A DECORATED and much-loved RAF Warrant Officer will be laid to rest in his home town of Scarborough today.
John Christopher Johnson, known as Chris, passed away suddenly at the age of 53, while he was stationed in Ohio, USA.
Chris, who was awarded the MBE in 2007, will be remembered as a “loyal, cheerful, loving and inspiring” man by all who knew him.
Susan Johnson, his wife of 27 years, said: “Chris touched the lives of so many people. Everyone he met would warm to him instantly. We’ve had a very happy life. I just can’t believe he’s gone.”
After leaving Scarborough Boys’ High School, Chris joined the RAF in 1976, days after his 18th birthday, as an aircraft engineer.
He rose through the ranks at an unprecedented speed, becoming a Warrant Officer in his early 40s, and completing tours of duty in locations including the Middle East, Canada, Belize and Germany.
Following Chris’ unexpected death on January 11, a memorial service which was held in America was attended by mourners from all over the world.
A US Air Force colonel, who spoke at the service, described Chris as one of the best ambassadors for Britain he had ever met.
Chris was awarded the MBE at Buckingham Palace following his achievements during the second Gulf War and for his work integrating the Navy and the RAF elements of his beloved Harrier aircraft fleets.
Susan said: “When he found out about the MBE he was the only one who was surprised. He had a great humility.
“He thought he was just doing his job, I think that meant he deserved it more.”
Chris, however, was most proud of his work in leading the 130-strong engineering team of 617 Dambusters Squadron.
His friend and RAF Chief Technician, Dean Maratty, said: “Chris made them such a cohesive team. He was as popular with the aircrew as he was with the men under his command.
“He never went anywhere without his pocket watch. It was known as ‘the watch of intimidation’ because if he glanced at it, people knew it was time to work. He would never ask anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.”
Chris enjoyed skiing, reading, kart and car racing, the outdoors, westerns and spending time with his dog, Bronte.
He recently completed a half-marathon with the United States Air Force at Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio.
A full military funeral will take place at St Mary’s Church followed by internment at Woodlands Cemetery where there will be a fly-past by 617 Squadron in his honour.