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The Airmen's Stories - S/Ldr. J Sample


John Sample of Morpeth, Northumberland was born on 31st January 1913, the son of Thomas Norman Sample,a ship owner of Newcastle, and Kate Isabel Sample, of Longhirst Grange, Morpeth in Northumberland.

He was educated at Aysgarth School in Yorkshire from the age of 8 and at Lancing College where he was in Seconds House from January 1927 to July 1930. He was a member of the Shooting VIII in 1930 and the Running Team in 1930. He was appointed as a House Captain in 1930.

He was a gifted musician, being accomplished on a number of different instruments including the flute, concertina and Northumbrian pipes. On leaving school he qualified as a Land Agent gaining MLAS and FSI before working in partnership with his uncle, William Collings Sample, who was Land Agent to the Duke of Portland.



In 1934 he joined the Auxiliary Air Force and commenced training at RAF Usworth, some thirty miles from his home. He was the fifth man to apply for pilot training there and he gained his 'A' licence flying an Avro 504. On 27th April 1934 he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer, was awarded his wings and was posted to 607 (County of Durham) (Bomber) Squadron.

He was promoted to Flying Officer on 27th October 1935. On 23rd September 1937 the squadron was re-equipped as a fighter squadron and from December 1938 was equipped with Gloucester Gladiator aircraft and was based at RAF Acklington.

He was appointed 'B' Flight Commander on 7th January 1939 and was called to full-time service on 24th August.

Leading a section of three Gladiators on 16th October, Sample sighted and attacked a Do18 flying boat twenty-five miles out to sea. Severely damaged, the enemy aircraft crashed into the sea fifty miles out and the crew was captured by a trawler.

On 13th November 1939 607 flew from Acklington to Croydon and two days later to Merville in France.

During the fighting in May 1940, Sample destroyed a He111 on the 10th and shared in the destruction of another. On the 11th he damaged a He111 and was shot down himself, baling out safely.

The squadron was withdrawn to Croydon on 21st May. Sample was given command of 504 Squadron at Wick on 29th May 1940.

He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 4th June 1940).

On 7th September Sample damaged a Do17, on the 11th he shared in the probable destruction of a Do17 and on the 15th he shared in the destruction of a He111 and a Do17.

In March 1941 Sample was posted away from 504.

On the 20th September 1941 137 Squadron was formed at RAF Charmy Down, near Bath in Somerset and Sample was given command. They were equipped with the new Westland Whirlwind, a twin engined, four cannon fighter.

The squadron became operational on 20th October and undertook their first operation on the 24th when they attacked several trains carrying fuel containers in railway sidings at Landernau, near Brest. Sample, in Whirlwind P7053, attacked several wagons.

On the afternoon of 28th October Sample, again in P7053, and Sgt. MJ Peskett in P7058 took off to do a formation practice to the south of Bath. Sgt. JF Luing took off ten minutes later to carry out practice attacks. The three aircraft carried out formation turns at about 1000 feet for some minutes when Sample ordered Luing to break away for a practice attack.

Shortly afterwards Luing saw Sample’s aircraft spinning down out of control. Sample bailed out but was killed as the canopy had not fully deployed when he landed on the roof of a farm building at Manor Farm near Englishcombe. The aircraft landed on the same buildings and burst into flames.

An investigation decided that Peskett’s propeller had hit the tail section of Sample’s aircraft although Peskett was unaware of what had occurred.

Sample was 28. He is buried in St. Andrews churchyard, Bothal, Ashington, Northumberland.




His name is on a memorial plaque unveiled at Lancing College in 2014.


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