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The Airmen's Stories - P/O J S Humphreys


James Samuel Humphreys was born in Greymouth, South Island on 13th November 1918 and attended Christs College, Christchurch from 1932 to 1935. In 1936 he went to work in the Government Audit Office in Wellington.

After joining the Civil Reserve of Pilots in February 1938, Humphreys applied for a short service commission in the RAF. Provisionally accepted, he sailed for the UK on 19th November in the RMS Rangitiki.

Humphreys began his initial training course at 9 E&RFTS Ansty on 28th December 1938. He went to 6 FTS Little Rissington on 29th April 1939 and began his intermediate training on Ansons. With the course completed, he joined the newly-formed 245 Squadron at Leconfield on 6th November 1939.

In early May 1940 Humphreys volunteered to serve in France and he left 245 Squadron for Manston on 13th May, joining 607 Squadron at Vitry-en-Artois the same day. On the 14th he destroyed a Me109 and damaged a Hs126, on the 17th he destroyed a Do17, on the 18th he damaged a Me109 and on the 19th he destroyed a Ju88.

After a period of hectic fighting and heavy losses, the squadron withdrew to Croydon on 21st May. Humphreys was posted to 605 Squadron at Hawkinge a week later and joined it at Drem on the 29th.

He took part in the action of 15th August when the Germans sent a force of He111's, escorted by Me110's, from Norway to attack the Newcastle area. They were met out at sea and heavy losses inflicted.

Flying from Croydon on 8th September, Humphreys damaged a Me109 and on the 9th he probably destroyed a He111 and was then shot down himself and baled out with a badly wounded hand.
Falling from 12,000 feet, he pulled his ripcord at 3,000. As he drifted across the Canadian Army Camp at Bordon, he was fired on, one bullet going through the left breast pocket of his tunic, leaving a welt on the left side of his body. Humphreys landed just outside the camp, was picked up by Canadians, relieved of his buttons, maps and flying boots and at Cambridge Military Hospital, Aldershot, he lost his little finger.

Humphreys rejoined the squadron on 28th November and two weeks later was posted to 15 FTS Oxford as a staff pilot, having been classified as A2 flying category. Throughout 1941 and 1942 he served at various training schools as a staff pilot. In late December 1942 Humphreys returned to operations, joining 486 Squadron as a supernumerary.

He went to 609 Squadron at Manston in mid-February 1943, did a ground attack course, specialising in rocket projectiles, and in early May was posted to the Middle East. After three weeks practice flying at 71 OTU Ismailia, Humphreys joined 6 Squadron at Ben Gardane as special instructor on rockets. On 25th September he went to 127 Squadron at St. Jean in Palestine as a Flight Commander.

In January 1944 he was posted to HQ Air Command South East Asia at Calcutta on staff duties. He joined 42 Squadron at Tulihal on 23rd July as a supernumerary, moving in late October to 11 Squadron at Imphal as a Flight Commander.

He was given command of 60 Squadron at Kangla on 6th December. Humphreys fell sick with hepatitis on 22nd April 1945 and was taken to Calcutta, relinquishing his command on 23rd May.

Fully recovered, he took command of 8 Squadron Indian Air Force. The squadron worked up and moved to Mingaladon on 15th July and began fighter-bomber attacks against the Japanese. On 26th August it escorted the Japanese generals into Rangoon for the formal surrender.

Humphreys was posted away on 15th November 1945, when the squadron personnel became completely Indian.

He took command of 20 Squadron at Bangkok, left it in mid-February 1946, returned to the UK in May and was released from the RAF on 12th July 1946 as a Squadron Leader. Humphreys married in England and remained there until June 1951, when he returned to New Zealand.

Humphreys died in Wanganui on 25th April 1986.



S/Ldr. RP Beamont and 609 Squadron pilots in the dispersal doorway, RAF Manston, spring 1943.

Standing L-R: F/O Howard Skett, F/Lt Erik Haabjoern, F/O George Evans, S/Ldr Roland Beamont, F/O Matthew Cameron, F/O Peter Raw, F/Sgt Lawrence Stark, F/O Antoni Potek.

Front L-R: Sgt Chester West, F/Lt James Humphreys, P/O Geoff Stevens, F/O Remy Van Lierde, Adj. Plt. Andre Blanco, F/Lt Johnny Wells, F/O Roy Payne, F/O Raymond Lallemand.

The dogs are Blitz and Spit.


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