F 540 Jan - Apr 1943
Welcome visitors to your site with a short, engaging
IN THE FIELD TRIPOLITANIA
With no drink and obliged to sleep in the open air “B” party could hardly celebrate the advent of the New Year in the usual uproarious style. They arrived at CHEL L.G. at 1100 hours looking rather cold! F/O. SCUDDAY was sent to hospital at BENGHAZI after a week of rather indifferent health. During 1942 the Squadron upheld its fine tradition of the past doing stout work throughout from ALAMEIN to the present line. May these traditions continue to be upheld during 1943. Let us hope too that we may pass 1943 in slightly more congenial countryside.
WING COMMANDER DARWIN intends to operate two squadrons together in future and for the practice No. 92 SQUADRON flew with No. 1 SAAF in the SIRTE area while four pilots of No. 145 SQUADRON “played 109’s” It was a chance to practice stricter R/T procedure and formation flying at higher speeds than usual. WING COMMANDER DARWIN led a Gazelle shooting expedition of the staff car and jeep, which bagged four without loss. Two went to the airmen.
“A” Party was ordered to move off to a new L.G. just South of TAMET. The L.G has only just been started and the party spent the night on the P. 40 L.G. Five ingenious and hardworking pilots produced a fireplace, which is a welcome adddition to the Officer’s Mess. During the course of these operations F/O. SLY sufferd burns on the face.
A severe sandstorm blew all day. Flying was imposssible and most of the tents were flattened – the whole prospect being cold and cheerless. “A” party moved to their new L.G. where there has been considerable enemy air activity.
The sand continues to blow night and day. F/O. BRUCE and Lt. SMITH managed to get away in the morning to collect replacements from AGEDABIA. Three times today “A” Party (at HAMRAT) were bombed by fighter-bombers. No casualties among our own men, though the NEW ZEALANDERS building the L.G. suffered several. The MEDICAL OFFICER, F/Lt. WOOLGROVE, bagged two gazelle which fed the whole of “A” Party.
The wind died down last night and the airmen had a hard day cleaning the aircraft and getting the cannons serviceable. The SPITFIRE for all its merits does not take well to sandstorms. “A” Party was bombed again today, a stick straddling the cookhouse trailer – again fortunately no casualties.
For the first time since ALAMEIN the Squadron met Me 109’s in large numbers who were willing to stay and fight, even though they were far from home. These are certainly not the demoralised pilots who moved out of DABA in November. The Squadron was ordered to move forward to HAMRAT to do Readiness. The L.G. was bombed three times during the course of the day by these elusive customers, the 109 fighter-bombers. On each occasion the Squadron had aircraft in the air. An engagement took place about lunch time in which the COMMANDING OFFICER, S/Ldr. J.M. MORGAN, shot down a 109 into the sea and F/O. NOMIS destroyed another. F/Sgt. BROMHALL and Sgt. PATERSON were shot down, though the latter joined the Caterpillar Club and is safe. No news of F/Sgt. BROMHALL. Had the cannons done better our score might have been higher.
Again today the Squadron flew to HAMRAT to do Readiness and Stand-by. The 109 bombers did not succeed in reaching the aerodrome throughout the day. Twice the Squadron engaged Me 109’s and MACCHI 202’s in force. In the morning F/Lt. CHISHOLM, F/Sgt. SAILS and F/O. DUKE, DFC. destroyed 202’s with two probables being claimed. In the evening F/O NOMIS shot a Me 109 down into the sea after a tough fight with several opponents. Unfortunately GEOFF ROSE has failed to return. The Army report seeing four Spitfires flying along when one turned back and took on eight Me 109’s for a quarter of an hour before spinning in. This sounds like Geoff, for his courage, skill and keenness were exemplary. He was a goodhearted fellow and will be missed by everyone. A cinema show at Wing this evening gave the airmen one of their rare and hardearned outings.
At 1000 hours “B” paarty moved forward to HAMRAT where “A” Party are established, using the desert track to avoid mines. The stretch of desert in this area is smooth and easy on our hardworking M.T. The new L.G. is not complete as yet and is rather stony. So thoroughly has the enemy mined and plaoughed up the aerodromes along the coast, that the Air Force has been obliged to make a set of new L.G’s down “in the blue.” The water-bowser has broken down and rations are short pro tem. What water we get is even more brackish than at ALEM EL CHEL.
At the present aerodrome the squadrons are being worked hard at Readiness and Stand-by. With only 16 serviceable pilots this means harder work than of late – work which is a welcome relief from the monotony. The Squadron carried out an unventful, but extremely cold, sweep at 20,000 feet – the only consolation being that the pilots could just see TRIPOLI in the distance!!!
The Squadron had another successful day, destroying two MACCHI 202’s and getting a probable 109. This latter was encountered alone on the first sweep of the day, four or five pilots getting in shots. It was awarded to F/Sgt. PROBERT. After lunch an uneventful sweep was carried out, but in the evening the Squadron was scrambled after fighter bombers coming in over TAMET. F/O. DUKE DFC. Celebrated his birthday, by destroying 2 MACCHI 202’s. A spendid show! At A.A.H.Q. the COMMANDING OFFICER was given particulars of the coming battle. The 8th Army seem supremely confident.
Most of the Squadron were rudely awakened just after first light by 109’s flying low over the dispersal area and the Bofors guns having a field day. However no bombing or straffing was carried out. Just before the weather became too thick for operations a sweep of the forward area was carried out without incident. Several aircraft returned early owing to unserviceability. The difficulties of keeping up the serviceability in the present windy conditions are particularly difficult as we always seem to strike the down-wind end of the aerodrome.
Sandstorms again called operations to a standstill during the middle of the day. During the early morning before the weather thickened the Squadron did a delousing sweep for the Baltimores. Several 109’s and 202’s were engaged but our guns failed to fire in almost every aircraft that had the opportunity of a shot. Distressing as this is, it is inevitable under the conditions. F/Lt. SAMOUELLE claims a probable - the only claim. Once more a fire is installed in the Officers’ Mess thanks to F/O. RAWES.
Three sweeps were carried out. On the last, in the evening, 109’s were encountered in one’s and two’s but avoided combat. Victories were probably lost again due to guns jamming. The enemy seems to be losing the initiative in the air again. Seldom is he seen on our side of the line and does not show the tenacity of a week ago. CAPTAIN WYNDHAM-SMITH paid the Mess a visit and gave the pilots detailes of the coming battle which is due to start tonight. Good luck to the 8th Army!
On all three sweeps the Squadron carried out today no enemy aircraft were seen and very few were reported by “Commander.” Despite the lull in air activity the ground activity has blazed up again. As planned the 8th ARMY launched their attack last night with TRIPOLI at all costs as their objective. GROUP CAPTAIN CARTER and WING COMMANDER ROSIE paid the Mess a visit this evening.
AIR CHIEF MARSHALL SIR SHOLTO-DOUGLAS paid the Squadron a visit during the morning. Three times the Squadron escorted KITTYHAWKS going out to bomb and strafe. No enemy aircraft were seen and the trips were uneventful except that on the first, two KITTYHAWKS collided and (through a misunderstanding) straffed our own troops instead of the enemy.
