3 Squadron RESEARCH

3 Squadron RAAF HOME / Search

AWM Interview with Jack Doyle. (1990)

Pilot 1943-44 and 3 Squadron Flight Leader.
"ROVER" Forward Air Controller. 
Commanding Officer of 450 Sqn.  DSO, DFC and Bar.

Malta. July 1943. Informal portrait of 404604 Flying Officer Jack C. Doyle DSO DFC,
No. 3 (Kittyhawk) Squadron RAAF of Longreach, Qld, who took part in the Tunisian campaign,
 in the cockpit of his aircraft just before takeoff for an operation over Sicily.

Transcript of Australian War Memorial recording. 
This historically-important interview has been placed here so that its content is searchable for 3SQN Website readers.
WORKING VERSION - Currently being edited by 3SQN Assn for readability and spelling of technical terms.]






Identification:  This is Edward Stokes recording with Jack Doyle, No. 3 Squadron, tape 1, side 1. 


Jack, we've got a good summary here of the story, let's go back to the beginning; I think you were born in Queensland? 


Yes, I was born on Kamilaroi Station[?] which is halfway between Cloncurry and the Gulf area - 120 miles from the nearest doctor - and I was born on 21st May 1918. 


Right, that's good.  And I understand schooling was in a number of places, and there was even a journey from New South Wales to avoid a polio epidemic, but I think you finished your schooling at Toowoomba Grammar? 


Yes, we left New South Wales at one stage, not necessarily wholly because of a polio epidemic but that did have a bearing on why we left.  Went back to Queensland and I did my education at Toowoomba Grammar School and then did a one year's course after that at Queensland Agricultural High School and College at Gatton. 


I think you were saying during your school period you had a real interest - much more than just a passing interest - in model aeroplanes? 


Yes, I'd always been interested in aircraft.  I was in a model aircraft club in Toowoomba.  We made and flew rubber-powered aircraft which was really the only means of propulsion for model aircraft in those days. 


Right.  Were you conscious of the general developments in aviation during the late 1920s, 1930s? 


No, not really because I was away from main areas of civilisation I suppose you could say and when I left school I went out jackarooing at Cunnamulla.  And after that I was overseer on Darr River Downs at Longreach which was 92 000 acres and 22 000 sheep and from Longreach I joined the air force. 


Right.  Well, let's just move on to one other thing.  During your childhood and your teenage years perhaps, were you at all conscious of the general tradition of Australians in the first war; the story of the ANZACs and so on.  Was that a major part of your childhood, or not? 


No, it wouldn't be a major part of my childhood because as I say I'd been out in the country and you're limited with the information that you get, and up in the Gulf country we only got mail every six weeks.  And although we did get daily papers you realise that you didn't read them with any great detail.  And your radio reception in those early days outback in Cunnamulla and Longreach was mainly shortwave from England - BBC. 


Sure.  I think you were saying before though that you had some inkling of the approach of the war. 


Oh yes, we were well aware of that.  I was speaking more of a general thing between wars, but oh no, we were quite aware of the imminence of war, very strongly. 


Did you personally greet that as a good thing, that it might involve some journeying overseas?  Or was it regretted? 


Oh, I think any war is regretted, and I think everyone realises this but in my day and age we felt, as I still do now, that that war had to be fought whether you liked it or not because the consequences could have been quite drastic for everyone in Australia and everyone in the Commonwealth as it was in those days. 


Yes, certainly.  Well, moving on a little bit.  Of course war was declared, you enlisted, and I think it was October 1940 when you finally were called up and you went to Brisbane, and then later to Lindfield where you did your first service training.  What's your very first recollection of being in the air force, of the general discipline, I suppose, of the services after being off in the bush? 


That didn't strike me as very unusual because I suppose perhaps I was a moderately disciplined person; I was overseer on Darr River Downs before I was old enough to vote, and so I have always been reasonably self-disciplined, but it was also ....  It was quite interesting because I'd never been much in large towns for any length of time and then - well, I had been to Sydney before I joined the air force - but that was quite interesting.  But we were worked very hard.  We were kept very busy from daylight till dark in physical activities and studies of various types of things needed in the air force. 


(5.00) Well, let's move on to your first flying training, as such, EFTS Archerfield, Brisbane.  Were you flying Tiger Moths? 


Yes, we flew Tiger Moths and Gypsy Moths and we had a great lot of instructors there; they were all old-time pilots.  And I can remember flying over the cemetery at Petrie, I think it was - a suburb in Brisbane - and my instructor sort of turned back to me and pointed downwards and I sort of looked downwards and there was quite a long pause and he said, 'That area down there is filled by pilots who fly low and slow' - that's the sort of thing that lives in your memory. 


That's rather a good comment.  I understand facilities at Archerfield were very good but when you went on to Amberley - this was flying Wirraways - advanced training, life was somewhat simpler? 


Yes, Archerfield was very good because it was a peace-time air force base and we were billeted in rooms; one to a room with proper beds and cupboards.  Whereas Amberley, the so-called billets there were just open, large buildings with a palliasse of straw on the floors for a bed. 


The training in Wirraways at Amberley, what do you recall of that? 


Well, it was all interesting as being a pilot is, of course, particularly when I had never even been in an aircraft before I joined the air force.  But we just did the normal flying, cross-country flying up to Toowoomba and around that area and three-three, triangular, cross-countries, and bombing exercises and all that type of thing. 


How much of your work was practical flying aircraft and how much was theoretical? 


Can't give the exact proportion but it was considerably more in flying, because by that time you'd done your initial training in which there was no flying - down at Lindfield, Bradfield - and the elementary flying in Tiger Moths, there's a lot of paperwork done then. 


So as the training advanced it became less book-based and more plane-based. 


Yes, less paper and more wings. 


If you had to assess your overall training - I'm not looking at particular moments or individual instructors but in the broad spectrum of your training - how would you rank it?  Good?  Average?  Poor?  Very good? 


I would say excellent because the type of instructor we had, they were invariably older people who had an enormous wealth of experience and were in fact qualified instructors, and I think that that stood us in great stead afterwards, because I think I admired most of them, and in fact you quite often knew of them just by their normal, civilian exploits. 


Do you have any other significant recollections of the training period? 


No, I don't think anything else.  We got through it without losing anyone, although I think of the subsequent, the thirty-two people on my training course, I think only seven of them came back from the war but I'm not exactly ....  Those figures are exact, but as far as we know. 


Right.  Your course didn't suffer major losses through pranging aircraft and so on? 


No, we had an odd mishap at landing.  In fact one of our personnel landed an aircraft very heavily and actually damaged it, went round again and - it's a little bit technical - but it was held together in the air by the fact that the flying wires held it together and whilst there was pressure underneath the wings it remained intact.  As he subsequently did a very smooth second landing, as his speed dropped down the wings gradually drooped until they were actually touching the ground and the aircraft split along the top.  It was actually split along the top flying but once you reversed the forces on it, it opened up. 


That's fascinating.  Well, moving on a little bit.  I know from Amberley you went to Evans Head which was, I think, a bombing and gunnery school with Fairey Battles.  What were you involved in doing there? 


(10.00) Oh, we were training gunners, air gunners, and pilots at, bomb aimers, and you'd take them up on twenty, thirty minute flights and they would drop eight pound smoke bombs, [inaudible].  They'd find the wind first - you'd find the wind for them - by doing certain manoeuvres in different directions and they would plot a wind and then plot their bombsights and drop bombs.  And if they were air gunners they would fire at a drogue flying parallel to them and flown by another pilot in a Fairey Battle. 


I see, and your role as a pilot was largely to simply to keep planes in the air while these men went through their own learning routines. 


Yes, they'd have their training in static activities in the classroom and then they'd go up and we would act as the pilots for them on, say, a bombing mission in which they bombed a target or a gunnery mission in which they fired at a drogue towed by another aircraft. 


I think you were saying before that you and one other man were the only people qualified to take Fairey Battles up to test them after major overhauls or new planes. 


Yes, Warrant Officer Murray - I think he was, and myself - I was a flight sergeant at that stage - we just had so much experience on Fairey Battles that we were the only two pilots permitted to test-fly an aircraft when it had to be test-flown after some major overhaul.  I got a lot of hours up because I decided to try and fly myself out of the place; the more hours I could get up the more recognition I might get to be posted elsewhere. 


And I think in fact you were saying there was something like 630 hours in one year at Evans Head. 


Yes, I got 630 hours in Fairey Battles in well under a year and that helped me get out of the place and to something more to my liking; not that it wasn't, not that is not necessary, you have to train all sorts of people, but I'd felt I'd done my bit. 


Sure.  We'll come back to the submarine issue in a moment, but you were also telling us before about this business of making the best use of your time there and coming back from these routine instruction flights.  Tell us about that? 


There were two other pilots there I was friends with and that was Flight Sergeant Arthur Collier and Sergeant Paul Flack - or Warrant Officer I think he was then - and we used to study tactics amongst ourselves, referring to fighter aircraft.  And we would make up little scenarios and try and work out in theory what you should do to get out of that situation or shoot someone else down.  And at the end of our bombing details which we quite often flew together - and sometimes deliberately organised it so we flew together - on our way back to the station after completing the bombing exercise we would put these little activities into actual practice and see whether our theories were right or wrong. 


You made an interesting point about putting a plane into a sudden, I'm not sure, climb or dive - the issue of dust.  That's obviously quite a pertinent point? 


Well, yes, you can't really ....  It's very difficult to clinically clean a cockpit of an aircraft and one of our reasonings was if you can make an enemy push his stick forward he'll get his eyes full of dust if he's not wearing goggles and that can be rather confusing, and perhaps put you at somewhat of a disadvantage.  And we organised these little tests to see what various manoeuvres that can make someone push the stick forward to get out of trouble and get him into more trouble. 


Do you think, incidentally, just on this point of tactics, do you think in your training prior to this where you yourself were being instructed - was enough emphasis put on tactics? 


no, there wasn't much put at all, and this is correct because you're not able to fly your aircraft very well at that time, and the main thing is to teach you to fly an aircraft.  I mean if you're teaching someone to drive a motor-car you don't tell them how to do a four-wheel drift around a corner. 


Right, so in other words you're saying that tactics really were a more advanced thing that had to be learnt when you had much greater hours in the air? 


Yes, they had to be learnt if you were being sent to a squadron; and people were being taught that obviously, but remember that I was just in a training thing and this was a bonus to me and it served me in great stead later on, I think. 


Let's just go back to this business about submarines.  While you were at Evans Head you were also attached at one point to 52 Squadron, I think you were engaged in anti-submarine patrols? 


