John Leslie Munro was born on April 5 1919 at Gisborne, New Zealand, where his Scottish father had emigrated in 1903. He worked as a farmer before joining the Royal New Zealand Air Force in July 1941.
He trained initially in New Zealand and then in Canada, where he completed his qualification as a pilot. On arrival in England he trained on bombers before joining No 97 Squadron, which had recently been re-equipped with the Lancaster.
After an operation to drop mines in the sea-lanes to German occupied ports, Munro attacked industrial cities in Germany during the so-called “Battle of the Ruhr” when Essen, Dusseldorf and Cologne were among his targets. He also flew on two raids to Berlin and attacked targets in Italy. He and his crew were approaching the end of their tour of operations (30 sorties) when volunteers were called for to form a new squadron for a “special operation”. Munro discussed it with his crew and they agreed to apply. A few days later, on March 25, they arrived at Scampton to join “X” Squadron on its formation, later to become No 617.