Fighter ace’s story stirs memories

John Edwards with his Johnnie Johnson commemorative plate PHOTO: Michael Cooke
John Edwards with his Johnnie Johnson commemorative plate PHOTO: Michael Cooke
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OUR recent story about one of Melton’s finest sons, Spitfire pilot Johnnie Johnson, prompted reader John Edwards to get in touch.

Mr Edwards, from Twyford, brought in a limited edition commemorative plate which honoured Johnson’s wartime exploits and a signed copy of a book co-written by his hero.

As reported in Times Past, Johnson was the RAF’s top gun in the war with a tally of 38 enemy kills. He was never shot down despite making 1,000 perilous sorties into battle.

Mr Edwards said: “I first met Johnnie Johnson when I was working at Auster Aircraft in Rearsby in 1945-6. He was stationed in Belgium and would fly back home to spend the weekend in Melton.

“I used to refuel his Spitfire, check the oil and clean the cockpit - if he had one. One time he was flying back over the Channel with the cockpit open to enjoy the breeze and it flew off in a gust of wind!

“After taking off from the aerodrome on the Monday he would do a 10-minute aerobatic display. He would stop work as everyone would come out to watch.”

Mr Edwards joined Auster as an aircraft apprentice in 1943 aged 14 but his favourite job was towing the aircraft around the runway and he son took on a driving role.

He said: “I had a fire tender to man and an ambulance to drive. It was a 1929 Rolls Royce which had been adapted for the purpose and I thought all my birthdays had come at once. I was just 15 and found out the ambulance could mgo at 85mph across the airfield. I was working 48 hours a week for 17s 6p but I would have done it for nothing!”

l We have five copies of the newly reissued book about Johnnie Johnson, Spitfire: Ace of Aces by Dilip Sarkar to give away (see coupon). The book is a hardback published by Amberley and costs £22.50.