John Fraser Drummond was born on 19 October 1918 in Liverpool. He was educated at two private boarding schools before working as a timber merchant with his father for a short time. Drummond joined the RAF and began his training in April 1938. He was granted a short service commission as an Acting Pilot Officer and in January 1939 he was posted to No.46 Squadron stationed at Digby in Lincolnshire.
In April 1940, Drummond sailed on HMS Glorious with No.46 Squadron to Norway. By 27 May the Squadron was stationed in Bardufoss in the far north of the country. Two days later Drummond saw combat flying Hurricane L1794. He attacked a Heinkel 111 and scored hits to its starboard engine but his aircraft was struck by return fire. His cockpit began to fill with smoke, so he broke away to head for base. His engine soon failed and he had no other choice but to bale out into the freezing waters of Ofotfjord. He was fortunately rescued by HMS Firedrake.
On 2 June Drummond was patrolling over Narvik in Hurricane W2543 when he sighted two Junkers Ju 87s dive bombing a destroyer over Ofotfjord. Drummond shot one down and watched it burst into flames after it attempted to force-land.
Five days later Drummond attacked a He 111 which he caught heading towards the Swedish border. Later that same day he attacked a formation of four He 111s. He claimed one as destroyed and damaged two others before his Hurricane was again hit by return fire. His windscreen was penetrated by a bullet which clipped his flying goggles and helmet before ricocheting out of the cockpit hood.
The British evacuation of Norway began the same day and the Squadron returned to the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious. Drummond however returned with the ground crew component on the SS Arandora Star, which proved fortuitous for him because Glorious was sunk on its return journey. Sadly eight of Drummond’s Squadron colleagues were killed.
On 26 July Drummond was awarded a DFC for his service in Norway. His citation reads as follows: “Pilot Officer John Fraser DRUMMOND (40810). During operations in Norway, this officer shot down two enemy aircraft and seriously damaged a further three. On one occasion, as pilot of one of two Hurricanes which attacked four Heinkel 111s, he damaged one of the enemy aircraft and then engaged two of the others. Despite heavy return fire, Pilot Officer Drummond pressed home his attack, silenced the rear guns of both aircraft and compelled the Heinkels to break off the engagement".
In early September 1940, Drummond was posted to No.92 Squadron and stationed at Biggin Hill. Here he began to fly Spitfires and his roommate was Geoffrey Wellum. In his excellent book First Light Squadron Leader Geoffrey Wellum, DFC, wrote of Drummond: “I share a room with a new pilot. His name is John Drummond. He was waiting at Biggin when we arrived, a quiet retiring sort of chap, a bit of an introvert. As we unpack our kit I get to know a little about him, although he doesn’t volunteer an awful lot. It appears he was in a Gladiator Squadron in Norway and they were, of course, hopelessly outnumbered and virtually decimated. He has a DFC but obviously doesn’t want to talk about it so I don’t press him. We get on well enough. He’s friendly so the arrangement suits me, not that I’m in a position to object. Hardly know he’s around anyway.”
On 11 September Drummond engaged a Bf 109 which he caught attacking a Hurricane. He pursued the enemy fighter until his ammunition ran out. He was then bounced by two more 109s but he half-rolled his Spitfire and managed to evade their attacks before returning safely to base.
During the morning of 23 September Drummond was flying Spitfire X4422, code lettered ‘QJ-T’ when he engaged a Bf 109 of JG 26. He fired a succession of short bursts and forced the 109 down into a pond near Grain Fort on the Isle of Grain. The Luftwaffe pilot was captured unhurt.
The next day Drummond attacked an oncoming raid with the Squadron over the Thames Estuary. The Squadron fought its way through enemy fighter escort and engaged a formation of Junkers Ju 88s. Drummond damaged one and pulled away to attack three Bf 109s that he sighted. He turned into them and damaged two of them, then broke away for Biggin Hill.
On 5 October Drummond engaged a swarm of Bf 109s over Dungeness and opened fire at the rearmost fighter. He scored direct hits and watched it crash into the sea. He then attacked a Henschel Hs 126 which he caught flying low over the Channel. He shot it down two miles off the French coast. The Luftwaffe pilot was captured and taken prisoner.
On the morning of 10 October 1940 Drummond was airborne with the Squadron on a patrol east of Brighton. A Dornier 17 was eventually sighted and all nine of the Squadron's Spitfires swooped down on it. They were apparently hindered by iced-up windscreens that prevented them from using their deflector sights. Drummond and Pilot Officer Bill Williams both attempted beam attacks from each flank, but they missed and continued turning towards each other, then suddenly their Spitfires collided. Drummond managed to bale out of his aircraft but he was far too low for his parachute to open effectively and he dropped towards the ground. Drummond was not killed on impact. He was still alive when a local priest was able to get to him and administer the last rites before Drummond finally died in his arms.
Drummond’s Spitfire R6616 crashed nearby, landing on a flintstone wall. When his body was examined he was found to have been wounded in his left arm and leg.
Bill Williams was also found dead but not from the collision. It was later discovered that he had been shot through the head before the Spitfires collided.
From his time in Norway and the Battle of Britain Drummond had claimed 8 enemy aircraft destroyed, plus one shared destroyed, 3 probables and four damaged.
John Drummond’s funeral took place at St Michael’s church, Blundellsands in Liverpool on 15 October 1940. He was only twenty-one years of age. He is buried in Thornton Garden of Rest.
For a more detailed account of Drummond’s life and service please click HERE
|Centre - Drummond with his crashed Hurricane, March 1940|
Left - Spitfire with No.92 Sqn markings by Ric Hampton