|Spitfire of No. 317 Polish Squadron|
City of Wilno
Then of course, there were the Commonwealth nations who fought side by side with their British cousins. New Zealand, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Ceylon, Jamaica and Southern Rhodesia all contributed to the war effort. There were even those men who came across the Irish Sea to assist Britain in her hour of need. (One of those men we'll meet today.)
(Before Buck asks about the Eagle Squadrons, Americans serving in the RAF, I'll tell you that I'm saving them for a future Flyby.)
So let me introduce to you the fighter aces who flew for the Allies. Some of them after their own countries had been overrun.
|Colonel Remy Van Lierde|
50 Aerial Victories
1915 - 1990
With the rank of Sergeant, Van Lierde made several reconnaissance flights during the German invasion in an antiquated Fairey Fox III biplane. He was shot down by flak on 16 May 1940, was wounded and captured. In September 1940, after recovering from his injuries, he left Belgium, crossed occupied France, and entered neutral Spain. He was arrested for illegally crossing the border, and was confined in various Spanish prisons, including the notorious concentration camp at Miranda de Ebro. Nevertheless, he eventually escaped, and reached England on 22 July 1941. After the standard interrogation by MI5 at the London Reception Centre, he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve on 5 September.
Van Lierde spent three months at No.57 Operational Training Unit at RAF Hawarden, before being assigned to 609 Squadron on 6 January 1942 with the rank of Pilot Officer.
On 2 June 1942 he damaged a Do 217 bomber over Skegness while flying a Spitfire Mk.Vb. He was promoted to Flying Officer in 1942.
Van Lierde claimed his first victory while flying a Typhoon Ib on 20 January 1943 when he shot down a Bf 109-G fighter during a raid on the south coast. On 26 March he shot down a Ju 52 transport aircraft while en route to an attack on the German air base at Chièvres. This was witnessed by local inhabitants, including Van Lierde's wife, who surprised her husband after the war by showing him pieces of wreckage from the aircraft at the bottom of his garden. On 14 May 1943 he was the first person to drop bombs from a Typhoon, and shot down a He 111 bomber on his return journey. He downed another Bf 109 on 30 July, and on 5 October he shot down a Ju 88 heavy fighter and destroyed another aircraft on the ground. His last victory, a Bf 110 bomber was claimed on 30 November, bringing his score to 6 kills and 1 destroyed on the ground.
Van Lierde was promoted to Flight Lieutenant in September 1943 and on 22 December 1943 was posted to the Central Gunnery School at RAF Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire, returning to RAF Manston on 7 February 1944.
On 27 April, he was posted to 3 Squadron, flying the Tempest Mk.V, before taking command of No. 164 Squadron on 20 August 1944 with the rank of Squadron Leader, tasked with combating the V-1 offensive. He was credited with shooting down or destroying 44 flying bombs solo, with another 9 shared, making him the second highest-scoring "doodlebug" killer.
Van Lierde then led his squadron into Europe during the western campaign. From May 1945 Van Lierde served in 84 Group Support Unit, and as a Belgian Liaison Officer at 2nd Tactical Air Force Headquarters.
|Squadron Leader Marmaduke Thomas St. John "Pat" Pattle|
40 Aerial Victories
1914 - 1941
Pattle did all his scoring in a period of nine months, against Axis opponents who outnumbered the RAF fighter contingent at all times. Pattle was reputed to be a crack shot, a better-than-average pilot and a highly capable formation leader in the air. As a squadron commander, he demanded more from himself than anyone else, and it is said he died because he insisted on leading his squadron, yet should have been grounded because of illness.
Pattle's final "score" will probably never be known, as official squadron combat reports and RAF documents for the time were lost in the retreat from Greece and Crete. Existing records up to early April 1941 list Pattle as claiming at least 34 confirmed kills, and many more probables. Aviation historian Christopher Shores, in his book of Commonwealth fighter pilots, Aces High, by cross-checking squadron diaries, reviewing Pattle's aircraft rigger's (W.J. Ringrose) personal journal and the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica loss records, claims Pattle's final score as 50 individual and two shared victories. Andrew Thomas reports the same score in Osprey Aircraft of Aces 57: Hurricane Aces 1941–1945.
