John William Lippert was born in Kitchener, Ontario 2 July 1921 to Genevieve Belle (Jones) Lippert and Herbert Albert Lippert, a furniture manufacturer with the Lippert Furniture Company.*1
The Lippert family included John’s siblings Richard, Robert, Jane, Claudia, Larry, Gwen, Patrick, Terrance, Herbert, Rosemary, Angela and Virginia.
John attended school from 1927 to 1932 taking general courses at St. Mary’s Public School. In 1933 and 1934 he attended St. James’s High School, for one year of junior matriculation, grade X - Ontario.
John or, as he was called by his family, Jack, worked from the age of 13 to 19 ½ years. From 1934 to 1941 he did general work for 4 3/4 to 5 years in the family manufacturing furniture business, H. A. Lippert Furniture Company, and was foreman for a year. He left the company to further his education, taking a Dominion Business Course in Toronto for a year. He hadn’t returned to work after the course, but went to Hamilton to join the R. C. A. F.*1
John had put extensive work in the sports of swimming, tennis and canoeing.*1 Certainly some of his favorite sports must have been done through the Y because he used names of people who worked at the Y as his references when applying to join up.
During an interview with the R.C.A.F. selection board, medical officer and interviewing officer 25 May 1942, John’s education and alertness were found to be satisfactory. He was considered to be a bright, active and fit applicant with high average ability that should help him to be adaptable to training, whether it was as an observer or pilot. John preferred to become a pilot. The interviewing officer thought John was suitable for a commission.
His attestation paper was signed 28 May 1942 in Hamilton. He passed his medical with an A-1B rating. John was 5 feet 10 ½ inches tall and weighed 144 pounds. He had a fair complexion, green eyes, brown hair, a scar on his upper lip and was considered to have good development.*1
He was taken on strength by #1 M. D. (Manning Depot) in Toronto as an AC2 (Aircraftman, 2nd class) 28 May with a pay rate of $1.30 per day.*1 The depot was where John was to learn the military ways of personal grooming, care of uniforms and military behavior. There were two hours of physical education every day, marching, rifle and foot drills, saluting and other military routines.
Housing where 5000 personnel could be accommodated was on the C. N. E. grounds.*13 While there was one horse per stall during the exhibition, four men were accommodated in the same stall that was used for sleeping quarters.
At the end of instruction, a selection committee decided whether the men were to be trained as ground or aircrew. Those chosen as aircrew, observers or pilots, then proceeded to an Initial Training School, although John did not follow that usual route.*13 It was on 1 July that John became part of aircrew.*1
John was struck off strength 23 July and taken on strength with #8 SFTS (Service Flying Training School), Moncton, N. B. 24 July 1942.*1 The school was opened 23 December 1940 when the Moncton Flying Club operated the course on behalf of the R.C.A.F.*14 He was struck off strength 12 September.
13 September, John was taken on strength by #3 ITS, (Initial Training School) in Victoriaville, Quebec for Course 62 *1 The Victoriaville College was taken over by the military as a facility to train men for military parades, roll calls, schooling in RCAF regulations, navigation, Morse code, meteorology, air rules and regulations. An exam at the end determined where the student would proceed for further instruction.*4 18 September John spent time in the hospital, perhaps for a second physical. 24 October, John had air navigator listed as one of his trades.*1
He placed 66 out of 130 in the class, was described as clean-cut, assertive and intelligent, a thoroughly good lad by the commanding officer of #3 ITS. If an alternative recommendation was needed, it was suggested Jack be an air navigator.*1
John was given a special 24-day leave from 6 to 29 November 1942. While on leave, 7 November, John was promoted to a LAC (Leading Aircraftman). With the new rank came a pay increase to $1.50/day with an additional special increase of $.75 making his daily rate $2.25.
He was struck off strength to #11 EFTS (Elementary Flying Training School) 5 December and the following day was taken on strength by #11 EFTS at Cap-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec. He began work on Course 70 and his pilot training that lasted 7 December 1942 to 5 February 1943.*1
Built by the R.C.A.F. as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, the school opened 14 October 1940. Pilots took 50 hours of basic flying on De Havilland Tiger Moths, Fleet Finch or Fairchild Cornell over an eight-week period. The school, operated by civilian flying clubs under contract to the R.C.A.F., had mostly civilian instructors.*3 27 December John was put on temporary duty with a S.L.T.W. (Special Leave Travel Warrant).*1
John who flew on the Finch 2 had 30:05 hours as first pilot and 31 hours as a dual pilot. He had 1:00 hour of night flying as first pilot and 2:20 as dual, ranking 16 out of 37 in his final tests and 24 out of 37 in his flying tests. A written report stated John was a good type, had a fine spirit and no particular difficulties in the air. He had learned quickly and flew intelligently.*1 Following the course completion John was granted a special 13-day leave 8 to 21 February 1943.
