Drawing by Henry Fulwood -
"Death of the Red Baron" [AWM ART02495]
(Except that the scene wasn't really like this...!)
Finding References in the 3 Squadron Website
The 3 Squadron website holds a wide variety of history articles, anecdotes and photos. The Google search box below will allow you to find all mentions of a word or phrase in the 3 Squadron website. We recommend that you start with the family name of the person you are searching for. Sometimes the nickname of a well-known personality, e.g. Bobby, Nicky, Slim, etc. may give further hits where the family name has not been mentioned.
(To find only a specific phrase, include quote marks when you type the phrase into the search box; e.g. "Bobby Gibbes".)
Confirming Identification Details
Internet searches are made much easier if you know the correct spelling and full name of your research subject, and their service number.
"World War Two Nominal Roll"
To trace men who served in WW2, your first stop should be the Department of Veterans Affairs website:
http://www.ww2roll.gov.au/ . It is usually fairly simple to track down all of the key identification details for any individual, even if starting with just a surname.
For example, the record for Bobby Gibbes can be seen by clicking here.
Adding to the Picture
National Archives of Australia
The National Archives of Australia can then be used to track down a wealth of personnel details. Go to the NAA Website and click the box at top right ‘Explore: Search the Collection’ and then type in the surname or service number that you are seeking to trace. The information in these files can be quite fascinating. While it may be necessary to request a copy (if a digital image is not yet available) many files are already available online as glorious colour scans. For example, the file of a 3 Squadron veteran from World War One , Alfred Boxall-Chapman (who helped Neil Smith’s dad recover the wreck of the Red Baron’s plane in 1918!), can be seen at: http://naa12.naa.gov.au/scripts/imagine.asp?B=3231366&I=1
The NAA also has many dozens of RAAF files that mention 3 Squadron. The most important of these documents, the “Operations Record Books”, can be viewed online (see box below). There is impressive detail regarding every mission flown by each pilot in 3 Squadron, and other administrative records such as the movement of Squadron personnel and also the incidence of non-operational flying missions.
Other Interesting WW2 Online NAA Files (there are many more):
5) No 3 Squadron - Aircraft Flying Control.
Contains various interesting reports of operations of the Squadron, 1940-45.
Includes first-hand reports of pilots who evaded capture after being shot down in 1945 (Williamson p5, Redenbach p8, Clark p13, McInerhenry p15, Tennent p17, Davies p19); WW2 squadron summary history up until mid-1944 (p21); Desert Air Force African campaign summary (p26); Pilot report extracts (p42); Gibbes Tribute (p43); Description of the work of Specialised ground-maintenance personnel p47; Ken McRae Kittyhawk Armament, bombs, parachutes (p50); operational procedures, organisation, navigation aids (p55); and the 239 Wing report on "Operation Bowler", the spectacular 1945 Wing attack on Venice Harbour (p79).
6) RAAF No 3 (AC) [Army Co-operation] Squadron.
Operations of 3 Squadron in the Middle East – Air Ministry and RAAF Liaison London records. (Somewhat dry stuff!)
Worldwide Internet Sources
Once you have the full identification details of a 3 Squadron member, it is worth trying some general Internet searches to see what may be available. For example, try searching just the service number, or the exact phrase of their name (indicated by using "quote marks" in the search), such as:
"Bobby Gibbes" RAAF
"R. H. Gibbes"
Gibbes "3 Squadron"
Other significant Internet sources are:
Australian Newspaper Search ("TROVE" - National Library of Australia)
A fantastic resource - search the text of newspapers from many Australian States across nearly 200 years of Australian history.
Online Picture Search ("TROVE" - National Library of Australia)
A great system for finding images from the best online collections in Australia (including Australian War Memorial, National Library of Australia and State Libraries).
Click: http://trove.nla.gov.au/picture/result?q=3+squadron .
The Australians at War Film Archive
A huge project by the Australian Department of Veterans Affairs, running since 2002, has collected thousands of hours of videotape of the reminiscences of Australian Defence Force Veterans, and displaying the transcripts and some still photos online. Many 3 Squadron personalities have been included in the interviews. Veterans from many other units have also made interesting mentions of 3 Squadron and its battles. All of the interviews have been transcribed into a searchable text database, which is a fantastic resource.