The enemy is definitely pulling out again and our troops took BIR DUFAN this morning. “A” Party were ordered to move to BIR DUFAN and left at 1400 hours. One KITTYBOMBER escort was carried out and one standing patrol was maintained over our forward troops during the afternoon. Long range tanks were put on during last night as the forward troops ar now due South of Tripoli and almost out of range.
Six of our aircraft took off this afternoon on an uneventful patrol over the SEDADA area. “A” party are still on the way to the new L.G. and are experiencing rough going through WADI ZEMZEM. An early halt was made and a search instituted for some of the vehicles which have taken the wrong track.
Our aircraft move up from HAMRAIET to the new L.G at WADDI SURRI and arrive before the “A” party, with thoughts of sleeping under their “kites” without blankets. However, No. 145 SQUADRON come to their aid and our pilots sleep comfortably in the Mess of our sister Squadron. “A” Party contacts the missing vehicles near GHEDDAHIA and continue on the move. “B” Party packs up and makes headway along the coast road.
COMMANDING OFFICER HARPER
Pilots, standing around their aircraft, greet “A” Party with derisive cheers as it reaches the L.G. just before noon with three vehicles on tow. Camp is set up in record time on the good site around a natural L.G. Four of our aircraft in sections of two are sent up on local patrols. Squadron LEADER HARPER is welcomed as our new COMMANDING OFFICER. He has been with us as supernumerary for the past few weeks.
Dawn readiness. No. 92 (EAST INDIA) SQUADRON is the first Squadron to do a daylight sweep from TRIPOLI. Our pilots tell us of the attractions of the City as seen from the air and we speculate as to the day the 8th ARMY will take it. In the afternoon the Squadron, led by WING COMMANDER DARWIN, meet eight Ju 87’s engaged in bombing our forward troops. “Hawk-eyed” F/O. NEVILLE DUKE DFC. spotted them from 15 miles away and he claims one destroyed. F/Lt. SAMOUELLE and F/O. JOWSEY shoot down two others in the CASTEL BENITO area and F/O. BAKER and Sgt. PATERSON probably destroy one each. An ARMY signal received within 30 minutes of the Squadron landing confirm the destruction of three STUKAS in the TARHUMA area so it should be possible to obtain confirmation of the probables. This was SAMMY’S last operational trip and it is fitting that he rounds off his tour by adding to his bag.
Squadron is pleased to see NEVILLE DUKE as FLIGHT COMMANDER of “A” FLIGHT in place of F/Lt. SAMOUELLE who becomes O.T.E. Six of our aircraft fly in an offensive patrol over CASTEL BENITO area at 1000 and again at 1100 hours. In the afternoon five more patrolled the TIPOLI-SABRATHA ROAD and six escorted KITYHAWKS which bombed enemy positions in the ZUARA area. The bomb line is now drawn to the West of TRIPOLI and we expect our troops to enter soon.
TRIPOLI IS OURS! Several of the pilots air test their guns and find themselves in the city. They report many fires there. At a Mess meeting in the evening F/Lt. PAGE is appointed Bar Officer and P/O. ALLEN takes over the duties of MESS SECRETARY. We talk of ways and means of obtaining supplies of beer and spirits. As if it mattered!
Dawn readiness. Squadron takes off to patrol CASTEL BENITO to cover the landing of HUDSONS bringing up supplies. Three other “stooge” patrols are carried out without incident. Beer and spirits arrive from A.S.P. in time to welcome four new pilots, P/O. WILSON, F/Sgt. FRY. F/Sgt. BRUCKSHAW and F/Sgt. MacFARLAND.
Four of our pilots fly to CASTEL BENITO to operte from there and remain on readiness all day, only two being “scrambled” for an interception patrol in the afternoon. From base, two aircraft escort a WELLINGTON to CASTEL BENITO, returning in time for dinner. SQUADRON LEADER MORGAN flies to TRIPOLI landing between the bomb craters. He is the first member of the Squadron to see the City and he entertains us with a lurid description of the place. How well he shoots the line!
Squadron is released for training and new pilots find no difficulty in becoming “Spit” conscious. F/O. SLY returns from CASTEL BENITO with a Jerrycan of CHIANTI wine, which is consumed in the Mess within half-an-hour of “drawing the cork”
No operational flying, and the opportunity is taken of a game of football against a WING side. We avenge our previous defeat by winning 4 – 1. Sgt. PILOT PATERSON featured prominently in the game. Our new ambulance arrives from MARBLE ARCH on tow. F/O. “BABE” WHITAMORE visits the Mess during the evening. More Chianti is disposed of with disastrous effects.
We are not required for operations so pilots busy themselves increasing the comforts of the Mess. The oil fed fire is a roaring success in spite of a rather smokey atmosphere.
Four of our aircraft fly to CASTEL BENITO to operte from there, and two of them are “scrambled” for an uneventful patrol over TRIPOLI harbour. “Wingless Wonders” – DOC. (F/Lt. WOOLGROVE), F/O. RAWES, P/O. BOLLAND and P/O. CORNISH take the C.O.’s “Jeep” to MISURATA and buy vegetables. Belated but vey welcome news is received that F/Sgt. BROMHALL – reported missing 7th JAN. – is safe in hospital.
No operational flying and there is talk of leave in CAIRQ for the pilots. At mid-day we are delighted to see P/O. “BRAD” SMITH walk in the Mess, having hitch-hiked from CASTEL BENITO. The last news we had of him was that he was in Hospital in PALESTINE with a fractured spine after baling out on SEPT. lst at ALAMEIN. No. 1 S.A.A.F. SQUADRON came to our aid and supplied a two-gallon jar of brandy to enliven our farewell party to SQUADRON LEADER MORGAN and FLIGHT LIEUTENANT SAMOUELLE.
This day has been overshadowed by the departure of “MORGY” and "SAMMY." They are two or the original pilots who came overseas with the Squadron. SQUADRON LEADER MORGAN had a carefree, dare-devil spirit, combined with sound commonsense which made it a pleasure to serve him on the ground and in the air. This spirit was infectious and under his leadership the squadron has fully maintained its reputation of being one of the most outstanding fighter- squadrons. F/Lt. SAMOUELLE has more than fulfilled expectations, having risen from SERGEANT to FLIGHT COMMANDER within 12 months. His personal score amounts to seven destroyed and four probables and six damaged, and it is a tribute, in itself, to his aggressive spirit against the enemy. The loss will indeed be felt throughout the squadron but we wish them every success in their new sphere. No operational flying today. Arrangements are being made for four pilots to fly
to CAIRO tomorrow for a short leave.
No operational flying. F/Lt. CHISHOLM, F/Sgt. SAILS and Sgt. PATERSON were flown to CAIRO for well-earned leave. F/Lt. PAGE, with W/O. SANDERSON and W/O. JENKINS, went to MISURATA to obtain vegetables for the airmen.
