Flight Lieutenant John Robert (Jack) ENNIS
454 RAAF Squadron
Service No. 420339
Date of Birth: 22 Aug 1914
Place of Birth: DRUMMOYNE, NSW
Date of Enlistment: 11 Oct 1941
Date of Discharge: 4 Dec 1945
Rank: Flight Lieutenant
WW2 Honours and Gallantry: DFC
Date of Death: 05 Nov 1999
Jack Ennis - Pilot
Peter Lawton - Navigator/Bomb Aimer
Bill Burke - Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
Ted Denton - Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
Flt Jack Ennis, who was awarded an immediate DFC for his brilliant low level "shadowing" sortie on 1st June, 1944 deep in the heavily defended Axis-controlled Aegean Sea, was an outstanding achiever in the four main stages of his life and career.
Pre World War II
His educational record, achieved against the odds of the depression in the 30's, earned him a scholarship to proceed to an Economics Degree at Sydney University. He managed it by a double commitment - full time day employment, together with attendance at a full time Economics four year degree programme, normally available on five evenings a week. A predictable breakdown in health, followed by two years' rest and recuperation whilst working as a jackaroo, permitted his return to SU and graduation just prior to the outbreak of WWII.
World War II RAAF Service
Enlisting in the RAAF he completed pilot training - first ITS in NSW; then EFTS and SFTS as Mallala, South Australia; then a long sea voyage via the Panama Canal to England. (General Reconnaissance at Squares Gate); then another long voyage via the Cape (where he celebrated the birth of his first daughter); and then the 75 RAF Operational Training Unit at Gianaclis Egypt. A new Baltimore crew joined No. 454 RAAF Baltimore Squadron at Berka III aerodrome Banghasi in February 1944.
By November 1944 at Falconara in Italy, having completed a very valuable 1944 operational tour of duty of 80 daylight sorties (15 long range Aegean reconnaissances, 24 convoy escorts Malta bound in support of 8th Army; and 41 medium level formation pattern bombing strikes "laying the Tedder Carpet" on the Gothic Line defences on the Italian Adriatic Coast) the crew returned to 75 OUT in Egypt for a "rest" tour of instructional duty.
The highlight had been their involvement as the third of the 8 x 454 crews in a "cab-rank" shadowing a what turned out to be the last large scale re-supply Axis convoy from Piraeus (Athens, Greece) to Candia (Crete). Ennis had swept in towards the fighter defended convoy for photographs of its composition, and to estimate its location; course and speed - some 3 MV (merchant vessels), tour destroyer-type naval escorts and six smaller type E boats - and then retired away only to dart in and out again whilst fighters attempted to prevent them. Their "Look That destroyed a Convoy" as Stan Summers, "Wings" RAAF correspondent dubbed it in a later PR article, led to an evening strike 30 miles from Crete by 18 Marauder and 18 Baltimore bombers, and 27 Beaufighters (torpedo, rocket and suppressor). Of some 13 Axis ships two MVs and a destroyer limped into Candia Harbour where on 2nd June, 1944 its destruction was completed, though six Beaufighters and one 454 Baltimroe were lost. A notable, indeed, a textbook, action had been won.
Jack modestly did not wear the DFC ribbon on the Squadron believing it was a crew, not his award alone.
Post War Career
Jack Ennis joined Coca Cola Bottlers after discharge rising eventually to become Australasian General Manager and a Vice President of the Company retiring in 1972.
454/459 Combined Squadrons' Association:
In his reluctant but customary acceptance of a work overload Jack during his employment, with the help of George Barnard (454 Adjutant) John Ward (459) and others, became the foundation executive of the 454/459 association, organising Anzac Day and other Reunions which have continued in the new millennium.
His modesty, a leadership style which emphasised a team effort, and sense of responsibility in peace, and his aggressive and courageous approach to war time duty, have been well documented, but his love of family and especially of Dot, his wife of 58 years have been equally important in moulding the man his RAAF colleagues will remember.