Digby Charles Johns was born in Melbourne on 15 February 1923 and educated at Geelong Grammar School.
He initially served in the 21st Light Horse Regiment from December 1940 to December 1941, but then left the Army and joined the Citizens Air Force (CAF) on 6 December 1941.
He made what would today be considered to be remarkably swift progress through the ranks, promoted Leading Air Craftsman on 28 March 1942, Sergeant on 14 March 43, Flight Sergeant on 14 July 1943, Warrant Officer on 14 July 1944, Pilot Officer on February 1945 and Flying Officer on August 1945.
He departed Australia for England on 6 March 1943. As a pilot flying Spitfires in 453 Squadron RAAF almost all his operational flying was done in Europe, particularly flying in support of Allied land forces after the D Day landing in June 1944. By 20 January 1945 Digby had flown 80 operational sorties. For this service he was awarded the 1939 – 1945 Star, the France and Germany Star and the Defence Medal.
Digby returned to Australia on 28 November 1945. His RAAF service ended on 31 January 1946.
Korean War Service
Digby served in the Korean War as a Navy Lieutenant pilot with 808 Squadron RAN from 31 August 1951 to 22 February 1952. The official RAN history of 808 Squadron describes its service in the Korean War as:
“On 14 May 1951, 808 Squadron received word that they, along with 805 and 817 Squadrons, would form part of a new Sydney Carrier Air Group under the command of Commander (later Vice Admiral Sir) Mike Fell, RN, and depart for Korea later that year. New pilots, many straight out of training, hurriedly converted to local operating procedures and 808 Squadron departed for Korea aboard HMAS Sydney on 31 August 1951. Sydney arrived in Japan on 19 September 1951, having lost a Sea Fury of 805 Squadron en route due to a mechanical failure, and prepared for a handover from HMS Glory. The aircraft of the Sydney CAG now bore black and white markings signifying that they were on operations with the United Nations (UN).”
After the Korean War he served as senior pilot of 723 Squadron, before promotion to Lieutenant Commander in Aug 1953 and posting in command of 851 Squadron. Following this command in Jun 1956, he served in Navy Office (Melbourne) for two years before returning to flying in Jan 1958. He underwent conversion to fly the Fairey Gannet with 816 Squadron and later assumed command of the Squadron Jun 1960. During this time he was to serve in HMA Ships Melbourne (II) and Vengeance. At the end of his command and on promotion to Commander he attended the RAAF Staff Course at RAAF Fairbairn during 1961.
In early 1962 Commander Johns posted to HMAS Melbourne (II) as Commander Air and Fleet Aviation Officer where he remained until posting as Executive Officer HMAS Albatross in Oct 1963. In Jan 1966 he was posted to a staff appointment on the military planning staff of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) in Bangkok.
Promoted to Captain in Jun 68 he filled the appointments of Chief of Staff to the Flag Officer in Command Eastern Australian Area (1968-70), was the Commanding officer of HMAS Penguin (1970), Director of Naval Appointments and Postings (Officers) in Navy Office (1970-73) and as the Australian Defence Advisor to the Australian High Commission in Singapore (1974-75).
Captain Johns became the Director of Naval Intelligence in early 1976 before retiring from the Navy in 1978.
His long and productive life ended on Tuesday 25 August 2015 when he passed away at the age of 92. He will be remembered by the FAA as a loyal founding member.