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Paul McGuiness RAAF Archive
Paul McGuiness is an Australian aviation researcher and historian. Using primary sources he has assembled detailed information on the history of each plane
used by Australians and Australian forces in WWl and WW2, and on personnel involved.

This page contains many names, dates, locations. To help find the one(s) you're interested in, use our Highlighting facility.
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History of Australian Military Aviation

First World War

Armstrong Whitworth FK3

Avro 504

Bristol F2b Fighter

Fairey Aviation Model lllD Seaplane

Martinsyde G.100 G 102 Elephant

Maurice Farman S.11 Shorthorn

Royal Aircraft Factory BE2

Royal Aircraft Factory BE12

Royal Aircraft Factory RE.8

Royal Aircraft Factory SE5A Experimental Scout

Sopwith Camel B Series

Sopwith Camel C D E F Series

Sopwith Snipe

Sopwith Scout (Pup)

Sopwith 1½ Strutter

Supermarine Seagull lll

Supermarine Southampton Mk 1

Westland Wapiti


Post First World War

Bristol Bulldog

De Havilland DH.9A

Hawker Demon

Royal Aircraft Factory SE.5A

Avro 504K


Second World War

3 Sqn Gladiators 1940-1941

3 Sqn Gauntlets 1940-1941

10 Sqn Sunderlands

451 Sqn Spitfires Med 43-44 Europe 44-46

452 Sqn Spitfires Europe 41-42

455 Sqn Hampdens 1941-43

458 Sqn Wellingtons

460 Sqn Wellingtons

461 Sqn Sunderlands

462 Sqn Halifax Part 1 MTO

466 Sqn Wellingtons


Further Information:

Aces and Aviators WWl Database

Material Relating to Australia

No.3 (AC) Squadron RAAF in WW2

A Brief History of Gloster Gladiator Operations

September 1940 –January 1941

gloster gladiator

The Gloster Gladiator is a British biplane fighter. It was used by the RAF and the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) (as the Sea Gladiator variant) and was exported to a number of other air forces during the late 1930s. Developed privately as the Gloster SS.37, it was the RAF's last biplane fighter aircraft, and was rendered obsolete by newer monoplane designs even as it was being introduced. Though often pitted against more advanced fighters during the early days of the Second World War, it acquitted itself reasonably well in combat.

The Gladiator saw action in almost all theatres during the Second World War, with a large number of air forces, some of them on the Axis side. The RAF used it in France, Norway, Greece, the defence of Malta, the Middle East, and the brief Anglo-Iraqi War (during which the Royal Iraqi Air Force was similarly equipped). Other countries deploying the Gladiator included China against Japan, beginning in 1938; Finland (along with Swedish volunteers) against the Soviet Union in the Winter War and the Continuation War; Sweden as a neutral noncombatant (although Swedish volunteers fought for Finland against USSR as stated above); and Norway, Belgium, and Greece resisting Axis invasion of their respective lands.

3crestRAAF

3 Squadron RAAF began its brief tenure with the Gloster Gladiator on 16th September 1940 when a signal from Headquarters Middle East (HQME) directed the Squadron to equip with two flights of Gladiators. At that time the Squadron was based at RAF Ismailia approximately 120km NE of Cairo and personnel were busy receiving stores and equipment from overseas. Additionally, they were busy uncrating and assembling six new Lysander aircraft that had recently arrived for the Squadron from the UK. The CO, SQNLDR Peter Heath, decided to split the squadron into three parts: an advance party to proceed to Helwan on 18Sep and begin taking over the Gladiators from 33Sqn; a servicing party to remain at Ismailia until all the Lysanders were assembled and tested; and, the main party to finish receiving and sorting incoming equipment before moving to Helwan on 23rd September.

