Liverpool-born John Stevenson Stubbs was an outstanding pilot during the First World War. He was the highest-scoring ace to fly the under-powered, unreliable and unlamented DH.9. By the end of August 1918, Major-General Trenchard had declared that the aeroplanes “could no longer be considered service type bombers and that the losses which must be expected they would suffer did not justify again sending them over the line… “, making Stubbs’s success with the DH.9 all the more remarkable.
He was born on 24th September 1894, the son of John Stevenson Stubbs Snr. and his wife Jessie. Wikipedia states that at the time of his birth the family were living at 225 or 235 County Road L4 but I have not found evidence to confirm this. Liverpool electoral records for 1896 place the family at 41 Mandeville Street L4, moving to 23 Bishop Road L6 by the time of the 1901 census, and thence to 21 Albert Drive L9 where Stubbs Snr. remained until his death in 1923. John Stevenson Stubbs attended Longmoor Lane School.
Known as Jack (or, later, “Stubby”) he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve but early in 1915 he transferred to the 3rd Battalion of the Prince of Wales’s Volunteers (South Lancashire Regiment) and was promoted 2nd Lieutenant in January 1916; shortly after he was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant. Early in 1917 Stubbs became a Flying Officer seconded from the Garrison Battalion, Liverpool Regiment and served in France with No. 27 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. On 9 May 1917 he was wounded, requiring repatriation; upon recovery he was posted to No. 2 Training Depot at Lake Down (near Salisbury), where he was a Flying Instructor from 19 September 1917 to 24 March 1918. In December 1917, by which time Stubbs was Acting Flight Commander, he was posted initially to No. 107 Squadron and, following the official formation of the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918, was appointed a Captain in No. 103 Squadron (on 21 April), and ordered to France.
Within a month of his return to the Western Front, piloting the two-man Airco DH.9 bomber, Stubbs and his Observer, 2nd Lt. C.C. Dance, scored their first victory. Improbably enough for a bomber such as the D.H.9 they succeeded in destroying an enemy observation balloon at Seclin, Pas-de-Calais. On 6 June, together with two other crews, they shared one Fokker D.VII destroyed by fire and another sent down out of control. The pairing of Stubbs and Dance also scored a Pfalz D.III out of control at La Bassée on 4 July. With 2nd Lt. J.B. Russell in the Observer’s seat there were four further victories in July and August (and their joint recognition in the D.F.C. citation). With Dance as Observer once more, another Fokker D.VII was sent down out of control on 30 August while Stubbs was to destroy two further D.VIIs with 2nd Lt. C.G. Bannerman as his Observer. In November 1918 he was awarded the Air Force Cross.
He remained in the RAF for a short while after the war and then in July 1924 he moved to Rawalpindi where he worked for the Attock Oil Company before joining the Indo-Burma Petroleum Co. Ltd., where he remained until retirement in 1954. He died on 17th October 1963 at Wrexham. When his medals went for auction (exact date unknown) they were expected to fetch upwards of £15,000.
The Stubbs family home c.1896
The Stubbs' home at the time of the 1901 census
Stubbs' home from c.1905 onwards.
Stubbs photographed with his gunner/oberver
Stubbs is pictured here (at centre) with his command in 1919.
© Liverpool Footprints