Recent research of his 50 claims has shown that at least 27 can be directly linked to specific Italian and German losses, while only six claims discounted as no Axis losses are recorded. This suggests Pattle's true total could be at least 27–44 kills, making him the highest scoring RAF biplane ace, one of the top Hurricane pilots of the conflict, and possibly the top RAF ace of the war. Even while suffering from high fever, he scored nine air kills in his last four days.
On his last combat operation, a formation of 12 Hawker Hurricanes, the entire Allied air presence in Greece at the time, participated in a prestige mission over Athens to bolster morale for the Greeks. The formation was attacked by Axis fighters in what became known as the Battle of Athens. F/L Roald Dahl records five Hurricanes were downed, with four pilots dying; one of those was Pattle.
|Group Captain Adolph 'Sailor' Malan|
32 Aerial Victories
1910 - 1963
Adolph Gysbert Malan, better known as Sailor Malan, was a famed South African World War II RAF fighter pilot who led No. 74 Squadron RAF during the height of the Battle of Britain. Malan was known for sending German bomber pilots home with dead crews as a warning to other Luftwaffe crews. Under his leadership No. 74 became one of the RAF's best units.
Malan survived the war to become involved in the anti-apartheid movement in his country.
On 8 August, Malan was given command of 74 Squadron and promoted to Acting Squadron Leader. This was at the height of the Battle of Britain. Three days later, on 11 August, action started at 7 am when 74 was sent to intercept a raid near Dover, but this was followed by another three raids, lasting all day. At the end of the day, 74 had claimed to have shot down 38 aircraft, and was known from then on as "Sailor's August the Eleventh". Malan himself simply commented, "thus ended a very successful morning of combat." He received a bar to his DFC on 13 August.
On the ground, Malan was remembered as an inveterate gambler and often owed his subordinates money. Malan was older than most of his charges and although sociable and relaxed off-duty, he spent most of his time with his wife and family living near Biggin Hill. He would soon develop a routine of flying the first sortie of the day and then handing the squadron to a subordinate while he stayed on the ground to do paperwork. Despite frosty relations after the Battle of Barking Creek he would often give command of the squadron to John Freeborn (himself an ace of note), showing Malan's ability to keep the personal and professional separate.
Malan commanded 74 Squadron with strict discipline and did not suffer fools gladly, and could be high-handed with sergeant pilots (many non-commissioned pilots were joining the RAF at this time). He could also be reluctant to hand out decorations, and he had a strict yardstick by which he would make recommendations for medals: six kills confirmed for a DFC, twelve for a bar to the DFC; eighteen for a DSO.
|The Biggin Hill Wing|
|Flight Lieutenant Pierre Closterman|
33 Aerial Victories
1921 - 2006
Clostermann was born in Curitiba, Brazil, into a French diplomatic family. He completed his secondary education in France and gained his private pilot's licence in 1937.
On the outbreak of war the French authorities refused his application for service, so he travelled to Los Angeles to become a commercial pilot, studying at the California Institute of Technology . Clostermann joined the Free French Air Force in Britain in March 1942.
After training at RAF Cranwell and 61 OTU, Clostermann, a sergeant pilot, was posted in January 1943 to No. 341 Squadron RAF (known to the Free French as Groupe de Chasse n° 3/2 "Alsace"), flying the Supermarine Spitfire.
He scored his first two victories on 27 July 1943, destroying two Focke-Wulf Fw 190s over France. With 33 recorded victories to his name, he received at only 24 years of age a Commendation by General Charles de Gaulle, who called him "France's First Fighter".While serving in Lincolnshire Pierre met and married Lydia Jeanne Starbuck at St Denys Church in Sleaford.