Four of our aircraft fly to CASTEL BENITO and, during the day, two of then are "scrambled” for an interception patrol over SABRATHA. No enemy aircraft are seen on this occasion nor later when the other two patrol CASTEL BENITO area. SQUADRON LEADER HARPER issues an invitation to dinner to the Wing Commander, Squadron Commanders and Flight Commanders and we are pleased to entertain , W/Cdr. GLEED, DSO., DFC, W/Cdr. DARWEN, DFC and BAR, and CAPTAIN WINDHAM SMITH from 244 WING HEADQUARTERS; MAJOR MOODY, CAPTAIN VILJOEN and LT.LANGHAM from No. 1 SAAF SQUADRON; S/Ldr. WADE, DFC. and BAR, F/Lt. TAYLOR, F/Lt. HESKETH from No. 145 (E.I.) SQUADRON; and F/Lt. WESTENRA, DFC., and F/O. WHITAMORE (ex 92) from No. 601 SQUADRON. During the evening F/O. SCUDDAY, P/O. LOUIS SMITH and Sgt. MacNAMARA return to us from Hospital bringing a supply of Chianti and whisky with them which played its part in making the party a great success. Music is provided until the early hours of the morning by Sgt. SCROGGIE (piano accordion) and L.A.C. MANN (percussion instruments).
No operational flying, but F/Lt. DUKE, DFC., and P/O. McMAHON fly to CASTEL BENITO to be ready for a "hush-hush" escort job tomorrow. There is a lot of speculation regarding this forthcoming operation. During the afternoon a team of pilots, assisted by the "Doc" (F/Lt. WOOLGROVE) in goal, play and win against the Squadron Armourers. It was good football to watch enlivened by expert barracking from the touchline.
The operation, for which two aircraft flew to CASTEL BENITO yesterday, is cancelled, and the pilots return. In the afternoon S/Ldr. HARPER flies to CASTEL
BENITO and, with other Squadron Comannders, is introduced to WINSTON CHURCHILL there. We extend a welcome to two more pilots, SERGEANTS ASKEY and WARREN, who arrive today.
Another day with no operations. Instructions are received for our “A” party to move to CASTEL BENITO tomorrow. We have heard so much about this
aerodrome and we look forward to being at our now location with the prospect of living in a building.
At dawn, four of our pilots fly to CASTEL BENITO to do Readiness there, and four times during the day a section of two aircraft are "scrambled" for interception patrols. These patrols are carried out without incident. "A" Party, on its way to the new L.G. arrive at HOMS, where they park for the night by the sea. Several men take advantage of this by having a swim after dark.
Twelve aircraft set out for CASTEL BENITO to operate from there and run into a severe storm on the way. One pilot is forced to turn back. Two of the aircraft are sent up on an uneventful interception patrol — the "bogey" proved to be friendly. At midday “A” Party arrives at CASTEL BENITO after a very wet journey, and sets up camp. It is decided that the Squadron will not make use of the buildings which are in a filthy condition.
No operational flying. We take stock of the L.G. which is littered with enemy aircraft in various states of disrepair. It is interesting to see our MOSQUITOES and LIGHTNINGS here.
A very dull day with no flying and plenty of rain. At noon, an order to
move to EL ASSA is received so Squadron is busy packing up again. During the evening the order is cancelled for twenty-four hours.
No flying all flay. Order to move is postponed indefinitely and, accordingly our trucks are unloaded. In the afternoon, a liberty waggon takes 60 men on a visit
to TRIPOLI. Twenty men report sick with vomiting and three of them are sent to hospital. It is suspected that food poisoning has caused this trouble and the
“Doc” is kept busy inspecting in the cookhouse.
No more reports from the sick men this morning. They join another party on a visit to TRIPOLI and on returning all are agreed that it is a disappointing place. No operational flying.
Landing ground is unserviceable owing to severe storm which raged throughout last night. Several of our tents and “bivvies” are blown down and flooded and it is impossible to dry blankets because the rain continues all day.
No flying today. We are dolighted to hear of the awards to our pilots which are made known today. F/Lt. DUKE and the late S/Ldr. WEDGWOOD gets Bars to their DFC’s, and S/Ldr. MORGAN, F/Lt. SAMOUELLE and F/Lt. CHISHOLM received DFC. Additional awards of Bars to their DFC’s are also made to F/Lt. SAMOUELLE and F/Lt. CHISHOLM.
Bad weather continues and there is no flying. The Squadron Canteen Issues its own "notes" of 2d., 3d. and 6d. to overcome the lack of small change. Books of these "notes" are sold to personnel at 5s. each and just in time for the sale of TRIPOLI beer!
Dawn readiness for the Squadron at WADI SURRI — now re-named DARRAGH — but they do no flying until late in the afternoon when they are sent to CASTEL BENITO. “B” Party packs up and prepares td move.
There is some training this morning but no operational flying. “B” Party sets off from DARRAGH at dawn and arrives at CASTEL BENITO before dark. It is good to have the Squadron together again after being split up for over a week.
Another quiet day with no flying apart from training flights and air tests of cannons. During the evening SERGEANT PILOT “BUCK” SHAFER - ex 92 Pilot - and LAC. MANN entertained the Squadron in the airmen’s mess. Chianti was liberally distributed at a shilling a pint and we all spent a very enjoyable evening. F/O. SIMPSON, Lt. SMITH, F/O. MacMAHON and F/O. SLY fly to CAIRO for four days leave.
One operational trip only today, but quite an important one. F/Lt. CHISHOLM and F/O. BAKER take off with four other pilots from the WING to provide an escort, the details of which are not yet disclosed. They are expected back tomorrow so perhaps we shall hear about it then.
Our two aircraft return fron MALTA this morning, having escorted the A.O.C.-in-C., AIR CHIEF MARSHAL SIR SHOLTO DOUGLAS on a visit there. There is training flying during the day but no operations.
Three times during the day two of our aircraft were "scrambled” on local interception patrols. In the first operation Controller said that our Section was very near to “Bandit* which was at 30,000 feet, but 8/10ths cloud at that height obscured it frora view. The “bogoy” reported in the second operation proved to be friendly, and the third patrol was carried out without incident. We welcome SERGEANT PILOT SYMES who joins the Squadron today.
No operational flying but plenty of training for our new pilots all day. They are anxious to get down to "Ops" and hope that we shall more forward soon.
More training again today, in the afternoon we receive the welcome order
to move. We are to start at 9 o'clock tomorrow morning for MEDENIN so our “B” Party is busy packing up.
“A” Party move off punctually at 0900 hours and reach the TUNISIAN border before resting for the night. At 1500 hours part of “B” Party is ordered to move to the new landing ground and is instructed to continue through the night. Pilots continue their training programme.
Three times during the day a Section of two of our aircraft are “scrambled” for an interception patrol over TRIPOLI and on each occasion there was no enemy aircraft sighted. The “A” Party arrives at the MEDENIN landing ground — called HASBUB — just an hour before the advance “B” Party and they settle down during the afternoon.
No operational flying. S/Ldr. HARPER flies to the new landing ground and tells us to expect the Squadron tomorrow. The personnel of the forward parties are kept busy digging slit trenches in anticipation of enemy air activity. We are within fifteen miles of the "bomb-line" so must be prepared.
How glad we are that time was spared yesterday for “digging-in"! Our first air raid here occurs at 1100 hours just after No. 145 Squadron aircraft arrive. Eight Me. 109 Fighter-Bombers make a determined attack from 3,000 feet, dropping their H.E. and A.P. load well in the area. Our only casualty is CORPORAL WHITEHEAD, who is sent to No. 21 M.R.S. with head injuries. At 1320 hours four Me 109's dived to 4500 feet but dropped their bonbs to the north-west of the landing ground on getting a warm reception from the guns. In the evening raid, at 1715, we suffered another casualty with head injuries, LAC. SHAW being taken to No. 21 M.R.S. This time five Me 109’s bombed the landing ground, but most of their load fell harmlessly on the runways. Our aircraft arrive about 1700 and remain on readiness until dusk but are not sent off.
