As Commanding Officer of 3 Squadron when it sailed to the Middle East in July 1940, through until February 1941, McLachlan played a significant part in forming it into a very effective Fighter Squadron in the face of many formidable problems. McLachlan was awarded the DFC in 1941 for determined leadership and outstanding military achievements. He was the first RAAF fighter pilot to be decorated in WW2.
Peter Jeffrey said that Ian McLachlan's period of command was very successful; much of the positive work he did and the difficulties he met and overcame were not generally understood and appreciated by the Squadron members. In order to put the record straight, Peter made the following comments:
"3 Squadron left Australia as an Army Co-op Squadron and just prior to sailing, a number of permanent airmen were posted away and replaced by new personnel. Both Squadron Leaders McLachlan and Peter Heath, who lost his life early in the war, were trained as Army Co-op pilots and not as "fighter pilots" and as Senior Permanent Air Force Officers. Neither did a lot of flying (in fact not too many Permanent Officers did a lot of flying). Consequently, neither was fully trained for the Squadron's active Desert Air Force role (i.e. that of a Fighter Squadron).
When 3 Squadron was transhipped at Colombo, from the Orontes to the Dilwarra, the accommodation on the Dilwarra for the other ranks was unsatisfactory. After much representation and argument, McLachlan was able to have the O.R.s moved to the next deck, which was Sergeants' accommodation and the Sergeants etc. shared the Officers' Deck.
On reaching the Middle East the Squadron was without aircraft and the ground staff were posted to many R.A.F. units. McLachlan quickly realised this could be disastrous and brought all members back under his command and obtained aircraft. Firstly, there were Lysanders and Gauntlets and when these proved unsatisfactory, he pressed for and obtained Gladiators. He then set about reorganising the Squadron by having 2E and 2A Fitters transferred into workshops for maintenance duties and Flight Mechanics and Flight Riggers posted to the Flights to service the aircraft. This allowed much greater flexibility in movement and the basis of the Squadron's considerable mobility.
He found out, from the R.A.F., the cost of running a Gladiator Squadron and after deductions for rations (obtained from the A.I.F.) and the pay for the personnel, he notified Headquarters the cost of operating 3 Squadron. It was soon realised that Gladiators were not front-line fighters and he pushed to have them replaced by Hurricanes - and had 3 Squadron refitted with them, ahead of a number of R.A.F. Squadrons.
McLachlan was a splendid administrator, a strong negotiator with a positive attitude, who would not ask, but would advise Headquarters and Air Board that he had done such and such because... And he invariably got away with it! As well as having to contend with Air Board and R.A.F. Middle East, he had tussles with 6th Div. A.I.F. who wanted to control 3 Squadron.
Despite many difficulties, 3 Squadron performed notably in the 1st Libyan Campaign and ably supported 6th Div. A.I.F., not as an Army Co-op but as a Fighter Squadron."
By 14 February 1941, Peter Jeffrey said: "all the establishment hard-work had been done," when he took command of a very efficient and mobile Fighter Squadron, with all sections capably led by officers who knew exactly what to do:- viz. Harry King, Adjudant; Bert Boddison, Engineering Officer; Bill Maclnnes, Equipment Officer.
At this time, Hurricane aircraft were arriving to replace the Gladiators. Peter Jeffrey claimed that: "because of this organising, 3 Squadron was able to carry out the successful retreat from Benghazi to Egypt."
AIR COMMODORE Gordon Henry STEEGE, DSO, DFC, MiD.
Beginning his flying training at Point Cook at the age of 19 years, Steege graduated in 1938 as a Pilot Officer, and had been on service in the Middle East for nine months when he was first decorated.
Squadron Leader Gordon Steege, of North Sydney, gained his D.F.C. in recognition of his daring and fierce determination in leading his flight against enemy formations. At the time of the award, April 1941, Steege had destroyed at least seven enemy aircraft. He had taken a notable part in the Libyan air operations, and his flight had had some outstanding successes. On several occasions he had launched attacks on hostile formations, breaking them up and inflicting serious losses.
Steege remained in the RAAF after the war, rising to the rank of Air Commodore.
