Jack Orpen

 Tribute site: WW2 Reconnaissance Pilot Jack Orpen

Hi and welcome to this site;

I received an e-mail from Jack Orpen's granddaughter, Sue McConnell, who sent me a most fascinating and detailed personal war diary of Jack. 

Jack's diary is an amazing account of the experience and emotions of a young pilot during war. 

I was introduced to Jack's daughter in law, Jane Orpen,  who kindly allowed me to copy Jack's flying log book and some art work. 

Thanks to Sue, Jane and also to Jack's daughter Sally for help and contribution to set up this tribute page.

John Joseph Overton Orpen joined the South African Air Force in late 1941 and qualified as a fighter pilot. 

Jack was sent to the Middle East and joined SAAF No. 40 Reconnaissance Squadron in mid 1942, flying Hurricane aircraft. 

Pilots of 40 squadron flew extremely dangerous sorties over enemy concentrations to gather tactical information for the army. Sorties were flown in pairs and mostly unescorted.

During Jack's combat tour he took part in the Alamein battles of 1942 and the subsequent push to Tunisia of 1942/43.  

Jack became famous in the squadron for his distinctive painted aircraft nose art work. His little gremlin men were very popular and every pilot wanted one to be painted on their aircraft.

After Jack's tour expired he returned to South Africa and was involved with air crew training until the end of the war, flying twin-engined aircraft.

After the war Jack had a successful career as an architect.


This is a living web site. Any input and/or participation will be much appreciated regarding additional information, correctness, information from relatives of members who served with Jack, photographs, stories etc. Please e-mail me. 

If you perhaps have a family member who served as a SAAF fighter pilot during WW2 and you would want to find out more about his war service please contact me, hopefully I can be of some help.

Tinus le Roux

February 2015


 Thanks to Brent Best for profile art work.

Military career

Sept 1939      Infantry Transvaal Scottish 2nd Bn.

April 1941      75 Air School Lyttleton, ground training

02/09/1941    No.4 Air School Benoni, elementary flying training, Tiger Moths, 42 hours

05/09/1941    First solo

28/10/1941   25 Air School Standerton, service flying training, Miles Masters , 102 hours, above average assessment

13/02/1942    Qualified for SAAF flying badge

04/04/1942    SAAF base camp, Amirea

23/04/1942    74 O.T.U. Palestine, Hurricanes, Harvards, 54 hours, above average assessment

08/06/1942    SAAF No. 40 Squadron, flying Hurricanes and a couple of hours on Spitfires.

27/06/1942    First operational sortie, TAC/R

21/03/1943    End of Operational tour, 30 sorties, 61 ops hours

23/03/1943   1 M.E.T.S. ? Spitfire conversion

08/04/1943    75 O.TU. M.E., flying Blenheim IV

04/05/1943    1 Air Delivery Unit, Ferry Spitfires from Takoradi to M.E.

22/05/1943    Crash landed a Spitfire in Sudan, picked up by motor vehicle.

05/06/1943    Return to South Africa

12/11/1943    62 AS Bloemfontein, Oxford course

17/05/1944   SAAF HQ

01/06/1944    62 AS Bloemfontein, flying Ansons and Dominie

Jan 1945        64 AS Bloemfontein, Ansons

12/08/1945    Last flight, Anson


 Jack's wedding with      in  19...





 A crashed 40 squadron Hurricane displaying Jack's nose artwork.


 Published in the Air Force magazine "Wings" in Feb 1942


 40 Squadron Hurricanes

Jack posing in a German flare parachute. (Flares used by the Germans for night bombing.)














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