Blessed Sacrament Fathers
29 April 1977
I was delighted and highly amused to get your letter.
Fancy being dead for 30-odd years and not knowing it!!
So, to set the record straight ....
Nov. 2nd, 1942. [Battle
of Alamein.] As I remember the day, a flight of 3 Squadron Kitty-bombers
flew close escort to the Mitchell bombers. Everybody dropped their bombs and we
were heading home.
We were called by radio back to the 'line' to patrol North - South as an incoming
"gaggle of bandits" was expected.
There were already six Kitties in 'fluid six' formation, and with another
fighter, I formed up - making a 'fluid eight' - on the enemy side of the
formation at about 14,000 feet, flying north.
Usually, the ME109s attacked from above and never went below us.
came in. The first fired and struck my aircraft.
I moved right and below the
Squadron, when the second 109 came in below and hit my engine and wing root with
Thereon I lost interest in the fight, rolled over and headed for the bottom.
I found out 3 months later that Garth Clabburn (I think) got the 109 that got
Meantime, I was losing glycol, expecting fire and rather busy controlling the
aircraft going straight down.
I was able to control it and it didn't burn, so I stayed with it, flattening
out at the proverbial 'dot feet', moving at around the 500 miles an hour mark. I
set her down, wheels up (smoothly enough) stopping nose down in a slit trench
with soldiers in 'different' uniforms running towards me. The Germans were very
good to me, offering me cigarettes and a steadying glass of wine. (It was the
only day I had flown without a tin of cigarettes in my pocket!)
Smartly picked up by Fieseler Stork, I spent the night "sans trousers
and desert boots" in the German intelligence officer's tent.
Next day I was handed over to the Italians at Bardia with many apologies from
the Germans as they said they were very busy.
Then ensued a 5-day journey up the desert to Benghazi by army truck.
Trans-shipped to Southern Italy in a ship's hold containing German transport
below us. As we were given only two half-44 gallon drums for toilet facilities,
we found we could open circular trap doors into the hold below. So we did things
to the German military machines we always wanted to do 'from a great height'!
Ten months in Italy then through the Tarvisio Pass into Eastern Germany and
Stalag 344 (previously known as 8B).
After a total of two and
a half years, I was flown out of Germany
in a U.S.A.F. C-47. (The American pilot handed over the controls to me to fly
the machine over the Rhine and out to freedom!)
Then six or
eight weeks of tender loving care from British personnel, and finally
shipped home through Panama on the Sterling (starving) Castle.
In 1946, I studied Architecture at Melbourne University for
three years. Became a
Catholic and a drop out - although I didn't know it at the time. Worked in the
export crayfish industry in Robe, S.A. for six months, spent another six months
on a wheat and sheep station in the Riverina.
Then joined the Blessed Sacrament Fathers at St. Francis Church Melbourne -
and lived happily ever after!
Among subsequent activities I spent eight years in Sri Lanka (Ceylon); returned
to Australia and worked on the 'Updating Commission' for the Religious Order;
studied three years in the U.S. for a Master of Science Degree in Counselling
and have been employed in this capacity in Toowoomba ever since.
So, as you say, Peter, my "K.I.A."
is strictly "U/S"
Sincerely, Joseph S. Holder.