3 Squadron Stories

3 Squadron HOME/Search



If you can supply further information on any of the topics below, or would like to send a message to any of our correspondents,
*contact us  at the 3 Squadron Website.

 Contacts from 2011 and 2010:

There’s an excellent new modelling article on the Internet by Brett Green, who has built a scale model of Lew Ranger’s 1945 Mustang “Anita” (CV-W).


Austin Smith wrote from the Atlanta in the USA:

"My grandfather, Sam Wickham, an American, served with the RAAF 3rd Squadron in North Africa in 1941-42 as a representative of Allison Motors.  The Tomahawk and Kittyhawk I fighters that 3SQN flew used Allison engines.  My grandfather was there to service their needs and report back any issues the engines were having with the desert climate.   I have a great deal of pictures from his time with 3 Squadron and I came to your website after googling a few of the names he had written on the back of the pictures, among them "Frank Fischer", and "Jeffries."  I'm very curious about this time in my grandfather's life as he talked about it often until he passed away on 2003.  I was curious if anyone from the unit might still be alive and knowledgeable of my grandfather.  I would love to be able to speak with someone who might have known him from the desert?"

Austin included this nice picture of Bobby Gibbes taken by Sam.  [Click for a larger version.]

That picture is quite similar to the War Memorial's widely-used photo 011961 - which can now be recognised as a print that the famous photographer Damien Parer must have obtained from Sam.  We also found mention of Sam in Brian Thompson's diary on our website and referred Austin to another engineering report written by Ken McRae during the war.  We're looking forward to seeing more of Sam's photos.

We’ve received an interesting query from an English author named David Key, who is currently researching the history of “Hursley Park”, near Winchester (in Hampshire, England).

David is looking into the role that Hursley Park played during WW1 when (amongst other uses) it served as the training headquarters for the Wireless & Operators School (this having been relocated from Brooklands in October 1917).

Slightly later in October 1917 it was renamed the "Artillery & Infantry Co-Operation School" and remained at Hursley until late May 1918 (by which time the RFC had become the RAF) before transferring to Worthy Down.

During this period, David has discovered that men from the Australian Squadrons were seconded to the School for (generally) two-week periods for final advanced training.  

For example, 3 Squadron's Lt. A. S. Paterson [pictured below] was posted there in November 1917.

Also, two Australian fliers (2nd Lt Leslie George and Lt. John S W Stone) are buried in the local graveyard.

We’re glad to say that Neil Smith was able to help David with further extracts from the hard-to-find history books of that period, and we were also able to inform David that our website page From Anzac to AFC mentions this type of training at Winchester (an exciting extract from this article is shown below).

We’d like to wish David every success with his publication.

Our campaign to correct the official WW2 aerial victory-tally for No.3 Squadron from 217 to 192 is ongoing.  The RAAF Museum website is the latest official source to perpetuate the old error and we have now drawn this to their attention.  

(The error was discovered in the 1980s by an aviation historian and is explained on our page here. )

Even after this revision, 3SQN remains the top-scoring RAAF fighter squadron of WW2.  And of course the tremendous contribution that the Squadron made in ground-attacks and shipping strikes must be added on top of the aerial victories.


Neil Handsley from Queensland is in good spirits and has sent in a fun new photo for his excellent Butterworth story.  The pic shows Neil and Ned Wark bare-chested and reclining on the warm aluminium of a 3SQN Sabre wing, catching some rays and appearing not to be doing much work. (Neil claims they were “waiting for the fuel tanker”…)


A gentleman named Tom Roberts, who hails from the Victorian goldfields, contacted us to ask whether 3SQN Mustang pilot John Hodgkinson had been made a Prisoner of War after being shot down in Northern Italy (many other 3SQN pilots were able to evade capture, so it was a distinct possibility that Hodgkinson had also been an ‘evader’).  After some research we were able to supply several pieces of evidence that ‘Hodge had indeed been captured by the Germans.  An interesting AWM photo of released 3SQN POWs in Britain after the war shows him:

London, England. 1945-05-22. Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Wrigley CBE DFC AFC, Air Officer Commanding RAAF Overseas Headquarters,
entertained a number of pilots of No. 3 Squadron RAAF, with which he himself flew in WW1.
With the exception of Wing Commander (Wg Cdr) J. R. Perrin DFC, of South Yarra, Vic, all were liberated prisoners of war (POWs).
Left to right, standing: Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt) J. Sergeant, of Brinkworth, SA; 250771 Flt Lt A. M. Edwards, of Malvern, Vic; AVM Wrigley;
420284 Flt Lt H. J. Shipley, of Bexley, NSW; 411914 Flying Officer J. Howell-Price, of Homebush, NSW;
402147 Warrant Officer (WO) D. Scott, of Tenterfield, NSW; 260650 Flt Lt W. Kloster, of Sydney, NSW; Wg Cdr Perrin.
Seated: 411495 Flt Lt J. A. T. Hodgkinson DFC, of Orange, NSW; 404085 WO A. C. "Tiny" Cameron DFM, of Bidleston, Oakey, Qld. [AWM UK2901]


Aviation Artist John Stanley from Texas USA has given us a ‘Howdy’ and updated the links on our page of John’s outstanding
3SQN Mustang paintings.

Giuseppe Marini of Campomarino in Italy sent Easter greetings to 3SQN Association.  Giuseppe is the historian who rediscovered the abandoned site of Cutella airfield and provided some very nice photos of it today.  (With snow-capped mountains in the distance and the blue Adriatic Sea, it looks a lot lovelier than the boys may remember from the frigid winter of 1943-44!)

Iain Macinnis, Canberra nephew of Desert Supply officer ‘Mac’ Macinnis, (who later rose to the rank of Air Commodore in the RAAF) has sent us a very generous donation of negatives, photos, newspaper clippings and a P-40 book.  These will be very useful for adding to the website over time.  

Mike Ryan, the grand-nephew of Kittyhawk pilot Fred Ryan, wrote to tell us of his research.  Fred went missing in combat on 16 June 1942, on one of the Squadron’s busiest operational days, during the retreat from Libya.  It is likely that Fred was killed by a German ace, Oblt. Tangeding, who claimed a "Kittyhawk shot down in flames".  Fred’s remains were never recovered and he is commemorated on the Alamein Memorial to the Missing.

Mike also wanted to draw attention to the excellent history collection at the old Armidale Teachers College.  The wartime Principal of the college put together a "Book of Rememberance" documenting all of the students who enlisted - a mammoth task - writing to each family and requesting photographs (there are hundreds of nice portraits).  Mike comments that this is a valuable and little-known research archive for those researching  alumni of Armidale Teachers' College who served in WW2.  This collection is extensive and administered by the Armidale Historical Society, affiliated with the University of New England.


Steve McGregor of the Spitfire Association wrote with a curly question on where to find DFC citations. 

The Australian War Memorial has a facility (http://www.awm.gov.au/research/people/) where such awards can be searched by name, including (usually) a copy of the citation.  However if the AWM doesn’t have the citation, all is not lost, as the “London Gazette” can be searched online and also the National Library “Trove” system may display old newspaper articles referring to the award. 

REL27812 - Distinguished Service Order and Distinguished Flying Cross : Flight Lieutenant W S Arthur, 3 Squadron, RAAF
Posted to North Africa in 1940, "Woof" Arthur served with 3 Squadron RAAF, flying Gloster Gladiators, Hawker Hurricanes and Curtiss Tomahawks.  
On 13 December 1940, his Gladiator was shot down by an Italian Fiat CR42 and he was forced to bail out, but he went on to become a successful
fighter pilot, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in November 1941.
  The citation for the DFC reads as follows 'In November, 1941, this
officer participated in an operational sweep over the Bir El Gubi area.  A large formation of enemy aircraft was intercepted and, in the ensuing combat,
F/Lt. ARTHUR destroyed four of them.  This officer has displayed great skill and gallantry on many occasions and he has destroyed at least seven hostile aircraft.'


Tom Deamer from Vanuatu came across his grandfather’s name (Sydney Harold DEAMER) on our website, listed as the Pilot of World War I RE8 “C2610”.  Following the procedure listed on our “Family History” page, we were able to point Tom towards his granddad’s entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, his AFC online file, and the Squadron’s online “War Diary” - confirming that Sydney Deamer had been wounded in the leg while flying in Sept 1918. 

Deamer went into journalism after WW1 and from 1947 to 1961 was the founding editor of the Sydney Morning Herald’s popular “Column 8”.


