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Now that international travel is becoming more
affordable again, Annette GUTERRES, Secretary of Bomber
Command Assn. Aust., has given us a recommendation:
2018 saw the opening of the International Bomber Command Centre museum in the beautiful and historic city of Lincoln in the UK. It is well worth a visit and their website is also very interesting; including stories, historical explanations and many photos of this attractively-landscaped site.
The British WW2 Strategic Bombing Campaign was for several years the only offensive option against Germany that was available on the Allied side. Service in Bomber Command was remarkably dangerous and this particular campaign against Germany killed far more Australian service personnel than any of the other major battles of WW2. [4,145 dead – who were often the “best and brightest” of RAAF recruits.] The incredible death & destruction wrought on the ground in the Axis countries also became highly controversial after WW2 and for that reason the official recognition of the sacrifices of the individuals in Bomber Command was (quite unfairly) muted, up until recent decades.
Jane GOFFMAN in Canberra has sent us a photo of
the bronze plaque erected by the ACT Government to mark the
centre of the original Canberra Aerodrome, which was once located where
the suburb of Dickson has now been built. The plaque features a
profile of a 3SQN DH-9 aircraft, serial A6-28, which crashed near the north–west
boundary of the aerodrome in February 1926. This sad event
involved the first fatalities for the newly-formed No.3 Squadron RAAF
and was also the ACT’s first fatal air-crash.
Sydney aero-modeller Adrian RAVEN has been building a scale-model of a 3SQN P-51K Mustang from 1945. He has chosen to depict Lew RANGER’s CV-W “Anita” KH755. Adrian has made a great job of modelling Lew himself, including a white silk scarf. [The pilots wore these scarves to prevent chafing of their necks, as they had to keep a constant all-round lookout for bad guys. Made of fine silk, they were printed with full-colour “escape maps” of the area of operations – manufactured by some of London’s top couturiers! These maps were very useful to shot-down pilots; they would remain readable despite getting soaking wet or being scrunched-up to be hidden away.]
Newly unearthed in the historical aviation collection of Fred MORTON in the National Library of Australia is a 1980 digitised interview with a famous 3SQN Commanding officer from the Desert in 1940-41, Alan RAWLINSON OBE, DFC & Bar, AFC. Al speaks on quite a wide range of topics for over 40 mins.
Tony FAEHSE from Melbourne, another of our members, had a fabulous time on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, just south of Naples, where his dad Colin and many other 3SQN serving members were able to enjoy some rest and recreation in 1943/44. Tony found that the Hotel Luna is still on the same spectacular clifftop site and the staff there were very interested in Tony’s picture of his dad in uniform on the terrace. Tony was able to have a good look around, but he didn’t stay overnight – their room rate now leaves little change from $1,500AUD/day!
Our member Peter RING, who was a 3SQN Sabre pilot in the 1960s, has sent in a brilliant collection of photos and press clippings regarding 3 Squadron’s last Sabre operation, which involved the long-distance return of these jets from Butterworth to Australia. Pete’s materials will be presented in a History article in the next edition of 3SQN News, in time to commemorate the 57th anniversary of this flight.
John LOVE has found some further idyllic pictures of his dad Nigel taking out his Air Training Corps boys in sailboats on Sydney Harbour in 1942, to appreciate the effects of wind.
We do hope that these boys grew up slowly enough to miss the worst parts of the war, such as Bomber Command's "Battle of Berlin". But since even their training-flights were perilous, sadly at least some of them must later have become casualties of WW2.
Jason “Westie” WEST, the much-respected current 3SQN “W.O.E.” (Warrant Officer Engineering) at Williamtown, asked an interesting question: “During my time at 3SQN I have heard various stories as to the origin of the nickname ‘Milk Drinkers’ given to personnel of 3SQN. Is there someone within the Association that may be able to provide the origin please?”
