3SQN READER CONTACTS...
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John LOVE reminds us that 2019 is the 100th Anniversary of the founding of Sydney’s Mascot Airport by his father Nigel LOVE. Nigel personally selected the aerodrome site for his Australian Aircraft & Engineering Company, and personally made the first flight from Mascot in an Avro 504K that they uncrated on the spot. Nigel (ex 3AFC pilot) and his AA&EC partners, Broadsmith (ex A. V. Roe UK designer) and Warneford (3AFC’s former Equipment Officer) were responsible for several other “firsts”: the first Australian aircraft factory; first aircraft purchased by Qantas; and first Australian-made aircraft sold to the RAAF.
Sydney Airport today - a far cry from the "Bullock Paddock" acquired by Nigel Love in 1919!
The “Wingnut Wings” model company (actually a very substantial manufacturing company backed by NZ’s Sir Peter JACKSON, Director of the Lord of the Rings movies and a long-standing) has released a model kit commemorating the . This was a celebrated moment in the Squadron’s 1918 history. - Lieutenants R. C. ARMSTRONG (Pilot) and F. J. MART (Observer) in RE8 D4689 sneaked up behind the Halberstadt, which was disoriented over the front-line, and “got the drop on it” with their machine guns!
Chris CAMERON (son of WW2 3SQN ace “Tiny”) reviewed some very nice photos of his dad that have popped up recently in the AWM…
Msus, Libya - 8 Jan 1942. Sergeant A. C. "Tiny" CAMERON, of 3SQN [right],
with Sergeant I. A. LYONS. [AWM 023107]
Chris has founded an “innovative new” agricultural compost business – but he had reservations about drawing parallels with the “innovative new” 3SQN F-35s. “Given that good compost-making is primarily ‘shit-stirring’ on a massive scale, if it was Canberra then it would be very relevant. But [maybe not] these flash new, and blindingly expensive, toys…” says Chris.
Our new member Darragh CHRISTIE has written an excellent WW1 article:BANKS was an Observer flying with 3AFC. Astoundingly, 3AFC submitted a claim for shooting down a “red German triplane” on the morning that the Red Baron died… (However it was not the Baron! - And German records show that their ace Oblt. Joachim WOLFF survived and flew home with a severed rudder cable.)
Darragh is also related to a 3SQN member from WW2, “Syd” LINEHAN, who shipped-out with the Squadron’s July 1940 “Originals” to the Middle East. As a Lysander “Air Observer”, Syd had only brief employment with 3SQN, but he then had a very torrid time around Tobruk with other units. He recorded aabout his experiences. Darragh recalls that Syd was injured during an enemy air raid and lost a few friends shot down - some badly burned. (One made it back with help from local Arabs.) Syd went on to become a very accurate bomb-aimer and navigator in in SE Asia later in the war.
Our Victorian member Lynne NASH (daughter of 3SQN’s WW2 Commanding Officer Murray NASH) has found a fascinating photo of Murray’s older brother Allan NASH from 1928, on a “Citizen’s Air Force” exercise with No.1 Squadron RAAF at Laverton, Victoria. The aircraft is a WW1-vintage DH9A.
The RAAF early-history book “The Third Brother" discusses this under-resourced time:
“… The first CAF units - Nos. 1 and 3 Squadrons - were raised on 1 July 1925 at Point Cook. No.3 Squadron subsequently transferred to Richmond… No.1 Squadron moved to Laverton in January 1928. Both were described as 'composite' general purpose squadrons, with approximately one-third of personnel being drawn from the Permanent Air Force and the remainder from the CAF. The latter were distinguishable from their permanent force colleagues only by a dark blue, red and aqua triangular flash (the colour patch of the old AFC) worn at the top of the sleeves of their tunic. Both units comprised separate flights of fighters, day bombers, and Army Cooperation aircraft - these roles being filled by SE5A, DH9A and DH9 types respectively - with the idea of providing a basis for quickly expanding each squadron to three, each flight providing the nucleus of a new squadron of that type. These two squadrons were, in fact, the RAAF's only operational units…”
Lyn also found a 1928explaining the duties of those in the Citizen Air Force. They were expected to attend once a year for a period of 25 days and were instructed in such areas as elementary handling of machines, bombing, aerial fighting, photography and cross-country flying. At that time the CAF consisted of 20 officers and 296 men and outstanding men may have been given complete flying training. All ranks were expect to go aloft during their periods of training, and the reasons for this were two-fold: it gave those involved the most powerful incentive to do good work on the machines in which they may be called upon to fly; and it put out of reach possible means of revenge if a mechanic had a grudge against a pilot [!].
