Flying Officer Archibald Campbell Johnstone
Tragedy continued to stalk 23 squadron in their Bristol Bulldogs.
The end of 1931 had seen the death of P/O Noel Ireland when his Bulldog spun and crashed, and a collision between a Puss Moth and a Bulldog, leading to the deaths of P/O John Shrimpton and F/L Ernest Lacey. Despite dire warnings from F/L Harry Day, (the squadron’s interim leader), Douglas Bader had undertaken low level aerobatics in a Bulldog, resulting in his horrific accident at Woodley, which had cost him his legs.
But the Bulldog wasn’t finished with them yet..
On the morning of 26th April, 1932, three of 23 squadron’s Bulldogs, led by F/L Sydney Herbert Harris, were carrying out various manoeuvres at 3000ft in the Ashdown Forest area, when the two rear aircraft of the ‘vic’ formation collided, following a signal to change formation.
FLYING OFFICER ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL JOHNSTONE, flying K1673 went into a spin and then a dive following the collision, crashing into the garden of Mrs. D. A. Day, at Upper Parrock Cottages. She was at home and witnessed the crash:
“I saw the two machines appear out of the cloud and then their wings touched. The lower of the two went into a spin and dived towards my home. I thought it would hit, but the machine dived into the garden about 15 yards away, close to the chicken run. It was a terrible crash, and it all happened like a flash.”
Johnstone was found dead in the wreckage of the Bulldog. He was still strapped into the aircraft and had died of his extensive injuries.
Flight Sergeant Edward Daniel Jack, flying K1675, was more fortunate and managed to escape his aircraft by parachute, before it burst into flames. On landing, he walked to Hartfield, and telephoned RAF Kenley from the Mitchell Brother’s Garage with the awful news of the crash.
Archibald Campbell Johnstone had joined 23 squadron in July 1931. He had just graduated from the RAF College, Cranwell, and had been commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 25th July (London Gazette 25/8/1931). During his time at Cranwell, he had excelled in athletics and humanities, attaining the rank of Flight Cadet Sergeant, as a member of ‘A’ Squadron.
He was the son of Augustus Anderson Jervis Johnstone (Brigadier General – retired) and Elizabeth Sutherland Stephen, who had married in Simla, India, in 1892, where Archibald was born in 1911. His father gave the address 86 Murray Field Gardens, Edinburgh, at the time of his son’s death.
Archibald was cremated in Edinburgh on 30th April, 1932.
Rest in Peace, Sir, and thank you for your service.