Returning from leave and having graduated from #11 EFTS, Jack was struck off strength 20 February and taken on strength by #13 SFTS (Service Flying Training School) at St-Hubert, Quebec, for Course 75 on 21 February. He was to remain at the school 22 February to 11 June 1943.*1 St-Hubert was also part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. The first 8 weeks of the 16-week course was with an intermediate training squadron. The next six weeks were with the advanced training squadron and the last two weeks were with the bombing and gunnery squadron.*5
10 June 1943 John was discharged from pilot training. He had 66:05 hours as first pilot and 68:10 as dual on the Harvard II and 12:50 hours as first pilot, 7:10 hours as dual pilot in night flying. He was given A’s for his flying aptitude. He took part in formation flying, continued instrument and navigation, both solo and dual practice. His percentage standing was 32 out of 55 in final subject tests and 40 out of 55 in flying tests while receiving 71% in his Link training. The written report, however, wasn’t quite as flattering as previously. Although he was considered to be an average student, it was felt he was careless and should strive for accuracy. He was considered an average instrument pilot, but had a rough tendency to over control. He was however, recommended for a commission and with effect 11 June 1943, Jack had his Pilots’ Flying Badge and was promoted to the rank of Pilot Officer. With a new rank, his pay jumped to $6.25/day*1
It was thought John would be suitable for further training in all fields, but more so with a single engine plane, as a flying instructor, reconnaissance or fighter pilot.*1
Upon completion of his course, he was granted a special 14-day leave 12 to 26 June. He was struck off strength from #13 SFTS 25 June and appointed to a command, WAC (Western Air Command) and taken on strength the following day.
2 July, he was struck off strength to #118 (Fighter) Squadron and taken on strength 3 July.*1 The squadron was equipped with the P-40 Kittyhawk MK1 *3 and John was stationed at Annette Island, 60 miles north of Prince Rupert.
With the Japanese patrolling off the west coast of Canada and the U. S., a joint venture had been proposed. An airport had been built on the island and by 5 May 1942, the first Canadian force ever based in the U. S. was assisting in the defence of the west coast. Tents were home for the first men to arrive, but better accommodation was built later.*6 During his time on Annette Island a semi-annual leave was granted to John 27 July to 9 August. He managed to get 6:10 hours of flying time while he was on the island, taking part in patrols.*1
He was struck off strength 16 August and taken on strength by #118 Squadron, Sea Island 17 August 1943.*1 Sea Island, located in the Fraser River estuary, Richmond, was the airfield from which the squadron took off in dusk to dawn operations that lasted two months.*7 He had 9:50 of flying time by 31 August and in September John was able to get in 24:35 more hours of flying.*1
14 October, John was struck off strength from 118 (F) Squadron; the following day he was taken on strength by 111 Squadron, Pat Bay. However 20 October, it was noted John was attached to 163(F) Squadron, a P-40 Kittyhawk Squadron located at Sea Island, and had added another 3:30 hours to his flying time.*1 It was probably a temporary attachment if he was recovering from an illness that required hospitalization or rehab and could only be provided in Vancouver.*9 21 October his total flying time as first pilot was 199:55 hours, 99:55 hours as dual, 13:50 hours as first pilot night flying and 9:30 hours as dual.*1.
By 31 October 1943, Jack had 8:45 hours of flying time with the 111(F) Squadron*1 The Pat Bay airfield, today the Victoria International Airport, was then grassy fields on the only flat land available. Pilots continued taking part in operational flying and patrolling for Japanese submarines reported off the west coast.*8
11 December 1943, John was promoted to the rank of Flying officer.*1 He was granted an embarkation leave 18 to 31 December 1943 plus a special leave 1 to 5 January 1944, possibly for travel time home or to a base. John was struck off strength from 111 (F) Squadron, Pat Bay 5 January. The following day he was taken on strength by #1Y Depot Halifax.*1 The depot was sometimes used as a holding unit where the men were assigned for pay and rations, but they could be stationed elsewhere.*16 He was struck off strength from #1 YD Lachine 20 January 1944 to 3 PRC (Personnel Reception Centre) when he embarked at Halifax.
Disembarking in the U. K. 31 January 1944, he was with #3 R.C.A.F. PRC, Bournemouth 1 February.
