Not a great deal is known about John Gorton's childhood. It is believed he
was most probably born in the Melbourne suburb of Prahran on September 9, 1911. He was raised
in Port Melbourne before moving to Sydney with his parents in 1916. Gorton attended numerous
schools before travelling to Spain in 1934 where he met his wife, American Bettina Brown.
After the outbreak of war with Germany, Gorton enlisted with the RAAF on November
8, 1940. He trained at Essendon and Wagga Wagga before sailing for England where he completed
his training at Hendon. Initially bound for the Middle East, Gorton's unit (232 Squadron) was diverted to aid
in the defence of Singapore - arriving there on January 13, 1942.
On the morning of January 21, Gorton's Hurricane was shot down and forced to land
on Bintarn Island near Palemberg, Sumatra. Gorton, who hadn't tightened his harness correctly
was slammed into the instrument panel, breaking his nose and causing facial injuries. He was
initially posted "Missing, Believed Dead" before being rescued at a later date.
Gorton was evacuated from Singapore aboard the ammunition ship Derrymore which
was torpedoed on February 13, 1942. He spent 24-hours aboard a crowded life raft before being
picked up the Australian corvette, HMAS Ballarat.
After being posted to Darwin with No. 77 Squadron (Kittyhawks), Gorton was involved
in his second air accident. Whilst flying P-40E A29-60 on September 7, 1942, he was forced to
land due to an incorrectly set fuel cock. Both Gorton and his aircraft were recovered several
John Gorton's final air incident came on March 18, 1943 after being posted to Milne
Bay with 77 Squadron. His Kittyhawk's (A29-192) engine failed on take off, causing the aircraft
to flip at the end of the strip. This left Gorton shaken, but unhurt.
In March 1944, Gorton was sent back to Australia with the Flight Lieutenant.
His final posting was as a Flying Instructor with No. 2 Operational Training Unit at Mildura,
Victoria. He was then discharged from the RAAF on December 5, 1944.
After the war, Gorton became involved in politics where he served as a Senator for
the state of Victoria between 1950 and 1968; the Minister for the Navy; as well as Minister for Works
John Gorton became Australian Prime Minister after the mysterious disappearance of the
then Prime Minister, Howard Holt. Gorton was elected Liberal Party leader on January 10, 1968 and officially
sworn in as Prime Minister on March 1. He then declared himself out of office after a tied vote
of confidence in his leadership on March 10, 1971.
Gorton remained in politics, including time as Minister of Defence, until 1975.
He passed away in St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney on May 19, 2002.
Australian WW2 Nominal Roll Profile
National Archives of Australia Biography