Group Captain John Alexander “Johnny” Kent, DFC*, AFC, Virtuti Militari (23rd June 1914 – 7th October 1985), nicknamed “Kentski” (sometimes given as “Kentowski”) by his Polish comrades, was a Canadian fighter ace flying in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. Considered one of the best young squadron leaders of the war, he went on to a distinguished postwar career before entering the aviation industry.
John Alexander Kent 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 15th March 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 1st February 1939. He had many hair raising experiences during the trials flying into cables with a Fairy P4/34, a Wellesley, and a Fairey Battle.
Kent was posted to the Photographic Development Unit (PDU) in May 1940 flying unarmed Supermarine Spitfires in France. During the late stages of the Fall of France, while on a low-level sortie with an armed Spitfire, he was attacked by a Messerschmitt Bf 109 that subsequently crashed during the encounter. By early July, he was posted to RAF Hawarden flying Hawker Hurricane fighters. On 2nd August 1940, as a Flight Commander, Kent joined 303 Squadron, a newly formed squadron consisting of Polish pilots based at RAF Northolt throughout the Battle of Britain.
His first combat victories came on 9th September 1940 when Kent shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 110 and a Junkers Ju 88. On 23rd September, he destroyed a Bf 109 and damaged a Focke-Wulf Fw 58 reconnaissance aircraft while intercepting a raid over Dungeness. He shot down a Ju 88 after a raid over London on 27th September.
During a dogfight over the south coast of England on 1st October, Kent found himself alone with 40 Bf 109s. In the ensuing engagement, he shot down two of the enemy fighters and scored hits on another.
Kent was awarded the D.F.C. on 25 October 1940. The citation in the London Gazette said:-
“Early in October 1940, this officer, when entirely alone, attacked 40 Messchersmitt ME109’s and shot down two of them. He has personally destroyed four enemy aircraft. Flight Lieutenant Kent has been largely responsible in a large measure for the fighting efficiency of his squadron and has materially contributed to it’s successes. He has proved himself a born leader.”
The following day, Kent 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 1st November, Kent shot down a Bf 109 and two more the following day. On 24th December 1940, he was awarded the Silver Cross of the Polish Virtuti Militari decoration for his achievements with 303 Squadron. In June he was then posted back to Northolt as wing leader of the Polish Wing of four squadrons. On 21st June, during an operation escorting Blenheim bombers against enemy positions at Saint-Omer, France, Kent shot down a Bf 109. On 27th 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 adding to his score with a Bf 109 destroyed on 3rd July and another Bf 109 on 20th 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 Bf 109s on 7th and 16th 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. Kent was awarded a Bar to his DFC on 21st October 1941.
Early in 1942, Kent was taken off operational status and sent on a lecture tour of Canada and the United States. In June 1942, Kent was posted as 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 25th 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’s final total of wartime victories included 13 aircraft destroyed, three probables and three damaged.
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 including the de Havilland Dh 108 “Swallow” and Avro 707. 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 1st December 1956, Kent retired from the RAF service with the rank of Group Captain. He joined Kelvin-Hughes Aviation Limited as sales manager. His first marriage in 1939 was dissolved and he remarried in 1948. His family with a son and two daughters lived at Hartley Wintney, Hants.
John A. Kent :-
“I cannot say how proud I am to have been privileged to help form and lead No. 303 squadron and later to lead such a magnificent fighting force as the Polish Wing. There formed within me in those days an admiration, respect and genuine affection for these really remarkable men which I have never lost. I formed friendship that are as firm as they were those twenty-five years ago and this I find most gratifying. We who were privileged to fly and fight with them will never forget and Britain must never forget how much she owes to the loyalty indomitable spirit and sacrifice of those Polish fliers. They were our staunchest Allies in our darkest days; may they always be remembered as such!”
There will never be another pilot quite like him. Kent wrote a fantastic book on his life, “One of The Few”, a highly recommended read.
Kent died on 7th October 1985 in Woking, Surrey at the age of 71 years.
Hobbymaster 1/72nd scale and 1/48th scale New Model Arrivals next week at Flying Tigers !
Hobbymaster New Models are arriving at Flying Tigers early next week. As usual the majority of the model allocation has already sold as Pre-Ordered models and will be dispatched ASAP after arrival.
There are very limited quantities left on the shelf to buy, so if you need any of these to add to your collection please be quick to place your order.
Please click on the images / links below to go to the model of your choice, or CLICK HERE to see them all in the Future Releases section.
Sorry, HA1996, HA4556,HA5903, HA3849 AND HA8456 have already SOLD OUT at Pre-Order stage at Flying Tigers.
Flying Tigers’ Hobbymaster Sale “Offers of the Week” !
Please check out this week’s special offers by visiting the “Offers of the Week” sale section.
Some of these special offers will come into stock at the end of May. If you reserve your model by credit card or debit card your payment will not be taken until the model is available to dispatch.
If you pay by PayPal your payment will be made straight away which is beyond our control.
Some great bargains here, but there are limited stocks on some of these models so be quick before the stock allocation runs out !
Please click on the images / links below to go to the model of your choice, or CLICK HERE to see them all.
New J Fox 1/200th scale announcements available to pre-order from Flying Tigers.
Please find the latest J Fox 1/200th scale models which have just been announced and are available to pre-order from Flying Tigers. Please click on the image of your choice to go straight to the model page.
Updated Photo Gallery on Calibre Wings.
I have updated the photos on the following two Calibre Wings Tomcats. Please click on the images below to go straight to the full gallery of photos. Please click here to see all the Calibre Wings models.
That’s all for this week.
Thank you for reading this week’ s Newsletter !