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Contacts from 2015:

Former 3SQN Commanding Officer Pete Scully is overseeing the re-modelling of the RAAF Memorial Centre Museum in Hobart.  They’ve discovered a great stack of interesting items that had been stored away in boxes for years, and also received a remarkable collection of WW1 items from a Tasmanian donor.  One of Pete’s tasks is to set up a photo-portrait display with a replica medal-group representing another famous Tasmanian “CO3”, Brian Eaton.  Brian became one of the RAAF’s most highly-decorated airmen of WW2. 


Pete Scully [left] in Hobart with Bruce Waxman.

It's interesting to note that amongst Brian’s many medals is the US “Silver Star”, given in recognition of his leadership of the famous 239 Fighter-Bomber Wing in Italy.  (Which of course included RAAF Nos.3 and 450 Sqns.)  Other mileposts in 3 Squadron’s long relationship with the USA have included the CO of 3AFC in WW1, David Blake, being awarded the American "Distinguished Service Medal" in the aftermath of the Great War; Fred Barnes getting a "USAF Military Medal" in Korea; and Vance Drummond a "US Air Medal" in Vietnam.

A ripping Korean yarn telephoned in by Jake Newham is repeated below:

Jake was flying a 77SQN Meteor jet on a strike-mission in North Korea.  He was meant to "bring up the rear" of the attacking formation and take some nice steady photos of the damage inflicted.  The only problem with this was that the target was a Communist Anti-Aircraft School!  So Jake’s pix were somewhat degraded by violent evasive action...

– Irrespective, Jake was unable to evade the later snide assessments of the 77SQN C.O.! 

A funny postscript to this story occurred years later, at a diplomatic reception in Eastern Europe where Jake met a Chinese chap who had been down on the ground in the A.A. School during that same attack.  Apparently this Mao-suited gent had thoroughly enjoyed his impromptu A.A. practice... 

Thereafter the diplomatic aplomb of the reception was somewhat disrupted as these two erstwhile adversaries conducted noisy and detailed hand-waving re-enactments over in the corner!

Jake also sent in another snippet: “When we deployed 3SQN Sabres to Butterworth in 1958, our WOFF Engineer, Ernie HARKNESS, told me that this was the “second” time he’d gone overseas with 3SQN.  I checked the 1940 nominal roll and, sure enough, it confirmed his achievement.  A great guy and first-class engineer.” 

[Ernie - sadly deceased in 1989 - was one of the 1940 "3SQN WW2 Originals".  His 1958 record in the National Archives shows an "Exceptional" trade-rating from WGCDR Thomas.  - In WW2 there had also been some 3SQN lads who had served with 3AFC in WW1.]

Tim Howes of Goonengerry NSW writes: I have just purchased a 75%-scale flying replica of a German Fiesler Storch and would like to paint the aircraft to represent one captured and used operationally by the Allied forces.  In my research into these aircraft, I was most excited to discover Storch NM.ZS

We were able to supply Tim with several photos and snippets about this aeroplane. It is mentioned briefly in "3 Squadron at War" for its remarkable short-takeoff-and-landing characteristics.  It could land right next to the 3SQN Mess Tent! However, it was not actually a 3SQN aircraft, but the personal transport of "Mary" Coningham, the much-respected Air Officer Commanding Western Desert.


NM.ZS upon capture.

Alby Anderson from New Zealand (a former All-Black who now collects militaria) wrote to enquire about an historic print that he recently purchased.  It shows 3SQN pilots at Agnone Sicily in 1943.  

This was their "Operations Room" (actually a recycled farmer's stable).  The pumpkins on the wall date it to Sept. 1943; late in the occupation of Agnone.  This photograph is catalogued in the Imperial War Museum.  In the very corner of the room, behind the table, is FLTLT George Barton, 3SQN Intelligence Officer.  Right of Barton at the table is Squadron Leader Reg Stevens.  Closer to the camera, in profile in the wicker chair, is pilot Arthur Collier.  Right of Collier in profile is pilot Arthur Dawkins.  Sitting on the shelf at the back wall in a battledress jacket is pilot Murray Nash.  Left of Murray, glancing across the room, is pilot Jack Doyle.  Just left of Doyle, reading the paper, is pilot John Hook.

