Sublieutenant John Samuel Hornby served in the Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve during World War Two.
He was the son of Priscilla Muriel Hornby (née Addenbrooke) and the stepson of Allan Noble Campbell of Wanganui, Wellington, New Zealand. His death notification lists his mother as Mrs. PM Campbell of 36 North Street, Timaru, New Zealand.
He attended Wanganui Collegiate School where he was a prefect and played rugby in the 1st XV. From school, he went directly to Britain to undergo fighter pilot training. In total, more than 1,200 men from Wanganui Collegiate served in World War Two.
Having enlisted in the Royal New Zealand Navy on 13th February 1945, he gained promotion to Acting Sublieutenant on 13th August 1945. Hornby flew with 718 Squadron of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. At his time of death, they were at HMS Corncrake, a land base at RAF Ballyhalbert, Co. Down.
He died on 10th October 1945 aged 21 years old. As he was born on 9th October 1924, the accident occurred only a day after the young pilot’s 21st birthday. His death also occurred only a few weeks after the formal surrender of Japan. He may have returned to New Zealand with war in the Pacific at an end had he survived.
John Samuel Horby was the pilot of Supermarine Seafire Mark III NN631 taking part in a training flight. While on a cross-country reconnaissance practise, the plane appeared to lose power. Experiencing engine problems, it came down 3 miles south-east of Carrickmore, Co. Tyrone.
In 1995, two Irish Aviation historians, Gary McFarland and Robin Ruddock, took an interest in the New Zealander’s story. They contacted Richard Bourne of the Wanganui Collegiate School Museum. He supplied them with photos and more information on the pilot. The pair travelled to the Carrickmore crash site. There, they met witnesses and saw some of the plane’s wreckage stamped with serial numbers.
I think it is wonderful that there are those from a younger generation who still recognise the huge sacrifice made by young men who died so far from home in the service of their country. It is thanks to people like Gary McFarland and Robin Ruddock that their graves are tended, and the young men who gave their tomorrows for our today are remembered.
Richard Bourne – Wanganui Collegiate School Museum.
In November 2008, Ruddock made a 1:48 model of Supermarine Seafire Mark III from a piece of the fuselage. He then gifted it to the Collegiate Museum. The pair hope to erect a permanent memorial at the crash site.
Further details uncovered by the historians and the Wanganui Collegiate Museum discovered a twist to the story. The grave of another Wanganui pilot Frederick Hugh Anderson is in the same graveyard. Anderson died in 1941, while based at the same airfield. The two men were second cousins. Geoffrey Anderson, who lost both his older brothers during the war remembers planting trees on the family farm when he heard of Hornby’s death.
John Samuel Hornby’s grave is in Grave 5, St. Andrew’s Church of Ireland, Ballyhalbert, Co. Down.