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Johnnie Kent - a proven leader of men

John Alexander Kent was born in Winnipeg, Canada on 2nd June 1914. He learned to fly at the Winnipeg Flying Club and obtained his civil flying licence in November 1931. He joined the Northwest Aero Marine Company in 1932 and obtained his commercial licence in June 1933, becoming the youngest commercial pilot in Canada.

Kent joined the RAF on a short service commission in January 1935. He was posted to 5 FTS Sealand on 15th March and after completing his training joined 19 Squadron at Duxford on 29th February 1936.

He moved to the Experimental Section, RAE Farnborough on 19th October 1937 in the Instrument, Armament and Defence Flight. Kent was awarded the AFC (gazetted 2nd January 1939) for his work on balloon cable research. Whilst at the RAE he carried out 300 collisions with cables.

On 13th May 1940 Kent was posted to the Photographic Development Unit at Heston (above). On 15th July he went to 7 OTU Hawarden, converted to Hurricanes and joined 257 Squadron at Northolt on 20th July. On the 23rd Kent went back to the RAE at Farnborough but was released four days later and joined 303 (Polish) Squadron, then forming at Northolt. Kent was appointed ‘A’ Flight Commander on 2nd August. On 9th September Kent destroyed a Me110 and damaged a Ju88; on the 15th he destroyed a Me109; on the 23rd he destroyed a Me109 and damaged a Fw56; on the 27th destroyed a Ju88; and on 1st October a Me109 and probably another.

He was awarded the KW (gazetted 18th September 1940).

Kent’s last flight with 303 was made on 16th October. He was posted away on the 17th October to 92 Squadron at Biggin Hill. He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 25th October 1940) and on 26th October he took command of 92 Squadron as an Acting Squadron Leader.

Kent claimed a Me109 destroyed on 1st November and two Me109s and probably another on the 2nd. He was awarded the VM (5th Class) (gazetted 24th December 1940) for his work with 303 Squadron.

Kent retired from the RAF on 1st December 1956 as a Group Captain. He died on 7th October 1985.

His portrait was made by Cuthbert Orde in 1940 (below).

Photos and text courtesy of Battle of Britain Monument website

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