In October 1943, Clostermann was commissioned and assigned to No. 602 Squadron RAF, remaining with the unit for the next ten months. He flew a variety of missions including fighter sweeps, bomber escorts, high-altitude interdiction over the Royal Navy's Scapa Flow base, and strafing or dive-bombing attacks on V-1 launch sites on the French coast. Clostermann served through D-Day and was one of the first Free French pilots to land on French soil, at temporary airstrip B-11, near Longues-sur-Mer, Normandy on 18 June 1944, touching French soil for the first time in more than four years. Clostermann was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross shortly afterwards, after which he was reassigned to French Air Force Headquarters.
|Flight Lieutenant Clostermann's Spitfire|
|Flight Lieutenant Jean-Francois 'Morlaix' Demozay|
21 Aerial Victories
1915 - 1945
Jean-Francois Demozay was a commercial pilot before the war. In 1938 he was called up for military service but after a month he became unfit due to an accident. At the outbreak of war, he voluntarily offered his services and became an interpreter with No. 1 Squadron RAF at Reims in France.
As the Germans drew nearer, he discovered a Bristol Bombay which had been left behind and with 15 soldiers aboard, he flew the aircraft to England. He reported to the RAF and managed to convince the selection committee that he was a fighter pilot. After having completed his training he was posted to No. 1 Squadron and soon proved himself to be a very able fighter pilot, quickly claiming numerous victories.
In October 1942 he scored his 18th victory which was to be his last. In February 1943 he was sent to North-Africa to establish flight training for the Free French. In April 1944 he returned to England. After the invasion he established the “Groupe Patrie” in France. Near war’s end he was named deputy commander of all French flying schools.
December 19th, while en route to London he lost his life after his plane had crashed near Buc (Yvelines).
|Staff Captain Karel Kuttelwascher|
18 Aerial Victories
1916 - 1959
In Britain, Kuttelwascher was assigned to No. 1 Squadron RAF on 3 October 1940 with a rank of Sergeant. Therefore he is officially recorded as a participant in the Battle of Britain. In December the squadron was moved to RAF Northolt and flew combat missions over northern France. On 8 April 1941, Kut made his first confirmed kill - a Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter. In next two months he added two more. In 1942 he got married in England and was promoted to Flight Lieutenant.
On 12 February 1942, No.1 Squadron took part in a bold attack on German destroyers in the English Channel (the Channel Dash). Then the squadron was assigned to a new type of operation - 'night intruder' missions over France. These were night missions by single aircraft with the intent of shooting down German bombers over their own airfields. Due to lack of radar in the aircraft, these missions were undertaken only during a full moon; they were dangerous, demanding both navigation skill and excellent vision. Kuttelwascher flew a Hawker Hurricane Mk IIc coded "JX-E", equipped with two 200-litre under-wing auxiliary tanks, which allowed for 3.5 hours of flying-time. He quickly distinguished himself as the best night intruder. He shot down his first aircraft on 1 April 1942, a (Ju 88). On the night of 4/5 May he shot down three Heinkel He 111 bombers in one flight. In three months of No 1 Sqn's night intruder actions, Kuttelwascher shot down 15 aircraft and damaged five, from a squadron total of 21 claimed shot down in 180 missions (including 67 trains and railway stock, 5 boats and one road vehicle.)
On 8 July 1942, Kuttelwascher was assigned to No. 23 Squadron RAF flying the de Havilland Mosquito on night intruder missions. Partnered with P/O G.E. Palmer, he flew six intruder missions over France and the Netherlands during August and September, but did not encounter any enemy aircraft.
In October 1942 he was withdrawn from combat flying and assigned to staff work in the Czechoslovak Air Inspectorate in London. In June 1943 he was sent on a six-month mission to the United States On his return he was assigned to No. 32 Maintenance Unit, where he served until the end of the war.
Karel Kuttelwascher claimed 18 confirmed air victories during the war, which was the highest tally of any Czech pilot (followed by Sgt. Josef František), although his kill count may have been higher - a number of 20 is often quoted (with two aircraft shot down in 1940). Karel Kuttelwascher was also the RAF's best night intruder and 6th best night fighter (others flew mostly radar-equipped aircraft). He was awarded the Czechoslovak War Cross 1939 five times, as well as the Distinguished Flying Cross with Bar, and the Croix de Guerre.
|Hurricane of No 312 Czech Fighter Squadron|
|Sergeant Josef František|
17 Aerial Victories
1914 - 1940
Sergeant Josef František was a Czech fighter pilot and World War II flying ace who flew for the air forces of Czechoslovakia, Poland and the United Kingdom. He is famous as being the first highest scoring ace in the Battle of Britain.