We’ve had a very interesting email from Robert Don in England, concerning 3AFC’s moment of world-fame in April 1918: “The photos of the Red Baron (von Richthofen) showing his corpse strapped to a sheet of corrugated iron and also the photos of his burial site were taken by my Great-Uncle Alexander James DON

He was the official photographer on that day and I think that he should be referenced as these are exceptionally emotive and historically important images.  It would be really nice if he was recognised somewhere.  I also know that the original photos are in the possession of some family members who unfortunately I do not have contact with (yet).  Although Alexander’s Rank was Air Mechanic [2AM] his profession was photographer, which he also pursued after the war. ”

3rd Squadron AFC employed a number of photographers running the extensive darkroom facilities used to print reams of reconnaissance photos for the Army ‘brass hats’, mapmakers and troops in the front line - so Alexander would have had a very interesting time!  His service record is fascinating, as he was declared “unfit” to enlist for any war service – except photography.  (In fact he had contracted tuberculosis!)  - However his darkroom skills came highly recommended by the famous Melbourne photographer Algernon Darge (whose AFC photographs are well-known to historians).  In fact, Alexander’s struggle with his disability makes his historic contribution to 3AFC even more praiseworthy.  (If Robert can indeed get his hands on the family’s original photographs, then he too will be able to make a contribution to history, as the Red Baron’s portrait photo in the Australian War Memorial is in remarkably poor condition!)

Peter Kerville, the Melbourne son of WW2 Kittyhawk pilot Ron Kerville (who flew beside Peter Turnbull in 76SQN) sent in a very nice comment about our website:
“Well done - the description of the Battle at
Milne Bay is exactly as my Dad recounted it to me.”

Dianne Rutherford is a curator at the Australian War Memorial.  Recently we have also been able to help in Dianne’s quest to identify an unknown German aviator’s wooden leg that is in the AWM’s WW1 Display. 

The 3AFC war diaries show that a 3AFC RE8 crew (Pickering & Shelly) accurately observed the German plane being shot down at 1030am near the Australian trenches at Villers Bretonneux, and we also found that the wonderful TROVE newspaper system reveals three different eyewitness reports in published letters home from Australian troops.


AWM RELAWM07698 The German pilot's artificial leg

Tony McInerheney wrote in to enquire if any information was available about his father. (3SQN Mustang pilot John McInerheney, who passed away in 1987 and never talked much about his experiences.)  We were delighted to convey that his dad’s gripping personal account of evading capture, after being shot down over Yugoslavia  late in the war, is already available online – on our Family History Research page!  John McInerheney slogged through the mountains of Yugoslavia, Austria and Italy with partisan bands.  A Perth newspaper report headlined him: “One of the Last to Hear of the Victory.”

We’ve had some interesting correspondence with historian Air Commodore Mark LAX of the Airpower Development Centre in Canberra.  AIRCDRE Lax points out that despite Lt. James Brake being appointed as the Squadron’s first officer at Point Cook on 10 July 1916, there is a difference between “raising and despatching” and the “formation” of a squadron – so the Official Birthday” for 3 Squadron remains 19 September.  (We’ve got the 100 candles ready!)

Joe Iervasi was wondering about the Squadron’s radio call-sign in WW2.  Apparently, right from the Gladiator days in Egypt in 1940, it was set to “Shabby” – but we don’t know the reason behind it.  If any reader does know the story, please let us know.

While he wasn’t able to attend the ceremony at Richmond, Jake Newham sent in the best “apology”.  He revealed having personally led the Sabre flypast over the unveiling of the 3SQN Memorial at Richmond 57 years ago.  [Sunday 13th July 1958, at 11am].  “I visited Richmond on 10th July to walk the ground.  I recall six Sabres, four in line-astern with two flying line abreast on the No.2 of the [crucifix] formation”.  I used the water tower at Dural as I.P.” 

