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JR Marshall DFM

515903 Flight Sergeant John Roy MARSHALL DFM 1914—1982

JR Marshall was born in Ottawa in 1914, and joined the RAF early, enlisting as an Aircrafthand in 1932. Of Scottish stock, by 1941 his mother was living in Scotland.

I went searching for details of Jock Marshall’s DFM and RAF service some years ago but failed to find any information. When I eventually made contact with Bill Baird in 1998, it turned out that he too had gone searching: for my father, once “Nobby”...in Cambridge of course...about the time of Jock's death, a good many years ago now.

From around 1979 until his death in 1982, Marshall (together with Andy Bryce’s younger brother GR Bryce, also “Jock” and also an RAF veteran) had spent some effort arranging a successful search for missing aircrew from the terrible Easter Sunday raid of 1941. The story is told in James Dunnet's magnificent Blenheim Over the Balkans.

Though by then in failing health, Jock Marshall then arranged for an Easter Sunday notice to appear in Air Mail, the RAF Association journal, announcing the partial success of Bryce’s expeditions to Greece. That notice finally appeared in the Summer 1982 issue, where it was seen by James Dunnet. Sadly, JR Marshall DFM had died several weeks earlier. Barbara Marshall died in 1990.

Their son Ian, not long since retired from the British Army, got in touch by email. So once more I went looking for traces of Jock’s service, to find that the principal researcher in the field had made considerable advances. Tavender’s DFM compilation in its present form is really a prodigious feat.

Distinguished Flying Medal
As a starting point for a page for Jock, here is the text of his DFM recommendation from Tavender, and its gazettal.

    DFM recommendation AIR 2/8899
    “This Senior NCO has done 52 raids over Libya and Greece and has always shown the greatest determination. On one particular raid to Durazzo, Albania, his aircraft was hit very badly and he managed, by skilful handling, to out-manoeuvre fighters in the vicinity and land safely and unharmed at Larissa. On another raid to Valona, his aircraft was badly hit in the tailplane by an anti-aircraft shell, but he again arrived safely back at Menidi. During the evacuation from Greece, he did several evacuation trips (12) from Menidi to Crete in the face of enemy danger always around Menidi.”

    DFM Gazettal
    “Air Ministry 22nd August 1941
    ROYAL AIR FORCE
    The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards:-
    [...]
    Distinguished Flying Medal
    515903 Flight Sergeant John Roy MARSHALL, No. 211 Squadron.

Gazette practice was that “Immediate Awards” were published with a summary of the recommendation, while “Non-immediate” awards (being rather larger in number) were kept to single line entries. Fortunately, Tavender decided to redress both these economies of description, resorting to the original Air Ministry files for the original, complete recommendations. While immediate awards were for individual acts of courage, non-immediate awards recognised sustained courage and duty. Many of these latter DFM awards were thus made in recognition of the achievement of a completed tour of operations in the RAF.

In the London Gazette of 22 August 1941, Jock appeared with a number of other “non-immediate” DFM recipients, while his recommendation is recorded in AIR Class 2, Item 8899 at the UK Public Record Office (now The National Archives), as reported by Tavender. While Bomber Command practice varied around 30 operations over the course of the war, today it is hardly known that in the Middle East and Far East, tours of 50 or more operations seem to have been all too common.

A brief account of the Durazzo raid of 24 November 1941 is recorded in CFR Clark (Operations in Greece) while the 6 January 1941 AA shell/tailplane incident is graphically recounted by Bill Baird.

Jock Marshall’s Canadian links are recorded in the researches of Hugh Halliday into Canadian awards for RAF service as shown on the Air Force Association of Canada Honours and Awards pages, in these terms: “listed in AFRO 1292/41 dated 7 November 1941 as a Canadian in the RAF who had been decorated as of that date” .

Log Book July 1940 to December 1940
Between August and December 1940, Sgt Marshall completed 12 raids with 211 Squadron, seven in the Western Desert and five more after the move to Greece. By November 1940, Marshall,
Clark and Baird had formed a crew. Completing 8 operations together by the end of the year, they were by then experienced hands, who had seen and got away with much.

 Date

 Aircraft

 Pilot, passengers

 Duty

  

 July 1940

 Blenheim I

 Self

 Collection and testing of aircraft from Fuka

  

 Aug 1940

 L1481

 Self, P/O Smith, LAC Downie

 Raid, Derna

 1

  

 L1481

 Self, Sgt Tickner, LAC Sharratt

 Raid, Tobruck

 2

 31 Aug

 L1482

 Self, Sgt Alcock

 Raid, Gazala

  

  

 L1482

 Self, Sgt Alcock 540577

 Raid, Airfield 5 miles west Tobruck

  

 18 Sep

 L1482

 Self, Sgts Clark [sic: Cotton] & Baird

 Raid, Tobruk

 3

 20 Sep

 L1482

 "

 " Sidi Barrani

 4

 23 Sep

 L1481

 "

 " Tobruk

 5

 23 Sep

 L1481

 Self, P/O Smith, LAC Downie

 " Gazala

 6

 31 Oct

 L6670

 Self, Sgts Clark & Baird

 " Gambut

 7

 1 Nov

 L1528

 Self, 5 pass

 To Helio [polis]

  

 4 Nov

 L1528

 Self, 5 pass

 From Helio [polis]

  

 7 Nov

 L1481

 Self, Sgts Clark, Baird, Cpl Milne

 To Ismailia

  