We’ve had some recent correspondence with the excellent “ADF Serials” website about getting their lovely new gallery of Sabre jet pictures online. 
See http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a94.htm


A kind gentleman named Peter Pritchard sent us a photo of eight Vichy French pilots at Rayak Aerodrome in Lebanon.  This photo was taken by his uncle who was in the AIF.  Apparently an immediate amnesty was offered to all Syrian Vichy personnel who were willing to transfer to the Free French.  This probably applied to those pilots at Rayak, so they would have been at liberty to fraternise and have their photographs taken, despite having just been defeated.  The photo has been added to the collection on our Syria page.


Another benefactor, Nev Rourke, sent us some photos of pilot training at Western Junction Tasmania (now Launceston Airport) from the album of Geoff Atherton, an RAAF ace in the Pacific who trained alongside 3 Squadron’s “Robbie” Roberts.  (Robbie named all his Desert P-40s “Cleopatra” and it seems that Geoff copied this, despite his jungle setting!)  The photos are now displayed on "Robbie's" page and look quite nice!


After hearing about our page on the topic, Retired Wing Commander Tony Mumford has sent us a DVD with a home-movie of the first Sabres arriving in Butterworth in 1958, at the end of the complex, multi-stage “Operation Sabre Ferry”.  Received with thanks, Tony.


We’ve had amazingly good luck in our search for any relatives of Kittyhawk pilot Ray Faria, who was shot down in Northern Italy in 1944.  Ray’s long-lost niece Margaret has contacted us.  She was adopted-out as a baby, so the photos that we are displaying are the first that she’s ever seen of her birth mother, cousin and grandmother ! 

Also the young boy in the photo, Phillip, has now contacted us from his home in the USA! 
This is a great advertisement for the power of the Internet.

The attention of Di Colman was drawn by one of the 3SQN historical date entries on our website:

“16 Nov 1973; FLTLT Geoff Colman was First in the RAAF to log 2,000 Mirage hours”

Di writes: “This happened just before we came home from our second tour in Malaysia.  Geoff now lives on the north coast of NSW.  His elder daughter – Joanne works in the Defence Dept at Williamtown.  Geoff’s nickname was SPEEDIE.”


“Air Force News” has been in touch with us to recommend some 3SQN veterans for interview for the special edition celebrating the 90th birthday of he RAAF (29 March 2011).


The Defence Department, via the Spitfire Association, contacted us with a rather mysterious request, asking if we had any family address for a 453 Squadron Spitfire Flight Commander named Lacy Smith, who had crashed in a French estuary just after D-Day in 1944.  Although this wasn't a 3SQN case, a quick check, using the procedure listed on our "Personnel Research" website-page, revealed Lacy's Spitfire's serial number (MJ 789) and this led to the online news that Lacy’s remains (inside his crashed machine "FU-B") had been recovered only a couple of days beforehand from mudbanks off the Normandy beaches!  (Where he had been for 66 years...)  The same news items disclosed that the search was now on to find his family in Australia.  Because there are so many "Smiths", tracking down one particular family in this situation is always a difficult task.  However we noticed that a pencilled entry in Lacy's file showed that his sister's married name was much less common...  And Telstra's online directory confirmed one family by that name was living close to the previous wartime address!

Sure enough, on the following day, Lacy's nephew received a telephone call, revealing the surprising news about his uncle.  The family was able to supply a portrait photograph of Lacy (plus his logbook and a poignant last letter) to the Sunday papers here in Sydney, where it made quite a big story. 


Neil Morgan, the great-nephew of a 3 Squadron Kittyhawk pilot who died at El Alamein, Ted Alderson, has posted an interesting collection of Ted's photos online.  (The first item is a letter that no parent wants to receive... This one from Bobby Gibbes, 3 Squadron CO.)