Jake also sent in a great photo (below) of another creative 3SQN Sabre formation.  [No doubt from the days when Air Force Week was a big thing.]

Neil Smith has sent in a WW1 photo of 3AFC pilot Jack BICE that we have added to his tribute web-page.

We were able to help Sean Carwardine, a recently-retired Airfield Defence Guard, who is now doing his PhD on the history of Airfield Defence in the RAAF. 
We found that 3SQN’s first "Aerodrome Defence Section" was formed at Richmond in July 1931.

Jennifer Ballard from Springwood NSW has sent in two wonderful pieces of memorabilia,  Firstly, pictures of the WW1 flying helmet of her grandfather, a highly-distinguished AIF officer who came to 3AFC for a couple of days in July 1918 for a “Liaison” course, and probably had a jaunt in an RE8 over his own front-line. 

Secondly, the interesting memoir of her mother, who flew as a Casualty Evacuation Nurse in the RAAF in WW2.

A British book-editor named Jim McNally sent us some remarkable photos of Zavratnica, a very steep fjord-like bay on the Croatian coast. 
The Germans guarded their coastal shipping here and ex-3SQN pilot Bob Ulrich copped some flakat Zavratnica in 1944.

Once again our satellite-reconnaissance enthusiast Bruce Nash has been very productive, sparking some useful collaborative research regarding historic 3SQN airfield locations in Italy.  In the process, we have cleared up a few long-standing mysteries – not least the locale of “Crete” airfield, where the Squadron operated in July-August 1944.  The fact that this name (as recorded in the 3SQN Operational Record Book) duplicates that of the famous Greek island has always frustrated our Internet searches for it in the past.  However, Bruce’s research into the nearby Foiano airfield [3SQN in Sept. 1944] revealed that the spelling of “Crete” should have been CRETI – as there is a modern-day town by that name. Bruce then found that 450 SQN had been calling the airfield “Creti” in 1944! 

In addition, the photo below shows Bruce’s tracing of landscape features to pinpoint the San Angelo D'Alife airstrip, east of Monte Cassino [3SQN occupied from April to June 1944] and he has discovered a nice online video of Cervia [occupied by 3SQN February to May 1945].

Group Captain “Doc” Millar from Canberra [where he goes under the impressive title of “Director Military Strategy and Future Warfighting“] wrote to tell us of his remarkable family link with Cliff PEEL, a WW1 3AFC pilot who was killed over the Hindenberg Line in 1918.  Doc [a self-described former F-111 6SQN “Pig Nav”] says: “Cliff Peel was engaged to my grandmother and I have a number of photo albums of Cliff's, which he left to Marion Amiet (then his fiancée, later my grandmother).  In addition to his interests in medicine, aviation and military affairs, Cliff was a prolific photographer.  With the photo albums, there are also original negatives, including one of a crashed Maurice Farnham Shorthorn with 'CFS' [Central Flying School] on the tail.”  [Doc’s contact has also highlighted recent historical research into Cliff’s fate.]

The grandson of George S. MYLES (3SQN WW2) has written in to say how useful our website has been for decoding George’s diary.

Our 3SQN website achieved a new usage record in April 2015, with more than 5,600 monthly visitors.  On Anzac Day itself we had over 1,000 interested readers! 

WW1 pilot Nigel Love’s offspring, John and Jeff, have both been in touch. 

John has very kindly donated a new reference book on WW1 to our website library and also sends the news that our Government has committed funds for the development of the Sir John Monash Centre at Villers-Bretonneux, France, for completion by 2018.  (3AFC contributed significantly to General Monash's “breakthrough” strategy in the Battle of Hamel and his many subsequent successes in 1918.)

Jeff has sent in a picture of a very nice model of their dad’s RE8:

Jake Newham has added the excellent news that the RAAF Museum has acquired a new full-sized flying reproduction of an RE8 for their display.

Terry Van Haren has sent in an interesting pic of 3SQN Wapitis participating in the opening ceremony of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, 19 March 1932.