We have already asked several 3SQN history experts where this somewhat derogatory-sounding nickname may have come from. Bob TRELOAR mentioned the 77 SQN “Lemon Squeezers” being named for their poor maintenance record at one stage, but nobody had any ‘smoking gun’ evidence on “Milk Drinkers”. Certainly the term was not known in Butterworth, pre-Hornet. Vinny IERVASI also pointed out: “The Squadron has been colloquially tagged that way as long as I can remember. [But…] We’ve embraced the term and have happily ‘drunk milk’ in the bar!”
So, over to our readers - does anyone out there have the bona-fide “3SQN Milk Drinkers” origin story???
Paul SIMIDAS, of the Western Front Association – Australia, tells us that they have started a new Facebook page. Well worth browsing for anyone interested in 3AFC’s surroundings in 1917-1918.
After the 3AFC boys returned from the Western Front in 1919, most went back to civilian occupations. However a very small number of highly-qualified individuals were retained in the Australian flying services, to form the core of the future Royal Australian Air Force (31 March 1921). One such man was Henry WRIGLEY, who had flown RE8s with 3AFC during WW1 and was temporary CO3 after hostilities finished. Wrigley is now known as “The Father of Australian Airpower”, based on his academic writings in the 1920s, and he also performed the very practical feat of completing the first transcontinental flight across Australia in 1919. Sydney historian Tom LOCKLEY has discovered a wonderful article in TROVE with many quotes from Wrigley about this pioneering feat. [NB. Wrigley remained the Patron of 3SQN Association until his death in 1987.]
Our good friend Kristen ALEXANDER, who is a historian in Canberra, has just published a new book, Kriegies: the Australian Airmen of Stalag Luft III. This topic is very relevant to 3SQN, as many of our shot-down pilots ended up in Stalag III in German Lower Silesia (now Poland). – We even have an amusing poem about the place on our website! But life there was decidedly NOT fun! - Stalag III was the site of “The Great Escape” and two 450 Squadron RAAF pilots were murdered by the Gestapo in the disastrous aftermath of that event.
Kirsten kindly says: “Your website’s Alan RIGHETTI interview was a great help
with writing the book.”
Furthermore she has sent us a new photo of the German ace who is thought to have downed Fred EGGLESTON of 3SQN…
Kristen has also recently starred in an enjoyable online interview about her book, hosted by raafdocumentary.com.
Luke SYPKES from Tasmania, who is currently residing in France [lucky chap!] is part of Project 44 Australia, which is undertaking the huge task of mapping the daily locations of all major combatant units in WW2. Luke has very kindly sent us a long list of latitudes and longitudes of the great majority of the airbases used by 3SQN in WW2. [If this sort of data floats your boat, then please contact us for a copy! - Or maybe just enjoy the view from the old Mileni aerodrome near Foggia in Italy!]
More stimulating than a morning mug of coffee is this 4-minute “Top-Gun-esque” TV Report from 2014, about 3SQN’s Hornet operations. [It certainly looks like Tim ALSOP had his coffee that day!]
Our member Lindsay NAYLOR, a former pilot, was
amazed to see the articles and pics about his own career that can be found
in the wonderful TROVE system mentioned in our last newsletter.
Lindsay says: “Wow!!! Many thanks. I had no idea that sort of material was available anywhere. An example of the old adage that shows you are never too old to stop learning. As you indicated, lots of memories there!”
Our member Des SHEEHAN has sent in photos of Les SELL, who flew alongside Des’s father Malcolm in 3AFC and was killed at the Western Front in March 1918.
Our artist friend Dom BARTOLO has very generously gifted a total of four of his brilliant aviation art posters to the Association and the serving Squadron. - Kudos Dom!
From Italy, Professor Giuseppe ANGELONE tells us that his archaeology team may have found fragments of 3SQN Kittyhawk FS-434, which was shot down by anti-aircraft fire on 6/10/43, behind the German lines in the Termoli-Venafro area. The Pilot was FSGT Ted HANKEY, who luckily evaded capture and made it back to 3SQN. (But didn't fly operationally again after returning.)
The Professor was looking for more information about Ted, who had arrived at 3SQN in Africa on 13 Nov 1942 and departed for Australia from Italy on 30 Nov 1943. We were able to send Giuseppe several file references:
1) During air combat in Tunisia, Ted had claimed the “Probable” shooting-down of one Italian Macchi Mc202 fighter. [3SQN Combat Claims page 1225.]
