John Deverill was born in 1922 to a British father and an Italian mother. Following the outbreak of war, at the age of 18, he joined the RAF. He was stationed in Iceland, the Middle East, Italy and Greece, flying dozens of bomber missions. After demobilisation Deverill studied Arabic in Lebanon before working for the Red Cross at refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. He went on to become the Commander of the Arab Legion Air Force. Deverill later went to Russia as the Air Attache to the British Embassy in Moscow at the height of the Cold War, and then to Aden as a Senior Intelligence Officer.