Remembering the Telegraphist Air Gunners
Anthony Johnson (in front on left)
Anthony Kenneth Johnson (1925 - 2011) – Telegraphist Air Gunner (Royal Navy) Anthony Johnson was born on August 18, 1925. Growing up he was a child performer on the stage and on the screen. Although only fourteen at the outbreak of World War II, Anthony worked in a Fairey aircraft production factory that made Albacores, a British single-engine carrier-borne biplane torpedo bomber built by Fairey Aviation between 1939 and 1943 for the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm and used during the Second World War. The factory also produced parts for Spitfires and Barracudas. “Little did I know I was making things that perhaps I’d fly in later.” As part of the war effort Anthony also served as a warden with the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) rescuing people from bombed buildings during the blitz. In 1941 the Air Training Corps (ATC) was officially established with training programmes to prepare young men for entry to the Royal Air Force. Squadrons arranged visits to RAF and Fleet Air Arm stations as part of the cadets' training. Anthony joined the ATC and had his first flight in a Tiger Moth. “It was quite exhilarating and all that. They [The ATC] taught me a lot.” He volunteered to join the Royal Navy as a Telegraphist Air Gunner when he was seventeen and received his papers at eighteen to report for training. “It just appealed because I saw a poster and it had this picture of a Telegraphist air gunner with his flying gear and his machine gun pointed to the sky. I thought that looked a good old job firing out in the blue so I decided for that” Initial training was at HMS Royal Arthur, a former Butlin's holiday camp in Skegness, Lincolnshire. After HMS Royal Arthur it was to HMS St Vincent in Gosport where he would learn. “…the basics of flying and because I was going to be a telegraphist air gunner you had to learn the basics of telegraphy, electron theory, electro-magnetic theory, and so on”. Anthony was one of the Telegraphist Air Gunners selected to continue his training at East Camp, Yarmouth Nova Scotia, Canada. Of the TAG recruits, those at the top of their classes were often chosen for training in Canada. After completing training in Canada, Anthony returned to England in 1944 and was with 713 Squadron (Isle of Man) until stationed with 822 Squadron. In early 1945, 822 Squadron was re- allocated to RAF Coastal Command for anti-submarine duties in the English Channel. Anthony recalls searching for and firing at floating mines in the English Channel and flights over the Channel Islands, occupied by the Germans where “we fired at them and they took pot shots at us”. In 1946, Anthony left active service with the R oyal Navy and returned to civilian life. “I learned a lot. I learned about camaraderie, I learned about always trying to do your best at the time and the greatest thing I think was I made my father proud. He was very, very proud.”
“I learned a lot. I learned about camaraderie, I learned about always trying to do your best at the time and the greatest thing I think was I made my father proud. He was very very proud.”
Anthony Johnson’s son, Pieter, is an independent social media journalist and publisher in the UK. His passion about almost everything in aviation and his love of aircraft and flying started when he was introduced to flying by his father. Pieter talked to his father about his wartime experience and posted the interview. Click to listen to the interview (May 2011) (please allow a few moments for the file to load)
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Early in 2013 Pieter Johnson posted a second segment in the story his when Anthony Johnson’s pilot, Derek Armson, and good friend passed away. The story in this segment reminds one of Anthony Johnson’s comment, “I learned about camaraderie, I learned about always trying to do your best at the time”.
Xtended is an internet radio programme covering all aspects of the aviation world. Whatever your interest in aerospace, Xtended has got it covered. Produced and presented by XTP Media’s Pieter Johnson, the show is co-hosted by Gareth Stringer (Editor of Global Aviation Resource) and Tim Robinson (Editor of Aerospace International).
Course 58A - (January 13, 1944)
Johnson (middle row, sixth from right)