) (B) – 27 Jun 1947, AM (US) – 25 May 1951, LoH, Cdr – 11 Sep 1989.

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

(RAFVR): Sgt:  xx xxx xxxx, Plt Off: 10 Aug 1940, Fg Off (WS): 10 Aug 1941, Act Flt Lt: xx xxx 1941, Flt Lt (WS): 10 Aug 1942, Act Sqn Ldr: xx Jul 1942, Act Wg Cdr: 16 Mar 1943, Sqn Ldr (WS): 16 Jun 1943, Act Gp Capt: xx Mar 1945,  

(RAF): Sqn Ldr: 26 Mar 1946 [1 Sep 1945], Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1947, Gp Capt: 1 Jan 1955, A/Cdre: 1 Jul 1960, AVM: 1 Jan 1963.  

Photo - Crown Copyright©

xx xxx 1938:            Sergeant Pilot, RAFVR. (754750)

10 Aug 1940:          Appointed to a Commission in the RAFVR.

xx Aug 1940:           Attended No 7 OTU.

xx Aug 1940:            Pilot, No 19 Sqn, Duxford.

 5 Sep 1940:            Pilot, No 616 (South Yorkshire) Sqn.  

xx Sep 1940:           Hospitalised

xx Dec 1940:           Pilot, No 616 (South Yorkshire) Sqn.  

xx Sep 1941:           Flight Commander, No 616 Sqn.

xx Jul 1942:             Officer Commanding, No 610 Sqn.

16 Mar 1943:          Wing Commander - Flying (Wing Leader), Kenley Wing.

 5 Jul 1943:             Wing Commander - Flying (Wing Leader), No 127 Airfield.

13 Sep 1943:           Air Staff - Plans, HQ No 11 (Fighter) Group.

 2 Mar 1944:            Wing Commander - Flying (Wing Leader),  No 144 (Canadian) Wing.

13 Jul 1944:             Wing Commander - Flying (Wing Leader), No 127 Wing.

 6 Apr 1945:            Officer Commanding, No 125 Wing.

xx Aug 1945:            Officer Commanding, Lubeck

xx xxx 1945:             Officer Commanding No 124 Wing, Eindhoven

26 Mar 1946:          Appointed to a Permanent Commission in the rank of Squadron Leader (retaining rank current at the time) [wef 1 Sep 1945]

xx xxx 1947:             Attended RCAF Staff College.

xx xxx 1948:             Exchange posting with USAF.

xx xxx 1950:             Attached to USAF in Korea.

xx May 1951:           Officer Commanding, Flying Wing - RAF Fassberg.

xx Jan 1952:             Officer Commanding, RAF Wildenrath

xx Jun 1954:              Staff Officer, Department of the AMSO.

28 Oct 1957:            Officer Commanding, RAF Cottesmore.

 5 Jan 1960:             Attended Imperial Defence College.

17 Dec 1960:            SASO, No 3 Group

 7 Oct 1963:             AOC, Middle East Air Force/Air Forces, Middle East

Originally from Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire James "Johnnie" Johnson attended Loughborough School and then Nottingham University graduating as a civil engineer in 1938.  Failing to get into the Auxiliary Air Force and the Volunteer Reserve at his first attempt, he joined the Leicestershire Yeomanry. But shortly after this, the Air Ministry invited him to attend a selection board for the VR, in which he was successful and became a Sergeant Pilot (under training).  Undertaking his training at weekends at Stapleford Tawney and Marshal's at Cambridge before Service flying training at RAF Sealand, being commissioned in 1940. Operational training at Hawarden was followed by his first posting to No 19 Sqn at Duxford.

At the point 19 Sqn were experiencing problems trying to introduce the first cannon armed Spitfires into service and the Sqn had no time to complete Johnnie's training.  He therefore found himself posted to No 616 Sqn at Coltishall which had been pulled out of the front line to recover.  A further move north to Kirton in Lindsey could have resulted in the end of a promising career.  Since starting to fly Spitfires, an old rugby injury to his shoulder had started playing up and he reported to the medical officer.  He then found himself summoned to the Station Commander's Office and being given two choices, either to be removed from operations to become an instructor or to undergo an operation to re-set the shoulder.  He immediately opted for the operation and any thoughts of his being 'lacking in moral fibre' were dispelled from the  mind of the Station Commander.  Returning to 616 in late 1940, he quickly started making his presence known sharing his first victory with 'Cocky' Dundas in January 1941.  A move to Tangmere meant that his score began to mount and he was soon commanding  'B' Flight of 616. Johnnie stayed with 616 during it's moves between 11 and  12 Groups throughout 1941 and early 1942 flying Spitfire I's, II's, V's and high altitude VI's.

