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September 2018

WW2 widow Val COATES has sent in a treasured picture of 3 Squadron flying personnel and Officers at Cutella in Italy in May 1944, shortly after their famous “Dam Busting” exploit on the Pescara River.  Val’s husband Sid is sitting (on a well-loaded Jeep!) third from the right in the centre row.  The CO, Rex BAYLY, is at the steering wheel in the centre, wearing his distinctive white flying suit.  At the front are the stuffed Wallaby “Joe” (‘liberated’ from a bombed-out Italian museum) and Squadron dog “Shabby”.

Pilots and Officers of No.3 Squadron RAAF.  239 Wing Desert Air Force.  Cutella Landing Ground Italy, May 1944.

American historian Marian SPERBERG-McQUEEN has supplied some interesting research that identifies one of the German aerial-combat victims of 3AFC.  Over Hamel on the 3rd of June 1918 (before the “Battle of Hamel” captured the area), two RE8s from 3AFC were engaged by German Albatros D.V fighters.  The RE8s: aircraft "Q" (B2275) manned by Armstrong & Jeffrey; and "N" (C2270) crewed by Baillieu & Sewell; jointly claimed the destruction of one of the German fighters.  The German pilot was Obltnt Josef LOESER, the Jasta 46 Squadron Leader.  He crashed in flames on a ridge just behind the German frontline trenches.  (The 3AFC June 1918 War Diary includes detailed reports.)  Loeser was an experienced combat leader, having already recorded victories over two Sopwith Camels on the Italian front. 

A sad addendum to this story is that in the 1930s the Nazis spitefully refused to commemorate Loeser’s memory. 
- He was Jewish and the fascists deemed other German WW1 pilots more politically worthy.

Our enthusiastic WW1 expert John LOVE has sent in a video-link showing the unveiling of the AWM’s Statue of General Sir John MONASH on July 4th in Canberra: https://youtu.be/qJneJBKChTI.
- It’s no coincidence that this date was the 100th Anniversary of Monash’s masterful “Battle of Hamel”.  Speeches at the ceremony, including those by AWM Director Brendon NELSON and General Angus CAMPBELL (Chief of Defence Force) provide an interesting context to 3 AFC’s achievements in the First World War.

John has also received the excellent news that the achievements of his dad, aviation pioneer Nigel LOVE, will be loudly celebrated by Sydney Airport in April 2020.  The 14th of that month will mark the exact centenary of the first commercial passenger flight taking-off between Sydney and Melbourne.  - Nigel was the record-breaking pilot and he faced many vicissitudes, with fog and storms impeding their progress, forcing two overnight stops on the way to Point Cook.  Sydney Airport Community Relations Adviser Ted PLUMMER tells us that today’s SYD-MEL route is, “one of the five busiest air routes in the world!”  [A bizarre footnote to this story is that Nigel’s lucky first passenger was later - very unluckily - killed by a shark at Bondi Beach in 1929!]

Our research into Nigel’s achievements has also revealed another history-making moment:   On Saturday 14 February 1920, Nigel escorted a Vickers Vimy Bomber over the NSW Blue Mountains to Nigel’s “Mascot Aerodrome”
The war-surplus British bomber was crewed by Keith and Ross SMITH, W. H. SHIERS and J. M. BENNETT  (who had just made the first-ever flight from Britain to Australia). 
Nigel Love’s passenger, press photographer William KIMBEL, then snapped the first Australian air-to-air photo in history!

Neil MORGAN, a relative of 3SQN Kittyhawk pilot Ted ALDERTON (who was sadly killed in action at Alamein) enquired about Ted’s colleague Tom WOOD, who went missing on the same day. 
We were able to convey the good news that Tom survived being shot down.  - Tom’s interesting
WW2 Memoir is available on our website (painstakingly typed-up by our good friend. POW-researcher Kristen ALEXANDER).  Tom includes details of his service life, combat experience in the desert with 3 Squadron, and POW experiences, including being herded through the snows of 1945 Germany by edgy Nazi guards, retreating from the advancing Russians.

Jake NEWHAM has recommended an interesting essay from the Airpower Development Centre, describing the lessons to be learned from the success – and eventual demise – of the top WW1 ace, the ‘Red Baron’ in 1918. 