111 Squadron moved to the RAF base at Ayr and on 8 February 1944 the squadron was redesignated #440 (Fighter Bomber) Squadron under control of the RAF. It became the third Canadian typhoon-equipped squadron of the 143 Wing of the R.C.A.F. that also included Squadrons 438 and 439. They were to serve with the RAF Tactical Air Force in support of Canadian and British troops.*15 John was struck off strength to 143 Airfield 12 February and was posted to the newly-designated 440 Squadron.*1
Hawker Hurricanes were used for flying until the Hawker Typhoons became available. They switched to the fighter-bombers*15 on 30 March, flying out of Hurn.*1 Originally the typhoons carried 500-pound bombs, but later they carried 1000-pound bombs under each wing. The Canadian typhoon pilots were mostly dive-bombers, but they also flew protection for other aircraft.*10 Canadian troops fighting on the ground were always happy to see the typhoons coming to their aid.*11
John was struck off strength to 83 Group S. U. (Support Unit) 8 April and was granted a paid leave 13 to 19 April 1944. While on leave, 15 April, John was awarded his Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Maple Leaf. 18 May he was taken on strength by 440 Squadron after completing his work with 83 Expeditionary Air Group S. U.
He was attached to 440 Squadron at Hurn 12 to 27 June, when he and the other men in the squadron flew to France, landing at Air Base B9 at Lantheuil.
From an article written by Wally Ward for the Air Force Magazine, we learn of the last flight of Flying Officer John William Lippert.*12
“On a bright sunny morning July 31st(sic) 1944, my wingman - F/O Lippert - and I climbed into the single cockpits of adjacent Hawker Typhoons, adjusted oxygen masks and started routine checks. We had been briefed to fly-not for an operational target-but for an A & E (air frame and engine) test as our aircraft had just completed a maintenance inspection.
Simultaneously each of us pressed our starter button. They responded like loud firecrackers as the cartridges fired and gave ignition to the massive 2,100 hp Napier Sabre engines.
Taxiing slowly from side-to-side because the nose blocked our vision ahead, we reached the end of the wire mesh runway of B 9 at Lantheuil, not far from Bayeux, Normandy. In formation, Lippert and I opened full throttle, were airborne and raised our flaps and wheels. We then continued to gain altitude, flying in an easterly direction, soon reaching 10,000 feet. There was slight cloud below us but at our height the sky was clear. From the moment of take-off, of course, we never stopped moving our heads, checking below, above and every direction for enemy fighters.
After a few minutes I noticed that John Lippert was lagging behind, thereby losing visual contact. I throttled back, drew alongside and waved, but there was no response. Lippert was motionless, looking into the cockpit. So I broke radio silence and called him, but there was no reply. I then dropped under him, checking for any sign of damage–and then moved to the opposite side. I was within 15 feet of him, and had a clear view, but nothing seemed out of order. Shortly thereafter, Lippert’s Typhoon–in a shallow dive began to lose altitude. I followed him down until he disappeared into cloud at about 2,000 feet.
John Lippert and I had been friends since we flew Kittyhawks back at Sea Island BC. Naturally I was upset and perplexed as to the cause of his disappearance. Thirty minutes after takeoff I was back and giving my report to our intelligence officer.
I was within 15 feet of him, and had a clear view, but nothing seemed out of order.
This story does not end here and has an interesting sequel. In 2005 I was visiting the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa and out of curiosity opened the book They Shall Grow Not Old which lists all RCAF deaths during WWII. I was very surprised to read the cause of John Lippert’s death was ‘shot down by enemy fighters’. I believed that this statement was not only false but also gave an unfair negative portrayal of John Lippert.
At a gathering of former Typhoon pilots, I discussed the mystery of John Lippert’s death in 1944. I was reminded of the difficulties in the early years of Typhoon’s development. There were two major problems: first, the tail section occasionally broke off and second, carbon monoxide from the engine sometimes seeped into the cockpit. The tail problem was eventually solved but not the poisonous gas. Lippert’s aircraft may not have had the oxygen tank filled, and he would have lost consciousness. It is also possible that his aircraft was hit by anti aircraft fire as it neared the ground. We will never know.”*12
In a letter written to Jack’s parents 4 August 1944, Squadron Leader Pentland, officer commanding #440 Squadron RCAF had a different story. He remembered on 30 July leading the squadron on a bombing mission, diving through a hole in the clouds so he didn’t see Jack who the last aircraft in formation. When they got back to base he was missing.
The Typhoons were giving support to the troops and he wished the family could hear the admiration they had for the type of aircraft, the pilots who fly them and for job they are called upon to do. He indicated the men on the ground thought typhoon pilots were heroes and the pilots thought the same of them.
He thought John was a very good pilot and if forced to land, would have done so safely. He may have bailed out and was trying to make his way back or was in enemy hands. He said their son was admired and respected by his fellow pilots and ground crew. He had an eternal cheerfulness and ready smile and could be counted on in difficult situations.
He felt if John had departed, they should be rest assured he died the way he wanted to and gave his life for the cause we are all fighting for to make this once more a free and better world. No one can make a greater sacrifice.*1
John was said to have crashed north east of Bretteville-sur-Laize, but there was no trace of him. A Canadian unit at Langannerie, 17 March 1945, had registered knowledge of an unknown Canadian F/O who had been reburied in the Bretteville-sur-Laize Cemetery.