3) There are 14 photos in the Australian War Memorial.
4) Also several entertaining press articles: Ted had
been awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal for his prowess
in ground-attack. He had also been a champion athlete in 1941 - this may have
helped him in running away from the Germans! Ted distracted
his pursuers by ditching his Pilot’s Wings, which the soldiers stopped to pick up!
- Ted became something of a celebrity back in Australia, when he was sent on tour to raise War Bond subscriptions.
Our member Tricia COONEY has mounted these WW2 BEER LABELS [collected “in action” by her dad Frank!] into an attractive display.
Adrian RAVEN in Sydney has found an interesting video of a
modern-day Mustang pilot saving himself from disaster when his engine
failed just after lifting off. Adrian says, “It must
be a scary moment when your engine fails on takeoff, but this pilot
handled it very well, with impressive reaction time.” The
pilot immediately glided down
‘straight ahead’ and landed. [Don’t even think about
trying to turn-back in the air!] He then made a controlled ground-loop
to stay within the fence! [Comparing with 3SQN’s WW2
operations, he was lucky he didn't have bombs on!]
Clive ALSOP (father of Tim) wrote in to say how much he
enjoyed our last newsletter…
“Perhaps partly because of the article about Tim...” [!]
Clive also wanted to mention the story of the brilliant planning and
execution of OPERATION JERICHO, the 1944 low-level Amiens
Prison attack by Mosquitoes, largely flown by Aussies,
including WGCDR Bob IREDALE DFC,
“…Who lived very near us when Tim was about 14.”
Clive’s “ultra–short” version of the story is:
“1. Amiens Prison 1944… Executions of French Resistance inmates scheduled in near future…
Prison attacked by Mosquito Squadron…
Prisoners ‘buggered off'!
2. When Tim was about to go into
the RAAF, he and I spent a morning with IREDALE and got the full
It was inspirational.”
Clive has visited the prison-site in France:
“…The other indelible memory of being in that part of the world is sitting in a lovely French pub; a bloke came over to us and asked (in French), “Where are you from?”
It took me a minute to reply in very stagnant French. When I remembered the right word… ”AUSTRALIE!”
…All of a sudden, Sal and I were heroes. Obviously, we had won WW2 by ourselves!
Oh, the memories of the past…
Thanks again for your wonderful work in recording our Squadron’s modern history.”
Peter RITCHIE, a keen sea-kayaker, was offshore from South
West Rocks recently and videoed of a pair of F-35s flying by at low level.
Peter says, “Just let the pilots know we loved it!”
The AWM has digitised the diary of 3SQN 1942 Kittyhawk pilot Garth CLABBURN. Also his logbook, where CO3 Bob GIBBES rated Garth “Above Average”. Following Garth’s exciting time in North Africa, he finished the war back in Australia on training duties.
The AWM also holds a 1926 menu from a 3SQN “Cheerio Dinner” at Richmond. Given the wild and erratic autographs applied thereon - and the rather good caricature drawn on the back – it appears to have been a very successful night!
Matthew DAHLITZ, a video producer from Park Ridge, QLD, is
creating a website of RAAF History, and hopes to post an original
video tribute on his 3SQN page, based on some of the personal
stories on our website.
Good News! The National Library’s TROVE research database system was facing
the threat of being shut down, but a large-scale public campaign has secured
additional funding in the latest Federal Budget. - If
you’ve not tried it, it’s a wonderful system for unearthing
information from old newspapers (sourced from all over Australia,
since the earliest days of colonisation). Also libraries, film
collections etc. – It’s easy to start with the name of a
rellie, or any other topic that you’re interested in.
Thanks to new info contributed by Blue FARRELL, we have now
added some further memorial text to Jim HALL’s comprehensive article
on the 1976 3SQN Mirage Collision that claimed the life of Perry KELLY.
(The Squadron’s last operational fatality.)
