WWII air ace Johnny Checketts dies

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Pacific Historian
Jun 4, 2005
Orange County, CA
Another Great Ace Is Gone.

WWII air ace Johnny Checketts dies
April 24, 2006 - 6:44AM

Johnny Checketts, one of New Zealand's greatest fighter pilots of World War II, has died aged 94.
He died at his home in Christchurch on Friday.

During the war he flew at least 418 sorties, many of them over Nazi occupied Europe.

He shot down 14 and a half German aircraft (one victim shared), two V1 flying bombs, and destroyed two German E boats.

On top of this tally were four probable "kills" and at least 11 damaged German aircraft.

Twice he was shot down in hair-raising brushes with the Luftwaffe fighters, both times bailing out.

John Milne Checketts, who won the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), US Silver Star and Polish Cross of Valour, was born at Invercargill on February 20, 1912.

A motor mechanic by trade, he was educated at Invercargill South School and Southland Technical College.

To those who knew him in later life he was an unassuming man who never considered his war service anything special.

"We were just ordinary people just doing a job," he told NZPA in February 2002.

Yet Checketts never forgot the horror of shooting down and killing his first German during a patrol over France in early 1943.

On the tail of the German Focke Wulf 190 fighter he "blew the backside off him" with his Spitfire's 20mm canon and .303 Browning machine guns.

The pilot didn't bail out. "It upset me quite considerably," he said.

"He was somebody's boy with a mother and father. But I also thought it could easily have been me.

"After that I didn't let it worry me because it was him or me."

He joined the air force as a 28-year-old in mid-1940 but broke a leg while training at Wigram, Christchurch. The Battle of Britain was long over by the time he reached England.

After the war Checketts returned to New Zealand and served with the air force. In 1955 he retired from the military to operate his own top-dressing business in Dunedin, but sold it in 1958.

Checketts who flew Spitfires for 611 Squadron, Royal Air Force, and 485 (NZ) Squadron, emerged as one of New Zealand's best fighter pilots of the war.

"I had very good eyesight. I could see an enemy aircraft at a great distance and it gave me the opportunity to put myself in a position to win a victory or shoot him down."

His favourite plane: a Spitfire mark IXb.

In July and August 1943 Checketts bagged eight enemy fighters, including three Messerschmit Bf109s on August 9, for which he won the DFC.

He was a Squadron Leader of Biggin Hill-based 485 Squadron the second time he was shot down, this time after a dogfight over France on September 6, 1943, involving some 20 Focke-Wulf 190s.

With no ammunition left, Checketts had no chance and his Spitfire was soon belching flames through the ****pit.

Badly burned, he parachuted to safety and was looked after and hidden by the French for several weeks until he and 12 other escaping servicemen were crammed into a small fishing boat and smuggled across the channel back to England.

He had burns to his face, legs and arms and was wounded in both legs, knees and arms.

Checketts said he had no regrets about serving even though war was unpleasant.

"It is destructive. Everything about it is to destroy and I don't think human beings are brought into this world to destroy things. They are brought into the world to preserve."

After Checketts got back to England he was promoted Wing Commander, leading a wing of three squadrons for the D Day invasion of France.

Today a mark XVI Spitfire in the Alpine Fighter Collection carries his wartime markings, "J MC".

Checketts is survived by two sons and a daughter.

His funeral will be held at St Matthews Anglican Church in Christchurch on Wednesday.

A WWII Mustang fighter aircraft will make a flypast at the funeral.
You beat me to the post Sys. Truely a great pilot
Guys, how do you put the salute emoticon? Call me an idiot, but I didn't figure that part out!
It always makes me sad when such a great pilot is gone.Because of the same problem with an emoticon that Salim has mentioned I salute Him in this way.

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