Gordon was guest of honour in 2010 at the 70th anniversary of the Squadron's "Marching off to War" from Richmond RAAF Base in 1940.
Sadly, Gordon died in September 2013. The multi-faceted story of his life is is now detailed in our 'Lifetimes' section.
FLIGHT LIEUTENANT John Rowley PERRIN. DFC, MiD.
The second pilot in 3 Squadron to be decorated was Flight Lieutenant John (Jock) Rowley PERRIN. Perrin was the leader of a formation of three fighters on patrol near Mersa el Berga when he noticed bombs bursting on the ground, and saw nine Stukas dive-bombing and strafing our troops. He called up the others in his formation, but was apparently misunderstood. At all events, after a careful look round for possible escorting fighters, Perrin dived on the Stukas, accompanied by only one of his companions.
As the pair dived, they were attacked by 15 Messerschmitt 110s which Perrin had not seen, and Perrin's companion was shot down. Perrin bagged one of the Stukas and a Messerschmitt before a cannon-burst in his petrol tank set his aircraft on fire and slightly wounded Perrin.
In spite of fire and wound, Perrin continued to attack the enemy until he had exhausted his ammunition. He then crash-landed in the desert. As he staggered from his burning aircraft, half blinded with oil and blood, he was machine-gunned by the pilots of the Messerschmitts which continually dived at him as he made a desperate dash for the shelter of a tree.
"It was the fastest 100 yards I have ever run," he said jokingly later, "and when I barged into that tree in my haste, I saw stars by the thousand."
The citation to the immediate award of the D.F.C. granted Perrin for this incident stated that his determined leadership and bravery in the face of vastly superior enemy forces, and his bearing after the combat had had a very beneficial effect on the morale of the remainder of the squadron.
Perrin was picked up by a patrol car and taken to Benina aerodrome and a hospital. A little later, during the withdrawal of the British forces across Cyrenaica he was again in action.
Perrin made three applications for a short service commission in the R.A.F. between 1935 and 1938 before he was accepted by the R.A.A.F. He entered Point Cook in July 1938, and upon graduation a year later, was posted to 3 Squadron. He was 24 years old when he gained his D.F.C.
GROUP CAPTAIN Peter JEFFREY. DSO, DFC, MiD(2).
Twenty-two year old Peter Jeffrey joined the RAAF in 1935, well before the outbreak of war. He was posted (ranked Flight Lieutenant) to the desert in 1940 with 3 Squadron RAAF as Signals Officer. In February 1941, as a Squadron Leader, he became Commanding Officer of 3 Squadron.
On 15 April 1941, he shot down one of four JU52s that were landing and then destroyed three more on the ground.
At this time, he was flying Hurricane QS-J. For energetic and capable leadership, he received the DFC in 1941. In June 1941 he shot down a JU88 bearing Italian markings, and two days later a Martin 167 bomber of the Vichy Air Force.
He was later promoted to a Wing Leader uniting 112 Squadron RAF and 3 Squadron into a Wing; he handed over 3 Squadron to Squadron Leader Alan Rawlinson on 10 November 1941. On 22 November 1941, he was shot down but managed to return to base. On the 25 November he shot down a Bf 110 with three other pilots. On 30 November, he landed his Tomahawk in the desert, discarded his parachute to make more space for Sergeant Tiny Cameron, a downed 3 Squadron pilot (and the largest man in the Squadron!) and flew safely back to base sitting on Cameron's lap. This happened just a few days before he was awarded the DSO.
In March 1942, he was appointed Commanding Officer of 75 Squadron RAAF, later handing the Squadron over to J. F. Jackson. He spent time as an Instructor in Townsville and Mildura with No.2 OTU and at one stage, replaced Clive Caldwell as Wing Leader of 1 RAAF Wing at Darwin.
Peter Jeffrey left the RAAF as a Wing Commander in 1946 and became a farmer and grazier until he re-joined the RAAF in 1951. In 1954, he was involved in the Woomera rocket trials. He then became CO of Edinburgh Airfield until he left the RAAF in April 1956. He passed away 6 April 1997, aged 83.