Activity at last, although it consists mainly of local interception patrols! We do thirty sorties today, but on no occasion is an enemy aircraft sighted. There is only one enemy air raid on this landing ground and we suffer no damage at all, but one of our aircraft and a number of personnel had a lucky escape when an unexploded bomb landed under its port wing. _
Dawn readiness is not for us this morning! The Squadron is at thirty minutes until 9 o'clock when four aircraft are called to standby and four to readiness for local interception. Just before 1000 hours four were scrambled but no enemy aircraft was seen. We are told that the Hun has found our "Permanent Echo" here and plotting is very difficult. The rear part of "B" Party arrives from CASTEL BENITO just after noon so the Squadron is once more complete.
We shall remember this day for a long time although there was only one operational trip for us. Five aircraft were scrambled for a local interception patrol of the HASBUB area in the morning and were vectored on to three MACCHI 202’s. F/Lt. DUKE, DFC and BAR shot down two of them, thus being able to avoid the 13th score appearing on his aircraft. At 1700 hours the enemy started to shell the landing ground from the hills South-west of us and it was not long before he was able to get the range of the runway and dispersals. An order was received for all pilots to sit in the cockpit of their aircraft and in this we were fortunate in having six aircraft at “Standby” and another six at “Readiness. Just after 1800 hours, when the sun was going down, all aircraft were told to take off for landing grounds East of us. What a sight it was! Aircraft from three squadrons taking off from two narrow runways missed each other by inches. The ground personnel later received instructions to evacuate the landing ground.
When the ground parties arrived at BEN GARDANE L.G. today they found 14 of our aircraft were already there, having flown from other landing grounds this morning. Many were the tales we heard of superb night landings made last night with the aid of emergency flare paths. Only one aircraft crashed and that was in taxying after a successful landing. We carried out two local interception patrols today without incident — the first with six aircraft and the other with two.
F/Lt. DUKE DFC. And BAR, added another to his score on the first show this morning when three of our pilots gave independent top cover to aircraft of 145 SQUADRON “delousing” in the OUDREF AREA. His score is now 15 destroyed. Later in the morning we again operated with 145 SQUADRON in a sweep of the forward areas but no enemy aircraft were seen. Six of our Squadron were in a WING sweep of the GABES area in the afternoon but nothing, apart from heavy
ack-ack was reported. We were very pleased to welcome F/Lt. HUMPHREYS who has joined the Squadron today.
F/Lt. DUKE’S day again today! In a local interception patrol, when eight of our aircraft encountered two Me 109’s escorting three or four Me 109 fighter-bombers engaged in bombing HASBUB L.G., he destroyed both of them. His score is now 17 confirmed — he has destroyed 5 enemy aircraft in the last four days. This was the sole operation of the day.
We suffered a sad loss this morning in the only operational trip of the day. Four aircraft were providing independent top cover to No. 1 SAAF SQUADRON when they were attacked out of the clouds by seven Me 109’s. A dog-fight followed lasting for 15 minutes, but our pilots had no success. FLYING OFFICER (“HAPPY”) MacMAHON did not return and we heard later that he had crashed and been killed. Late this evening we received orders to move to HASBUB again tomorrow morning.
At 0600 hours this morning the enemy began a small offensive on this front and consequently all orders to move forward were cancelled. We carried out two offensive sweeps over the battle area. The first trip was uneventful and in the second our only interception was of “bogies” which proved to be HURRICANES. Interesting reports were received from the pilots of ground activity and later in the day we heard officially that 30 enemy tanks had been knocked out without our armour being engaged.
Today has been a very busy day for us. Forty-four sorties in all — the first at 0710 hours and the last at 1720 — and what great work our pilots have done! Without any loss to ourselves, five enemy aircraft were destroyed, three probably destroyed, and four damaged. F/Lt. DUKE DFC. and BAR brought his personal score to 19 destroyed and the Squadron bag now tops 250 destroyed. The total of the Squadron’s score now stands at 254½ destroyed, 101 probably destroyed and 134 damaged. The ground crews did magnificent work keeeping up the serviceability throughout the day and tribute must be paid to them in addition to the pilots for such a grand day’s performance. The other scorers were;- F/Lt. CHISHOLM DFC and BAR, 1 destroyed, 1 probable and 1 damaged. Sgt. ASKEY, 1 destroyed. F/O. SLY, 1 probable. F/Sgt. SAILS, 1 probable. F/O. JOWSEY, 1 damaged, F/Sgt. PATERSON, 2 damaged.
In the five operations carried out today we have seen very few enemy aircraft. F/Lt. HUMPHREYS and P/O. WILSON both attacked F/W 190’s — encountered for the first time on this front — but their cannons jammed and they saw no results from machine-gun fire. With everything right forward and the “tit” pressed they were unable to keep up with the enemy aircraft which pulled away from them easily at 14,000 feet. We congratulate a former 92 pilot who has just been awarded the DSO. He is SQUADRON LEADER D.E. KINGABY, DFM and 2 BARS, who left on obtaining a Commission in October, 1941
Six of our aircraft flew to HASBUB SATELLITE L.G. at dawn this morning and were scrambled from there for an uneventful patrol. They landed at BEN GARDANE and another six went to take their place at the forward base. Another patrol was carried out in which two Me 109’s were spotted but were lost in the haze. These pilots had instructions to remain overnight and were joined by six more just before dusk. The Squadron was ordered to move to the HASBUB L.G. at first light next morning.
The Squadron arrived at HASBUB L.G. just before mid-day and heard a thrilling tale of five of our pilots who had been led by the WING COMMANDER in an escort to HURRICANE “TANK-BUSTERS” The “L” FORCE of the FREE FRENCH had been attacked by the enemy and were saved by the work of the HURRICANES which destroyed many enemy armoured vehicles and M.T., besides a couple of tanks. A message of congratulations was received from GENERAL LE CLERK, the OFFICER COMMANDING of “L” FORCE. Four other operations carried out seemed dull after this grand effort. Squadron personnel, after lunch, were sent to another L.G. by the coast at BU GRARA and they arrived there there in a short time to receive the aircraft. We welcome two new pilots – SEARGEANTS T.E. BRISTER and J.W. IVES.
A fairly quiet day with no joy for us on our two operational trips. Although a few HUNS were reported, none were seen. P/O. BRICKHILL and F/O. BRUCE returned from leave today with the news that each had been promoted. Besides having an additional ring F/Lt. BRUCE had also had a haircut!
Only one show all day! In it we escorted a formation of BOSTONS to the forward areas but only one of our pilots saw an enemy aircraft. He, W/O. PROBERT became separated from the Squadron and was bounced by three Me 109’s over MARET. He diced with them all the way to base where he landed safely. F/Lt. DUKE DFC and BAR, F/Lt. CHISHOLM DFC and BAR, and F/Lt. HUMPHREYS were entertained by No. 1 SAAF SQUADRON tonight.
