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VALE JACK RAFFEN

A poignant photo-set [below] depicting the crash-site and temporary grave of 3 Squadron Flying Officer John ("Jack") Raffen. 
 Jack was killed in action when his Kittyhawk was shot down by flak on 30 December 1943, only one month after he had arrived at 3 Squadron.


The last known photo of Jack; taken at Christmas-time 1943 at the frigid Mileni airstrip, near the Adriatic.

Grant Dawkins (the son of 3Sqn's Arthur Dawkins) has generously provided this information about the demise of Jack Raffen:

Dad's log book for December 30th 1943 says the following in the Duty column...

"Army target near Cheiti.  Guns."

He also wrote the following on the opposite page, which he did on most occasions, to give some details of the particular sortie that he had completed. "Dive bombed with 2/250lbs and strafed.  Then...Thunderbolts made attacks on me.  Made for deck thro' heavy intense light A/A.  Four of our kites hit by A/A.  Jack Raffen hit twice.  2nd time burst into flames & crashed into hill."

Dad wrote at a later date, next to this entry, "Killed".  He then wrote again next to this entry, also at a later date,

"Later visited & took snaps of grave."

The entry in Dad's diary for Monday, June 26th 1944 is as follows...

"Made full use of my cot & never crawled out until 1145hrs.  Had a shave & then wandered over for lunch.
After lunch, S/L Murray Nash suggested we went & looked for "Raff's" grave, so we got into his jeep, & with my camera, away we went.  Had a few hold-ups with 109 RSU & 3 Wing convoy, which was on its way to Pescara.  However we finally passed it, & then through San Vito & Ortona, when I took some snaps.  From Ortona, we followed the coast road towards Francavilla, and then left our jeep at the bridge in charge of an MP, & climbed the escarpment to where Raff's kite was.  Had to go through a mine field & a lot of grape vines, but finally made it. 

His kite was certainly pranged.  It hit a house & part of it was buried under the house, the remainder had just about burnt out, & one wing was about a chain away.  His grave was alongside the wreckage, & overgrown with weeds, & the crude wooden cross had the words:

"HERE LIES AN UNKNWN ENGLISH FLIER"

-Spelt like that too.  It was written in pencil, so I printed the words:

F/O JACK RAFFEN RAAF.  KILLED IN ACTION DEC 27 (30) 1943. 

I then took several snaps of his grave & wreckage, & then we came back to camp.  Our faces were caked with mud & dust & my eyes were smarting with the pain of dust and grit.  Just had time for a wash -3 beers, & then had to take Col Ostler up to Tortoreto to the new drome which is being constructed.  Was the first aircraft to land on this strip.  Arrived back at 2030hrs, had a late dinner, then a hot bath & into bed."

Dad had finished his ops tour with 3 Squadron on May 3rd 1944, and was then posted to Comm Flight on 18th May 1944.  When he went to see Jack's grave site, he was operating out of Sinello, Italy, mainly flying Fairchilds.  He was always close to the 3 Squadron landing grounds while in Comm. Flight and spent a lot of time with the lads during his down time.

Arthur's photos of the site:


Jack's crash site.


The temporary cross.


Arthur's pencil inscription.
 [Photos courtesy Paul Oaten and Grant Dawkins]

Jack's Beautiful and Peaceful Final Resting Place: Moro River Cemetery, Italy:

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