RAF Ismailia Helwan

Accordingly, on the morning of 18th September the following seven officers and 14 airmen departed Ismailia in the advance party consisting of SQNLDR P. Heath, FLTLT C.B Gaden, FLGOFF J.R Perrin, FLGOFF A. Boyd, FLGOFF M.D Ellerton, FLGOFF A.A Gatward and FLGOFF B.L Bracegirdle. The airmen were SGT W.G Smith, SGT P.J Johanson. CPL F.A Smith, CPL H.W Conquest, CPL R.H Allen, CPL R.C Brealey, CPL E.A Currie, LAC H.E Cameron, LAC B.T Cranney, LAC R.J Elliott, AC1 R.B Whittington, AC1 V.R Crameri, AC1 D. Ransford and AC1 C.W Burgess. Over the next five days the advance party took on charge 12 Mk.II Gladiators from 33 (F) Sqn RAF (The 12 Serials were: L9044, N5750, N5752, N5753, N5754, N5756, N5764, N5765, N5766, N5769, N5777 and N5780). During the handover period the pilots were put on daily stand-by for 33Sqn operations which was the air defence of Cairo. An extra eleven airmen were sent to Helwan to ease the heavy workload. (The 11 airmen were CPL A.M Cockburn with 10 AC1s O.S Barton, A.J.S Bursle, N.W Chapman, M. Irvine-Brown, J.W Kerr, B.E Martin, R.W Sterrett, J. Taylor, E.A Wehrman and H.J Yeo).

On 23rd September the main party moved by road to RAF Helwan where they joined the advanced party and for the next five weeks the Squadron was relieved of their operational obligation to devote all their time to training on the new aircraft type. The training was intense and included a wide range of scenarios to prepare pilots for their baptism of fire in the near future. Exercises were held with 6th Division AIF, British AA defences and air fighting tactics with Blenheims of No.84Sqn. The usual spate of minor accidents and teething problems were experienced and during the early weeks N5756, N5766, N5764 and N5769 all suffered various ailments that took them [briefly] out of service.

After the short familiarization period ended the Squadron was warned it would soon move to Gerawla Landing ground in the Western Desert for operational duty and all aircraft, stores and personnel were to prepare for the move over the period 26-31Oct. A small advance party moved to Gerawla on 29th October to prepare for the Squadron’s arrival and on 2nd / 3rd Nov40 the Squadron finally moved to Gerawla. During the first two weeks of November the Squadron partook of several training exercises with various Army units to give the units some understanding of what they could expect in future combat facing dive bombers and fighters.

lex winten steege gatward 3 sqn raaf

Informal group portrait of three pilots of No. 3 Squadron RAAF engaged in operations over the Western Desert. Identified from left to right: 270526 Engineering Officer Lex D'arcy Winten of Brisbane, Queensland; O34059 Flight Lieutenant Gordon Henry Steege of North Sydney, NSW (later Air Commodore); and 272 Flying Officer Arthur Alan Gatward of Wahroonga, NSW (killed on flying operations over the Middle East on 19 February 1941).

The first operational use of Gladiators occurred on 13th November 1940 when FLTLT Gordon Steege departed Gerawla in N5777, escorted by FLTLT C.B Gaden in N5780, for a 2 hour tactical reconnaissance of enemy positions in the Sofafi area. Misfortune dogged the first mission however when Steege landed at the Minquar Quaim landing ground to report the results of his reconnaissance to the Air Intelligence Liaison Officer of an Armoured Division. The aircraft sustained damage on the rough ground and was not flyable; it was later salvaged for repair by No.53 Repair & Salvage Unit and did not return to the Squadron until mid-December.

More tactical recce missions were made without incident until 19th November when 3 Sqn’s first aerial combat in the Western Desert took place. FLTLT Blake Pelly (N5753) departed Gerawla at 1320hrs to carry out a tactical reconnaissance of enemy areas in the Sofafi-Ravia-Bir Enba areas. Pelly was escorted by SQNLDR Peter Heath (N5750), FLGOFF Al Rawlinson (L9044: L9044 was in fact an Egyptian Air Force Serial. The aircraft was built as N5889 and sold to Egypt early in 1940 with the Egyptian Serial No. The aircraft was returned to 33Sqn RAF in Jun40, then to 3Sqn in Sep40 and for whatever reason the Egyptian serial was retained.) and FLGOFF Alan Boyd (N5752). At approximately 1400hrs the formation was seven miles east of Rabia when they sighed a large gaggle of CR.42 fighters attacking advancing British troops and, in line with standing orders regarding recce flights, the formation turned around and headed home. No sooner had they changed course the three escorts were attacked by nine Fiat CR.42 fighters and Pelly attacked by another eight or nine CR.42s. (The Fiat CR.42 fighters came from 77, 78 and 82 Squadriglia, 13 Gruppo Regia Aeronautica Italiana.)