Maria Simms in Northern NSW has had her book about her dad, Jack Lusby, accepted into the Digital Collection of the Australian War Memorial.  (Jack was one of 3SQN’s “lost tribe” of replacement pilots in WW2. 
See Jack’s War” on our website.)

Sandi Nipperess advises that 450 Squadron Association has just launched an enhanced website: http://www.450squadronraaf.org.au/

Jeff Latter, QLD 3SQN Assn Secretary:  A few weeks ago I received a call from Arthur Jackson, the son of a former 3 Squadron WWII pilot, “Old” John Jackson.  Arthur was inquiring if I could organise a representation from among 3 Sqn people to attend a presentation of his father’s letters and memorabilia to the Australian War Memorial.  I was also looking at receiving from Arthur any additional mementos that the AWM did not wish to keep or display and which would add to the display that is maintained at Williamtown.  Ken Moore, who presently lives in Canberra, volunteered to be our representative on the day for the handover.  I would like to thank Ken for giving up his time and spending a day taking tea   scones with the hierarchy and officials of the War Memorial and the family of one of 3 Squadron’s (and Australia’s) great heroes.

97-year-old Alan Righetti on the Sunshine Coast sent us a special note to say how much he appreciated the personal visit of the four Williamtown boys who supported Brisbane Anzac Day.  “We really enjoyed their company,” says Alan.

Perth resident Peter Epps has sent in an emotive photo of the 9-karat gold ring last worn by 3SQN Kittyhawk pilot Murdo McLEOD in 1943.  (Known as “Doc” on the Squadron – his family called him “Mooch”.)  

The ring was given to Doc by his fiancé Kay prior to his embarking for the Middle East.  It then travelled with Doc in 3SQN’s advance to Tunis in the North Africa campaign, and on to Malta and Sicily.  Doc was wearing this ring when he was shot down and captured by the Germans in Sicily and evacuated to France.  Very sadly, Doc was then wounded in an American bombing raid in August 1943 and died three weeks later in hospital in Avignon, France.  Given all the evil that was going on in the world at that time, it is quite astounding that the Germans then sent the ring back back via the Swiss Red Cross to Doc's mother in Perth!

[For more details about Doc and the bizarre sequence of events that followed his death, see our feature: "The Four Funerals of Doc McLeod".]

We were glad to help Robyn Lane from Brisbane interpret the WW1 file of her grandfather.  (Named Cedric Tyson BROWN, he was a 3AFC Observer who was wounded in action and met a lovely Welsh girl in England during his convalescence - whom he later married!)  An added bonus was finding, in the AWM, the first photograph that Robyn has ever seen of her grandfather.  (“Rather cute!” was Robyn’s assessment.  – Hmm, probably much the same opinion as her Welsh grandmother!)

Some delightful info has come in from Bruce Nash and Derek Nash, respectively the son and grandson of 3SQN’s famous two-tour WW2 Commanding Officer, Murray Nash (the man who put the Southern Cross on the Mustangs’ tails).  Derek advised that some of Murray’s war-medals were unfortunately lost in a house-fire long ago.  (Official "replacement" medals cannot now be issued, since Murray has been dead since 2009, but we were able to advise Derek on how to get replicas from a medal dealer and to have these "racked" with Murray’s original DSO, DFC and Bar.)  We also supplied a WW2 3SQN Badge graphic which Derek printed and applied to Bruce’s modern-day civil plane, (which naturally already sports a ‘Southern Cross’ rudder!) accompanying some words of tribute to Murray. 

 

Bruce Nash then entered the conversation - in addition to his civil aviation interests, Bruce has become a keen viewer of satellite photos of 3SQN’s old Italian airfields and a conservator of Murray’s written records.  Amazingly, using nothing but Google Street View, Bruce has located the concrete hard-stand (still bomb-pocked today!) where his father’s Mustang was photographed at Fano in December 1944! 

(We were able to return the favour by telling Bruce the location of the old concrete airstrip at Jesi – now a rather wide boulevarde, “Vialle dell Industria”.)

Gerry Mos, who served with 3SQN in Butterworth from 1975 to 1977, corrected the date of a fatal Mirage collision listed on our website. 