Then in  July 1942 he took over No 610 (County of Chester) Sqn at Coltishall.  Shortly after taking over 610 were part of a West Malling Wing involved in 'Operation Dynamo', the Dieppe Raid.  They eventually rejoined No 11 Group in January 1943 and Johnnie's score continued to rise.  March 1943 brought promotion to Wing Commander and command of the Canadian Wing at Kenley.  With the build up for the invasion of France, the Kenley Wing became No 127 Airfield (later recalled Wing) in No 83 Group of the 2nd Tactical Air Force and started preparing for it's role on the continent.  However by late 1943, he had been in constant action since early 1941 and it was decided that he should be rested from ops and was appointed to the planning staff at No 11 Group.

Six months later, he once again found himself commanding a Canadian Wing, No 144, preparing for the forthcoming invasion.  Flying furiously during the pre invasion stage, the invasion itself and the post invasion period, the Wing built up a creditable reputation.  However, following deployment of the tactical Wings on the continent it became obvious that one Group Captain controlling three Wing was too cumbersome.  Therefore a reorganisation took place resulting in the disbandment of No 144 Wing and reallocation of it's squadron's to the remaining Wings.  As a result, Johnnie found himself once more the Wing Leader of No 127 Wing.

Having led his Wing through France, Belgium and into Germany he was promoted to Group Captain in March 1945 and moved to command No 125 Wing at Eindhoven.  He ended the war at Celle and was credited with being the highest scoring Allied fighter pilot of World War II with 34 confirmed and seven shared victories, three and two shared probables, ten and three shared damaged and one destroyed on the ground.

During the Korean War he was attached to the USAF in order to gain experience of jet fighter operations.  On return from Korea he became OC Flying Wing at RAF Fassberg in Germany, before becoming the first Station Commander of the newly opened RAF Wildenrath.

He finished his RAF career prematurely in 1966 on completion of his tour of duty as AOC, Middle East Air Force.  Since retiring he has worked as a consultant and served as a Director of a number of companies based around the world as well as writing a number of books.

Further reading: - Wing Leader

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

“Flying Officer James Edgar JOHNSON (83267), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No.616 Squadron.

This officer has participated in forty-six operational sorties over enemy territory and has destroyed at least four hostile aircraft. Flying Officer Johnson has at all times shown great courage.”

(London Gazette – 30 September 1941)

Citation for the award of the Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross.

“Acting Flight Lieutenant James Edgar JOHNSON, D.F.C. (83267), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No.616 Squadron.

Since being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in September, 1941, this officer has participated in many sweeps over enemy territory, during which he has destroyed 2 Messerschmitt 109 Fs and  damaged a Focke Wulf 190.He has also carried out a large number of convoy patrols.  Flight Lieutenant Johnson is an exceptional leader and the magnificent example he sets is an inspiration to other pilots.”

(London Gazette – 26 June 1942)

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Service Order

“Acting Wing Commander James Edgar JOHNSON. D.F.C. (83267), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

This officer has led a wing on a large number of occasions and has displayed outstanding skill and gallantry.  During an operation, one morning in May, 1943 his formation was heavily engaged by a large force of enemy fighters.  In the ensuing combats 4 enemy aircraft were destroyed without loss.  The same afternoon he took part in a similar sortie and 3 enemy fighters were destroyed, 1 of them by Wing Commander Johnson.  The next day, this officer took part in another successful sortie. By his skilful and courageous leadership, Wing Commander Johnson contributed materially to the success achieved.  He has destroyed at least 13 enemy aircraft.”

(London Gazette – 4 June 1943)

Citation for the award of the Bar to the Distinguished Service Order

“Acting Wing Commander James Edgar JOHNSON, D.S.O., D.F.C. (83267), Royal Air Force. Volunteer Reserve.

Since being awarded the Distinguished Service Order this officer has destroyed a further 7 enemy aircraft and shared in the destruction of another. He is a relentless fighter whose brilliant leadership and outstanding skill have inspired all with whom he has flown.  Within a period of 2 months, Wing Commander Johnson led large formations of aircraft on very many sorties during which 27 hostile aircraft were shot down and a large number were damaged.”

(London Gazette – 24 September 1943)

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