John Dering Nettleton

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John Dering Nettleton
John Dering Nettleton.jpg
Born (1917-06-28)28 June 1917
Nongoma, Natal Province, South Africa
Died 13 July 1943(1943-07-13) (aged 26)
near Brest, France
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Air Force
Years of service 1938 - 1943
Rank Squadron leader
Battles/wars Second World War  
Awards Victoria Cross (UK) ribbon.png Victoria Cross

Squadron Leader John Dering Nettleton VC (28 June 1917 – 13 July 1943) was a South African recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.


Early life[edit]

Born on 28 June 1917 in Nongoma, Natal Province, South Africa, the grandson of Admiral A T D. Nettleton,[1] he was educated at Western Province Preparatory School[2] (WPPS) in Cape Town from 1928–30, Nettleton served as a naval cadet on the General Botha training ship[3] and then for 18 months in the South African Merchant Marine. He took up civil engineering, working in various parts of South Africa.

Second World War[edit]

Commissioned in the RAF in December 1938, he then served with Nos. 207, 98 and 185 Squadrons before joining 44 Squadron flying the Handley Page Hampden. He took part in a daylight attack on Brest on 24 July 1941 and in a series of other bombing raids and was mentioned in dispatches in September 1940. Nettleton was promoted flying officer in July 1940, flight lieutenant in February 1941 and was a squadron leader by July 1941. No. 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron was based at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire at this time and had taken delivery of Lancasters in late 1941.

In 1942 a daylight bombing mission was planned by RAF Bomber Command against the MAN diesel engine factory at Augsburg in Bavaria, responsible for the production of half of Germany’s U‑boat engines. It was to be the longest low‑level penetration so far made during World War II, and it was the first daylight mission flown by the Command’s new Avro Lancaster.[4]

On 17 April 1942, Squadron Leader Nettleton was the leader of one formation of six Avro Lancaster bombers on a daylight attack on a diesel engine factory at Augsburg, near Munich, flying Lancaster Mk I, R5508, coded "KM-B". A second flight of six Lancasters from No 97 Squadron based at RAF Woodhall Spa, close to Waddington, did not link up with the six from 44 squadron as planned, although they had ample time to do so before the aircraft left England by Selsey Bill, West Sussex.[4] When they had just crossed the French coast at low level near Dieppe, German fighters of Stab and II./JG 2, returning after intercepting a planned diversionary raid which had been organised to assist the bombers, attacked the 44 Squadron aircraft a short way inland and four Lancasters were shot down (7 were claimed). Nettleton continued towards the target, and his two remaining aircraft attacked the factory, bombing it amid heavy anti aircraft fire. He survived the incident, his damaged Lancaster limping back to the UK, finally landing near Blackpool. His VC was gazetted on 24 April 1942.[4][5][6]

Nettleton died on 13 July 1943, returning from a raid on Turin in Italy by 295 Lancasters. His Lancaster KM-Z (ED331) took off from Dunholme Lodge and was believed to have been shot down by a fighter off the Brest peninsula. FW 190s of 1./SAGr.128 and 8./JG 2 scrambled from bases near Brest in the early hours of 13 July, and at 06:30 am intercepted the bomber stream. A total of eight bombers were claimed, and at least three Lancasters were almost certainly shot down by the German fighters, one of whom was Nettleton's.[7] His body and those of his crew were never recovered. All are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.[8] Nettleton's medal is not publicly held.


Following the war the government of Southern Rhodesia named a new school after Squadron Leader Nettleton: Nettleton Junior School, Braeside, Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (present-day Harare, Zimbabwe).[citation needed]


  1. ^ "The Legend Lives on John Dering Nettleton 1931/32 #573" (PDF). General Botha Old Boys’ Association Newsletter: 6. May 2007. 
  2. ^ "The Nettleton Presentation". Old Wetpups. March 2007. 
  3. ^ Nettleton profile Archived 13 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine.,; accessed 7 December 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Squadron Leader J.D. Nettleton profile,; accessed 7 December 2014.
  5. ^ Chanter, Alan, Profile of John Dering Nettleton, VC by; accessed 7 December 2014.
  6. ^ "No. 35539". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 April 1942. p. 1851. 
  7. ^ Death of Squadron Leader John Dering Nettleton, VC,; accessed 7 December 2014.
  8. ^ Profile,; accessed 7 December 2014.