John Frederick Peter Behn

This is a family that used the same names for the men through many generations. To avoid, or at least reduce confusion, each one will have his year of birth immediately after the reference.

The family of John Frederick Peter Behn

John Frederick Peter Behn was born in October 1921, the son of John Frederick (1883) and Lillian Behn. John Frederick (1883) was born in Lancashire where his father, also called John Frederick (1853) was associated with the Wholesale Grocery industry.

When the 1901 census was taken, John Frederick (1883) was recorded as being 18 years old and working as a salesman selling sugar. He was described as the head of the household and with him were six siblings and his aunt Ada who was probably running the house. His father, John Frederick (1853) was living on the Wirral with Rachel whom he had married in 1900.

John Frederick (1883) married Lilian Parry in 1909 and by 1911 they were living on Montrose Road in Nether Edge, Sheffield. Their daughter Eliza Mary was born soon after in April. Eliza married in 1930.

John Frederick (1883) had come to Sheffield as a commercial traveller for the sugar trade. 10 years later he was still a traveller but now selling refind lard on behalf of N Kilvert and Sons of Trafford in Manchester. His experience of the wholesale food industry meant that when World War II began, he was appointed an ‘Area Food Distribution Officer’ charged with implementing the rationioning of food.

John Frederick (1883) was a member of the Six Foot Club in Sheffield which was home to the club’s only branch. The club must have been an informal association although it did manage to get mentions in the Sheffield Telegraph. One such mention reported on the club’s Chrismas Dinner in 1932.

In 1933, the family moved into 16 Canterbury Drive.

As with most young men who were killed on active service during the war, John Frederick Peter (1921) had not had time to establish a biography. In this case we do not know where was educated but we do know that he by the summer of 1939, he had left school was employed as a commercial traveller.

War Service

Soon after he turned 18, Behn joined the RAF and by 1942 was serving with 405 Squadron of the RCAF as an Air Gunner. Throughout the war, british and commwealth service men were allocated to squadrons from all countries. On 6th October which was his twentieth birthday Behn, now holding the rank of sergeant, was in the crew of a Halifax bomber which took off from RAF Topcliffe in North Yorkshire on a sortie to bomb Aachen. What happened on the return has been interpreted differently. The Squadron’s summary of events, a record written up day by day says that the aircraft crashed near West Malling on its way back. The aircraft was burnt out and the cause was unknown but ‘probably due to a mistake in fuel tank selection. The International Bomber Command Centre database of losses is more detailed and suggests that the aircraft was running low on fuel so the pilot decided to land at West Malling in Kent. The first approach was aborted and the the air craft stalled and crashed while going around for a second approach.

As the only British member of the crew, Behn’s body was returned to Sheffield and was buried in Fulwood Graveyard. A CWGC headstone marks the grave which is near the north wall of the church. The headstone carries the dedication:

His Memory Is Our Greatest Treasure in Our Hearts He Will Live For Ever

His parents were buried in the same grave: John Frederick (1883) in 1956 and Lilian in 1965.

The other members of the crew are buried at Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey

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