CR42 Falco

CR42 Falco

The next 25 minutes were spent by both sides trying to get the upper hand in a typical rolling dogfight that saw Peter Heath shot down and killed. The escorts later claimed three CR42s definitely shot down and three others as probables. Alas, as with many air battles the claims and verified kills were not the same. Italian records claim one Fiat heavily damaged and three others damaged but all aircraft returned to base. The Italian claims were even more optimistic as they claimed that they had attacked eight Gladiators, shot down six and probably shot down the other two. The only actual loss for the day was the Gladiator of Peter Heath.

No more encounters occurred for the remainder of November and the Squadron continued with tactical reconnaissance missions in support of the advancing British 8th Army.

[For the remainder of December and early January the Squadron was split between different locations and for the sake of clarity the information for each location is shown in the following discrete paragraphs.]


Operations from Gerawla airfield 01-31Dec40


gerawla libya

In November 1940 Gerawla airfield was ideally located close to the Front but after the British began the 1st Libyan campaign on 9th December 1940 and made rapid advances into Libya the base became somewhat of a backwater. Operations were confined to a few days early in the month and for the remainder Gerawla was a repair/replacement and servicing base in support of the aircraft detached to the Advanced Landing Ground (ALG). Operations were only flown on the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th of the month and were offensive reconnaissance patrols during which no enemy aircraft were encountered. On 13th December all serviceable aircraft were flown from Gerawla to the ALG and all future operations flown from the ALG. On 25th Dec HQME advised the Squadron that A Flight would hand back their Lysander aircraft to 102MU and re-equip with six Mk.I Gladiators from 112Sqn. This directive was completed on 31st Dec when six Mk.I Gladiators were delivered to Gerawla and taken on charge. (The six Mk.I Gladiators were: L7615, L7616, K6142, K7922 and K8048) One of the Mk.Is (K6142) departed Gerawla at 1610hrs for a transit flight to the ALG with FLGOFF John Jackson at the controls. However, soon after lift off the engine failed and Jackson made an emergency landing but could not avoid a large Wadi depression and the aircraft sustained serious damage in the resultant crash. Jackson sustained minor bruising and shock and the aircraft was recovered by a crew from No.51 RSU and taken away for repair and//or salvage.

The attached Tables 1 thru 6 outline all known Gladiator operations from September 1940 to February 1941.

Operations from Advanced Landing Ground 74 from 8th to 13th December 1940

By early December the Squadron was hard-pressed to support the forward elements of the advancing British units and on 8th December Headquarters No.202 Group ordered the squadron to detach a flight of Gladiators to an advanced landing ground for a period of approximately 10 days. Accordingly, early the following day five of ten Gladiators on a morning patrol from Gerawla landed at ALG.74 southeast of Sidi Barrani in Egypt. The Detachment comprised of FLTLT Steege/N5810, FLTLT Gaden/N5765, FLGOFF Boyd/L9044, FLGOFF Bracegirdle/N5780 and FLGOFF Gatward/N5766 and were placed under the direct operational control of RAF Group Captain L.O Brown, whose first order was to have the Gladiators placed on stand-by readiness for the remainder of the day. The following morning (10th Dec) the five aircraft departed the ALG at 0635hrs for an Offensive Patrol in the area to the south of Sidi Barrani and at 0730hrs a lone Meridionali Ro.37 Lince reconnaissance aircraft was encountered and shot down by FLTLT C. Gaden. No other action ensued and the patrol returned to the ALG at 0905hrs. Four Gladiators were scrambled at 1200hrs to reports that Allied troops were being staffed near Tummar but by the time the aircraft arrived no enemy were located. Another four Gladiators departed the ALG at 1540hrs for a patrol over troops in the Tummar area and upon reaching their assigned patrol area they sighted a force of 12 enemy fighters strafing allied troops. Unbeknownst to the 3Sqn pilots they had happened upon one small part of a large Italian raid that consisted of 30+ Fiat CR.42 fighters from 366a, 367a and 368a Squadriglia of 151° Gruppo that were providing cover to seven Ba.65 bombers of 50° Stormo for an attack on Allied positions. Their formation became dispersed after the bombing and strafing began and, as luck would have it, the two close cover squadrons (366a and 367a) lost contact with each other just as the Gladiators arrived on the scene.

