JENNISON, James Crosby

Service Number: 417379
Enlisted: 25 April 1942, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Flying Officer
Last Unit: No. 180 Squadron (RAF)
Born: St Peters, South Australia, 11 March 1923
Home Town: Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia
Schooling: Victor Harbor High School, St Peters College, Adelaide University
Occupation: Student
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World War 2 Service

25 Apr 1942: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2 (WW2), SN 417379, Aircrew Training Units, Adelaide, South Australia
26 Apr 1942: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2 (WW2), SN 417379, Aircrew Training Units, Empire Air Training Scheme
1 Jun 1944: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Flying Officer, SN 417379, No. 180 Squadron (RAF), Air War NW Europe 1939-45
14 Sep 1945: Honoured Distinguished Flying Cross, Air War NW Europe 1939-45, DFC awarded for service with No. 180 Sqn RAF. Gazetted Sep 1945
24 Dec 1945: Discharged Royal Australian Air Force, Flying Officer, SN 417379, Discharged from 16 Aircrew Holding Unit

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Biography contributed by Steve Larkins

James Jennison was born in St Peters South Australia, to parents the Rev. J. C and Mrs Jennison, on 11 March 1923.  They later lived in Victor Haror and Frew Street, Fullarton in Adelaide South Australia.

James Jennison was educated at Victor Harbor High School and Prince Alfred College, and was doing the engineering course at the University of Adelaide.  He was a licensed amateur radio operator and engineering cadet at the School of Mines in South Australia when he applied for aircrew training under the Empire Air Training Scheme in late 1941. He was accepted and sworn into the RAAF on Anzac Day 1942, aged 19, and began his training as an Air Observer and Navigator in South Australia before going to Canada and then the United Kingdom for further training. Keen to put his training to good use, Jim was posted to 180 Squadron RAF based at Dunsfold, England.

180 Squadron operated twin-engine B25 - Mitchell bombers on medium-level daylight formation bombing raids. Jim was affectionately nicknamed ‘Jimmy the Gen-man’ because he was the most knowledgable man in the crew. His first operation was to bomb a V1 rocket launch site that was being built on the French coast. These ‘terror weapons’ were to be used against London and the British were determined to destroy as many of the launch sites as possible. Jim’s first 17 operations were against these well-defended sites.

By June 1944, the crew had flown 37 operations and were fortunate to have escaped relatively unscathed, except that their air gunner had been wounded by flak over St Pol. On 6 June, D-Day, they flew their first night operation, bombing a bridge at Fallais. The liberation of France was under way and two days later Jim saw the massive invasion fleet below while flying to the target.

Four days after D-Day (D+4), Jim flew on his most successful operation, after intelligence detected the location of a German headquarters controlling a tank force at Normandy known as Panzer Group West. The successful raid, dubbed ‘The Dinner Raid’ since the bombers caught the Germans at dinner, killed most of their senior officers and destroyed radio and office caravans.

On 17 July 1944, Jim completed his 50th operation, ending his tour of duty. After a period of instructional duties in England, he returned to 180 Squadron in February 1945 for a second tour. The squadron was then operating from Brussels in Belgium, flying operations over Germany. Flak was often very heavy and on a raid just before the crossing of the Rhine, Jim had a lucky escape when a shell went through the Mitchell’s starboard engine nacelle without exploding although shrapnel hit the nose and petrol tank.

Eleven days later, after completing his 75th operation, Jim heard the announcement of Germany’s surrender on BBC radio. “We were stationed at Achmer Airfield, to the west of Osnabruck. Airmen started celebrating wildly as soon as the end of the European war was announced … every Mitchell aircraft on our airfield had the best part of 100 triple-coloured Verey pistol (flare gun) cartridges clipped into the backs of their seats. So the fellows who wanted to celebrate did so in a blaze of colour, as every cartridge was fired off into the sky. As one said: ‘It’s the best Guy Fawkes fireworks show I’ve ever seen!’ ,” Jim said.

Jim was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for displaying courage, tenacity and devotion to duty and setting ‘a high standard of accuracy in bombing heavily defended enemy targets’. In his own words he received the honour for “sticking his neck out” so many times and he acknowledges that he owes his life to the support of his squadron and the fortitude and skill of the ground crew.

He returned home as a Flying Officer and married his fiancée, Gwen, an Aircraftwoman in the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force.

After his discharge on Christmas Eve 1945, Jim returned to the School of Mines and graduated as a Chartered Engineer in 1951. Jim worked at Philips as a technician and then as a design engineer for 18 years, before joining the Department of the Navy.

In 1968 he moved to Canberra to work for the Department of Defence. Jim and Gwen had four children and he retired at 60 (1983) to grow macadamia nuts.

In 2006 he lived in Nambucca Heads in New South Wales, where he was an enthusiastic member of his local ex-service community and church, and an avid walker. 

Extract from Trove article (see link on sidebar) edited with information from the DVA WW2 nominal role and AWM.  and http://ww2talk.com/index.php?threads/veteran-biography-d-day-raaf.4553/    Steve Larkins Aug 2019