WW2. John Alexander Swift (Pim)
The following pictures are from John Alexander Swift's private collection and other sources. Pim, as he was known, was born in 1921 to Alec and Mabel. Pictures show Pim as a youngster in Hathern eventually joining his father Alec in the Home Guard in 1941 and shortly therafter joining the RAF Voluntary Reserve (RAFVR) and training as a pilot in Canada and the UK before starting live operations in the Middle East which sadly ended with is death on November 5th 1943.
Pim with mother Mabel
School 1930 Pim, born 1921, on the far right of the second row. Picture 1.20 with full list of pupils is in the School gallery on this website
Confirmation card 1935
Pim with younger brother, Ivor or Tony?
Pim in the Home Guard with father Alec who was a Captain (see group photo in Military Gallery)
The Home Guard formed in May 1940 so this must be not long before Pim started flying training in 1941.
Phil did nearly all of his training in Canada as did many pilots from the Commonwealth. This is his flight log book. The first entry was Boxing Day 1941.
Pim was posted to Royal Canadian Air Force Station Bowden in Alberta with 32 Elementary Flying Training School
Pim with fellow trainees at Bowden
Pim in the kitchen at Bowden
Pim and fellow trainees in the snow ,Bowden 1942.
Back: J.Walker, ? Waugh, K.Wiles, B.Taylor, J.A.Swift, G.Bain Front: T?, ? Shaw, R.Sims, R.Henderson, ? Wallace, A.Boswell, C.Williams. Kneeling : Tierney
More pictures of friends at Bowden
Bowden. A good time had by all
A de Havilland 82C, the type of plane used by Pim at his first training base- RCAF Bowden
Bowden magazine.Note the quote from Shakespeare's play 'King John'.
This England never did, nor never shall, Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror
Pim's photo of planes on one of the 6 runways at Weyburn, Saskatchewan where Phil was based summer of 1942
Pim in front of the Avro Anson known as 'Faithful Annie' or 'The Flying Greenhouse'
The Avro Anson was the primary twin-engined aircraft for the training of pilots, observers, wireless operators and bomb aimers
Pim had over 60 sessions at Weyburn as a pupil pilot and pilot/navigator including his first night flight on June 7th 1942
Pim photo from cockpit at Weyburn
Pim's views from the cockpit whilst training at Weyburn
Pim letter home from Weyburn. From 1238633 J.A.Swift, L.A.C., 41 S.F.T.S. dated 5/4/1942
Moose park is I think where following holiday pics are from
Pim on leave in Regina Saskatchewan, summer 1942.
RAF Kermington on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds, Pim's first base in the UK in Autumn 1942
Twin-engined Oxford bomber as flown by Phil at Kirmington for nearly 250 flights
For 5 days from Oct 1th 1942 Pim attended a course at Dishforth in N.Yorks to do Beam Approach Training
Photo is of an An Airspeed Oxford with the yellow triangle livery of the Beam Approach Training Flight. See later in this article for more details of this hazardous process
Control room at Crosby-on-Eden near Carlisle. Pim had 12 sessions in Nov 1942 with 9(c) Operational Training Unit which included formation flying
Duty Office at Catfloss in E.Yorks where Pim in no. 2 OTU flew 25 training sessions in Feb and Mar 1943. Most were in a Beaufighter with co-pilot Sgt Austin
Sessions included navigation, evasive action and camera gun and night flying
Pim's off-duty pass. Yatesbury in Wiltshire near Lyneham was used for landing practice and storing aircraft
Pim with girl in WAAF uniform. The Women's Auxiliary Air Force was founded to free up RAF personnel for front line duties.
By 1943, the WAAF had 182,000 members. WAAFs work included weather reports, aircraft maintenance and working in intelligence
On Dec 1st 1942 Pim started training at 132(c) OTU at East Fortune in East Lothian. First flights were in Blenheim bombers like this
Beaufighter and crew (not Phil) at East Fortune. Pim had his first Beaufighter flight here on Dec 20 1942
After 2 demonstration flights Pim flew his first solo Beaufighter flight
On April 5th 1943 Pim and Sgt. Austin flew to Portreath in Cornwall which was a 'ferry' stop-over for aircraft flying to African and Middle East RAF stations
From the same year this is a Handley Page Halifax towing a glider and leaving Portreath for Tunisia
RAF Portreath. Pim's last stop in the UK en route to delivering a Beaufighter from Lyneham to Cairo West with Sgt. Austin
Stopping places were Gibralter, Biskra (Algeria), Castel Benito and Marble Arch (Libya),
Pim and his colleague Sgt. Austin were now ready to start live operations in the Aegean but not before a month with no flying in May 1943
This is and the next are the only two pictures of Pim from that period. Maybe this ties in with Pim's 'last letter' shown below.
In 5 months from June, Pim and Sgt Austin flew over 50 operations together
Logbook photo of Phil in front of a 227 Squadron Beaufighter. Location is not specified
According to Pim's log his first live operational base was El Magrun in Libya. This shows Beaufighter overhaul
A 1943 photo in Libyan desert April 1943 from Imperial War Museum
This is a coloured reproduction of a Beaufighter in action in the Aegean in 1943
On July 10th and 12th 1943 Pim acted as 'convoy escort' in the Allied invasion of Sicily which involved 300 sorties by the RAF
This is the German ME109 fighter of the type that shot down 5 Beaufighters near Rhodes on Nov 5th 1943
One of these contained John Alexander Swift and his long-term colleague George Frederick Austin
Wreck of unidentified Beaufighter in the Mediterranean, one of thousands of planes that litter the world's sea beds, silent memorials to missing airmen
Probably Pim's last letter home
Loughborough Echo Nov. 12th 1943
This is the photo used in that article with Pim proudly showing his 'wings' awarded on completion of a significant period of training. Pim was made Pilot Officer on Oct 3rd 1943
Pim's plane was never found but he is amongst those remembered on the El Alamein memorial
On Friday Nov 5th 227 Squadron was involved in an operation north of Rhodes. Following an encounter with German ME109s five of the planes were lost, including that manned by John Alexander Swift and his long-time colleague George Frederick Austin. Here you can see the loss report and follow up sortie. Pim is one of those remembered on the Loughborough Roll of Honour.
A lot of the above information is from Pim's Flight Logbook. You can see here the Endorsements which were inserted in the front of the book and the complete log of all training and operational flights.
Here you can see more infromation about the Beam Landing System which Phil learnt at Dishforth to aid landing in poor visibility.
Over 50 years later, in response to an aticle in the Loughborough Echo, Pim's brother Tony submitted this resume of Pim's military career outlining in particular the dificulties faced by the Beaufighters when faced with the technicalty superior German ME109 Messerschmitt fighter.