The Gladiator leader SQNLDR Ian McLachlan (N5765) quickly realised his formation was perfectly placed to bounce the unsuspecting Italians and attacked immediately. After a short, sharp encounter the CR.42s were able to use their superior speed and climb to disengage but not before sustaining casualties. Ian McLachlan shot down one fighter which was seen to crash and both Steege (N5810) and Gatward (N5766) claimed possibles; the Italians claimed one Gladiator. Italian records showed the McLachlan had shot down the Fiat flown by Sergente Maggiore Gino Bogoni of 367a Squadriglia and, the fighters of Sergente Maggiore Benco and Sergente Zanarini were heavily damaged but managed to limp back to Base. Capitano Bozzolan also had a lucky escape after his engine was severely damaged by two Gladiators and was saved by the intervention of his compatriots.

Four serviceable Gladiators took to the skies early on the 11th Dec for an Offensive Patrol in the Sofi-Tummar area but no enemy were present. The same four Gladiators flew the same patrol a few hours later with the same result. Similarly, two further patrols were flown in the afternoon each providing the same result as the morning patrols. However, the pilots did get to vent their frustrations a little when they spotted a Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero bomber on the ground 11km north of Sofafi and strafed the bomber until it burst into flames. It was later learned the SM.79 had been forced down by No.33 Sqn the previous day.

The first early outing on 12 December by four Gladiators was again an uneventful patrol but the second morning patrol more than compensated for the earlier dull periods. At 1125hrs five Gladiators departed the ALG for an Offensive Patrol in the Sofafi area, and just a few minutes earlier a mixed formation of Italian fighters from 84, 90, 91 Squadriglia 10° Gruppo and 96 Squadriglia 9° Gruppo had departed their base for a free fighter sweep. Bad weather prevented the Italian force from reaching their intended target so they set course for home and enroute were bounced by the five Gladiators 10km NW of Sofafi. In the short but intense dogfight that followed the Australian pilots made the most of their advantageous position and quickly shot down three Fiat CR.42s without loss Arthur (N5752), Boyd (N5782) and Gatward (N5764) each claiming a victory. The Italians claimed two Gladiators shot down and several probably shot down. A further uneventful patrol occurred in the late afternoon and this proved to be the last operational mission from ALG74 as a message from HQ 202Grp at 1830hrs ordered the detachment to move the next day to Bir Mella airfield.

Operations from Bir Mella airfield from 13th to 23rd December 1940

At 0600hrs eight Gladiators departed ALG74 and arrived at Bir Mella a short time later where they were immediately readied for operations. Six Gladiators led by FLTLT Gordon Steege (N5810) departed Bir Mella at 0800hrs for an Offensive Patrol over the Sollum - Fort Capuzzo – Halfaya area and when they arrived they sighted what they thought was a group of unescorted SM.79 bombers attacking Allied troops. Steege immediately ordered his flight to attack and in the first pass Steege shot down a bomber and claimed a second as a probable. The SM.79 rear gunners extracted some measure of revenge when they shot down FLTLT C. Gaden (N5765) who made a semi-successful crash landing but was later found dead in his cockpit by lead elements of the 7th Hussars and was buried beside his aircraft by Lt J. Napier.

As the Gladiators were attempting to climb above the bombers and reform for another attack they were bounced by the hitherto unseen escort of ten Fiat CR.42 fighters from 9° Gruppo. In the ensuing melee the Italians attacked aggressively from above and four of the remaining five Gladiators were either shot down or forced to land from damage inflicted upon them.

* FLGOFF Lex Winten (N5766) (FLGOGG Lex D’Arcy Winten 270526 spent considerable time in hospital before repatriating back to Australia in July 1941. He went on to serve with 75Sqn in New Guinea and No.2 OTU in Mildura. He resigned from the RAAF on 23Jun44 with the rank of Squadron Leader.) was hit by an explosive bullet that went through the fuel tank, entered the cockpit, shattered his left hand and gave him flesh wounds in the stomach. The aircraft engine was smashed by enemy bullets and Winton was left with no option but to bale out.

