Watercolour by Henry Fulwood - "Death of the Red Baron" [AWM ART02495]
(Except that the scene wasn't really like this...!)
useful Internet resources are now available for researching the individuals who served in
No.3 Squadron and the daily history of the Squadron.
Follow our Step-by-Step Guide below:
The 3 Squadron website holds a wide variety of history articles, anecdotes and photos. The Google search box below will allow you to find all mentions of a word or phrase in the 3 Squadron website. We recommend that you start with the family name of the person you are searching for. Sometimes the nickname of a well-known personality, e.g. Bobby, Nicky, Slim, etc. may give further results where the family name has not been mentioned.
(To find only a specific phrase, include quote marks when you type the phrase into the search box; e.g. "Bobby Gibbes".)
Internet searches are much more productive if you know the full name of your research subject, and their service number.
"World War Two Nominal Roll"
To trace men who served in WW2, your first stop should be the Department of Veterans Affairs website:
http://www.ww2roll.gov.au/ . It is usually fairly simple to track down all of the key identification details for any individual, even if starting with just a surname.
For example, the record for Bobby Gibbes can be seen by clicking here.
National Archives of Australia
The National Archives of Australia can then be used to track down a wealth of personnel details. Go to the NAA Website and click the box at top right Explore: Search the Collection and then type in the surname or service number that you are seeking to trace. The information in these files can be quite fascinating. While it may be necessary to pay approximately $20 if a digital image is not yet available, many files are already available online for free as glorious colour scans. - For example, the Personnel file of a 3 Squadron veteran from World War One , Alfred Boxall-Chapman (who helped recover the wreck of the Red Barons plane in 1918!), can be seen at: https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=3231366
The NAA also has many dozens of RAAF files that mention 3 Squadron. The most important of these documents, the Operations Record Books, can be viewed online (see box below). There is impressive detail regarding every mission flown by each pilot in 3 Squadron, and other administrative records such as the movement of Squadron personnel and also the incidence of non-operational flying missions.
Further useful examples of WW2 Files digitised in the National Archives (there are many more):
3 Squadron WW2 Narrative Combat Reports, 1940-45.
The Forms submitted by 3SQN pilots after significant combat incidents. Often containing more detail than was transferred to the Squadron Operations Record Book. The number of reports tapered off markedly in the latter years of the war, as the skies were swept of Axis aircraft.
1940 (p7); 1941 (p45); 1942 (p700); 1943 (p1200); 1944 (p1264): 1945 (p1292)
No 3 Squadron -
Aircraft Flying Control.
Contains various interesting reports of operations of the Squadron, 1940-45; including first-hand reports of pilots who evaded capture after being shot down in 1945 (Williamson p5, Redenbach p8, Clark p13, McInerhenry p15, Tennent p17, Davies p19); WW2 squadron summary history up until mid-1944 (p21); Desert Air Force African campaign summary (p26); Pilot report extracts (p42); Gibbes Tribute (p43); Description of the work of Specialised ground-maintenance personnel p47; Ken McRae Kittyhawk Armament, bombs, parachutes (p50); Operational procedures, organisation, navigation aids (p55); and the 239 Wing report on "Operation Bowler", the spectacular 1945 Wing attack on Venice Harbour (p79).
Once you have the full identification details of a 3 Squadron member, it is worth trying some general Internet searches to see what else may be available. For example, try searching just the service number, or the exact phrase of their name (indicated by using "quote marks" in the search), such as:
"Bobby Gibbes" RAAF
"R. H. Gibbes"
Gibbes "3 Squadron"
We've already done the work to find lots of 'background' information for each era of the Squadron's History! Click here.
A fantastic resource - search the text of newspapers from many Australian States across nearly 200 years of Australian history.
A great system for quickly finding images from the best online collections in Australia (including Australian War Memorial, National Library of Australia and State Libraries).
A huge project by the Australian Department of Veterans Affairs, running since 2002, has collected thousands of hours of videotape of the reminiscences of Australian Defence Force Veterans. Transcripts and some photos are displayed online. Many 3 Squadron personalities have been included in the interviews. Veterans from many other units have also made interesting mentions of 3 Squadron and its battles.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
For each death in WW1 or WW2, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Website provides extensive personal commemorative information, plus detailed cemetery history and visitor access directions. Large colour photographs of the beautifully-maintained war cemeteries are also available. Gravestone inscriptions from family are often noted and an attractive memorial certificate for each casualty can be printed.
Old RE8 "S", Struck Off Strength after 10 Months' Service
- Depicts an RE8 aircraft on the No.3 Squadron airfield at Poulainville, France, stripped of engine cowling and wings.
