John Powell Eustace

John Powell Eustace

Regiment:Royal Navy, HMS Heron, Fleet Air Arm 759 Naval Air Squadron
Country:United Kingdom
Service Number:Unknown
Cemetary/Memorial: Yeovilton (St Bartholomew’s) Churchyard, Somerset (Plot M, Grave 5)
Awards:1939-1945 Star
1939-1945 War Medal

Born in 1917 in Easthampstead, Berkshire, Lieutenant Eustace died on 21st May 1941, aged 24, in an air crash while flying an Hurricane. He was apparently overcome by fumes.

Son of Eustace Mallabone Eustace (1880-1951) and Cathmar Eustace (nee Airy, b.1888) of Crowthorne, Berkshire. Mrs Eustace’s grandfather W. G. Airy, CB, had been the Astronomer Royal and Mr Eustace taught mathematics at Wellington College.

John had twin brothers, David Airy Eustace (1920-1942) and Kenneth Miller Eustace (1920-1944). David also served in the war, as a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and died aboard HM Submarine P38 on 25th February 1942 that sank off Malta. Kenneth unfortunately drowned in a swimming accident off Cornwall in September 1944.

John was a pupil at St Ronan’s from 1925 to 1930 where he was a keen cricketer, often reported as top scorer, and recognised as a ‘clever winger’ in rugby. He was a double Colour and came second in the Scholarship class. He also gained a Second Star in swimming. He was a Prefect in 1929 and 1930. He was confirmed in the school chapel in March 1930, by Bishop Southwell. He gained 100% in his Geometrical Drawing Examination, with his tutor, Mr Marriot remarking that it was the best paper that he had ever had shown up to him.

John visited the school in December 1930 to participate in the Old Boys’ football match. He returned in 1937 and attended the Old Ronians’ Dinner in 1938.

John entered Dartmouth Royal Naval College in September 1930 and played for both hockey and rugby sides. He was in Anson Term and is pictured with his classmates on their passing out in April 1934.

The Ronian provided updates on John’s progress:

1931: “JP Eustace (RNC Dartmouth) has been promoted to the “A’’ stage in Engineering. He has distinguished himself by running his boat aground the first time he took her out on sailing tests.”

1934: “JP Eustace, RN, is going on the Baltic Cruise in the Frobisher. He has been up to Iceland and writes from Scapa.”

John’s Ronian obituary in 1941 is as follows: Lieutenant J P Eustace, who was in the Fleet Air Arm, was killed in an accident while flying a Hurricane. He was apparently overcome by fumes. He loved flying as anyone who knew John well could imagine he would do. Could he have chosen the manner of his death I am sure it would have been his choice to die in the air.”

RNC Dartmouth, 1934 (back row, fourth from left)

759 Naval Air Squadron was first formed on 1st November 1939 at Eastleigh, as a Fighter School and aircraft pool unit. On 16th September 1940, the Squadron moved to RNAS Yeovilton - also known as HMS Heron. It remains one of the Navy’s two principal air bases, and one of the busiest military airfields in the UK.

Both the deaths of John and David are commemorated on the Finchampstead War Memorial in Finchampstead.

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