The unidentified body was found beside a badly burned plane near Cauvicourt. It had crashed sometime at the end of July and it was thought there was a possibility it might have been a typhoon. From an occupant of the farmhouse near the crash site, it was learned the body was that of a young Canadian lieutenant, but there was no proof that it was John. 16 July 1945, F/O Lippert was officially presumed dead.
19 October 1945, Wing Commander J. H. Harris wrote the pilot accompanying John on an air operation over tank and troop concentrations, had arrived at the target and the formation dived through a hole in the clouds. He looked back to see if F/O Lippert was still with him, but all he could see was a puff of smoke as if an explosion had taken place. After finishing the dive and looking around he could see no sign of a wreck on the ground and no parachute was seen.
Trying to identify the badly burned plane that was found was difficult as no number could be found on the engine. If the numbers on the engine plaque could be identified, the pilot would be F/O Lippert, but a 28 February 1946 letter stated they were unable to correlate particulars given with John’s Typhoon Mark 1BMD793. The numbers did not correspond with any Sabre engine. The serial plate from the generator did not provide definite evidence because serial numbers of such items of removable equipment are not recorded in aircraft to which they are given.*1
In the end, there must have been enough similar close circumstances to find that unknown airman was F/O Lippert. John was buried in the Bretteville-sur-Laize Cemetery situated beside the Caen-Falaise highway, it is land over which Canadian ground troops had fought on their way to close the Falaise Gap.*11
There were many items that would eventually be returned to the family in Kitchener. One was an identity bracelet with J. W. Lippert No. J27245 RCAF Now and Forever engraved on one side and on the other, Bette.
The parents would receive a War Service Gratuity of $412.71 14 February 1946. John had a Metropolitan Life insurance policy for $2000, but because there was a war clause, the premiums that amounted to around $117 were returned; $1000 was sent to his mother. He had a receipt for a $500 Sixth Victory Loan Bond, a $30 War Savings Certificate and some personal money that was shared between the parents.*1
Flying Officer John William Lippert who had worked his way from AC2, the lowest rank in the RCAF,*9 to Flying officer received several citations including the 1939-45 Star, Air Crew Europe Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal and the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with Maple Leaf.*1
He was posthumously awarded the RCAF Operational Wings in recognition of gallant service in action against the enemy 24 January 1947.*1 In an accompanying letter sent to his father, it was hoped the “wings” indicative of operations against the enemy will be a treasured momento of a young life offered on the altar of freedom in defence of his home and country and was signed by Wing Commander Dicks.*1
The last correspondence with the family was 28 March 1947 when a picture of John’s grave and an accompanying letter were sent to the family.
Flying Officer Lippert was among the Typhoon pilots killed in the ten-week period that was the Battle of Normandy. A memorial was erected at Noyers-Bocage, a village near Caen. Among the memorial's engraved names is F/O J. Lippert.
-- "To the glorious memory of the 151 Typhoon pilots and supporting staff who gave their lives during the liberation of Normandy May - August 1944."--
Helping with the work on the memorial was a man who had witnessed the war as a child and veterans of the fight who, when it was completed and dedicated on the 50th Anniversary of D-day, June 6, 1994, were present for the ceremony
For further information on pilots who served in 111 Squadron see:
*1 Ancestry’s digitalization of F/O John William Lippert’s Canada Library and Archives military records.
*2 Veterans Affairs Canada - Canadian Virtual War Memorial
*3 Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia - Elementary Pilot Training School
*4 Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia - Initial Training Schools
*5 Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia –Service Flying Training School
*6 Explore North, An Explorer’s Guide to the North – Annette Island, Alaska in WW II by Murray Lundberg
*7 Geocaching 438 Squadron
*9 Bill Eull - www.rcaf111squadron.com/life-in-111.html
*10 Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia – 440Transport Squadron
*11 Private Art Bridge – The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada
*12 “Mystery in Normandy” an article written by Wally Ward for the Air Force Magazine, Spring 2011 P. 20-21, courtesy of Bill Eull www.rcaf111squadron.com/life-in-111.html
*13 Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia – Manning Depots
*14 Canadian Military History by Bruce Forsyth
*15 Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia – 143 Wing of the RCAF
*16 Royal Air Force Commands - #1 Y Depot, Halifax – Bill Walker
J. W. LIPPERT
ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE
30TH JULY 1944 AGE 22
THANKS TO ALMIGHTY GOD
FOR ALL HIS BLESSINGS
AND MAY JACK'S SOUL
REST IN PEACE
Flying Officer (Pilot), 440 Sqdn. Royal Canadian Air Force. Son of Herbert Albert and Genevieve Belle Lippert, of Kitchener, Ontario. Age 22.
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