* FLGOFF A.A (Al) Gatward (N5764) was forced to land when his engine was destroyed by enemy bullets.

* FLGOFF W.S Arthur (N5752) stated his mount was ‘shot to pieces’ and as it was going down the centre fuselage section crumpled and the wings folded back trapping Arthur in the cockpit. He forced his way out, crawled along the top of the fuselage until he reached an area from which he could abandon the stricken machine. Arthur survived the ordeal with only minor scrapes and bruises and after walking towards the advancing allied troops he was picked up by a long-range desert patrol and returned to the Squadron ALG.

* FLGOFF A.H Boyd (N5782) claimed two CR.42s shot down before another CR.42 shot away his port wing wires causing him to make a forced landing. As it happened he landed not far from F/O Gatward and after they made temporary repairs to Boyd’s aircraft they took off with Gatward sitting on Boyd’s lap and flew back to the ALG.

* FLTLT Gordon Steege was the other aircraft to return to Bir Mella but the aircraft had sustained serious damage.

Black Friday proved to be a watershed for the squadron and a future Commanding Officer, FLTLT Peter Jeffrey, recorded the following: “... we had a very bad day on 13th December, it was over Salum (…) we had an extraordinary bad day – ran into a very big lot of CR.42s and Flt Lt Gaiden [Gaden] was killed but Arthur, “Wilf” Arthur was shot down (…). Lex Witton [Winten] had an explosive round in one hand and he bailed out. Gatwood [Gatward] and Boyd both crash-landed. So we had five, and that was a really very bad day for the Squadron (…) It was a very traumatic sort of experience but the Squadron was very resilient and picked up very quickly and the people who’d – apart from Witton who was a casualty because of his hand - the others were back flying again next day or in a few days’ time. To a certain extent, you know, you expected these things but that was just a bit bigger than we normally expected. And seeing as we’d had so much success prior with virtually no casualties it hit us a bit hard.

With only two serviceable aircraft available the Squadron was effectively out of the War until new pilots and aircraft could be supplied, nonetheless the remaining two Gladiators departed Bir Mella at 0800hrs the next day on an Offensive Patrol. However, soon after take-off N5780 aborted with compressor problems so the other aircraft L9044 (FLGOFF John Jackson) joined up with a flight of 112Sqn Gladiators to complete the mission. The same two aircraft responded to the order for 3 Squadron to provide an afternoon Offensive Patrol over Sollum and departed Bir Mella at 1500hrs. Unbelievably, no sooner had the two aircraft departed when N5780 again aborted, this time with electrical wiring issues. FLGOFF Jackson (L9044) again elected to join up with a 112Sqn patrol but this time failed to return. He did however return the following morning explaining that he landed at Gerawla because of low fuel reserves.

Four replacement aircraft were collected from 102MU and flown back to Gerawla on 17th December where they joined four other Gladiators that were repaired and awaiting redeployment. The eight aircraft then departed Gerawla at 1630hrs and flew to Bir Mella. The following day nine Gladiators took off from Bir Mella at 11445hrs for an Offensive Patrol over the Capuzzo-Bardia area. No enemy aircraft were encountered but flak was plentiful and FLGOFF Arthur (N5756) was hit and part of his port aileron shot away, two other aircraft sustained minor damage. Accordingly, a call for a maximum effort later that day resulted in only six Gladiators departing Bir Mella at 1600hrs for an uneventful 75min Offensive Patrol over Sollum. The next few days saw no action and the Squadron maintenance staff performed wonders in repairing all squadron aircraft to operational status. On 22nd December the Squadron flew 24 missions spread over three patrols in the Bardia area with no opposition other than ineffectual flak, which was indicative off the Italian retreat to the West in face of the British 8th Army advances. Later that evening HQ 202Grp directed the Squadron to move forward approximately 110km from Bir Mella to a new ALG located 9km south west of Sollum. All ten serviceable Gladiators duly departed Bir Mella and flew to the new ALG on the morning 23rd Dec40.

