Personal life and Retirement
John continued to fly after World War II, but mainly for pleasure. After moving to Coventry to work at Alvis his flying base was Baginton Aerodrome, the home of the Coventry Flying Club. When he retired and moved to Suffolk in 1972 he flew from Martlesham Aerodrome, near Ipswich. In 1957 he bought from De Havilland a renovated 1934 Leopard Moth (G-ACMN) which was his pride and joy; he kept it beautifully maintained and continued to fly it until the early 1980s. The grand total of his flying hours when he was finally obliged to give up due to heart problems was almost 3000 hours. He held a Private Pilot’s Licence for fifty-six years, from 1926 to 1982. Throughout the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies he attended aircraft rallies, flying there himself. For many years he helped to run the Coventry Aeroplane Club, first as Chairman (1951-1965) and then as President (1965-1978).
He had various other hobbies, which included amateur radio transmission, sailing, and game shooting. While living in Kenilworth, to improve his radio reception he built a thirty-foot radio antenna in the garden.
In his later years he dedicated considerable time to serving on voluntary organizations: these included the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, the League of Friends of the Central Hospital and Leigh House, the Board of Governors of the Kingsley School, and the Parish Council of Charsfield, Suffolk, as well as the Coventry Aeroplane Club.
His professional qualifications and decorations included a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) awarded in 1969 for services to export, the Air Efficiency Award (given from 1942 onwards for ten years’ efficient service in the Reserve Air Forces of the United Kingdom), Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, Officer of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (a charitable foundation which runs the St. John Ambulance Service and the St. John Eye Hospitals, as well as other medical activities), and Chartered Engineer.
John married his first wife, Mary Beatrice Johnson in 1930. They had three children, Michael, Annabel and John. Mary died of cancer at the age of fifty in 1956 and in 1958 he married Jeanette Steencamp, a South African. Both his sons learned to fly and Michael also owned an aeroplane, a Beechcraft Baron. John died in 1985 at the age of 82 and is survived by his younger son and daughter. His elder son, Michael, was killed in a car accident in Italy in 1977. John’s grave is in the churchyard of Charsfield, Suffolk.
Conversations with John Parkes, personal papers, flying log books and correspondence.
Tom Moulson, The Flying Sword: the story of 601 Squadron, McDonald & Co. London, 1961.
Martin Sharp, D.H.: an outline of de Havilland history, Faber & Faber, London 1960.
Kenneth Day, Alvis: the story of the Red Triangle, Gentry Books, London, 1981.
John Price Williams: Alvis: the post-war cars, Motor Racing Publications, Croydon, 1993.