[See also Peter's Australian War Memorial historical interview.]
GROUP CAPTAIN Alan RAWLINSON OBE, DFC & Bar, AFC.
Alan Rawlinson was born in Fremantle, W.A. on 31 July 1918. He obtained a private pilots licence in 1937 flying DH60 Gypsy Moths. Enlisting in the RAAF in 1938 he graduated as a Pilot Officer in 1939 obtaining a posting to 3 Squadron at Richmond, N.S.W. At the time he was flying Hawker Demons.
At the outbreak of World War II he was sent to the Western Desert with 3 Squadron. From September 1940 to April 1941 he saw combat flying Gauntlets, Gladiators, Hurricanes, Tomahawks and Kittyhawks. From May 1941 to August 1941 he was stationed at Cyprus and returned to the Western Desert in August 1941, later serving as CO of 3 Squadron.
He was awarded the DFC and Bar during his service in the desert. He returned to Australia in 1942 as Chief Flying Instructor at Mildura. In 1943 he was promoted to Squadron Commander and Wing Leader and saw further service in the Pacific region. He again returned to Australia in 1944 and was Commanding Officer of paratroop training.
In 1947 Alan transferred to the RAF as a Squadron Commander and Wing Leader, flying jet aircraft such as Vampires and Meteors. Alan remained in the RAF until he retired in 1961. During the period from 1963-1969 he was involved in missile testing at Woomera.
Alan retired to Crafers in the Adelaide Hills. During his flying career he flew some 53 different types of aircraft, from bi-planes to supersonic jets.
[See also our story: Blackie and Blondie's War.]
SQUADRON LEADER John Francis JACKSON. DFC. MiD.
John Francis ("Old John") Jackson, of St George, Queensland, enlisted in the R.A.A.F. in 1939 and was awarded the D.F.C. in 1942 as a Flight Lieutenant , for his combat success with 3 Squadron. He had been a member of 3 Squadron since December 1940, and had been in operations in Egypt, Libya, Syria, and for a short period in Cyprus. He had always shown marked keenness and determination and was an outstanding Flight Leader. In April 1941, he attacked a force of enemy bombers which was harassing Australian troops and shot down three of the attackers. He destroyed eight enemy aircraft during his time with 3 Squadron.
After serving a full tour of duty in the Middle East with 3 Squadron, Jackson returned to Australia and then assigned to lead the hurriedly-formed 75 Squadron with their Kittyhawk fighters to Port Moresby, Papua. There they successfully challenged the might of the Japanese air fleets that were attacking this vital Allied frontline base.
Over Port Moresby, John Jackson led his squadron in furious aerial battles to defend the town and he also led successful pre-emptive raids on the Japanese airstrip at Lae on the north coast of New Guinea. On 10 April 1942, he was shot down and ditched in the ocean near Lae, but evaded capture after swimming ashore and recruiting the help of two friendly natives. His native saviours guided him over the towering jungle-clad mountain ranges to the Australian outpost at Wau. Jackson was then flown back to Port Moresby, where he resumed leadership of his Squadron.
He died in tragic circumstances soon after, on 28 April 1942. 75 Squadron was down to their last few aircraft and Jackson tutored his pilots to use the speed of their Kittyhawks to dive through the Japanese formations in 'hit and run' attacks, and not to try to dogfight with the superlative Japanese Zero fighters. Senior RAAF officers (Garing and Gibson) visiting Moresby criticised this tactic and incensed Jackson's pilots by calling them 'dingoes' [meaning cowards]. The next day, John Jackson, an ace pilot and a genuine hero, was shot down while attempting to show just how difficult it was to dogfight the Zeroes in a Kittyhawk. He was one of 12 Australian pilots from 75 Squadron who lost their lives during their 44 days defending Port Moresby.
[Also see our book feature about "Old John" Jackson.]
WING COMMANDER R. H. (Bobby) GIBBES. DSO, DFC and Bar.
Bobby Gibbes became a legend in his own lifetime. He served with 3 Squadron in the Western Desert where he fought with great skill and determination. Over the period of his service in the desert, Bobby scored 10.25 kills, which made him a 'double ace'. A superb pilot and a natural leader, he became Commanding Officer of the Squadron during February 1942, one of its busiest and most difficult periods.
