JOHNNIE Johnson had just the right name for a Spitfire pilot. It simply oozed Old School derring-do. But that was just the start of it, because Johnson, son of a Leicestershire policeman, also possessed enormous courage, tactical nous and an invincibility that combined to make him the top scoring RAF fighter ace of the Second World War.

Now two new books by acclaimed Worcester war historian Dilip Sarkar explore the man behind the legend and flesh out his amazing  aerial exploits. Johnnie Johnson’s Great Adventure (£19.95) and Johnnie Johnson 1942 War Diary: The War Diary of the Spitfire Ace of  Aces (£25) are both published by Pen and Sword. 

“As a schoolboy I made innumerable models of Johnnie Johnson’s Spitfire,” said Dilip, “never then imagining the great man and I would one day become close friends, despite our great difference in age and status.

“Johnnie himself was not from a privileged background but was the son of a Leicestershire policeman, and believed, not in the old school tie but in a meritocracy.

"He achieved what he did because of ability, not family connections, and was never interested in what someone had, or where they were from, only whether or not he was ‘reliable’ and could do his (or her) job.

“He was also fascinated by leadership, and had the gift in spades, and taught me so much. “The AVM’ (Johnson went on to become an Air Vice-Marshall) was always an honoured guest at our many book launches at Worcester Guildhall back in the 1990s, and the Huntingdon Hall air war symposiums. He died in 2001, the same year as my Dad, leaving a gaping hole in my life.”

After leaving Loughborough Grammar School, Johnnie Johnson qualified as an engineer.

However he was also a sportsman and broke his collarbone while playing rugby, an injury that later complicated his ambitions to become a fighter pilot.

Johnnie had been interested in aviation since his youth and with war looming applied to join the RAF, but was initially rejected, first on social, and then on medical grounds.

Eventually he was accepted in August 1939, but his injury problems returned during his early training and flying career, resulting in him missing the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain between May and October 1940.

After an operation to reset his collar bone in 1940, he began flying regularly and then took part in the offensive sweeps over German-occupied Europe from 1941 to 1945, almost without rest.

As a pilot officer, he learned his fighter pilot’s craft as a protégé of the legless Tangmere Wing Leader, Douglas Bader. After Bader was brought down over France and captured in August 1941, Johnnie remained a member of 616 (South Yorkshire) Squadron.

By the beginning of 1942, when his diary begins, Fighter Command was pursuing an offensive policy during daylight hours, reaching out and taking the war to the Germans in France. The diary entries give a glimpse of the real Johnnie, and what it was really like to live and breathe air-fighting during one of the European air war’s most interesting years.

By the war’s end, Johnnie Johnson’s tally was 38.5 enemy aircraft destroyed. The 0.5 was a hit shared and something he was very particular about!

Dilip added: “ Johnnie’s youngest son, Chris, feels as I do, that Johnnie’s story is so inspirational and important that we must try to maintain its currency. Hence these new books, which follow his biography, which I wrote for Amberley Publishing in 2010 (Spitfire Ace of Aces).

“Chris gave me the copyright to Johnnie’s final, unpublished manuscript, The Great Adventure, being his last look back, and his 1942 diary, which I had never seen.

"Both are incredibly important historical sources, especially the diary, now in the public domain complete with historical commentary from me, ensuring an informed reading of this unique material.

"With numerous personal references, the diary is a unique insight into how fighter pilots lived, loved – and died.”