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The search for old WW1 aerodromes has continued to bear fruit. The village of Proyart, in the Somme Valley, hosted an aerodrome used by 3AFC for two weeks in September 1918, as the Squadron moved forward with the Allied advance. However, its precise location was not at all clear, as the local landscape didn’t seem to match the AWM’s photo of Proyart!
Thankfully Jacques Calcine, of the Anciens Aerodromes website in France, has skillfully juggled old maps to discover a previously-unrecorded aerodrome site, about 1.6kms directly east of Proyart village, which matches the photo.
AWM P00743.031 (rotated 100 degrees).
RECONAISSANCE PHOTO OF THE AERODROME AT PROYART WHERE 3RD SQUADRON AFC OPERATED.
[NB: The white dots are repaired shell holes. The black shadows are cast by 3AFC’s portable canvas hangars. One tiny RE8 is visible near the road at the top of the photo.]
The American official Defence Force Magazine ‘Stars and Stripesrecently published a very inspirational article describing experiments with MDMA (the illegal drug ‘Ecstasy’) which, when combined with a small number of sessions of expert counselling, seems to offer a breakthrough treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (‘PTSD’ – the serious psychological disorder known in former wars as ‘shell-shock’ or ‘combat fatigue’). Ironically, researchers in Australia are currently having trouble getting approval for local trials.
John Griffiths of the Air Cadet Alumni organisation has submitted a nice comment:
“Looking over the 3 Squadron RAAF Association website, it is nothing less than amazing. There is so much wonderful information about the 100 Years of the Squadron.”
Just after Anzac Day our member Ken McCracken sent in this short video of a moving rendition of “The Last Post” played on violin by Rachel Bostock.
John Love reminds us that, in addition to the Gallipoli landing of 1915, there was another significant “25th of April”, in 1918. The hundredth anniversary is coming up in 2018 and John’s father Nigel was there at the time with 3AFC! John’s topic is of course the magnificent 2nd Battle at Villers-Bretonneux in the Somme Valley, when Australia’s soldiers recaptured this crucial strategic height from the previously-unstoppable German stormtroops who had rampaged across the region in their massive Spring Offensive. (This is also the location of Australia’s National Memorial to WW1 - by no coincidence!) Although 3AFC were nearby, unfortunately the flying weather was atrocious on the day and airpower could play no real part in the desperate battle. (However, a few enemy troops were engaged on 25 April by one 3AFC RE8 flying daringly low in the fog!) John is very keen to promote this centenary as the theme of our next Anzac Day lunch.
- It is certainly a capital idea.
AND John has found a very nice video of the RAAF’s F-35s being demonstrated for the first time in this country, at the Avalon International Airshow in March 2017.
An excellent official set of 1970s Mirage photos was sent in by Malcolm ROXBURGH, showing the scene on 4 October 1974 at RAAF Base Butterworth when 3Sqn had every single one their aircraft in the air in a mass-formation. As Malcolm says, “This does not happen very often.” Richard BOMBALL, who was C.O. at the time, also had some interesting recollections of the event: “I had a very switched-on Senior Engineering Officer who came to me several months before and alerted me to the fact that in early October the Squadron’s maintenance schedule offered a rare opportunity to have all 19 3SQN aircraft on-line, for only one day or so. We decided to keep it very quiet and planned to do a total Squadron flypast, if indeed nothing unforeseen occurred. In the event that is exactly what happened. As I recall, one afterburner failed on take-off and the pilot, Flt Lt Roscoe Warne, needed the Emergency AB-light to complete his take-off and allow us to achieve the 19 full complement.”
The 3 Squadron history book “Secrets Revealed” has further (somewhat less-official!) memories from that day: "Engine problems became a cause for concern during August 1974. Rod (‘Woppy’) WARE remembers the extent of the engine problems during his time there as an Instrument Fitter. Evidently a Senior Officer became so frustrated with the situation that he made a bet that if all 19 aircraft became flyable he would 'bare his backside on the flight line'. So, the Maintenance team worked flat-out and the Officer was forced to HONOUR the bet...”
[Bomball’s dignified response is: “I will neither confirm nor deny…”]
All this talk of macho mass-flypasts reminded Jim Hall of an interesting 1969 anecdote:
“We were based out of Tengah RAF Base, in concert with 75 Squadron, while the strip at Butterworth was resurfaced.
We told the Poms we would launch both Aussie squadrons together. At the time, the serviceability rate on the British Lightnings wasn’t too flash, so they poo-pooed the idea.
…Only one Mirage was left on the tarmac - because we ran out of pilots!”
Doug Norrie, of 450 Squadron Association, has sent in a poignant reminder of 3SQN’s first aerial combat over the Egyptian Western Desert in WW2. On 19 November 1940, four of the Squadron’s Gladiator biplanes met a much larger force of Italian Fiat CR42 biplanes. One 3SQN pilot, SQNLDR Peter Heath, was killed during the long, swirling and confusing combat. Doug says: “I remembered I had this photo of Peter’s crash site. The print came from Jack Hamilton, late of 3SQN RAAF. Note the beer bottle on the grave.”