(15.00) Yes, when the submarine scare came with the Japanese submarines - you must remember they did get one into Sydney Harbour - we at that stage formed a squadron at Evans Head Bombing and Air Gunnery School, and I think it was called 52 Squadron and we ....  Some of the pick pilots of which I was one of them - we formed this squadron.  It was formed and we moved inland roughly ten miles in the old language and put down in a paddock and set up as a complete, separate squadron which made sense because the Japanese could have shelled Evans Head aerodrome and it was a great destruction, and we actually operated outside the three-mile limit in searching for suspected submarines and we actually carried bombs. 


            Did you ever sight any? 


No, there were no sightings. 


I think you were hinting before that there was some either slightly controversial or perhaps unknown aspect of this period with the anti-submarine patrols? 


Some of the squadron members, and remember it did consist of pilots and ground staff and cooks - we were a complete unit moved out of Evans Head - as really an operational squadron with armed aircraft - some of those people ....  We did make an endeavour to see if we qualified for the Pacific Star as a ribbon. 


              And what was the feedback on that? 


Oh, we never got it.  I didn't take a personal, I didn't do it personally, but there were endeavours made to achieve that effect but it never came about. 


Right.  Well, let's move on a little bit.  After the period at Evans Head you were posted to No. 3 Squadron.  Had you applied to go to the squadron or were postings just willy-nilly events from on high that you had no power to influence? 


No, you had to - as I understood it - volunteer to go to 3 Squadron at that stage, and perhaps at all times.  I suppose because 3 Squadron was an original RAAF squadron whereas the other squadrons were Empire Air Training - or a lot of other squadrons were Empire Air Training Scheme - and you'd be posted to them whether you liked it or not.  I suppose you could be posted to 3 Squadron whether you liked it or not too, but there were calls for volunteers and I volunteered. 


Right.  From Evans Head I think you went directly to Melbourne to embark for the Middle East? 


I went down there to Mildura first and did an advanced course in advanced flying training and then went to an embarkation depot down in Melbourne. 


Could I just pause though, just one final thing on training?  You were saying in the Evans Head period, I think you had 630 hours, say 600 anyway, that's a very large number of hours compared to what men often went to fly in combat squadrons with.  And then there's this little episode here at Mildura where you were doing advanced flying training.  Did that kind of training really add to what you had already gained in your own flying or not? 


Oh yes, it did because we were then getting instructors that had been over to 3 Squadron and had come back and they were passing on their knowledge to us.  And I think when I left Australia I had a total of 830 hours flying in all aircraft which is quite a considerable number of hours. 


The knowledge they were passing on, was that general knowledge of flying techniques or more what you could expect in combat situations in the Middle East? 


No, what you could expect because they had come back from actual combat. 


Right.  Well, let's move on then down to Melbourne.  How did you feel on your departure from Australia? 


Oh, no particular feelings other than we were quite eager to get overseas and we were fortunate to get on a very small vessel, it was 8000 tons, and I think there were only eight of us on board.  It was a cargo vessel and it had 8000 tons of beer and whisky on board to take over to the army in the Middle East.  And when we left Melbourne we were unescorted, we headed slightly west of south and got into enormous seas in the Antarctic purely for diversionary tactics to keep away from submarines, if any. 


And I think you were saying the ship itself was rather run down and even to the point of engines breaking down, and its armament was perfunctory to say the least. 


Yes, it was a Norwegian skipper and he was a great fighter - I think he would have tackled any submarine that came near him.  It was the Tiradontes[?] and it had a gun down the back that I think came from the Boxer rebellion in China, somewhere up there.  We had a .5-inch - half-inch  - machine-gun that we could not get to fire more than two or three seconds and we actually had, believe it or not, a box kite to be flown for anti-aircraft activities. 


Just one other thing I meant to ask about before going on the voyage, Jack.  Japan of course by this stage is in the war, was there any feeling on your part, or perhaps the men who were travelling with you that now was not the time for Australians to be leaving Australia, that you might have been fighting in the Pacific against the Japanese? 


No, I don't think so.  You tend not to be very clued up or skilled in tactics of war and there's still a war going on over in the Middle East and you were still needed there and you'd volunteered for 3 anyway.  And you felt that, well, you can't run a war, you leave it to higher up people that you wouldn't be sent if you were needed elsewhere. 


(20.00) Right.  Besides those aspects about the ship's armaments and so on, what other recollections do you have of the voyage?  Was it a pleasant or unpleasant experience? 


No, it was quite pleasant.  The weather was good and we broke down and sometimes did two knots and I think our top speed was eight knots, and I think I'm right in saying that any Japanese or German submarine that came near us could have overhauled us even if it remained submerged and most certainly could have overhauled us if it came to the surface. 


Did you have much social life on the ship or were there too few people for that? 





No, there were only eight of us.  As I say it was a cargo vessel and it was a type of vessel that had cabins for eight people, a type of vessel that does take passengers in peace-time in very minimal numbers. 


And what about training?  Were there any senior officers on board who organised any ongoing training or was that all put to one side? 


No, there was no official training.  We played deck tennis and various other things like that.  The food, I must admit, was absolutely magnificent.  It was sort of peace-time food and we ate at the captain's table because there was only one table. 


Yes, the Norwegian ships, I think, are well known for their looking after themselves well.  The ship called in India, I know you didn't go ashore, in fact I think you were only there barely a day, but there was a rather striking incident that perhaps is worth recording about the barrage balloon? 


Yes, we pulled in at India for refuelling, late in the evening I think, and we subsequently left at something like two or three o'clock in the morning.  And as we departed the harbour there were barrage balloons there and the mast of our vessel unbeknown to us, fouled one of the cables supporting the balloon and it got hooked onto the mast, and as we steamed out of course the balloon got gradually drawn down and down onto the top of the mast until it hit the top of the mast and exploded.  And there was a great bang and a lot of yellow flaming balloon material floating down past the portholes of the ship which gave us a bit of a shock. 


Yes, it certainly must have.  The voyage across the ocean - Arabian Sea I think - to the Red Sea and up to Suez, how do you recall that? 


Oh, that was quite uneventful.  That was completely uneventful, and just subsequently arrived in Egypt. 


Let's talk about that for a moment, actually arriving in Egypt.  Of course you had been to India but not ashore, the Middle East obviously was then, is now, very different to Australia.  What was your first impression of the place, the people? 


It is just so different and I think Cairo in those days had something like the population that Australia had in those days and very, very dry and just completely and utterly different. 


Were you, and the people you were with, did you tend to be fascinated by the differences or repelled by them? 


Oh, you were repelled by the poverty of course and that sort of thing, it's rampant over there.  And the city is not as clean.  And all those things you notice but they're sort of, they're quite fascinating because most people of my vintage hadn't been out of Australia because in those days travel was so relatively expensive. 


Sure.  Just to follow up on this particular theme while we're on it.  During all your time in the Middle East and for that matter Italy, did you really get much time to - either individual days here and there or blocks of leave - to get around and see the sights?  Or was there really little time for that? 


No, you do get time when you're in between postings and you can go and see the Pyramids and that sort of thing, but there's not really much you can do.  You have a language problem, although it must be admitted over there you can find children five and six years old that have quite good command of four or five languages. 


What were the places that stand out in your mind?  Places that you visited? 


I suppose only the Pyramids which is probably the only place I visited, and Cairo as a large city. 


Right.  Well, after disembarking I think you were saying that despite many pilots with only a few hundred hours who went directly to squadrons, you with far more hours, 800 or so, were sent to a training camp.  How did you respond to that when you got the order? 


I didn't think very kindly of it really because, as I say, I had 830 hours and other pilots that came over with me with 200 and 300 hours total were sent straight up to the squadron.  Subsequently I think they were sent back to training camp.  But also I went down to this training camp which was two days journey south of Cairo and I was the only NCO, being a flight sergeant, and of course I travelled X Class whereas my officer friends that I came over with travelled First Class in the train, and there's quite a big difference, particularly in train travel, although we all went up the Nile for one day in a paddlewheel steamer. 


(25.00) That's an interesting point.  Let's just develop that for a moment because it's one of the general things I wanted to talk about.  Did those sorts of differences in privileges accorded in your case to a sergeant pilot or in other cases to much greater privileges going to commissioned pilots, did those differences rankle or not? 


Oh, they did a bit, I suppose, because as I say, I'd come overseas with eight mates and I think only two of us were sergeant pilots - two or three of us - and you're all together in the ship and you're just all together.  It's interesting to note that we in 3 Squadron, in the overseas, we had a pilots' mess which was very unusual.  The English, sort of, didn't have that type of thing at all.  In a pilots' mess in a squadron all pilots and all officers are in that mess and it doesn't matter whether the pilot is a sergeant or not which makes sense because you're flying together whether you're a sergeant or you're an officer. 


Yes, I've heard that from other people, and that apparently was, it seems hard to believe now, quite a revolutionary administrative advance? 


Yes, both 3 and 450 Squadrons had pilots' mess and it just works so well.  It's just common sense. 


Did RAAF squadrons pick up on that during the war or not? 


No, I don't think so, I don't think so at all. 


Just talking about another related issue.  You obviously came into contact with British squadrons during your period in the Middle East, do you think there was a difference in kind between the relationship that Australian flying men had with their officers and the relationship that British flying men had with their officers? 


I've never been on an English squadron but I think there probably was, because as I understand it in England in those days you had really two classes of people.  There was sort of the upper class and the lower class, and the lower class seemed to want to be lower class.  But in Australia you were more level and you gave credit for other people for the knowledge they had and not what rank they were. 


Right.  One other thing, just again on this sort of issue of characteristics.  Looking back on the men you knew as wartime officers and men you knew as permanent officers - I mean who were officers for the duration and men for whom the air force was a career - was there any general difference in their approach to their work and the flying?  Their general attitudes or not? 


Oh, no, I don't think you could say that.  Getting back to this previous thing - in 3 Squadron we had two sergeant pilots, Keith Kildey and Danny Boardman, before my time, but they actually led the squadron as sergeant pilots, and I think led even wing shows which is more than one squadron.  That would be unheard of in an English squadron. 



Yes, that's interesting, in fact I have heard of those two men.  Well, let's go down to the training camp.  I understand it was a fairly varied and arduous journey. 


Yes, we had one night on the Nile in the paddle-steamer, a day and a night on the Nile and then I had about a day in the train across the Nubian Desert which was quite extraordinary; the sand is just white and almost blinds you looking out.  All the carriages had windows in them that were deep purple - almost the darkness that you would find in an old-fashioned green beer bottle - it just let very little light in and there was an awful lot to be let in. 


Having got down to this base that I think was an RAF peace-time base, Jack, I think you were involved in Harvard trainers. 


