John Wooldridge

John De Lacy Wooldridge, DSO, DFC & Bar, DFM (18 July 1919 – 27 October 1958) was a Royal Air Force officer and bomber pilot, and a British film composer.

John Wooldridge
Born(1919-07-18)18 July 1919
Yokohama, Japan
Died27 October 1958(1958-10-27) (aged 39)
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchRoyal Air Force
RankWing Commander
Commands heldNo. 105 Squadron
Battles/warsSecond World War
AwardsDistinguished Service Order
Distinguished Flying Cross & Bar
Distinguished Flying Medal

Early life

Wooldridge was born in Yokohama, Japan, and was educated at St Paul's School, London. A talented music composer and academic, he studied music under Sibelius and was a friend and contemporary of William Walton.

Second World War

Wooldridge joined the Royal Air Force as a sergeant pilot in 1938. During the Second World War, he was a member of RAF Bomber Command, flying a total of 97 operational bombing sorties.[1] He was affectionately known as "Dim".

He served with No. 207 Squadron based at RAF Bottesford flying Avro Manchesters. He then served with No. 106 Squadron as one of Wing Commander Guy Gibson's flight commanders, before being appointed commanding officer of No. 105 Squadron in March 1943, which specialised in low level precision daylight bombing using de Havilland Mosquito aircraft.

Wooldridge wrote a book, Low Attack, about these operations in 1944.

It would be impossible to forget ... the sensation of looking back over enemy territory and seeing your formation behind you, wing-tip to wing-tip, their racing shadows moving only a few feet below them across the earth's surface; or that feeling of sudden exhilaration when the target was definitely located and the whole pack were following you on to it with their bomb doors open, while people below scattered in every direction and the long streams of flak came swinging up; or the sudden jerk of consternation of the German soldiers lounging on the coast, their moment of indecision, and then their mad scramble for the guns; or the memory of racing across The Hague at midday on a bright spring morning, while the Dutchmen below hurled their hats in the air and beat each other on the back. All these are unforgettable memories. Many of them will be recalled also by the peoples of Europe long after peace has been declared, for to them the Mosquito came to be an ambassador during their darkest hours.[2]

In May 1944, while in America, Wooldridge volunteered to ferry one of the first Canadian-built Mosquitoes across the Atlantic to Britain and, accompanied by Flying Officer C. J. Brown as navigator, set a new record for the Atlantic crossing from Goose Bay, Labrador to the United Kingdom, of 5 hours, 46 minutes.[3] The previous record for the Labrador-Britain route had been held by a BOAC Liberator at 7 hours 56 minutes.

Wooldridge was aeronautical adviser to the Petroleum Warfare Department during the development of the Fog Investigation and Dispersal Operation (FIDO) fog dispersal system.[4]

Film composer

Wooldridge put this wartime experience to good use when he contributed the score and co-wrote the screenplay to the 1953 Dirk Bogarde film Appointment in London.

Wooldridge's first marriage was in 1942 to Mary Latham, with whom he had a son, Morris Latham, who also became a pilot. The union ended in divorce. He subsequently married the actress Margaretta Scott in 1948, with whom he had a daughter, Susan Wooldridge, who also became an actress; and a son, Hugh Wooldridge.

Wooldridge was killed in a car accident in England aged 39 and is buried at St Lawrence's Church Cholesbury, Buckinghamshire, with his second wife, Margaretta.[5][6]

Film scores

Musical works

  • The Constellations (1944)
  • A Solemn Hymn To Victory (1944)
  • The Elizabethans
  • Largo for Orchestra
  • Prelude for an Unwritten Tragedy
  • Prelude for a Great Occasion a.k.a. Music for a Great Occasion
  • Song of the Summer Hills
  • Slow March for the Royal Air Force
  • The Saga of the Ships


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