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John 'Pancho' Villa - fighter ace

John Wolferstan Villa was born in December 1919 in South Kensington, London. He joined the RAF on a short service commission in March 1937 and was posted to 11 FTS Wittering on 5th June. He went on to 2 AACU at Lee-on-Solent on 26th March 1938.

In May 1940 Villa was serving with 72 Squadron at Acklington as a Flight Commander. On 1st June he destroyed a Ju87 over Dunkirk, flying from Gravesend. The squadron returned north to Acklington and stayed there until late August when it moved to Biggin Hill.

On 1st September Villa probably destroyed a Me109 and damaged another; on the 2nd he destroyed a Me110, probably another and damaged a third; on the 4th destroyed a Me110 and probably another; on the 7th got a probable He111; on the 10th shared a Do17; on the 14th shared a He111; on the 15th destroyed two Me109s and a Do17 and shared a He111; on the 27th destroyed a He111; and on the 28th a Me109.

Villa was awarded the DFC (gazetted 8th October 1940).

On 11th October he claimed a Do17 destroyed and two days later he was posted to 92 Squadron at Biggin Hill.

On the 20th Villa shared in destroying a Me110. His Spitfire, N3113, was damaged by return fire in this engagement and he made a forced-landing near Tonbridge, unhurt.

On 25th October Villa claimed a Me109; on the 29th a Me110; Me109s on 18th November and 1st December. This last victory was accomplished in Spitfire R6833, one of only thirty Mk.1 Spitfires to be equipped with two cannons.

Villa was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 26th November 1940).

In June 1941 Villa was instructing at 58 OTU Grangemouth. He took command of 65 Squadron at Kirton-in-Lindsey in September and led it until December. He commanded 504 Squadron at Ballyhalbert from June to September 1942 and 198 Squadron from its reformation at Digby on 8th December 1942 until May 1943.

Villa, known throughout his service as 'Pancho', came off operations because of increasing sinus trouble. He was released from the RAF in 1946, as a Squadron Leader.

Additional research and all photographs courtesy of Peter Villa

Photos and text courtesy of Battle of Britain Monument website

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