Yes, we flew Harvards and did more advanced type of gunnery and tactics of putting yourself in other aircraft and it was purely, almost ninety per cent flying and very little paperwork. 


              What were conditions like? 


Conditions were quite good for flying.  It was very ....  You were out in the stony desert and there were Bok Bok and various other type of animals, and apparently a few lions roamed in that territory when they felt like it. 






Identification:  This is Ed Stokes, Jack Doyle, No. 3 Squadron, tape 1, side 2. 


What were living conditions like? 


Well, living conditions were outwardly very good.  It was a peace-time station and you had beds and you had sheets but you also had cockroaches and bed bugs. 


Yes, which no doubt could be very irksome.  And food:  did places like that get decent supplies of food, or not? 


Yes, food was all right.  You must remember at the age we were that food wasn't a major priority as long as you got enough to fill you, you were in the main happy. 


Right.  Now, I think a couple of interesting things here is that you were saying at this particular place you generally carried a gun, a .303 I think, for protection in case you were forced down. 


Yes, there was a hatch in the aircraft and we were shown a .303 with ammunition in it in the back of the aircraft.  And the reason that was put there, we were told, that if you were forced down in the desert and they couldn't get to you by road or other transport quickly enough, that it wasn't for protection against lions, it was for protection against the local natives who, if they got hold of you, tended to hand you over to their women and their women were in the habit of castrating you and sewing your testicles up in your mouth. 


              Very bizarre. 


We didn't find anyone that this happened to so whether it was a furphy or not I don't know, but certainly the firearm was in the back hatch of the aircraft and we were informed of that. 


Carried the .303s.  Right, that's most interesting.  I think you were saying by contrast, when you were up flying with the squadron, which we'll come to soon, you carried a chit called, I think, a 'gooley' chit. 


Yes, that was the common name but I've never heard it called anything else and I have mine at home, quite nicely preserved.  It was a piece of very strong reinforced paper written in Arabic and English and asking any person, meaning mainly desert Arabs, that if they found you, or captured you, that they were asked to take you back to your headquarters in which case they would be suitably rewarded; but that was the name it went under anyway. 


Right.  So it was a kind of a passport.  Gooley, do you have any spelling on that?  How would you spell it? 


No, I don't have any spelling but gooley is another word for stones. 


Right.  Okay, that's fine.  Before we go on to No. 3 Squadron which you joined after this period of training, I just wondered if we could talk generally about some aspects of flying in the desert, but thinking of your broader experience right through the war, Jack.  Was the very open landscape of a desert which is generally fairly featureless, was that really a boon, an aid, to flying or was it a disadvantage? 


(5.00) No, it's a disadvantage for navigation because it all looks much the same and if you're not near a coastline - a coastline is a very good thing to navigate by because it's very precise - but out in the desert it can be difficult and you can also get a lot of dust and if you're up high it can obscure the ground.  In my early stages, of course, I didn't have any need to navigate but later I did, of course.  But being a country person originally I was a little bit familiar in navigating without man-made objects. 


Yes, that would certainly be an advantage.  What were the other difficulties do you think of desert flying? 


It can be very hot, which can make flying in an aircraft uncomfortable because you're sitting about three feet behind an engine that's turning out 1000 horsepower, and whenever that's - power is always associated with heat - and obviously there were considerable problems for the ground crew - parachute folding was done on a fabric laid out on the ground - but the Australian ground crew were quite remarkable with the way they kept their serviceability up in aircraft.  And in fact three in, I think, 450 were almost the highest number, percentage of aircraft that were always available to fly right in the desert and right through in Italy because I had access to some of those figures in my daily job at one stage. 


That's interesting.  I'd imagine dust must have been quite painful for ground crews. 


Yes, it was.  Getting back to Evans Head I think there an engine lasted ninety minutes in the flying on Evans Head Air Base in Australia when they didn't have a proper runway and sand used to get sucked into the engines. 


And what would the figure be in a non-sandy environment? 


I think it would be, it wouldn't have any figure it would just go on to normal usage of what you'd expect a thing to do.  But in, back in Australia the Fairey Battles had an air intake underneath the engine which was okay for England with grass and mud and that sort of thing but no good with sandy environments.  In Italy, the Kittyhawks had an intake up on top of the front cowling and they didn't suffer from that problem.  But the Spitfires in the desert did have greater problems; they had to go to a lot of expense and that for special filters. 


That's most interesting.  And the airstrips that you by and large remember through your period in the desert, how good were they or otherwise? 


Well, mainly otherwise; they were just open areas that were free of bush and major stones, and obviously cleared of that.  They weren't necessarily of a runway shape.  If the area was very good you could take-off two, three, four, six abreast because the width was just there if the terrain was good. 


So generally speaking it wasn't land that had actually been graded or bulldozed, it was just the existing terrain picked clean of stones and so on? 


Yes, major stones were moved and it was, that was it.  You created an enormous amount of dust as you took off so it's quite a good idea to take-off four or five aircraft abreast, and you'd do that three times to get a squadron in the air rather than one at a time and waiting for the dust to clear for the next one. 


I suppose if a plane had taken off ahead of you unless it was a windy day blowing the dust clear, you really had problems. 


Oh yes, it does.  Dust takes a while to clear because it gets spread out widely from an aircraft taking-off.  It's not a thin stream behind it. 


Sure.  About a hundred times worse than being stuck behind a semi-trailer on an outback road, I'd imagine. 


That's right. 


Well, going on a little bit, Jack.  It was from this training camp that you went directly up to the squadron.  By this stage, of course, No. 3 Squadron already has quite a name in the Middle East in terms of what they've achieved and some of their personalities.  What was your first impression on reaching the squadron? 


Well, my entry to the squadron was a bit unusual.  You have to get yourself around in wartime when you go to places, and I discovered that there was an aeroplane down at Tripoli that had brought some soccer players from the wing that the squadron was in and they were going back to the squadron, so I hitched a ride in that.  It was a captured three-engined Italian aircraft and it was overheating and all sorts of problems were with it.  And we tried to take-off a couple of times and didn't make it and we finally did get off and the aircraft was overheating in the air but we were still able to fly.  And the method of putting the flaps down prior to landing was quite interesting; an airman in the aircraft started an engine out of sight of windows and underneath and behind the pilot's chair - call it a chair, it was like that - and whether the pilot was scratching himself or gave a wrong signal or whatever, the airman started putting down the flaps at the wrong time and we failed to make the runway at the squadron and in fact landed amongst the tents of 450 Squadron which I subsequently commanded. 


It must have been a somewhat surprising arrival.  Well, anyway having sort of come in through the back door so to speak, what was your first impression of the men of the squadron, the morale, the officers? 


(10.00) Oh, the morale was good, I think it mainly is good in a squadron.  But it's all so new you sort of ....  Okay, you do form impressions but they're so sort of numerous and various not anything necessarily stands out. 


Right.  Let's just deal with some straightforward living things first.  Was this a tented camp? 


Yes, you're all in tents.  Some people might say we lived very well.  We had a 240 volt electric lights in our tent because we have - in a squadron you have that type of thing to charge batteries and use all normal equipment that is run off 240 volts back at home - and that gives a supply of it.  And a fighter squadron being relatively small there is surplus power left over - it may be different in a bomber squadron with three times the personnel - so there is enough electricity left over for people to string lights - airmen and officers and everything - to string lights and have electric light in their tents. 


              So the camps weren't blacked-out? 


No, they're blacked-out at night; it depends on the air superiority.  If you ....  If the enemy has good superiority and come over at night, tents are blacked-out but quite often they're not - only necessarily blacked-out if there is an air raid warning. 


Right.  And what was mess life like?  Were newcomers such as yourself made welcome quickly, or not? 


Oh yes, there were various initiation ceremonies which we needn't go into now that are all good fun of course if you're not the recipient. 


              Are you willing to enlighten us on that? 


Oh, it's a bit involved to describe some of these and it could lose a lot in the involvement. 


Okay, well, we were just having an aside there on the sort of light-hearted activities involved.  During this time 3 Squadron, Jack, had advanced fairly rapidly through the desert and was now at Tripoli - this is late 1942.  What was the squadron's main role at that time? 


We were army support really, the sort of fighter-bomber activity.  We're not a fighter squadron at that stage, just by force of circumstances because there wasn't really very much to fight.  There had been a lot of enemy air activity in the early days of 3 Squadron of which I wasn't part of, but when I arrived at that stage the enemy aircraft could only get superiority if they put nearly everything into the air at once and then they could achieve that.  But otherwise we mainly supported the army in bombing - bombing enemy army targets and strafing. 


Right.  I was going to ask you to clarify a little what is meant by close support of the army.  This isn't so much reconnaissance work as attacking targets to aid their own activities. 


Yes, I think close is really literal.  You bomb very close to your own front troops but bombing sort of just behind what is known as the bomb line - that's an imaginary line drawn near the space between enemy and your own troops, but it's obviously drawn three or four hundred yards further into the enemy area so that you don't bomb your own troops, and troops move anyway. 


You were saying before that navigation's very difficult in the desert.  How easy or otherwise was it to pin down such a precise line which had to be done correctly if you weren't to kill your own men? 


Oh, there were various ways.  You have roads, of course, in the desert, there are roads and various other landmarks that are hospitals, and you do get waddies and little water courses and clumps of trees and things like that.  And remember it's moderately static and you are flying over an area, you're flying over today, you flew over it yesterday, you get to know it and the whole front line doesn't move that vigorously that you, that things you flew over yesterday are still in sight when you're flying over today. 


Right.  Well, let's actually go off on a couple of operations.  I know you were hit a couple of times in your first few flights which must have been rather stunning to say the least.  Do you recall your first active flight? 


Yes, we were flying in very close support of the army and there was a big push on, and we were stuck in strafing ground troops and we were down so close and so hard for quite a time that I remember that Arthur Dawkins in South Australia strafed a tent - enemy tent - and he came home and still has until this day, razor blades that came out of tent and blew into the air and got lodged in the radiator intake of his aircraft. 


Could I just pause for a moment to try to get the actual flow of an attack?  You've located a target, coming into strafe I assume you're coming down losing a lot of altitude, what's going through your mind? 


Well, it's almost bedlam when you get into those things.  There are aircraft going everywhere and hopefully there are no enemy ones because you can't look, you have to look behind you and you do that continuously by sweeping round behind you either side but you've also got to concentrate on ahead because you're going down very low to the enemy.  You have to pull out before you hit the ground, obviously, and you're aiming at things and there are other aircraft doing the same thing.  And it's, very active. 


(15.00) How much are you consciously thinking about the attacking part of your work, and how much are you consciously thinking about flying?  Or is flying at this stage almost instinctive? 


