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If you can supply further information on any of the topics below, or would like to send a message to any of our correspondents,
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Contacts from 2012:
Pam Smith is researching her father, Francis Anthony (Frank) Mason-Johnson, an engine fitter who appears to have been one of the early (1940 era) 3 Squadron reinforcements. We found that he is listed in ‘3SQN at War’ but unfortunately there is a paucity of other information readily available. (But for a fee of $17 the National Archives will put a copy of his RAAF file online for Pam.) If anyone has any information on Frank, please let us know.
Sandi Nipperess, 450 SQN Association Secretary, was only one of the people who forwarded a spectacular series of photographs of a B17 Flying Fortress that had its tail almost completely severed in a collision with a German fighter over Tunisia in February 1943. - Yet the B17 managed to return to base and land safely!
It’s a spectacular tale, but anyone who comes across these photos should note that the text often accompanying them has many inaccuracies. The true story is that the American 97th Bomb Wing, based in Algeria, flew a mission to the Tunisian port of Bizerte. When they were returning home, about 50km west of Tunis, a German Bf109G fighter, piloted by a 16-victory ace, Erich Paczia, crashed into the lead B17, “Flaming Mayme”. Paczia’s aircraft then went on to strike the tail of the photographic subject - B17 “All American III”.
Paczia and seven of the crew from “Flaming Mayme” were killed, and another three members of that B17 crew (named Birk, Knight and Blair) became POWs.
“All American III” returned to its base at Biskra, Algeria, without casualties and was later repaired and flew again! (Thus gaining lasting, if inaccurate, Internet fame!).
Former Mustang pilot Arthur Pardey has been in touch, with an amusing observation. One of the recent issues of RSL ‘Reveille’ magazine features a striking photo of a long line-up of 3 Squadron F/A-18 tails (with their distinctive Southern Cross) on an airfield set amongst rugged desert mountains. The caption reads: “Hornets from Number 3 Squadron … prior to a night sortie with the coalition forces in Afghanistan.”
Well the only problem with that caption is that the photo was taken in Nevada USA during the ‘Red Flag’ exercise in 2006. (The Nevada natives are somewhat friendlier than those in Afghanistan, but their air-defence is a lot more sophisticated!)
(And we salute the RSL for their ability to go ‘above and beyond’ in their inimitable fashion!)
Ian Tasker, an Engineer who's doing post-graduate research into pioneering aerial survey methods, was directed to us by the Army History Unit in his quest to track down the 3 Squadron personnel who took the photographs for the ‘Windsor’ military map of 1925-27. Ian thinks this was quite possibly the first instance of aerial photography used to aid map-making work in Australia. Fortunately the names of several of those flyers are available, as the 1920s ‘Richmond and Windsor Gazette’ has been digitised in the National Library TROVE system - and such flights regularly made the news. The online 1925 Operations Record Book also has some supporting information.
Jack Lusby was a Kittyhawk pilot who was posted all the way to North Africa to join 3 Squadron RAAF in 1942. However, Jack then became one of the ‘lost tribe’ of replacements who arrived in the Middle East in excess to the Squadron’s requirements. Jack enjoyed Xmas lunch at Marble Arch landing ground with Bobby Gibbes and the boys, but Jack never flew operationally with the Squadron. Although he did get some jobs with other combat squadrons, Jack eventually returned to Australia to become a distinguished test pilot. Jack’s diary is currently being written up by his daughter Maria Simms and we will publish it on our website when ready.
The diary is enhanced by many of Jack’s own illustrations (he was a newspaper cartoonist by profession) and it has also highlighted other members of the ‘lost tribe’ - some of whom tragically died in Africa before ever getting their promised time with No.3. (Such as Bob Wardrobe and Dave Shearman.)
Christmas lunch at Marble Arch landing ground, 1942.
From L to R: "Danny" Boardman; Rod Mackenzie (standing); Reg Stevens (centre); Alan Righetti; Rex Bayley (standing); Bob Gibbes (cap) and Keith Kildey.
Menu: Turkey, Ham, Roast Potatoes, Peas and Beans, Australian Beer, Plum Pudding with Rum Sauce. (And sand!)
After receiving a recent order from Mustang veteran Dusty Lane’s family, South Australian artist Drew Harrison has now produced commercial quantities of his excellent 3SQN Mustang print “Nowhere to Hide”. The original painting was awarded 2nd Prize in the 2010 RAAF Heritage Awards and has since graced the wall of Chief of Air Force Geoff Brown, who commanded 3SQN from 1997-2000. The image is also featured on our web page “Boxing Day”, which describes in detail the last of 3 Sqn’s fighter-versus-fighter combats of WW2.
Click here for ordering Details.
