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Bob Ulrich’s Dalmatian Dogpaddles

A very interesting query arrived at the 3SQN Association website in July 2007, from Vince Bozin in the USA…


I am writing this email to you in the hope that you might be able to help me confirm the identity of an RAAF WWII Hawker Hurricane Pilot who flew combat missions over the Adriatic Sea in 1944. 

My father, who is in his 70s, was just a young kid during WWII.  He is writing a book about growing up on the Adriatic islands and has a wonderful account of a Hurricane pilot.  I believe the pilot is RAAF (R. Y. Ulrich) and was flying a Hawker Hurricane IV No.6 Squadron from Italy.

We were pleased to inform Vince (the American son of a Croatian immigrant) that the RAAF pilot was none other than “our” Bob Ulrich, who had flown with 3 Squadron over the Desert, and later won a DFC flying Hurricane IVs over the Adriatic with RAF 6 Squadron.  (Hurricane IVs were “Flying Can Openers”, heavily armoured and usually lugging large cannons!) 

One Hurricane IV in the UK is still flying displays today, wearing the "JV" markings of Bob's RAF 6 Squadron. 

In return, we got to hear this amazing story from Vince…

…In 1944 my father was 11 years old, living on the island of Rava in the Adriatic, when he witnessed four planes coming in low, one of them trailing thick black smoke.  He watched from the hill top as the smoking plane belly-landed into the Adriatic Sea.  Within seconds, a pilot emerged from the wreckage and deployed a raft.  There were three people (two men and a teenage girl) on a small fishing boat who rowed out to the pilot, assured him they were friendly and would help him.  They pulled him from the water and onto their boat.  The three other planes circled around to make sure the pilot made it out and radioed for a rescue vessel. 

One of the men on the fishing boat was my father's cousin.  He spoke a little English and talked to the pilot.  The pilot told my father's cousin that this was the "second time" he was shot down and had to ditch into the Adriatic Sea.  The small fishing boat rowed around the cove and met up with the Partisan Patrol Craft PC21 "Miran".

Partisan Patrol Boat PC21 Miran

When the pilot saw the Miran, he told my father's cousin that this his second ride on the Miran

This is the story my father has told me for over 30 years.  63 years later, he still remembers vividly that day, and holds it close to his heart, maybe because this was a positive event with a happy outcome during a time when there were few positive things.  My father has always wondered who the pilot was and if he made it back home safely.    

Vince’s father was overjoyed to hear that Bob was still contactable in Western Australia. 

Vince kindly also sent us the records that he had discovered of Bob's two ditchings with 6 Squadron RAF.  These records had led Vince to enquire with us in the first place:

DATE:  19/09/1944 .

Hurricane IV LD169, No.6 Sqn, "JV-S".

W/O R Y Ulrich.  

Veli Iz , Yugoslavia.

Hit by flak attacking Zavratnica Bay; pilot had to bail out offshore due to engine cut, rescued by partisans.

A modern-day picture of the spectacular inlet at Zavratnica where Bob was hit.  These cliffs had been ringed with flak guns, protecting the German coastal shipping.
Only one month beforehand, Bob's 6SQN RAF Commanding Officer, SQNLDR James Hardie Brown DSO DFC, had fatally smashed his Hurricane into these same cliffs. 
Pieces of wreckage still dot the landscape, including a sunken German Siebel Ferry near the shore.

Vince commented:

The location, Veli Iz, is the neighboring island.  After talking to my father, he assured me that no planes crashed next to Veli Iz.  - In fact this was the plane and pilot he saw that day that crashed next to his island, Rava.  Rava is a very small island and not listed on many maps.  The plane actually crashed between Rava and Veli Iz but much closer to Rava. 

Rava Island (seen in the middle distance) , part of the intricate and beautiful Dalmatian Coast of modern-day Croatia.
- A nice smooth spot for alighting on the water!

In my father's account of the story, the pilot told my father's cousin that this was his second crash, so I continued to search and was able to confirm the first incident, only two months prior.

Bob's first crash:

DATE: 15/07/1944

Aircraft:  Hurricane IV KZ574, No.6 Sqn, "JV-F".

Pilot:  W/O Ulrich (RAAF)

Description:  Kornat Island, Yugoslavia.  Hit by 40 mm AA while attacking Siebel ferries; baled out Kornat Island, picked by partisans and returned to unit in 48 hrs.

Vince continues:

This lead me to believe that it was indeed the rescue of Warrant Officer R Y Ulrich that my father witnessed 63 years ago.  The pilot description on the 15/07/1944 crash lists this pilot as RAAF, which led me to your website.


In Memory of Bob Ulrich, who died in July 2009.

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