John A. Kent bigraphy, stories - Pilots

John A. Kent : biography

23 June 1914 - 7 October 1985

Group Captain John Alexander "Johnny" Kent DFC & Bar, AFC, Virtuti Militari nicknamed "Johnny Kentowski" (23 June 1914 – 7 October 1985) was a Canadian fighter ace in the Second World War. Considered one of the best young squadron leaders of the war, he went on to a distinguished postwar career before entering the aviation industry.Bungay 200, p. 120.

Early years

John Alexander Kent was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada where he Johannessonn, Brian J. Rare Aviation Photos. Retrieved: 19 May 2011. learned to fly and obtained his licence in 1931. thesoutheastecho.co.uk. Retrieved: 19 May 2011. He obtained a commercial licence in 1933 after working for the Northwest Aero Marine Company and became the youngest to achieve this in Canada.

In 1935, Kent joined the RAF and was posted to 5 FTS (Flying Training School) on 15 March before joining 19 Squadron at RAF Duxford in February 1936 where he remained until October 1937 when he moved to the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) at Farnborough. For his research work, during which he deliberately made over 300 airborne collisions with various types of barrage balloon, Kent was awarded a well-deserved Air Force Cross (AFC) on 1 February 1939.

Second World War

Kent was posted to the Photographic Development Unit (PDU) in May 1940 flying unarmed Supermarine Spitfires in France. During the late stages of the Fall of France, while on a low-level sortie with an armed Spitfire, he was attacked by a Messerschmitt Bf 109 that subsequently crashed during the encounter.Kent 2008. pp. 80–81. By early July, he was posted to RAF Hawarden flying Hawker Hurricane fighters. On 2 August 1940, as a Flight Commander, Kent joined 303 Squadron, a newly formed squadron consisting of Polish pilots, based at RAF Northolt throughout the Battle of Britain.Bristow, Mark and Sylvia Laidlow-Petersen. A History of Royal Air Force Northolt. RAF Northolt: No. 1 AIDU, 2005.

His first combat victories came on 9 September 1940 when Kent shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 110 and a Junkers Ju 88. On 23 September, he destroyed a Bf 109 and damaged a Focke-Wulf Fw 58 reconnaissance aircraft while intercepting a raid over Dungeness. He shot down a Ju 88 after a raid over London on 27 September. As the raids over France continued from RAF Fighter Command during summer 1941, Kent continued adding to his score with a Bf 109 destroyed on 3 July and another Bf 109 on 20 July before he was then moved again as Wing Leader to command and lead the Kenley Wing in August 1941. His first few operations over northern France with his new squadrons proved successful, claiming Bf 109s on 7 and 16 August. Kent remained with the Kenley Wing until October 1941, when he was posted back to 53 OTU at RAF Heston and then RAF Llandow before he was sent on a lecture tour of Canada and America late that year.Kent 2008, p. 142. Kent was awarded a Bar to his DFC on 21 October 1941.

In June 1942, Kent was Station Commander of RAF Church Stanton where he remained until October of that year when he was posted to Fighter Command HQ as a Wing Commander of Training. Two months later, Kent was posted to the Middle East and took command of 17 Sector in Benghazi, Libya where on 25 January 1943, he damaged a Ju 88 during an engagement near the airfield at Benina. After a posting to Air HQ as a Command Training Inspector at Air Defences East Mediterranean, he returned to the UK during March 1944 for an instructor’s course at the Central Flying School, Upavon.Johannessonn, Brian J. Rare Aviation Photos,(originally published in the Icelandic-language newspaper 'Logberg', Winnipeg, Manitoba, October/November 1940). Retrieved: 19 May 2011.

His final wartime victories included 13 aircraft destroyed, three probables and three damaged.Hess 1966, p. 30.

Awards

  • Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Air Force Cross
  • Virtuti Militari, Silver Cross

Postwar

Kent was then posted to Air HQ, British Forces of Occupation and in late 1946 he became the Personal Staff Officer to Sholto Douglas, the Commander-in-Chief, and Military Governor of the British Zone of occupied Germany.

Kent returned to flying duties as Chief Test Pilot at RAE Farnborough in 1948 and was involved until 1952 with many developments of military aviation including the de Havilland Dh 108 "Swallow" and Avro 707. In August 1952, he assumed command of the RAF Station at Odiham, a fighter base operating Gloster Meteors. Subsequently, he was posted as Station Commander at RAF Tangmere, and in early 1956 accepted his final posting to RAF Newton as Station Commander.

On 1 December 1956, Kent retired from the RAF service with the rank of Group Captain.Kent 2008, p. 235. He joined Kelvin-Hughes Aviation Limited as sales manager.

Kent died on 7 October 1985 at the age of 71 years.

Quotes

I cannot say how proud I am to have been privileged to help form and lead No. 303 squadron and later to lead such a magnificent fighting force as the Polish Wing. There formed within me in those days an admiration, respect and genuine affection for these really remarkable men which I have never lost. I formed friendship that are as firm as they were those twenty-five years ago and this I find most gratifying. We who were privileged to fly and fight with them will never forget and Britain must never forget how much she owes to the loyalty indomitable spirit and sacrifice of those Polish fliers. They were our staunchest Allies in our darkest days; may they always be remembered as such!

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Living octopus

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