Wing Commander David Fredericks from Canberra passed on an interesting family-history story concerning his relative Lt. Max Robert SHELLEY, who started WW1 in the Army but ended up as a Lieutenant observer in 3SQN AFC. We were able to supply David with several new leads, following the links on our “Research” web-page. Max’s diary is in the AWM and he is also mentioned in the official history (by Cutlack) and 3AFC’s history (“The Battle Below” by Wrigley) as well as Sir Lawrence Wackett’s autobiography. Max was involved in many exciting missions over the front, including some of the Squadron’s daring penetrations of German airspace using fast Bristol Fighters. His exploits also figure in various newspaper articles in the National Library TROVE database. During WW2 Max signed up again and was heavily involved as a senior officer in recruitment and training. The icing on the cake was when John Love recognised that Max had flown as Nigel Love’s RE8 observer. Max is shown in several nice photos from Nigel’s collection. David later wrote back to express his thanks for this unexpected bounty of information.
Surprisingly, two more items of news related to Nigel Love have come up in the last few months. An excellent model kit of his RE8 aircraft has been released recently:
Nigel’s RE8 B3420 was coded “K” and featured a nice personal emblem of “Kangaroo and Boomerang” in white.
Also Robert Blaikie from Queensland kindly sent us two 1923 photos of an Avro 504, G-AUDM, manufactured by Nigel Love at Mascot (the first commercial Aircraft-manufacturing venture in Australia) and flown by Jack Tracey - a significant Queensland aviation pioneer who had also been a pilot with 3AFC in WW1. These photos are now displayed on our website’s “Jack Treacy” page.
Douglas Cooper from the USA has brought up an interesting fact for anyone interested in General Rommel. It seems that recent historical research has shown that Rommel’s staff car was shot-up and wrecked in Normandy on 17 July 1944 by a NZ Spitfire pilot, Bruce Oliver.
Rommel was seriously wounded and never regained his health. Bizarrely, he was later forced to commit suicide, on 14 October 1944, once his support for the failed plot to kill Hitler had been found out by the Nazis.
Jim Hall, the hardworking President of the Association’s Queensland Branch has kindly noted a fantastic online set of original colour photos of the RAF in WW2:
Colin Ferguson from Perth wrote to say: “My father's name was Clarence Gordon Ferguson and he served in the 3 Squadron in North Africa. I have a glass beer mug from ‘Birra Cirene Bengasi’ that my father got in 1941-1942. I would like to know what else might be out there to collect and might be interested in selling in the future. Is there anyone collecting this type of item?”
The Italian-language lettering on the mug dates both it and the brewery to the time before the Allied invasion of Libya in 1941. "Cirene" refers to the Libyan province of Cyrenaica. There’s a good market on E-Bay for militaria and ephemera associated with the Desert War and Colin’s mug may be worth around $50.
Another interesting research question arrived from Jeff Latter, our Association’s Secretary in Queensland: “One of our members came across a prop and he is trying to trace its history. It’s off a Bristol BE2E biplane. It was designed in 1912 so it would have to be one of our first aircraft.”
Jeff is right - the prop is very historic. Australia’s first aviation establishment, the Central Flying School (Pt. Cook) had two BE.2as and a BE.2e. An article on our website records that the BE.2e (B6183) was flown by one of our most illustrious 3 Squadron veterans (Henry Wrigley) on the first-ever trans-continental crossing of Australia by air. [See our Wrigley Interview.] - There are BE2 wings surviving in a museum in Victoria, so probably they would be quite keen to get the prop too!
Thomas Cavanagh from Queensland, who served with 33 Dental Unit in South Vietnam, wrote: “I am putting together a collection of Australian Ex-Service Organisations’ membership badges and membership cards. So far I have found badges for approximately 1,500 Australian organisations, many of which no longer exist. My collection is a historical collection, which I intend to give to the AWM or a museum.” Tom Russell very kindly provided a 3SQN ASSN badge (circa 1970s, but in mint condition) featuring the Desert Air Force cross with a superimposed “3” and a bomb-wielding Kittyhawk (the bird, not the plane!) and Mr. Cavenagh later made a generous donation to the Association’s bank account. Happiness for all parties!
Tom Russell has also recommended an interesting article from Air Force News with poignant photographs of all five Australians executed as a result of the Great Escape in 1944. http://www.defence.gov.au/news/raafnews/editions/4605/history/story01.htm
Richie White writes: My father is putting together a book for the family about his father's flying during WW1. His father was Air Vice Marshal Hugh G. White, C.B., C.B.E., R.A.F as featured on your website RE7 aircraft page. Hugh wrote off Airframe No.2299 which was one of the three-seater R.E.7's in your article. We are searching for photos of it, if there are any in existence, or a higher quality version of the one on your site. Any information would be hugely appreciated.
Adrian Raven of Sydney [left] recently presented a model of one of the Squadron's Mustangs to Arthur Pardey [right], who flew this very aircraft on some occasions in 1945.
