No. 266 Squadron / No. 249 Squadron / No. 185 Squadron /
No. 64 Squadron / No. 126 'Eagle' Squadron / RAF Bentwaters
Plagis in front of a Spitfire Mk.IX. The Greek ace was very popular in the newspapers. One of them wrote, when he was awarded the DSO:
NEW DSO HAS 'BAG' OF 16
"With a 'bag' of 16 German planes to his credit, Squadron Leader John A. Plagis, a 25-year-old Southern Rhodesian who was just added the DSO to his DFC and Bar, commands an RAF Spitfire Squadron. Joining the RAF in 1940, he was sent to Malta early in 1942 and flew his Spitfire from the aircraft carrier Eagle. He shot down four enemy aircraft in one afternoon, for which he was awarded the DFC. During his six months in Malta, he destroyed 11 aircraft and gained a Bar to the DFC. Another instance of Squadron Leader Plagis's good shooting was the destruction of three raiders within 24 hours. He led the first Spitfire sweep over Sicily, accounting for an Italian fighter. Since his return to Britain, he has been leading Spitfire formations against a variety of enemy targets and has destroyed three enemy fighters. Assuming command of his former Malta unit, he joined a Spitfire Wing led by the 24-year-old Wing Commander Harold Bird-Wilson, DFC, and Bar, of Farnham, youngest man in the RAF holding such an operational post."
(Greeksinforeigncockpits via Jill Plagis)
John Plagis in the cockpit of SH¥B/BL734, before the end of his service with No. 64 Squadron. 'KAY' carries all the kills achieved by the Greek ace until that time, including the two he claimed with the squadron over France and Holland. The photo was taken around the middle of 1944 at RAF Coltishall with the ASR Walrus as the background (Greeksinforeigncockpits via Jill Plagis)
John Plagis describes an engagement to S/L Michel 'Mike' G. L. Donnet, using his hands in the classic fighter pilot way. Donnet was a Belgian who escaped to England, using a Stampe SV-4B (Tiger Moth), OO-ATD when Belgium was occupied by the Germans. He volunteered for the RAF and managed to become a W.Cdr at RAF Hawkinge. When Plagis was posted to No. 64 Squadron, Donnet was in charge before being posted to take command of No. 350 (Belgian) Squadron. He had three kills to his credit, one probable kill and five damaged. He was honored with many British and Belgian medals. (Greeksinforeigncockpits via Jill Plagis)
John Agorastos Plagis was the highest scoring Greek pilot and ace of the World War 2 credited with 16 kills. He was the son of Agorastos Plagisos (later cut to Plagis for easy pronunciation) and Hellen Roseli, both from the Aegean island of Lemnos who emigrated in Hartley South Rhodesia. The truth is that none could write better about his career other than John Plagis himself. Taken from a letter he wrote:
"I was born off Greek Parents in Hartley on March 10th 1919. On the outbreak of Hostilities between Britain and Germany on September 3, 1939. I immediately volunteered my services to the Rhodesia Air Force, at the time my application was unacceptable, due to the fact that legally I was a Greek Subject owing to the fact that I was born off Greek parents, who were Greek Subjects and was born before the referendum of 1923 when Southern Rhodesia became an Independent Colony in the British Empire. I did not attain my Rhodesian Citizenship until after the War when the Citizenship Bill became amended in Parliament to deal with many Rhodesians who came under the same category as myself. Therefore, throughout the 1939/1945 Second World War l served as a Greek Subject in the Royal Air Force of Britain, Joined the R.A.F. in 1940 and completed training in Southern Rhodesia. Commenced operational flying from England during the tail end of the Battle of Britain and then went on to offensive sweeps over France, Holland, and Belgium etc., Volunteered for Malta in 1942 and was with the very first 16 Spitfires flown off the Aircraft Carrier H.M.S EAGLE from point X North of Algiers on March 6th, 1942 and immediately on arrival in Malta we went into action against the enemy. It was a matter of a few weeks before our 16 Spitfires were non-existent, most of our Pilots had been killed in action and almost all the aircrafts damaged or completely lost. We at all times fought the enemy with great odds against us In fact if four of us were airborne and we encountered twenty enemy fighters and bombers we considered it a reasonable fight. Have the distinction of having shot four enemy aircraft in ONE day on four separate flights on the afternoon of April lst 1942 in Malta, and on the last flight of the day there were four Spitfires and we intercepted and attached 180 Bombers escorted by 80 Fighters, the total against us was over two hundred and fifty Aircraft. Despite the odds, we attached the ensuing battle would take a vol¬ume to describe, I managed to destroy one J.U.88 Bomber and damage One M.E.109 Fighter. Making my score for the day 4 Aircrafts destroyed one damaged and one probably destroyed. On landing, at the base, my aircraft was badly damaged and I received superficial wounds.