[An interesting addendum: The 3AFC War Diary clearly shows that the Allied side actually used the nickname “The Red Falcon” for von Richthofen in 1918 – based on the way that the Baron used to swoop on his victims.]

Another interesting revelation from the 1960 Ops Records is that 3SQN operated a 2-seat Vampire.  (For instrument training, jolly “liaison” flights, and occasional air-to-air photography runs.)  ADF Serials reveals that this was A79-803.  After a search initiated by Jake, the photo below was found.  This Vampire sported a silver finish and was decorated with “Jaffa Orange” (the 3SQN colour) wing-tips and fin-tips.  As a bonus, an excellent online RAAF Vampire article by John BENNETT was revealed, for those who’d like to further explore this surprisingly intricate historical topic.

Jake NEWHAM with Bill SIMMONDS with the 3SQN Vampire A79-803, at Seletar.  [Pic: Bill Simmonds.]

In 1986, 3SQN had more than a few annoyances while introducing the new high-tech F-18 to RAAF operational service.  VIPs kept appearing from all directions for “a look”, there was enormous pressure to do “flypasts” and the Squadron had to operate out of borrowed digs while their new headquarters building remained a “hole in the ground”. 

AND THEN the Nation’s top-rating TV program started breathing down their necks!  - With the RAAF's entire reputation and/or budget riding on a "good show", the C.O. Bruce MOUATT and XO Ross FOX, ably assisted by the entire newly-assembled Squadron, managed to impress the TV gods!  - That “Sixty Minutes” tape has recently been released on YouTube and is well worth a look.  - Letting star reporter Ian LESLIE fly the thing seems to have done the trick!  [Tragically though, Ross Fox was killed four years later in a 75SQN Hornet collision, so Ian’s interviews with Ross and his wife Vicki in this program are indeed most poignant.]

Bruce NASH has now established a pinpoint location for the old Creti aerodrome in Italy (3SQN Jul/Aug 1944 - also known as "Crete"), as shown by his “then and now” views (below).  The site is 1.5km South-West of the town of Creti in Arezzo.

Jake NEWHAM has been in touch with a couple of interesting items:  A WW2 bomb-aimer’s logbook from the Dambusters’ sold for $16,000 at auction. 

Also Jake strongly recommends a recent book, Code Breakers by Craig Collie.  - This work reveals, for the first time, that Australia was the site of several vital steps in the codebreaking that won the Midway battle in 1942.  Jake notes: “An important record.”

Canberra Town Planner Jane GOFFMAN has very kindly sent in an old Canberra street plan which accurately shows the original Northbourne Aerodrome, circa 1926.  We have added this to our article on the fatal crash of a 3SQN DH9.  Combined with photos taken at the time, this has allowed the exact site of the crash to be pinpointed in the modern suburb of Dickson, ACT.  (A metal-detector search is on the cards!)

A challenging research question came in from Pauline PRIEST, the daughter of WW2 Armourer Merv BECK.  Pauline knew that Merv and Curly FENTON (also an Armourer) appeared in this old photo, and wondered where it had been taken…

The institutional-looking building (“Department of Agriculture”) and the newness of the uniforms suggested a ‘training’ setting.  But Internet searches for a suitable building in Hawkesbury Ag College (Richmond) or Sydney Tech were fruitless.  Also there was nothing obvious in Melbourne, Perth or Adelaide.  It appeared that either the building had been demolished or the name changed.

Fortunately, the National Library’s wonderful TROVE system gave one historical ‘hit’.  (Thank goodness for scandals about State Government spending!)  That building was located in the Melbourne Show Grounds at Flemington. 

Then a ‘Google Image’ search of buildings in that location found similar distinctive scroll-work around the doorway of a current building; the “Government Pavilion” 

(So, name changed - but otherwise intact!)  Hence we can conclude that Pauline’s photo was taken at RAAF No.1 Engineering School, "Ascot Vale".  

Our new member Bill BLACK was with 3 Squadron at Butterworth in 1972-74 (also there with 2SQN in 58-60).  Bill got in touch because he had a mystery colour-slide in his collection that depicted an extraordinarily large formation flypast of 24 Sabres (essentially two full Squadrons).  Bill’s enquiries about the likely date or occasion hadn’t drawn any useful responses from the various Sabre aficionados that he’d asked. 

