Jim grew up in Chandlers Ford in rural Hampshire, the eldest of 5 children. Jim was well versed in the local countryside flora and fauna and was an avid collector of all kinds of countryside artefacts. This included what would now be frowned upon, an extensive egg collection housed in home built display boxes, as well as a burgeoning stamp collection that he continued through his life.
He came from a working class family and, like many kids in the depressed 1930s did part time jobs to bring money into the home. Then, working as a paperboy involved collecting newspapers direct from the railway station and then a very long round, delivering to the many country houses in the area. He also worked for the local chemist helping to mix up the various medicines. The mixing of medicines really well by violent shaking stayed with him for the rest of his life, much to the dismay of the rest of the family.
As a schoolboy in the 1930's he had other interests popular at the time such as having an autograph book, one of his coveted signings was Donald Campbell the then world speed record holder. Jim also played football and cricket and, growing up in Hampshire he supported Southampton FC and Hampshire Cricket Club all his life. He was bright and gained a scholarship to the local grammar school and went on to pass his school certificate.
Like most of his generation the war changed his life immeasurably and Jim joined the R.A.F. as soon as he could, which was in 1941. It was rather an inglorious start as on joining up he was immediately diagnosed with pneumonia, but as compensation during recuperation was put up in a rather grand house overlooking Regents Park.
Initial training started, and Jim was asked to move from pilot training to the navigator's course as he had both the skill and the aptitude for this work. Like many of the RAF, he trained in Canada, having crossed the Atlantic in a cruise liner, previously unimaginable for a boy of his generation and background.