21 August 1942 – Pilot Officer Mitch Johnston?


Comment by Steve Nickerson

Hi Pierre. Wondering if you were able to identify the last four pilots in the August 1942 403 at Catterick photo. I believe the pilot behind F/O Olmsted and next to Marshall in the second row is Mitch Johnston.

That pilot has a bar on his sleeve which means it would be plausible since he was a Sergeant on August 11 1942…

From the squadron’s ORBs

Tuesday, 11 July, 1942

Weather 6/10ths cloud with the wind at 10 to 15 mph from the NW. At 1200 hours, a scramble was done by Blue Section, P/O Gardiner and F/O Wiejski, over the base and returning in 20 minutes without contact being made. General flying was done by ‘A’ Flight – aerobatics, cine gun, tail chase and formation. Good news for the Squadron, for today commissions were granted to six NCO pilots: F/S G.D. Aitken, F/S H.S. Anderson, Sgt H.J. Murphy, F/S C.R. Olmsted, Sgt M. Johnston and Sgt Monchier, all effective 20 June, 1942. This action will strengthen the Squadron immeasurably and prove a real factor in building up morale. Word was received that the AOC of the Group has recommended that court-martial action be taken against P/O J.E. Gardiner after a review of the Summary of Evidence.

And then a Pilot Officer on August 16…

Sunday, 16 August, 1942

The Squadron took off at 0845 hours for Manston, landing at North Weald owing to bad weather and arriving at Manston at 1400 hours. The second ground party left by train, owing to bad weather at Catterick. The weather was fine at Manston but two a/c overshot on landing (AA736 and AA979). P/O H.S. Anderson broke a shoulder blade and was taken to hospital while P/O M. Johnston was uninjured.


Original photo

BB1 - HR



Colorised by Doug Banks

New version

Pilot Officer Mitch Johnston

Pilot Officer Mitch Johnston?


10 thoughts on “21 August 1942 – Pilot Officer Mitch Johnston?

  1. With Johnston identified that leaves three pilots. Hope someone out there can identify them. I’ll keep trying though.

  2. Hi Pierre;
    There is a picture on pg. 31 of the book Spitfire The Canadians by R. Bracken that shows five pilots in front of Ford’s Spitfire KH-P after the raid on Dieppe. Two of the pilots are Sgt. A. Thomas and Sgt. R. Dunbar. Could Sgt. Thomas be the pilot in the 2nd row 3rd from the left and Dunbar in the 3rd row 5th from the left?

  3. The photo appears in another book Metal Canvas by Stephen M. Fochuk on page 32. Roy Wozniak is in the cockpit of the Spitfire.

    • I will update the blog Stephen. I have just sent you a montage for now.
      It is not easy since the image is not very clear.
      Wozniak and Aitken are very recognisable, but others are not. I wonder if the men on the wing are pilots. There is one pilot besides Aitken, but I can’t figure out if he is in the group photo after the Dieppe raid.

  4. You correctly identified Michell Johnston (correct spelling he is my father) in the picture. My sister and I have numerous images (black and white) from photo albums created during and after WWII. If there is a desire to get them scanned and submitted I would be willing to do so. I really appreciate the efforts you and others have made to share our family histories with us,

    • I just wrote you this in an email this morning and I want to share it here also.

      Dear Mr. Johnston,
      I have just read your comment made on my blog.

      I was just thinking as I woke up this morning how my meeting with Walter Neil Dove’s grandson Greg had evolved when we first met in Hamilton in 2011. 

      I went to Hamilton to meet George Stewart a Mosquito pilot who was with RAF 23 Squadron. My wife and I were staying at a bed and breakfast whose owner was married to the daughter of a Spitfire pilot. That I did not know until I spoke to him about my Mosquito pilot. 

      He then told me about his son Greg who had all of his grandfather’s war souvenirs and he asked me if I wanted to meet his son.

      I can vividly remember Greg and I sitting at his parents’ dinner table. He pulled out his grandfather’s album full of photos of Johnnie Johnson RAF top ace during WWII. 

      I was amazed but not only for these photos, but for all the others showing young men in their 20s. They all looked so much older. It is then I told Greg that we had to share his album on a blog. 

      I already had five blogs running, two about genealogy and three about WWII. I knew nothing about the RCAF during WWII, but I knew that writing about 403 Squadron someday would reach out for relatives of these young men who were mostly unsung heroes. 

      This is how that blog about 403 Squadron evolved. And now this morning I have the same feeling I had back in 2011 except I am sitting in my living room drinking my first cup of coffee left completely speechless by your comment.

      I would be more than honoured to share what you have and published online as an homage to your father.

      Best regards from Quebec, Canada

      Pierre Lagacé

      P.S. As a footnote…

      I am 71 going on 72 next December. I am a retired school teacher and a freelance translator, but mostly a blessed grandfather with six beautiful grandchildren who owe so much to those young men who fought for liberty and against tyranny in WWII.

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