Ray CHRISTENSEN, a researcher at Cairns Historical Society, has been investigating a photo from their collection, from Syria in 1941. It’s a 3SQN Tomahawk, AK436, which force-landed on 11/7/41 near Yafour, 10 miles NNW of Damascus (at that time occupied by the Allies) after being hit by Vichy French A/A fire. The pilot, Flying Officer Lin KNOWLES, was unhurt. The photo shows the airframe being prepared for salvage.
Ray also helped to correct a photo-caption on our page “”, showing the crashed 3SQN Tomahawk AK366, in the Jordan Valley. Ray has located two further online images of the same aircraft, being laboriously onto its undercarriage and away.
Philip HUNT, from Bendigo in Victoria, wrote to say that he has never seen a photo of his relative, Warrant Officer John Henry HEDGER (1921-1944). John died in a tragic 3SQN incident, when he encountered difficulty of some sort while going on a dive-bombing mission on 6/9/44. He returned to base early (to Iesi) and then inexplicably made a “heavy landing”, whereupon his bombs exploded. An experienced pilot, John seems to have become incapacitated in some way (or else his Kittyhawk did). The exact cause will never be known. Fortunately there is an identity-card picture of John in his.
[Today the old Iesi runway has been repurposed as a rather wide concrete street in that town – the.]
Steve MEROLA from the USA has asked: “Given the picture of Aussie airmen holding the Red Baron's machine guns from his wrecked plane, do you have any info as to what happened to them after WW1 - are they in a museum or such?” - Surprisingly, MvR's guns are not in the AWM catalogue. (- they disappeared at an early stage.) However, MvR’s with “L” and “R” gun triggers is on display.
Steve, being an aircraft modeller, is also interested in the camouflage colours that were painted on 3SQN’s North African Gloster Gladiators at the onset of hostilities with Italy in 1940. This is actually quite a complex topic, as the Gladiators were “hand me downs” from other British Empire units, and were also subject to some repainting. The illustration below is extracted from the excellentand depicts Pete TURNBULL’s “Sweet Sue” in the complex “4-Colour Counter-Shading” scheme applied to Gladiators intended for the Egyptian Air Force. Amazingly, the underside was painted “high visibility” black and white - to theoretically protect them from “friendly” AA fire.
(But what about attracting “unfriendly” Italian fire?!)
[Thanks to Dom O’Donnell and Steve Mackenzie who provided valuable info on this question.]
Jane GOFFMAN, the Canberra Town Planner who has done a lot of research to pinpoint the exact site of 3SQN’sin 1926, has sent in a picture of a metal photo-frame made from a piece of the DH9 wreckage. This is on display at the Canberra & District Historical Society in Curtin, ACT. (This rectangular fitting may possibly be the “camera port” from the bottom of the aircraft fuselage.)
Cy CRANE from the UK has discovered a Christmas Greeting from 3SQN received by his Grandfather in 1944. The sender was Warrant Officer Ian RENNISON, a 3SQN Mustang pilot. Cy has been hopeful of contacting descendants, but sadly Ian died in action on 21/2/1945, and hisshows he was "single". Ian came from Horsham, Victoria. An informative about his family shows that they were highly-respected there. Another article shows that Ian’s niece was born later in Adelaide.
Ian's crash site was excavated byand his volunteer 3SQN team.
Another new Association member, Judy DEVENISH, is the daughter of Tom WARREN, who served in 3SQN from May ‘42 to October ‘43 as an Airfield Guard. Judy sends a "beardy" photo - probably from the "Race to Tripoli" in early 1943, when water was extremely short and the boys swore not to shave until they got to the former Italian colonial capital! If anyone can identify any of the beardy boys, please let us know.
Our Member Des SHEEHAN has made a fantastic discovery in an old storage box at home. A “Museum Quality” autograph book, in excellent condition, that had been kept by his father, 3AFC RE8 pilot Malcolm SHEEHAN. [More examples shown on our 'Images' page.]
Jake NEWHAM has sent in a rare “fully-captioned” 3SQN pic from 22 Feb 1960...
No.3 (F) SQUADRON PHOTO - 22 FEB 1960
FRONT ROW [left to right] PLT.OFF DUNN, FLT.LT RICHARDSON, FLG.OFF REESE, FLG.OFF JOHNSTON,
FLG.OFF MATTERS, FLG.OFF LOVES, FLG.OFF LODGE, FLT.LT NEWHAM, WG.CDR THOMAS, FLT.LT SCULLY,
FLG.OFF STENHOUSE, FLG.OFF THOMPSON, FLG.OFF CRUMP, FLG.OFF NOBLE, FLG.OFF JENKINS,
FLG.OFF DART, FLT.LT SIMMONDS, FLG.OFF MITCHELL.
