A Long Affair...

Johnson with Spitfire IX, EN398, at Kenley during 1943. Leading the Canadian Wing, 'Johnnie' scored 12 outright aerial victories flying this Spitfire, without having to break off from a sortie due to technical failure, or suffering a scratch due to enemy action.
Dilip Sarkar MBE

A love letter with a difference from Kenley’s best-known Wing Leader – James Edgar ‘Johnnie’ Johnson – the RAF’s top-scoring fighter pilot of World War II.


“We had a long affair, you and I. You, the most beautiful fighter ever built, and me  the happy, proud, pilot. We grew up together – in combat over England, the Channel, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. We said farewell to each other after a six-year love affair…..

“In the spring of 1943, I led the Kenley (Canadian) Wing and we flew your beautiful high altitude Mark IX with its splendid new Rolls-Royce engine. The engine was mounted in your old airframe so that our great tactical advantage was that apart from your longer nose, and more exhaust stacks, you looked just the same as your slower sister.

“We had a good season with the Canadians. We were better than any Me109 or FW190 and we roamed far and wide and helped the ‘Mighty Eighth’ on their daylight missions over north-west Europe and Germany…..

“After the war we flew home together. The jet age had arrived and it was time to end our long affair of nearly six years. We crossed the Channel as we had done a thousand and more times before with never a break in your Merlin’s song. Over the south coast the high sky was blue and clear – just as it had been in that long, hot summer of 1940. The contrails that marked the air battles have long been swept away. The grass is long on some of the graves of those who fell; but as long as men fly, you, my beautiful Spitfire, will be remembered.”

Air Vice-Marshal James Edgar Johnnie Johnson CB CBE DSO** DFC*


Extracts from Chapter 2 of ‘Johnnie Johnson’s Great Adventure’ by Dilip Sarkar MBE. Text and photo reproduced with the kind permission of the author.

Air Vice-Marshal Johnson was interviewed by the Imperial War Museum in 1988. You can listen to the recordings here

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