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On Saturday 13 April 2024 a 20 Squadron veteran of the Second World War celebrates his 105th Birthday.  

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20 Squadron sends Birthday Wishes to their Second World War Veteran

On Saturday 13 April 2024 a 20 Squadron veteran of the Second World War celebrates his 105th Birthday.  

Squadron Leader Jim Ashworth was born in Canada in 1919 and volunteered for the Royal Canadian Air Force in January 1941.  He undertook initial flying training in Canada before being sent to the United Kingdom to complete his training on front-line aircraft with the Royal Air Force in late 1941.  At the time, the Royal Air Force needed more flying instructors than front-line pilots, so he had to ‘work the system’ for several months to achieve a front-line posting.  He qualified on the Hurricane at Number 55 Operational Training Unit at RAF Annan, Dumfriesshire, in July 1942, before a six-month voyage to India, where he joined Number 20 Squadron.

A then Pilot Officer Ashworth serving with 20 Squadron in India, July 1943 (J Ashworth)

At that time, 20 Squadron were providing air support to the 14th Army, fighting Imperial Japanese forces in Burma.  The squadron was equipped with the Hurricane IID, whose primary armament was two 40mm cannons mounted underneath the wings.  These formidable weapons could destroy vehicles, including tanks, but were also lethal to the primary Japanese means of transport in Burma – river boats. 

A 20 Squadron Hurricane IID; the underwing cannons were lethal against vehicles and boats. (J Ashworth)

Squadron Leader Ashworth was successful against at least one Japanese tank, which he destroyed during June 1944 at the Battle of Imphal; a colleague removed the chassis plate from the wrecked tank which is still in Squadron Leader Ashworth’s possession, mounted on a 20 Squadron plaque.

Squadron Leader Ashworth’s 20 Squadron plaque with Japanese tank chassis plate affixed. (J Ashworth)

Shortly after his detachment to Imphal, tropical diseases caught up with him.  He came down with malaria and had to be hospitalised.  Immediately after recovery, he caught dengue fever, recovery from which took him to the end of his operational tour in the Far East and his return to Canada via the UK.  During the Second World War, Squadron Leader Ashworth had flown over 50 operational missions.

His service continued after the end of the Second World War; he remained in the Royal Canadian Air Force, flying the CF-100 Canuck interceptor, serving in various Headquarters and, in a link to our own role in the RAF’s Air Command and Control Force, commanded the Royal Canadian Air Force radar station at Tofino, on Vancouver Island, from 1953 to 1956.  

Several years ago 20 Squadron was put in contact with Squadron Leader Ashworth, and his daughter Valerie, by John Fockler, the son Flight Lieutenant Ed Fockler, one of Squadron Leader Ashworth’s colleagues from service in India. Squadron personnel have had the pleasure of a number of video calls with him since then, where he has given us memories and inspiration in equal measure.  Today, 20 Squadron and their colleagues at Royal Air Force Boulmer send Squadron Leader Ashworth their warmest wishes and many happy returns on his 105th 

Squadron Leader Jim Ashworth in 2023, with his 1944 20 Squadron plaque and one of today’s 20 Squadron’s challenge coins. (V Ashworth)



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