Group portrait of RAAF graduates from Number 9 Course at 5 Elementary Flying School (5EFTS), Narromine NSW.
Approximately a third of these pilots were killed in action, about the average rate for a group like this.
Thought to be included in the group are 404741 (later Flying Officer (FO)) Kenneth Fuller, of Brisbane, Qld, 211 Sqn, RAF, (killed on operations in the India area); Fred Sanger; 404872 (later Sergeant, (Sgt)) Keith Edward Buettel, 118 Squadron (Sqn), RAF, of Gladstone, Qld, (killed in a flying accident in the United Kingdom on 11 February 1942); 404768 (later Flight Lieutenant, (Flt Lt)) Archer Frederick Glennie Broughton; 404675 (later Flt Lt) Roy Kendall Bridle; Harvey Beasley; Colin Parkinson; 403141 (later Sgt) Ross Wellesley Lindeman, of Edgecliff, NSW, 153 Sqn, RAF, (killed in a flying accident in Northern Ireland on 25 January 1942); probably 402993 (later Pilot Officer (PO)) David Gray, of Neutral Bay, NSW, 50 Sqn, RAF; Dick Ford; 404817 (later Flt Lt) Graham Horwood Bennett; 403012 (later Flt Lt) Edward Dampier-Crossley, (later DFC), 619 Squadron, RAF, (killed on operations over Germany on 11 August 1943); 403152 (later FO) John Frederick Summers, of Sydney, NSW, 460 Squadron, RAAF, (killed on operations over Germany on 27 August 1942); Harry Woods; 403150 (later Flt Lt) Gordon Small (later DFC and Bar), of Sydney, NSW; probably 402967 (later FO) Russell Allen Pera Jones, of Sydney, NSW, 460 Squadron, RAAF, (killed on operations over France on 30 May 1942); Barry K?; 403129 (later Flt Lt) Bruce Lyndon Buls, of Sydney, NSW, 461 Squadron, RAAF, (killed on operations over the Bay of Biscay on 21 January 1943); probably 403136 (later FO) James Joseph Guerin, of Sydney, NSW, 249 Squadron, RAF, (killed on operations in Malta on 21 March 1942); 403040 (later Pilot Officer), David Norris Carmichael, of Sydney, NSW, 458 Squadron, RAAF; 401067 (later Flt Lt) James Cairns Harrison, (later DFC), of Melbourne, Vic; Lew Baker; probably 404928 (later Flt Lt) Kenneth Robert Mitchell, of Brisbane, Qld; 33231 (later Flt Lt) Eric Livingstone Mahar, (later DFC), of Camden, Vic; Alan Bloomfield; Charles Haines; probably 400134 (later Flt Lt) Terrence Leslie William 'Gus' Officer, of Toolonda, Vic; 403053 (later Flt Lt) Ray Harold Hornby, (later AFC), of Dorrigo, NSW; Jim Greives; 404823 (later Sgt) Keith Alexander Andrew, of Crows Nest, Qld, 455 Squadron, RAAF, (killed in a flying accident in the United Kingdom on 12 March 1942); 402956 (later Sgt) Roy John Jabour, of South Grafton, 246 Squadron, RAF, (killed on operations over Scotland on 24 January 1943); 403078 (later PO) Ronald Reginald Sly, of Sydney, NSW, 41 Squadron, RAF, (killed in a flying accident in the United Kingdom on 17 October 1941); Harry Weeks; Darby Munro; Don Beatty; 404773 (later PO) Garth Angus Neill, (later DFM), of Brisbane, Qld, 3 Sqn, RAAF, (killed on operations in the Middle East on 22 October 1942); 403073 (later Flt Lt) Allan William Proctor, (later DFC), of Sydney, NSW; 402823 John William Yarra, (later DFM), 453 Sqn, RAAF, (killed on operations over Holland on 10 December 1942); probably 402988 (later FO) John William Walker, of Lismore, NSW, 168 Sqn, RAF, (killed on operations over France on 23 June 1944); 402838 (later PO) Edward Henry Thomas Alderson, of Katoomba, NSW, 3 Sqn, RAAF, (killed on operations in Egypt on 20 October 1942); 403126 (later Sgt) Ross Walker Davidson, of Wyoming, NSW, 7 Flying Training School, RAF, (died of illness in Scotland on 24 October 1941); 402881 (later Flt Lt) John Renton, of Sydney, NSW; probably 406256 (later Sgt) Albert Mervyn Nichols; 420636 (later FO) William Austen; 403130 (later FO) Keith Sydney Cross, of Casino, NSW; John McG?; 403131 (later Flt Lt) Frank Robert Davies, of Kensington, NSW; 402851 (later Flt Lt) Brian William Coyle, of Sydney, NSW; Bill Ekland; 402953 (later Flt Lt) Richard Castle Wiseman, (later DFC and Bar), of Sydney, NSW.  [AWM P03758.001]

Ted was just one of several 3 Squadron pilot casualties in that El Alamein period.  Fellow Kittyhawk Pilot (and ex-POW) Alan Righetti writes:

Memories of our introduction to "3"!   Enroute to the Squadron I met a ground-staff member and I asked him how things were on 3 Sqd.