LAC John Bowler at Williamtown a found a cracking 1950s colour film online, produced by the Golden Fleece Company with interesting footage of Richmond, Williamtown (Sabres) and Amberley, all presented in the distinctive plummy style of the era. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cngYkAVN5jo
3SQN Association Qld. member Roy Smith writes: “I was stationed at RAAF Base Fairburn in 1949 serving as an Aircraft Electrician with No 3 Squadron. Like all young airmen I never missed the opportunity to grab a flight in one of the Squadron Austers or in our Wirraway. On one particular flight our Wirraway caused a mid-air collision between three Mustangs. We were pulling out of a loop when the Mustangs flew into the aerobatic zone and, in order to avoid a collision with our aircraft, the lower Mustang pulled up and collided with the wingtip and part of the control surface of the Mustang above it, shattering his own propeller. The middle Mustang also did some minimal damage to the lower surface of the aircraft above it. The pilot of the middle aircraft was Lyall Klaffer (later to become O.C. RAAF Edinburgh). The lower Mustang was piloted by our Adjutant, who unfortunately did not survive. Klaffer did a belly-landing back at Fairburn and walked away from the wreckage.
- My question is: can anyone give me any details of the Wirraway pilot?”
This provided an interesting challenge for the online information sources listed on our website “Research” page. The “ADF Serials” database shows a mid-air collision at Fairburn on 15 September 1949 between Mustangs A68-83 and A68-89. The National Archives of Australia (NAA) gave the accident report for A68-89, naming the deceased pilot as F/Lt. G.J. Edwards. (He died attempting to bale out from his Mustang; his parachute canopy was ripped from its shroud-lines during his exit from the cockpit at 2000ft and he fell to his death.) Interestingly, the Mustang crash report does not mention the Wirraway, while Edwards’ “Casualty” file does name Wirraway A20-754, but not its pilot.
A final cross-check with the online 3SQN Operations Record Book showed that the Wirraway was flown by a P3-level pilot with the surname Hunt. Further reading in the ORB confirmed that this was Robert Charles Arthur HUNT, A11389, who later flew Meteors in Korea and Malta (where he was injured in a Meteor accident). Hunt had formerly flown in WW2.
The National Library’s TROVE database also has several press reports giving details of this tragic 3SQN accident.
Robin Saikia, a British historian and travel writer, is working on a history of Venice in the First and Second World Wars. 239 Wing’s Operation Bowler (a “surgical strike” on the Venice wharves - carefully avoiding all World Heritage architecture!) is perhaps one of the most dramatic set-pieces in this book. Robin is in the process of researching first-hand accounts of the Op. We referred Robin to the original Operation Bowler Report and other first-hand sources listed on our website “Research” page.
Artwork: "Attack by Nos 3 and 450 Squadrons on enemy shipping near Venice" by Alan Moore. [AWM Copyright ART27619]
This was a precision attack by four squadrons of Mustang and Kittyhawk fighter bomber. including No.3 and 450 Squadrons, Royal Australian Air Force, against shipping and installations at Venice
during the campaign in Italy. The aircraft sank a 3,5000-tonne merchant ship, a torpedo boat and a coastal vessel, blew away much of the west quay and destroyed five large waterfront warehouses.
By the end of the month, largely as a result of the dominance which the fighter bombers had attained over Italy, no target could be adequately defended against them, and no movement of enemy troops
or supplies over a very large area was possible without danger of surprise attack by the aircraft. On 2 May, 1945 all German forces in Italy and western Austria surrendered.
Mike Swan, a retired “Arm-Fitt2”, who was at 3SQN from 1986-90, has asked how to submit some stories and photos from that time. [We welcome stories by e-mail, or formatted MS-Word document, with photos attach as scans in JPEG format. - We’re looking forward to seeing Mike’s efforts.]
Our website has been displaying a query from Bob Muirhead DFC, seeking information about his friend from RAAF training days, 3SQN Tomahawk pilot Geoff Hiller, who was shot down and killed in Libya on 2 Dec 41. Now Bob’s request has attracted a remarkable response from Paul Oaten, a collector of aviation memorabilia, who forwarded images of an engrossing 1942 letter from Al Rawlinson to Geoff Hiller’s father, describing Geoff’s time in the Squadron and including a frank description of his demise.
Also Paul sent in several excellent pictures for our website, including one of parachute silk material, souvenired by Geoff Hiller from a Vichy French Dewontine 520 fighter that he shot down over Syria on 10 July 1941. (93-year-old Bob later e-mailed his delight at hearing for the first time of Geoff’s aerial victory.)
Another contribution of Paul's was an impressive line-up of 3SQN Kittyhawks in Africa.
Plus poignant pictures of the Kittyhawk crash-site of John ("Jack") Raffen. (Shot down by flak 30 Dec 43, only one month after he had arrived at 3 Squadron - and later visited by Arthur Dawkins, who took the pictures.)
We’ve had some correspondence with Ronald V in Holland, the author of an interesting website, with maps and pictures of the Bailleul aerodrome used by 3AFC in World War I to patrol the Ypres Salient. Especially interesting are amazing “before and after” pictures of the destruction by shelling of Bailleul township during the German spring offensive of 1918. This shelling served to rudely evict 3 Squadron from this airfield and sadly caused two deaths and a number of injuries amongst the 3AFC ground grew.
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