Notable No.3 Squadron Interviews on the "Australians at War" Database:
Thomas Jensen; Demon Observer 1939. Tom Trimble; Lysander, Gladiator, Hurricane and Tomahawk Pilot 1940-41. Shot down and evaded capture. Eric Canning: Radio Operator 1940-41, POW, Escaper. Wal Mailey, Tomahawk Pilot 1941. Felix Sainsbury; Armament Fitter 1941-43. Bob Gibbes; Tomahawk and Kittyhawk Pilot, Squadron Leader, DSO, DFC and Bar, 1941-43. Alan Righetti; Kittyhawk Pilot, 1942-43. POW. Tom Russell; Kittyhawk Pilot 1942-43. Charlie Wannan; Kittyhawk Pilot 1944. Jack Doyle; Kittyhawk Pilot, Flight Commander, 1943; Forward Air Controller Italy 1944. Jock McAuley; Mustang Pilot 1945. Ken McRae MBE; Engineering Officer 1942-45. Barry Finch; Kittyhawk and Mustang Pilot 1944-45. Stan Brown; Engine Fitter 1942-45. Dick Cresswell; Demon Pilot 1939. Sabre Pilot /Instructor 1950s. Fred Barnes; Sabre Pilot, Squadron Leader 1950s. Malcolm Rose; Sabre Groundcrew, Butterworth, Malayan Emergency late 1950s. Barry Schulz, Mirage Fighter Combat Instructor, Butterworth 1969.
[NB: Some of these individuals also gave interviews to the Australian War memorial more than a decade earlier - see the separate "AWM" interview list at the bottom of this page.]
Commonwealth War Graves
For men who died in WW1 or WW2, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website provides extensive commemorative information, including detailed cemetery history and visitor access directions. Large colour photographs of the beautifully-maintained war cemeteries are also available. Gravestone inscriptions are often noted and an attractive memorial certificate for each casualty can be printed.
- To search for a casualty, click here.
Old RE8 "S", Struck Off Strength after 10 Months' Service
- Depicts an RE8 aircraft on the No.3 Squadron airfield at Poulainville, France, stripped of engine cowling and wings.
Watercolour by Arthur Streeton. [AWM Copyright ART03508]
AWM Historical Images
There are more than 800 photographs and another 30 artworks depicting 3 Squadron in the AWM collection. Some of these images were created by now legendary Australians such as:
· Frank Hurley. Who made his name with his magnificent coverage of the 1915 Shackleton Antarctic expedition, and who photographed No.3 Squadron in both world wars!
· Damien Parer. Who later won an Oscar for the iconic documentary Kokoda Frontline.
· Arthur Streeton. The impressionist master who was an official War Artist in France in WW1.
AWM 3SQN Picture Themes:
To break the huge AWM collection down into more manageable photo-sets, the following eight themes are recommended for browsing (in roughly chronological order):
Note 1: Once the first page of search results has displayed, click the ‘Long Information’ option at the right of the page to see the full captions.
Note 2: AWM pictures can also be searched through "TROVE", which also covers other Australian Library collections, but has less fine-control than the AWM's own Search Engine.
a) 3 Squadron in World War One.
For photos of 3 Squadron aircraft and personnel serving in World War One:
This search-string was built up in the following way:
b) The Last Fighting Biplanes.
images of Gladiator operations in 1940-41:
c) Hurricanes Against the Storm.
Hurricane pictures from 1941:
d) New Planes, New Challenges.
Photos of Tomahawk operations in 1941, a dramatic period with battle successes
in Syria and Cyrenaica but also some serious losses. Damien Parer gives
the boys the full Hollywood treatment!
e) Kittyhawk Operations 1942.
Images, including a Nelsonian
"Never mind the fighters..." quote from a grinning Bobby Gibbes:
f) Kittyhawk Operations 1943 /1944.
A substantial number of
images, including some pretty impressive flak damage and the eerie sight of
German flares lighting up the sky during their bombing strike on Agnone
The 'friendly fire'
incident at Cutella (below) features in the 1944 Kittyhawk images:
Kittyhawk burning after a mistaken "friendly fire" attack by USAAF fighters at Cutella, April 1944.
g) Shiny New Planes and Winning Smiles.
h) Later Conflicts.
