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John Michael Dixon

by Nathan Hutchinson | People, World War Two

John Michael Dixon was born April, 1922 in Epsom, Surrey. Son of Harold and Lena Dixon (née Whitmarsh). He served in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, as a Flying Officer (Pilot) in 145 Squadron, 173908. John was killed when his aircraft came down on 16 September, 1944.

Early Life


John Michael Dixon was born April, 1922 in Epsom, Surrey.

Dixon WWII Memorial

Dixon WWII Memorial


Son of Harold Parson Dixon and Lena Gertrude Dixon (née Whitmarsh). Harold Dixon was born in London, 1888 and later served with the 2nd/5th Durham Light Infantry during WWI. Lena was born 24 July, 1885 in Stratford and worked as a secretary at the beginning of WWI.

Harold and Lena married on 15 August, 1913 in Wembley. They had their only child, John Michael Dixon in April, 1922 whilst they were in Epsom, Surrey.  During the 20’s and 30’s Harold worked as a Civil Servant in the African Colonies, with Lena and John joining him from time to time. Records show that John visited his father near Port Harcourt, Nigeria in September 1937 aged 15.

In 1939 Lena Dixon stayed at Huntly (Hotel) Bishopsteignton, as a resident. At this time a Foreign Correspondent, Nora L Dixon was also staying at Huntly but there is no known connection to this person at time of writing. [1]

Huntly Bishopsteignton

Huntly Bishopsteignton

Military Service


145 Squadron

145 Squadron RAF

John Michael Dixon served in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, as a Flying Officer (Pilot) in 145 Squadron, 173908.


On 10 October 1939, No. 145 Squadron was reformed, taking delivery of Hurricane fighters in March 1940. It operated over Dunkirk and in the Battle of Britain before re-equipping with Supermarine Spitfires in early 1941. From February 1942, it was based in the Middle East, then in Malta, and finally in northern Italy, before disbanding on 19 August 1945. [2]

September 1944 found the Squadron based at Loreto and Fano [3] on the North Eastern coastline of Italy. It was here that John Dixon was pilot in Spitfire MT671. This Mark LFVIII version was powered by Merlin 66 engines and produced by Supermarine in Eastleigh, it was one of over 20,000 Spitfires built between 1936-48. [4]

At that time they were operating for Rover Paddy. Part of the British “Rover” system, these were pairings of air controllers and army liaison officers at the front; they were able to switch communications seamlessly from one brigade to another—hence Rover. Incoming strike aircraft arrived with pre-briefed targets, which they would strike 20 minutes after arriving on station only if the Rovers had not directed them to another more pressing target. Rovers might call on artillery to mark targets with smoke shells, or they might direct the fighters to map grid coordinates, or they might resort to a description of prominent terrain features as guidance. However, one drawback for the Rovers was the constant rotation of pilots, who were there for fortnightly stints, leading to a lack of institutional memory. Call signs for the Rovers were “Rover Paddy” and “Rover David” for the RAF. [5]


Death and Burial


On 16 September  1944, John Michael Dixon was part of a small group of Spitfires on the airfield at Fano. John and nine other pilots had been given their orders to target mortar positions near San Marino.

He departed at 15:35 and low level conditions were reported to be poor, but above cloud level they were fair. Several of the aircrew returned early after a successful bombing raid on their target. At 19.25 John Dixon was flying No 2 in section when they encountered intense A/A gun fire, John was hit by flak and desperately tried to climb to high altitude with dark smoke seen pouring from his aircraft. His Spitfire was now covered in flames as it fell back down to earth and crashed into a hill near San Marino (position R. 78009300). [6]

Dixon Crash Location

Dixon Crash Location


John Michael Dixon died at the crash site on 16 September, 1944. Aged just 22 years old.


Dixon Grave

Dixon Headstone

Ravenna War Cemetery
Ravenna, Provincia di Ravenna, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
I. F. 21.
Memorial ID
56499395 [7]





Dixon Grave Report

Dixon Grave Report

Dixon Grave Detail

Dixon Grave Detail

Dixon Description

Dixon Description



John’s father, Harold Parson Dixon passed away in Newton Abbot in 1963.

John’s mother, Lena Gertrude Dixon (née Whitmarsh) died 29 October the same year at Kiniver Nursing Home in Teignmouth. She left any effects to a John Marshall Whitmarsh, a bio chemist from Nottingham.


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John Michael Dixon is remembered by the village of Bishopsteignton.


Dixon Memorial

Dixon Memorial [8]