No, I was lucky when I entered actually, operations I had over 800 hours and I could fly my aeroplane.  I didn't have to look where things were because I knew where they were and it was to that extent instinctive.  I didn't have high skills in actual combat, but the very fact that I could fly my aircraft without worrying about the way I did it is an enormous advantage. 


When you say you knew where things were, do you mean the controls in the cockpit? 


Yes, it's ....  Obviously one has your hand on the stick all the time but you're aware where the oil pressure gauge is and you watch that like a hawk because if you lose oil pressure you catch alight in two minutes without any prior warning, so those ....  Even to this day all the cars that I have have an oil pressure gauge in that I install. 


              Could I just ask another question ... 


Not that I am frightened of catching fire in a car but it allows me to monitor my engine. 


Sure.  As you're coming down on a diving attack and obviously at a certain point you have to pull up if don't want to plough into the ground.  Are you consciously saying to yourself, 'Now, this is where I must pull up', or are all those things just happening as a matter of course almost without thinking about them? 


No, they happen without thinking because you can go round a corner in a motor-car without having a look at your speed indicator, in fact your Formula One cars I don't think have a speed indicator - speedometer - they just have a rev counter. 


              So it's very much a feeling thing. 


Yes, it's a feeling and it becomes more or less instinctive. 


The first time you had ack-ack fire coming up towards you, what did you think? 


Well, you don't ....  Ack-ack fire as I understand it being mainly eighty-eight millimetre and forty millimetre and twenty millimetre which is called anti-aircraft fire is not very damaging to us.  I don't think we ever got anyone shot down with the eighty-eight millimetres.  The dangerous things are rifle bullets, revolver bullets and light machine-guns because when you're in that situation everyone on the other side is shooting at you and there are things coming from all directions. 


So given that, is there any skill in evading incoming bullets or is it really just luck? 


No, there's an enormous amount of luck.  I was hit three, twice in my first three operations.  The average number of times in a squadron you got hit was three.  I've been hit fourteen times, but I did have a technique that I felt stopped me being hit and it's a little bit technical, but in a normal bomb dive, not necessarily strafing, in a bomb dive I just flew deliberately with my aircraft flying out of line - trimmed so it flew skidding slightly sideways.  And remember in those days before the sophisticated things they have today, when you're firing at an aircraft you take an imaginary line between its tail-wheel and the front of its nose and fire in front of that line.  If a person is skidding their aircraft sideways you will fire to one side of it.  And whenever I got hit subsequently it was almost always in the left wing which justified ... 


That skidding idea - I understand it quite clearly - that would seem such an obvious thing to do, why wasn't that a general practice? 


I don't know.  I don't think it is an obvious thing to do.  I was lucky to have my own aircraft and know its characteristics and it started a bomb dive I would trim it inaccurately and it would then be without any alteration on the way down was trimmed to fly - being flown - accurately at the bottom when you're lining everything up and releasing a bomb. 


Let me ask another question about coming in on, for example, a bombing run, and incidentally this is not meant in any personal or judgemental sense.  How difficult as you came in was it to keep yourself going in right close to the target when one would assume at some point you could quite easily pull off a little bit, face a little bit less hostile fire, drop your bomb close to where you're supposed to drop it, but not perhaps as close as you could really get it if you took a somewhat greater risk? 


No, I don't think you are taking any greater risk because you're going down to the ground, and it doesn't matter whether it's a hundred yards here and a hundred yards over there, everyone that can see you is firing at you.  So, if you move away from one area you're only getting closer to someone else and then they're scattered all over the place and everyone shoots at you.  And I haven't ever flown - I've flown 220 sorties and I've been shot at every time I've flown.  You just have to be with ....  And as I say it's the small arms because there are just so many of them.  And if enough people shoot at you long enough someone will hit you. 


(20.00) Did you ever get shot down? 


No, I've never been shot down.  I've never even damaged an aircraft other than other people doing it to me. 


Right.  Tell us about the oil on the windscreen.  I think this was on one of your first few flights, and it sounds a fairly horrific flight back to base. 


Yes, this was on my first flight and we were stuck into strafing the enemy and I got hit in the oil line by a bullet and this put an enormous amount of engine oil onto my windscreen to the extent that I couldn't see through the windscreen to tell between land and air - I had to look out the side of the aircraft through the canopy.  And what I had to do then was pull my goggles down over my eyes, open the canopy, navigate home - back to the aerodrome - by looking at the ground out through the side.  And then of course my goggles would oil up with oil being thrown round the windscreen into the cockpit.  Then wind the cockpit shut - the canopy - move my goggles up - I could see slightly through the canopy even though it did have oil on the sides - clean my goggles while I'm flying and trying to navigate, pull my goggles down and repeat that process all the way back to the aerodrome.  Any enemy aircraft in the area, of course, would have had a sitting shot but there obviously weren't any. 


            And how did you line up on the airstrip? 


I side-slipped slightly because - some people might doubt this - you can side-slip a Kittyhawk and there was really no other alternative.  But I still ....  I just cleaned my goggles first at the right point, pulled them down, opened the canopy and came in a slightly side-slipping turn. 


Right.  That's fascinating.  I'd imagine with oil spraying around the place fire was a real possibility.  Was that a real possibility with oil coming out? 


It would be, but until you raised it now I don't think I ever even thought of it - I was fairly busy. 


              What was the greatest fear pilots had? 


I don't know, that's a very hard question to answer.  See the point is if flying, the end if it comes is obviously quick.  If you're hit physically - not your aircraft - if you're hit physically say in a bomb dive and you are unconscious for two or three seconds you're fifteen feet into the ground.  It's not arguing against army or navy or anything.  An army person who are very brave people, they can be injured and lie in a battlefield for twenty-four hours and still live.  It's an entirely different thing, so I suppose you have different attitudes of fear. 


Yes.  Was fire a major aspect of fear, in that that could be perhaps the most lingering kind of death you'd have in an aircraft? 


Yes, I don't think it would be lingering.  I always wore gloves and I actually had shirts made to measure for this very purpose in Cairo, with long sleeves, and I never flew operationally in shorts. 


              What were they made from? 


Fire protection.  If your engines catch fire you can go through it but you're going through flames at three, four, or five hundred miles an hour going round you, and you only need a tenth of a second going through flame with that speed of it beating on you as you hit the open air out of the cockpit to burn any exposed skin certainly.  But just with the time lag of that going through it doesn't need much to actually protect you. 


Let's just stay on this issue of fear just for a moment and cover it once and for all.  As time wore on and you flew more and more sorties, did the sort of nagging level of fear that most people admit existed in some form or another, did that increase as you became more used to the routines, or did it always remain?  Or did it get worse? 


No, I think you've got two conf - not conflicting things there, but the more you go on, the more you realise that if you go on long enough you are more liable to be shot down.  Now with the South African one of the squadrons ... 


Could I just pause there?  Do you mean in a real sense or in a kind of statistical sense? 


No, in a statistical sense, and a real sense I suppose, because as I say I was hit fourteen times and I think two or three of those times were with my own bombs because I went a bit low.  There was a South African in one of the other squadrons, he'd been hit twenty-one times and he reckoned no-one could shoot him down.  Unfortunately now he's at the bottom of Trieste Harbour because he was shot down.  So you realise that you ... 


Are you saying there, there was an issue of over confidence? 


Yeah, well, I don't think that brought it about.  If you do the same thing long enough something will happen, and if enough people shoot at you long enough, they will shoot you down.  But then again you get, you don't get immune to it but you sort of feel ....  You get more and more confidence as you go on, but deep underneath if you've got any sense at all you know that you really can't go on indefinitely - that someone will get you. 


(25.00) That's very clearly put.  Besides the episode we'll come to later with the bomb in the building, talking of being in the air, what was your most fearful experience? 


I think you can say all or none, either ....  There's always a slight element of fear but, you know ... 


Was there any time in the air when you really thought, this is it? 


Only that time I speak of when, on my second operation, when I got oil on the windscreen.  And you're just completely and utterly helpless and vulnerable to any enemy aircraft that's there - you're a sitting duck and you know it. 


So, that's just luck in that sense, if you're spotted or not.  Well, let's go on to talk about something less personal.  The Kittyhawk:  I think most pilots came to like them although not all liked them initially.  What were the planes good and bad points as you see it? 


Getting on to your first point I don't think everyone did come to like them, because I know some people that would never do a three-point landing with it, or attempt to and they'd do tail-down wheelers.  But I think they were an outstanding aircraft for the job you were doing.  I went right through the war on Kittyhawks although I was promised Mustangs in 450 Squadron.  They didn't give me Mustangs but they gave me one personally to play with to sort of abate my wrath a bit, but actually the Kittyhawk was better than the Mustang for doing the job that the Kittyhawks were doing.  It is very robust.  It is very solid.  It has a minimum amount of plumbing for radiator and oil and that sort of thing - the Mustang has a radiator way back and there's a lot of plumbing and you can get bullets through the pipes which causes you problems.  But the Kitty was very strong and robust and it had very good armament.  It carried 2000 pounds of bombs.  There were twin-engined three-crew aircraft in the Middle East that only carried 1500 pounds of bombs.  We carried 1500 pounds of bombs on the Kittyhawk as a perfectly normal bomb load. 


So it had a very powerful, or it had very good lift and strong engines. 


Oh yes, it did.  I mean - you can laugh at this - we were climbing at 200 feet a minute with a bomb load - you're modern stuff goes up vertically - but they didn't have much of a rate of climb but I carried the first 1000 pound bomb on the Kittyhawk and in subsequent operations the more experienced pilots which sometimes flew the newer aircraft, a better aircraft, they carried 2000 pounds and the remaining six or so in the squadron would carry 1500 pounds; a normal load is 1 500 pounds but we carried 2000 for shipping. 


Climbing was the plane's weakness, I think, wasn't it? 


Yes.  Look, there are three things, if you can have one of those things and get into a fight with enemy aircraft you can stay alive - if you can out-climb them, if you can out-run them, or if you can out-turn them you can stay alive.  If you can't out-run them you've got to stay and fight as long as they want you to fight, as long as you don't run out of petrol first you're relatively safe - I'm speaking in theory.  You're not safe if there's ten of them and one of you.  But in the main the Kittyhawk could out-turn most enemy aircraft so you could at least stay alive, but you might have to stay where they wanted you to and not where you wanted to be. 


I was going to ask you about some of the planes you flew against, for instance the Messerschmitt 110s and 109s.  Did they out-rank the Kittyhawk or did the Kittyhawk out-rank them?  Or can you only talk about specific characteristics? 