Born in Otaslavice in 1913, Josef František joined the Czechoslovak Air Force in 1934. After basic training he joined the Czechoslovak Air Force Air Regiment 2. In 1935 he was a Corporal in Air Regiment 1 and returned to Air Regiment 2 as a Sergeant in 1937. In June 1938 he became a fighter pilot serving in the 40th squadron in Prague flying the Avia B-534 and Bk-534 fighter. After Czechoslovakia fell under German occupation (15 March 1939) like many other Czechoslovak airmen he escaped to Poland. Most Czechoslovak airmen then left Poland for France before the start of the Second World War, though František decided to stay and serve with the Polish Air Force.
During the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, František initially evacuated training aircraft from the air base at Dęblin. From 7 September he flew reconnaissance missions in an unarmed training plane, a RWD-8. On 19–20 September he attacked enemy columns near Kamionka Strumiłowa, throwing hand grenades on the troops below. On 20 September he was shot down near Złoczów, but was saved by a Polish crew that landed nearby. On 22 September František's unit was ordered to withdraw with their remaining aircraft to Romania. František managed to abscond from an internment camp in Romania and reached France via North Africa in October 1939.
In France František elected to remain with the Poles instead of joining the exiled Czechoslovak air force (a probable reason for this decision was a conflict with a Czech officer, who tried to arrest him for insubordination.)
There are no official French records to confirm he flew during the Battle of France, but several witnesses claim he downed 7 to 11 German planes and damaged more while serving in France under a different name. There may have been an identity confusion and may he have been mistaken for ace František Peřina. František himself claimed to have joined Armee de l'Air and scored 11 victories, receiving the customary Croix de Guerre for his first air-to-air victory.
After the fall of France František fled to Britain and after training on 2 August was assigned to No. 303 Polish Squadron based at RAF Northolt, flying Hawker Hurricane fighters. The squadron entered action in the last phase of the Battle of Britain. The first confirmed victory of Sgt. František was a German Bf 109E fighter on 2 September 1940.
A very ill-disciplined pilot, he was seen by his commanding officers as a danger to his colleagues when flying in formation. His British CO Squadron Leader R. Kellett, offered to arrange for František's transfer to a Czech squadron, but František preferred to stay and fight alongside his Polish colleagues. As all pilots were valuable, a compromise was created whereby František was allotted a "spare" aircraft so he could fly as a "guest" of the Squadron as and when he wanted to. Thus, František fought his own private war - accompanying the squadron into the air, but peeling off to fly a lone patrol over Kent, patrolling in the area through which he knew the German aircraft being intercepted would fly on their way back to base, possibly damaged and low on fuel and ammo. During the following month he shot down 17 German aircraft and 1 probable, of which 9 were Bf 109s, becoming one of the top scoring Allied fighter pilots of the Battle of Britain. His last victory was on 30 September 1940 and he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal.
On 8 October 1940, František's Hurricane crashed in Ewell, Surrey during a landing approach after a patrol. Reasons for the crash are not known, it might have been a result of battle fatigue and physical exhaustion.
He was buried in a Polish military cemetery. He was awarded several decorations, among them the Virtuti Militari 5th class and he was the first foreigner awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal with Bar.
|Wing Commander Brendan 'Paddy' Finucane|
32 Aerial Victories
1920 - 1942
Born in Ireland of Irish and English heritage into a Catholic family, Finucane grew up during the "early troubles", and the Irish Civil War. As a youngster, Finucane was very aggressive and a keen sportsman. In 1936 the family moved to England. Keen to fly, Finucane applied to join the RAF and in August 1938, was accepted for flight training as a pilot. After a shaky training career, in which he crash–landed on one occasion, he received news that he had successfully completed flight training. In June–July 1940, he began conversion training on the Supermarine Spitfire. On 13 July, Finucane was posted to No. 65 Squadron at RAF Hornchurch.
