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MEMENTOS AND ARTWORKS RELATING TO 3 SQUADRON HISTORY

(To display your Memento in our virtual museum, please *contact  us.)

ITEM

STORY


This relic is a section of plywood cut out from the leading edge of one of the wings of The Red Baron's Fokker DRl triplane on 22 April 1918 at 3 Squadron's aerodrome at Poulainville near Amiens in France.

It is held by the family of  Lieut.  James (Lee) Smith, DFC, who was placed in charge of the party that brought back the Red Baron's body (together with his crashed aircraft) to 3 Squadron's base after dusk on 21 April 1918.

"PYANCUS" ... a mythical pre-historic character dreamt up, and carved into a walking stick from the broken propeller of an RE8,  by Lieut. James (Lee) Smith, DFC, in 1918.  As he had a limp, due to one leg being shorter than the other after a motorbike accident in 1913, he used the stick as an aid to walking.

Pyancus became his aircraft mascot symbol and it was also painted on the fuselage of his RE8 (C2275). 

Pyancus also became his nickname within 3 Squadron.


FIRST WORLD WAR TRENCH GRID MAP

Maps like this, mounted on 3 ply, were typically standard cockpit-aids used by RE8 pilots for navigation reconnaissance flights over enemy sectors (e.g. sector ED). 

This map, whilst it was housed in a side pocket of Lieut.  Smith's RE8, was holed by the photographed steel balls of shrapnel which finished up rolling around the cockpit floor after having also nicked one of his flying boots.


 
Original WW1 Flying Helmet

Brown-tanned leather with fur and felt lining.  This helmet was issued to a distinguished young Australian Infantry officer,
Lt. Colonel Noel LOUTIT DSO MiD**, who visited 3 Squadron AFC in July 1918 for a two-day "Liaison Course" prior to the break-through Battle of Amiens.  [He was accompanied by his his Batman, H.J. Billow.]   It is quite possible that Loutit was issued with the helmet at this time for a flight over his own front-lines, but if so the helmet may have been "single use"!
 

Poster Art by Norman Clifford.  This poster is displayed in the 'Hobart Air Force Museum' (RAAF Association aviation-history collection maintained by Pete Scully in Hobart).  It shows 3AFC Flight Commander Captain Reg Francis posing on his famous RE8 "Sylvia". 

In this RE8, No.A4397, Francis flew a total of 440 hours 35 minutes over the front and made 140 trips. 
- This was more than any other British aircraft on the Western Front.  (The airframe was preserved for display back in Australia after the Armistice, but sadly was lost in a fire in 1925.)

Reg Francis was awarded the DFC for his huge contribution in the Battle of Hamel, ranging British artillery onto German gun emplacements.  On 4th of July 1918, he flew for over 8½ hours, and 4 hours on the following day, during which flights he successfully silenced seven hostile Artillery Batteries, besides sending down 32 "zone calls" (area bombardments  called-in by radio on targets of opportunity - enemy troops, guns or transport).

Toughest Squadron.
R.A.A.F. MEN

MELBOURNE, Saturday [June 7, 1941] - Australia's only air squadron in the Middle East is the toughest of all squadrons in that theatre of war, according to a Digger who has just returned to Australia from Libya.

This R.A.A.F. squadron has shot down more than 60 enemy aircraft, he says.

"If you knew and saw what I did, it would make you weep," he says in a letter sent to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) and passed on to the Minister for Air (Mr. McEwen).

"I for one would not be here today if it had not been for those Australian heroes of the air.  I include them all - from the highest officer down to the most junior member of the ground staff.  They should all be decorated, every one of them.

"The squadron's men are working day and night, never complaining, with dust in their eyes, sometimes attacked from the rear and sometimes gravely outnumbered.

Three of the pilots of this squadron have received the D.F.C. These boys are going to save our bacon.".


Mr. McEwen said that the Near East squadron had fought magnificently.  Its work would soon be supported by other Australian squadrons recruited from R.A.A.F. Empire air scheme trainees.

The commencement of operations by these new squadrons would be the signal for an air offensive which would test the Luftwaffe more severely than ever before.
 

NEWS CLIPPING

Submitted by the Fitzgerald family, this is what  the newspapers were saying in 1941 about the Squadron's performance in the "Near East" (as it was then called).

Note that any reference to 3 Squadron's number isn't made ... censorship at the time would have prevented any mention of the whereabouts of  any of the forces.   ...Although it wouldn't have taken an enemy spy long to figure out exactly who  "Australia's only air squadron in the Near East..."  was at that particular time!

[In addition to the Association's collection of clippings, there are many similar obscure references to 3SQN's history in the online TROVE newspaper database.]

 


https://static.awm.gov.au/images/collection/items/ACCNUM_SCREEN/010895.JPG
Western Desert, North Africa. 1940-11.  Two members of No. 3 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, prepare a cross for the grave of SQNLDR P. R. Heath who was shot down in air combat on Nov 19, 1940, when four of the Squadron's Gladiator aircraft were attacked east of Rabia by eighteen Italian CR-42 fighters.  [AWM 010895
]

Peter Heath Propeller-Fragment Memorial

Information from "3 Squadron News" from 1950-51:

A fragment of the propeller of the late Squadron Leader Peter Heath was collected by Peter Mordaunt in the Egyptian Western Desert.  In 1951 it was presented to S/Ldr. Heath's son, Peter.  The fragment was polished , mounted in wood and had a suitably-inscribed silver plate attached.

