127192, Flying Officer (Pilot), 161 Squadron (Special Operations). Royal Air Force
Killed In Action on the 4th August 1944 aged 30.
John Alcock initially served in a Guards regiment during the early stages of the Second World War. He was eager to get into action and was disappointed and somewhat frustrated when his unit was held at home. Eventually he decided to join the RAF and after completing his transfer began to train as a pilot. Ironically, after his transfer the Guards regiment he was originally serving with was sent into action in North Africa.
On the 19th January 1944, after completing his training, John was posted to 631 Squadron, which performed the rather inglorious task of target towing, and he was soon looking to move to a Squadron where he could see some action. In March 1944 John was to get his hearts desire when he joined 161 Squadron. This was a special operations unit, which had been flying secret agents and SOE operatives in and out of occupied Europe since it’s formation in February 1942.
In the months leading up to the D-Day invasion the SOE activity from the little airfield at Tempsford in Bedfordshire was intense and on 30th April 1944 John Alcock flew his first operation. This was known as a " Double" mission with John and Flight Lieutenant Bob Large both landing at the same secret airfield to recover some SOE agents. Operation " Organist" , as it was known, was detailed to send two Lysander aircraft to Chateauroux in order to drop three agents and pick up two who had been performing a reconnaissance of the Rouen area. There had been a high number of arrests in the region due to intense Gestapo activity.
The agents to be collected were Philippe Liewer and Violette Szabo, two of the SOE's most famous operators. Liewer, whose face was on many " Wanted" posters and had left Rouen for his own safety, flew with John Alcock whilst Szabo flew with Bob Large. John was said to be absolutely delighted that he had managed to find the landing ground by his own navigation and could hardly contain his excitement.
Tragedy struck John Alcock and his wife, Dosie, on the 17th July 1944 when their four-month-old baby daughter, Carolyn, died suddenly. In August 1944 the Lysander flight of 161 Squadron continued it’s dangerous work from Tempsford airfield. The night of the 4th/5th August was to be John Alcock's second and, tragically, last operation. He was, once again, on a " Doubles" flight, code named Operation " Pirouge" , this time with Flying Officer Peter Arkell who was on his first operation. They were destined for Vallon, south of the Loire. The flight was a long and lonely one and John may have had time to reflect on the loss of his Daughter. The mission was made even more dangerous by the fact that the Allies, now strengthening their position in Normandy, were performing Intruder flights into the area to harass the enemy and destroy any opportune targets. Peter Arkell saw his companions Lysander, V948, go down in flames ahead of him having blown up in mid-air after being attacked by what was thought to be a night fighter. The Canadian pilot of a Mosquito intruder of 410 squadron later reported the destruction of a Henschel HS126, which has similar characteristics to the Lysander, and it is now known that this was in fact John Alcock’s aircraft.
His grave, the only British serviceman to be buried in the cemetery, lays 20 miles Southwest of Rennes in Messsac, France.
Although John Alcock is not remembered on the Stevenage War Memorial his Daughter is buried in St.Nicholas Church and he is commemorated on her headstone, a double blow for a young wife and mother.