No 74 Squadron lived up to their name of the 'Flying Tigers' and during the Battle of Britain were tasked with the Defence of London firstly based at RAF Hornchurch and then, the famous RAF Station - Biggin Hill. During this time the Squadron was led by the legendary South African ace 'Sailor' Malan.
We have selected to show a Spitfire Mk I 'ZP-C' to appear on the artwork flying over the Kent Countryside in 1940. The cover bears Golden Jubilee definitive stamp cancelled with Biggin Hill Air Fair 2 June 2002 BFPS 1680 postmark. At the Biggin Hill Air Show John launched his book A Tigers Tale.
Hand signed by Wing Commander John Connell Freeborn DFC*
150 Signed, Numbered and Certified
John Freeborn was born in Middleton, Yorkshire on 1 December 1919. He was commissioned in the RAFO in March 1938, went to 8 FTS, Montose on 9 April and with his training completed, he joined 74 Squadron at Hornchurch on 29 October. He relinquished his RAFO commission on being granted a short service one in the RAF in January 1939.
Three days after the outbreak of war, the squadron was scrambled. Freeborn and Flying Officer V.G. Byrne dived to attack what they thought were Bf 109s but were in fact Hurricanes of 56 Squadron. They shot down two, killing one of the pilots. This incident became known as 'The Battle of Barking Creek'. Freeborn and Byrne came up before a General Court Martial on 7 October 1939 and were acquitted.
On May 21 1940 Freeborn claimed a probable Ju 88, on the 22nd he destroyed a Ju 88, on the 24th a probable Bf 109 and on the 27th a Bf 109 destroyed and another probably destroyed.
During the Battle of Britain, Freeborn claimed a Bf 109 destroyed on 10 July, shared a probable Do 17 on the 24th, shot down a Bf 109 on the 28th, destroyed two Bf 110s, a Bf 109 and probably another on 11 August, destroyed a Do 17 on the 13th, destroyed another on 11 September and damaged a He 111 on the 14th. Freeborn was awarded the DFC (13.8.40) and made a Flight Commander on 28 August.
He shared a Bf 109 on 17 November, shot down two Bf 109s, shared another and damaged a fourth on 5 December and damaged Do 17s on 5 February and 4 March 1941. Freeborn was awarded a Bar to the DFC (25.2.41) and posted away to 57 OTU on 6 June 1941, as an instructor. While at the OTU Freeborn attended RAF Upavon and completed an instructors course. He left 57 OTU to joined a squadron at Catterick.
In January Freeborn was posted to the South East Training Command in America at the Army Air Force Base in Selma, Alababma. After two months as RAF liaison officer he went to Eglin Field, Florida where he helped in testing various aircraft, including the Thunderbolt and Mustang.
He returned to the UK in December 1942 and went to Harrowbear, Exeter, and then to Bolt Head as Station Commander. In early 1943 he was posed as a Flight Commander to 602 Squadron providing fighter escort to Halifax and Lancaster bombers. On 1 June 1943 Freeborn was given command of 118 Squadron at Coltishall, leading it until January 1944, when he was posted to Italy to be Wing Commander Flying of 286 Wing.
Freeborn was released from the RAF in 1946, and returned to the RAFO undertaking Flying Training at Doncaster. He left the RAFO in 1954 as a Wing Commander. His portrait was done by Cuthbert Orde.