Finucane's first victory was scored on 12 August 1940 during the Battle of Britain. During the campaign, he was credited with two enemies destroyed, two probably destroyed and one damaged. Promoted to Acting Flight Lieutenant in April 1941, he joined No. 452 Squadron flying offensive operations over France. During this period, Finucane had his most successful period of operations, destroying 20 German aircraft, sharing in the destruction of three, with two damaged and another two probably destroyed from 4 January–13 October 1941.
In January 1942, Finucane was promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader No. 602 Squadron. Within six months, he was credited a further six individual victories bringing his tally to 28. Four more were damaged, four were shared destroyed and two credited as individual probable victories and one shared probable. In June 1942, he became the RAF's youngest Wing Commander in its history.
On 15 July 1942, Finucane took off with his flight for a mission over France. His Spitfire was damaged by ground–fire. Finucane attempted to fly back to England across the English Channel but was forced to ditch into the sea. Finucane vanished. After his death, Finucane's brother Raymond served as a bomber pilot in No. 101 Squadron RAF, and survived the war.
|Wing Commander Finucane's Spitfire|
|Flight Lieutenant George F. 'Buzz' Beurling|
33 1/3 Aerial Victories
1921 - 1948
A teetotaler and non-smoker, he dedicated himself totally to the art of aerial combat. Tending to be a loner on the ground and in the air, Beurling angered his commanders with his disdain for teamwork. His relentless concentration on aerial fighting, led Beurling to develop a marked skill at deflection shooting and together with his "situational awareness", he was soon recognised as a deadly fighter pilot. Like many successful Spitfire pilots, Beurling developed the habit of only engaging enemy aircraft at 250 yards or less — a range at which many other pilots would be breaking away. Beurling owed his spectacular success to remarkably good eyesight and the ability to "toss his Spitfire" into violent combat manoeuvres. If jumped from behind, he would pull back on the stick of his Mk VC Spitfire so hard that the aircraft would enter a violent stall, flick over and spin. This was a hard, sudden and very dangerous act for the enemy fighter on his tail to follow. Beurling would also ram both ailerons and rudder into a sudden and violent turn, causing his Spitfire to flip over and drop like a stone. Only a very experienced (or crazy) pilot would pull such stunts more than once or twice. Beurling made them a matter of habit. He knew that the Spitfire could be nursed out of such self-induced trouble and get him home safely.
But Beurling was not invincible; he was shot down four times over Malta. On 14 October 1942 (his last flight over Malta), Beurling scrambled with six other pilots from his squadron to intercept a raid of Ju 88s escorted by 60 Bf 109s, Macchi 202s and Reggiane 2001s just south of Zonqor Point. He strafed a bomber that he claimed to have shot down, but was, in turn, hit by return fire from the Ju 88: “I picked up about 30 bullet holes.” Then he claimed to have damaged a Messerschmitt and to have blown the left wing of another Bf 109 off at the root. Seconds later, another German fighter hit him from below. He was wounded in the heel, elbow and ribs, and his Spitfire was set on fire. He managed to bail out into the sea. During this action, no Messerschmitt was in fact destroyed. Only 2 Staffel (Black 1/7619) of I/JG53, flown by Obfw Josef Edere who was wounded, was damaged in the action, and Edere crash-landed at San Pietro, Sicily. Beurling was probably shot down by Obfw Riker of 4/JG53 or Ltn Karl von Lieres of 2/JG27 (who was credited with his 26th). Of the seven Ju 88s claimed to have been shot down by the RAF, only one did not return. After his rescue, Beurling was hospitalised.
Beurling was then sent back to Britain on 31 October 1942. On the way, the B-24 transport aircraft he was aboard crashed into the sea off Gibraltar. Beurling was one of only three survivors.
On 4 November he received the Distinguished Service Order, the citation read:
Pilot Officer George Frederick BEURLING, D.F.C., D.F.M. (128707), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 249 Squadron. Since being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Pilot Officer Beurling has destroyed a further six enemy aircraft, bringing his total victories to 28. During one sortie on 13 October 1942, he shot down a Junkers 88 and two Messerschmitt 109s. The following day, in a head-on attack on enemy bombers, he destroyed one of them before he observed his leader being attacked by an enemy fighter. Although wounded, Pilot Officer Beurling destroyed the fighter. Then climbing again, although his aircraft was hit by enemy fire, he shot down another fighter before his own aircraft was so damaged that he was forced to abandon it. He descended safely on to the sea and was rescued. This officer's skill and daring are unexcelled.