 11 Nov

 L1481

 Self, F/Sgt Abbott

 To Abu Qir [Aboukir]

  

 15 Nov

 L1481

 Self, P/O Bright

 To Ismailia

  

 23 Nov

 L1481

 Self, Sgts Clark, Baird, Cpl Milne

 To Fuka

  

 23 Nov

 L1481

 "

 To Menidi (Greece)

  

 24 Nov

 L1481

 Self, Sgts Clark, Baird

 To Larissa

  

 24 Nov

 L1481

 "

 Raid, Durazzo. Attacked by 3 G.50s

 8

 25 Nov

 Junkers 52

 Greek Pilot, Self and others

 To Menidi

  

 26 Nov

 Junkers 52

 Greek Pilot, Self and others

 To Larissa

  

 26 Nov

 L1481

 Self, 3 Fitters

 To Menidi

  

 4 Dec

 L6634

 Self, Sgts Clark, Baird

 Raid, Tepelene

 9

 7 Dec

 L1481

 Self

 Test

  

 9 Dec

 L1481

 Self, Sgts Clark, Baird

 Raid, Valona NCO

 10

 9 Dec

 L1481

 Self, Sgts Clark, Baird

 Raid, Valona

 11

 31 Dec

 L1542

 Self, Sgts Clark, Baird

 Raid, Valona

 12

Like my father’s record, Jock’s Log contains some oddities: for example, the 2 “uncounted” raids with Sgt Alcock. And in transcribing his own log, my father did not include the Western Desert raids of 18-23 September and 31 October recorded by Jock. Bill Baird has since noted that Marshall lost his log in the move from Greece and reconstructed it from Bill’s. Bill recalls the 18 September raid with Marshall as his baptism on operations (a solo raid to Tobruk, no less) and thereby confidently recalls the Observer as Sgt Cotton.

While a Pilot’s Log Book records the names of other crew (2nd pilot or passengers), in the Log Books of other aircrew it is just the Pilot’s name that is the required entry. It seems that while looking at Bill’s log some 6 months later, Jock recalled the crew details not as he, Bill and Cotton but as his usual crewmates Bill and Nobby. War is not train spotting. Oddities like these arise in records and recall of every sort from this period no less than any other.

Jock had started his flying in 1939 and all his overseas duty during the war was on operational flying. By March 1943, his long service as an NCO pilot was recognised, with appointment from Flight Sgt to his commission as Pilot Officer with effect from December 1942 (London Gazette Supplement 30 March). He went on to serve with 266 Squadron. Equipped with the North American B25 Mitchell for operations in the United Kingdom from May 1943, in late 1944 they moved to France.

...I have done the State some service
The war ended at long last and peace brought due reward: his regular commission was confirmed in the rank of Flying Officer of the RAF, under the extended service provisions of AMO A775/45, Scheme B (London Gazette 3rd Supplement 3 December 1946).

Came June 1947 and Flight Lieutenant Marshall DFM was among those to receive the King’s permission to wear the Belgian Order of Leopold II with Palme and Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palme, conferred by HRH The Prince Regent of Belgium for valuable services rendered in connection with the liberation of that country. (London Gazette Supplement 27 June).

In mid 1949, with a permanent commission as Flt Lt gazetted, there came a change of direction in transfer to the Aircraft Control Branch. The transition to a non-flying role was again rewarded in due time, advancing to Squadron Leader in 1954 (London Gazette Supplement 1 January).

So his RAF service continued, much of it abroad, with stints at Hong Kong and, around the time of the Malayan Emergency, at Kuala Lumpur in a staff job with HQ Far East Land Forces. Later, with tensions high in the Aden and Yemen emergency of the mid 1960s, there was a 6 month deployment around 1962 to set up a forward radar site for the Radfan Hills area, while detached from 280 Signals Unit RAF Akrotiri.

    JR Marshall DFM set copy
    JR Marshall DFM medal set (Ian Marshall)
    In presentation order, left to right: Distinguished Flying Medal, 1939-1945 Star, Africa Star, France & Germany Star, Defence Medal, War Medal, General Service Medal (Malaya clasp), followed by two Belgian decorations: Chevalier of the Order of Leopold II with its blue ribbon and the Croix de Guerre, both with the Palm that indicates an award made for war service. This is a very full medal set, reflecting the breadth and depth of Jock’s service: a very considerable achievement.

Having entered the service in 1932 as an Aircrafthand, Squadron Leader John Roy Marshall DFM retired from the RAF on 28 January 1964 at the age of 50, after 32 years service at home and abroad, in war and peace.

Sources
211 Squadron Operations Record Book (AIR 27/1302) July 1940 to June 1941.
Marshall JR 515903 Pilot’s Flying Log Book July—December 1940 (extract)
Marshall family correspondence

Dunnet J Blenheim Over the Balkans (Pentland 2001)
Halliday H & Blatherway Air Force Association of Canada
Honours and Awards
Halliday & Blatherway Courage and Service: Second World War Awards to Canadians (Service Publications)

HMSO London Gazette issues 1941, 1943, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1954, 1964
Tavender IT The Distinguished Flying Medal Register for the Second World War With Official Recommendation Details. (Savanna Publications 2000)
Wisdom T Wings Over Olympus (Allen & Unwin 1942).

 

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Site created 15 Apr 2001, last updated 2 Mar 2017. Page created 3 Aug 2002, last updated 24 August 2014
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