Doug also had a question about a 3 Squadron WW2 member recorded as “P. Gilbey” in our history book 3SQN at War. After a bit of digging we discovered that his RAAF file has been indexed under the double-barrelled name of Poston-Gilbey. The amazing memory of Slim Moore then provided the additional detail that Phillip Poston-Gilbey was a Sergeant in the Orderly Room when Slim arrived in the Middle East in mid-1942, but Slim thinks Phil left 3 Squadron before they moved to Malta, mid-1943.
Sandi Nipperess of 450 Association also wondered about, “A Cook by the name of Darby MUNRO.” – Fortunately this query rang a bell, since Darby was one of the 3SQN 1940 "Originals" and was also the Squadron’s "Cartoonist"…
Our “Research” web-page has recently been updated to reflect the fact that 3SQN’s "Form 50" history sheets for 1986/87 are now online in the National Archives. (Released under the “30-Year Rule”.)
This was an exciting era, when C.O. Bruce Mouatt delivered the RAAF’s first “operational” F/A-18A on 29 August 1986. (Aircraft A21-8 – still in service today!)
Bob Treloar adds: “I await with some patience to see the 1988 records roll out.”
[We are guessing that Bob’s recording of proceedings under his own august leadership should make very flattering reading indeed!
- As Winston Churchill said: "History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it!"]
Peter Epps has sent in a desert picture of WW2 Kittyhawk pilot Doc McLeod, which has been added to his “tribute” page…
We’ve heard again from Sean Carwardine, who is progressing well with his Doctorate on Airfield Defence History. Sean says: “The history of RAAF Airfield Defence is huge. I also have traced it back to 3AFC in 1917... Yes mate, your Association should be bloody proud, you had the “first” AFC/RAAF airfield defence policy; that is both for low-level anti-aircraft and ground defence.”
Aviation memorabilia collector Paul Oaten has gifted the Association with a virtual goldmine of historic photos to be added to our website-pages. The pictures come mainly from the effects of a former WW1 AFC ground-crew member in England, named R. R. CAMPBELL, who was at Wendover in the UK with the AFC Engineering Depot. After returning to Australia he scored a job helping to erect this country’s collection of historic aeroplanes for display in Melbourne, in the Exhibition Building. (At this site, very sadly, an accidental fire destroyed many stored aircraft in 1925, including 3AFC’s “Sylvia”, an RE8 that held the British-forces record for number of combat hours over the Western Front. Another invaluable plane lost was the German Halberstadt captured in mid-air by 3AFC. For more details on both, please see our RE8 web-page.)
G.G. Campbell, with the War Museum’s crew of aircraft riggers, in the Melbourne Exhibition Building after assembling this superlative
German Fokker D-VII fighter from its packing-crate. This plane was also lost in the fire.
Our own satellite-recon expert Bruce Nash conveys the sad news that the old beach airstrip at Cutella in Central Italy (of uncomfortable winter memories for the 1944 3SQN veterans!) is now being rapidly eroded by the rising Adriatic Sea. (We have added a photo to our Cutella Landscape page.)
Aviation researcher Phil Listemann asked if we could resolve an interesting mystery, where various historical sources give conflicting identities for the Kittyhawk “destroyed” in the famous “friendly fire” incident when USAAF P-47 Thunderbolts (in error) strafed 3 SQN’s Kittyhawk Mk.II aircraft at Cutella on 29 April 1944.
The scene at Cutella Airfield, Italy, 29 April 1944.
[AWM MEA1918. - Within the Desert Air Force, 3 Squadron became the main recipient of the highly-desirable
(Packard/Rolls Royce) Merlin-engined Kittyhawk II - used from Nov 1942 (Battle of Alamein) right up to
the Gustav Line in central Italy in May 1944.
- We don't have any surviving records explaining this Engineering policy, but it’s probably another
example of 3SQN being given the privilege of pioneering 'new' aircraft types in the DAF.]
Concerning the incinerated Kittyhawk: It was the personal mount of Arthur Dawkins. In his diary, Arthur wrote as follows:
Crawled out at 0915hrs & had a shave & general clean-up. Messed about, mainly reading…
Then, at 11am, a job came through. Rex Bayly was to lead the Squadron & I was to fly as his deputy. We had to bomb a bridge up the coast, just south of Ancona. He got lost on the way up, so I had to find the target. Bombed in due course, but no one got any direct hits, & so came home. The job lasted 1:30 hrs.
About 3:15, was just going to walk back from the Mess to our tent, when I heard some strafing & looked up & saw 5 kites diving, & in other attitudes, strafing our 'drome. I dived for shelter, & as one of the kites passed overhead, recognised it as P47 Thunderbolt. The damn Yanks again - they haven't got a clue!