Over Malta, he had claimed over 27 kills, by far the highest total by an RAF pilot during the campaign.
|Spitfire with "Malta" Paint Scheme|
|Flying Officer Edward Francis John 'Jack' Charles|
22 Aerial Victories
1919 - 1986
From Aces of WWII:
CHARLES, W/C Edward Francis John (36198) - Distinguished Service OrderAwarded as per London Gazette dated 29 October 1943 andAFRO 2457/43 dated 26 November 1943Air Ministry Bulletin 4508 refers
Wing Commander Charles is an inspiring leader whose great skill and tenacity have contributed materially to the successes obtained by the formations with which he has flown. In September 1943 he led a formation of fighters which acted as escort to a bomber force detailed to attack an airfield in northern France. During the operations twelve enemy fighters were engaged and in the ensuing combat four of the hostile aircraft were shot down, one of them by Wing Commander Charles. This officer, who has destroyed at least fifteen enemy aircraft, has displayed great courage and unflagging devotion to duty.
|Group Captain Clive 'Killer' Caldwell|
28.5 Aerial Victories
1910 - 1994
Caldwell's first, brief combat posting was a British Hurricane unit, No. 73 Squadron, Royal Air Force, in the early stages of the North African campaign. He had gained only a few operational hours when he was transferred to No. 250 Squadron RAF as it converted to the new P-40 Tomahawk, one of the first units in the world to operate P-40s. According to some accounts, Caldwell—as Flying Officer Jack Hamlyn's wingman—was involved in the P-40's first ever kill, of an Italian CANT Z.1007 bomber, over Egypt on 6 June 1941. However, the claim was not officially recognised. (Hamlyn and Sergeant Tom Paxton scored the first official kill two days later, another CANT.) Soon afterwards, Caldwell served with the squadron over Syria and Lebanon.
After he struggled to acquire the skill of gunnery deflection, Caldwell developed a training technique, known as "shadow shooting", in which he fired at the shadow of his own aircraft on the desert surface. This was later widely adopted by the Desert Air Force.
On 4 July 1941, Caldwell saw a German pilot shoot and kill a close friend, Pilot Officer Donald Munro, who was descending to the ground in a parachute. This was a controversial practice, but was nevertheless common among some German and Allied pilots. One biographer, Kristin Alexander, suggests that it may have caused Caldwell's attitude to harden significantly. Months later, press officers and journalists popularised Caldwell's nickname of "Killer", which he disliked. One reason for the nickname was that he too shot enemy airmen after they parachuted out of aircraft. Caldwell commented many years later: "...there was no blood lust or anything about it like that. It was just a matter of not wanting them back to have another go at us. I never shot any who landed where they could be taken prisoner." (In later life, Caldwell said that his thoughts often turned to one Japanese airman or passenger, who survived Caldwell's last aerial victory but could not be rescued.) A more commonly-cited reason for the nickname was his habit of using up ammunition left over at the end of sorties, to shoot up enemy troop convoys and vehicles. During his war service, Caldwell wrote in a notebook: "it's your life or theirs. This is war."
During 1942, Australia came under increasing pressure from Japanese forces, and Caldwell was recalled by the RAAF, to serve as the wing leader of No. 1 (Fighter) Wing, comprising No. 54 Squadron RAF, No. 452 Squadron RAAF and No. 457 Squadron RAAF. The wing was equipped with the Supermarine Spitfire and in early 1943 was posted to Darwin, to defend it against Japanese air raids.
Caldwell claimed two kills in his first interception sortie over Darwin, a Mitsubishi A6M Zero (also known by the Allied codename "Zeke") fighter and a Nakajima B5N "Kate" light bomber. The Spitfire pilots found Japanese fighter pilots reluctant to engage Allied fighters over Australia, due to the distance from their bases in the Dutch East Indies. The wing initially suffered high losses, due to the inexperience of many of its pilots, and teething mechanical problems with their newly-"tropicalised" Mark VC Spitfires. This was viewed with concern by high commanders, to such extent that the Allied air commander in the South West Pacific, Major General George Kenney, considered sending the wing to the New Guinea campaign, and returning U.S. Fifth Air Force fighter units to Darwin.