The AWM has only gappy coverage after WW2, but it is still possible to
There are many other excellent paintings in the AWM collection showing the areas that 3 Squadron travelled through. These artworks convey the colours and atmosphere of each theatre in a way that monochrome photographs cannot. It is recommended that you search the following artists and click "Art" to see the collection of their images:
Harold Herbert 1941
Dargie North Africa
Dennis Adams Italy
other searches are of course possible, for instance based on specific dates,
individual personnel or place names, etc.)
[NB. The New Zealand Government has a similar online war-art gallery, with brilliant depictions of the much of the landscape that 3 Squadron operated over:
e.g. http://warart.archives.govt.nz/taxonomy/term/186/. These images are also available in generous large formats suitable for framing.
Imperial War Museum (London) Photo and Art Collection Online Search
Click Here for a small selection tagged "3 Squadron", but there are many many other possible searches that bring up relevant images from the huge IWM collection.
Battlefield Tours - Another interesting gallery of modern-day photos showing the colours of the African battlefields is Western Desert Battlefield Tours.]
The AWM has an amazing collection of taped interviews with 3 Squadron WW2 veterans (mostly recorded in 1990). The transcripts are each up to 30 pages long and contain a wealth of information.
To see one of the 3 Squadron transcripts, click on a name highlighted below.
Reading all of these transcripts may be something of a long-term project, but it is very interesting to hear the story of 3 Squadron related in the veterans' own words. (Beware - these interviews are quite addictive!) The interviewers have sought out a wide diversity of subjects, including aircrew, ground crew and several squadron commanders. In alphabetical order the interviewees are:
Wilfred 'Woof' Arthur.
Pilot - Squadron Leader 1941-42 / POW / Escaper.
Wally Bottin. Transport Driver 1940-42.
Rod Butler. Pilot 1940-41.
Pilot - Squadron Leader & 239 Wing Commander.
CB, CBE, DSO & Bar, DFC, AMERICAN SILVER STAR.
|Fred Eggleston. Pilot 1941 / POW / Escaper.|
Pilot – Squadron Leader 1941-43.
Leon Henry. Airframe Fitter 1942-45.
Pilot 1937/ Signals Officer /
Dick Hickson. Equipment Officer 1940-42.
Engineering Officer 1942-45.
|Fred McKay - Padre. 1943-45.|
Marcus 'Mac' MacInnis.
Supply Officer 1939-42.
Reg 'Slim' Moore.|
Engine Fitter 1942-45.
Mentioned in Despatches (MiD) for Bravery.
Ted Medhurst. Radio Operator 1940-41.
Tom Russell. Pilot 1942-43.
Bert Pearson. Radio Operator / Mechanic 1940-42.
Bill Shoesmith. General Hand / Canteen Sergeant 1942-45.
Bob Smith. Radio Mechanic 1943-45.
Jock Thom. Airframe Fitter 1941-42. Wounded.
|Allen Wand. Airframe Fitter Sergeant 1942-45.||Clarence Wilson. Post-war Mustang Airframe Fitter in Canberra. Suddenly posted out at the start of the Korean War.|
AVM Henry Wrigley, who flew with 3 Squadron
AFC in WW1 and later visited 3 Squadron in WW2 as the most
senior RAAF officer in the European Theatre.
[NB. Later interview transcripts for the "Australians at War" project are shown in a separate list above.]
The AWM also has more than 50 other web-pages and reference articles referring to 3 Squadron, ranging from scholarly papers to pages with data and photographs of the Squadron and its key personalities.
One example which should not be missed is AVM Peter Scully's excellent historical paper "The Sandgropers" , about 3 Squadron's early days in the Egyptian Desert in 1940-41, and the outstanding results achieved despite the privations that they suffered.
Another delightful story tells of Henry Marston's WWI "lucky charm" that really worked! (This charm is now displayed in the AWM's excellent "Over the Front" exhibition, along with the restored Albatros fighter shot down by 3 Squadron AFC.)
(Text by James Oglethorpe)