I hopped in a car, and dashed down to the 'drome to see the damage done. My 'Beaut B' [CV-B] was in flames, another was damaged, & one chappy killed & 2 others wounded. Slim [Moore], Kev [Harris] & Merv Beck were the luckiest lads alive, as bullets bounced all around them. Slim had a small scratch, as did Merv. Slim & Kev taxied 'BA-E' [Wing Commander Brian Eaton’s personal crate] & 'CV-P' out of harm’s way, & un-hooked the bomb which 'B' was carrying.
[The fully-fuelled and fully-armed CV-B was burning fiercely when Slim and Kev manually released – with screwdrivers - the 500 lb. bomb onto canvas engine-covers, and dragged it to safety.
This prevented a catastrophic explosion that would have decimated 3SQN’s flight line. Both men were later awarded Mentions in Dispatches.]
…We [souvenired] the clock out of 'B'. My kit, which was supposed to have been in 'B', was not there. So, as Donaldson's was in it, his was burnt. Wing Ops [tent] had several bullet holes, & Wing Ops Officer Kettle got one in the shoulder.
The Walrus pilot was killed. - He has saved 17 Yanks from the drink so far, & that's what they do to him. [Rescue seaplane pilot Warrant Officer Roland Corner GLEW, Distinguished Flying Medal, of 293 Sqn, RAF.]
The 3SQN Operations Record Book (Page 228) shows that Dawkins was flying FS493 only two hours before the strafing incident (and for several weeks prior to that date). So the aircraft destroyed by the Thunderbolts at Cutella was definitely FS493. - The other Kittyhawk mentioned mistakenly in some books (FS449) had previously been flown by Arthur with the same “CV-B” fuselage code, hence the confusion.
Later, we had some great news from Grant Dawkins, Arthur’s son.
- He still has the clock! Grant says: “…It still works. I wind it up every now and then, just to check on it. It keeps pretty good time too!”
Grant’s memento is a good example of something which was once common but is now very rare. To date we haven’t heard of any other surviving “bits” of a 3SQN Kittyhawk Mark II.
Another of Paul Oaten’s pix shows an amazing Scrapyard, in Catania Sicily, where the entire Squadron inventory of 3SQN’s historic Rolls-Royce-engined Kittyhawk Mark II aircraft were flown to be broken up in mid-1944! (That model having been superseded.)
3SQN ground crew visiting the scrapheap at No.118 Maintenance Unit at Catania in Sicily. From left: Bert Wilhelm, Bill Stroud and Dick Dodderidge.
An American aircraft-modeller, Steve MEROLLA, has sent in a photo of his model of Kittyhawk Ia EV322, which was one of the rare 3SQN aircraft camouflaged in "Desert Pink" at El Alamein in 1942.
3SQN ace pilot Danny Boardman claimed two Me109F's "probable" and one "damaged" whilst flying this aircraft.
Sadly it was also the aircraft in which 3SQN pilot Gordon Scribner lost his life in aerial combat.
Jake Newham has been in touch to describe an impressive “across the generations” moment. Jake was privileged to meet Harold Edwards, a 3AFC ground-crew member who survived to become the “last” living veteran of the Australian Flying Corps. Harold had embarked with the 7th reinforcements for 3AFC, leaving Melbourne on 11 May 1917. He died in 1998, aged 102. An Instrument-Maker by trade, one of Harold’s most historic experiences was engraving the metal plaques for the Red Baron’s coffin and graveyard cross! Harold’s interesting story is featured on our website.
An interesting new WW1 3AFC photo album is displayed on the War Memorial’s website; Collection P00394. It has pictures from the Squadron’s voyage to England via Cape Town (arriving just before New Year, 1917 - one hundred years ago) plus scenes of aerodromes, Allied aircraft, enemy planes - and plenty of prangs!
We’ve recently had the pleasure of answering two separate enquiries about “Buzz the monkey”. (Buzz was the lovable pet of 3SQN P-40 pilot “Tiny” Cameron. – Who, despite his nickname, was actually the tallest pilot in the Squadron!)
Tomahawk pilot Wally Jewell once walked back across the desert after being shot-down.
He shared a can of beer with Buzz to celebrate his homecoming!
Even more pleasing is the fact that your Association can still supply an eyewitness to Buzz’s antics 75 years later! We were able to provide several references to a children’s-book author in NZ, Maria Gill, who is researching “ANZAC Animals”. We also had a very welcome contact from Chris Cameron, Tiny’s son (an innovative farmer from Toowoomba) who was wondering about Buzz’s fate.
- We put Chris in touch with our W.A. President Felix Sainsbury, who had previously described Buzz in his ‘Australians at War’ interview:
“Yes I serviced aircraft for Bobby Gibbes and Nicky Barr… Tiny Cameron... These were all pilots of mine.
I was lucky. They were all aces. Tiny brought a little monkey back with him when he came back from Bombay… that finished up as the Squadron ‘mascot’. [Tiny] even took it for a flight in the Kittyhawk… but the trouble was the monkey started to play with all the switches. And [Tiny] said that would be the last trip he'll ever have!
