b. 02/02/1921 Brockley, London. d. 13/08/1951 Hudswell, Yorkshire.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 13/08/1951 Hudswell, Yorkshire.
John “Jack” Quinton (1921-1951) was born on 2nd February 1921 in Brockley, near Lewisham, South East London, one of three sons of Charles Henry and Kate Quinton (nee Rowcliffe). His brothers were names Kenneth and Michael. Their father Charles served with the Royal Army Medical Corps in World War I, trained as an accountant, before becoming a London & Home Counties marketing and sales executive with a pyrotechnics company.
Jack was was educated at Christ’s College, Finchley leaving in 1937 having passed the London General School Examination with Matriculation. He was a keen Boy Scout and joined the 186 North London Scout Troop that met in the Church Hall of the Whetstone Congregational Church. He rapidly became a Patrol Leader and attended camps at Gilwell Park, Essex, as well as the World Scout Jamboree in the Netherlands in 1937. In 1938 he was chosen to lead the troop camp in Kandersteg, Switzerland. He then moved up to become a Rover Scout and was awarded the King’s Scout badge. During the war his father, Charles, took on the Rover Scout leadership of the group and his mother, Kate, was also heavily involved with the families of the troop with one or more members on active service; his two brothers Ken and Mike were also members of the troop.
After school, he joined the Specialloids engineering company as an apprentice and could have remained there as an exempt employee through the war, but in 1941 he joined the Royal Air Force as a navigator to more actively contribute to the war effort. Consistently rated exceptional, he flew in night fighters and was commissioned in January 1942. For his splendid work in this most dangerous and exacting branch of the service he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in 1944 flying Mosquitos with No. 604 Squadron. Promoted to Squadron Leader, he served in India and the Far East and, uniquely for a navigator, became a flight commander.
In 1946 he left the RAF and went back to his old job at Specialloids, and then moved to the car accessory company Brown Brothers where he remained until 1951. During this time he married Margaret Hampton and became a father to a son, Roger Michael, and the family settled in Cuffley, Hertfordshire. In 1951 he re-joined the RAF at the 228 Operational Conversion Unit where he had to start again as a Flight Lieutenant as he was unable to return with his old rank of Squadron Leader.
On August 13th, 1951, Flight-Lieutenant Quinton was a Navigator under instruction in a Vickers Wellington aircraft which was involved in a mid-air collision near Hudswell, Yorkshire. The sole survivor from the crash was an Air Training Corps Cadet who was a passenger in the aircraft, and he has established the fact that his life was saved by a supreme act of gallantry displayed by Flight-Lieutenant Quinton, who in consequence sacrificed his own life. Both Flight-Lieutenant Quinton and the Cadet were in the rear compartment of the aircraft when the collision occurred. The force of the impact caused the aircraft to break up and, as it was plunging towards the earth out of control, Flight-Lieutenant Quinton picked up the only parachute within reach and clipped it on to the Cadet’s harness. He pointed to the rip-cord and a gaping hole in the aircraft, thereby indicating that the Cadet should jump. At that moment a further portion of the aircraft was torn away, and the Cadet was flung through the side of the aircraft clutching his rip-cord, which he subsequently pulled and landed safely. Flight-Lieutenant Quinton acted with superhuman speed displaying the most commendable courage and self-sacrifice, as he well knew that in giving up the only parachute within reach, he was forfeiting any chance of saving his own life.
Jack Quinton was posthumously awarded the George Cross on 23rd October 1951, and the medal was presented to his widow, Margaret Quinton, by HM The Queen at an investiture held on 27th February 1952, the first of her reign. He was buried in the grounds of the church of St John the Baptist in Leeming Bar, Yorkshire. RAF Leeming had a special room constructed in his memory in the old control tower. Later this was demolished, and a separate room was established in the main buildings. On the 60th anniversary of the accident, on 13th August 2011, a new accommodation block was named the Quinton Block in his memory.
Also, on the 60th anniversary a plaque was unveiled in Hudswell, North Yorkshire near the actual crash site. The memorial commemorates the seven airman and one cadet who died in the crash as well as the story of the single cadet who survived. His name is included on the Armed Forces Memorial located at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire which was dedicated by Queen Elizabeth on 12 October 2007. His details are included on the Rolls of Honour that are kept on public display in the Church of St Clement Danes in London. His name is also inscribed on a plaque near the altar listing the names of RAF and RFC personnel awarded the George Cross. His medals including his GC and DFC are part of the Ashcroft Collection, displayed at the Imperial War Museum, London.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON
BURIAL PLACE: ST AUGUSTINE CHURCHYARD, LEEMING BAR, YORKSHIRE.