Our mate ‘Boomer’ rang! - Geoff
WONG is a West Australian aviation researcher currently publishing
a series of articles on the CAC Boomerang. The Boomerang
was an “emergency fighter”, based on the Wirraway. It was thrown
together here in Australia in the impressively short period of five
months, in early 1942, under the leadership of Lawrence WACKETT (who
previously had distinguished service with 3AFC in WW1).
Geoff is trying to chase down one particular rumour, relating to the development of the CAC-manufactured 20mm cannons for the Boomerang, which seems to link back to 3SQN. For example, quoting Wikipedia: “Common to many of the latest fighters at the time, the Boomerang was equipped with automatic cannons. As no such weapons had previously been manufactured in Australia, a pair of British-made Hispano-Suiza 20mm were used. Allegedly, an example that an Australian airman had collected as a souvenir in the Middle East was reverse-engineered.”
In conversation with Doug NORRIE of 450 SQN Assn, Geoff realised that 3 Squadron was probably the only RAAF unit where ground personnel were returning from the Middle East in the correct timeframe, i.e. late 1941. We were able to confirm for Geoff that a large cohort of 3SQN "1940 Original" groundcrew were rotated back to Australia from October 1941, after the Syria campaign. There is a list in the 3SQN ORB, page 495.
However, we could also tell Geoff that the “souvenir” rumour is unfortunately not repeated in any of our 3SQN veteran interviews, nor any other sources known to the Association. (So that rumour is sounding rather unsupported to us!) The AWM Official History of WW2 Armament Production also didn’t mention any souveniring, and in fact sounds rather irritated with Wackett wasting his time designing his own cannon:
“Production of 20-mm cannon for aircraft, for different reasons, had a checkered history. Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Pty Ltd took up the Hispano cannon as a project during a slack period at the end of February 1942... The cannon was easy to make but progress was slow. Raw materials for the British design of the Hispano were in short supply and it was estimated that adherence to that design would delay production for up to 18 months, whereas a revised design, it was claimed, could be produced in five months. By December… the Australian design had been abandoned, after all, in favour of reversion to the British, and the double change in design added to the cost and time required to complete the Air Force order for 420 guns. That order was confirmed in April 1943, but with a warning that there would be no further orders. As it turned out, production was slow (about six a week) and the order was terminated by the War Cabinet with only six completed guns that had passed inspection and only 202 fully-assembled guns. By then, British-made guns were freely available, and the Air Force no longer wanted the Hispano for operational aircraft.”
If any reader has information that may help Geoff to further analyse
his rumour, please contact us.
Fans of RAAF-themed videos, podcasts and articles may care to check out “Runway”, a stylish new collection of thought-provoking articles (such as “Where is the Confrontation over Ukraine headed?”) on the Air Force website.
The Association was able to help identify a mysterious photo of burning aircraft wreckage (below) in Tasmania in 1937. It’s a 3SQN Hawker Demon, A1-8, which crashed near the top of a wilderness mountain and was then deliberately incinerated. Amazingly this burnt airframe was recovered and completely restored by the RAAF 50 years later - now a star exhibit in the RAAF Museum!
SQNLDR Eamon HAMILTON will be doing the Anzac Day TV Commentary in Sydney this year. He has asked us about videos showing the settings of 3 Squadron’s “80th Anniversaries” coming up this year, which are:
> "Victory in Africa" 12 May 1943.
> "Invasion of Sicily" 10 July 1943 (with 3SQN flying from Malta for pre-invasion attacks).
> "Invasion of Mainland Italy" by 3SQN, 15 Sept 1943.
We have recommended to Eamon:
1) Our member Tony FAEHSE’s YouTube video, “IN THE BLUE”, which shows interesting views of these events, accompanied by Tony’s original music and historic tunes.
2) An AWM video donated by 3SQN's WW2
Engineering Officer Ken McRAE. [Highlights
(Timer) 1:30:44 Medenine, Tunisia. Wrecked German tanks. Burning British truck. Road convoy. Roman ruins. Low angle shot of poppies with P-40 in background. Berber and Tuareg nomads.