When we did get a beer ration, old Buzz the monkey was up on the counter and into his can of beer! He loved it. - Then the next morning you didn't get too close to him. He used to get a terrible hangover. He'd go for everybody!
And then Tiny got shot down. …He was taken [to a POW camp in] Italy. And Buzz fretted for him a lot, although we looked after him.
They must have fed [Buzz] on [bully beef and biscuits]. Yes, the biscuits, he would have gone for them, and the bully beef would have been alright. And when we could get some fruit; a couple of times we struck an oasis where there were some dates and stuff which was good. (I must tell you about the Chanti wine too!) [But] when Buzz started to fret a lot, we found a place in Cairo where a nice old English couple had a monkey exactly the same. So they said they would love to keep him until Tiny got out of the prison camp. Anyway after the war, Tiny went back and thanked them and brought Buzz back to Queensland.
But he had trouble getting him in, because of the Quarantine. [Tiny] came from West Queensland, in the inland there. He had a station there and he wanted to take Buzz back with him, but they wouldn't allow it. So he did a deal with them and Buzz was put in the Brisbane Zoo with some other little monkeys, the same breed. So Tiny, whenever he came to Brisbane, he used to take him a little can of beer. Old Buzz loved his drink of beer. He must have eventually died there, I guess.
…No other squadron had a ‘mascot’. Some of them might have a dog or two. But nobody had a little Rhesus monkey. He was one of the ‘Squadron Boys’. He was around - all over the place. He used to travel in the trucks and cars and he would get into mischief and he was into everything! So everyone knew about Buzz and of course they all looked out for him. He was a beautiful little friendly thing. He'd just jump on your shoulder and walk with you.”
A film on the AWM website (F04912) shows Tiny and Buzz together in a Tomahawk cockpit. (At 8mins 35sec on the timeline).
Our good friend, 450 Squadron historian Doug Norrie, wrote to ask when No.3 Squadron started using the “CV” squadron-code on their aircraft. - According to the Australian War Memorial, "CV" was allocated to 3SQN in January 1941, but photographs of the Hurricanes and Tomahawks of 1941 don't show it. Apparently "CV" started being painted onto the aircraft after the arrival of the new Kittyhawks in Dec 1941.
Doug also asked about one particular Kittyhawk Mk.I - AK691.
Kittyhawk AK691 “CV-L” being refuelled at Landing Ground 110, Egypt. (Probably sometime between 1 and 9 Feb, 1942, when the aircraft was withdrawn for repairs.)
A bit of research revealed that this aircraft first operated with 3SQN on 22 Jan 1942. It was soon damaged and flown to the rear for repairs. The aircraft was then returned to the battle zone, flying regular missions until it was destroyed in combat (pilot Lance THRELKELD, KIA) on 16 Feb 1942. An interesting roll-call of other 3SQN pilots flew it, including Graham PACE (KIA in another aircraft, 13 Feb 42), Frank REID (KIA in another aircraft, 15 Feb 42) and Vic CURTIS. (Vic died in a later training-accident back in Australia, 6 Jan 43. Vic had claimed a “shared” Bf110 twin-engined German fighter shot-down, on a sortie flying AK691.)
Lou SPENCE (KIA Korea, 9 Sep 50) also flew it.
Pilots who escaped the AK691 “jinx” included Ed Jackson and Brian Thompson (whose diary is on our website). - That’s certainly a lot of historic connections for one aircraft that survived for less than one month!
While the task of locating old WW2 airfields is hard enough, the real masochists go off in search of World War One ‘aerodromes’! (Usually just old farmer’s fields that were somewhat flat and more-or-less mown.
- Knock down any fences and you’re ‘Operational’!) Recently one such hardy WW1 enthusiast has contacted us: Alastair KELLOCK from Melbourne is intending to lead a party to the small village of Premont in France. (Which was 3AFC’s base for the closing three weeks of WW1). Alastair had been frustrated in determining the exact co-ordinates of the landing field. Fortunately, there’s a French website called “Anciens Aerodromes” with extensive (dare we say “obsessive”?) detail on these topics. - However, there was one problem - their listing for 3AFC didn’t match the landscape in the available AWM photos…
PREMONT, FRANCE, 1918-10. THE AERODROME AT PREMONT WHERE NO. 3 SQUADRON
AUSTRALIAN FLYING CORPS (AFC) OPERATED DURING OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 1918. [AWM P00743.030]
Fortunately, we were able to match-up another nearby aerodrome, “Premont South”, using an amazing map-application (from the National Library of Scotland) where one can “blend” old WW1 trench-maps and the equivalent modern satellite images. (The usefulness of this system to WW1 history-tragics can only be imagined!) Amazingly, the trench-map even shows the “square” feature in the lower-centre of the photo above (where a fence has been removed).