SECOND ROW [left to right] SGT LESLIE, SGT WHEELER, SGT REARDON, SGT LENSON, SGT HYLAND,
F.SGT PIGGOTT, W.OFF LAMP, W.OFF JARRETT, SGT MARSHAL, SGT CORMACK, SGT PIZARRO, SGT THOMSEN,
THIRD ROW [left to right] LAC BROWN, CPL MEEK, CPL GARDINER, LAC COWAN, CPL COOK,
LAC McDONNELL, LAC SHARKEY, CPL CLARK, CPL FLYNN, LAC CARNEY, CPL SMITH, LAC GUY,
LAC DeFRISKBOM, LAC INGATE, CPL MITCHELL, LAC O'LEARY,
CPL BURKETT, CPL ROWLANDS.
BACK ROW [left to right] LAC GIFFORD, LAC ROSSELLO, LAC WARD, LAC VANDERVELDEN, LAC McCLELLAND,
LAC FIXTER, LAC BLAYDEN, LAC KEETON, LAC DORSMANN, LAC LARSEN, LAC BRAME, LAC MONKHOUSE,
LAC SALTER, LAC CAMPBELL, LAC SAXTON, LAC MOORE.
ABSENT: CPL SINGER, CPL BROWN, LAC ELLOY, LAC MAYO, LAC KNIGHT, LAC STOKES.
Grant PRUNSTER, a Canberra model-builder, has been seeking info on the “Bus-Ambulances” that were used to smoothly transfer medical air-evacuation patients onto RAAF C-130 Hercules flights during the Vietnam War. (Grant is making a diorama of this scene.)
VUNG TAU, SOUTH VIETNAM, C. 1971. RAAF MEDICAL EVACUATION UNITS.
AIR-CONDITIONED TRANSPORT BUS FROM 1ST AUSTRALIAN FIELD HOSPITAL UNLOADS PATIENTS
DIRECTLY ONTO THE DECK OF A HERCULES AIRCRAFT. [AWM P00657.028]
Although this topic is not really 3SQN territory, by good luck we quickly happened upon an answer for Grant. The bus pictured was built by Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, based on their commercial "" bus body, manufactured in Melbourne. (CAC famously built RAAF Sabre fighters, and substantial parts of the RAAF Mirage.)
It’s probable that this “custom” bus design (with air-conditioning ducted along the top of the cabin, rear-opening doors and removable seats and stretchers) was patterned on previous RAAF experience with USAF bus-ambulances made by the International Harvester company.
Doug NORRIE, 450 Squadron Assn Historian, sent in two interesting questions, highlighting some forgotten aspects of 3SQN’s Desert history. Firstly: “A Gloster Gladiator I, serial K8020, was at 3SQN during April 1942, according to the Air Britain book: 'The K File'. It apparently came from Western Desert Communication Flight. Was it used for training?”
Gladiator K8020 in the Desert. [Original pic by 3SQN’s Bob GILLETT; submitted via Doug NORRIE.]
Unfortunately there’s no formal mention of K8020 in the 3SQN. This was a month when 3SQN had been “stood down” for leave. (But some new pilots were still arriving and there are several references in the ORB to "training".) Also, on the 28th of that month, 3SQN returned to Ops and the Kittyhawks deployed to Gambut, Libya, while the Base stayed at Sidi Haneish, Egypt (300km further back). So a “Comms” Gladiator may well have proven useful.
Secondly: “Regarding Kittyhawk I, AK961 (”CV-O”) with the nose-art of Snifter the dog. [Urinating on a palm tree, the logo of the Afrika Korps!] A well-known aircraft; when did it arrive at 3SQN? Did Bobby Gibbes fly it? It later flew with 2 SAAF Squadron.”
Illustration of "Snifter" from "Curtiss P-40D/E Kittyhawk Mk.I/IA" by Leszek A.Wieliczko, Tom Zmida. KAGERO Press.
"Snifter" is indeed famous and most references list it as being flown by Danny BOARDMAN. (However, the 3SQN ORB shows that this was only for one mission – 24th June 1942.) AK961 first appears in the ORB on 12th June 1942. Thereafter it was flown intensively by several pilots, Jack DONALD most frequently. (But withdrawn occasionally for maintenance.) From early July ’42 it is no longer listed on 3SQN operations. [SQNLDR Bob GIBBES was off Ops at this time, with one leg in plaster, recovering after having been shot down.]