1:37:40 Boston bombers fly overhead. Tunis, city streets, war-damaged buildings. French national flag flying from buildings. Burning German halftracks. Vichy French 155mm heavy artillery piece. French light machine guns. Dug-in French 105mm field guns.
1:35:20 Park of captured artillery and machine guns. Captured ammunition. Tunis. Panorama of city.
1:47:40 RAAF group in open top car with "RAAF' stencilled on the side of the car waving to camera. General city scenes, civilians, Americans. [Later streets and buildings are Algiers.]
1:56:15 Axis POWs behind barbed wire enclosures.
1:57:00 Men bathing in sea. AFRICA VICTORY PARADE FOR GEORGE VI. 3 Squadron men and P-40s line up [Sorman airstrip, Libya] for visit by King George VI. King bestowing knighthood. King drives off. 3 Squadron on parade raise a cheer. RAF P-40s sporting shark's mouth [112 SQN RAF]. Various long-shots of parked aircraft. Spitfires and Mosquitos.
2:00:20 Shipwrecks in the harbour. Tank Landing Ships (LSTs) bound for Malta. Valetta Harbour Malta. Bomb-damaged buildings. Views of the city of Valetta and bomb damage.
2:05:10 SICILY INVASION. Voyage to Sicily aboard LST. Bivouac Sicily - Pachino.
2:07:10 Captured Italian seaplanes. City scenes. [Syracuse] Sicilian police pose for camera. C-47 parked on airfield. Air-to-air shot of C-47 in flight. Italian Breda 25 seaplane painted over in 3 Sqn colours. Caproni seaplane painted in 3 Sqn colours. Road convoy including Sherman tanks. Burning Italian/German bomber, possibly shot on a raid. [Ragusa hill town scenery.]
2:16:30 Agnone airfield, large bomb crater with 3SQN P-40 in background. Delayed action bombs exploding. Men standing next to crater. Town views Palermo.
2:18:05 ITALY INVASION. Flight to Italian mainland aboard C-47. [3 SQN were the FIRST full Allied squadron to mount a attack from a mainland Italy base - Battle of Salerno.] Note shadows of C-47 on ground while in flight. RAAF men board truck. General city scenes possibly Taranto.
2:22:20 Airfield possibly Grottaglie or Bari 3 Sqn P-40. Studies of 3 Sqn men.
2:31:20 to 2:33:50. Later on there is good aircraft footage from Cutella airfield, Italy, near the ‘Gustav Line’, occupied late 1943. [Long-range fuel tanks fitted; possibly this is the raid against Forli German base.] The escape of the famous 3SQN ace Nicky BARR from German captivity is also being celebrated.
Nicky BARR [left] visits 3SQN's base at Cutella, Italy, following his escape from behind the German lines.
Aviation researcher Ray CHRISTENSEN has pointed out an excellent online 3SQN WW2 Photo Album, preserved by the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum. Ray says: “It was donated by the family of No.15080 Leonard BLACK, who was one of the 3 Squadron ‘1940 Originals’. It has photos of his time in the Middle East and North Africa; also of Morotai where he was later posted with 79 Squadron. There are a number of cartoons in the album [Page 22 et seq.] drawn by No.12028 Allan Redall “Darby” MUNROE, who was another of the Originals.” [One of the cartoons and another early photo both feature a "captured" Italian uniform that greatly impressed the boys with the quality of its cut, compared with our Aussie uniforms!]
The press clippings on page 28 and subsequent colour pix of 3SQN 70th Anniversary, 1986, are also of value to the Association.
Our member Paul McGUINESS, from the NSW mid-North Coast, has painstakingly produced yet another of his fascinating aircraft-histories for our website. In this case, the Tomahawk - used by 3SQN from May to December 1941. Paul’s skill in writing interesting but thorough history has created yet another ideal reference that can answer many questions on 3SQN’s “Tommies”.
Our member John LOVE, whose aviation interests span an entire century, has pointed out a ”VERY interesting” online slideshow about “Fighter Design”, delivered to The Military History Society of W.A. in January 2023. The author, David ARCHIBALD [who has a reputation for being a provocative peanut in quite a few subject areas!] has scraped together every possible criticism of the F-35. (And for that matter, the Super Hornet.)