The French experts have happily accepted our data and updated their listing. (And posed us another challenge: the busy Somme landing-ground of Proyart was used by 3AFC in September 1918 - but the French data doesn’t quite match the relevant AWM photo… Needless to say, we’re on the case!)
A wonderful upshot of all this activity is that Alastair has kindly offered to place a small tribute on a 3AFC war-grave located at Premont, less than one kilometre from the airstrip. This commemorates 3AFC Mechanic Corporal Edward MAHLER, of Chateau Tabilk, Vic., who died just before the Great War ended, in the tragic 1918 ‘flu pandemic. (Which also claimed the lives of six other 3AFC boys.)
Margaret Deacon has been doing some interesting hiking in the beautiful Abruzzo region of central Italy, where she will certainly have crossed the path of 3SQN’s famous WW2 escaper SQNLDR ‘Nicky’ Barr.
– Nicky earned his Military Cross (on top of his DSO, DFC and Bar!) helping other escaped Allied POWs across this mountainous region, before making his own way out, emerging near 3SQN’s base at Cutella and renewing his friendship with his old comrades. (Whom he had last seen nearly two years beforehand in Libya!)
Australia Post has issued a set of four different commemorative envelopes highlighting the histories of each of the AFC "combat" squadrons in WW1. These attractive pre-stamped envelopes (delivered free within Australia) are sold online at $1.20 per envelope.
(May also be available over-the-counter from Australia Post Shops. The “retail code” for the 3AFC one is 57890.)
Our warm relationship with Diane RUTHERFORD at the Australian War Memorial (a key figure in our February 2016 celebrations there) was again confirmed when she posted a very nice article on her AWM Blog precisely on the 19th of September 2016, 3 Squadron's official "100th Birthday". Dianne highlighted several important 3AFC items from WW1 in the Memorial’s permanent displays. In particular: the Squadron’s pioneering aerial-supply efforts; interesting personal possessions of the ground-crew; the German Albatros fighter shot down by 3 Squadron’s “Ghost RE8”; and the collected relics of the “Red Baron” (WW1’s highest-scoring ace).
The Australian War Memorial is continuing to release new digitised historical movies on its website. Many colourful memories of Sabres at Butterworth, Ubon and Labuan from 1964-65 (13-min.) can be seen here: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/F04785/ [Contents are summarised on the same web-page.]
Mike Terakes sent in some great Mirage photos, including one of a Butterworth “hose down” ceremony in 1981, for a pilot who clocked-up 1,000 hours…
Butterworth Hose Down. (Peter Keech driving the Tow-Motor.)
Jim Hall has drawn our attention to another excellent short online film-clip in the AWM collection – showing 3SQN’s then-new “Lizard” Mirages arriving at Butterworth on 7-Mar-1969. C.O. Ted Radford is featured, with a sign welcoming him as “Tubby Ted”! https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/F02748/
And while we’re on the subject of painted “French Ladies”, there’s a nice 3SQN online Mirage album at:
Bruce Nash has recently commissioned a dramatic 3SQN Mustang painting from artist Drew Harrison:
It shows 3SQN’s Mustangs climbing away after a very successful strike on Bjelovar railway yards in Yugoslavia on 2 December 1944. This raid involved four squadrons of Mustangs from 239 Wing. WGCDR Brian Eaton (formerly 3SQN C.O.) won the Bar to his Distinguished Service Order leading this mission, and 3SQN’s C.O. Murray Nash (Bruce’s dad) was also awarded the DSO after a skilful individual feat of pathfinding. - Murray descended through a thick cloud-layer, into a valley surrounded by mountains, in order to pinpoint the target for the Wing.
(Researching this operation, we were also astounded to realise that 3SQN regularly flew long missions with an “asymmetric load” of one 500lb bomb under one wing and a drop-tank under the other. Bruce, a senior commercial jet pilot, was dubious about the “safety” of that arrangement… However we found enough evidence from other missions to confirm the pattern. - Even some instances of pilots “landing back” at Fano with their bomb still suspended on one wing… and nothing on the other!)
The attractive light-blue rudder (+ white Southern Cross) of 3SQN’s Mustangs, introduced in late 1944 under Murray Nash’s leadership, is the subject of an old photo-caption that Bruce Nash has found. The photo shows groundcrew-member Lloyd “Grizz” BEAR, posing with a Mustang rudder.
Murray deemed Grizz: “The instigator of the Southern Cross on all 3 Squadron aircraft during WW2 – and retained to the present.”
Author Owen Zupp has released a new aviation biography, titled "Without Precedent":
"It's the story of my father, Phillip Zupp, who was an Army Commando in WW2, but flew 201 missions in Korea on Meteors. He served with 3 Squadron in Canberra, training on the Mustang and this period is covered in the book at some length - he loved the Mustang! (It also includes his forced landing in a 3SQN Auster to the north of Canberra.)"
Our member John Love has spotted a fascinating online recording of the prototype Australian Avon-Sabre diving through the sound barrier back in 1953. - The re-engining of the Sabre airframe with the powerful Rolls Royce “Avon” engine was the brainchild of Sir Lawrence Wackett (who had flown RE8s in combat with 3AFC in WW1 only 35 years earlier).