His Kittyhawk fighter always carried a motif, designed by his mother, of a kangaroo kicking a German "sausage" dog. Bobby always flew CV-V.
He returned to Australia in April 1943 after having served in the desert for well over twice the usual time of a normal Middle East tour of duty. He later served in Darwin as second in command of No 80 Fighter Wing.
After the war, he established businesses in New Guinea but always carried on his career in aviation. For many years he was a well-known international aviation figure, residing at Collaroy, a beach-side suburb of Sydney.
[Further articles on many of Bobby's exploits can be found in our Tribute Article
and his frank and lucid view-points can be found on our Stories Page.]
WING COMMANDER Andrew ("Nicky") BARR. OBE, MC, DFC and Bar.
Nicky Barr, a star International Rugby player, arrived in England when World War II broke out. He returned to Australia, joined the RAAF and graduated as a Pilot Officer in September 1940. In October 1941, he was posted to 3 Squadron in the Middle East and soon displayed his skill in the Tomahawk and Kittyhawk fighters. In his first 35 operational hours, Barr flew 22 missions, engaged in 16 combats and destroyed eight enemy aircraft. He quickly rose through the ranks to become Squadron Leader.
On 11 January 1942, during an attempt to rescue a fellow pilot he was shot down, which resulted in a 25-mile walk back to base. On 26 June 1942, he was shot down for the third time, but this time captured. As a consequence, he spent a long period in Italian P.O.W. camps as well as enemy hospitals. He made three unsuccessful escape attempts and then on the fourth occasion, enroute to Germany by train, he escaped and joined an Allied Special Airborne Services unit in which he operated for eight months and helped fellow POWs to escape.
For services behind the lines in Italy he was awarded the Military Cross.
In October 1945, after five years of service, Nicky Barr left the RAAF with a final tally of 12½ enemy aircraft destroyed.
Nicky Barr earned a reputation amongst allies and enemies alike for his acts of bravery, his selflessness, his dogged determination and his infectious sense of humour. Considered by all to be a great pilot and a true legend.
[See also our story "Nicky Barr Shot Down".]
FLIGHT LIEUTENANT Cecil ("Tiny") CAMERON, DFM and Bar
Msus, Libya - 8 Jan 1942. Sergeant A. C. "Tiny" CAMERON, of 3SQN [right],
with Sergeant I. A. LYONS. [AWM 023107]
Posted to 3 Squadron R.A.A.F. in May 1941, Sergeant "Tiny" (Cec) Cameron's natural popularity was quickly enhanced by his beloved mascot, a cute monkey called "Buzz" who often flew as an unofficial co-pilot with Tiny.
Shortly after he joined the Squadron, the Syrian campaign developed. Tiny along with other members of the squadron took an active part. In fact, Tiny and his close mate, Derek Scott (Scotty) - another pilot with whom he shared eventual incarceration in Lamsdorf - on the signing of the Armistice in Syria, were sent in to occupy Bierut Aerodrome on behalf of the Squadron.
After completion of hostilities in Syria, the Squadron was transferred to the Libyan Campaign and took an active part in opposing the Luftwaffe, and it was not long before Tiny accounted for his first victim. Shortly after, he became a victim himself and was shot down, but became part of Air Force history when he was picked up by Squadron Leader Peter Jeffrey, who landed beside the crash site, squeezed Tiny into his cockpit and brought him back to the Squadron. This was quite an achievement as Tiny was 6ft 4in (193cm) and it was a single seater aircraft.
About a month later, after scoring two more victories, Tiny was again shot down and according to all reports, had crashed with his aircraft and had not survived. Five days later, he returned with an Army unit to his squadron, much to everyone's surprise and delight. Tiny went on to claim four more victories before he was again shot down on 10 January 1942. He became a prisoner of war. Coincidentally, on this date, he was awarded the D.F.M. for outstanding devotion to duty and for his score of 5 enemy aircraft shot down. He was subsequently transported to Italy where he remained in a P.O.W. camp until the Italians surrendered in 1943 when he was transported to Germany.
