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Reg Stevens - Valedictions

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Below we publish several items describing the magnificent achievements of Squadron Leader Reg Stevens. 

Firstly, Brett Stevens, his grandson, found one of Reg's letters (probably destined for Vets. Affairs) and we publish it now to illustrate just how everyday happenings throughout the war
often left people such as Reg with long-lasting physical effects, that they carried with them until the very end...

So THAT'S why you always had a bad back, Grandpa!

Brett Stevens wrote on 19 September 2002:

As you may remember, my grandfather had quite a bit of trouble with his back after the war, and I always thought it was caused by some crash landings with 3 Squadron, but Grandma has recently sent me a copy of a letter from Grandpa which points to the original cause - a Spitfire, which was no doubt exacerbated by events after joining 3 Squadron, including another Spitfire crash landing in Australia.

There was no indication of who the letter was intended for, I assume something to do with his TPI pension, but I have reproduced it below.

Cheers ... Brett.

S/Ldr Reg Stevens' letter reads as follows:

19th May, 1981

The following is an account of how I consider my present spinal condition came about:

31.12.41  On the Isle of Man, whilst landing a Spitfire, the starboard tyre blew out - the aircraft slewed off the sealed runway on to the water sodden grass and somersaulted on to its back.  As I was sitting high in the cockpit (normal procedure in landing a Spitfire as forward vision was greatly limited due to the large motor in front of the pilot) my head made violent contact with the ground and I finished up hanging head down in the safety straps.  When assistance came, the tail was lifted and someone pulled the safety pin and I fell some 18" to 24" to the ground - again on my head.  I was transported to the Base R.A.F. Hospital where I think X-rays were taken, but I am not sure of this.  I was in hospital for a week under an Australian Doctor, Flight Lieutenant John Peat.

On the 15th February 1942 I was posted to the Middle East, flying American built Curtiss P40s (Kittyhawks).

12.6.42  My aircraft was hit by enemy 40mm ground fire and crash-landed in the Desert.

29.6.42  Following hydraulic failure in the under-carriage, and being unable to get the wheels down, I crash landed on our desert strip.

23.8.42  I was shot down in flames by ME109 enemy fighter - crash landed (quickly) in the desert.

3.6.43  In Sicily I was shot down by enemy ground fire - crash landed in an olive tree near Mount Etna.

9.5.44  Back in Australia, whilst flying a Spitfire, the motor blew up and I crash-landed on the road near Merbein (Mildura, Victoria).

After the cessation of hostilities, I returned to New Guinea to my pre-war post with the Administration and was retired from there on medical grounds due to my back complaint in 1952.

I have had a variety of treatment, including short wave therapy, surgical corsets and in September/October 1952 spent some months in Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, where I was encased in plaster from neck to waist for some months.

R.N.B. Stevens, Squadron Leader (Retired),  Aus.404672.

 

Distinguished Flying Cross Citation - 17 July 1943 ...

Warrant Officer Reginald Noel Basil STEVENS, R.A.A.F. No. 3 Squadron.

Warrant Officer Stevens commenced operational flying in June, 1942, when his squadron was continuously engaged in low level attacks on enemy concentrations.  Later when his squadron was assisting in breaking the Alamein Line, this airman displayed the most outstanding courage and devotion to duty particularly when leading formations on raids. Although Warrant Officer Stevens’ aircraft has been shot down on several occasions and on others his aircraft has been badly damaged in air combat and by enemy ground fire, his keenness and fine fighting spirit, has in no way been diminished. His conduct has always been highly commendable and a source of inspiration to his fellow pilots.

Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross - Citation

Acting Squadron Leader Reginald Noel Basil STEVENS, D.F.C., R.A.A.F. No. 3 Squadron.

In August, 1943, Squadron Leader Stevens flew the leading aircraft of a formation which attacked shipping in the harbour at Milezzo.  In spite of intense anti-aircraft fire, the attack was pressed home from a low level and two ships, six barges and a large flying-boat were destroyed.  By his skillful leadership and outstanding determination, Squadron Leader Stevens contributed materially to the successes obtained.

 

Propaganda Interview:

RADIO PUBLICITY - DEPARTMENT OF AIR

Director of Sydney Public Relations

Friday 3.11.44 Broadcast No. 826

Talk for broadcast over STATION 2CH Sydney on Friday17th, Nov 1944 at 6.20pm

(for AIR TRAINING CORPS session)

"THESE MEN MAKE HISTORY"
A presentation by the AIR TRAINING CORPS. No.2 Wing Headquarters; Bulletin Building, 252 George Street, Sydney.

The Air Training Corps has been rightly described as the royal road to the Air Force ……. a road that has been chosen by thousands of young Australians ……… some flying, and some doing the grand job of teamwork on the ground, for such is the spirit of teamwork in the R.A.A.F. that ground crews and air crews work together with one purpose in view……keeping the Airforce at its full fighting strength. So, if an Air Training Corps Cadet does not qualify for air crew, he knows that there is a fine job for him as a member of the ground crew.

