The Last Ride of Jack Frost

Captain John Everitt “Jack” Frost, age 22, climbs into a Hawker Hurricane Mk. II of No. 3 Squadron South African Air Force at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 9 June 1941 after rejoining his unit as “A” Flight commander following an attack of appendicitis. By the time this image was captured, he already had four Fiat CR.42 fighters of the Regia Aeronautica Italiana to his credit, for which he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross. Note the “Semper Pugnans” (Always Fighting) boxing wasp insignia on the cowling of his fighter, and its closely arranged port wing quartet of .303 Brownings.

Photo by Clements (Lt), No 1 Army Film & Photographic Section Army Film & Photographic Unit, via IWM E 3410 https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205211980

Frost was the most successful fighter pilot in the SAAF. Having joined up in 1936, after a stint as an instructor he was posted to No. 1 Squadron SAAF in 1939 before making his way to the newly formed No. 3 Squadron the next year for combat in East Africa.

Soon after this image was snapped, he was given command of No. 5 Squadron SAAF, flying P-40 Kittyhawks. Earning at least 16 confirmed victories in his short career, he was killed 80 years ago today while escorting bombers over the El Adem area on 16 June 1942.

He was one month shy of his 24th birthday. 

As noted by SA Military History

On 16 June, whilst escorting Douglas Bostons, Frost and other P-40 pilots encountered Bf 109s from Jagdgeschwader 27 near Bir Hakeim, Egypt. Rod Hojem, one of the South African pilots involved in this combat commented:

“There was one hell of a dogfight, and after it was over I can clearly remember Jack calling up the squadron on the R/T, he said “Form up chaps I am heading North”, and that was the last we heard of him.”

Frost’s aircraft and remains have never been found, and his fate remains unclear. Some sources suggest that Frost fell victim to one of the most prominent German aces, Hans-Joachim Marseille scored six of his 158 victories that same day.

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