He and others were force-marched across Germany and half way back again before being released at Halle on 8 May 1945, when he was told of his retrospective commission as a Flight Lieutenant.
Flight Lieutenant Wilfred Stanley ARTHUR started 1942 well for 3 Squadron by adding his D.F.C. to its mounting tally. A Queenslander, Arthur was 22 when he gained the award. He joined the Permanent Air Force a day after war was declared, and was posted to the Squadron in March 1940 as a Pilot Officer, becoming Flying Officer in the following September, and Flight Lieutenant in October 1941.
His D.F.C. was awarded for great gallantry in operations. On one occasion under difficult weather conditions, he was leading a flight over Bir el Gobi when a large formation of enemy aircraft was encountered. Arthur immediately shot down two Stukas, and was then attacked by enemy fighters. His own engine was hit, but before this had happened, he had shot down one of the enemy fighters. Turning away his damaged aircraft from the fight, Arthur shot down an Italian Macchi 200, making his day's total four.
He went on to finish the war with 10 victories, 6+ he scored in No.3 Squadron.
[See also our article on Woof's
"No Ammo" DSO in the Pacific, and his interview about the "Morotai Mutini" on
our AWM page.]
Already considered to be an 'ace' after destroying seven enemy aircraft, Rex Wilson was one of the nine Squadron pilots who took off at 1035 hours in their Tomahawks on that fateful day to sweep the Tobruk-El Gobi area.
They were surprised by six Bf 109s who bounced them out of the sun. Three Tomahawks went down and two more were damaged but stayed on to fight. Both Rex and Flying Officer David Rutter were in two of those which went down and both were killed. The third was piloted by "Tiny" Cameron who eventually crash-landed and managed to return to the Squadron three days later.
Rex had already been recommended for the Distinguished Flying Medal. In January 1945, it was awarded posthumously.
Frank Fisher spent his early flying years under the guidance of Charlie Pitt, a World War 1 pilot who taught Frank how to handle an aircraft in all situations.
Frank joined the RAAF in 1939, and was posted to 3 Squadron serving in the Western Desert flying Tomahawks.
In June 1941 Frank was shot down near the French air base of Hama. Crash landing his aircraft, he was faced with a 140 mile walk back to base. During this trek he was befriended by a tribe of nomadic Arabs who took him under their protection. Dressed in Arab clothing they guided him back to his base.
After the war Frank resumed civil flying with ANA and later TAA.
SQUADRON LEADER Walter Kenneth WATTS DFC
Ken Watts enlisted with the RAAF on 9 November 1940. He trained as a pilot at Essendon in Victoria and Wagga Wagga in NSW. He embarked from Sydney on 1st September, 1941 bound for the Western Desert. Between 7 February 1941 and until he was shot down on 6 April 1944, his log book shows 877 hours of flying Tiger Moths, DH82s, Wirraways, Hurricanes, Spitfires, Kittyhawks and Warhawks.
He was posted from 3 Squadron to become C.O. of the famous "shark-teeth" 112 Sqd. (29/3/1944) where he was shot down and taken Prisoner-of-War on 6 April 1944 near Todi, Italy. His Kittyhawk FR-811 was hit by ground fire and he was forced to bail out. He was later captured by German troops. Ken Watts suffered brutal beatings at the hands of the Gestapo and the head injuries he received at that time eventually resulted in him being wheelchair-bound for the latter part of his life. Ken was held at Stalag Luft No.1 until his release by Russian Troops in 1945.
Brian Eaton served with 3 Squadron RAAF in the Middle East and Sicily. He had an illustrious career in the RAAF spanning some 38 years from a Fighter pilot to Air Vice Marshal.
He flew with the following Squadrons: No.239 Wing RAF ~ No.3 SQN. RAAF ~ No.112 Sqn. RAF ~ No.5 Sqn. SAAF ~ No.250 Sqn. RAF ~ No.260 Sqn. RAF ~ No.450 Sqn. RAAF.
