Johnnie Johnson (RAF Officer) - Early Years

Early Years

Johnson was born in Barrow upon Soar, Leicestershire, England, the son of local policeman Alfred Johnson and Beatrice May Johnson. Johnson was close to his uncle, Charlie Rosswell, who had won the Military Cross with the Royal Fusiliers in the Great War. His uncle’s stories inspired his nephew to seek adventure. Seeing the potential in Johnnie, Charlie paid for his education at Loughborough Grammar School. According to his brother Ross, during his time there, Johnson was always getting into mischief. He was nearly expelled after refusing punishment for a misdemeanour, believing it to be unjustified: "he was very principled and simply dug his heels in".

Among Johnson's other hobbies and interests was hunting and sports. He would hunt rabbits and birds in the local countryside. Johnson continued to play rugby in his spare time as well. In 1938 Johnson sustained a broken collar bone playing for Chingford Rugby Club near Epping Forest. Johnson was treated but later found out the wound had been wrongly set and thus did not heal properly which would cause him difficulty.

Soon afterward, Johnson attended University of Nottingham, where he qualified as a civil engineer, aged 22. Johnson became an surveyor at Melton Urban District Council before progressing to assistant engineer with Chigwell Urban District Council HQ at Loughton.

Keen to follow up his interest in aviation and forge a career, Johnson started taking flying lessons at his own expense. He applied to join the Auxiliary Air Force (RAA) but encountered some of the social problems that were rife in British society at the time. Britain remained extremely hierarchical. Most officers were former public schoolboys. Johnson remembers:

I went along for this interview and the senior officer there, knowing that I came from Leicestershire, said "With whom do you hunt, Johnson? I said, "Hunt, Sir?" He said, "Yes Johnson, hunt; with whom do you hunt? I said, "Well I don't hunt, Sir, I shoot". He said, "Oh well, thank you then, Johnson, that will be all!" Had I been socially acceptable, however, by (fox) hunting with Lord so-and-so, things would have been different, but back then, that is what Auxiliaries were like, and do not forget that many members were of independent means, which I was certainly wasn't.

As the war clouds gathered in the aftermath of the Munich Crisis, the standards of the RAF were relaxed, however, as the service expanded and brought in men from ordinary social backgrounds. Johnson re-applied to the AAF. He was curtly informed that sufficient pilots were already available but there were some vacancies in the balloon squadrons. Johnson rejected the offer.

Inspired by some Chingfrod friends that had joined, Johnson applied again to join the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He was rejected on the grounds that there were too many applicants for vacancies. He then joined the Leicestershire Yeomanry, where the injury was not a bar to recruitment. Johnson was still keen to serve his country, so he joined the Territorial Army unit because he was in a reserved occupation. If war came he had "no intention of seeing out the duration building air raid shelters or supervising decontamination squads". Soon afterward, Johnson received a letter from the VR, offering him a post in the organisation, which he accepted.

Read more about this topic:  Johnnie Johnson (RAF Officer)

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