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Sabre DISPLAY Team

No.3 Squadron showing the flag in South-East Asia - 1961 

by Pete Scully

Geoff Jenkins, Pete Scully and Phil Dunn. 

In 2011, Gordon BENNETT, a former Intelligence Officer with the RAAF at Williamtown, wrote asking us about 3 Squadron's Sabre Display Teams.  We were able to supply Gordon with quite a bit of info about 3 Squadron’s fairly regular and spectacular displays in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  This correspondence also attracted the following excellent new contribution from Peter SCULLY.  (A former 3SQN Sabre Pilot who returned as Commanding Officer of 3 Squadron in the Mirage era at Butterworth, and later rose to the rank of RAAF Air Vice Marshal.)

I was serving in Malaya (as PA to the AOC 224 Group RAF in Kuala Lumpur) when 3 Sqn arrived at Butterworth.  Having flown Sabres at Williamtown, I used to cadge a ride or two from time to time.  When my tour at KL was completed, I applied to join 3 Sqn.  I was accepted and moved from KL to Butterworth in June ‘59 and served some time as a flight commander. 

In early ‘61 the CO decided to form an aerobatic team - three aircraft only - in preparation for a forthcoming trip to Bangkok for a SEATO exercise (Air Bull) and then a visit to Saigon to celebrate the SVN Air Force 1st birthday.  Unfortunately, the team was not given a name.  I was nominated as leader, the other members being Geoff Jenkins and Phil Dunn. 

The team taking off in formation from Butterworth.  [Smoke "on" and with Penang Island visible in the background.]

There were displays at Butterworth of course but the first international display was at Don Muang [Bangkok] on 5 Mar ‘61.  We then went on to Saigon and put on a display there on 13 Mar ‘61. 

The French had been invited back to help celebrate the’ first birthday’ as well.  (The first time back since they'd been thrown out, so it was somewhat sensitive visit!) 

Each of the visiting nations was given a day to put on a display over the centre of Saigon (in addition to the air display proper).  The French were flying Super Mysteres.  They were a bit over-enthusiastic and broke the sound barrier at low level right in the centre of town, with some spectacular results.  Part of the ceiling of our hotel - The Majestic, right on the river - fell down on top of the grand piano; several toilet basins were broken; nearly all the plate glass windows on the main street were broken, including the Australian Embassy!  We were scheduled to have dinner at the French Ambassador’s place that evening, together with the French - it was a formal sit-down affair......and the French were missing in action.  They'd been asked politely to go home that afternoon and disappeared into the sunset, never to be seen again!  

We'd shared a dormitory with them at Don Muang for the SEATO exercise and they were real cowboys.   Their fly-past on arrival was at grass-cutting height.  I was standing next to their CO, who had arrived earlier, who gave a Gallic shrug of the shoulders and said, "What can one do???"  They had also brought with them cases of French Champagne which they insisted sharing with us - warm!  (Great hangover stuff.)

Our last major display was for the opening of the new (then) Singapore International airport at Payer Lebar on 11 Apr ‘61 when we were the final act.  We did not have any special paint scheme; the only modification was to provide for smoke. 


To the best of my knowledge the team then disbanded, but may have kept going after my departure in Jun ’61. 

Peter Scully.

Valedictory Notes: Jeff JENKINS died 21/3/2018, aged 81 years.  See our memorial page.
Phil DUNN, Squadron Leader (Ret'd) of Canberra, died on 17/2/2014 after a long period of suffering with Parkinson’s disease.
Phil is remembered for his days flying Vampires and Sabres, including 3SQN display teams, and his memorable artistry as a Qualified Flying Instructor.
During exchange service with the RAF in the UK in the late sixties, Phil became a member of the RAF Red Arrows formation display team.
When he returned to Central Flying School in 1970, he became leader of the RAAF formation display team ('Telstars') flying Macchi aircraft.
During this period he founded the ‘Roulettes’, which remains the premiere RAAF display team to this day.

Also, 1961 wasn't the end of Pete's airshow antics.  The newspaper photo below was taken during his time with 75 Squadron...

Darwin, Northern Territory, June 1966.  Pete Scully caused this crowd reaction
 with his high-speed Mirage flypast

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