He enthused about the great team they formed.  I asked him if the casualties were high.  He said, "No, we have lost very few in all the time I've been with them.  What’s your rating - are you a Fitter or Rigger?"

I said, "No I'm a Pilot."

...He said, "Oh... That's different!!" 

I arrived at No.3, and Ted Alderson, Tommy Wood and Garth Neill were immediate casualties.
- I caught up with Tom Wood in PoW camp.

Bill Cashmore, John Hobson Hooke and Jim Churchill, who were with me in the UK, introduced me in the Pilots' Mess.  'The Boss' [Bobby Gibbes] came in and said, "Who are you?"

"Righetti, sir."

He said, "OK, you're on the next op.  Have you ever dropped a bomb?"

I said, "No, sir."

The Boss said, "OK, you're off it.  You'll be my No.2, first op. in the morning."  So I sat around learning about the casualties!

Those were the days!


Swan Hill history enthusiast Rodney Cockfield has forwarded us a photo album with an attractive tooled-leather cover featuring the Pyramids - obviously a souvenir of Egypt.  In it are photographs previously owned by Hurricane pilot Les Bradbury, who flew in Egypt and Libya in 1941.  These photographs appear to document some less-well-known parts of the Squadron's history.   Once they have been researched we will put the most notable ones on our website.

Accompanying the album is a "short snorter" - a banknote signed by numerous pilots, including 3SQN's Wal Mailey, and several American pilots from the American Volunteer Group - the "Flying Tigers" - who operated in China.


British aviation author Michael West wrote praising our Palestine/Syria campaign photographs displayed on our "Harry Clare" page.  We then supplied some further pictures of captured French aircraft from the Jim Kinnear collection; these were also new to Michael.  He will publish them in his next book, giving credit to Jim (a former 3 Squadron cook and prolific photographer, whose photos have been digitised by the Army Museum of South Australia and are used on several pages of our website).

Harry Clare's photos have also attracted the attention of the Israel Air & Space Museum.  We have given them permission to use some of the photos in their museum displays, with attribution.


John White from the Australian War Memorial wrote to describe his current project of tracing the movements of each Sabre aircraft between Butterworth and other South East Asian operational sites such as Ubon in Thailand.  This, as can be imagined, is quite a big job and we offered some help identifying files in the National Archives that may contain the elusive data describing how 78 Wing distributed their assets.


Correspondence from Neil Handsley in Qld:

Very thoughtful of the Association to send the 'good oil' on UBON Recognition.  

[A check with DVA about qualifying service at RAAF Ubon has confirmed that the government has now agreed that service from 31 May 1962 to 27 July 1962 has been re-classified as qualifying service.  Everyone who served in Ubon during that period can now apply for qualifying service and, if they are over 70 years of age, can also apply for the Gold Card.]

Some interesting stencils on a Sabre back from Ubon Thailand...

At the monthly meeting of our local RAAF-A branch, today, one member reported a new item from the "Clark Review" (British Atomic Tests in Australia). As I was a humble participant in the Monte Bello Is. show, first reports (verbal) are encouraging, but I have doubts about the alleged government reversal of 'onus of proof' with regard to injuries possibly coming from exposure to atomic radiation - circa 1953 (Operation Hurricane, Monte Bello Is.).  Interestingly, post-detonations, there was a large increase in certain types of cancers, especially those suffered by aircrews and RAN ships' crews who had to intentionally fly/sail through the atomic clouds.  Thereafter, these vehicles continued to radiate maintenance and handling crews over many years.  It was a dirty business, with authorities allegedly trying to cover-up the whole show with a giant whitewash.  For myself, I have five fingers rather stiff and badly distorted - even after three operations that made no discernable improvement.

The crux of the problem for everybody like me is that Australian doctors tell us that they had no training or practical experience in nuclear medicine, and that the only current expertise in on a few types of cancer accepted as being related to atomic radiation.  A pox on them... I say.

