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The Hawker Hurricane in 3Sqn RAAF Service
by Steve Mackenzie
Alan Rawlinson in the cockpit of Blake Pelly's aircraft P3822 'Pamela' (note 'P' of serial is overpainted).
Taken at Benina in early 1941. Photo Alan Rawlinson.
The members of 3 Squadron RAAF arrived in the Middle East at Suez on August 23, 1940. The unit moved to Helwan Landing Ground on 23 September and was equipped as an Army Co-operation unit, with two flights of Gladiators and a third flight of Lysanders (officially six aircraft per flight). At this time four pilots with ground crews were detached to 208 Sqn RAF to train on Ground Attack ops with old [very old!] Gauntlet aircraft.
The British offensive under Wavell in November 1940 made great progress and 3Sqn had moved forward to Martuba by 25 January, where they started to convert to Hurricanes one flight at a time.
By 11 February 1941, 3Sqn was at Benina and (now being fully re-equipped with Hurricanes) was reorganised as a Fighter Squadron (with two operational flights). The unit was at Benina until the 8th Army retreat to Egypt before the onslaught from Rommel's Afrika Korps in April l94l. (In May 1941 the unit moved to Lydda in Palestine to re-equip with P-40 Tomahawk aircraft, but that period is outside the scope of this article.)
Previous articles and drawings in various other references have insisted in conveying the idea that all the aircraft from this period were painted in the Desert scheme of Dark Earth and Midstone upper-surfaces and used 'CV' Squadron codes.
- This was not so!
Code letters were not applied to the Squadron's aircraft prior to the Hurricanes (some Gladiators did still carry their old 'NW' codes from their previous service with 33 Sqn) and when codes were applied to the Hurricanes the code allocated was 'OS', not 'CV' !! (It is known that quite a few Squadrons in the Middle East changed their code letters at one stage, probably for security purposes. (Witness the use of 'DJ' by 450 Sqn in their earlier days. This is an area little explored by Historians to date.)
All the Hurricanes used by 3Sqn were fairly early production aircraft with the small, pointed, De Havilland spinner. Early deliveries were in the Temperate scheme, the upper surface colours being the standard Dark Green/ Dark Earth used by this type at the time in the U.K. These aircraft seem to have used the usual Sky under-surfaces. Some (at least five examples) are known to have had the unique Middle East ["Spaghetti"] scheme where the camouflage was supplemented by additional camouflage applied to the nose, spinner and leading edges of the wings in order to break up the outline when seen head-on. [See later for further discussion of these additional colours.]
Other machines were in the Desert scheme of Dark Earth and Midstone (with the latter being noticeably lighter on some machines, almost a light Sand colour). This Sand colour is noticeably much lighter than the later Midstone colour in photos and was probably mixed locally from Dark Earth and White. (The FS number is anybody's guess!) All of the known aircraft in the Desert scheme have the additional camouflage as per above.
Serials were in Black on the rear fuselage (per standard practice). Code letters, where known to have been carried during this period, were in the standard style of the time in Medium Sea Grey, the unit code however being 'OS' as discussed above. Roundels appear to have been a fairly standard mix of 35" type Al on the fuselage, 49" type B upper-wing and 50" type A underwing. All of these machines show a fair amount of weathering, fading and staining of the paintwork due to the conditions that they operated under. However they are generally not as bad as the Lysanders, which were probably considerably older airframes.
Note the additional camouflage on nose, wing leading edges and Spinner. Photo J.Hamilton
Shows how the additional camouflage wraps around onto the top of the wing leading edges. Photo H.Clare
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