Thomas Johnson was the son of Charles William and Catherine Young Johnson; husband of Winifred Pearl Johnson, of Kingsland, Auckland and father of Beverly
Thomas Johnson was born at Gisborne on the 14 November 1914 and was educated at Gisborne High School where he reached matriculation standard. He was a keen sportsman, being a member of the 2nd XV whilst at school, runner up in the school boxing championship and Senior and Junior Sprint Champion. He was a member of the Army Athletic team, played rugby for the Army XV for three seasons and was also a member of the combined Auckland -Wellington Army team.
He entered the Army in May 1934, serving with the Royal N.Z. Artillery Regiment. In March 1937, he applied for a short service commission in the RNZAF. In August 1938 he applied for service in the permanent Air Force as an armourer. He was accepted, but for personal reasons was unable to accept. In October 1939, he applied for aircrew training , having had a considerable amount of flying experience. He had approximately 11 hours dual and 3 hours solo with the Auckland Aero Club and was a member of the Auckland Territorial Squadron as an Air Gunner for approximately six months. In May 1940 he transferred from the Army and reported at the Ground Training School , Levin.
He commenced his flying training at No.2 Elementary Flying Training School New Plymouth in June, passing on to No. 2 Service Flying Training School, Woodbourne in July 1940. He was awarded his Flying Badge in September and commissioned as a Pilot Officer in November. In December he proceeded to Whenuapai for flying duties and he January he was posted to Hobsonville for a Flying Instructors Course. On completion of the course, he was posted to Harewood for duties as a Flying Instructor. He was promoted to Flying Officer in November 1941. In May 1942 he went to Tauranga for a refresher course and returned to Harewood a fortnight later. In July, Flying Officer Johnson was posted to No. 6 Army Cooperation Squadron , Milson and was engaged on Army Cooperation work. On August 12 , he was slightly injured when his aircraft struck a soft patch of ground while landing at Milson and turned on its nose. In September he went with a detached flight to Ohakea and in November was posted to No. 21 (Army Cooperation) Squadron, Milson. In December 1942, he went to the School of Army Cooperation, Canberra, Australia. On completion of the course he returned No. 21 (Army Cooperation) Squadron. On July 1, 1943 he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant and the following month he proceeded to N0. 25 (Dive Bomber) Squadron, Seagrove.
He was engaged on operational training until 30 January 1944, when he proceeded overseas with the Squadron to Espiritu Santo. He was engaged on further operational training until March, when he proceeded with the Squadron to Bougainville. From Bougainville he took part in bombing raids against Japanese positions on New Britain bombing and strafing Ack Ack positions on Rabaul. He also took part in raids on Buka and Kavieng on New Ireland. In May 1944, he returned to New Zealand and after a period of leave was posted to the Communication Flight , Mangere. In September he proceeded to No. 4 (Fighter) Operational Training Unit, Ohakea and was engaged on combat training. In October he went to Ardmore for a conversion course to Corsair fighters. On completion of the course, he was posted to No. 16 (Fighter) Squadron in November and proceeded overseas with the squadron to Guadalcanal on 20 November 1944. He was engaged on combat training until December 21, when he proceeded with the Squadron to Green Island. He was engaged on patrols over Rabaul for the next month and also took part in bombing raids against Japanese positions on New Ireland.
On 15 January 1945, F/L Johnson was one of the pilots carrying out fighter protection of a gallant but unsuccessful attempted Dumbo rescue of F/L Keefe who had baled out and landed in the sea near Simpson Harbour, Rabaul. While returning to base the planes ran into a storm. F/L Johnson's plane was seen to crash into the sea. No trace of him could be found.
On 17 April 1945 , F/L Johnson was posthumously mentioned in despatches for meritorious service in the Pacific.
Known as Randall by the family
Attended Gisborne High School (Source: RNZAF Biographies (R17845612)) AWMM