Bomb aimer: Flg Off John Fort DFC

John Fort was born on the Lancashire side of the Pennines, in the cotton town of Colne, on 14 January 1912, one of six brothers. At 31, he was the oldest member of David Maltby's crew. After attending Christchurch School in the town, he went into the RAF in 1929 to train as an apprentice, going to the No. 1 School of Technical Training at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire. This was the famous training establishment set up by Lord Trenchard (‘the father of the RAF’) to supply the technicians needed to support aircrew and maintain aircraft. After completing the three year course he was posted to the Central Flying School and then went to sea in the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious. (Between 1918 and 1937 the RAF operated the aircraft which flew on aircraft carriers, and supplied its own ground staff to service them.)

Back on dry land, he continued in groundcrew until the second year of the war, when he volunteered for aircrew training. Selected as a specialist bomb aimer (or air bomber, to give the job its proper name) he went off to a Bombing and Gunnery School, where students were taught a lot of theory as well as the practical aspects, such as map reading and simulator training, learning exactly where to drop the weapon. They moved on to practice air-to-ground bombing runs over ranges where they dropped 25 lb smoke bombs.

This is where they developed the real skills. The bomb aimer took over the navigation of the aircraft from the navigator as they approached the target and began a bombing run. It was he who would call out to the pilot over the intercom the small direction changes needed, from his position lying flat out in the nose. From a height of 1,000 ft, the bomb aimer would be expected to be able to hit a target with an accuracy of under 50 yards.

At the end of his course John had done well enough to be offered a commission and so it was as a Pilot Officer he arrived at No.10 OTU in September 1942, at RAF St Eval. After completing the course there, where he also met Vivian Nicholson and Antony Stone, he went with them to 1660 Conversion Unit, and on to 207 Squadron. The citation for the DFC that he later received for Operation Chastise says that he had completed one operation before joining 617 Squadron. As there appears to be no record of him flying on an operation in 207 Squadron, he may have been credited with one while at the OTU, as some anti-submarine patrols were flown from there.

For his role in Operation Chastise, John Fort received the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). He was promoted to Flying Officer in August 1943.

See the original wooden bomb sight used by John Fort on the Dams Raid in May 1943 on the Gallery page.

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John Fort, June 1943.