Two trips today, one an escort to KITTYHAWKS and the other involving six aircraft scrambled to augment the escorting section when they were engaged with Me 109’s. In the scrap, F/O. SIMPSON destroyed a Me 109, and both F/O. SAVAGE and F/O. BAKER damaged one. We congratulate F/Lt. E.A.G.C. BRUCE on taking over command of “B” Flight in place of F/Lt. W.L. CHISHOLM DFC and BAR, who has completed a most successful tour. In the evening when the Sergeants are being entertained by the Pilot’s Mess, F/Lt. DUKE makes an announcement which is greeted by prolonged cheers. It is that the Squadron is shortly to be equipped with SPITFIRE IX’s. We learn today of a tribute to our late COMMANDING OFFICER, S/Ldr. J.H. WEDGWOOD, DFC and BAR, by RICHARD CAPELL writing in the “DAILY TELEGRAPH” of 17th February, 1943. He said: “ I can mention some of its gallant leaders — Wedgwood, that crack Spitfire Commander so unmistakeably a born leader of men and as authoritive as lion-hearted……. Grievous to relate, S/Ldr. Wedgwood, that knightly commander, was killed flying back to England, his tour done.”
The only operation of the day was carried out without incident although it added one hour and 20 minutes to six pilots’ log books. A very happy evening was spent with WING COMMANDER GLEED, DSO. DFC., and MAJOR MOODY DFC., and several pilots from No. 1 SAAF SQUADRON as guests.
Although the Squadron got many Stand-by hours in today, the aircraft did not take off for any operational trip. Our COMMANDING OFFICER, S/Ldr. HARPER returned from CAIRO where he had been attending a course.
Before breakfast a section of four aircraft was scrambled for an uneventful patrol and no further operations were carried out. A representative of PATHE GAZETTE took some “shots” of our pilots, including one of F/Lt. DUKE DFC. and BAR in his aircraft marked with his score of 19 destroyed. The film will be on view in ENGLAND during the next month.
Both F/Lt. BRUCE and F/Lt. HUMPHREYS added a damaged Me 109 to their score in the first trip today which was an interception patrol. The Squadron with 12 aircraft encountered 12 Me 109 fighter-bombers with a cover of six plus Me 109’s and three MACCHI 202’s. Unfortunately a Mc 202 got on F/O. BRICKHILL’S tail, scored hits in his mainplane which exploded his amunition and he was forced to bale out. So far it has been impossible to get any definite news of him, but one report says he is safe in an M.R.S. The second patrol today was carried out without incident.
Very bad weather caused the cancellation of operations laid on for us today, and although the Squadron was at Stand-by for several hours, our aircraft did not take off. No definite news about F/O. BRICKHILL today, but a signal is received from army sources which reads “Friend says pilot safe but not on our side” and it may refer to him or to another pilot in the Wing who baled out on the same day.
A strong North wind has been blowing all day and there has been 10/10ths cloud as low as 15,000 feet which has curtailed offensive operations. Early in the morning two of our pilots carried out a weather recce over the forward areas and later on two interception patrols were carried out but no enemy aircraft were seen. In the evening CAPTAIN HEFFORD — who has returned to the WING as A.L.O. — and F/O. HALES were entertained in the Pilot’s Mess.
WING COMMANDER GLEED, DSO., DFC., and S/Ldr. OLVER, DFC., flew with the Squadron today escorting KITTYHAWKS bombing at EL HAMMA. Not one enemy aircraft was seen. Ou aircraft were at Stand-by for several hours during the day in anticipation of “STUKA” raids on the NEW ZEALAND troops, but no further operations were carried out. A few days ago some of our pilots bought some ducks and they have kept them in a pen near the Mess. Today a notice appeared in D.R.O’s which read:- “The undermentioned officer has been appointed Poultry Officer w.e.f. 18th March, 1943. all personnel interested in Big Game are to submit their names to the Officer i/c Poultry forthwith — F/O. SLY, P.K.U.” !! What we are really interested in is when they will be fat enough to appear on the table.
No enemy aircraft were seen on the two operational trips today. Most of the time was spent by the Squadron intercepting friendly aircraft.
The Squadron escorted “TANK-BUSTER” HURRICANES in a most interesting operation this afternoon. The NEW ZEALAND FORCES who have outflanked the MARETH LINE were about to be attacked by enemy armour but the HURRICANES inflicted heavy damage on tanks, armoured cars and other vehicles and 1,500 prisoners were taken by the “KIWI’S”
Before dawn today, F/Lt. DUKE DFC., and BAR, F/O. JOWSEY, P/O. WILSON and F/O. PROBERT flew to ALGIERS to collect four Spitfire IX’s for the Squadron. They arrived back — delighted with the performance of the new aircraft — before dinner. Thirty-six sorties were carried out by the Squadron today, but, although in one operation several pilots fired, no claims were made. There was an amusing incident over the HUN L.G. at GABES when F/O. SAVAGE was on the tail of a 109 about to land there. The Hun, apparently thinking our pilot intended to land with his wheels up, fired a red Verey light at him! The windscreens on F/Lt. HUMPHREYS’ and W/O. FRY’S aircraft iced up when, diving to deck level from 20,000 feet, they attacked a F/W 190 and Me 109 respectively and they were unable to observe results from their fire.
It was an impressive sight when the Squadron and 601 Squadron gave close cover this morning to three Squadrons of KITTYHAWKS and a Squadron of HURRICANE “TANK-BUSTERS” attacking enemy transport and armoured vehicles in the EL HAMMA area. In the second operation of the day, F/Lt. BRUCE was forced to return owing to engine trouble and this gave F/O. BAKER his first opportunity to lead the Squadron formation. No enemy aircraft were seen but the capability of F/O. BAKER as a leader was evident in his handling of the formation over the intense “flak” the enemy put up.
A total of 33 sorties were carried out today, including 11 with the new SPITFIRE IX’s. In the second operation several pilots fired at a JU 88 which they encountered, but F/Lt. DUKE was the only one to observe results of his attack. He set the enemy’s port engine on fire and claims a damaged. It is announced that the DFC has been awarded to LIEUTENANT S. RABIE, SAAF. He left this Squadron on December 11th last year after completing a tour in which he excelled himself as “Professional No. 2” to S/Ldr. WEDGWOOD. Grand show, Bill!
F/Lt. P.H. HUMPHREYS has been appointed FLIGHT COMMANDER of “B” FLIGHT in place of F/Lt. BRUCE, who was injured yesterday when his plane crashed on return from an operational flight. In the four operations today not once was an enemy aircraft encountered. From 1500 to 1800 hours the Squadrons of this WING did a record number of sorties — 72 — covering KITTYHAWKS who spent the afternoon bombing and straffing enemy transport and armour. The A.O.C. sent a signal congratulating everyone on “a magnificent performance”
Soon after dawn this morning a telephone call came through to F/Lt. NEVILLE DUKE at Dispersal from the A.O.C. with the grand news that an award of the DSO had been made to him. A well-earned “gong” is the Squadron’s opinion. During the first week of the month, while acting Squadron Commander during S/Ldr. HARPER’S absence, “NEVILLE” destroyed seven enemy aircraft bringing his total bag to 19 destroyed, four probably destroyed and three damaged. The Squadron undertook three operations today. In the first one F/O. BRADLEY SMITH had a lucky escape when his aircraft received a direct hit from BREDA fire — he was able to coax it back to base. We suffered a sad loss in the third trip when one Me 109 flew straight down through one of our sections and F/Sgt. SAILS was seen to go into a spin — probably hit — over the enmey lines. He has not yet returned and it is feared that it was his aircraft which was seen burning on the ground.