The prototype featured in the recording (A94-101) was the first aircraft to break the sound-barrier in the Southern Hemisphere. Today it’s displayed at the RAAF Museum, Point Cook. [In the Malayan Emergency in 1959, 3SQN used sonic booms as a rather dubious weapon, to flush out insurgents hidden in the jungle. – And reportedly it worked, at least once!]
There’s also a wonderful story that in 1947 the U.S. test-pilot George Welch in the North American Sabre prototype broke the sound barrier in a dive (despite being ordered not to do so!) just before the “official” Mach 1 level-flight record was achieved by Chuck Yeager in the Bell X-1 research rocket-plane.)
Our “In-House WW2 Airfield Detective” Bruce Nash has done it again! - This time we have a triple treat!
After much scanning of satellite pictures (following-up an initial query to us from Marco Gimmillaro, a Sicilian aviation enthusiast) Bruce has finally marked-out the elusive Agnone airstrip in Sicily. This strip has since been overbuilt by a major freeway and other rural development, but enough traces can be seen to verify the location, and the landscape perfectly matches historical photos.
Bruce’s second achievement has been pinpointing Pachino airfield near the Sicilian invasion beaches. Although this area has now reverted to mixed industrial and agricultural use, Bruce had no problems, thanks to an excellent historical map he discovered. [Cec Plumb's Diary records 3SQN's arrival there: 23.7.43 - En route to Pachino L.G. ...Leaving Syracuse behind we turned south, following the coast through the invasion area. The stench of death (animal? human?) filled the air in many places. Cultivation was intense. Some of the small towns we passed through were badly battered. At 1800 hours we reached Pachino, where several DUKS and a pranged Flying Fortress littered the beach. We paused to get our bearings in the town and were immediately surrounded by a group of ragged, near-naked children crying ceaselessly for sigaretti, biscotti, or cioccolato."]
- And for his third trick, Bruce has used a WW2 German document to determine the location of Falerium, on a plateau just to the west of the historic Italian hill town of Civita Castellana, 65km north of Rome.
In response to changes in the criteria for the Vietnam Logistic and Support Medal (VLSM) in 2013, the Nominal Roll of Vietnam Veterans now includes RAAF personnel who served in Ubon, on the Thai-Lao border, between 25 June 1965 and 31 August 1968. (Many 3SQN personnel were rotated through Ubon, under 79 SQN.) - It is recommended that Ubon veterans should check if they are on the database (omissions can be corrected) and claim the campaign medal (and related entitlements) that they have earned. There are 5,500 RAAF names on this roll.
Kristen Alexander, who runs a bookshop in Canberra [and who previously authored the very successful biography of top RAAF ace Clive Caldwell] tells us that she is currently working on her PhD, researching the experiences of the Australian airmen imprisoned in Stalag Luft III (“Sagan”).
Amazingly, Kristen has compiled the names of at least twelve “Sagan” inmates hailing from 3SQN. This is a surprisingly large number for this one camp and it indicates the relatively high proportion of 3SQN combat-losses who became Prisoners of War. They certainly deserve more recognition for the travails they endured and Kristen has placed many interesting snippets on her blog. (Including a lovely piece on 3SQN’s Alan Righetti.) She has also kindly typed-up for us the “POW memoir” of 3SQN pilot Tom Wood, from which we will post some interesting extracts in the future. [Our website also has several other stories written by the POWs (or “kriegies”, as they called themselves) – including some inspiring escapes - and even some rare ‘home runs’ to Switzerland!]
QLD 3SQN Assn. President Jim Hall has been reading that there are several 3AFC graves in Vignacourt Cemetery, in the Somme Valley in France. This is correct - 3AFC were based near that cemetery for several months in 1918, so this is the key cemetery on the Somme that should be visited for 3AFC interest. (Our “Somme Valhalla”.) Thanks to the excellent ‘Commonwealth War Graves’ website, it’s possible to see pictures of the peaceful gardens and list the details of all eight 3AFC men who lie there.
Another big concentration of 3AFC graves is in northern France at Bailleul, near the Belgian border (just behind the “Ypres Salient”).
Canberra Sabre-aficionado Gordon Bennett recently sent us a photo from the collection of Dennis Stenhouse (RAAF deceased - Sabre pilot in the last group of four to land at Butterworth during the initial “Sabre Ferry” to the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve). This pic recalls happy days in the “Hong Kong Bar”, Penang, circa 1958/9. (Gordon says: “It didn’t take long for 3 Squadron to find and set-up in the ‘HKB’”.)
Displaying ‘artistic’ HKB pin-up calendars are:
Back L-R: Ted Radford [later 3 Squadron CO for the move to Butterworth in 1969], Dennis Stenhouse, “Stinky” Terry Walker [Transport Support Flt.], Terry Conn,
Front: Another TSF bod, Unknown, and Peter Dart [who returned to Australia in the "Oranje" in Oct 1960].