Brian flew Hurricanes, Kittyhawks, Mustangs and Meteor Jets. On the 6th October, 1943 he was awarded an immediate DFC for his attack on a German panzer column.
In October 1992, during the Memorial Service for our former Commanding Officer Air Vice Marshal Brian Alexander Eaton C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O. and Bar, D.F.C., U.S. Silver Star, held at Duntroon Anzac Memorial Chapel, the eulogy given by Air Marshal Jake Newham included the following tribute by Padres Fred McKay and Bob Davies:
As the two surviving Padres from the Middle East and Italy days, we wish to express our special gratitude for the experience we had of working beside Brian Eaton - not only in his magnificent leadership of 3 Squadron but in his later command of 239 Fighter Wing. We were at his side the day he got the gold braid of Group Captain on his cap - and we were around when he was adorned with his D.F.C. and D.S.O. ribbons.
But Brian was a man who had a greatness beyond his gold braid, for he possessed a youthful wizardry which made him a Commander who won devoted loyalty through his human friendliness, his scrupulous efficiency, and his practical understanding ... even of the humblest ranks.
Our affection for him was deep and real and we remember the letters we wrote to and received from his mother whose prayers followed him whatever he did every day of his adventuring life.
His famous Log Book is now closed and we thank God for the unforgettable memories of the man himself. He stood with us through difficult and dangerous days - and we express our loving sympathy to Jo and the family commending them to the sustaining grace of God in the days which are ahead."
[See also Brian's Australian War Memorial Interview.]
FLIGHT LIEUTENANT Arthur DAWKINS
Arthur Dawkins served with 3 Squadron for a period of 5 years and flew operations in the desert and Northern Italy. On the 10 March 1943, with other pilots, he strafed an enemy motor column. As Arthur passed over a motor transport that he hit, it exploded with such force that the canvas tarp from the vehicle flew up and wrapped around his wing; he flew back with the tarp draped over his wing tip. On landing the mechanics found that the air intake of his Kittyhawk CV-B No. FL-288 was full of packets of razor blades.
Arthur later served with Desert Air Force Communications Unit and had the pleasure of flying King George VI, known as "Colonel Kent", on an inspection (26/7/44).
[Some spectacular pictures of Arthur in a captured Macchi fighter
are featured in our article:
3 Squadron's (Captured!) Italian Air Force.]
SQUADRON LEADER Reginald N. B. STEVENS, DFC and Bar
An exceptional man, respected by all, Reg Stevens rose from Sergeant Pilot to become one of the Commanding Officers of 3 Squadron during his distinguished career.
Bobby Gibbes once described Reg Stevens as "a very skilful pilot with bags of guts." Even as a Flight Sergeant, he befriended all the sprog pilots and earned his reputation for operational reliability with his outstanding eyesight. His rapid rise through the ranks from Warrant Officer to Squadron Leader in just two weeks, to take command of the Squadron, was unparalleled in the Squadron.
On 3 August 1943, Sergeant Johnny Howell-Price was shot down into the sea off the Sicilian coast near Catania. Reg saw his plight and pin-point dropped his dingy to Johnny, and whilst circling above him, alerted Air Sea Rescue. He stayed above until the rescue-Walrus arrived, but during the rescue pick-up, an Italian shore battery began shelling the Walrus. Reg went straight in and put the battery out of action, but suffered serious aircraft damage in doing so. He crash-landed, but stepped out unhurt and rejoined the Squadron that same day. For this action, he was awarded an immediate DFC.
Reg Stevens's tribute to Brian Eaton is typically humble:
"There are many of our members who knew Brian for much longer than I did. However, I must say, perhaps no one had a greater respect or affection for the little bloke than I did.
He was a superb pilot and did not think it infra-dig to fly as a number two to an N.C.O. pilot. All the time he was gaining experience; and I was delighted on 19 April 1943 when Brian was appointed C.O. of 3.
I served under Brian for only two months from 19 April to 19 June 1943 when he went off non-effective sick and I assumed command of the Squadron; however the two months under his command were very happy ones and the respect I had for him became a real affection."
Brett Stevens, Reg Stevens's very proud grandson, has provided us with a few memories of Reg's service during WW2.