No, as I say ....  Let it be put clearly here that I had very little contact with enemy aircraft because when I went over there we had virtually complete superiority.  The ones that went over earlier before me they were the ones that had it a bit harder.  I went over when all things were softened up.  And it wasn't softened up on the ground, I copped perhaps more ground fire than the early boys did, but they copped more aircraft fire, and it gets a bit tough with ground fire because the more you push an enemy back and back and back towards his home base, the more concentrated his ground fire gets if he hasn't lost it. 


That's an interesting point.  Let's just go back briefly then to the Kittyhawk.  Just tell us about flying off in it.  You're scrambled - I don't know where you were when you were scrambled, if you were in the plane or not, but tell us about the sequence of things that no doubt happened very quickly to get yourself up in the air. 


Well, as I say, we didn't fight many aircraft in my day so there was really not much, if any, scrambling in the true sense of the word.  It was more orderly in that you would, the previous night you would know that you were flying at six o'clock next morning or nine o'clock next morning and that would be on a sort of routine bombing raid.  But you'd only be scrambled if you were in fighter protection or protecting an aerodrome from an enemy air raid, in which case you could be sitting in readiness and perhaps at certain times even sitting in your cockpit waiting, but this didn't happen to 3 Squadron in the latter parts of the war when we actually had aerial superiority. 








Identification:  This is Ed Stokes with Jack Doyle, No. 3 Squadron, tape 2, side 1. 


Just one other thing on Kittyhawks - an interesting sidelight - the two-seater Kittyhawk, the Eaton hawk, tell us about that? 


Oh yes, we made a twin-seater Kittyhawk.  It was the brainchild of Wing Commander, later Air Vice-Marshall Brian Eaton who commanded the 239 Wing that 3 Squadron was in.  We removed the fuselage - the ninety gallon fuselage tank - from the Kittyhawk and that left it with a tank in each wing, and the belly tank that we could put on, which we did put on and left permanently; and that was very handy.  It wasn't abusive or a bit of a fun thing or abuse of anything, because if you damage an aircraft in an operations and it gets left behind and is subsequently repaired it can be difficult to get that aircraft back.  If you drive a pilot back there it can take you three-quarters of a day to get a hundred miles under certain conditions, so this thing you just throw another pilot, in the back behind the front cockpit and fly him back and he'd fly the aircraft back.  But Wing Commander Westlake was flying this one day and he took up Pete Dutoy[?] who was our South African intelligence officer, and they did a flight in this aircraft.  And I also flew my doctor - Dr Scanlon[?] - over the front lines in, shall I be silly enough and say a relatively safe operation - no operation's safe - but he was quite happy.  He wanted to come and I wouldn't have done it for anyone else because it might have been a morbid interest.  But I felt a doctor could gain advantage from seeing conditions under which we operated, and I flew him on an operational sortie fairly close to the bomb line.  But getting back to Wing Commander Westlake, he flew this aircraft - and before you come into land in any aircraft you do a complete cockpit drill to ensure that your aircraft's in a right condition to go around again, enough petrol to do so and temperature's all right and that type of thing - and in his approach to the aerodrome Wing Commander Westlake inadvertently selected his passenger as regards petrol.  He turned the petrol thing onto the fuselage tank which had been removed and his passenger was sitting there and of course he ran out of petrol before he actually got to the aerodrome and wrote the aircraft off.  But fortunately it was only an Aspro for each of them and they cured their headaches.  There was no other physical damage done. 


Very fortunate.  Well, let's move on a little bit, Jack.  After the fairly intensive period of flying army support after you reached the squadron when they were based at Tripoli I understand there was a rest period, you weren't actually on leave but just a period of less intense flying.  Just a few things to pick up on which we might just cover briefly so there's more time for the later part of the story.  Sandpapering planes:  amazing, twenty kilometres an hour. 


Yes, we sandpapered our planes to remove the roughness from them because the paint was a camouflage paint and there was no attempt to make it a smooth finish.  So we sandpapered our aircraft as an experiment, and we were getting twenty miles an hour more speed at the same boost setting and the same aircraft at the same altitude and same time of the day - not a completely controlled experiment but it was done on so many aircraft it was quite interesting. 


That's a huge advantage.  And so all the planes were sandpapered back? 


No, only people that wanted to do them.  I'm guessing a bit but probably half a dozen of us that did it and we all got much the same results. 


I reckon I would have been in there doing that to get that extra twenty kilometres an hour.  Slightly more light-hearted thing:  fishing with gelignite and a close escape. 


(5.00) Oh yes, we used to use gelignite to pick up fish off the wharves in some of the harbours along the Mediterranean there.  At one stage we, three of us, Wing Commander Eaton as he was then, and Flight Lieutenant Ron Susans and myself, we put some gelignite on the end of a thirty or forty foot length of electrical fuse and someone got in a boat and rowed this out from the wharf and got it thirty feet away from the wharf of course, and just dropped it in the water.  And I was on the wharf with these other two people and what we didn't realise was that that stick of gelignite was gently swinging down like a pendulum until it ended up - because the water was very deep - ended up underneath the wharf and by the time we'd got the electrical side organised and a couple of torch batteries pushed on the wires, the gelignite went off virtually underneath the wharf and it didn't blow the wharf up but it gave us a hell of a shock; we also got some fish out of it. 


              I'd say so.  The King, a visit. 


Oh yes, at one stage in the Middle East, I think this was in our - it was in our rest period there, between going into Malta - the King came out to knight someone.  And there was an enormous parade of personnel, an enormous parade out in the desert, no shelter or anything.  And the authorities had borrowed a beautifully ornate chair, a type of dining room head of the table type of chair and it had tapestry on it.  And the King sat in this chair and the person to be knighted knelt in front of him and the King subsequently rose and tapped him on the shoulder.  So we decided that we would, 'clifty' is the word, we would take this chair and in fact we did it.  One of our squadron members, Flight Lieutenant Forsstrom, he and a few others grabbed hold of the chair and we put it in the back of the padré's utility and put a canvas cover over it and got it back to the squadron.  When we got it back to the squadron we didn't know what quite to do with it, so we thought that we would make it that the only people that could sit in it were those people that had 'gongs'.  Subsequently we realised that no-one in the squadron at that stage had a gong so no-one sat in it, but unfortunately Desert Air Force Headquarters or some authorities that had borrowed the chair found out we had it and it had to be returned.  And actually there were no questions asked because we did return it. 


The situations like that were taken in good part, were they, generally? 


I think they were.  Obviously it was a very expensive chair and probably part of a dining room suite, and it had probably been borrowed from a very influential Egyptian family so you can realise their side of it, and anyway it all ended happily. 


              Sure.  But people weren't pursued and reprimanded? 


No, not in that case. 


Right.  Well, just a couple of other general things, too, I wanted to - and this is going back to flying.  Do you remember what formation you generally flew in?  And did the formations you flew in change with time or not? 


Yes, we used to fly in - twelve aircraft fly at once, that was almost universal in my time - you flew two sixes.  Bottom six would be Red Six - be Red One, Two - and you'd have different colours for the other of those.  And the top six would be blue.  The leader of that would be Blue One, the leader of the bottom one would be Red One.  The top six would fly, oh, two or three hundred, four or five hundred feet above Red - the bottom section - and the Blue section would always be down-sun from the bottom section so that anyone coming out of the sun - any enemy aircraft - would be seen by either one or the other; you couldn't get in the sun to two different units that far apart.  Towards the end of the war Murray Nash devised a very nice formation which we flew in three fours.  This was very good because you could send four people down to bomb when it mighn't have needed six.  The other way you could only send six down to bomb or twelve down to bomb.  And this other way you could [send?] four down to bomb or eight down to bomb and the other four could bomb somewhere else.  It gave more flexibility, and because you had a Red, White and Blue section you needed one more leader, and the White section which was between the Red and the Blue section was a little bit protected, and you could put a somewhat inexperienced leader then and use it as a training tool, apart from being very effective. 


That's most interesting.  Of course when you reached the squadron the Americans were in the war and increasingly increasing numbers in Europe and obviously in the period in Italy and so on.  Did the American, or presence of the Americans, change the general strategy and tactics of the Australian units or not? 


Well, they did because you had to watch out for them.  Also because ... 


              What do you mean by that? 


Well, I've personally seen Colonel Willamot - a South African CO of 239 Wing - shot at over the top of his own aerodrome in Italy by Lightnings coming back from an escort into Germany. 


Are you suggesting that the Americans were ill-disciplined, or inexperienced? 


(10.00) They are very excitable.  They fight very well, very well indeed, but they become very, very excitable and the only aircraft that 3 Squadron ever lost under close escort was shot down by Americans.  And that was shot down near the end of the war which delayed the end of the war I think, because it was a Fiesler Storch, a German aircraft - captured German aircraft - which the top authorities used in the Middle East because it was such a good aircraft.  It had very distinct markings on it and it was surrounded by Mustangs in close escort of some of the Italian top brass going into Germany to accelerate the end of the war and that was shot down by American Mustangs. 


Do you know of any other similar episodes involving Americans? 


Yes, we had another episode when we were on the coastline in the Adriatic in Italy.  There was an air sea rescue pilot based in the squadron and the previous day I think he had pulled some Americans out of the water up near Trieste that they'd forced landed into after a trip to Germany.  And these aircraft coming back from Germany strafed our aerodrome which was right on the beach, which is easy to tell where the front line is because navigation is easy to tell on a coastline.  They killed this air sea rescue pilot who had previously rescued them, rescued some of their mates, and they also set one of our aircraft on fire of which one of ground staff - who subsequently I think got an MID - he jumped into the aircraft, started the engine, dropped the bombs off and taxied the aircraft away from the bombs while it was stil burning and jumped out and left it.  There was quite a hue and cry out of this and the next day some of the top brass of the American Air Force flew up to our wing, landed, went inside with discussions to our principals and while they were in there some of the ground staff of 3 Squadron painted some roundels on the cockpit of this American person indicating that he'd shot down a British aircraft. 


A very strong comment.  That's most interesting.  Just more generally, not only talking of Americans, but the British too, and perhaps other people you met.  Do you think there was a clear difference in the nationality of pilots in that some air forces seemed to produce better pilots than others, or was it purely a personal thing? 


No, I think both those statements are right.  Some air forces do produce better pilots.  I'm not knocking the Americans as such.  They fight extremely well, and very well, and almost to a suicidal extent at times, but I think their temperament is more of a Latin temperament and I think there are more Italians in Brooklyn than there are in Rome, or something - figures like that [inaudible]. 


Which was the best air force then in the Middle East? 


