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The Ground-Strafer's Version of 'Lili Marlene'

Kittyhawk flies over on a low strafing pass.


In 1942, When darkness fell over El Alamein at the end of each exhausting day, a quite remarkable ritual took place, when the young men on both sides of the front line would tune-in to a distant Yugoslav radio station that always played the same sentimental German Song, ‘Lili Marlene’, at 11pm each evening.  A reflective hush would fall over the Pilots’ Mess while that song was played each night.  

No.3 Squadron's Sperry De Bomford wrote:

There are three times in the Western Desert; Local time, Greenwich Mean Time, and Marlene Time.  Marlene comes on the air at 2300 hours and the husky voice is singing sweet low music, which is appreciated by everybody from AC2's to Group Captains.  The song is broadcast from Belgrade Radio Station, but the singer who made the record comes from Denmark.  Her name is Lale Andersen (a descendent it is said of Hans Christian Andersen).  She made a record of the song a number of years ago before the war.  It met with no success.  When the Germans occupied Belgrade they filled the broadcast programs with German propaganda, speeches and to fill the gaps put on records.  When they ran short of records, a soldier on guard in the studio produced the Marlene record from his haversack.  The record was put on.  In a few days hundreds of enthusiastic letters arrived at the studio and the song was a smash hit.  The irony of it all is that the song is far from being a Nazi effort.  The singer is not a Nazi and it is questionable whether either the writer or the lyric or the music would be able to produce any Aryan grandparents. 

The song is all about the longing of a soldier for his girlfriend.  It is a universal theme!

- Afterwards there would be time for a few more raucous songs!

One of the most popular Desert Air Force songs was penned somewhere near El Alamein by 450 Squadron pilot Devon Minchin...
 (Who, amongst many other claims to fame, was the father of Senator Nick Minchin and also the Best Man at Tom Russell’s wedding to Nean.)

Sicily, Italy. 1943. Pilot Officer D. Minchin, No.450 (Kittyhawk) Squadron RAAF, of Chatswood, NSW,
stands beside his Kittyhawk aircraft with nose art depicting fly spray targetting two swastikas.
PO Minchin flew with the Desert Harassers through operations from El Alamein to Tunis and
 Sicily.  He shot down a Messerschmitt Bf109 aircraft during operations over Cape Bon in Tunisia.


Get the right deflection;

…Check reflector-sight!

Give your skid correction,

- Make sure the range is right!


Then you can press the ‘teat’* old son,

And blow the Hun …to Kingdom Come,

…And poor Marlene’s boy-friend,

Will NEVER see Marlene!


Belching ammunition,

Petrol trucks ahead!

Glorious condition...

...To fill them full of lead!


A 'flamer' for you is a grave for Fritz.

He's in a Blitz, right where he sitz.

…And poor Marlene’s boy-friend,

Will NEVER see Marlene!


Half-a-thousand pounds

Of Anti-Personnel.

Eighty-dozen rounds of

The stuff that gives them HELL.


Finish your bomb-dive, zoom away.

And live to fight …another day.

…And poor Marlene’s boyfriend

Will NEVER see Marlene!


[Slow sentimental finale...]

...Then back to ‘Harasser House’* we steer,

To drink a beer; without a tear.

…And poor Marlene’s boyfriend,

Will never see Marlene…


Editor’s Notes:  * ‘Teat’ refers to the firing button of the Kittyhawk control column.  (Not to be confused with any other teats that the RAAF pilots may have had occasion to press!)
* ‘Harasser House’ was the Pilots’ Mess of 450 Squadron: ‘The Desert Harassers’.

The sign of RAAF No.450 Squadron Pilots' Mess during WW2.  It depicts a stylised Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk
fighter-bomber, with a kangaroo on the wing holding a bomb, chasing a caricature of Adolf Hitler running away.
No.450 Squadron fought through the North African, Sicilian and Italian campaigns during the Second World
 War, alongside 3 Squadron as part of 239 Wing. 
[AWM P05264.008]
This sign originated at Fano, Italy, as a Mess sign, painted by one of the 450 SQN pilots, Jack BISSET. 
It is seen here at Lavariano, probably in June 1945.  The fellows in the picture are pilots.
L-R: WO J. R. 'Jim' DODDS and WO R. A. 'Reg' WOOD, both from 450 Squadron RAAF.

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