Over more than 20 years I have learned to live with my stiff and bent hand ... but I certainly would love to be normal again.  Of course, there are now - and have been before - many poor souls who copped it much worse than me.  I would especially hope for some relief for that deserving group.


Video-maker David Venish sought our help in choosing some photos to illustrate his coverage of Tom Russell’s lecture at Camden RSL (about his 3 Squadron days). 

Tom Russell (Left) at Camden 2010.  (Right:) Artwork "Taking Off" by Frank Norton.  [AWM ART29361]

On the day of Tom’s lecture, he was treated to some truly excellent flying experiences; in a glider at Camden, an ultra-light aircraft at “The Oaks” and a fully-aerobatic restored WW2 Harvard trainer back at Camden.  We later helped organiser Carl Holden with some research into the history of “The Oaks” airfield - which started out as an emergency-landing strip for American Liberator bombers flying into Sydney in WW2.  (The original plans can be found online in the National Archives.) 

Anne Mainsbridge writes: "I’m looking for information about my great-uncle, Reg Percival, who served with the 3rd Squadron in WW2.  He was killed in action in September, 1943.  I am particularly interested in hearing from anyone who knew him, or who may have photographs of him." 

Our Roll of Honour lists:

Warrant Officer Reginald Edmund Percival, service number 402671, is buried at Catania War Cemetery, Sicily.  Plot I, row K, grave 47.  Age 22. Son of Edmund and Edith Percival, of Strathfield, New South Wales, Australia.

On 5/9/43 at 1710, twelve 3 Squadron Kittyhawks took off and circled Lentini.  Of an escort of eight Spitfires, four went with a formation from 450 Squadron, but the other four didn't follow the 3 Squadron formation who flew west without fighter cover to bomb and strafe the Pizzo-Gioria-Locri area in three sections led by Squadron Leader Brian Eaton (FS431), Flying Officer Murray Nash (FS409) and Flight Sergeant Ted Hankey (FS410).  Vehicles on the road south to Gioia were bombed and strafed.  The formation then turned inland where Ted Hankey and Flight Sergeant George Hardiman (FS454) damaged vehicles, they then continued along the road across a peninsula to Locri.  Whilst attacking enemy transport near Vibo Valentia, Mileto and Givia Taura, Warrant Officer Percival's Curtiss Kittyhawk II FS446 was badly hit by flak at Mileto (Y 7904).  He was escorted back to the tip of Sicily by Murray Nash but he was unable to control the aircraft.  He crash-landed on a Sicilian beach at D 4265, but the aircraft hit a bump and bounced into the sea.  Army personnel were seen to help Percival out of the aircraft, but he died of his wounds the same night.


Wing Commander Terry van Haren’s boy, Rhys, is already a real aviation enthusiast.  He recently asked about a Spitfire called “AL” which has been flying around air-shows in New Zealand.  It turns out to be a faithful tribute to NZ WW2 Ace, Alan Deere, who became Wing Leader at the famous Biggin Hill RAF base.  By the end of WW2, Deere had 22 confirmed victories, 10 probables and 18 damaged, while having himself been shot down seven times. 

Al Deere’s Spitfire at Biggin Hill really was marked "AL".  (Wing Commanders were allowed to choose their own markings!  3 Squadron’s Bobby Gibbes chose “RG” when he led 80 Wing in the Pacific, and Brian Eaton led 239 Wing in Italy with “BAE”.  So Rhys, time to start nagging your dad about a “TvH” FA18!


Sydney Historian Rod Miller has sent us news of an amazing WW1 memento.  It transpires that the Commanding Officer of No.3 Squadron AFC, Major David Blake, was awarded the American “Distinguished Service Medal - for Exceptionally Meritorious and Distinguished Services in the Performance of Duties of Great Responsibility.”  The citation for this award was signed by the US Secretary of War on the 5th of November 1926.  It reflects the great support and expertise provided by 3 Squadron to American forces (after the Australian Army was rested from the front line) in the victorious advances of the final weeks of WWI.