Gerry witnessed this event (6 July 1976) from the side of the runway:  “A 75SQN Mirage landed on top of the 3SQN Mirage [A3-26 which was waiting to take off].  The 75SQN machine slid down the runway, less its undercarriage, till the cockpit section broke away, twisting to the side...  The pilot [75SQN FltLt Paul KAYE, Mirage A3-64] jumped out, running back to the now flattened 3SQN Mirage.”

[This sad incident resulted in the instant death of 3SQN's Flying Officer Perry KELLY.  The full story has now been told in Jim Hall's article on this website.]

Christine Medwin has been in touch about her dad, David Desmond STUART, a WW2 LAC Armourer who is the subject of a couple of AWM photos
and whose diaries are preserved by Christine’s family.

We’re sad to report that Jeannie GIBBES, widow of 3SQN’s famous C.O. in North Africa, Bobby Gibbes, died just before Australia Day.

Jeannie’s daughter Julie sent this on 25 January 2015:

“I just want to let everyone know that Mum died last night on the dot of midnight at The Narrabeen War Vets, surrounded with Family.  Now she is enjoying a rum or three with Dad, and laughing at us all, with all our tears. Rest in Peace Mum, you will be missed.”


Darwin, NT.  1945-02-05.  Portrait of newly-married
Wing Commander Robert Henry Maxwell (‘Bobby’) Gibbes, DSO, DFC & bar,
and his wife, formerly Miss Jean Ince of Toorak, Victoria,
who is an Australian Red Cross hospital visitor. [AWM NWA0707A]

Mike Ryan has spotted a great new resource online in the AWM website – Bob Gibbes’ home movie of the Squadron on operations in Africa! - Worthwhile for anyone interested in Squadron life in 1942, it includes shots of Mike’s relative Fred Ryan and Ross Biden, both of whom died on 3SQN’s “longest day” of operations, 16/6/42.  http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/F03477/


[Left:] An air-to-air shot of a 3SQN Tomahawk taken by Bobby Gibbes with his movie camera.  [Right:]  Fred Ryan (wearing life-vest) at breakfast shortly before an operational takeoff.

Daniele Gatti, an Italian historical aviation writer, is currently researching the history of 20° Gruppo Caccia [Fighter Group] of the Regia Aeronautica in North Africa (May - December 1941).  Most of their dogfights were with 3 Squadron RAAF and Daniele is after good 3SQN Tomahawk pictures.  We gave him several suggestions.

Our conscientious member John Love has been beating the drum to ensure that the Centenary of the NSW State Aviation School at Richmond (officially opened 28 August 1916) is not forgotten amongst all the other forth-coming WW1 centenaries.  This was the first “official” use of Richmond RAAF base and also created the infrastructure that later attracted the embryonic Air Force (including 3SQN  from 1925 to 1940).   An example of State parochialism (the NSW Government fretted that Point Cook in Victoria was getting all the aviation action!) the NSW school nonetheless did valuable work, including training John’s dad Nigel Love.  Nigel did quite well in the School’s very first course and went on to fly for 3AFC over the Western Front in WW1.

For all Mirage fanciers, a great 75SQN video online: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVz8pcMYsLk
- A blast from the past in more ways than one!

Arnaud Prudhomme, an aviation author from Paris, will be using some of our website references when he writes about 3SQN Sabre operations against the insurgents in the Malayan jungle during the “Emergency” in the late 1950s.

Williamtown-based Journalist Nikki Taylor has been in touch asking about various items of 3SQN History, including some of the interestingly-named exercises flown by 3SQN in the early 1950s.  For example, from late October 1950, Exercise "Gay Jabiru" was conducted in the Northern Territory over a five-week period.  This was a Squadron "mobility exercise", where three C47 transports of groundcrew and eight photo-reconnaissance Mustangs were flown to Darwin; staging through Mildura, Mallala (South Australia) and Alice Springs.  This tested operational readiness over long distances and in adverse tropical weather conditions.  In Darwin a wide variety of exercises were flown: ground attack; air-to-air fighter tactics; tactical reconnaissance; naval cooperation and night-flying.  Familiarisation with tropical weather and survival procedures was also gained.  The Squadron returned to Canberra via Amberley (Qld) at the start of December 1950.   [It remains to be seen whether the Gay prefix will ever again be revived to denote a 3SQN exercise!]

