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