Watercolour by Arthur Streeton. [AWM Copyright ART03508]
There are more than 800 photographs and another 30 artworks depicting 3 Squadron in the AWM collection. Some of these images were created by now legendary Australians such as:
· Frank Hurley (Photographer). Who made his name with his magnificent coverage of the 1915 Shackleton Antarctic expedition, and who photographed No.3 Squadron in both world wars!
· Damien Parer (Photographer). Who later won an Oscar for the iconic documentary Kokoda Frontline.
· Arthur Streeton (Artist). The impressionist master who was an official War Artist in France in WW1.
To break the huge AWM collection down into more manageable photo-sets, the following eight themes are recommended for browsing (in roughly chronological order):
NB: AWM pictures can also be searched through "TROVE", which also covers other Australian Library collections, but TROVE has less fine-control than the AWM's own Search Engine.
a) 3 Squadron in World War One.
For photos of 3 Squadron aircraft and personnel serving in World War One:
This search-string was built up in the following way:
b) The Last Fighting Biplanes.
images of Gladiator operations in 1940-41:
c) Hurricanes Against the Storm.
Hurricane pictures from 1941:
d) New Planes, New Challenges.
Photos of Tomahawk operations in 1941, a dramatic period with battle successes
in Syria and Cyrenaica but also some serious losses. Damien Parer gives
the boys the full Hollywood treatment!
e) Kittyhawk Operations 1942.
Images, including a Nelsonian
"Never mind the fighters..." quote from a grinning Bobby Gibbes:
f) Kittyhawk Operations 1943 /1944.
A substantial number of
images, including some pretty impressive flak damage and the eerie sight of
German flares lighting up the sky during their bombing strike on Agnone
The 'friendly fire'
incident at Cutella (below) features in the 1944 Kittyhawk images:
Kittyhawk burning after a mistaken "friendly fire" attack by USAAF fighters at Cutella, April 1944.
g) Shiny New Planes and Winning Smiles.
h) Later Conflicts.
The AWM has only gappy coverage after WW2, but it is still possible to
There are many other excellent paintings in the AWM collection showing the areas that 3 Squadron travelled through. These artworks convey the colours and atmosphere of each theatre in a way that monochrome photographs cannot. It is recommended that you search the following artists and click "Art" to see the collection of their images:
Harold Herbert 1941
Dargie North Africa
Dennis Adams Italy
Many other searches are of course possible, for instance based on specific dates, individual personnel or place names, etc.
The AWM has an extensive collection of taped interviews with 3 Squadron WW2 veterans (mostly recorded in 1990). The transcripts are each up to 30 pages long and contain a wealth of information.
Click on a name highlighted below (alphabetical order). Reading all of these transcripts would be something of a long-term project, but it is very interesting to hear the story of 3 Squadron in the veterans' own words. (Beware - these interviews are quite addictive!)
The interviews cover a wide diversity of subjects, including family history and operational anecdotes.
AVM Henry Wrigley, who flew with 3 Squadron AFC in WW1 and later visited 3 Squadron in WW2 as the most
senior RAAF officer in the European Theatre.
Peter Jeffrey. Pilot 1937/ Signals Officer /
Squadron Leader 1940-42. DSO, DFC MID(2).
Marcus 'Mac' MacInnis.
Supply Officer 1939-42.
Ted Medhurst. Radio Operator 1940-41.
Bert Pearson. Radio Operator / Mechanic 1940-42.
Dick Hickson. Equipment Officer 1940-42.
Fred Eggleston. Pilot 1941 / POW / "Home Run" Escaper.
Pilot 1941-42. Desert rescue. DFM.
Reg 'Slim' Moore.
Engine Fitter 1942-45.
Mentioned in Despatches (MiD) for Bravery.
Brian Eaton. Pilot - Squadron Leader & 239 Wing Commander.
CB, CBE, DSO & Bar, DFC, AMERICAN SILVER STAR.
Pilot / Squadron Leader 1942-43.
DFC and Bar.
Allen Wand. Airframe Fitter Sergeant 1942-45.
Pilot 1943-44 / Forward Air Controller.
Led 450 Sqn. DSO, DFC and Bar.
Bob Smith. Radio Mechanic 1943-45.
Fred McKay - Padre. 1943-45.
Clarence Wilson. Post-war Mustang Airframe Fitter in Canberra. Suddenly posted out at the start of the Korean War.
[NB. Further interview transcripts, collected one decade later in the "Australians at War" project, are shown in the separate list above.]
(Text by James Oglethorpe)