Saturday, February 27, 2010

G/CPT John A. Kent DFC*, AFC, Virtuti Militari 1914 -1985

John Alexander Kent nicknamed "Johnny Kentowski" was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada where he learned to fly and obtained his licence in 1931. He obtained a commercial licence in 1933 after working for the Northwest Aero Marine Company and became the youngest to achieve this in Canada.

In 1935, Kent joined the RAF and was posted to 5 FTS (Flying Training School) on March 15 before joining 19 Squadron at RAF Duxford in February 1936 where he remained until October 1937 when he moved to the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) at Farnborough. For his research work, during which he deliberately made over 300 airborne collisions with various types of barrage balloon, Kent was awarded a well deserved Air Force Cross (AFC) on 1 February 1939.
Kent was posted to the Photographic Development Unit (PDU) in May 1940 and by early July had converted to Hurricanes while on a posting at RAF Hawarden. On 2 August 1940, Kent joined a newly formed squadron as a Flight Commander containing Polish pilots. This was 303 Squadron which was based at RAF Northolt throughout the Battle of Britain.

His first combat victories came on 9 September when he shot down a ME 110 and a Ju 88. On 23 September, he destroyed a ME 109 and damaged an Fw 58 reconnaissance aircraft while intercepting a raid over Dungeness. He shot down a Ju 88 after a raid over London on 27 September. During a dogfight over the south coast of England on October 1, Kent found himself alone with 40 Messerschmitt 109s. During the ensuing engagement, he shot down two of the ME 109s and scored hits on another.

Kent was awarded the DFC on 25 October 1940 and the following day he was posted to RAF Biggin Hill to take command of another highly successful group of pilots, 92 Squadron. Kent's strict discipline initially proved unpopular with the laid-back attitude the 92 Squadron pilots had at the time. On 1 November, Kent shot down a ME 109 and two more the following day. On 24 December 1940, Kent was awarded the Polish Virtuti Militari decoration for his achievements with 303 Squadron

He was then posted back to Northolt as a Wing Leader in June to lead the Polish Wing of four squadrons. On 21 June, during an operation escorting Blenheim bombers against enemy positions at Saint-Omer, France, Kent shot down a Bf 109. On 27 June, during another raid over northern France, he destroyed a Bf 109 on the ground.

As the raids over France continued from RAF Fighter Command during summer 1941, Kent continued with a destroyed Bf 109 on 3 July, another ME 109 on 20 July before he was then moved again as Wing Leader to command and lead the Kenley Wing in August 1941. His first few operations over northern France with his new squadrons proved successful, claiming ME 109s on 7 August and 16 August. Kent remained with the Kenley Wing until October 1941, when he was posted back to 53 OTU at RAF Heston and then RAF Llandow before he was sent on a lecture tour of Canada and America late that year. Kent was awarded a Bar to his DFC on 21 October 1941.

In June 1942, Kent was Station Commander of RAF Church Stanton where he remained until October of that year when he was posted to Fighter Command HQ as a Wing Commander of Training. Two months later Kent was posted to the Middle East and took command of 17 Sector in Benghazi, Libya where on 25 January 1943, he damaged a Ju 88 during an engagement near the airfield at Benina.

After a posting to Air HQ as a Command Training Inspector at Air Defences East Mediterranean, he returned to the UK during March 1944 for an instructor’s course at the Central Flying School, Upavon. Kent was then posted to Air HQ, British Forces of Occupation and in late 1946 he became the Personal Staff Officer to Sholto Douglas, the Commander-in-Chief, and Military Governor of the British Zone of occupied Germany.

Kent returned to flying duties as Chief Test Pilot at RAE Farnborough in 1948 and was involved until 1952 with many developments of military aviation. In August 1952 he assumed command of the RAF Station at Odiham, a fighter base operating Gloster Meteors. Subsequently he was posted as Station Commander at RAF Tangmere, and in early 1956 accepted his final posting to RAF Newton as Station Commander.

On 1 December 1956, Kent retired from the RAF service with the rank of Group Captain