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J.C. Waters tells the story of
3 Squadron Aces Al Rawlinson and
in his book: "VALIANT YOUTH" (1945).
, dark, with high cheek-bones and the quick, flashing eyes of a Bedouin. Perrin, snowy-headed, light blue eyes in a smiling, hot-blooded, Huckleberry Finn face. They became good companions. It was not long before they were dubbed the Flying Twins, one called Blackie, the other Blondie.
This is a story of the remarkable parallels in the fighting life of "Blackie" - Wing Commander Alan Charles Rawlinson, D.F.C. and Bar, and of "Blondie" - Squadron Leader John Rowley Perrin, D.F.C.
They joined the R.A.A.F on the same day; they were cadet sergeants together; they were posted to the same squadron and were in the same flight; they left the Middle East, each with a bag of eight enemy planes destroyed; each shot down three on two occasions; they were flight commanders together; they were shot down within a week of each other in the same spot in the desert, and rescued by the same General. Back home they were together leading companion squadrons on the Advanced Air-Group in New Guinea.
Rawlinson was 19 and Perrin 21 when they joined the R.A.A.F. on July 15, 1938. That was Perrin's birthday. Both were clerks in Melbourne offices. They met that day for the first time. Both were State High School boys. Rawlinson, East Melbourne Harrier Club champion in 1935-36
They were together when they first drew enemy blood. It was over Bardia when the Italian armies were being routed by Wavell in the first big push of'41. They were leading sections when eight of their machines came up against ten enemy bombers and 45 enemy fighters. Eight against 55. Giving away heavy odds - as they had to in those days - held no terrors for the Australians. Blondie, with "Woof" Arthur, belted a fighter into the sea, and Blackie, fighting from 17,000 feet down to 10,000, got a probable.
Alan Rawlinson - "Gallant Gladiator" [Painting from the Frank Harding Collection.]
Not long after that, Blackie, through no fault of his own, broke away from the parallel line. Blondie was away collecting Hurricanes. Blackie, in a Gladiator, was forced outof a fight with Italians. His engine cut out and he force-landed in the desert. He got the engine going again and staggered off with dozens of shrapnel holes in wings and fuselage. A mile from the drome the engine gave up. He landed and walked in.
1940-12-09. GERAWLA EGYPT - THREE RAAF "GLADIATOR" PILOTS FROM NO. 3 SQUADRON
L TO R: PETER TURNBULL: JOCK PERRIN & ALLAN RAWLINSON (ALL PILOT OFFICERS).
[NEGATIVE BY FRANK HURLEY, AWM 005270.]
One day in February '41, Blondie went off leading three of the new Hurricanes. They were south of Benghazi. Wavell's army had travelled over 400 miles in 56 days. Blondie spotted nine German Stukas dive-bombing and strafing Australian troops. He could not see any fighter escort.
"Too good to miss," he said.
He dived to the attack, shot down a Stuka. Suddenly, out of the blue, swooped 15 Messerschmitt twin-engine fighters. It was the first time they had appeared in the desert. A few seconds, and Blondie was alone - one against 15.
Probably there was a smile on his stubborn lips. In the colourful jargon of the air, he "got stuck into them." He shot down one. Then a cannon shell burst in his petrol tank. Slightly wounded, soaked in petrol, and with the Hurricane afire, he turned furiously as a wasp on his assailant, pressed the button, and shot him down in flames. He tried to get still another German before he crash-landed. The Germans followed him down to strafe him. He dodged over the sand like a hare on a greyhound course and was picked up by Major-General Stan Savige of the 6th Australian Division.
In that fight Blondie won his D.F.C.
Seven days later, Blackie was doing a reconnaissance over the same area. He crash-landed in a mine-field and was picked up by the same General and staff. In April he caught up with Blondie's score. Eight Hurricanes took on 18 Stukas and Messerschmitts. They knocked out nine of them. Blackie bagged three Stukas one after the other. Two days later Blondie forged ahead again. A flight of eight mixed it with 15 of the enemy. They shot down eight. Blondie bagged three Stukas, too. One after the other, just like that.
After that they moved to Syria for the war against the Vichy French. They changed from Hurricanes to Tomahawks. Blackie became O.C. "C" Flight and Blondie O.C. "B" Flight. Peter Jeffrey, D.S.O., D.F.C., who had destroyed four German planes in single-handed combat, one in the air, three on the ground, was squadron C.O. He was their original instructor at Point Cook.
1941-06-06. LYDDA. GROUP OF AUSTRALIAN FIGHTER PILOTS OF NO 3 SQUADRON
WITH ONE OF THE NEW AMERICAN FIGHTER PLANES (TOMAHAWK)
WITH WHICH THEY HAVE BEEN EQUIPPED IN READINESS FOR THE SYRIAN CAMPAIGN.
THEY ARE, FROM LEFT TO RIGHT, SQUADRON LEADER PETER JEFFREY DFC;
FLT. LT. JOCK PERRIN DFC; FT. LT. ALAN RAWLINSON;
P/O PETER TURNBULL AND P/O JACKMEN. [AWM 008198, NEGATIVE BY DAMIEN PARER.]
Over in Syria, Blondie quickly added a Vichy French to his tally. It was in a fight over the oil pipe-line at Palmyra. Two days later Blackie's flight met up with six Vichy French light bombers over the same zone. The six were shot down in flames and Blackie got his second three in a row. For his leadership and courage in that operation, on top of his desert record, he won his D.F.C.
The partnership was broken then. The days of fighting against heavy odds and strafing in companionship ended. Blackie, with an ammunition train and several staff cars to his credit, Blondie wearing the scalps of despatch riders at his belt. Each had his own speciality when not in combat or beating up aerodromes, trains, and enemy dumps.
Blondie came home. Blackie, appointed C.O. of the famous No. 3 Squadron, went back to the desert. There, very soon,22 Tomahawks were jumped by 25 Messerschmitt 109s, the new crack German fighter. The fight lasted for 65 minutes, one of the longest desert air battles on record. It was fairly even going, with the scale just slightly in our favour. Six Messerschmitts were destroyed. We lost five. Blackie added to his score one in flames, one probable, one damaged.
His last desert scrap was on November30, a year after the first. Twenty-two Tomahawks took on a German-Italian circus of 60 to 70. The battle swirled from 10,000 feet down to ground level. When it ended 12 more enemy planes had been destroyed and the squadron's total pushed to 106. When Blackie left to join Blondie in Australia's fight against the Japanese, the aggregate was 135. Fifty had been shot down in ten weeks.
That is how Blackie won his Bar.
LIBYA. 1941-12. SQUADRON LEADER ALLEN RAWLINSON, DFC; WING-COMMANDER PETER JEFFREY, DSO, DFC; AND DOCTOR JOHN LAVER
(MEDICAL OFFICER) AT THE CELEBRATION WHICH MARKED THE SHOOTING DOWN OF THE 100TH ENEMY PLANE BY NO. 3 SQUADRON, RAAF.
THE CAPTURED NAZI FLAG IN THE PICTURE WAS PRESENTED TO THE SQUADRON FOR ITS ACHIEVEMENT. [AWM 021812]
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