There was only one operation, involving a section of six aircraft, for us today and no enemy aircraft were seen. For the first time since we were at CASTEL BENITO there was a supply of half-a-pint of beer for the airmen. The Pilot’s Mess drew lots for eight bottles which was its quota. It is hard to understand why the N.A.A.F.I has not made an effort to get supplies to the forward Wings more regularly.
A much busier day for us and once again F/Lt. DUKE, DSO., DFC. and BAR, added to his bag bringing his total to 20 destroyed. F/O. SAVAGE also brought down a 109 and F/O. BRADLEY SMITH damaged one. In all, we carried out 40 sorties in the SFAX area. The 8th ARMY got through the MARETH LINE and GABES is reported to be in our hands already. Our Medical Officer, F/Lt. WOOLGROVE, had an interesting experience when he went out in a motor boat to an Air Sea Rescue off DJERBA ISLAND today. The launch had been bombed and straffed ten miles off SFAX after it rescued a pilot who had been in the sea for five hours. At the end of the day our scoreboard showed a full total of 498½ and we hope that we shall reach the 500 mark tomorrow.
Our hopes expressed yesterday were realised just after noon today when F/O. SLY probably destroyed a Me 109, F/Lt. HUMPHREYS damaged a Me 210 and F/O. SIMPSON damaged a Me 109, bringing the full total to 501½. In this operation our Squadron spotted 12 210’s escorted by 18 plus Me 109’s and went into the attack, forcing the enemy bombers to drop their bombs in their own territory near CEKHIRA. There were three other trips but no enemy aircraft were sighted.
In the first operation today we “deloused” for two squadrons of KITTYHAWKS and 18 MITCHELLS over SFAX but no enemy forces appeared to add interest to our part of the job. Again, in the afternoon, during the only other operation, there was no sign of “Jerry” although a few were reported by the Controller. This month has added 13 destroyed, four Probables, and 12 Damaged to our score.
BU GRARA, TUNISIA
Out total sorties amounted to six only today. There was no sign of the enemy when four of our Spitfire IX’s with aircraft of No. 1 SAAF and 145 Squadrons deloused for MITCHELLS and KITTYHAWKS over the SFAX area, and later in the day the weather was too bad for further bombing operations; two of our aircraft reported low cloud covering the area when on a weather reconnaissance.
This was a much busier day. Four times a section of six were scrambled for interception patrols but on no occasion was the enemy seen. The Squadron, with four Spitfire IX’s and eight Spitfire V’s, gave independent cover to KITTYHAWKS which bombed M.T. west of CEKHIRA this afternoon, but nothing turned up to upset the operation.
It was just as well that there was only one operation today because several pilots have had a bout of “Gyppy tummy.” The “DOC” has expressed his considered opinion that our water supply has caused this trouble, and he has the matter in hand. Our six aircraft which took off on an interception patrol were unable to fly inland in the SFAX area because of cloud at 1,000 feet over the area. A supply of TRIPOLI beer arrived and each man was allowed a half-pint. There have been no reports that anyone was unable to cope with this quantity.
The Squadron was released for the day and several pilots spent the day on DJERBA ISLAND, while others visited ZARZIS. In the afternoon we were asked to come to readiness but the only pilots available were four still suffering from internal trouble.
We expected a busy day but there was only one operation and that was when six aircraft were scrambled for an interception North of GABES. The only aircraft intercepted proved to be SPITFIRES of 145 SQUADRON!
All records for the number of sorties flown in any one day were broken by the WING today when a total of 247 was reached. From early morning till dusk continuous patrols were maintained over the battle area. There was little sign of the enemy until the afternoon, although the COMMANDING OFFICER, S/Ldr. W.J. HARPER, got a “squirt” at a Me 109 in the morning. The enemy aicraft dived vertically, apparently out of control, but no claim was made. WING COMMANDER GLEED, DSO., DFC., damaged a Me 109, when leading our formation in a patrol latee in the afternoon, but our pilots were unable to get within range.
The patrols over the enemy side of the battle area were continued all day today, and once again the enemy put up little opposition to our effort. Our pilots brought back valuable information, regarding HUN troop movements, which kept the Light Bombers and Fighter-bombers busy.
Our “A” Party was instructed to be on the move by mid-day and to report at ADVANCED GROUP H.G. for routeing instructions. They arrived there before dusk and were told to be ready to move on a minute’s notice, but no further instructions were received. The Squadron carried out 34 sorties today at MAHARES — MEZZOUNA area. On two operations enemy aircraft were seen but the combats in each case were inconclusive. F/Lt. HUMPHREYS had an argument with the GROUND CONTROLLER regarding the identity of an aircraft he had attacked. While he was convinced that it was a Me 109, the Controller was positive that it was a F/W 190.
Six aircraft escorted KITTYHAWKS which attacked shipping in SFAX harbour this morning, but there were no further operations. Meanwhile, the “A” Party remained near ADVANCED GROUP H.Q. without news until late in the evening when they were instructed to move at first light next morning to CECKIRA.
At dawn, a section gave independent top cover to KITTYHAWKS on an armed reconnaisance in the EL DJEM area. No enemy aircraft were reported or seen. At CEKHIRA, the “A” Party found Squadrons of 79 FIGHTER GROUP setting up camp so they remained packed up awaiting further instructions. It was almost 2200 hours before any were received so it was decided to move to the new landing ground before breakfast next morning.
Before noon, camp wa set up by the “A” Party at LA FANCONNERIE L.G. and the aircraft arrived in the afternoon. No operations all day.
“B” Party moved up to H.Q. No. 211 GROUP for instructions and remained for the night in the vicinity. Once again, we were not called on for operations.
After two days rest our pilots were pleased to get “off the deck” today. An interception patrol in the morning was uneventful and no enemy aircraft were seen either by them or later in the day when we gave cover to two squadrons of No. 7 SAAF WING in an offensive sweep of the forward areas. Before noon he “B” Party arrived at BOU GOUBRINE but the landing ground had not been prepared so they set up camp on a hill overlooking the site.
Two offensive patrols were carried out today — the first by four Spitfire IX’s and the other by four Spitfire IX’s and six V’s. In the second operation two Me 109’s dived at high speed past the starboard section but their speed prevented interception.
The “A” party moved up to join the rest of the Squadron at BOU GOUBRINE after the aircraft left this morning. Packing up had been delayed slightly when six pilots took off for an offensive sweep, but the Squadron was complete again just after noon at the new landing ground.
Two new SERGEANT PILOTS joined us today, they are Sgts. SAVILL and PERCIVAL. They arrive in time to see five enemy aircraft destroyed added to our total score. When three of our SPITFIRE IX’s gave top cover to 145 SQUADRON on a sweep to CAPE BON, 18 S.M. 82’s were spotted flying low over the sea and F/Lt. DUKE, DSO, DFC and BAR, led the attack, destroying two himself , while F/O. T. SAVAGE got another two “flamers” and P/O. G. WILSON added the fifth. F/Lt. DUKE was attacked by six plus Me 109’s, but by brilliant evasive action got home without one hole in his aircraft. There were 24 sorties in all, but no more enemy aircraft were seen.