● Doug also generously provided some extra info for a photo caption on oursong page.
An Italian historian, Dr. Mario RAINALDI, is compiling a book about aviators who fought in the Sangro River region during WW2. [Site of the famous German Gustav defensive line.]
Mario is interested in 3SQN’s Jack RAFFEN, who was shot down by flak and crashed fatally near Francavilla on 30 December 1943.
Jack, looking happy at Mileni airfield, Italy, Xmas 1943.
We were able to send Mario several useful references, including , Jack’s and related .
Our National Library’s TROVE online newspaper database offers a “world-class” service to research almost any historical topic. TROVE has often been of great value in unearthing and clarifying 3SQN History.
For example, here are two uplifting articles:
Xmas '43 Message written by the famous “3 Padres”:
Fred McKay greets his Inland Australia friends (1944):
Maria SIMMS, our member from the Northern Rivers of NSW, has discovered an amazingly poignant WW1 online “experience” that everyone can try - a short of the cessation of artillery fire, right on the dot of 11am, on 11/11/1918.
This reconstruction was made possible due to precise measurements, 100 years ago, by an obscure British Army unit called the . (They tracked German artillery, using flash and sound detection.) Surprisingly, sound-ranging was developed on the Western Front by an Australian Nobel-Prize Winner, , who finished the war with an OBE and MC. [The dramatic drop in artillery noise exactly at 11am was also mentioned in the diaries of 4AFC airmen, stationed just behind the front line.]
Our member Ken McCRACKEN had a fantastic time at the Cessnock Airshow in September, really enjoying the variety of displays. To top it off, his plane picked-up the Trophy for “Best Vintage Aircraft” - even though he hadn’t actually entered the competition!
Ken’s comfy camp at Cessnock, under the wings of his 1946-vintage Stinson Voyager, VH-ROE.
●.Another big attraction at Cessnock Airshow was the History Display by our sister Association, .
Historical Comparison: Grottaglie, Italy. 15 September 1943. Pilots have used the wings of a Kittyhawk
aircraft, of No.3 (Kittyhawk) Squadron RAAF, to provide shelter, with mosquito nets, at night.
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 “” exploit on the Pescara River.
Val’s husband Sid is standing tall at the rear [in front of the Ops Caravan window].
The CO, Rex BAYLY, is at the steering wheel in the centre, wearing his distinctive white flying suit. And in front are the Squadron mascots: 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.
[REAR; six men standing on furniture behind jeep, left to right:] Bruce BURCHFIELD, Brian WALDIN, Sid COATES, Hugh BEATTY [Ground Staff, wearing cap], Chas WANNAN, Jack COTTERILL.
[MIDDLE GROUP, standing beside or sitting on jeep:] Pat FOLEY [Medical Officer], Ken RICHARDS DFC [white scarf], Col CALLANDER [rear], Jack GLEESON, Ken McRAE [Engineering Officer, holding windscreen], Squadron Leader Rex BAYLEY DFC [C.O., at steering wheel], Doug SHORT, Jim STEEL, Ron STEELE, [partially obscured at rear], Alec MacDONALD, Mike DONALDSON, Keith HEWITT.
[FRONT ROW; sitting on sand:] Chris MATLEY, John Hobson HOOKE [Flight Commander], John DOEG, Ken IRVING [with stuffed wallaby mascot "Joe"], George BENTON [Intelligence Officer] , Allan FIELD [holding "Shabby" the dog - Squadron mascot and also radio call-sign], Ray FARIA, Spike JENNINGS.
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 Oberleutnant Josef LOESER, the Jasta 46 Squadron Leader. He crashed in flames on a ridge just behind the German frontline trenches. (Theincludes detailed reports.)
Oblt. 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:.
- 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, 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 - in 1929!]
Our research into Nigel’s achievements has also revealed another history-making moment: On Saturday 14 February 1920, Nigel escorted a from 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 !
The Vickers Vimy photographed over Regents Park in the Western Suburbs of Sydney.
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 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 interestingfrom 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.) As a bonus, an excellent online 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. 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 “” 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…
6 MAY 1960. 24 SABRE JETS FLY OVER BUTTERWORTH BASE IN NORTHERN MALAYA.
THIS WAS THE LARGEST FORMATION OF JET FIGHTERS SEEN IN MALAYA. THE FLYPAST WAS
A FAREWELL TO THE FORMER CO OF 78 FIGHTER WING GROUP CAPTAIN G. A. COOPER DFC AFC.
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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