Pilot Officer Samuel Johnson - 1653 Heavy Conversion Unit  


Pilot Officer Samuel Graham Johnson,DFC,RNZAF


 Pilot Officer Samuel Johnson was the instructor pilot on board Stirling Mk. III LJ455 coded H4-C when it took off from Chedburgh, Suffolk for a night cross country training exercise on January 20, 1944. They left Chedburgh on a route via Lands End, Dulverton, Reading and Goole before planning to return to base. Upon reaching Chedburgh, the crew acknowledged their landing instructions. They lost height in a diving turn and after hitting trees, crashed and caught fire at Hargrave Hall, a few miles NW of Chedburgh at 2326hrs. It is believed that the pupil pilot had inadvertently entered the diving turn, momentarily permitting himself to be distracted from his instruments by the airfield lighting. Flight Sergeant Bartington and Sergeant Spibey were injured in the crash and were to die a few days later all others were killed instantly.

The crew consisted of:

Name Service Trade Hometown  Age
P/O Samuel Johnson - DFC  RNZAF Pilot Hamilton, Auckland, New Zealand 22
F/Sgt John Bartington  RAFVR 2nd Pilot Stroud Green, Middlesex 22
Sgt Reginald Hallam  RAFVR Flight Engineer Louth 26
Sgt Richard Teague  RAFVR Flight Engineer Erdington,Birmingham 19
W/O2 Robert Poe  RCAF Navigator Prestatyn, Flintshire 25
F/Sgt John Callow  RAAF Bomb Aimer Teneriffe, Queensland, Australia 32
Sgt William Spibey  RAFVR W/Op/AG Radford, Nottingham 20
Sgt Alfred Wood  RAFVR Air Gunner Shepton Mallett, Somerset 27
Sgt Frank Tempan  RAFVR Air Gunner Halstead, Essex 34

 Sergeant Hallam is buried in Louth Cemetery, Sergeant Teague in Erdington (St.Barnabus) Cemetery, Sergeant Wood in Binegar Cemetery and Sergeant Tempan in Halstead Cemetery. P/O Johnson and other crew members rest in Cambridge Cemetery.


 Pilot Officer Samuel Graham Johnson, DFC, RNZAF was the son of Noel Storrier and Margaret Asenath Danvers Johnson of Hamilton, New Zealand. Samuel was born in Henley-on-Thames, Oxon., England, on the 24th June 1921 and his family emigrated to Hamilton when he was young. He worked as a clerk to Dalgety & Co of Hamilton. Prior to his death at1653 HCU, he had flown 22 Ops. in 218 squadron. In his private life, he was thought to be the fiancée of Frances Day, the actress, who when co-starring in the revue “Black Vanities” introduced the song “A pair of Silver Wings” as a tribute to the Royal Air Force and also to her fiancée, Sam Johnson DFC. He was to lose his life as she starred in the wartime West End Musical “Du Barry was A lady” and was never to get over his loss.

Service History

NZ Army/TF (7 Med.Bty. NZA) for 3 years

RNZAF Levin/ITW as airman/pilot until 30.11.1941

4 EFTS-10.1.1942

Embarked for Canada on 8.3.1942

Attended RCAF- 2.4.1942

5 M Depot- 3.4.1942

7 SFTS -13.4.1942

Pilot Badge & Sergeant on 31.7.1942

1Y depot at end of August 1942

Att. RAF and embarked for U.K. on 21.8.1942

3 PRC-2.9.1942

26 OTU (Wellingtons) -22.12.1942

1651 HCU (Stirlings-1 Op)-2.5.1943

218 squadron (Stirlings-22 Ops.)- 2.6.1943

Commissioned on 13.10.1943

31 Base for 1653 HCU (Stirling’s) as instructor by 5.12.1943


 Photo courtesy of the Auckland Cenotaph, research by Linda Ibrom. Special thanks to Errol Martyn.