There have been many promotions in the Squadron recently which have not been recorded so it may be well to give a list of pilots and officers now with us. Our COMMANDING OFFICER is S/Ldr. W.J. HARPER. And the FLIGHT COMMANDERS are F/Lt. N.F. DUKE, DSO, DFC, and BAR, and F/Lt. HUMPHREYS. The following pilots are operational;- F/O. E. SLY, F/O. B.D. BAKER, F/O. T. SAVAGE, F/O. M. JOWSEY, P/O. G. WILSON, P/O. H. PATERSON, W/O. S. FRY, F/Sgt. L. MacKAY, F/Sgt. P. INCHCOMBE, F/Sgt. M. ASKEY and Sgt. P.E. BRISTER in “A” FLIGHT, and F/O. D. TURVEY, F/O. K. SIMPSON, F/Lt. M. JACKSON, F/O. BRADLEY-SMITH, P/O. W. BRUCKSHAW, P/O. R. MacFARLANE, P/O. R. PROBERT, Lt. A. SACHS, F/ Sgt. F. SYMES, F/Sgt. W. IVES, F/Sgt. K. WARREN, F/Sgt. MacNAMARA, Sgt. G. BUCHANAN, F/Sgt. H.G. JOHNSON in “B” FLIGHT. Our ADJUTANT is F/Lt. L.M. PAGE and the other “Penguins” are F/Lt. C.G. WOOLGROVE (“DOC”), F/O. J. RAWES (ENGINEER OFFICER), F/O. G.J. CORNISH (INTELLIGENCE OFFICER) and P/O. ALLEN (EQUIPMENT OFFICER). May this team soon see TUNIS in our hands! We have carried out two sweeps over the CAPE BON PENINSULAR today. The first one with No. 1 SAAF and 145 SQUADRONS and the second covering two Squadrons of KITTYHAWKS. There was no sign of the enemy in the air, but reports were made of a little shipping activity. In the evening MAJOR MOODY, DFC., and several pilots from No. 1 SAAF SQUADRON visited us and we spent a very happy time with their company in spite of the fact that the only liquor available was lemon juice. F/Lt. a. GLENDINNING, a former pilot with this Squadron, has been awarded a well-deserved DFC., and we offer him our sincere and hearty congratulations.
Soon after dawn our Squadron escorted KITTYHAWKS of No. 7 SAAF Wing on an offensive sweep of the CAPE BON PENINSULAR which passed off uneventfully and during the morning a section of six aircraft carried out an interception patrol without meeting any enemy aircraft. It was a late sweep of the CAPE BON PENINSULAR that provided the excitement of the day. We gave escort and top cover to four Squadrons of KITTYHAWKS and that in itself was an impressive sight but when they were near RASO EL AHMAR large numbers of enemy transport planes were spotted flying low to the North-east with a close escort of fighters. The KITTYHAWKS “waded in” to the enemy aircraft while we covered them. The only enemy aircraft seen above the KITTYHAWKS were one Me 109, which F/Lt. DUKE chased out to sea until his cannons jammed, and one Mc 202, which F/O. M. JOWSEY shot down into the sea. The KITTYHAWKS got the amazing score of 58 Ju 52’s, 14 Me 109’s and two Me 110’s destroyed, a Ju 52 and a Me 109 probably destroyed, and 11 Ju 52’s, six Me 109’s and one Me 110 damaged. Their leader thanked our Squadron for the successful cover they gve them and said that it was due to the knowledge that they would not be attacked from above that they were able to amass such a grand score.
This was a day after our pilots’ hearts because each operation was a show which had been laid on in advance with only a short period of Stand-by before they took off. The first formation of ten aircraft were off at 0630 hours and they escorted and gave top cover to KITTYHAWKS in an offensive sweep of CAPE BON PENINSULAR with the intention of intercepting more enemy transport aircraft. We were out of luck, however, and there was no sign of the enemy in the air. In the afternoon, three more sweeps were carried out with large formations of KITTYHAWKS, but again no enemy aircraft were seen. It has been announced during the past 24 hours a total of 96 enemy planes have been destroyed on this front.
F/Sgt. M. ASKEY was our outstanding pilot today — he claimed three Mc 202’s destroyed while F/O. SLY and F/O. BAKER destroyed two more Mc 202’s between them. W/O. FRY and Sgt. BRISTER damaged one Mc 202 each. The first two operations were escort and top cover to KITTYHAWKS over CAPE BON PENINSULAR, and it was in the first of these that F/O. SLY and F/Sgt. ASKEY disposed of two out of three enemy aircraft encountered. Just after mid-day, there was a Wing Offensive Sweep EAST OF KELIBIA and our Squadron spotted a “gaggle” of 12 plus Me 109’s and Mc 202’s about 1,000 feet above them. We attacked with the splendid result of three Mc 202’s claimed as destroyed and two damaged. In the last trip of the day, four of our SPITFIRE IX’s gave top cover to No. 1 SAAF escorting HURRICANE “TANK-BUSTERS” but no suitable targets were found. F/O. JOWSEY chased a lone Me 109 to REYVILLE but he was unable to close to more than 600 yards and he makes no claim. Our C.O., S/Ldr. W.J. HARPER, several pilots and our ENGINEER OFFICER, F/O. RAWES, spent an exceedingly happy evening with No. 1 SAAF Squadron, while others celebrated the Squadron’s success at F/Sgt. ASKEY’S expense in our own mess.
After the intensive operations of the last few days we reached an anti-climax today when the Squadron sat in their cockpits on Stand-by for three hours in the hot sun without being sent off at all. The only operation was a weather reconnaissance carried out by two aircraft over KORBA. In the evening S/Ldr. HARPER, F/Lt. PAGE, our ADJUTANT, and F/O. J. RAWES, the ENGINEER OFFICER, were entertained at the WING OFFICERS’ MESS where beer flowed freely and a happy time was had by all. F/O. F WIHAK joined uss today on posting from 238 SQUADRO.N
The Squadron did an hour and a half Stand-by before taking off to escort KITTYHAWKS on an offensive sweep over the GULF OF TUNIS. We were unfortunate in not encountering any enemy aircraft because other SPITFIRES from our WING with KITTYHAWKS of 239 WING and 7 SAAF WING ran into a large formation of Me 323’s escorted by Me 109’s and Mc 202’s and destroyed 25 of the six-engined transport planes together with seven Me 109’s. In the late afternoon 14 of our pilots were on Stand-by for another hour and a half, but did not take off. We are now without supplies of beer, spirits or cigaretttes, but have hopes that the N.A.A.F.I. will come to our aid before long.
There was no sign of the HUN during our three shows today. Two of the “ops” were delousing jobs for bombers who attacked enemy gun positions in the forward areas and the other was a close escort to KITTYHAWKS on a sweep of the GULF OF TUNIS. F/O. L.R.G SMITH — now O.T.E. — left us today on posting to A.D.U., and with him went F/Sgt. McNAMARA, who is to report to 238 SQUADRON. We are sorry to see them go. We were delighted to read a letter addressed to “DOC” WOOLGROVE from our grand old “ADJ” McGOWAN. He is in SCOTLAND but misses the boys from 92. F/O. TRAVIS reported today to take over the duties of adjutant from F/Lt. PAGE.