His Majesty King George VI awarded me the IMMEDIATE DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS. abb.D.F.C., my Citation for this Decoration states:
" IT IS DIFFICULT TO SINGLE OUT ONE FIGHTER PILOT AND MAKE COMPARISONS BUT BECAUSE PILOT OFFICER PLAGIS SHOT DOWN FOUR ENEMY AIRCRAFT, HE IS WORTHY OF SPECIAL MENTION. HE FLIES A SPITFIRE AND WITH IT HE IS DEVASTATING."
and the message received from His Majesty and herewith is an exact extract from the Malta Times:
HIS MAJESTY THE KING HAS BEEN GRACIOUSLY PLEASED TO AWARD THE FOLLOWING DECORATIONS TO THE MEMBERS OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE.THESE MEN HAVE PERFORMED ACTS OF BRAVERY AND SKILL WHILST BASED AT MALTA. BY THEIR UNFLINCHING DEVOTION TO DUTY THEIR NAMES WILL FOREVER BE INSCRIBED IN THE HISTORY OF THE INDOMITABLE ISLAND FORTRESS.
On June 6th, 1942 on one of the many defensive sorties, I was leading four Spitfires when we encountered about forty enemy aircraft. I lead my section into the attack and in the ensuing battle I destroy¬ed two enemy aircraft and our section joined in the destruction of a Flying Boat. On June 26th 1 was awarded the - IMMEDIATE BAR TO THE DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS. my Citation stated:
"FLIGHT LIEUTENANT PLAGIS HAS DESTROYED TEN AIRCRAFT. PROBABLY DESTROYED TWO AND DAMAGED FOUR SINCE HIS ARRIVAL IN MALTA. ON JUNE THE 6TH IN ONE COMBAT HE DESTROYED TWO ENEMY AIR¬CRAFT 40 MILES EAST OF MALTA. DURING THIS ENGAGEMENT HE LEAD HIS SECTION IN FOUR SPITFIRES INTO SUPERIOR NUMBERS WITHOUT HESITATION. HIS EXAMPLE AND COURAGE HAVE BEEN UNSURPASSED AT ALL TIMES."
Left Malta in August and prior to leaving was presented with an inscribed plaque from the Hellenic Community of Malta in appreciation of my Services. This Plaque was lost in transit on Submarine H.M.S. TORTOISE from Malta to U.K. My score on leaving Malta was:
11 Enemy Aircraft destroyed.
2 Enemy Aircraft probably destroyed.
5 Enemy Aircraft damaged.
Proceeded to England where due to the exceptionally heavy Flack concentrated in this area and the absolute necessity for us to give close escort to heavy Aircraft dropping supplies in the area. I escorted the Stirling Bomber that dropped the Medical Supplies in the last days of Arnhem and whose Pilot received the posthumous award of the highest decoration in the field of Battle THE VICTORIA CROSS. Queen Wilhelmina of Holland awarded me the NEDERLANDS DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS for my services to the Allied Cause. The Mysore Medal was also awarded to me by the Maharaja of Mysore for my Services. I was made a WING COMMANDER in November 1944 and had command of three veteran Squadrons and led them on the Homeland of Germany on practically every escorted daylight Bomber Raid that took place until the end of World War II. Participated in the Destruction of the Gestapo H.Q. at Shellmex House on the outskirts of Copenhagen. Was sent back to Rhodesia in May 1945 where I commanded R.A.F. KUMALO and had under my Command the Hellenic Contingent in Rhodesia. On my return, I was given a Civic reception and also one by the Government. At the personal request of Lord Tedder I went back to England and flew Meteor jet Aircraft for over three years, and during the last year of my service, I was specially selected to give exhibition aerobatics to various foreign delegations in many centers of Europe. I obtained my discharge from the RAF in May 1948 and have since been in business in Salisbury. The City of Salisbury decided to perpetuate my name and named an avenue JOHN PLAGIS AVENUE in the most select residential area of Salisbury. I am in the process of completing my new home there, and with Gods blessing, I hope to create a precedent in being the first person to live in an Avenue that has been named after him. I am humbly and singularly proud of the fact that I am the first Rhodesia born Greek that has had an Avenue named after him in this Country."
Apart from the above medals John Plagis also awarded the DISTINGUISHED SERVICE ORDER - DSO and numerous other awards. He was also credited with 5 more enemy aircraft destroyed and 1 damaged while flying over North West Europe. Sadly, the greatest Greek pilot of them all committed a suicide on August 27, 1975, leaving behind his wife and his four children.
Further details can be found on Volume B' of 'GREEKS IN FOREIGN COCKPITS'