However, perusing these slides will help you to hone your skills for
separating truth from propaganda, and real determinants of success
[And Remember that 3SQN has always been successful in combat, no matter what they were flying. …Now why would that be, Mr. Archibald?]
Also in W.A., our member John SAINSBURY has been helping the Australian War Memorial to compile a study-guide for schoolchildren, titled “CHIVALRY”, highlighting the North African desert service of John’s 102-year old father, our “W.A. Hon.Pres”, Felix. John also sent in this posed pic of ex-boxer Felix, still capable of defending his country! [Maybe he can sort out David Archibald for us!]
John says, “Felix has just had a new pacemaker inserted, which
should give him another eight years’ service…”
[But sadly, that was not to be - Vale Felix, May 2023.]
3SQN Association has been able to compile three dossiers of
information that point out mistaken dates-of-death on the
gravestones of three 3SQN 1941/42 WW2 casualties:
Flying Officer James Andrew McINTOSH;
Flying Officer Donald Erskine KNIGHT;
and Flying Officer Percival Roy BOTHWELL.
The Office of Australian War Graves has responded to say that these errors will be corrected when the memorials are next maintained.
South Australian aeronautical memorabilia collector Paul OATEN has managed to resurrect a 3SQN History video that he thought has been long-lost. In the year 2000, Paul recorded Jean DAWKINS, the widow of 3SQN WW2 Kittyhawk pilot Arthur DAWKINS, reading from Arthur’s combat diary. The focus of the reading is the day that Arthur’s plane (“CV-B”, FS493) was destroyed by a mistaken American strafing raid!
This was April 29th, 1944. Arthur’s Engine Fitter, “Slim” MOORE, was sitting in the cockpit of CV-B when American 50-cal bullets started bouncing and sparking all around him! Luckily Slim and his comrade Kev HARRIS escaped serious injury, and then both of them had the presence of mind to unshackle a live 500lb bomb from the burning plane, and drag it to safety. This action saved many 3SQN assets, including the Ops Tent and Radio Room, from a potentially disastrous secondary explosion. [Slim and Kev both received “Mentioned in Despatches” medals.]
However, the actual damage was bad enough! - The whole ‘friendly fire’ incident was deliberately NOT mentioned in the 3SQN Records, but Brian EATON (commanding 239 Wing) recorded, “Casualties were 1 killed, and direct or incidental injuries to 4 others. Material damage included one aircraft Cat.3 and three Cat.1, plus other minor damage.”
Paul also asked about a latter-day rumour that the American Flight Leader committed suicide in despair. - This suicide story is probably a ‘furphy’. The Historian of the USAAF 325th Fighter Group could not find any possible matching casualty in their personnel records after that date. [Also on the American side: apparently that week’s individual aircraft operational records have gone missing!]By happy coincidence, Arthur and Jean’s son Grant has decided to donate some of the items shown in this video (Arthur’s diary, and the clock salvaged from CV-B) to the 3SQN Williamtown collection.
We’ve had a rather unexpected “win” over the AWM’s Collection
Readers will be aware that in WW1 the Squadron was referred to as “3rd Squadron AFC” (NOT “No.3”) and our theory has always been that this was due to Aussie Spirit - wanting to differentiate ourselves from the Poms.
Unfortunately Cutlack’s Official WW1 AFC History and many AWM WW1 records have used the wrong name (which of course did apply to RAAF No.3 Squadron - after 1925). These systematic errors seemed to have become uncorrectable in this modern digital age, as all the AWM’s records were all keyed to a Master “No.3” Index. (Similarly with all the other AFC Squadrons.)
HOWEVER, in the process of suggesting some caption corrections to a
photo of one 3AFC crew, and having our usual whinge about the whole “3rd”
situation, Joanne SMEDLEY, the AWM’s Photo Curator, bravely
took the issue upstairs to the bureaucrats of their Collection
Management Team – and won!
3rd has now become an official Key and, as Joanne says re the other AFC squadrons, “We are going to attempt a clean-up of other records, but this may take some time!”
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