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Name: ARONSON, John Cecil

image of individual

Nee: son of Joseph Gustave Aronson

Birth Date: 28 Dec 1921

Death Date: killed in action over Anzio 6 Mar 1944

First Date: 1923

Profession: RAF pilot

Married: No

Book Reference: Pembroke, Brewery, Gazette

War Service: S. African Air Force

School: Pembroke House and Charterhouse

General Information:

Pembroke - 'The first Pembrokian killed in action was John Aronson who had gone from Pembroke to Charterhouse. He … was an RAF pilot. (Photo in Pembroke)
Pembroke No. 47, 1929, Box 681, Nairobi.
Gazette 4 July 1944 probate required by Joseph Gustave Aronson
Buried in Malta
Michael Aronson: He was killed in action flying a Spitfire over Anzio in Italy, having joined the S African airforce. He was buried at sea. John had actually applied to the R.A.F. in Nairobi in mid 1940 when he got back here but the medical examination said his eyesight was such he would never be able to land a plane at night and so he was rejected. He desperately wanted to fly and so went to S. Africa where the medics confirmed the problem with his eyes but said they planned to have daytime only units and he was just what they were looking for. 40 Sqdn. was formed in time for the battle of el Alamein (Montgmery vs Rommel) and was supplied with Spitfires from the beginning. John was involved from that time on and I have his logbook which confirms that on the odd occasion when circumstances forced him to be flying at sunset that he had difficulty in landing his plane after dark. On one occasion when he and 40 Sqdn. were in Tunis, he had the opportunity for a weekend off and managed to get a lift on a US Air Force B17 Flying Fortress to Alexandria so he could visit his girlfriend. The Americans got him to fly this 4-engined plane but he was not allowed to land it after dark. Just as well. I too ended up in the S.A.A.F. where I was trained to be the other man in a 2-man plane. Luckily, the A-bombs were dropped on Japan before I was assigned to a front line squadron.John was a very popular chap in 40 Sqdn. as he was the only pilot who could play the piano. They always managed to take a piano with them wherever they went and he was in great demand to lead the sing-songs. They were usually stationed right up near the fighting and according to John the only entertainer with the courage to go so near the fighting to cheer up the troops (and airmen) was George Formby” (Email from Michael Aronson, 31st Jan 2017).
Memorial: Malta Memorial (Panel 17, Column 1) (CWGC Website).Nature of Death: “John's Spitfire was hit by German anti-aircraft fire while he was shooting trains bringing supplies to the German troops defending the Anzio area. His plane caught fire and he had to bail-out. In a Spitfire at that time, the pilot had to turn the plane on its back so he could fall out of the cockpit. John did this at a suitable altitude while over the sea. When his body with its "Mae-West" life jacket  was picked up by a Royal Navy destroyer it had no parachute attached. He was identified by his dog-tags and the navy contacted the SAAF authorities. Personally I think what happened was that John was so used to taking off his parachute every time he got out of the plane which he did several times each day that in the panic of getting out of a burning aircraft he pulled or pushed the wrong gadget and lost his parachute instead of getting it open. He was only 22 years old. All this information was in a letter from the Royal Navy commander that was forwarded to my mother by the S.A.A.F authorities”
Born 28th Dec 1921 (History of Pembroke House Preparatory School, by Ian Parker, p. 139). Son of Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Aronson (CWGC Website). Went to Pembroke House School, starting on 11th Jan 1929. He probably went to Pembroke as it would have had a better reputation than Kenton in those far off days. I expect I was sent to Kenton for the same reason as reputations change all the time. John would have left Pembroke in 1934 and spent a year at Hillcrest - possibly with a view of going to a school in S.A. (Hilton)”
John also went on to Hillcrest school about 20 miles outside Durban, Natal before he went to Charterhouse in the UK in 1935. I also went to Charterhouse at the end of 1939 and only actually got there in Jan. 1940 probably due to the war starting in Sept. 1939. I had to leave Charterhouse in July 1940 and go back to S. Africa (Hilton College, in Natal) as Kenya had introduced exchange control when the Italians invaded Kenya in June 1940 and my Dad had no sterling to pay the school fees to Charterhouse.  He did have plenty of S. African money so school fees were no problem there”

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