Lost...and found...and lost
Squadron Leader John Francis Jackson DFC led the small band of fighter pilots, known as 'Jackson's Few', who defended Port Moresby in April-May 1942.
Jackson, formerly a grazier from south-west Queensland, had flown with 3 Squadron in the Middle East where he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Mentioned in Despatches. He returned to Australia and was posted to command 75 Squadron flying Kittyhawk fighters. His younger brother, Leslie Jackson, was in the same squadron.
At Port Moresby, John Jackson led his squadron in furious aerial battles over the base, and in raids on Lae on the north coast of New Guinea. On 10 April 1942, he was reported missing over this same area. He later wrote to his wife:
...three Japanese fighters surprised me and shot my plane to bits. ... The aircraft was a mass of holes, windscreen all shot away and on fire. Crashed into the sea about three quarters of a mile off land near village. Aircraft sank in a few seconds.
After swimming ashore, he was assisted by friendly villagers. For two weeks, they led him along jungle tracks to the Australian guerrilla base at Wau. He was flown out, having another lucky escape over Port Moresby:
Had a hot reception. Was about to land when three Japanese made a surprise attack. Aircraft I was in got full of holes. Had tip of my finger grazed. Just a mere scratch. Providence surely guided and protected me all through.
Just two days later, on 28 April 1942, after Jackson's wife was notified he was safe and well, he was killed in 'aerial combat'. Pilot Officer John Masters recalled him shouting, 'Follow me boys!' as he ran to his aircraft to take to the air. They attacked the enemy bombers and fighters but in the ensuing dogfight John Jackson was shot down. He was one of 12 pilots from 75 Squadron who lost their lives during the 44 days of defending Port Moresby. His brother, Leslie Jackson, survived the war.