Operations from Sollum ALG from 24th December 1940 to 8th January 1941

The Squadron quickly settled in to the new Sollum ALG and for the next few days they were only called upon to supply escorts for 208Sqn Lysander aircraft performing artillery reconnaissance work over the front, in particular around Bardia. From the early morning of the 24th until late morning on the 26th they flew 33 uneventful recce missions without engaging any enemy aircraft but constantly fired upon by the enemy AAA defences. During this relatively peaceful interlude the Squadron replenished their aircraft, performed all necessary maintenance and recovered mentally from the mauling they’d received on Black Friday.

The second operation on 26Dec40 called for eight Gladiators led by FLTLT Gordon Steege (N5810) to rendezvous with a 208Sqn Lysander but the Lysander failed to arrive at the meeting point so the Gladiators returned to base. The same eight Gladiators were turned around and departed again at 1320hrs for an Offensive Patrol in the Sollum area. At 1405hrs they spotted a force north east of Sollum Bay consisting of 10 x SM.79 bombers [five each from 34° and 41° Stormo] with a higher, trailing escort of 36 x CR42 [22 from 10° Gruppo and 14 from 23° Gruppo]. Two Gladiators attacked the bombers and the rest headed for the escorts and in the ensuing dogfight the Gladiators acquitted themselves very well against the attacking force escorts who were four times more numerous. It would be foolish to think all the CR.42s managed to come to grips with the Gladiators but whatever enemy fighters did close the Gladiators come out the victors on this occasion. Two CR.42s were shot down, one claimed as a probable and four as damaged; Steege (N5810) and Arthur (N5753) both claimed one CR.42 destroyed and one damaged, Rawlinson (N5782), Jackson (N5756) and Perrin each claimed one damaged.

Italian records revealed that Capitano Guido Bobba, the CO of 74a Squadriglia, 23° Gruppo, was shot down in flames and crashed into the sea. Similarly, Tenente Lorenzoni was seen to fall out of the formation in flames but managed to crash land at an Italian LG. The aircraft of Senior Tenente Luigi Prati, Tenente Antonio Angeloni and Sergente Mario Veronesi, all of 84a Squadriglia, 10° Gruppo force landed before reaching their home base. Also, the CO of 23° Gruppo, Maggiore Tito Falconi’s fighter was heavily damaged in the combat but managed to struggle home.

After the action on the 26th the squadron was called on to provide aircraft for various tasks but none involved contact with the enemy. From the 27th to the 31st inclusive the Squadron flew a total of 39 flights spread over seven discrete missions and this total would have been higher except the Squadron had no aviation fuel from the afternoon of the 29th until the morning of the 31st which meant several missions were scrubbed.

January 1941 Sollum ALG.

January 1941 Sollum ALG.
A staged PR photograph of 3Sqn pilots examining a map before an operation over Bardia

At the start of January the Squadron held 18 Gladiators on charge which were a mixture of Mk.I (12) and Mk.II (6) aircraft. The six Mk.II Gladiators were all that remained of the 19 Mk.IIs issued to the squadron between Sep-Dec 1940 and the attrition highlighted the wear and tear associated with desert warfare. Four more Mk.IIs were replaced in early January and by the middle of the month the Squadron held 12 x Mk.I and 2 x Mk.II Gladiators.

The first mission of the new year was an uneventful escort for a 208Sqn Lysander on an artillery reconnaissance over Bardia, followed by Offensive Patrols in the Bardia-Tobruk area but the Regia Aeronautica Italiana was conspicuous by its absence in the Squadrons’ sphere of action. On 3rd January the British assault on Bardia commenced and 3 Sqn were tasked to fly Offensive Patrols in the Bardia-Tobruk region and continued these patrols for the next four days without any contact. In all, the Squadron flew 91 sorties spread over 13 missions during the period 01Jan to 06Jan without firing a shot. Bardia fell to the British Army on 5th January and the Italian Army was in full retreat to the West. On 7th January 202Grp HQ directed that the dispersed squadron elements were to merge at a new site where they could engage the retreating enemy forces and so the following day 3Sqn HQ, A, B and C Flights moved from Gerawla airfield to the new operating location at an ALG near Gambut Main aerodrome. Simultaneously the Advance Flight at the Sollum ALG moved to the Gambut location and the Squadron became a complete unit for the first time in many months of gruelling desert warfare. The squadron not only moved location on the morning of the 8th January but then provided a maximum effort Offensive Patrol of nine Gladiators in the late afternoon.

