Pilot Officer Nav B/W John Carruthers 1035099 RAFVR
John Carruthers joined the RAF in 1942. He went to India in that rather shambolic mid-1943 period of rebuilding. Caught up in the delays that affected the three freshly forming Beaufighter Squadrons (Nos 176, 177 and 211), he finally joined 211 Squadron just after they resumed operational status in January 1944. He was to remain with them until April 1945, tour expired, a very considerable achievement.
F/Sgt J Carruthers (Carruthers family collection)
At No 1 Signals School RAF Cranwell, John Carruthers qualified as a Wireless Operator Air Gunner on 23 June 1942 and proceeded to 6 Air Observer School RAF Staverton. There he passed the various course elements to qualify as a Navigator (Bomber/Wireless), then the requirement for operations in the Beaufighter back seat. By 1942, aircrew training had become better organised. In the Ansons of 6 AOS, his Ab Initio courses in navigation and bombing took 55 hours flying and 75 bombs dropped. Over the 5 months from July to November, John Carruthers accumulated a total of 114 hours flying, to pass with the usual terse "average" assessment.
Posted to RAF Squires Gate and 3 School of General Reconnaissance in December 1942, with another 19 Anson hours accumulated in the log over the eight weeks of GR course 7.W, his efforts earned him high RAF praise on completion: an "above average" rating as a Navigator.
Transit to India
On to No 2 (Coastal) OTU at RAF Catfoss, 1370853 Flight Segeant Carruthers crewed up with his pilot Sgt Lowcock for a busy month of polishing in a very mixed bag of Beaufighters. Then a visit to the Holy of Holies with Lowcock: the Bristol works at Filton, where they collected factory fresh Beaufighter JM265, for their final working-up at 304 Ferry Training Unit Port Ellen before the long ferry flight East. John Carruthers now had 46:30hrs as Beaufighter navigator under his belt, out of his total of 206 flying hours.
On 3 June 1943 he and Lowcock were off, a short leg to Portreath, then the long hours to Ras El Ma, and again to Castel Benito, followed quickly by El Adem, Cairo West, Aquir, Habbaniya, Shaibah, Bahrein, Sharjah and at last Karachi, some 33 hours in the air in 8 days.
Hurry up and wait
While 27 Squadron had resumed operations as a Beaufighter strike unit on Christmas Day 1942 at Feni (Fenny, Fenni), in mid 1943 the other units were struggling to get organised. There was a somewhat dispiriting period when there were more aircrew than immediately required by the re-forming Squadrons.
As a result, a number of the 211s spent time kicking around other postings. In the case of the pilots, (like EL Wood, for example) some effort was apparently made to find posts selected to keep their flying currency up. However, in the case of the Navigators like Carruthers and Ivan Gilmore, this may not have been the case. Certainly for F/Sgt Carruthers, a six month gap occurs in his list of Navigator postings and in his flying hours. It was December 1943 before he and Lowcock flew together again, on what is pretty clearly a short (2 week) Blenheim & Beaufighter refresher course.
Posted to 211 Squadron on 15 January 1944, he and Lowcock spent the next two months attached to the Special Low Attack Instructors School, learning the tricks of rocketry. On 24 March 1944, Carruthers was at last flying with 211 Squadron, having a quick poke about with the boss (S/Ldr Muller-Rowland) in Beaufighter X LZ381. The next day, misfortune struck. With Carruthers in the rear seat, Lowcock crashed ‘381 in an undershoot at Bhatpara, wiping off the undercart. They got away with it. Within the week, the two were back in the air for Lowcock’s penance: several days of circuits and landings in LZ360 ‘T’.
On 12 April 1944 John Carruthers flew on his first operation, now crewing with S/Ldr Thomson, OC ‘A’ Flight. It was a busy time and with Thomson in the “office”, they completed 6 sorties safely by the end of the month. A break in Ceylon for the General Reconnaissance and Air Navigation School’s Ship Recognition Course and a quiet patch were followed by a busy July, this time regularly crewed with W/O Vaughan, before another SLAIS course as Nav/W to F/Lt McKnight.
In September, though bound for Chittagong hospital apparently ill, he navigated the flight for F/O EL Wood in the cockpit (though their logs differ as to detail). Returned from hospital, a spot of leave followed. Then Carruthers was off to Calcutta to kit out for his commissioning, gazetted as a Pilot Officer in the London Gazette No 36780 of 7 November, with effect from 21 July. He was in good company: George Manderson was commissioned on the same date. P/O Carruthers now had over 330 hours in the Log Book, and over a dozen operations to his credit.
From October 1944 onwards, he was on operations more or less continuously as regular Navigator to Stacey, the Australian, who rose steadily from F/O to command ‘B’ Flight as F/Lt and later S/Ldr. In a year of 211 Squadron operations, P/O Carruthers completed his tour with 42 sorties in 188:30 flying hours, out of his total flying time of some 508 hours. Quite an achievement. His original Pilot, Lowcock, was not so fortunate, dying in a flying accident in June 1945.
Following the war, John Carruthers qualified as a Chartered Accountant. A man with a bent for precision and organising, he rose to Chief Financial Officer of a large Brazilian conglomerate, a position he held until his untimely death in 1974.
In late 2005 his son Philip Carruthers in Brazil came across the 211 Squadron website. He made contact, kindly offering a copy of his late father’s Log Book and the happy formal portrait seen above. This narrative has been compiled mainly from John Carruthers Log Book, the Squadron Operations Record Book, and the London Gazette.
211 Squadron Operations Record Book 1944 (TNA AIR 27/1303)
HMSO London Gazette
J Carruthers Flying Log Book
P Carruthers correspondence
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Site created 15 Apr 2001, last updated 14 Aug 2022. Page created 8 Dec 2005, last updated 13 Apr 2020
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