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John Fairbairn

Date of birth: 7.11.1913
Date of death: 23.6.1944
Area: Knottingley
Regiment: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Family information: Husband of Ivy Fairbairn nee Brown
Rank: Flight Sergeant
Service number: 1456224

War Service

John Fairbairn is shown online on the Knottingley Roll of Honour as F/Sgt (Air Bomber) J Fairbairn 1456224 97 Squadron RAF(VR) died 23rd June 1944 aged 30 - son of Frank/Ada of Knottingley. Husband of Ivy of Ferrybridge - buried Knottingley Cemetery grave 5224.
The aircrew he flew with came together on 15 February 1944 when they took part in a raid on Berlin. It consisted of Fl/Lt Ted Perkins; Fl/Eng Sgt Rosenberg, Navigator Bill Hunt, Air Bomber John Fairbairn, Wireless Operator John Coman and two Canadian Air Gunners Sgt JK Russell and Sgt M H McBride. By the end of March Perkins had 8 operations to his credit and the rest of the crew 7. The target for 30th March was Nuremberg. The number of operations mounted steadily, so by the end of May, Perkins had completed 20 operations and his crew 19.
After their last operation 27/28th May to St Valery en Caux the two Canadian Sergeants, Russell and McBride, had been involved in smashing up the Sergeants Mess and as a punishment were sent to an Aircrew Refresher Course, so the crew for this fateful event in which 5 lost their lives was: Pilot Ted Perkins Age 24; Fl/Eng Frank Coxhead age 20; Nav Fl/Lt William Hunt age 22; Air/Bmr John Fairbairn age 30; W/Op/ Air Gnr Joseph Coman (only survivor); W/Op/ Air Gnr Denis Partos DFM age 23.
In the afternoon of 23rd June 1944 six Lancasters of No. 97 Squadron were detailed for formation flying practice, and left their base at RAF Wittering. Flying in two V formations and whilst attempting a gentle turn, Lancaster ME625 captained by Fl/Lt Henry Stewart Van Raalte and flying immediately behind the lead plane became trapped in its slipstream and side slipped over Lancaster ND981, flown by Fl/Lt Edward Perkins, and dropped suddenly, removing the entire tail of Fl/Lt Perkins aircraft, and smashing the nose of his own. Both aircraft immediately spun to earth out of control. Ted Perkins’ Lancaster broke in two at 1,000 ft, and at that moment one of the crew, Joe Coman, managed to bale out and landed safely but the rest of the crew perished as the aircraft crashed in flames. The crash occurred between Marcus Harvey Farm and Cloot House Farm near Crowland.
On the ground the crash was witnessed by villagers attending a Fete in the Lincolnshire village of Crowland. They watched in horror as the two aircraft spun to the ground and crashed in flames.
A gunner in one of the other aircraft said “We were told to execute a turn and something went wrong, and the first plane got into the slipstream of the plane ahead of it, which sent it straight up in the air and back down again, narrowly missing us.”
His body was brought back to Knottingley and buried in the Cemetery on Womersley Road.
On 23rd June 2014 to mark the 70th Anniversary a service was held at RAF Wyton in Cambridgeshire and following the service everyone journeyed to Cloot House Farm in Lincolnshire for the unveiling of a plaque, with relatives from as far away as Australia in attendance.
Pontefract & Castleford Express 7 July 1944 p8
The funeral took place yesterday week of Mr John Fairbairn RAFVR who was killed on active service. He was the only son of Mrs Ada Fairbairn and the late Mr Frank Fairbairn (Pork Butcher) of Knottingley, and last year married Miss Ivy Brown the only daughter of Mr & Mrs Brown of Pottery Cottages, Ferrybridge. He was 30 and before joining the RAF was a Customs & Excise Officer. A service was held in Christ Church conducted by (Rev Musgrave) who also officiated at the committal service at the cemetery. The RAF was represented and there were floral tributes from the Officers and personnel of the RAF. Besides the widow there is one son.”

Family Life

John Fairbairn was born on 7th November 1913 and was baptised on 30th November 1913 at Christ Church. He was the son of Frank Fairbairn, a Pork Butcher and Ada Munsford Mason who had married in the same Church on 1st December 1912. Sadly his father Frank, who served as a Private with the Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regt), was killed on 18th April 1918 in the Great War, and he is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.
John Fairbairn married Ivy Brown in the 3rd quarter of 1943. Their marriage was registered at Pontefract and they lived in Pottery Cottages at Ferrybridge. They had one son, Michael J, born in 1944, who was always known as ’John.’

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