Caldwell scored what was to be his last aerial victory, a Mitsubishi Ki-46 "Dinah" of the 202nd Sentai, over the Arafura Sea on 17 August 1943. He claimed a total of 6.5 Japanese aircraft shot down.
Later in 1943, Caldwell was posted to Mildura, to command No. 2 Operational Training Unit (2OTU). He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in November 1943. By 1944, with the Japanese forces retreating north, Caldwell was again posted to Darwin, this time commanding No. 80 (Fighter) Wing, equipped with the Spitfire Mark VIII.
|Desert Air Force P-40|
|Squadron Leader Keith William 'Bluey' Truscott|
17 Aerial Victories
1916 - 1943
Truscott joined the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in July 1940, a move that attracted much publicity. He almost failed pilot training; among other problems it was ascertained that he had a poor ability to judge heights. In the words of the Australian Dictionary of Biography: "[Truscott] never fully came to terms with landing and persistently levelled out about 20 ft (6 m) too high." Nevertheless, Truscott completed flight training in Canada and joined No. 452 Squadron RAAF, flying Spitfires in England on 5 May 1941. He destroyed at least 16 Luftwaffe aircraft, was twice awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and was made a flight commander.
Truscott was later made acting squadron leader and in 1942, Truscott was posted back to Australia where he joined 76 Squadron, flying Kittyhawks. By this stage Truscott was, along with Clive Caldwell, one of the most famous RAAF pilots.
Truscott's squadron was posted to Milne Bay, Papua and played a significant role in the Battle of Milne Bay where he was mentioned in dispatches for his actions. 76 Squadron was later transferred to Darwin, Northern Territory, for a time, and then Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia. Truscott was killed in an accident in Exmouth Gulf on 28 March 1943. His Kittyhawk hit the sea at high speed, after he made a mock diving attack against a low-flying Catalina. The surface of the sea was unusually smooth that day, and it is believed that Truscott misjudged its proximity. His body was recovered and he was buried at Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth.
|Truscott, commanding No. 76 Squadron RAAF, taxis along Marsden Matting|
at Milne Bay, New Guinea in September 1942.
|Air Commodore Alan Christopher Deere|
22 Aerial Victories
1917 - 1995
On 9 July Deere shot down a Bf 109 over the channel, but then collided head on with a Bf 109 of 4 Staffel Jagdgeschwader 51 flown by Oberfeldwebel Johann Illner. The propeller blades of Deere's spitfire "Kiwi" were bent backwards, the engine disabled, and much of the fin and rudder lost. Nevertheless, he managed to glide back to the coast near Manston where his forced landing in a paddock ended against a stone wall.
The colour scheme of this aircraft (P9398, KL-B, named, like all Deere's aircraft, "Kiwi"), was accurately recorded and in consequence it has been a favourite with modellers and manufacturers. The remains of this aircraft have recently been excavated and are to be rebuilt.
After Adlertag (Eagle Day) on 11 August he shot down a Bf 109, two more plus a Bf 110 the next day, and on the 15th added another Bf 109 over the Channel. However he was then trapped in an unequal dogfight with Bf 109s which attempted to block his return to England. Deere made the coast but was forced to bail out at low altitude, and was admitted to Victoria Hospital with minor injuries. He discharged himself the following day. Deere was shot down again on 28 August - this time by a Spitfire - but parachuted to safety. A frustrating combat on the 30th saw him claim a probable Do 17.
The following day the Luftwaffe raided Hornchurch. Deere led a section of three Spitfires which attempted to take off during the raid. A bomb destroyed all three aircraft. Deere's Spitfire was blown on its back, trapping him. Pilot Officer Eric Edsall, though badly injured when his own Spitfire had been destroyed, crawled to Deere's aircraft and freed him. Seeing Edsall's injuries, Deere then carried his rescuer to the sick bay.