Oh, that's a, that's really a leading question; I'd like to say Australia - RAAF - but the New Zealand Air Force is good and the RAF are magnificent too; you can't sort of nominate who's best.  They all have different attitudes and they do do things very well, and the Americans did excellent work in going over, I believe, with, say, in their heavy bombers, in their daylight raids because they were very heavily defended their aircraft but they copped an awful lot of flak going over, and I admire them for that.  But their temperament is a little bit against them under certain circumstances, and I think that's the best way to put it. 


Right.  One other general thing:  there was obviously great technological change during the war in aircraft generally but let's say specifically the ones that were flown by 3 Squadron, beginning with biplanes and we're now into Kittyhawks.  Did that technological change have much effect on the tactics of the unit, or not? 


Well, I'm not in a good position to answer that because I went right through the war in Kittyhawks.  I started in 3 and finished my tour in that and then I took over 450 which was physically side-by-side with 3 Squadron and had an interchange of pilots actually.  And I finished the war on Kittyhawks and, really, there is no better aircraft for the job that we were doing in it; much better than Mustangs. 


              Did the other pilots talk about the early days? 


What do you mean by that? 


              By flying in the pre-Kittyhawk, pre-Tomahawk planes. 


No, because those pilots had gone home by that stage, you see, and there is a limit to the number of flying you do.  Most of those boys that were early days in flying Tomahawks and Gladiators and this sort of thing, Hurricanes, they came back and subsequently went up to New Guinea. 


Right.  Just one other general thing about the squadron.  When you arrived at Tripoli who was the squadron leader?   


Squadron Leader Bobby Gibbes. 


And who were the other squadron leaders that you served under in 3 Squadron? 


Not very many to be truthful, Bobby Gibbes lasted a long while.  He's quite an extraordinary person and very few people have more operational hours in Kittyhawks than I have but those others that do have more hours have a heck of a lot more.  I don't know how it's come about, and Bobby Gibbes is one of those, and he's a very exceptional pilot, and I have great admiration from him. 


(15.00) He was highly regarded by the squadron generally? 


Oh yes, he was a bit rough on some of the people at some times I suppose but that's the way it goes, and it's none of my ....  I wasn't actually there when he was CO for that long but he went through a rough period and he did a magnificent job.  And as I say, I have a very high respect and regard for him. 


And I think Reg Stevens was another CO you served under? 


Yes, Reg Stevens was quite remarkable.  He's also a beaut bloke.  He was a warrant officer pilot and I don't think I'm wrong on this, he went from - virtually overnight - from - and did go overnight literally - from warrant officer to squadron leader commanding 3 Squadron.  And he's a - he was worth it. 


Right.  Let's go back to the general story of the squadron.  May '43 you were flying to Malta.  You were telling me that on the actual move to Malta when you set up a base there that people literally took in their personal belongings on their own aircraft. 


Yes, there was no other supply source for us.  The ground staff went in with special trucks that had been - or not special trucks, trucks that had been waterproofed - and we had to fly all our gear in.  And one method of putting a bed-roll in a Kittyhawk - you must realise there's not much space - you can pull the ammunition out of the ammo bins and put beer in there as some blokes did, but you put your bed-roll nice and tightly wrapped up in the bomb rack underneath the aircraft.  And of course a bed-roll is not meant to be exposed to two or three hundred miles an hour airflow over a period of time, and some of the blokes when they got to Malta and were doing circuits prior to landing, every time they did a circuit they lost a blanket, more or less, and were lucky to get something to sleep on when they landed. 


Right.  I understand the airstrip in Malta was fairly difficult, if not actually dangerous. 


Yes, it's not actually the airstrip being dangerous but the surroundings were because Malta is made of rocks.  And the way you make an aerodrome in Malta appeared to be that you just moved rocks and you can't do very much with them, there's no nearby cliff to throw them over so you just built stone walls.  And the point is that if you ever have a forced landing in Malta and don't land on an aerodrome every twenty yards you are hitting a rock wall. 


              Did that happen much? 


Not to anyone I know.  I didn't happen more than once, I don't think. 


While you were on Malta the squadron was really preparing with other units for the invasion of Sicily.  What's your recollection of the kinds of operations you flew during that period? 


We didn't fly much from Malta.  We were bombed quite a bit because I think they knew what was happening.  And then we moved onto Italy and flew into Italy and we had an aerodrome there, right on the water's edge in the Straits of Messina. 


              This is Sicily? 


Yes, in Sicily.  And we were camped on the aerodrome but we moved up the hill from that because of two reasons.  One was the 'Gerrys' bombed us and bombed the aerodrome and actually put delayed-bombs into the aerodrome which can be a bit inconvenient and also the mosquitoes were quite unbelievable, both their size and their ferocity; and that's a very bad place for malaria there.  So we moved up the hill in sight of the aerodrome. 


Right.  And I think it was from Sicily that you flew a great deal of missions:  bombing the main peninsula of Italy. 


Yes, we operated a bit in Sicily to start with but then that capitulated and we flew over the Straits of Messina which was terribly, terribly heavily defended and operated round the heel area of Italy but still being based on Sicily.  And our first move into Italy was to Grottaglie I think and that was the peace-time air force base of the Italian Air Force. 


Right.  You were saying before, I know, that there was very heavy defence encountered during these raids on Italy across the Straits of Messina.  And I think on one occasion you were attacked by a Macchie 205? 


Yes, we were actually bombing an area up through the Straits of Messina but it was round the corner in Sicily.  And the navy was shelling a local village there and we were bombing nearby and we had about four Spitfire top cover which let some Macchies through.  They shouldn't have done that but still it happened.  And we were attacked by approximately four Macchies.  They damaged one of us - Rex Laver think from memory - and we shot one of them down.  The interesting point that evolved from this was that subsequently in Italy, after Italy capitulated, some of the Italian Air Force were flying Air Cobras and they were based at Mount Etna aerodrome and the CO in charge of their squadron, as a wing commander, was Wing Commander Westlake who was our wing commander (flying) of 239 Wing.  And I have actually been entertained in their mess at Mount Etna in which case I met Major Retze[?] who was a CO of this Italian squadron which operated from Italy over Yugoslavia.  They never operated against targets in Italy because they would be obviously bombing their own relatives.  And Major Retze entertained me and confirmed without any shadow of doubt that the day he attacked us, it was me and my other people that had been attacked because he nominated the navy was shelling this place underneath. 


(20.00) That's fascinating.  And you were saying that the navy generally only shelled places once because their shelling was so effective, therefore you could pinpoint this event in time. 


Yes, the navy will only shell a small village once because they remove it. 


This was obviously quite, well almost, bizarre; the Italians who recently had been defeated now flying for the Allies. 


Yes, they flew Air Cobras, operated over Yugoslavia.  But I have personally, with other friends, on a leave in Naples taken an adult woman to opera and - as a group of us - and her brother was on the other side fighting against us.  It's relatively common I think.  You just get, families are just split up that way. 


Sure.  Just going back to this flying from Sicily across to the mainland of Italy.  Do you have any other recollections of those attacks and of the opposition you encountered?  What it was like at the time? 


No, it was ....  It wasn't very severe in the extreme bottom end of Italy.  They more or less, well, they didn't expose themselves down into the heel and toe that we could easily get cut off so it was a little less down there but it was withdrawing.  But you must remember that the more an enemy withdraws and withdraws he virtually gets stronger and stronger because he is withdrawing onto his own strength; once you're advancing you're spreading and becoming weaker and weaker.  So you tended to get stronger opposition as you went up Italy. 


Right.  That's interesting, Jack.  Of course the squadron did later go on to bomb Yugoslavia from Italy and you yourself were involved.  Any specific recollections of that? 


Oh yes, one particular thing that brings out the sense of humour of your fellow pilots.  I led a flight to Yugoslavia to bomb Split and Sibinik and we were quite heavily laden, I think I was carrying 2000 pounds of bombs and the rest of us had 2000 and 1500 odd.  And I decided to go down and reconnoitre a bit to see which ship would the best to attack, and I'd lost height and - from the normal 8000 feet that we flew at - and went down to what must have been about 4000 feet and no-one shot at me for fairly obvious reasons.  They weren't going to shoot at me while I was coming closer and closer - maybe I didn't understand this, it shows how naive you can be.  When I started to climb away just about the whole of the harbour opened up on me and all my eleven other friends up top thought it was a great idea seeing all these black bursts going round me; but I managed to get up there and we led them down and I think we got a ship or two because we did knock a few around over there. 


That's most interesting.  Well, going on to the end of 3 Squadron, because there are some 450 Squadron things that would be good to talk about briefly.  The normal tour I understand was about, or was, 150 hours but you were saying in 3 Squadron it was generally extended to 200 hours, operational hours. 


Yes, it's rather a loose arrangement.  Yes, I think 150 is termed a tour on paper.  Obviously if wars go on and you're very distressed, I mean you can fly just indefinitely until you're killed, there are no such luxuries of being taken off ops and given a rest tour.  But we normally made our pilots, both in 3 and 450 fly to about 180 or 190, just under 200 hours, no definite cut off point, but that's the way it went.  I did 200 hours in my first tour and did a voluntary extension of 50 hours.  And I had 249 hours 45 minutes in my log book, sitting in my aircraft with the engine running about to lead my squadron on what would be my last op - I worked on the theory that I could get an aircraft off the ground in fifteen minutes so I still had time to theoretically need another op - and my squadron doctor who was Dr Derek Scanlon with whom I went to school with in Toowoomba, he removed me; ordered me out of my aircraft because a doctor has authority over a CO - I was acting CO at that stage - and he ordered me out of my aircraft.  I presume he felt he might have been saving my life, but it didn't sort of please me at the time but we never ceased speaking to one another. 


              Did he believe that you were really battle fatigued? 


I think he was just being nice to me and felt that you can still get killed on any operation and I was alive then and he might want to keep me alive. 


              But why was he being kind to you? 


Well, as I say, I could have got killed on that operation and 249 hours, 45 minutes is a reasonable figure I think.  And I suppose he might have thought that, so that was it. 


(25.00) Right.  Of course you had been a flight commander for three months during your time with 3 Squadron and you in fact left as the acting CO.  And you'd also been awarded a DSO, DFC and the bar to the DFC, or to the DSO? 


No, bar to DFC. 


Do you remember what those awards were made for? 


No, not specifically.  Some of it I think was bombing over in Yugoslavia and we also had some pretty tough assignments in Italy that, we're getting twenty flaming trucks and this sort of thing amongst a lot of opposition.  There are specific details mentioned in the citations but I don't actually recall them. 




It's actually ....  I don't sort of normally discuss my decoration and I've always made it quite plain that you've got 220 people in a squadron that are toiling on the ground.  They're folding your parachutes, they're keeping your engine running and when I wear them on ANZAC Day, I really wear them on behalf of all those ground staff that really helped me get them. 