Margaret Deacon is trying to contact Kev Harris’s son, John Harris (or any Harris family member).  Margaret’s Dad (Laurie Whitford) and Kev served in 3 Squadron together in North Africa and Italy.  They were great mates.  Kev and Marie’s last address was 16 Prince Street, Mornington, Vic.  If you can help, please contact Margaret on 0439-871-329.

Ex-3SQN CO and now Group Captain Terry Van Haren will be back in Williamtown from 2015 as Officer Commanding 78 Wing.  (78 Wing conducts operational training - ground and air - on the Classic Hornet and Hawk at Nos.76 and 79 Squadrons and No.2 Operational Conversion Unit.  Also No.278 Squadron has an increasing role providing simulator training to aircrews and maintenance personnel at Air Force bases across Australia.)  Congratulations Terry!

And before Terry takes all of the limelight, we’ve also had a great update from his fast-growing son Rhys:  "I’m very pleased to inform you that last week I turned 15, and on the next day I flew solo.  I wasn’t up for very long, but it was a thrill.  I’m still not qualified to take people for rides but hopefully that may come soon."

Canberra-based Sabre enthusiast Gordon Bennett has sent in some fine photos of 3SQN Sabre aircraft for our 'Aircraft' page.  He also has a query about the 3 Squadron 1959 Sabre Aerobatic Team - if anyone knows the 'Serial Numbers' of the three display aircraft (this fact is unfortunately not mentioned in the Squadron's Operations Record Book, although it does a mention that there was also a fourth 'spare' aircraft) then Gordon would greatly appreciate this information.

The award-winning Aviation Artist Drew Harrison now has a great new “online shop” featuring his RAAF art-quality prints.  Subjects include WW2 (notably 3SQN Mustangs), Korea, Vietnam and modern-day Iraq.   http://drewharrisonart.bigcartel.com/category/aviation.

Our member Jeff Love has now gone into a second printing of his excellent biographical study of his father Nigel Love (Australian aviation industry pioneer and 3AFC RE8 pilot in the First World War).  Jeff has also received a very encouraging letter from the Chief of Air Force, Geoff Brown, about his book.

An overseas reader, David Kelly in Qatar, is researching the death of the Red Baron in WW1.  We were able to offer some pointers to 3AFC’s ‘War Diary’ online: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1338818   (April 1918, PART 1, p6 and p75).  3AFC actually filed a “decisive” victory claim for shooting down the Baron! (PART 2 page 10.)  This was sincere, but mistaken - the Squadron’s RE8s had been in combat with some other red-painted triplanes, not the Baron, who famously waited at high altitude to swoop down on his victims, earning his (then) nickname of “The Red Falcon”.  (The 3AFC monthly summary, written a few days later, dismissed the 3 Squadron claim and noted the subsequent competing RAF and AIF claims.)

More than 4,000 visitors per month are now reading our 3SQN website, including Croatian scuba-diver Eric Šešelja, who thinks he may have found Bob Ulrich’s ditched Hurricane in 65 metres of water off the Dalmatian Coast!  We’ve sent Eric some info on Bob and asked him to get us an underwater photo if possible.

RAF veteran David Bale writes from Devon in the UK:

Greetings; it has been very interesting reading your website.  I was in the RAF for 28 years, serving at the RAF detachment Labuan in 1958-59 when No.3 and 77 Squadron Sabres first ferried through to RAAF Butterworth.  In 2008 I started writing a book about Labuan, advertised in various magazines and was soon inundated with information from Australians of their airfield construction squadrons and RAF erks and aircrew with memories and photos of staging-post and squadron attachment days from the 1940s, 50s, Brunei Rebellion and Confrontation - until the unit closed in the late 1960s.  At long last the book is in print: “RAF LABUAN BORNEO”, available on Amazon.  

