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John Brook Hampshire (1918–1992)

by Mark Lax

This article was published:

John Brook Hampshire (1918–1992), air force officer, was born on 30 May 1918 at Lindfield, New South Wales, only son of New South Wales-born parents, Thomas Edward Hampshire, dentist, and his wife Ellen Charlotte, née Pearce. John was educated at The Armidale School where he completed his Intermediate certificate (1934) and won the Bloomfield memorial prize for history as well as earning colours for rugby and cricket. After leaving school he worked as an assistant sales manager for an electrical firm before joining the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on 19 July 1938 as an aircrew cadet at Point Cook, Victoria. Nicknamed ‘Long John’ because of his lanky appearance, Hampshire was six feet four inches (194 cm) tall with grey eyes and a dark complexion.

Commissioned as a pilot officer on 22 June 1939, Hampshire was posted to No. 12 Squadron, Darwin, where he flew twin-engined Ansons. On 5 September that year he married a trainee nurse, Patricia Phyllis Rimmington, adopted daughter of Lieutenant General Sir William Bridgeford, at St John’s Church of England, Toorak, Victoria. Patricia was given away by (Sir) John Northcott, later the governor of New South Wales. In February 1942 Hampshire was posted to No. 32 Squadron, Port Moresby, where, flying a Hudson bomber, he took part in the defence of Papua and New Guinea. During a reconnaissance of Arawe, New Britain, on 8 March he skilfully outmanoeuvred four attacking Japanese Zero fighters and saved his aircraft and crew. He was promoted to acting squadron leader in July 1942 and temporary wing commander in December 1943.

Early in 1944 Hampshire gained vital four-engine flying experience with the United States Army Air Force’s 380 Bombardment Group based in the Darwin area. From June 1944 to March 1945 he commanded No. 24 Squadron, the RAAF’s first heavy bomber squadron, flying B-24 Liberators from bases in the Northern Territory. He led the unit in raids against the Japanese and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (1945) for ‘energy, keenness and resourcefulness [and] leadership, courage and coolness of the highest order’ (NAA A12372)His time on Liberators was put to good effect when, in August 1946, he was posted to command No. 12 Squadron at Amberley, Queensland, and flew the Lincoln bomber, a derivative of the famous Lancaster. While at No. 12 Squadron, he flew through the radioactive clouds of the British atomic tests at Maralinga, and in 1985 gave evidence at the subsequent royal commission. He commanded No. 10 Squadron, based at Townsville, Queensland, from 1950 to 1953.

Hampshire had gained a permanent commission in 1948. Although he achieved substantive promotion to wing commander on 1 July 1951, he never rose to more senior rank. His remaining time in the RAAF was spent in staff and administrative appointments. He retired on 29 February 1968 at his own request, with the honorary rank of group captain, and was placed on the Retired List. Divorced from his first wife, on 4 December 1959 he had married Joan MacKendrick (née MacConochie), a widow, at Toorak.

Hampshire was to have varied post-RAAF employment. He invested in guesthouses, dabbled in a liquor shop at Pymble, was a security guard for 3M Australia and, as a member and briefly acting secretary of the Avondale Golf Club, enjoyed golf. In later life, he was diagnosed with lymphoma, attributed to radiation exposure from the Maralinga atomic tests that he had witnessed. Survived by the son and daughter of his first marriage, he died on 10 February 1992 in Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards, and was cremated.

Research edited by Brian Wimborne

Select Bibliography

  • Jillett, Leslie, and Harold Freedman. Moresby’s Few: Being an Account of the Activities of No 32 Squadron in New Guinea in 1942. Narrabri: The North Western Courier, 1945
  • National Archives of Australia. A12372, R/380/H
  • National Archives of Australia. R/380/P
  • Stanbury, Meredith. Personal communication.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Mark Lax, 'Hampshire, John Brook (1918–1992)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2016, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 19, (ANU Press), 2021

View the front pages for Volume 19

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