Sample John 607 *

90278 Squadron Leader John Sample DFC – 607 Squadron

John Sample of Morpeth, Northumberland, born in 1913, was educated at Aysgarth School in North Yorkshire and then attended Lancing College in Sussex. He was an estate agent in civilian life and joined 607 (County of Durham) Squadron Auxiliary Air Force in 1934. He was appointed ‘B’ Flight Commander on 7 January 1939 and was called to full-time service on 24 August during the mobilisation for war.

Leading a section of three Gladiators on 16 October, Sample sighted and attacked a Dornier Do18 flying boat twenty-five miles out to sea. Severely damaged, the enemy aircraft crashed into the sea fifty miles out and the crew was captured by a trawler. On 13 November 1939 607 flew from Acklington to Croydon and two days later to Merville in France still flying Gladiators. During the Battle of France in May 1940, and now flying Hurricanes, 607 were in the thick of the action, shooting down some 70 enemy aircraft but losing a dozen pilots in the process including two OCs. Sample was made acting OC and 607 were withdrawn to Croydon on 21 May 1940, Sample being awarded the DFC for his actions. Later that month he was given command of 504 (County of Nottingham) Squadron, another Auxiliary Air Force unit, gaining further success during the Battle of Britain.

In March 1941 Sample was posted away from 504 Sqn. On 20 September 1941, 137 Squadron was formed at RAF Charmy Down, near Bath in Somerset and he was given command. They were equipped with the new Westland Whirlwind, a twin-engined, four-cannon heavy-fighter.

The squadron became operational on 20 October and undertook their first operation on the 24th when they attacked several trains carrying fuel containers in railway sidings at Landernau, near Brest. Sample, in Whirlwind P7053, attacked several wagons. On the afternoon of 28 October, Sample, again in P7053, and Sgt. MJ Peskett in P7058, took off to do a formation practice to the south of Bath. Sgt. JF Luing took off ten minutes later to carry out practice attacks. The three aircraft carried out formation turns at about 1000 feet for some minutes until Sample ordered Luing to break away for a practice attack.

Shortly afterwards Luing saw Sample’s aircraft spinning down out of control. Sample bailed out but was killed as the parachute had not fully deployed and he landed on the roof of a farm building at Manor Farm near Englishcombe. The aircraft crashed on to the same buildings and burst into flames. An investigation decided that Peskett’s propeller had hit the tail section of Sample’s aircraft although Peskett was unaware of what had occurred.

Sqn Ldr Sample was 28. He is buried in St. Andrews churchyard, Bothal, Ashington, Northumberland and his name is on a memorial plaque unveiled at Lancing College in 2014.

Posted in Memorial Stones.