If anyone can provide a photograph of this memento, please *contact  us.



 

This small leather-composite case,
manufactured by Manok and Renkert Ltd. in Sydney and painted with the letters “R.A.A.F.” in gold (and still showing traces of red Libyan dust) served as ‘the office’ for 3 Squadron during its mobile operations in the Egyptian Western Desert, Libya and Syria in 1940/41.

Donated to 3 Squadron Association from the estate of former 3SQN Supply Officer (later Air Commodore), “Mac” Macinnis.
 

It is now preserved in the display cabinet in the entrance to 3SQN HQ.



The Messerschmitt gun-sight still in its case.
 After the Allied break-out at El Alamein, Tom writes: "...by the 6th of November 1942 the Luftwaffe was forced to evacuate LG106 El Daba.  3 Squadron flew there on the 7th.  The German retreat had been so hasty that we found heaps of unopened mail, food parcels etc.  I searched through the buildings (too eager to be sacred of booby-traps!) and found the gunsight..."

This is an authentic  Me109 gun-sight, complete with all attachments, which Kittyhawk pilot FLTLT Tom Russell was able to quickly secure after 3 Squadron occupied the landing ground at El Daba Egypt.  The gun-sight is housed within a neatly-fabricated case and it is stamped REVI C/12DV (Vorrat).  Its production date was 1/5/1942.  It had never been fitted to an Me109 ... obviously a spare part.

Nevertheless, under external power, it works perfectly well and demonstrates how the Luftwaffe's Me109's aligned their "lead computing" gun-sights onto our own aircraft. 

[Held in 3 Squadron Collection, Williamtown.]

"LET'S GO!"

Squadron Leader Bobby Gibbes autographed this Christmas and New Year Greeting Card from the end of 1942 (the start of the final victorious advance in Africa), featuring a map of the North African and Levant Coastline, superimposed on a photograph of a line-up of Kittyhawk aircraft.

From the collection of "Mac"  Macinnis.


"The Frank Harding Art Collection"


"Tarp and Razor Blades" by Frank Harding.

The late Frank Harding was one of Australia's most gifted aviation artists. 

His wife Nan, and her family, display Frank's collection in their Folklore Gallery at 177 Sixteenth Street, Renmark, South Australia, 5341.  Call Nan on (08)8586-6972 to make an appointment to view this unique collection.

Click here to view a few of Frank's "3 Squadron" paintings, plus photos of the gallery and a short biography of the artist: 




BOY'S OWN...

During WWII, illustrated comic stories about war heroes were often published by "The Argus", a Melbourne newspaper.

The first of these examples (6 November 1943) describes the escapades of 3 Squadron's famous top-scoring ace, Nicky Barr.

The following week,  another story appeared in "The Argus" describing the way Reg Stevens rose from the ranks to become Commanding Officer of the Squadron.

There's more about Reg Stevens on our  "Dogfighters" page.

The full versions of the comics are held in 3 Squadron's  Crew Room Collection at Williamtown, NSW. 



Gold ring last worn by 3SQN Kittyhawk pilot Murdo McLEOD in 1943
 


A 9-karat gold ring last worn by 3SQN Kittyhawk pilot Murdo "Doc" McLEOD in 1943.  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".


This plaque was laid at the War Memorial in Canberra on the 14th of April, 2000, to commemorate the proud history and sacrifices of 3 Squadron in WW1 and WW2.

The contents of the Williamtown TIME-CAPSULE which preserved mementoes of the Squadron's past. 

It was ceremonially interred at Williamtown, on 18 December 1992.

The capsule was opened at the Squadron's 100th Birthday celebration in 2016.

Serving Squadron members were privileged to glimpse (and taste) some reminders of the previous Squadron's treasures.  


Arthur Pardey's "cliftied" Austrian flag, with insignia sewn onto it.  Brian Griffin, a relative of Brian Thompson (ex-3 Squadron  pilot) has identified each German insignia for us... 

Click here to see the descriptions.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS 1943!

(5 Service Flight Training School Menu from the Arthur Pardey collection)

 


Felt Pennant produced by 3 Squadron Association for Members in the 1960s,
showing the Squadron's "Kittybomber 3" logo (a Kittyhawk bird carrying a bomb, superimposed on the number "3" and the 8th Army Shield).  This logo was created by Norm French, a talented ground-crew member, and used in Italy during the 2nd World War, especially on Brian Eaton's aircraft when he was Squadron Leader.


Kittyhawk Mk.IIa, CV-V, FS490, Italy, 1943/44. Pilot: S/Ldr Brian Eaton

(Sample from the aviation history collection maintained by Pete Scully in Hobart Tasmania.) 



 

The fantastic rack of medals of Air Vice Marshal Brian Eaton, one of the outstanding WW2  C.O.s of 3 Squadron.  Auctioned in 2010 for more than $70K.



 

The 3 Squadron Crest, engraved in slate, set into the floor at RAF Chapel,
St Clement Danes in London, 26/3/09.
 

Click for the full story:
Dedication of the RAAF Squadron Memorial Plaques
By Vicki Crighton.

A moving pilgrimage and a permanent memento. 
 

[The idea that this bombed-out church should become a memorial to the British and Commonwealth Air Force squadrons of WW2 originated with Henry Wrigley, a former WW1 pilot with 3AFC and the RAAF's most senior officer in Britain in WW2.]

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