That's interesting.  And of course the role of the ground staff was immense and in many ways, well, as you were suggesting, rather unrecognised. 


I think every pilot recognised it, they just don't get the public recognition because they're not sort of doing the things that achieve public recognition.  I mean they are doing humdrum things but they are doing it conscientiously and under quite appalling conditions quite often and, they ....  I think every pilot that's ever flown just realises it deep down. 


How close a bond was there between individual pilots and their individual ground crew? 


Oh well, you got quite a close bond because of this, they're really keeping you alive.  But you don't see that much of each other; they're working when you're not and when you're working they're not.  So it's really a split-up that way. 


Sure.  Well, after No. 3 Squadron you went to Desert Air Force Headquarters - a squadron leader now - and you were a controller.  I think your main role was nominating specific targets that the squadron should act against to achieve what people further up the chain of command wanted to generally do. 


Yes, the higher command would decide they might need a railway line broken between A and B and I would be the best person to know just where between A and B that it should be bombed, because perhaps a week ago I saw it and might have even bombed it, and thus my specific knowledge of the whole area was just used and I would pass the directive on to the squadron that such-and-such a squadron would go and bomb a railway line at a certain point on a map reference. 


And then reconnaissance information would be fed back to you?  Reconnaissance photographs of damage done, or would that go directly to the higher command? 


No, that would go over to higher command.  I could see it if necessary but you don't have that much time sometimes to do other people's jobs.  And you find when you've done a tour of operation you sort of get a mental let-down and you really want to sort of sleep all day and every day which is quite disturbing because it hits you rather suddenly.  I suppose you've been living so long on your nerves and not even realising it and it sort of comes about. 


Well, after the period as a controller you then had a task, I think, called 'Rover David', is that correct? 


Yes, Rover David was a type of operation in which you went up the front line and you got yourself, if you could, an observation post in sight of the front line if possible; it was in a building or up on a bit of high ground.  When you subsequently spoke on this operation of course they shelled you, they even knew your name.  And the operation was that aircraft from your own squadrons in the wing would come over at half-hour intervals and patrol for half an hour, carrying bombs, and they would have a very specific map detailing the bomb line in great accuracy, to within probably a hundred yards of your own troops.  And as Rover David you consisted of an army officer, yourself and two other people, an air force airman and an army airman with radio facilities.  And the army might ... 






Identification:  This is Edward Stokes, Jack Doyle, No. 3 Squadron, tape 2, side 2. 


The army would perhaps say that they wanted to do a push and they suspected there were trucks behind buildings near a fork in a road or something like that - and the aircraft patrolling overhead, you'd get in touch with them and ask could they see these buildings in Square 9Z or Y7 or something like that on a similar map that they had that you had.  And they would say 'Yes, we see those buildings and it's near a forked road'.  This would confirm that they were looking at the right place and wouldn't bomb their own troops and you would say, 'Well, please bomb them'.  I was in the attic of a two-storey chalet - it was a magnificent building, it had its own chapel, billiard room, sewing room, library, and it was absolutely unreal - I'd driven my Jeep up the main stairs into the hallway and left it there and gone upstairs into the attic in my little green ... 


Could I just ask you why the Jeep was driven into the hallway? 


Well, that keeps it out of the rain, if it rains, and we just drove it in there.  It's quite easy to drive a Jeep up front stairs.  And there were other army personnel in there sleeping and the Germans had been in there within twenty-four hours.  You never went into a building in case it was booby-trapped, or never touched anything, but if there were servants in a building and had been there when the Germans were there, that was a reasonable indication that the place wasn't booby-trapped.  But I was in the attic and 3 Squadron happened to come over just by chance - they were on cab rank - and they came over and my wireless operator got up and said, '3 Squadron's coming over, Sir'.  And I went over to pick up the headphones and as I did there was a 500 kilogram aircraft bomb went off in the basement.  The place had been booby-trapped at three o'clock because we subsequently heard over German radio that the chalet that was booby-trapped went off successfully at the time nominated.  And we fell three floors and I landed on a steel girder on my stomach and a wall fell on top of me and pinned me there.  And there were twenty people in that building and six of us lived out of the twenty.  We only lived because we only had a roof that fell on us.  The army people resting in the ground floor had the entire building fall on them. 


              Just an appalling experience. 


Yes, it certainly was. 


              How did you all get out?  And what happened then? 


Well, that was my rest tour.  So I decided it might be a better idea if I got back into operations. 


              But did you have to go to hospital? 


Yes.  A very interesting thing happened there; we were rescued by American Red Cross type of organisation.  These were Americans that I think were relatively wealthy or something and when the war started they were able to start up their own first aid organisation.  They bought Jeeps - were given and bought Jeeps - they raised money and they came over there and they operated completely autonomously in Italy.  I don't know where else they operated.  They could have operated worldwide.  I don't even know the name of their organisation, but they were just trained personnel that had got themselves trained in first aid and they just went where they thought they would be best done.  And I have no doubt they did an outstanding service, and I don't know the name of their organisation.  They were not controlled by anyone other than themselves, as I see it.  They obviously went where they were best suited. 


How long did it take you to get over the psychological trauma of the loss of all these lives and the fact that you might have been dead too? 


It took a long while, because when I came back from overseas in 1946 I had occasion up in the Darling Downs area to climb on a roof of a rather large shed at Blaxland near Dalby and I got quite - I hadn't been on a roof since that episode, I had no occasion to be on a roof - and I had quite an extraordinary feeling being up on the roof. 


              Did you have nightmares? 


No, I didn't have any nightmares about that, although ....  There's no pain in it, there's no sound, you just fall for years, you just fall for years and you just go on and on falling.  I had no skin on the tips of my fingers, I must have clawed at tiles all the way down, in fact there was hardly a piece of skin on my body bigger than the top of a teacup that hadn't been abraded.  I broke no bones - the others broke pelvises and that sort of thing. 


              That's interesting, the sense of loss of time. 


Yes, it is, and there's no sound.  All I remember when I walked across these floorboards, there were only floorboards in the attic - if you hit an old, very old verandah floorboards with a hammer you'll see dirt rise up between the cracks in the floorboards, you can do it with any old solid floor - and this is all I remember, just dirt coming up between the floorboards; no sound, no sound at all but then a sort of rushing sound and I just fell and fell and fell. 


That's a very graphic description, Jack.  Going on from there, as you said, you went back to fly on a squadron.  I know you were to go as CO of 3 Squadron but for various reasons which we might perhaps pass over you were sent to 450 Squadron where, some time prior to your joining 450 you had said there'd been real tensions in the squadron and even this episode recorded elsewhere of a pilots' mess being gelignited and so on.  What was 450 Squadron like when you reached it? 


450 was great but they were living under very poor conditions.  See, I've actually got photographs of pieces of canvas in mud and water and that was really - in Italy in almost icy conditions and that was sort of where they were living.  So ... 


What did you see as your first role as squadron leader?  Your most important task? 


Well, try and get the, anyone, including the ground staff - mainly the ground staff - into better living conditions.  So we commandeered buildings in the village we were in.  We took over a school hall, I think, and we actually rigged tents in that and that was the airmen's mess.  And my squadron doctor and myself and my adjutant, we walked up one street and we knocked on houses and any inhabitant in there we told them that we were going to commandeer their buildings.  And it's quite amazing how many people you find that say they have heart attacks, or bad hearts when you start this caper, but they didn't realise that one of us, of course, was a doctor.  So we gave them physical examinations when necessary, and we subsequently commandeered a quite large building and made that the medical headquarters and those people that really did have heart problems - and there were few of them - we removed them from the houses, billeted them in the medical headquarters and they got the best attention and medicine that we could give them, quite free. 


Once that had been done were people appreciative or was there still a real resentment that they'd been turned out? 


I suppose there must always be a resentment if you are turned out of your house and put up in another house five doors up the road but I suppose they were philosophical and realised they couldn't do anything about it; and they were being looked after and I'd say properly fed anyway, and getting good food and good medical attention, quite free. 


              There was a story of 'ergs for Aspros'. 


Oh yes, that's my statement.  The local hospital there had a 110 volt emergency lighting plant.  Of course Italy is 110 volt and all our stuff that we had in the squadron was 240 volts.  So what we did, they ran their generating plant and we threw a lead from the hospital into this street that we'd commandeered, and we just hooked it up to the fuse boxes and we could walk into any of the houses that we billeted ourselves in and just turn on the switch and you got 110 volt normally lighting.  And what we did in return for that, we had a bit of spare penicillin which had just been made available at that time in the world, I think, and they didn't have any, so we used penicillin on certain of their patients in the hospital - gave it to them and everyone was happy. 


Right.  Now during this period with 450, but let's, I think, look just at perhaps the initial period of it because time's pressing on, Jack.  What role was the squadron being used in? 


(10.00) It was much the same as we'd all been because 3 and 450 were side-by-side, physically side-by-side in the wing and quite often a lot of your pilots did a tour in each, as I did.  But 3 Squadron then got Mustangs and 450 was promised Mustangs and I didn't get Mustangs for 450 so they gave me one to sort of play with, which wasn't an abuse of equipment because we used it as an attack aircraft on the occasional times that we ran little training sessions in the squadron. 


But the squadron was basically still equipped with Kittyhawks? 


Yes, I went right through the war on Kittyhawks, and we obviously got the close support jobs of bombing and strafing because we had Kittyhawks and some of the other squadrons had Spitfires of course, and others had Kittys, and some had Mustangs.  And the Mustangs obviously got Mustang jobs and the Kittys got Kitty jobs. 


There was obviously what must have been a very, very distressing period when you, as in 450, suddenly started losing pilots, and it was finally worked out that you were in fact - their bombs were blowing up.  How did all this come about? 


It was distressing and it did lower our morale a bit, I must admit, because we got periods there - and I don't know how many pilots we lost, probably about three or four - in which an aircraft would explode in the bomb dive.  And the explosion was just so much bigger than any anti-aircraft fire, or the normal explosion of an aircraft which they usually burn anyway more than explode.  And this things would just explode and a wing would go, a complete wing would go, just fluttering down like a leaf.  And our morale did get a bit low.  We thought it was sabotage of some pressure-sensitive device probably being inserted in our fuel tanks and things like that.  And we were actually sealing off fuel tanks and putting little wires on them and seals and that type of thing.  And what was discovered by an engineering officer in the Middle East, he came up to the fashion, the reason; it was the British bomb was never really made to be carried outside the aircraft and be subject to the airspeeds that a bomb is when it's exposed to the air.  And I don't know why it didn't happen more often in the early days but whether we were coming down from higher levels with local ground fire getting stronger - we were only coming down from about eight or nine thousand feet, we normally came down from seven and eight.  And these bombs were actually, their little arming device was overcoming the pin that stops it going off and the propeller would shear the pin off and screw the bolt that it's attached to into the detonator; that's a very crude explanation of it, but that is what was happening.  And I was holed by one of my own bombs in this, and as I, virtually as I released it, it went off and the kick in the seat of the pants, it had to be experienced to be described, it is just so violent, and put holes up through my aircraft.  But ... 


