Squadron Leader John William Edward LEIGHTON MID (Twice)

From Australia serving in the Royal Air Force

Service No: 40053 (RAF)
Born: Goulburn NSW, 15 April 1917
Enlisted in the RAAF: 1936
Enlisted in the RAF: Pilot Officer, Seniority 26 August 1937
Unit: No. 460 Squadron, RAF Station Breighton, Yorkshire
Awarded Mentioned in Despatches (MID): January 1939, July 1942
Died: Air Operations: (No. 460 Squadron Wellington aircraft Z1462), Germany, 26 July 1942, Aged 25 Years
Buried: Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Kleve, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Edward Leo Joseph and Margaret Mary Leighton, of Hurlstone Park, New South Wales, Australia
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Supplementary Panel 12, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

Squadron Leader Leighton was an Australian Cadet trained for the RAF who embarked for the UK on 17 July 1937.

Date: 25-26 July 1942
Target: Duisburg
Total Force: Dispatched – 313, Attacking – 252
RAAF Force: No. 460 Dispatched – 15, Attacking – 14
Tons of Bombs Dropped: 547
Total Aircraft Lost: 11
RAAF Aircraft Lost: No. 460 – 2

Four nights later (26 July 1942) weather again spoilt the attack, and RAAF crews were forced to bomb the most promising fires or gun positions in the estimated position of Duisburg. Subsequent photographic reconnaissance revealed additional devastation to factories, public and private property, but no large areas were destroyed.

Extracts from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939-1943, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1954 – Pages 326-7

Squadron Leader Leighton and crew were detailed to operate Z1462 against Duisburg, Germany, on the night of the 25/26th July 1942. The aircraft took off from RAF Station Breighton at 2351 hours on 25th July and since then nothing has been heard of the aircraft or crew. The aircraft was one of fifteen aircraft from the Squadron that took part in the raid.

The crew members of Z1462 were:

Squadron Leader John William Edward Leighton MID (Twice) (40053) (RAF) (Pilot)
Sergeant Laurence James Sams (407834) (Air Gunner)
Sergeant Raphael Sherman (404804) (Bomb Aimer) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 2 November 1945
Sergeant Clarence Frederick Sinclair (405219) (Observer) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 22 October 1945
Sergeant William George Taylor (6201) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)

In a later statement Sergeant Sinclair said “We were attacked twice by enemy night fighters. The first attack set the starboard engine in fire. The second set the fuselage on fire near the auxiliary tanks. The order to bale out was given, acknowledged by all except the Rear Gunner. I went to check on the Rear Gunner but he was dead. The first attack was about five minutes before the target. I met Sherman at Stalag 3. He saw the aircraft explode after he baled out. The other three were in the aircraft when it blew up.”

Sergeant Sherman later reported “after baling out I walked for three days in the direction of Zuider Zee, obtaining food from several Dutch farmers. On the third day I was offered food and a bed by another Dutch farmer. Whilst I was asleep the farmer bought the police.”

No. 460 Squadron lost Wellington Z1399 (Flight Lieutenant Clifford Henry Burgess (406344) (Pilot)) on 26 July 1942.


Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records (RAAF Casualty Information compiled by Alan Storr (409804))
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record AWM 65, 3154
Newton, Dennis A Few of the Few: Australians and the Battle of Britain, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT 2600, 1990


Firkins, P. C. (Peter Charles) (441386) Strike and Return, Westward Ho Publishing City Beach WA, 1985

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