Alain John (1920 – 23 December 1943) was an aspiring sculptor who joined the RAF as a navigator, and was killed during the Second World War.
John was educated at Blundell's School in Tiverton and had passed the entrance to Kings College in 1938 and was told he could travel abroad until term started. John instead chose to return to the School for a term to model a statue for an empty niche in the School tower. He finally chose the Christ in Blessing and Eric Gill, then a master at the School, said of the clay model that “No finer piece of work has been done by anyone in this country this year”. The original statue remains in place.
John enlisted in the RAF, preferring to fly with friends as a Navigator Sergeant rather than seeking a commission. He undertook a long series of night flights over Germany and died from injuries sustained on a mission.
Neville Gorton, then Bishop of Coventry, wrote to the Times on 29 December 1943 to propose that John’s statue be recast as an Air Force Memorial, commenting on the statue that “It is a moving work of faith and tenderness, and of the quality in its faith and its art Eric Gill’s judgement stands”.
The statue was subsequently re-cast at the commission of Neville Gorton and stands in the ruins of the old Coventry Cathedral as a memorial to those who lost their lives in the war.