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STERNE, John Rutherford Flying Officer, No.174 Squadron, J5831 Distinguished Flying Cross RCAF Personnel Awards 1939-1949
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STERNE, F/O John Rutherford (J5831) - Distinguished Flying Cross - No.174 Squadron - Award effective 5 August 1942 as per London Gazette dated 21 August 1942 and AFRO 1413/42 dated 4 September 1942. Born 26 September in Edmonton, 1922. Home there (warehouse shipper). Attended University of Alberta, 1939-1940 term and was a Private in the COTS. Enlisted in Edmonton, 10 October 1940, at which time he stated, “I have been keenly interested in flying for about three or four years and profess to know some knowledge of British and German planes.” He had one brother (Beatty Sterne, a member of the RCN) and three sisters. Posted on enlistment to No.1 Manning Depot, Toronto. To No.1 Training Command, 25 October 1940; to No.1 ITS, 23 December 1940. Graduated and promoted :LAC, 30 January 1941; to No.10 EFTS, Mount Hope, 31 January 1941; to No.1 Manning Depot, 30 March 1941; to No.9 SFTS, Summerside, 9 April 1941. Graduated and promoted Sergeant, 21 June 1941; commissioned 22 June 1941. To Halifax, 15 July 1941. Disembarked in Britain, 15 August 1941. To No.53 OTU about 20 August 1941. To No.615 Squadron 4 November 1941 (carried out one sortie). To No.32 Squadron, December 1941 (carried out 16 sorties). To No.174 Squadron, 10 March 1942 (reported to have flown 32 sorties with them). Promoted Flight Lieutenant, 22 August 1942 and given command of “B” Flight the next day. Reported to have commanded the squadron several times in the absence of the CO. Award presented by King George VI, 1 December 1942. His record shows numerous attachments to various units for uncertain lengths of time including Station Ford (14 June 1942), Station Manston (21 September 1942), Station Odiham (6 December 1942), Station Gravesend (5 April 1943), Station Middle Wallop (12 April 1943), Station Morston (12 June 1943), No.121 Airfield Headquarters (3 July 1943) and Station Dunsfold (14 July 1943). Killed in action 16 August 1943 (Typhoon JA444); hit by flak over target (Amiens/Glissy aerodrome) during Ramrod 204; buried in France. This officer has displayed a fine fighting spirit which, combined with his complete disregard to danger, has won the confidence and admiration of his fellow pilots. He has secured notable success in night bombing attacks on enemy shipping. In one period of three nights when operating alone against shipping he destroyed a 4,000-ton ship which was heavily defended by some twelve escort vessels and damaged several armed ships with machine gun fire. He has also assisted in the destruction of a 1,200-ton enemy coaster in daylight. Notes: Engaged in accident with Tiger Moth T7604, 16 April 1943, 1557 hours, Gravesend. His own account of the incident read: Having landed and while proceeding to dispersal, pilot was forced to taxi between parked aircraft in order to avoid a Typhoon which apparently swerved badly in take-off and was heading directly for him. Pilot’s attention was centred on Typhoon which resulted in his striking port wing tip of a Defiant mainplane, parked at the end of his avenue of escape. . To this the unit commander added his remarks: A. This pilot is attached to an experimental flight at Middle Wallop. He borrowed No.164 Squadron Tiger Moth to take another pilot of the fligth back to Gravesend for medical treatment. The accident occurred at Gravesend. B. In endeavouring to avoid being written off the pilot had to taxi fast just as he was getting among parked aircraft and in doing so ran into a stationary aircraft. C. In my opinion from the pilot’s report (attached) there was little he could do nd the Typhoon pilot was to blame for the accident. Training: At No.1 ITS, course was 23 December 1940 to 27 January 1941. Placed 27th in a class of 186. Courses and marks as follows: Mathematics (98/100), Armament, practical and oral (82/100), Visual Link Trainer (80/100), Drill (87/100), Law and Discipline (88/100). Described by Wing Commander G.S. O’Brian as follows: “This airman distinctly individualistic type. Has applied himself enthusiastically in all branches of his work. He has personal preference to be an Observer, but quite willing to go pilot. Feel he would make a good pilot.” Course at No.10 EFTS was 28 January to 29 March 1941. Flew Finch II aircraft (39.55 dual, 40.05 solo, with 10.25 spent on instruments. Also logged eight hours in Link. Chief Flying Instructor wrote of him, “Air sense good. Progress good. Being young, has a confident