Home | A Spitfire Pilot Remembers

September 03, 2005

We Reach 80

This is the final chapter of wartime Spitfire pilot John M Davis's detailed and engaging life story. His wartime challenges as an RAF fighter pilot were followed by resounding business successes, then a "retirement'' of non-stop public service.

John is a wonderful man. A hero for our times. It has been a great privilege to present his story in Open Writing.

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August 27, 2005


The word "retirement'' has never appealed to former Spitfire pilot John M Davis. In his senior years he has been far busier than most men in their 20s.

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August 20, 2005


"It was quite a shock to find oneself with a company with ten branches, 200 staff and a £7,000,000 turnover...'' John M Davis's business grows and grows.

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August 13, 2005

Family And Friends

"Work was only ever part of my life. The family was always of top importance,'' says John M Davis.

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August 06, 2005

The Dental Business

John M Davis becomes deeply involved in a wide range of activities to promote and improve the dental trade.

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July 23, 2005


War-time Spitfire pilot John M Davis goes on a selling trip to Italy.

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July 16, 2005

The Business Grows

John M Davis, following a philosophy of supplying new and improved products to dentists, sees his business grow and grow.

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July 09, 2005

Family High And Lows

"One morning when in my office a telephone call summoned me urgently to the hospital....'' Wartime Spitfire pilot John M Davis made it in time to hold his mother's hand as she slipped away.

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July 02, 2005

The New J & S Davis Is Born

"A typical week would be a departure from our delightful flat on a Sunday evening and taking a train sleeper to Yorkshire, Lancashire, Scotland or Cornwall..'' Nine years after the ending of the war former Spitfire pilot John M Davis launches his own business and travels Britain on selling missions.

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June 25, 2005

Good Times And Bad

After war-time service as a Spitfire pilot John M Davis is caught up in the trials and joys of domestic life and being involved in a family business.

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June 18, 2005

Hilde Arrives

Sitting outside in the car, I asked her to marry me. She grunted in reply, and I have always said that she never said "Yes''... Spitfire pilot John M Davis meets and marries Hilde.

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June 11, 2005

My Father

John M Davis finds that ant-Semitism still exists, after the end of Hitler and his gang.

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June 04, 2005

Travels In Spain

Spitfire pilot John M Davis, back in civvy street, accompanies his father on a business trip to Spain in the days when that country was ruled by Franco.

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May 28, 2005

Back To Work

"I did not consider five years in the RAF as work. It was war service, fun, danger and travelling the world at His Majesty's cost...'' Spitfire pilot John M Davis returns to civvy street and joins the family business.

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May 21, 2005

Completing The Transition

Flight Lieutenant John M Davis hands in his Mae West and parachite and is then given a pretty awful demob suit in which to travel home.

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May 14, 2005

24 - The Jewish Troglodyte Dwellers

Spitfire pilot John M Davis is horrified to learn that British authorities had connived in an attack on the peaceful Jewish population of Tripoli.

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May 07, 2005

23 - The Final Move

While serving on an airbase near Tripoli, Spitfire pilot John M Davis tries to cultivate an English-style garden. "My colleagues considered me decidedly odd when I manured the patch - although I was unclear as to whether it was cow or camel.''

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April 30, 2005

22 - Welcoming Three Arab Monarchs

When John M Davis became a Spitfire pilot he never expected that a day would come when he had to entertain three Arab rulers at a desert airstrip. If our relationship with the Arabs is strained, perhaps it is my fault, say John.

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April 23, 2005

21 - I Become An Operations Officer

As an RAF operations officer in Cairo, John M Davis briefed many of the crews who flew the 1,500 Allied people who attended the Yalta Conference. He gave his map of the territory to the final crew who flew between Cairo and Yalta. To his surprise he was then put under open arrest for giving away a secret document.

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April 16, 2005

20 - The Schimski Tale

John M Davis is involved in an operation to help get Jewish refugees from Europe to Palestine - an operation involving the mysterious Mr Schimski.

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April 09, 2005

Chapter 19 - The Air Raid On Bari

When German aircraft raided Bari, they were not trying to damage the airfield where John M Davis was based. They were after an Allied ship which had entered the port loaded with mustard gas.

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April 02, 2005

Chapter 18 - My First Flight In Italy

"A tremendous thunderstorm meant that I had to fly across the Gulf of Taranto at sea level and found Bari as darkness arrived. The grass airfield was under water, and a series of red rockets told me not to land. What to do?...'' John M Davis faces a desperate emergency on his first war-time flight into Italy.

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March 26, 2005

Chapter 17 - A Kol Nidrei To Remember

On the eve of the Day of Atonement in 1943 Spitfire pilot John M Davis and three other pilots were on an abandoned airstrip in Sciliy. How did they spend the night? Read on...

