Mitchell, John Finlay
No. 141580, 969 (Balloon) Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Killed accidentally by ‘friendly fire’ on Thursday 23 March 1944 (aged 40)
No known grave
Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England (Panel 208)
John Finlay Mitchell MA, BSc (Cantab) was born on 21 March 1904 in Queen’s Parade, Bangor and he was the third son of Dr John Finlay Mitchell and Anna Elizabeth Mitchell (nee Shaw) who were married on 3 September 1894 in Holywood Presbyterian Church. John Finlay Mitchell MD, a doctor from Newtownards, was a son of Rev William Mitchell, a clergyman. Anna Elizabeth Shaw from Kircubbin was a daughter of Thomas Shaw.
Dr John Finlay Mitchell and Anna Elizabeth Mitchell (nee Shaw) had four children:
William Marcus Thomas Shaw (born 29 April 1897 in Frances Street, Newtownards)
Thomas Shaw Sydney (born 2 May 1899 in Frances Street, Newtownards)
John Finlay (born 21 March 1904 in Queen’s Parade, Bangor)
Eleanor Mary (born 25 August 1908 in Queen’s Parade, Bangor)
Dr Mitchell was medical officer in Bangor for many years and the Mitchell family lived in Queen’s Parade, Bangor. After Dr Mitchell died, his widow Anna moved to Sevenoaks in Kent.
After taking his degree at Cambridge, John Finlay Mitchell Junior graduated as a naval architect. This was a reserved occupation but when he saw an advertisement seeking officers for the Air Sea Rescue Service he volunteered and was accepted for service. His death on 23 March 1944 was reported in the 8 April 1944 edition of the County Down Spectator where it was intimated that he had been killed as the result of enemy action ‘while engaged in saving one of our aircraft at sea’. Official records indicate that he was the victim of ‘friendly fire’.
Flying Officer John Finlay Mitchell (aged 40) was the Master (Skipper) aboard the High-Speed Launch (HSL) 2706 based at RNAS Calshot, Great Yarmouth. HSL 2706 was an Air Sea Rescue (ASR) launch and it was on its way to a rendezvous position to assist the crews of any ditching RAF aircraft (a string of boats was positioned across the North Sea along the course of returning RAF bombers). HSL 2706 was some 30 miles off the Dutch Coast when she was attacked by two United States Army Air Force (USAAF) Republic Aviation P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft from the 356th Fighter Group based at RAF Martlesham Heath. They were returning to base from escort duty when they spotted HSL 2706 and they took her to be an Enemy-boat (E-boat). E-boats were fast attack craft of the Kriegsmarine – the Nazi German Navy.
HSL 2706 went on fire and ten of the crew were killed.
Corporal Urban Harold Turner (aged 32) from Harrow, Middlesex died ashore later as the result of his injuries.
LAC W. Smallwood and LAC M.E. Anderson were injured but survived.
In addition to Flying Officer John Finlay Mitchell and Corporal Turner, the other crew members who died were:
- Corporal Francis Hutchins Taylor (aged 38) from Kettering, Northamptonshire (Cox 1st Class)
- AC1 Edward Louis D’Esterre Roberts (Motor-Boat Crew)
- LAC Robert Desmond Heath Jones (aged 21) from Bath, Somerset (Motor-Boat Crew)
- LAC Leslie John Nicholls (aged 32) from Lowestoft, Suffolk (Wireless Operator Mechanic)
- LAC William Roy Russell from Ontario, Canada (Wireless Operator)
- AC2 Robert Edward Harry Regent (aged 19) from Thetford, Norfolk (Wireless Operator)
- LAC Eric George Harding from Highgate, Middlesex (Fitter/Marine)
- LAC Jack Rushworth (aged 23) from Bradford, Yorkshire)
- LAC Thomas Vince House (aged 27) from Sunderland, Durham (Nursing Orderly)
Flying Officer John Finlay Mitchell (No. 141580) was the husband of Evelyn Frances Mitchell (nee Hammond) who was a daughter of Major Hammond of Dartington, Devon and 15 Wellington Esplanade South, Lowestoft. Their marriage was registered in the first quarter of 1928 in Hendon, Middlesex and they had three children.
John Finlay Mitchell’s effects amounted to some £3,968 and probate was granted to his widow.