              So you were very lucky yourself. 


Oh yes, yes indeed.  I did tend to be a bit lucky.  We subsequently put American bombs externally and the thing ceased immediately.  But it lost one of my pilots who was on his last op; he was a sergeant pilot.  I'd done a job with him in the morning.  They wanted the job done again in the afternoon - not that we didn't do it properly, but it was big enough to do again and hit other parts of it - and I got out of my aircraft and asked him to take the - this was his last flight - and he could lead the squadron.  And he led the squadron and blew up in his bomb dive which was sad to say the least. 


Yes, those things must have been terribly hard to get beyond, to overcome.  Was the matter of letter writing, writing letters home to next-of-kin, did that fall to the squadron leader or to somebody else? 


No, it, the squadron leader and the adjutant and you do get sad ones.  We had one person that came over there who was a New Zealander and who was only with us about a week and who was killed under what would be normal war circumstances, nothing exceptional in the way it happened, but it's the same no matter how it happened, but the letter sent to his home in New Zealand would have got there two or three days before Christmas.  There's no way you can really overcome that. 


No.  But did you write those letters yourself?  Or was it your adjutant? 


No, we ....  I've written some of them and they're not nice things to write. 


Sure.  Did you ever get feedback from families who would write back to the squadron or was it a closed matter normally? 


No, you do get that feedback but I don't know whether all mail ever gets through in a wartime, you never really know. 


Sure.  Well you yourself were again very lucky with the shell that entered your petrol tank. 


Yes, it was within a few weeks of the end of the war and we were strafing up in the extreme northern end of Italy, and strafing in sort of the trenches, and I had an explosive shell entered underneath my left wing tank.  It entered the wing tank, it exploded inside the tank and blew a hole out of the top of the petrol - the self-sealing, so-called self-sealing petrol tank itself which is about the size of my fist - and subsequently blew an area about twice that size out of the wing shell on top. And then another shell removed most of the left rudder, most of my left elevator rather, and contributed to a lot of damage in my rudder and it was a bit hard to fly back home.  I had to put on an enormous amount of rudder to fly it. 


(15.00) That does sound like a very, very close call.  Just a few final things to ask and these questions, Jack, refer to the whole period you've been flying and fighting, not just to 450 or to 3 for that matter.  Was it easier in strafing attacks when you were clearly aiming to knock out equipment as against knock out men?  As you were coming down, as a person flying down, was it easier to pull the trigger when what you saw in front of you was a truck or a tank rather than a group of men? 


I don't think there was that much difference; you know there are people in the truck.  There is obviously a driver even if there's not much more, but it's not sort of so personal, I don't think, in an aircraft because you're not aiming so specifically.  If you're dropping bombs it's not very personal at all.  I mean, okay, I know that there could be people in the house you're bombing but you're not thinking of bombing those people, you're bombing that house. Now, I know it's just the same regardless of what your thoughts are but your own thoughts are not vindictive.  You are not actually bombing people although you know they are there - it's a little bit hard to explain. 


That's an interesting point.  I think what you're saying is the feelings are rather different to perhaps the feelings an infantryman has as he lines up an individual body in his gunsights. 


Oh yes, you have snipers that are aiming at a certain part of a certain body, I'm not saying that's wrong, but I mean it's more impersonal and I would have never shot anyone out of a parachute of the other side if they ... 


I was going to ask you about that, in fact that was the next question.  Did that go on or not? 


I suppose it did.  Yeah, it would have to have - both sides, but both would have gone on.  There would be people who wouldn't have shot you out of a parachute and the people that would have, on both sides, I suppose. 


What you're saying is that, in the end, was just a personal choice. 


Yes, I think so, just what you do in the heat of the moment.  You've still got to realise that that bloke you shoot him out of the parachute, if you don't shoot him out of the parachute he may have been one of the best pilots in Germany and he might shoot you down in a week's time.  But it was never sort of that personal, and you'd like to be accorded that tolerance if you were in the other position.  So I suppose that comes a bit into it, but it's purely a personal thing of your whole attitude towards it.  And it's ....  War is not nice to fight but you sort of, with our war that we did, we had to fight, and I'm quite convinced of that.  So you've really got to do the best you can yourself and do the best for your country and not have any vindictive thoughts. 


This is jumping ahead in time, but it's an interesting reflection that history does so often come full circle. 


Yes, it certainly does come full circle.  We in 3 Squadron hold reunions every year and we never have any women at the reunion, not for reason we don't like women, but there were no women in 3 Squadron during the war, and it's just a natural thing that they are all male and the women hold their own reunions anyway, wartime women ... 


Just to interpolate on that point.  I do know that you also have very open and warm family days with the wives of the squadron members, don't you? 


Oh yes, but they've never come to sort of reunions.  I don't know any squadrons that do that.  We organise other things in which the women of the members come to: picture outings and barbecues and trips interstate and long weekends in country towns - still doing it. 


Sure, but the reunions themselves - men only.  Back to the story. 


Yes, there's always just been men only, not that we object to women.  Anyway, subsequently after the war we became more involved with 3 Squadron flying their Hornets up at Williamtown and they have subsequently come down and marched with us on ANZAC Day and they bring contingents from their squadron to the reunion.  And on an occasion two or three years ago - the first time they joined us at a reunion - they brought down quite a few male members of 3 Squadron and a few women from 3 Squadron.  And the interesting part about this was not only did women attend our organisation which we enjoyed but one of them was an engineering officer and she's an Italian. 


So life changes.  Just a question that in fact is relevant to the morality of war, if not to your particular experience in the Middle East and Italy, Jack.  The island of Morotai at the end of the war with Japan, up near the Philippines, when there was a stand made by some senior officers, including Bobby Gibbes, against going on flying behind the lines when they felt that men and planes were being futilely wasted.  Do you know anything about that? 


No, I ended the war in the Middle East and got home in 1946 and just what happened up there actually I didn't know anything about. 


(20.00) Right.  Well, let's just move on to the end.  Peace finally came in Europe.  I think you were the officer responsible for disbanding 450 Squadron. 


Yes, I disbanded 450 and I posted myself home to Australia via England because that - normally a CO was given that honour or pleasure - but the posting was knocked back because there were so many POWs coming out of Germany and the place was overloaded, and food was short and gosh knows what.  But I put one of my flight commanders in charge of the train that took all the boys down to the bottom end of Italy and then across to Egypt.  And being the type of person he was - he was an absolute character - the first thing he did was hock all the sugar for beer which gave the train a nice beer supply because sugar was short in Italy.  And the train line went down the Adriatic coast and quite often came near the coastline.  Whenever the train came near a little beach or so, I heard later, that the train was halted, they all had a barbecue and drank a few ales and the train proceeded on, which was quite a pleasant trip I should imagine. 


There must have been an almost indescribable feeling of euphoria and relief and joy at going home.  How did you yourself feel? 


Well, I missed out a bit on it because I virtually went home by myself.  In the Middle East when I got down there I got, for the second time, I got infective hepatitis, and spent a bit of time in hospital.  All my mates had gone home.  And as I say, I didn't get back till 1946 and sort of came back, not by myself of course, but not amongst my normal friends. 


Right.  Looking back on it all, war generally, and your own service in it particularly, what would come to mind?  What came to mind then while you were resting up in hospital? 


Oh, it didn't come to mind then because it's really, you're too close to the end of the war for anything unusual to happen but it does come later of course.  It comes to the futility of it.  And I mean, you've only got to look at it now that sort of Germany and Japan almost benefited by war because you can say that perhaps the physical damage you do to a country is actually beneficial in the long run [inaudible]. 


              In terms of creating the seeds for rebuilding? 


Yes.  And maybe you get a better response to your seeds.  Australia has virtually been untouched by war.  Okay there were bombs up in Darwin and an explosion in Sydney Harbour from a Jap submarine but the general populace hasn't been touched at all.  They might have been frightened occasionally but they haven't been touched.  And you know, it's a big subject but it certainly makes interesting study. 


Are you suggesting that in destroying the physical infrastructure of a country, you force the country to rebuild and perhaps rebuild better?  Or that the suffering that the people go through in warfare as a civilian population steels them to greater efforts in the future? 


Both of those are quite true I think, both of them.  And also I think you can bomb a people too much.  I mean, if you bomb the English too much they get stubborn. 


Sure.  Well, anyway, Australia you came back to, was it easy to pick up the threads of civilian life, or not? 


No, it wasn't because you've never spoken to an Australian female.  You have no common conversation at all.  You've lived a sheltered life of being amongst 200 Australians that are all doing a certain thing that no-one else in Australia is doing - not anyone that is in Australia is doing - and you're an isolated little cocoon over there.  You don't have any contact with, okay, you meet Italian women that speak English and speak very good English sometimes, but your contact with them is extremely limited.  And then you get back in Australia and no-one understands what you're talking about.  Because you're not talking about things that are common to them.  And I rehabilitated myself to a degree by just reading newspapers - commercials and advertisements and all that sort of thing - and that sort of gets you back into what's all happening all around you.  There may be better ways but I didn't know of it. 


              Did you go back on the land? 


Yes, I went back on the land, too.  There's another thing there too, when you come back you've got no clothes.  You're at an age that we all were, you grow out of clothes and you come back and you get coupons and you get a coupon to buy a hat which were common in those days.  And you get a coupon to buy coats but you can't buy a coat and you can't buy a hat.  And I had to use, relatives of mine had some deceased clothes of their own family that I used, sportscoat and that sort of thing.  You don't have any clothes, civilian clothes. 


              So it wasn't an easy time? 


No, it's not a matter of just being given coupons to buy clothes; clothes were not there to buy.  And I mean, petrol rationing, two gallons a month for a motor-car. 


They were difficult times.  Looking back now is there anything you feel you would like to add to this record, Jack, that you haven't commented on so far? 


No, nothing that I haven't commented on; just reinforce the fact that the ground staff don't get the - they get the recognition amongst the people that served with them deep down in their own minds - but they sometimes don't get it necessarily from the lay public. 


Right.  Well, on behalf of the War Memorial in Canberra, for your time, and for making the tapes, thank you very much. 


Good, thank you, Ed. 

[3SQN Assn repaired version of original transcript on  https://www.awm.gov.au.]

3 Squadron RESEARCH

3 Squadron RAAF HOME / Search