Lane Sunwall, a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin, asked about the sources for Neil Smith's excellent article on Clifford Peel.  (Clifford Peel was a 3 Squadron AFC pilot who suggested the detailed concept for the Flying Doctor Service to the Reverend John Flynn in 1917.  Tragically, Clifford disappeared in action over the Western Front, along with his Observer, Lieut. J.P. Jeffers, only a few days before the Armistice.)  Neil Smith was able to provide copies of some historical letters for Lane


Zeehan RSL in Tasmania wrote asking for a suitable photograph of WW1 aircraft for a display that they were mounting.  We were able to recommend a beauty - a rare (still experimental at that time) colour photograph by official photographer Frank Hurley showing a Bristol Fighter and other aircraft.

Palestine: Machines of the Australian Flying Corps photographed from inside a hangar.  
Bristol fighter F.2B serial B1128; two Martinsydes and B.E.2 in line-up.  AWM P03631.018

 A lovely lady named Fran Kinnear shared the following memory:

"I was born in Cootamundra in 1943.  Cootamundra had wonderful Air Shows at the local 'drome.  Around the mid-1950s, I recall seeing a fantastic aerial display by a pilot in a Mustang.  From memory, I think the pilot's name was MacDonald?  Maybe MacLaughlan?  Boy - what an experience that was.... he buzzed the crowd SO low that we could almost touch him!  I remember him doing point turns, forgotten how many points.  But is was all fantastic.  I smile when I think of what would happen if that was done today!!!  I often wonder what became of this pilot....  I heard that he was killed not long after, how I don't know.  But then, this information was not official.  A BIG ASK!  Would you know who I am referring to?  Do you know any history of this pilot?"

In an initial search we were unable to track down a likely candidate in the 3SQN Records from that time, and Cootamundra airshows were not mentioned - although 3 Squadron was based in Canberra and could easily have provided a Mustang to 'Coota'.  One bit of good news; we ascertained that no pilot with a "Mac" surname had been killed in a Mustang crash...

And then, a former 3 Squadron “knucklehead” (jet pilot), Peter Larard in WA, delivered some excellent news for Fran by identifying her fondly-remembered “Cootamundra Airshow Pilot”.  He is named “Zeke” MacDonald; Peter was even able to pass on “Zeke’s” current phone number!   (Ah, the romance of aviation…)


Janice Holborow, a local historian from Mt Larcom, Queensland, e-mailed to ask us about Kittyhawk pilot Andy Taylor.  However it turned out that she was researching a different Andy to 3 Squadron's...  (Who finished the war as a Flight Lieutenant and was C.O. of 77 Squadron in the Pacific briefly in 1945.  He last resided at Quirindi NSW, where he died a couple of years ago.)


Peter Hawkin, an aircraft modelling enthusiast, enquired about the Kittyhawk I flown by Keith Kildey in 1942.  Coded CV-A, serial AL171, this aircraft was called 'Dot VI' and had a Tasmanian-map insignia on the nose.  It is illustrated in the book "P-40 Kittyhawk in Service" (Pentland, Kookaburra 1974) Page 34.


LAC John Bowler, serving with 3 Squadron in Williamtown, contacted us for help in identifying some spectacular aerial photographs from the Squadron Museum collection.  These photos were taken by 3 Squadron AFC over the shell-scarred landscape the Western Front in 1918.  We were able to identify the famous Hamel battlefield and this prompted Neil Smith to bring out some of his dad's (Lt. James Leybourne Smith's) own aerial photographs taken in very hazardous conditions over the frontline trenches.  

Indeed Lt. J. L. Smith was seriously wounded in the foot by ground fire on his last mission.  Fortunately he was still able make a skilful emergency landing between the shell-holes, which saved both his life and that of his observer.  (Due to RAF policy in WW1 no parachutes were carried!)

3 Squadron played a very significant part in the success of all of the Australian Army's Western Front assaults in 1918.  The Squadron excelled in multiple roles, including: bombing and strafing of the enemy trenches; "contact" patrols in the middle of battles so that the generals would know the exact position of their troops; production of many thousands of aerial photographs, which were fundamental to attack planning (this also involved engaging in regular dogfights with the German fighters who wanted to stop the photography!); directing artillery fire by radio to destroy crucial targets (such as deadly enemy artillery batteries); and dropping ammunition boxes to the advancing troops.

