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Squadron Leader John Dering Nettleton VC (June 28, 1917- July 13, 1943) was a Rhodesian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.


Born on 28 June 1917 in Nongoma, Natal, South Africa and educated at Stanbury’s private school in Cape Town, Nettleton then served as a Naval cadet on the General Botha training ship and then for 18 months in the South African Merchant Marine. He took up civil engineering, working in various parts of South Africa.

Commissioned in the RAF in December 1938, he then served with Nos. 207, 98 and 185 Squadrons before joining 44 Squadron flying the Handley Page Hampden. Nettleton then took part in a sreis of bombing raids and was mentioned in despatches in September 1940. Nettleton was promoted Flying Officer in July 1940, Flight Lieutenant in February 1941 and Squadron Leader in July 1941.

In 1942 a daylight bombing mission was planned by RAF Bomber Command against the MAN diesel engine factory at Augsburg in Bavaria, responsible for the production of half of Germany’s U‑boat engines. It was to be the longest low‑level penetration so far made during World war II, and it was the first daylight mission flown by the Command’s new Avro Lancaster.

On April 17, 1942 Squadron Leader Nettleton was the leader of one formation of six Avro Lancaster bombers on a daylight attack on a diesel engine factory at Augsburg, near Munich Germany in aircraft serial R5508. No. 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron was based at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire at this time and had taken delivery of Lancasters in late 1941. A second flight of six Lancasters from No 97 Squadron based at RAF Woodhall Spa, close to Waddington, did not link up with the six from 44 squadron as had been planned, although they had ample time to do so before the aircraft left England by Selsey Bill, West Sussex.
Having just crossed the French coast near Dieppe, German fighters, returning after a planned diversionary raid which had been organised to assist the bombers, attacked the 44 squadron aircraft after they passed a short way inland and four Lancasters were shot down. Nettleton continued towards the target in southern germany and his two remaining aircraft attacked the factory, bombing it amidst heavy anti aircraft fire.
Nettleton survived the incident, his Lancaster limping back to base.

Nettleton died on 13 July 1943, during a raid on Turin, in Italy. His body was never recovered.

Nettleton's medal is not publicly held.

Following the war the government of Southern Rhodesia named a new school after Nettleton - Nettleton Junior School in the suburb of Braeside in Salisbury (now Harare). Despite the significance of Nettleton's acknowledged bravery in defending democracy and fighting Fascism, the government of Zimbabwe subsequently changed the name of this school, amongst many others, after Rhodesia became Zimbabwe. The school is now named after Tsitsi Munyati, a former Zimbabwean minister of education.

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