Rather a quiet day. Two pilots took off at dawn to patrol over a convoy nearing SFAX harbour and later in the morning our two FLIGHT COMMANDERS went up to attempt an interception of an enemy recce plane but they had no luck. The Squadron escorted four Squadrons of KITTYHAWKS just after mid-day on a bombing operation in the ENFIDAVILLE area but no enemy aircraft were seen. Two cuttings from English newspapers have arrived out here referring to the award of the DSO., to F/Lt. DUKE. One from the “SUNDAY EXPRESS” dated 27th, March, 1943, says:- “HALF-PLANE OFF RECORD — GETS DSO. – A RAF pilot who is half a plane short of the record “bag” for the MIDDLE EAST, has just been awarded the DSO. — but he is now operating against the JAPANESE in the PACIFIC. (Note. Where the hell did they get that yarn!!!) He is ACTING FLIGHT LIEUTENANT NEVILLE FREDERICK DUKE, who already has a bar to his DFC., and who has already destroyed 19 aircraft.” The other cutting is from the “TONBRIDGE COURIER” dated 2nd APRIL, 1943, and reads:- “ACE TRIUMPHS AGAIN. Readers will learn with pride and interest that FLIGHT LIEUTENANT NEVILLE F. DUKE, of TONBRIDGE, has now been awarded the DSO., his third distinction in less than 18 months. F/Lt. DUKE, who is the son of Mr. and MRS. F.H. DUKE, of 82, HADLOW ROAD, TONBRIDGE, was awarded the DFC., last year, and we recently reported that he had received his BAR. With his latest award this intrepid officer has now brought his score up to 19½ , the final plane being “shared” with another pilot. The latest distinction, contained in a Press cablegram from CAIRO, was probably for seven “kills” in one week.”
Forty-four sorties were carried out today but the HUN did not show himself at all. In the first “Op” we gave independent cover to 36 BALTIMORES and 32 KITTYHAWKS which attacked a target North of ENFIDAVILLE. It was the second trip which provided the excitement of the day when we carried out a sweep of the GULF OF TUNIS with three sqaudrons of KITTYHAWKS. Although no enemy aircraft appeared, the enemy showed his unfriendliness by sending up intensive Ack-Ack from RASS EL FORTASS area, scoring a hit on P/O. R. PROBERT’S SPITFIRE IX. He was forced to bale out when ten miles East of KORBA, but was reported to be safe in his dinghy when the Squadron left him. Six of our aircraft later escorted the intrepid pilot of the WALRUS to the position and picked him up safe and sound. He had spent two and a quarter hours paddling around in his dinghy, but his only complaint was that he had lost one shoe of a pair he had bought only the previoous day. The COMMANDING OFFICER and three others carried out a reconnaissance of the SOLIMAN landing Grounds in preparation for an attack by 54 Light Bombers and six Squadrons of KITTYHAWKS in the late afternoon for which we provided independent cover. At night we entertained F/O. HALES and the WALRUS pilot who had rescued P/O. PROBERT.
In thick mist, F/Lt. DUKE took off at dawn to do a recce of the SOLIMAN area and GULF OF TUNIS. The weather was too bad for him to land here so he had breakfast with friends of 450 SQUADRON at KAIROUAN. It had cleared a little when F/O. TURVEY and W/O. FRY carried out another recce of the same area, but they also reported the weather unsuitable for bombing operations. A targe just North of ENFIDAVILLE was attacked at mid-day by BALTIMORES and KITTYHAWKS, to which we provided independent cover. In the afternoon we did two sweeps of the SOLIMAN and CAPE BON areas but no enemy aircraft were encountered. Rather an uneventful and quiet day.
Cloud covered enemy territory at heights varying from 6,000 to 23,000 feet during today’s operations. A standing patrol was maintained throughout the morning by our Wing over GROMBALIA area and we contributed 14 sorties to this operation without encountering the enemy. Nine plus Me 109’s were seen during an interception patrol by the Squadron in the afternoon, but the enemy aircraft were very anxious not to engage in combat and found sanctuary in the clouds. Both F/Lt. p.H. HUMPHREYS and F/O. BRADLEY SMITH fired, but they were unable to observe results of their attacks. SEARGEANT PILOTS LAWSON, ALLEN and RATCLIFF joined us today on posting from 244 WING TRAINING FLIGHT.
Very little doing for us today. In the morning S/Ldr. OLVER, of 244 WING, and three of our pilots carried out an offensive sweep of the CAPE BON area, but there were no enemy aircraft about. F/O. TURVEY was leading a section of eight, later in the morning, as cover to three Squadrons of KITTYHAWKS and two Squadrons of special HURRICANES, but when they reached the rendezvous they were told that the operation had been cancelled. Two Mc 202’s were destroyed and a Me 109G damaged in a delousing operation by four of our SPITFIRE IX’s, led by F/O. SAVAGE, in the afternoon. They met ten plus enemy aircraft, but several of them climbed away, on sight of our planes, into cloud. F/Sgt. ASKEY added a destroyed to his score which now stands at five confirmed, and W/O. Fry destroyed the other. F/O. SAVAGE severely damaged the 109 whose undercarriage dropped, but it was able to climb away slowly into cloud pouring volumes of white smoke. Our Squadron score is now 270½ destroyed, 102 probably destroyed and 145 damaged. The “bag” since we arrived in the MIDDLE EAST is 77 — 21 — 87.
Three operations were carried out today in connection with anti-shipping patrols by KITTYHAWKS in the CAPE BON area. In the first “show” 12 of our aircraft escorted three Squadrons of 239 WING but no enemy aircraft were seen. Later, four of our SPITFIRE IX’s deloused for KITTYHAWKS and encountered three Mc 202’s. Both P/O. Paterson — who led the formation after the leader ws forced to return with engine trouble — and P/O. WILSON fired as they followed the enemy aircraft in a dive. Our pilots recorded 450 m.p.h. in their dive but lost the MACCHIS at 2,000 feet. We were more fortunate in our last operation of the day when 12 of our aircraft escorted four Squadrons of 79 PURSUIT GROUP. We were attacked by 12 plus Me 109’s, Mc 202’s and F/W 190’s and Lt. SACHS damaged a Me 109. Five other pilots fired at several aircraft each and a parachute was seen at 10,000 feet over CAPE BON. We are claiming an unidentified aircraft destroyed and await the result of the combat films because no pilot will put forward an individual claim for it.
After viewing yesterday’s combat films it was decided that the aircraft destroyed yesterday should be credited to F/O. D.L.G. TURVEY. Our six operations today have all been in connection with anti-shipping patrols by KITTYHAWKS. During the last show we were attacked by three Mc 202’s and later another nine Me 109’s and Mc 202’s joined in the fight which took place in and out of the cloud. This cloud prevented full obsrvation of results but P/O. MACFARLANE, Lt. SACHS and F/O. BRADLEY SMITH each damaged a Mc 202. We suffered no loss. This month we have carried out 581 sorties with a total of 841 hours 40 minutes operational flying time. F/Lt. L.M. PAGE left us today and F/O. G.L. TRAVIS has taken over the duties of SQUADRON ADJUTANT.
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