– But luckily, after making contact with 3SQN Assn, Bill was able to follow our general instructions for finding photos in the Australian War Memorial Collection, and Bingo!  - He located the official image below, which revealed all…


 Grant DAWKINS has shared an artwork depicting his father Arthur in the Battle of Ksar Rhilane, 75 years ago, on the 10th of March, 1943.  [Painting by Frank Harding]

This action is described in 3 SQUADRON AT WAR:

“…3 Squadron, with other squadrons in the Kittyhawk Wing [239 Wing], were called on to help the ‘Fighting French’ force of General Le Clerc, who had made a magnificent march north across the Sahara from Lake Chad, and were now threatening to turn the Germans' southern flank in Tunisia.  The Frenchmen had thrust up towards Gabes and west of the Mareth Line. 

To meet this threat, the Germans sent out a strong armoured force.  A fierce engagement took place at Ksar Rhilane and the French called for "tank busting" air support, to combat the German armour.  

The No.3 formation, led by S/Ldr. Brian EATON, achieved great success in this operation, coming down very low to bomb and strafe the German force, which consisted of 15 tanks, 25 armoured cars and supply vehicles.  The tanks were mostly left to the attentions of the R.A.F. "tank buster" Hurricanes, with their 40-millimetre cannons, while the Kittyhawks concentrated on armoured cars, "soft skinned" vehicles and ack-ack defences.

The air blitz saved the situation.  When the Squadron left the scene, tanks, armoured cars, an ammunition carrier and petrol bowser, and at least sixteen motor trucks were in flames.  At the beginning of the attack there was some ground-fire from the Huns, but this was soon discouraged and the organised ack-ack defence collapsed.

Six enemy aircraft appeared on the scene, but decided that the opposition looked too formidable, and made off when the Kittyhawks showed fight.  The effect of the air operation in breaking-up the enemy counter-attack brought forth a grateful signal from the Fighting French, expressing their appreciation of the Wing's timely and efficient aid.  

This action revealed the shape of things to come, in respect to close-support ground and air operations.  Later there was ample evidence that the claims made by the pilots were accurate, for when our forces advanced over that area, it was strewn with burnt-out German armoured vehicles and transport.

Pilot Officer A. W. DAWKINS brought back an unusual trophy from this mission.  He was strafing right at ground level and shot-up a large truck, which was evidently a troop canteen, for debris flew in all directions and on his return to base the fitters found the air scoop of his aircraft full of razor blades.”

[Grant adds:I actually have the tarp shown in the painting, along with one of the German razor blades.”]

Melbourne aviation memorabilia collector Paul OATEN has sent us an interesting picture (below) of RAAF personnel stepping off a train at Sydney’s old Darling Harbour wharf complex on the 3rd of February 1941, preparing to be transferred by Sydney Harbour ferry to the huge troopship Aquitania

The smokestacks in the background are those of the old – and incredibly ugly – Pyrmont Power Station; since demolished.   (Sydney’s Star Casino now sits on the same site, continuing the regrettable lack of beauty in that blighted corner of the world!)  This photo includes Sergeant Pilot Geoff HILLER, enroute to 3SQN.  (He is at the centre of the frame, looking straight at the camera.  Unfortunately, Geoff did not survive that desperate year.)  Other RAAF men in that embarkation party included Tiny” CAMERON, who became a  famous 3SQN ace, plus the future top-scoring fighter pilot of the RAAF in WW2, Clive CALDWELL.

Chris CAMERON recently received an unanticipated surprise whilst visiting the memorial to his father, 3SQN desert ace ‘Tiny’ CAMERON.  Chris writes:

We had to go down to Goondiwindi, to a friend’s funeral.  We took the opportunity to wander over to the Wall of Remembrance there, to see if Tiny had a spot.  (He was living in Goondiwindi with his third wife at the time of his passing, though his funeral service was at the Crematorium Chapel in Toowoomba.)  - However, not in Goondiwindi, as far as we could see…  Interest was stirred, and, with a bit of a push from my children, I contacted the Crematorium Office in Toowoomba, who confirmed that he was there.  We went to look, and found a little plaque in the edge of a garden… That was quite satisfying.