Gordon asks: “…If 3SQN Association members have early photos of the inside of the Hong Kong Bar that they might be willing to share, I would like to reproduce them for presentation to Jenny and her brother, who now run the HKB. Such photos would help to re-create the photographic history of the fighter world’s presence at Butterworth, which was lost during a major fire a few years ago.”
Muriel Irwin (WW2 widow in Lithgow NSW) has kindly shared with us her father’s (R.J. Shulstad) WW1 diary. He was in the Field Ambulance in France.
Stuart Pointon (whose grandfather, Russell Smith enlisted in the RAAF in the 1920s and was based at Richmond and Williamtown, and fought in PNG) sent in a nice "oblique" photo of Richmond RAAF Base, taken flying over the north-east corner of the base, probably circa 1935 (as some of the hangars from the 1934 Defence Plan are shown still under construction). No.3 was the "senior squadron" on the Richmond base at that stage.
77 SQN Assn’s Peter Ring has recommended a ‘ripper’ 1950-era short newsreel covering the Korean air-war. [They certainly don't narrate them like that anymore!] - This film features Lou Spence, who earned his WW2 DFC with 3SQN in North Africa. It's quite amusing to watch Lou being caught unawares for his US Air Medal presentation by General Stratemeyer!
Sadly, Lou was one of two ex-3SQN WW2 members killed in the Korean War (the other being Ian Purssey). [The text transcript for Lou's "Last Post" ceremony at the War Memorial in Canberra (and a 56Mb live video of the proceedings) is available on the AWM website.]
WGCDR Ian Gibson reminds us that it’s exactly 75 years since 3 Squadron FIRST attacked Syria. 3SQN pioneered P-40 Curtiss Tomahawk fighters in the Middle East Command. (This recognised their previous outstanding results in the African Desert with Hurricanes.) Their role in Syria was air superiority and interdiction. Attacks on Syria commenced from 8 June 1941. The first attack on Rayak air base was carefully planned and had a big impact on the Vichy French fighter force. The Tomahawks flew straight out of the rising sun, down the contour of a nearby mountain-range, attacking at dive-speeds. (And Bobby Gibbes nearly didn’t make it through his combat debut there...!)
The Oxford Models organisation in the UK is selling a fully-painted 1:72 diecast (metal) model of Lew Ranger’s Mustang CV-W “Anita” for £13.
Jim Hall has authored a terrific illustrated analysis of the tragic loss of Perry Kelly in a Mirage at Butterworth in 1976.
Opening of Sydney Airport “Nigel Love” Bridge:
Several Association members were glad to join more than two dozen proud members of the Love family and Sydney Airport Staff at the official opening of a new road-bridge over the Alexandria Canal. This bridge, which will greatly facilitate the Airport’s future air-freight handling, was named after Nigel Love, who originally purchased the Mascot site and established the airport there in 1919 (after returning from combat-flying with 3AFC in the First World War). The Airport will also be installing a large portrait of Nigel in the International Terminal, highlighting his pivotal role. Their press-release has some nice photos, as does the Australian newspaper. There's also a boppy 4-minute time-lapse video available of the construction.
We’re sad to report that the Williamtown Advocate newspaper is closing. - But not before printing a nice centre-spread about 3SQN’s Centennial.
Peter Ring of 77 SQN Association has noted a very nostalgic page of “mug shots” of all RAAF pilot trainees spanning the years 1949 to 1988. (144 courses in all!)
Pete Scully advises that he had a successful “re-dedication” of the Hobart Air Force Museum (which he “curates”) on 29 July 2016, with the Tasmanian Governor, Her Excellency the Hon. Professor Kate Warner AM, doing the honours. (This museum was originally opened by Jake Newham, back when he was Chief of Air Staff.) We have added some pix to our ‘Mementos’ web page.
Former Mirage-driver Jack Smith writes in with another great bit of eyewitness history: I found Brian Weston’s article ‘Mirage Metamorphosis’ quite interesting. I was one of the original pilots posted to 3SQN in August 1968 when it re-formed as a Mirage unit. The Squadron deployed to Butterworth in February 1969, the deployment being named ‘Operation Thoroughfare’. The actual dates were Williamtown to Darwin via Townsville on 14 February, and Darwin to Butterworth via Djuanda on 17 February.
I was also pleased to see that the unofficial logo of the Lizard entwined in the 3 was covered in Brian’s article. I was posted out of the Squadron in July 1970 to do a Fighter Combat Instructor’s course, and was not aware that the ‘Lizard’ had actually appeared on the Mirage fin in 1971 (until officialdom deemed otherwise). My interest in the lizard logo stems from the fact that I designed it in 1968. In 1969 I painted the lizard logo on one of the walls in the Officers’ Mess bar at RAF base Tengah (with the blessing of RAF officialdom). I sometimes wonder how long it survived, and if it was still there when the RAF finally withdrew from Tengah. Anyhow, enough trivia. Thanks for the Newsletter – it’s a very interesting publication. Long may it continue.
