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John A. Levitt

Servicenumber : FX 90151
Rank : Air Mechanic Ordnance
Regiment : British Royal Navy
Unit : HMS Indefatigable
Date of Death : August 1992
Age : 69
John A. Levitt was born in january 1923 in Custom House, Essex (now part of the London Borough of Newham). He was the youngest child of 8 children born to George and Hanna Levitt.
John had a normal upbringing but the family suffered just like any other family in the area. Housing was poor, the area was very much working class and the main industry were the Royal Docks where his father worked as a labourer and then a stevedore.
By the age of seven the family had to leave their Custom House home because of the 1930's slum clearance act, but with his dad stable occupation the family were able to purchase a property in a nearby area called East Ham.
Levitt attended the local school and his school reports state that he didn't have any days off, and he was the captain of the school's football team. On leaving school he then started working for the local authority.
The Second World War broke out in 1939 but John was too young to sign up, this must have been very frustrating for him because 3 of his brothers were already doing their bit. But things changed and in July 1942, age 19, he signed up with the British Royal Navy.
He started his training at HMS Arthur (a land base camp). By September 1943 he was sent to Yeovilton in Somerset to join the 1770 Naval Air squadron. This squadron is famous for being the first to have the flown the Fairey Firefly planes. John was sent to Grimsetter in the Orkney Islands with the squadron for more training.
John was a Air Mechanic (Ordnance). His job was to put the ammunition in the planes. By May 1944 the newly built HMS Indefatigable which was an aircraft carrier was ready for the squadron. By July 1944 the carrier and the crew were sent to the area of Kaa Fjord in northern Norway to carry out a series of air attacks on the German battleship Tirpitz.
By October 1944 the carriers made its way to the far east, travelling through the Bay of Biscay, then through the straits of Gibraltar. The carrier stopped at Egypt, so the crew could take on provisions and this gave the crew time to write letters home and adopt their summer attire. By Dec 1944 the ship had arrived in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). By January 1945 the carrier sailed to Fremantle in Australia. It was on this journey that the carrier crossed the Equator and in the Royal Navy this is known as " Line Crossing Ceremony". It is where the sailors that have never crossed the line before are summoned before the court of 'Neptune and his 'Queen Amphitrite'. Members of the ships company are in fancy dress - and are 'charged' with various wrongdoings and then punished, which usually involves getting soaked with water and other such pranks. For some reason HMS Indefatigable and 1770 squadron Line Crossing Ceremony was called King Repliance.
The carrier took part in the air strikes on Sakashima. The carrier then travelled to Sydney.
The carrier then travelled to Manus in the Admiralty Isles, and the crew were able to sample the delights of the American base in Ulithi. By March the carrier left to join 57 other ships to do Operation Iceberg, this was a daily air strike over mainland Japan and the Sakashima Islands.
On the 1st April 1945 at 0728 hours the carrier was hit by a Kamikaze which was carrying a 550lb bomb.
The kamikaze hit the area of the carrier known as the island. 14 Men were killed and 30 men suffered injuries and John was probably one of these who was injured. The carrier was back in action within 5 hours after the attack. The carrier then was involved with Operation Iceberg Oolong, the attack on the airfields at Hisaruki and Nobara.
The carrier then travelled to Queensland, Australia where the crew was able to participate in the Victory march on the 15th August 1945 held at Marlborough. When the Japanese surrendered the carrier was deployed for trooping duties and carrying of British POW and serviceman from the Far East to Sydney.
The carrier had to go into dry dock to have its hull repaired so the crew was able to have lots of down time and John was able to visit Sydney Zoo, and many other delights that Sydney offered. The carrier then was sent to New Zealand and was anchored in the Bay of Many Coves where the crew had to carry out exercises. The Carrier was back in Sydney in time for Christmas and the Carrier held a ' Ship's Ball in the upper hanger deck'.
HMS Indefatigable left Sydney on Sunday the 20th January 1946 and on route ditched some 20 or so US Avengers Planes over the bow, if they hadn't the British Government would have had to pay for them. The carrier arrived in Portsmouth on the 16th March 1946 to a huge crowd at the dockside.
John Levitt was released from service on the 17th March 1946. He went back to his normal life. Unfortunately HMS Indefatigable only survived another 9 years before being broken up and scrapped.
John married and had 7 children and passed away in 1992, his navy photo's and his navy memories will be forever kept within his remaining family.
John A. Levitt at HMS Arthur (3rd from left, back row)
The Line Crossing Ceremony on HMS Indefatigable
Sources: Thank you very much Melissa Ford for all the information and photos of your father.