 - But the huge surprise was the plaque beside him…

Derek SCOTT [another 3SQN Tomahawk pilot who, like Tiny, was shot down and became a Prisoner of War in Italian and German camps] had been one of his closest friends… And my Godfather.  He had obviously died in the year following my father, and from memory, he had died in Melbourne… So, a question immediately arose, was this THAT Derek, or, by some strange twist of fate, was there another one - also in the Air Force obviously - who by chance had finished up beside him???

It took a bit of work to get the answer, but I managed…  It was indeed “Uncle Derek”.  He had organised, prior to his death, that he would be cremated and have his remains sent from Melbourne up to Toowoomba and be put in beside his old mate!!!  - That part was rather strangely comforting…

The office had details recorded, that they were able (and willing) to pass on to me.  I had asked one of my oldest friends in Sydney, the child of another of this group of Lamsdorf [POW Camp] survivors, and who was the head of The Historical Society of NSW, whether she had any memory of this happening, but no luck there:
She said,   “It was all a while ago, and I was never notified about either your father’s eventual spot, or Scotty’s placement beside him…“

- There are still things, even at this stage of life, that surprise us!!

Tiny (left) and Derek (centre) with a Klemm Eagle aircraft at Casino NSW in 1948.

Gordon BENNETT in Canberra has sent in a nice pictorial study (below) of the ”Grumbling Green Gravel Truck – a Caribou transport that was used by 3 Squadron at Butterworth, circa 1983.

We’ve made a new friend on the Croatian Coast, Sime LISICA, who is an author and historian, with amazing language skills.  Sime has translated some fascinating reports written by the crews of German vessels that 3SQN had a hand in sinking!  (Those thorough Germans - their boat may have been sunk, but their paperwork was all in order!  - We will feature some of Sime’s work in future editions of 3SQN News.)  Our member Bruce NASH turned up an interesting AWM film to help Sime understand the Temperate Land Scheme that the Cutella-based Kittyhawk II aircraft were painted in.  (A camouflage of brown and green, with mid-grey undersurfaces, that blended into the Italian landscape better than the old ‘Desert’ shades.)

A contemporary illustration of the 'Temperate Land Scheme' in a 1944 Cutella (Italy) airstrip painting, by Dennis Adams.  [Detail from AWM ART23458.]

In the film https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/F03468/:
- At 02:31:39 (on the slider) at the left is Nicky BARR, who escaped from Northern Italy and visited the Squadron in Cutella on 2nd March 1944. 
- At 2:33:12, “CV-P” (Murray Nash’s Kittyhawk II FS468) takes off with long-range tanks on.
- The following scenes include 239 Wing Commander Brian EATON's crate "BAE" at 2:33:21, including his unique “checker-tail” marking.

There’s a well-made colour film from Butterworth, circa 1959-60, now available online from the AWM: 

It includes some nice scenes of 3SQN Sabre operations in Jaffa Orange markings.  And Brian EATON (by then a senior RAAF figure) can be spotted on the tarmac!

Continuing our Butterworth theme, Jim HALL recommends the Blog “RAAF Base Butterworth”, which displays many interesting items, including the sunny 1962 picture below.  (Pass the coconut oil!)

Another historic Butterworth moment for 3SQN is shown on the AWM movie-clip:
"Presentation of Gloucester Cup, 1973."

This is the ONLY time that 3SQN ever won this annual Cup, for the “Most Proficient RAAF Flying Squadron.”
The C.O., WGCDR Dick BOMBALL, had to perform a tricky grip-change at the vital moment of handover.  - Wouldn't do to drop the thing, of course!  
(On the "sweaty palms" front, poor Dick’s formal uniform would not have helped, either!  - His comment: “It was a bloody hot day and despite my objections I couldn’t get the OC to relent!”)
Also 1973 fashions are on display in the crowd; what a wild swing of tastes that era was!

Warbird.Net has two interesting new photo-articles available.  The first is on the restoration, at Scone NSW, of the tribute Kittyhawk “CV-V” – re-creating Bobby GIBBES’ personal markings.  The second discusses the controversial display (at the El Alamein outdoor museum) of a repaired 260 Squadron RAF Kittyhawk (239 Wing) found a few years ago in a remote corner of the Egyptian desert.

The Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park (Sydney) is currently building a massive underground extension, which will provide more museum display space (opening later this year).   Added to their exhibits will be an Operation OKRA (IRAQ/Syria) “Flight Suit” & Watch, worn by none other than Johnny H during his 10-hour endurance missions and 55°C “hot soaks” in the cockpit on the tarmac.  (We are assured that the suit will be displayed behind aroma-proof glass!) 
The photo below shows JH’s donation being accepted by Brad MANERA, the Memorial’s Senior Historian.  