AWM ART03590 - Dawn at Hamel, 4 July 1918 by George Bell.
 Depicts the Battle of Hamel, July 1918. Australian Corps were under the command of General John Monash - the Battle of Hamel was his first operational success; the Australians had artillery support of great precision and co-operated enthusiastically with tanks, some of which acted as supply carriers, saving the effort of hundreds of troops; ammunition was dropped by parachute over the forward areas.  This work incorporates a view of approaches to Hamel and Wood in the right distance.  German prisoners are being brought back, wounded being attended to, and the officer in left foreground is writing a message with his runner (red wrist band) waiting.  In the foreground are a German flare pistol, several German stick grenades, an ammunition can for the belt of a Maxim machine gun and a wrecked 1908 Maxim machine gun,
while a biplane flies over dropping supplies by parachute.  In the background the smokescreen that covered the advance lingers.

Tom Roberts, a historical researcher who is compiling a biographical index of Australian airmen who were taken prisoner in WWI, WWII and in the Korean War, wrote to ask us about one of the pilots noted on our WW2 Roll of Honour, Flying Officer David Rutter, who is commemorated on the Alamein Memorial to the Missing.  

El Alamein Memorial to the Missing

Another historian had told Tom that David Rutter may have been captured and then sunk on 9 December, 1941, when the Italian cargo ship "Sebastiano Veniero" (formerly the Dutch "Jason") with 2,000 POWs in her cargo holds, was torpedoed by the British submarine "Porpoise" and was subsequently beached off Novarino.  (Over 500 British and Commonwealth POWs were killed when the torpedo struck the forward hold where they were crammed.)

Tom asked whether we could clarify the situation.  We were able to establish the key fact that Dave Rutter was definitely shot down on that exact date, 9th December 1941, and therefore it was impossible that he could have been on the POW ship.  Obviously the co-incidence of the two dates had caused the  classification error regarding Dave's fate.  

[Fred Eggleston's memoirs on our website pay a nice tribute to Dave: "Dave's father was a great friend of my father.  Dave was one of nature's gentlemen with a great deal of pluck and an overwhelming desire to "do his bit". ...On Tuesday 9th December, we flew on a wing offensive sweep over El Adem when we were "jumped" by Me109s.  One of ours went down in flames.  Nick, Geoff and a 112 Squadron Tomahawk went up after five Me109s, while the rest of us formed a defensive circle, each following another's tail, thereby, supposedly, protecting him.  I was not comfortable in this manoeuvre because it seemed too easy for the Messerschmitts high above to dive and pick us off one by one.  After five minutes we broke the circle and I followed Wally Jewell home.  Pete Jeffrey, Dave Rutter, Rex Wilson and Tiny Cameron were missing, and three fires were seen on the ground.  Rex Wilson and Dave Rutter were killed, Pete Jeffrey force-landed at Tobruk and returned that evening.  Tiny Cameron force-landed and returned two days later.  Rex Wilson had been recommended for the Distinguished Flying Medal, having previously had eight victories.  The DFM was awarded posthumously.  Sgt Mailey got two Me109F's and Pete Jeffrey one. It was Dave Rutter's first operation. "]

Dave Rutter probably perished in an explosive crash in the desert.  It seems that his remains were never identified or recovered for formal burial. 

In a follow-up message, Tom mentioned the case of the Commanding Officer of 239 Wing (which included 3 Squadron), Wing Commander Mayers, who went missing on 20 July 1942 during the first El Alamein battle.  Mayers was presumed POW, since his Kittyhawk was found intact but there was no sign of him personally.  However he did not survive captivity and it's thought that he was either sunk in a POW transport ship, or shot down in a German transport aircraft.  Mayers is also commemorated on the Alamein Memorial to the Missing.


Another modeller, Steve Chadbone, wrote to ask about the CV codes on Squadron Leader Nicky Barr's aircraft.  This question is actually not as easy to answer as may be imagined, since the Squadron records don't note the aircraft letters flown by individual pilots, just the aircraft serial numbers, so we are dependent on the work of aviation authors who match up aircraft codes with serial numbers.  Their illustrations of Nicky's various aircraft all seem to be "CV-N".  He flew a variety of P-40 Tomahawks and Kittyhawks in his short but spectacular career where he ended up as 3 Squadron's top-scorer. (Nicky also received the Military Cross for his exploits behind the lines as an escaped POW in Italy.)



3 Squadron Stories

3 Squadron HOME/Search