Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1943, Squadron Leader John Dering Nettleton V.C., the Royal Air Force, was killed during a bombing raid on Turin.
The grandson of Admiral A. T. D. Nettleton, Paymaster-in-Chief of the Royal Navy, on leaving school in Cape Town he at first considered attending the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. He instead served as a naval cadet and then spent eighteen months in the South African Merchant Marine. On returning to Cape Town he became an apprentice civil engineer.
During a trip to England in 1938 he decided to join the R.A.F. and was accepted for a Short Service Commission; he graduated as a pilot the following July and served on instructional units until June of 1941. He then joined an operational bomber unit, 44 Squadron, was promoted to Squadron Leader, and flew in many bombing sorties over Europe, being mentioned in despatches in December of that year.
In April of 1942, a bombing raid was planned on the MAN factory at Augsburg in Bavaria, which produced half of Germany’s U-boat engines. Squadron Leader Nettleton was to lead a formation of six Avro Lancaster bombers on this daylight raid, but a second formation did not link up with them as planned. Squadron Leader Nettleton’s bombers were attacked by German fighters just after they had crossed over the French Coast; four of the Lancasters were shot down and so he and the two remaining bombers went on to destroy the factory despite heavy anti-aircraft fire. For his actions he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
On the night of the 12th of July in 1943 he set out with thirteen other aircraft for a raid on Turin. He did not return. His body was never recovered and it was several months before his death was presumed. He is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, and a school in Harare was named after him.
John, born in Natal, South Africa, was 26 years old and married; his son was born seven months after his death.