SQUADRON LEADER Murray Percival NASH. DSO, DFC and Bar.
"Gasher" Nash was Commanding Officer of the Squadron at three different occasions during the Italian Campaign. His first hand-over, to Rex Bayly, was because his tour of duty had expired. Yet he still came back for another tour.
His flying ability was exceptional. On 8 January 1945, his "tree-pruning" during a very low level attack on enemy transport vehicles, resulted in the tip of one of his Mustang's wings being torn off by the tree and, as well, the mainframe was badly dented. Only his superb flying skills kept the aircraft under control and he limped home on a wing and a prayer.
It is a mark of his outstanding leadership, daring and ability as a fighter pilot that he was required to attend and contribute to a special training course in the U.K. on air fighting tactics. He had just left the U.K. when the war ended but returned to take over the Squadron for the third time and to wind up the Squadron's participation in the war.
Please also see our tribute page to Murray.
On 2 March 1944, when a Flying Officer, Ken Richards received an immediate DFC for his accurate bombing attack in the previous January, on shipping off the Yugoslavian coast ... in fact, he dropped a bomb clean down the funnel of a 3,000 ton enemy vessel with dramatic results.
Near the end of February, he attacked a 5,000 ton merchant ship and his direct hit split the vessel in two.
His citation included these words: "This officer has invariably displayed commendable courage and determination, and his accurate bombing has been a noteworthy feature of his efforts throughout."
On 8 March 1945, Ken took over the command of the Squadron from Murray Nash for several months until Murray returned to the Squadron shortly after the war in Europe had ended.
Rex Bayly had already completed a North African desert stint with 3 Squadron (famously being rescued by Bobby Gibbes), and had already earned his DFC in March 1943, by the time he was appointed C.O. of the Squadron - in April 1944 during the Italian Campaign.
This was a particularly difficult time for flying activities, as the focus of operations was on precision-bombing of enemy supply routes.
He led the Squadron in one of their most spectacular missions... participating in the 239 Wing bombing attack on the hydro-electric dam on the Pescara River near Chieti. Each of the Squadron's 12 Kittyhawks were loaded with two 500-pounders and one 1,000-pounder. The sluice gates and the adjoining powerhouse were destroyed.
FLIGHT LIEUTENANT Ian Howard ROEDIGER DFC
Whilst on his second operational tour with the Squadron, he was on patrol on 13 May 1944, when ack-ack hit his engine's oil system. Knowing he only had a few minutes before he went down, he still continued on his bombing dive, dropped his load and got back to 6,000 feet when his engine faltered badly. The aircraft lost height rapidly.
He was at 2,500 feet when he spotted a tiny 200ft (60 metre) strip, so he belly-landed and was able to walk away from the wreck.
Jack Doyle's enthusiastic contributions to the Squadron were considerable. Whilst dive-bombing a vital railway bridge in Italy in April 1944, he dropped his 1,000-pounder so low and accurately that shrapnel from the explosion ripped holes in the tail of his Kittyhawk.
Also, that same April, he, then a Flight Commander, was given temporary command of the Squadron before later being appointed as a liaison Squadron Leader to the Mobile Operations Radio Unit. Whilst in that capacity he was lucky to escape with his life when a time-bomb went off under twenty observers, spotting operational activity from the upstairs of an Italian chateau. Doyle and two others fell three stories through the collapsed floors. He lived but 14 others were killed.
In October 1944, he became Commanding Officer of 450 Squadron and remained their C.O. until the war ended.
See also our Tribute to Jack.
The Church of England Grammar School in East Brisbane educated two 3 Squadron pilots who were both killed at El Alamein in Egypt:
John MacTAGGART (killed in flying accident 18/8/42) and Garth NEILL DFM (killed by flak 22/10/42).
Mactaggart attended from 1931 to 1939 representing the school at Swimming and Rugby, leaving at Senior level.
attended from 1935 to 1937, leaving at Junior level. Their sacrifice is commemorated on a
memorial in the
If you're able to provide information or pictures of other 3 Squadron "Dogfighters" please *Contact Us .