In return, Brad presented 3SQN with the Memorial’s recent book about the Great War, featuring some of the photographs of 3AFC Pilot Nigel LOVE
[AVM Bob TRELOAR allowed himself to be talked into managing the production of this book…  If you want something done, give it to a busy man!]  - The book is a great memento of NSW’s contribution to WW1.

We were able to help a RAAF Association Member, Nolene ROUT, locate details of her WW1 relative, John Lamb LYON, a radio-operator in 3AFC who spent most of his time in dangerous proximity to the Army front-lines, receiving the radio messages sent by the 3AFC aeroplanes to the artillery.  After finishing with 3 Squadron, John was attached to the British "Sound Rangers", a unit that located German artillery using advanced technical instruments.  (Their website is very interesting and includes a sound-graph showing the sudden and complete cessation of shelling at 11am on 11/11/18 - Armistice Day.)

Association member and historian Margaret DEACON has been reading the little-known story of the extensive pipeline systems used to refuel aircraft in Italy and North Africa.  [The War Illustrated, No.196, Vol 8, 1944.]  She looked-up the topic online, and sends an interesting article - well worth a look.  [Quite wide-ranging, but ‘keeping mum’ about PLUTO - the amazing undersea pipeline for “D-Day” in Normandy.  Also a bit under-appreciative of “Jerry Cans”.]   Today there's a huge underground NATO pipe network in Northern Europe, which springs from the same origins - fuel being the life-blood of the modern military.

Chaplain Cam CARROLL in Wagga continues to collect WW2 memorabilia relating to the “3 Padres” from the Middle East. 
- The Association has been able to help with a few items. 
Cam loved the Rhyming Benediction delivered by Padre Fred McKAY, which ended the 3SQN four-day reunion in Canberra, 18-22 Dec. 1999:

“We’ve had our final party at the Ainslie Football Club;
It's been a jolly eating place,
 Just like our favourite Pub.
But it's the company, and the girls, who’ve really made the fun.
And Tom and Reg have kept us happily
 On the run.
The food has been pretty good, and fine.
And as usual, we’ve enjoyed our wine.
Two weather-beaten Padres
have wobbled round the place.
Bob tells wild yarns,
But he says a real Bishop's ‘Grace’.
Our 3 Squadron gaggle has always included
 The pretty widows and lively wives.
They hoist our flag. - And have been doing it
All their blooming lives!
Our old C.O.s make us feel that we’re always a proper Family mob.
That’s why we offer our Benediction,
And give special thanks to God.
- And now we go on our way;
We'll meet again next Reunion Day!”

[Sadly, this was indeed Fred’s “final party” with the Association.  He passed away five months later, on 31 March 2000.]

Our new member Des SHEEHAN has sent in a number of excellent WW1 photos related to the service of his father, Lieutenant Malcolm SHEEHAN, who flew with 3AFC in WW1.

Bertangles Cemetery, France, 22 April 1918.
Australian Flying Corps officers bear wreaths at the burial of Baron Manfred von Richthofen (the ‘Red Baron’).  
Pictured left to right are: Captain Leigh Simpson, Lieutenants Malcolm SHEEHAN, Frank Mart and George Pickering.

Our member Ken McCRACKEN is currently afflicted with a serious case of “can’t stop grinning” disease, having thoroughly enjoyed a couple of flights in a tandem-seat Vintage Spitfire at Goodwood aerodrome in southern England in September 2017.

Ken writes: “It was a beautiful clear morning and the green airfield was sparkling with dew.  My Pilot-in-Charge (John Dodd, a jolly Scot) handed me the controls after about five minutes, telling me to steer off the coast to the Isle of Wight. 

- We could clearly see the coast of France.  (All I needed was a bit of ammo and I might have headed to Berlin!) 

John encouraged me to get some manoeuvres underway, to get the feel of it, and then to do some basic aerobatics…  HEAVEN!!!  

After that John put us through a series of advanced ‘aeros’ and I was right with him, lightly on the controls.  Surprisingly, I felt that with a little guidance I could have executed these manoeuvres, as I'm no stranger to them in gliders.”


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