Deere was critical of the lack of training given to new pilots:"We were desperately short of pilots. ... We were getting pilots who had not been on Spitfires because there were no conversion units at that time. They came straight to a squadron from their training establishments. Some of them did have a few hours on the Hurricanes, a monoplane experience, but not on the Spitfire. For example, we got two young New Zealanders into my flight. Chatting to them I found they'd been six weeks at sea coming over. They were trained on some very outdated aircraft, I can't remember, out in NZ. One of the pilots had taken them up to see the handling and brief them on the Spitfire. Then they'd go off for one solo flight and circuit, then they were into battle. The answer of course is that they didn't last. Those two lasted two trips and they both finished up in Dover hospital. One was pulled out of the Channel. One landed by parachute."
Such was the toll on men of 54 Squadron that on 3 September, before the peak of the battle, the squadron was withdrawn from 11 group and moved to the northern airfield at Catterick to rest and recover.A Bar to his DFC was awarded on 6 September 1940. The Citation read:
"Since the outbreak of war this officer has personally destroyed eleven, and probably one other, enemy aircraft, and assisted in the destruction of two more. In addition to the skill and gallantry he has shown in leading his flight, and in many instances his squadron, Flight Lieutenant Deere has displayed conspicuous bravery and determination in pressing home his attacks against superior numbers of enemy aircraft, often pursuing them across the Channel in order to shoot them down. As a leader he shows outstanding dash and determination." London Gazette – 6 September 1940.
Air Vice Marshal William V. Crawford-Crompton
(second from right)
21.5 Aerial Victories
1915 - 1988From Wikipedia:
Air Vice Marshal William Vernon "Bill" Crawford-Crompton was a New Zealand-born pilot and air ace of the Second World War. After the war, he went on to serve as a senior commander in the Royal Air Force.
Crawford-Crompton was born in Invercargill, New Zealand on 2 March 1915. He joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 1939. In 1941 he was commissioned into the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as a Pilot Officer. He was then posted as a pilot to No. 485 Squadron RNZAF. He is credited with shooting down 21.5 enemy aircraft, and for bravery was awarded the prestigious French Chevalier of the Legion of Honour and United States Silver Star. He took part in Operation Overlord and destroyed four enemy aircraft in July 1944 during that operation.
|Squadron Leader Raymond Brown Hesselyn|
21.5 Aerial Victories
1921 - 1963
Hesselyn was born in Dunedin, New Zealand. In civilian life, he was a machinist.
He joined the Territorial Army in 1939, before joining the Royal New Zealand Air Force. After training, he was posted to Britain in September, 1941, joining first 61 Operational Training Unit (OTU), then No. 234 Squadron as a Flight Sergeant.
In February, 1942, he was posted to Malta, flying a Spitfire Mk V from the decks of the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle, to the island and joining 249 Squadron on 9 March 1942.
On April Fools Day, he recorded his first two kills, a Bf 109 of JG 53 and a Ju 87of StG 3. During the month, he shot down another Bf 109 and Ju 87, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM). May proved to be just as productive, with Hesselyn claiming four 109's and a Ju 88 of KGruppe 806. He received a bar for his DFM and was commissioned as a Pilot Officer. Before returning to England, he dispatched one more 109 for a total of 12 claimed victories.
After a spell at 61 OTU, Hesselyn joined No. 501 Squadron in early 1943 and then in the summer of 1943 to No 222 Squadron as a flight commander. He shot down two 109s of JG 3 on 17 August 1943. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross in September. His luck finally ran out on 3 October 1943. After downing at least one 109 (claiming three), bringing his total to 18 and 1 shared destroyed (possibly 20), he was forced to bail out of his burning plane and was taken prisoner. He was probably shot down by Fbw. Weigand of I./JG 26.
He escaped once, but was recaptured and spent the rest of the war making repeated attempts to rejoin the fight. As a result of his conduct as a prisoner of war, he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1946. He remained in the Royal Air Force, eventually reaching the rank of Squadron Leader.
He died in Uxbridge on 14 November 1963, aged 42.
|Malta Bound Spitfires|
Launched from HMS Eagle