The Monash University Archives have kindly sent us a copy of a letter written by General Sir John Monash in 1918, which indicates his warm relationship with the C.O. of 3rd Squadron, Major David Blake. The topic of the letter is how much Monash appreciated the aerial photos taken by 3AFC of the Bertangles Chateau (Monash’s headquarters) on August 12th, 1918.
This was the same day Monash was knighted ‘in the field’, by King George V. (The General’s reward for the stunning Australian breakthrough in the Battle of Amiens.) The chateau featured a spectacular collection of captured German artillery-pieces lining the driveway. The surrounding fields contained "practice trenches" where the Australian Infantry later demonstrated their skills to the King
Our website ‘link’ to the Australians at War Film Archive has been updated. This site features extensive transcripts, videos and photos of many WW2 veterans: www.australiansatwarfilmarchive.unsw.edu.au
Jeff Crowe from Somerset, Tasmania, has identified for us the talented local photographer who took the amazing 1937 crash photos featured in our website story Demon Down in the Devil’s Den.
It was John Henry Robinson, Jeff’s grandfather. [By coincidence, we’ll view the same 3SQN Demon – now salvaged and beautifully restored - after our 9 July Pt. Cook lunch.]
Sunshine Coast resident Ray Williams emailed to ask about another 3AFC aerial photo, which cost Ray $2 some years ago at a local market:
While he has never been able to find out much about it, Ray recently noticed its similarity to one of the photos taken by Lt. Lee Smith DFC on our website. Fortunately, using the date on the photo (20 May 1918) and the 3AFC online War Diary, we were able to identify the RE8 Crew who took it; Lieutenants Tom BAILLIEU DFC (Pilot) and Edward ROWNTREE DFC (Observer). The photo is one of the 26 “obliques” that they took over the frontlines on that day, in preparation for the successful Australian assault that captured Morlancourt ridge. Their combat report mentions that they were subjected to very heavy German machinegun fire over the front. (Indeed, Tom Bailleu snapped this pic while he had their RE8 in an evasive dive!) German trenches can be seen, along with a profusion of white shell-holes in the chalk.
For further profiles of both Tom and Edward, see our article.
L to R: “Serg” Sergeant, John Doeg, “Piwi” Richards, FLTLT Murray Nash, “Dingle” McKernan and FLTLT Barton, 3SQN Intelligence Officer.
Bruce Nash has found an original WW2 photo of his dad Murray pointing at a map of Central Italy in a briefing of 3SQN pilots before a mission. The location was not noted on the print, but after some detective work (starting with the sandy conditions underfoot!) we managed to place it in a sequence of photos shot by official photographer Laurie Le Guay at Cutella, outside the “239 Wing Operations Caravansin early 1944.
Vicki Crighton and James Oglethorpe represented 3SQN Assn on 9/10 April at the 75th Anniversary of 450 Squadron “Marching Out to WW2”.
Many thanks to Sandi Nipperess for organising two most enjoyable days in Williamtown and Newcastle.
“450 Squadron Departure Montage”, by Sandi Nipperess.
The desert photos of “Old John” Jackson (a 3SQN ace and Flight Leader in 1940/41) are now displayed in the Australian War Memorial website. (Search with the collection number “P12424”.)
May 1941. Informal portrait of Squadron Leader John Francis Jackson reading a letter in the company of members of No. 3 Squadron, RAAF.
Identified left to right: O215094 (260560) Flight Lieutenant William Gordon Kloster, "Lane", Sqn Ldr John Francis Jackson, "Fisher."
Lorenzo Deschodt wrote to us from Belgium about a Daimler RAF4A engine, originally from an RE8 aircraft that crashed in 1917. In 1972 it was excavated, by Lorenzo’s father, from a farm (Lat./Lon. N 50.784650, E 2.909510) 1.5km east of Wijtschate. (A village in the southern part of the old WW1 Ypres Salient battle zone. The Tommies anglicised this as “White-sheet”.) The engine is now displayed in the Museum FAS at Wevelgem, east of Ypres. The Daimler engine-number can still clearly be read (“12180”) and Lorenzo would love to know something of the history of this aircraft.
Unfortunately, we could only confirm to Lorenzo (so far) that this engine did not come from 3AFC. (Although the Squadron would have flown over that location regularly, all 3AFC aircraft shot-down over Ypres crashed several kilometres away from Wijtschate.) The British operated up to 300 RE8s at any one time, so the crash could have come from any of several Squadrons. (RFC No.9 Squadron is a distinct possibility, as they flew operations in that zone. There is only one RFC grave in the local cemetery, and that is from the wrong type of aircraft for that engine (Sopwith 1½ Strutter).
We hope that by listing this question on our website, we can attract the attention of an enthusiast with a list of Triumph RAF4A engine numbers fitted to RE8s!
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