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March 19, 2005

Chapter 16 -The Southern Route Back To Europe

John M Davis is sent to Azizia, once listed as the hottest place on earth, 100 miles inland from the African port of Tripoli. "Our Spitfires were unhappy under these conditions. The heat was such that unless you took off immediately after starting (preferably at 07.30 in the morning), the engine overheated before takeoff.''

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March 12, 2005

Chapter 15 - Palestine Appears On My Agenda

As he recovers from serious injuries, Spitfire pilot John M Davis is sent to an RAF Convalesence Camp near Tel Aviv.

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March 05, 2005

Chapter 14 - Contact With Home

After being struck by a vehicle, John M Davis is treated for a broken thigh in a Cairo hospital. "Several of us went off in a taxi one evening to visit a nightclub. We must have looked an odd bunch, with crutches, splints and one with his arm in plaster and positioned up in the air... Baker, with his leg in plaster, found his young lady stroking the plastered leg, until she realised with horror what she was doing...''

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February 26, 2005

Chapter 13 - My Squadron Life Soon Comes To An End

"Apparently I spoke complete gobbledegook for several days, which the other patients imagined was Hebrew since my nametag told them I was Jewish. There was also a male nurse who gave me the most wonderful care. He was one of those who were only interested in the seriously ill or injured. As I got better, he lost all interest in me.'' Spitfire pilot John M Davis tells of being injured in an unwelcomed encounter wih a truck.

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February 19, 2005

West Africa 1942

"One evening I made my way to our toilets, which were a row of three buckets in cubicles outside our hut, and sat down there. A few moments later a large shape crawled under the door and I screamed for help. A couple of lads came running out and found a large land crab that finally crawled away into the bush...'' Spitfire pilot John M Davis finds life somewhat different at an RAF camp in West Africa.

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February 12, 2005

Chapter 11 - Overseas, For Four Years

Just before sailing from Liverpool Spitfire pilot John M Davis received a letter from his father: "You are doing man's work and you will do it well. I'm proud of you and we all love you so much and shall eagerly await your safe and Please God early return...''

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February 05, 2005

Chapter 10 - Now To A Squadron

John M Davis is posted to 152 Squadron, based in Northern Ireland, and flies escort to the liners Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, then being used to ferry US troops across the Atlantic to Europe.

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January 29, 2005

Chapter Nine - From OTU To A Squadron

"Thus began my long love affair with the Spitfire that to this day I regard as a sensitive woman with beautiful lines and very responsive to the touch.'' John M Davis is passed out as "fit for squadron service''.

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January 22, 2005

Earning Wings And Learning Things

"Then the big day arrived for the Wings Parade, when we were presented with our prestigious pilot's wings...'' John M Davis completes his flying training in Canada.

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January 15, 2005

Becoming A Boy In Blue

"My first flight was a worry since I had always been afraid of heights.''

John M Davis joins the Royal Air Force and is shipped off to Canada for flying training.

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January 08, 2005

Chapter Six - A German Tin Hat In London

At some hour in the middle of the night the phone rang and, sleepily, Dad stretched out his hand to answer it. Unfortunately, he picked up the water jug and poured the contents over himself.

John M Davis summons humour from the grim days of German bombing raids on London.

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January 01, 2005

Chapter Five - The Year Was 1939

"Adolf Hitler was on his war track. He had got away with Saar, Sudetenland, Austria and Czechoslovakia but was not going to be allowed to march into Poland without war with Britain.''

John M Davis fails at his first attempt to volunteer for RAF pilot training because his maths and eyesight are thought to be inadequate. He joins up as an air gunner, performs eye exercises, signs on for evening classes in maths - and then he is accepted for pilot training.

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December 18, 2004

Chapter 4 - School Progess And A Growing Family

In the fourth episode of his entertaining autobiography John M Davis tells us of a spate of accidents which he had while still at school. Hardly what you would expect of a lad who would acquire the skills required to fly a Spitfire!

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December 11, 2004

Chapter Three - To Highgate

In the third episode of his life story John M Davis describes his days at Highgate School - and also tells a remarkable World War One story.

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December 04, 2004

Chapter Two - School Time

In the second episode of his life story John M Davis, a World War Two Spitfire pilot, tells of his school days when his real pleasure was sport.

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November 27, 2004

Chapter One - How The Davis Family Entered The Pinto Clan

Today we begin the serialisation of John M Davis’s life story. John is one of the select few - a Spitfire pilot who flew combat missions in World War Two.

John recounts his war-time experiences and tells of his life both before and after the war. There’s high drama and lots of humour in his story.

Today he begins by telling us about his family. Further episodes of his life-story will be appearing on forthcoming Saturdays.

John wrote his autobiography for members of his family. Open Writing is privileged to have received permission to bring it to a much wider audience.

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