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"Fighter Pilot" ………… this title never fails to stir the imagination of youth the whole world over, and when the title is gained by the courage and skill of a young Australian, it makes us tingle with pride. In this series, we have told you of the exploits of fighter pilots ….. Bluey Truscott, Thorold-Smith, Tim Goldsmith, "Killer" Caldwell, and tonight we add to that list REG STEVENS ………. his full name is REGINALD NOEL STEVENS, D.F.C. and Bar, a young man who went to school at Roseville near Sydney, and at the outbreak of war was a Papuan Government servant, living at Port Moresby with his wife and young baby. Reg Stevens joined the R.A.A.F. and was trained under the Empire Air Training Scheme, gaining his pilot’s wings at Wagga in May, 1941. He completed his training in July, 1941, with the rank of Sergeant-Pilot, and sailed shortly afterwards for England.

After a short operational training there, he was posted for duty with an Australian Spitfire Squadron ….. No 457. Reg Stevens found the English climate severe after his life at Port Moresby, so he applied for a transfer to the Middle East, and this was granted, and in June 1942 he found himself a member of the famous No.3 R.A.A.F. Fighter Squadron. No.3 Squadron already has a tradition and history for it was the direct descendant of No.3 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps of the First World War. That tradition it was to honour, and that history to adorn, in years of hard fighting and splendid achievement. It was the first squadron to be sent to the Middle East, and on a cold winter’s day – July 15, 1940, it set out on its great adventure – an adventure which was to take it in honour and glory through the first Libyan campaign, the fighting in Syria, the second Libyan push and the disastrous retreat which followed it.

REG STEVENS ….. still a Sergeant Pilot at that time, soon began to make his fighting spirit felt in the squadron.  On his second sortie – the bombing and strafing of Germans at Knightsbridge during a tank battle – he was shot down by anti-aircraft fire and crash-landed near the aerodrome.  But he was unhurt.  On another sortie, Stevens was shot down in flames by a German Messerschmitt, but once more he was lucky, and he later evened up his score by shooting down an Italian Macchi 202 fighter, and had the satisfaction of seeing it spin in, hit the ground and burn.  It was then that the El Alamein line was cracked by Montgomery’s forces and the great advance began to take our forces to Tunis.  Stevens then shot down two more German Messerschmitt fighters and probably destroyed several more.  His squadron participated in the breaking of the Mareth line by assisting the New Zealanders by dive-bombing and ground level strafing.  Stevens was in on the kill at Tripoli, Gabes, Sfax, Sousse and finally Tunis.  By May, 1943 all enemy resistance in Africa ceased, and during the advance, No.3 Squadron had operated from 19 different desert aerodromes and strips.

In May 1943 Flight Sergeant Reg Stevens gained his commission and became Pilot Officer.  Within a month, he was promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader.  No Australian war-bird had ever gained such rapid promotion overseas as Reg Stevens when he was promoted to this rank and made Commanding Officer of the very famous No 3 Fighter Squadron.  Stevens led the squadron to Malta – the first Australian Fighter-Bomber squadron to land at Malta from where they operated against Sicily.  It was after his second trip over Sicily that Reg  Stevens was awarded the D.F.C.  In part, the citation for this award reads –

"…… when the squadron was assisting in breaking the Alamein line he displayed most outstanding courage and devotion to duty, particularly when leading a formation on raids.

Although his aircraft was shot down on several occasions and on others badly damaged in air combat and by the enemy ground fire, his keenness and fine fighting spirit was in no way diminished.

His conduct was always highly commendable and a source of inspiration to his fellow pilots ……"

Stevens then led the squadron to Sicily and they landed at Pachino and from there they bombed and strafed the enemy.  While occupying an aerodrome south of Catania they experienced a terrific air raid one night by the German Air Force, but undaunted, No 3 Squadron carried on and led a raid – 12 aircraft each carrying 500-pound bombs.  They raided Milezzo, a port on the north-east coast of Sicily, in torrential rain and intense anti-aircraft fire, and they were successful in sinking everything in the harbour – 2 ships, 6 barges and a large flying boat.  For his successful leadership and outstanding determination which contributed to the success of this raid, Stevens was awarded an immediate bar to his D.F.C.

This did not end the scores against the enemy made by Stevens as he later wiped out the gun crew of an 88-millimetre gun that had opened up on a rescue aircraft that had alighted on the water near Catania.

From No.3 Squadron, Stevens was posted to No.451 Fighter Squadron which was equipped with Hurricane fighters doing convoy patrols.

Now back in Australia, he is carrying on his fine job at an Operational Training Unit.

Such men make R.A.A.F. history!

--- FEW BARS OF STIRRING MUSIC ---


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