Left to right Paul Newman Stanley Johnson and RAF Museum CEO Maggie Appleton

Friday 21st May 2021

The RAF Museum, which reopened to the public this week was delighted to host Stanley Johnson, father of the Prime Minister, with his friend Paul Newman (601 Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force) on Wednesday 19 May.

The purpose of Mr Johnson’s visit was to view his father’s medals, which he recently very kindly loaned to the Museum, and which are now on display as part of the RAF 100 exhibition in Hangar 1 of our London site.

Mr Johnson’s father, Flight Lieutenant Wilfred Johnson, served as an RAF Coastal Command pilot from 1942 to 1944. He flew Wellington GR.XIV aircraft on patrols over the Atlantic Ocean and attacked several German submarines. On 17 August 1944, Wilfred returned early from a patrol due to a radio fault. His Wellington then suffered an engine failure shortly before landing. He faced the difficult and dangerous task of flying low at night on one engine, in a heavy aircraft still loaded with high-explosive depth charges. Wilfred dropped these weapons in a safe place, avoiding nearby villages, and returned to RAF Chivenor – but he was seriously injured in a crash-landing on the airfield. Following his selfless action, Wilfred was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for ‘skill and coolness in emergencies’ and ‘his hard work, thoroughness and keen sense of duty’ as an RAF pilot. Wilfred’s DFC, along with a congratulatory letter from King George VI and his Medal Group of Four, are now displayed in Hangar 1 at the Museum.

Stanley Johnson, Wilfred’s son, said:

“My sisters and I, as well his eight grandchildren, are absolutely thrilled that the wonderful RAF Museum at Hendon has chosen to display our father’s medals so brilliantly in the new exhibit, including the DFC, and the letter from King George VI.  Though my father didn’t talk much about his wartime service or about the crash which ended his flying career, I know that in many ways my father’s years as a pilot with RAF Coastal Command, based at Chivenor, in North Devon, were the high point of his life.  The years he spent at Chivenor were pivotal in another way, since after the war Wilfred became a hill-farmer on nearby  Exmoor,  in a rugged steep-sided valley on the River Exe where, seventy years later, my family and I are still privileged to live!”

Ian Thirsk, Head of Collections and Research, said:

‘It is an absolute privilege to display Wilfred Johnson’s medals at the RAF Museum, Wilfred’s story is an inspirational one which we are both honoured – and delighted – to share with our visitors. Wilfred’s medals will help us to emphasise the largely unsung role of RAF Coastal Command during the Second World War’.

Image: Left to right Paul Newman Stanley Johnson and RAF Museum CEO Maggie Appleton

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