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

John Frederick Peter Behn was born in December 1921, the son of John Frederick (1883) and Lillian Behn. John Frederick (1883) in Lancashire where his father, also called John Frederick (1825) was associated with the Wholesale Grocery industry.

Mary Jane Behn who was the mother of John Frederick (1854) died in 1899. When the 1901 census was taken, John Frederick (1883) was recorded as being 18 years old who worked as a salesman selling sugar. He was described as the head of the household and with him were six siblings and his aunt who was probably running the house. His father, John Frederick (1825) was living on the Wirral with Rachel, also recorded as Behn on the census, and described as his wife, although their marriage did not take place until 1909.

John Frederick (1883) married Lilian Parry in 1909 and by 1911 they were living on Montrose Road in Nether Edge, Sheffield. Their daughter Eliza was born soon after although her birth was not registered until 1917. 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 2 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. It is unlikely that he attended King Edward VII as there is no mention of him on this website

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

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 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.

Behn, as the only british member of the crew, was buried in Fulwood Graveyard and 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 also 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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