Labuan is a small island just off the west coast of Malaysian North Borneo (Sabah).  No.3 Squadron RAAF notably used this base during Operation Sabre Ferry (1958) and the Indonesian Confrontation (1963 - '66).

Sgt Gerard Hodges from the Orderly Room in Williamtown sent in this newspaper item dated 14th of April 1943:

"3SQN the 'Most Decorated' Overseas Unit":  Brisbane’s Courier-Mail reported that No.3 Squadron is the “most decorated R.A.A.F. squadron serving overseas.” 

The article added that, “it is one up on No.460 Lancaster Bombing Squadron serving in Britain. Figures for No. 3 Squadron are, 2 D.S.O.s; 16 D.F.C.s; 2 bars to D.F.C.s; 7 D.F.M.s; 1 BEM.  Total 28.

Steve Conaghan has been wondering about Mirage markings and also offers some good Butterworth anecdotes: 

“I was posted to 3 SQN as an Elec. Fitter (groundie) between 1979 & 1981.  During that time, the Mirages sported a sky-blue horizontal stripe with the “Flying Bomb” at the centre and the blue rudder with Southern Cross as ‘tail art’.  I now have seen a few images with triangular red and black stripes similar to 76 SQN but with the Flying Bomb at the centre.   Apparently this happened after I returned to Australia.   Are you able to advise when and why the tail-art changed, back to the triangular stripes?

 

[Editor’s Note: An earlier version of 3SQN ‘tail-art’, from December 1970, featured the red and black triangles and a frill-neck lizard.

- The reasons behind this parade of Mirage tail-insignia are now explained in Brian Weston's article Mirage Metamorphosis.]

Steve continues:  Also while viewing the 3SQN website I recalled some events from my time as a groundie in Butterworth (1979-1981).   Perhaps someone out there can fill in some details that I am missing:

1) No idea of the pilot involved or the aircraft involved, but I do recall a Mirage returning from a sortie with a big silver scratch across the tail one day... Close encounter with an RMAF F5 in the clouds.   Pilot was a bit shocked when he was shown.

2) CO at the time was WGCDR “Ace” (“The Golden Hand”) Bricknell.  I recall he didn’t like using the Pannier Tank when returning to Butterworth from Singapore detachments (those who were there know what I’m talking about).   Amazing how many things can fit in a cockpit.

3) SQNLDR Bob Treloar (I’m pretty sure it was) encountered a bird-strike where the bird entered the cockpit through the quarter panel, did a quick lap of the cockpit and then exited out the same hole after leaving some bits on Bob.   I was amazed that (whether as Bob’s choice, or with some prompting from “Ace”) he was back in the air within a couple of hours.  - No time to think about it.   Nerves of steel.

4) Another story I recall about Bob Treloar was after sitting in a hot cockpit for hours at the end of the strip during an exercise, the call finally came in. - Drop the brolly, crank it up, check the elevons ... no response ... “Never mind, I’m going anyway.”  Full-Dry.  “Hope that groundie back there didn’t get frazzled…”   Bob went out of his way to come and find me after the flight to apologize for giving me a fright and explain he’d forgot to set the circuit-breaker.

Our previous coverage of radio-controlled model aircraft has attracted some further interesting submissions.  Dan Rose from Port Stevens NSW (who, during working hours, is an R.A.A.F. staff officer) has a terrific collection, including a Kittyhawk in Bobby Gibbes’ markings.  (It features an excellent rendition of Bob’s “nose-art” - of a kangaroo giving a German-helmet-wearing Dachshund a good kick up the rear!)

Dan also has several flying “jet” models, including an F-18 marked as the 3 Squadron CO’s current pimped-up crate.  (These “jets” are actually propelled by an amazing electric ducted-fan running off powerful Lithium batteries, producing real “get up and go”!  A similar power-pack is used to drive the Kittyhawk propeller.  This allows accurate scale appearance and realistic engine sounds, using an electronic sound-card.  Dan’s videos on YouTube are well worth a look.

