Today's Honour Roll

May
21
Today's Honour Roll recognizes 271 Australians who fell on this day in history.
See Full List
Name Date of Death Conflict
LINDNER, Frederick Charles 21 May 1918 World War 1
GREGORY, Clive Winchcombe 21 May 1915 World War 1
DRYSDALE, William Willis 21 May 1915 World War 1
WHITE, Frederick 21 May 1918 World War 1
WYTHE, Raymond John 21 May 1945 World War 2

The Heroics of John Reynolds Cock

The Heroics of John Reynolds Cock By Ned Young

Australian War Memorial - Accession Number P11479.001

 

John Reynolds Cock could fly a plane before most of us can drive a car. At 17, John had already been awarded his first ‘A’ pilots licence. Two years later, after being specially selected for the RAF’s young pilot program, John was at the Flying School in Uxbridge learning to fly the famous Hawker Hurricane, a plane he would eventually log more than 400 hours of service in.

 

John began his service in France as part of the 87 Squadron. During a 9 month stint, John was confirmed to have destroyed 5 Nazi aircraft, including 2 Hienkel 111’s, 2 Junkers Ju 88’s and a Junkers Ju 87 Stuka. Each time, John and his Hurricane returned unscathed.

 

John on a special R.A.A.F. flight over Bankstown, New South Wales in a Supermarine Spitfire.
Courtesy of Blanks Family Photo Album

 

The 87 Squadron were transferred to The Exeter Aerodrome on July 5th 1940. During the Squadron’s first patrol mission on the 8th, John damaged a reconnaissance Dornier Do 17 that eventually managed to escape. The He 111 John spotted in his searchlights later that month on a ‘cats eye’ night patrol was not so lucky; the victory, believed to be the first night kill made by any Australian, adding to his accolades.

 

John’s most incredible victory occurred on the 11th of August, 1940. The 609 Squadron were the first to encounter 30+ enemy aircraft, 30 miles from Catherine’s Point at 10:05. Around 60 enemy aircraft were also spotted north of Cherbourg. John, along with 5 other Hurricanes from the 87 Squadron, were then sent to assist in deterring the huge formation of bombers, the largest formation yet seen over Britain, who were now approaching Portland Bill. By John’s own account, “there was a total of about 200 of them spread out over Portland”. John did not hesitate to engage with the enemy, and remembers first peppering a Bf 109 with “several bursts,” sending “bits [of the plane]…flying off”. Next, he found a Ju 88, and managed to manoeuvre his way in behind the enemy aircraft. At this point, John realised one of his guns was jammed, but nevertheless he fired off his remaining ammunition. “One of the wings was well alight,” but before John had a chance to see the Junkers crash-land, “a line of bullets hit the left-hand side of [his] cockpit,” disintegrating the dash panel and causing the engine to “run a bit rough”. To make matters worse, shrapnel from the cockpit had embedded itself in John’s left arm.

 

As the Bf 109 that had caused the damage “dived away,” John noticed two white bars on its wings, indicating the plane belonged to a German Wing Commander. The 87 Squadron Intelligence Leader would later tell John that the plane’s pilot was most likely Helmut Wick, a Luftwaffe Ace credited with 56 kills during the War. Wick was also the 4th recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak leaves, Germany’s highest honour at the time.

 

John’s Hawker Hurricane (Serial Number V7233/LK-V) was badly damaged, and he was bleeding heavily from his left arm. With the engine set to explode at any moment, John “pulled back the hood and rolled the plane over” in an attempt to free himself from the cabin. Struggling, John’s leg became stuck on some of the damaged metal from the cockpit, leaving him with half his body dangling from the Hurricane. Thankfully, in the frantic effort to dislodge himself, John “kicked the stick (accelerator) forward, sho[otting himself] into space”. A report from the 87 Squadron leader later detailed the Hurricane “burst[ing] into flames” immediately after John’s escape.

 

The parachute opened successfully, but John was not out of danger just yet. He recalls bullets and aircraft “whirling” around him, and flinched as another Bf 109 narrowly missed him with a round of ammoniation. John owes his life that day to Pilot Officer and 87 Squadron member Dennis David, who destroyed the Nazi plane before it had a chance to fire another round.

 

When John and his parachute eventually landed in the water below the battle, the current began dragging him toward Portland. He released his ‘chute and started a long swim to shore, made more difficult by the pain of his injured left arm. To make the trek easier, John took off his boots and trousers, forgetting the fact that he had a 5 pound note in his pocket! Watching the money float away was John’s deepest regret of the day. After an hour or so of swimming, John dragged himself up Chesil Beach “dressed in his tunic and blue underpants,” a sight the Home Guards on the beach described as a “fearsome spectacle”.

 

John spent a month recuperating from his injuries, but before long he was back in the cockpit of a new Hurricane. On the 26th of September, he destroyed a Ju 88 and damaged a Bf 109. On the 30th he destroyed a Bf 109, his 10th and final confirmed kill of the War, and on the 10th of October he damaged another.

 

John's Squadron, No 1 Spitfire Wing, pictured in Darwin, Australia. Date: 1943
Courtesy of Blanks Family Photo Album

 

John left 87 Squadron a few weeks later to embark on a series of instructional appointments, helping young pilots gain their wings. He also became Squadron Leader of the 72nd Squadron in 1946, along with multiple stints in both RAF and RAAF Squadrons, acting as a mentor with wisdom beyond his years for up and coming pilots.

 

John pictured with his mother at the Adelaide Railway Station upon returning from England. Date: 1943
Courtesy of Blanks Family Photo Album

 

John returned home to South Australia in 1948 and shortly after moved to Tewantin on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. There, he built and opened his own Supermarket, which he sold after retiring in 1983. John died in 1988 at age 70.

 

A more in depth look at John’s life and Air Force service is available on his personal page HERE.

 

John with the cockpit handle of his partially excavated Hawker Hurricane (V7233/LK-V)
https://www.aviationarchaeology.co.uk/copy-of-spitfire-n3294-lincolnshire-2

 

Bibliography

 

Bbm.org.uk. (2007). Battle of Britain London Monument - F/O J R Cock. [online] Available at: http://www.bbm.org.uk/airmen/Cock.htm.

The Murray Pioneer (1943). Flt.-Lieut. John Cock Back In Australia. p.1.

Newton, D. (2010). Australia's Battle of Britain Aces. Aero Australia, (27), pp.68-69.

Parry, S. (2010). Spitfire Hunters : The Inside Stories Behind the Best of the TV Aircraft Digs. 1st ed. Walton on Thames, United Kingdom: Air Research Publications.

Petr, K. (2007). Aces of the Luftwaffe - Helmut Wick. [online] Luftwaffe.cz. Available at: https://www.luftwaffe.cz/wick.html.

Veterans SA. (2015). South Australian Air Ace, John Reynolds Cock. [online] Available at: https://veteranssa.sa.gov.au/story/south-australian-air-ace-john-reynolds-cock/.

The News (1943). Grange Air Ace Home. p.6.

87 Squadron Operational Record Book.