How scrap of paper led to RAF’s top ace of WWII
Just minutes after landing his Spitfire safely from a wartime dogfight legendary RAF ace Johnnie Johnson wrote a dramatic combat report in which he described how he shot down an enemy Focke-Wulf raider that had been attacking Fortress bombers returning from a World War II mission.
And now, after being missing for 67 years, the historic report of the battle in the sky with the German Luftwaffe has turned up — tucked away in a frayed school roll book retrieved from the attic of the old Mountpottinger Public Elementary School in east Belfast.
It fluttered out of the roll book as its pages were being turned by Norman Kennedy of the East Belfast Historical Association after a pile of old Mountpottinger books were presented to the association. So Norman turned detective and traced the family of the late fighter pilot to Cambridge.
Now the combat report has been handed to Johnson's son Chris to be added to other memorabilia of his famous father who was the RAF's most successful fighter pilot in the Second World War.
But both Chris Johnson and Norman Kennedy are mystified as to how the combat report found its way into the pages of the roll book of a school this war hero never attended.
He was born in 1915 in the Leicestershire village of Barrow-upon-Soar.
“My father is bound to have visited RAF Aldergrove during his flying career but he certainly didn't go to a primary school in Belfast,” says Mr Johnson junior
“Anyway, I'm delighted to have received the combat report and it is now tucked away with my dad's pilot's log book.”
Meanwhile, back in Belfast, Mr Kennedy is still trying to solve the mystery of the combat report that strayed.
“I'm anxious to talk to whoever handed in the pile of old roll books,” he said. “They might be able to provide a clue about the one that contained this historic document from the war years.”
During Johnnie Johnson’s career with 443 Squadron, usually in a Spitfire, he had 38 victories over the Luftwaffe in the skies of Western Europe.
Before retiring from the RAF Johnson also served in the Korean War and rose to the rank of Air Vice Marshal. He died in 2001 at the age of 86.
“No (RAF) fighter pilot achieved more kills,” says Mr Kennedy.
In the combat report Johnson wrote for intelligence officers one May morning in 1943 at RAF Kenley in Surrey after his dogfight, Johnson described how he encountered four German Focke-Wulf 190 fighter planes preparing to attack Fortress bombers returning home from a mission.
“I closed in on the leader and gave him several short bursts,” wrote the Wing Commander in his report. “The enemy aircraft turned left and then flicked right over. He dived down and I followed for three or four thousand feet.”
He gave the enemy another short burst although he was almost out of range.
“I then broke away and rejoined the bombers, but my No 3 followed the aircraft down and saw the pilot bale out. I therefore claim this enemy aircraft as destroyed.”
If you know how the reports ended up in Mountpottinger School please call the newsdesk on 02890 264420