Robert Bee, a former WW2 pilot (whose brother, 3SQN Kittyhawk pilot Ken “Stuka” Bee, was killed in action in 1942) has been in touch with us to find out more about the circumstances of Ken’s death (which occurred while strafing an enemy airfield in Libya).  We were able to help Robert look into Ken’s revealing official files and the relevant parts of the Squadron’s Operations Record Book and other memoirs.

Shirley Gillett sent us an article from her local paper titled 'Honouring the Memory' by Margaret Wheatley (Fred McKay’s daughter): 

“Anzac Day for me is honouring the memory of almost a century of service and sacrifice.  I am a ‘war baby’- born in 1940.  At two, I waved my father off to serve as an Air Force Chaplain in the Middle East and Mediterranean for the next three years. …My memories of those years, while not vivid, are enough to know how great a sacrifice so many made, and to know the agonising wait of those left behind.  Dad found talking difficult after the war, but his diaries reveal so much of his experiences and inner-most feelings of that time.  He ministered to wounded airmen, buried countless bodies, and wrote so many letters to anxious and grieving wives and families.  He remained in close contact with his squadrons for the rest of his life, and we, his family, grew to adulthood slowly becoming more and more aware of why preserving the memories of those who fought for our freedom is so important.  It was with much emotion my husband and I visited Gallipoli last year, very soon after April 25th, and felt the spirit of the Anzacs in that beautiful serene spot.  It was very hard to reconcile what the scene would have been in 1915 with the site as it is today, but it contains a vivid reminder of the bloodshed and futile battles fought under that same sky.  It was an added incentive for me to always commemorate Anzac Day.”   

96-year-old Alan Righetti has had more than a few health issues recently, but recently he felt sufficiently well to browse our website and email some caption corrections!   As an ex-Prisoner of War of the Germans, Alan writes: “24th/25th March 2014 is the 70th anniversary of the ‘Great Escape' from the Sagan POW camp.  Out of the 2500 POWs in the North Compound, 600 volunteered for escape activities.  Twenty or so key men got 'tickets' and 200 names were drawn 'from the hat'.  I was one of the 'unlucky' (!) ones to miss out.  Apart from the five Aussies murdered by the Gestapo in the aftermath, many Aussies were among the 600 volunteers. 

I am apparently one of the last two living Australians of the 600.  [The other is a centenarian in Perth.]  There is a reunion of the few survivors/relatives to be held next weekend in London (mainly Brits and Canadians) and a visit afterwards to Sagan.  (Silesia in Winter!! - Not for me these days!)“

Jörg Windmüller, an Air-Britain historian from Aachen in Germany, asked us about the downing of a German photo-reconnaissance Ju88D-1 over Tobruk on the 1st of December 1941.  We were able to fill in the following information:

At 1025, two Tomahawks of 3 RAAF Squadron were scrambled to intercept a reconnaissance Ju88 of 2(F)/123, which Sgt. Rex Wilson caught and shot down.  

Jörg informed us that this aircraft’s recognition code was”4U+JK” and that although its Radio Operator was killed, the two other crewmembers survived.  This German photo-reconnaissance unit was nicknamed “The Eyes of Kesselring” and sported a fetching camouflage scheme of tan-and-brown splinter-pattern camouflage, with light blue undersurfaces. 

[Sadly, Rex Wilson, a 3SQN Sergeant-Pilot ‘ace’, was killed in action only nine days later by Messerschmitts of 1/JG27.]

Clive Handy, the Chairman of the Royal Air Force’s No.3 (Fighter) Squadron Association in the UK, has been in touch to check a rumour that the sand-yellow colour in his British Squadron’s insignia is somehow related to the ‘Desert’ exploits of 3SQN RAAF in WW2.  However we could only tell Clive that, while gratifying to contemplate, no such rumour has ever come to our attention before and that the linkage seems unlikely.  So Clive’s mystery continues!  3(F) Sqn RAF is one of the world’s longest-surviving air force units.  They celebrated their Centenary in 2012. 

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