attitude, could stand checking occasionally in this respect. General flying good. Aerobatics well above average. Could stand more instrument flying.” In ground school he took Airmanship (172/200), Airframes (65/100)), Aero Engines (68/100), Signals, practical (45/50), Theory of Flight (85/100), Air Navigation (167/200), Armament, oral (150/200). Overall qualities as NCO graded as 165/200 and he was 20th in a class of 37. Flight Lieutenant W.P. Pleasance wrote, “Good student. Possible officer material but too young yet. Inclined to be a little overconfident.” At No.9 SFTS, course from 10 April to 21 June 1941, he flew Harvard II aircraft (37.40 day dual, 38.50 day solo, 3.45 night dual, 4.45 night solo plus 18.15 in Link. He had two minor accidents - 12 May 1941 when he taxied into a truck (“Carelessness”) and 17 May 1941 when he ground looped, damaging wing and oleo leg (“Inexperience”). Ground school courses were Airmanship and Maintenance (150/200), Armament, written (72/100), Armament, practical (75/100), Navigation and Meteorology (147/200), Signals, written (88/100) ad Signals, practical (49/50). Described as “Above average student, very keen and applies himself well. Deportment good.” (S/L J.R. Cairns) and “An aggressive type. Progressed satisfactorily and has good qualifications for fighter pilot.” (S/L E.M. Mitchell). Flying assessed under various headings - Formation Flying (“Average”), Navigation Ability (“Above Average”), Night Flying (“Above Average”), Determination and Initiative (“Above Average”), Instrument Flying (“Above Average”). Deemed suitable for single engine aircraft, not suitable to be an instructor. Placed 9th in a class of 42. Course at No.53 Operation Training Unit lasted from 23 August to 7 October 1941. He flew 2.55 day dual and 50.05 day solo, four hours on instruments, 17 hours in formation and 30 minutes in Link. Graded as “Above Average” in all the following categories - Natural Aptitude, Skill in Landing, Airmanship, Aerobatics, Cockpit Drill, Instrument Flying, Formation Flying and Map Reading. Fired 800 rounds air-to-air, 800 rounds air-to-ground. The following points were noted under “Distinctive Qualities”: Persistence: Does he keep on trying or is he easily discouraged ? (“Keeps trying”) Sense of Responsibility: Has be common sense or is he over-confident ? (“Plenty of common sense.”) Endurance: Does he put up a consistently satisfactory performance under conditions of strain ? (“Yes”) Leadership: Has he taken the lead in any activities ? Would he make a good captain of aircraft or Flight leader ? (“Inspires confidence”.) Method: Does he work systematically to a plan ? (“Methodical”) Deliberation: Does he act decisively for reasons or on impulse ? (“Acts for reasons”) Initiative: Does he want to try things on his own ? (“Yes”). Dash: Is he quick and decisive in action ? (“Yes”). Distribution of Attention: Does he find it difficult to do more than one thing at a time ? (“No”) Self-Control: Does he get flustered ? (“No.”) General Assessment of Suitability as Operational Pilot: (“An above average pilot who can be relied upon.”) At the conclusion of OTU, the following assessment was entered: “A quiet and reliable type. All his flying is well finished and his formation was good from the start. He should be an asset to his squadron.” Assessment: There is one assessment on his record, dated 27 June 1943 by S/L W.M. McConnell. He had then flown 559 hours 45 minutes (107 hours 30 minutes in previous six months.) “Lacks tact. Above average pilot but rather lacking in administrative sense.” To this, W/V C.F. Currant added, “Needs firm handling and some more experience.” Circumstances of death: No.174 Squadron reported that Typhoon JA444 failed to return from air operations. Flight Lieutenant Sterne was Blue 1, leading the formation on a bombing operation on Amiens/Glissy airfield. The squadron was escorted by No.175 Squadron and No.245 provided cover. The squadron crossed the French coast at Cayeux and, on reaching the target, dive-bombed from 11,000 to 5,000 feet, southwest to northeast. Bursts were seen in the airfield dispersal area. His aircraft received a direct hit just after starting its dive. A parachute, opened fully, was seen to leave the aircraft at 7,000 feet; the aircraft itself caught fire and disintegrated. The squadron, having completed the mission, turned for home; there was no opportunity to check what happened to the parachute. There were reports at war’s end that he had been shot by the Germans when he refused to divulge information, but nothing on file substantiates this claim; it does not even appear to have been investigated.