Squadron operations from Gambut ALG saw them fly 24 uneventful sorties from the 8th to the 10th before severe sandstorms curtailed flight operations for several days. On the evening of January 15, HQ 202 Grp directed the deployment of nine aircraft to Bir Hacheim LG located some 90km SSE of Tobruk, Libya.

bir hacheim 3 sqn raaf

The next day nine Gladiators flew to Bir Hacheim at 1345hrs and two hours later departed on a protective patrol to cover the advance of 11th Hussar elements into the Mechili area in Libya. The aircraft returned to Bir Hacheim where they remained overnight before returning to Gambut. From the 19th to the 23rd January to the Squadron flew 49 uneventful sorties spread over 14 missions before they received their marching orders to a new operating base. The new base was the former Italian aerodrome of Tmimi located 100km east of Tobruk but their tenure was brief and after flying 22 sorties over two days they were again given fresh marching orders. However, the realities of war struck on the last mission from Tmimi when four Gladiators departed the base at 0730hrs to provide cover for Armoured Brigades operating in the Mechili area. Eight miles SE of Mechili the patrol was attacked by five Fiat G.50 fighters and PLTOFF J.C Campbell in K8022 was shot down and killed. The other three aircraft K7963 [FL Rawlinson], L9044 [FO Turnbull] and N5857 [SL D. Campbell] all sustained minor damage but returned safely to Tmimi where they were repaired and then flown to Martuba later that day.

The move to the abandoned Italian air base at Martuba, 55km north east of Tmimi was completed on the evening of the 25th January and this proved to be the last base from which Gladiators operated before the Squadron re-equipped with Hurricane fighters. Eleven Gladiators made the move to Martuba and between 26th Jan and 4th Feb five of the 11 aircraft were returned to No.102 Maintenance Unit at RAF Abu Sueir where the pilots remained to familiarise themselves on Hurricanes. Twenty two individual sorties were flown from Martuba but no contact was made with the enemy who had withdrawn to Benghazi and further west. The final operational hurrah for Gladiators was an uneventful patrol by six aircraft on 2nd Feb 1941 and these six were flown back to 102MU by RAF pilots on the 8th February 1941.

Summary of Gladiator Operations.

Information contained in the 3 Sqn Operational Record Books and other references show that a total of thirty three Mk.I and Mk.II Gladiators served with the Squadron between 23 September 1940 and 08 February 1941. The aircraft are known to have flown at least 523 individual operational sorties; the number of non-operational flights will never be known as this data was not recorded. However, it would be safe to assume the total number of non-operational flights would be significantly higher than the known operational flights. All things considered, it would be reasonable to state that 3 Sqn Gladiators flew more than 1,000 flights.

Six Gladiators were lost in combat resulting in the deaths of three pilots and 18 aircraft sustained various degrees of damage during operational missions, resulting in a range of non-lethal injuries to five pilots. The Australian pilots made the following combat claims:

Date

Destroyed

Probable

Damaged

19Nov40

4 x CR.42

2 x CR.42

1 x CR.42

10Dec40

1 x RO.37

1 X CR.42

2 x CR.42

11Dec40

1 x SM.79

12Dec40

3 x CR.42

13Dec40

1 x SM.79

1 x SM.79

2 x CR.42

26Dec40

2 x CR.42

4 x CR.42

3 x CR.42

25Jan41

3 x G.50


Gladiator Aircraft used by 3 Squadron RAAF

Aircraft

Mk

TOC

SOC

Fate

1

K6142

I

31Dec40

31Dec40

Crashed on take-off from Gerawla for delivery to ALG

2

K7893

I

00Jan41

26Jan41

Returned to 102MU

3

K7901

I

00Jan41

26Jan41

Returned to 102MU

4

K7913

I

00Jan41

08Feb41

Returned to 102MU

5

K7922

I

31Dec40

01Jan41

Returned to 102MU

6

K7947

I

00Jan41

08Feb41

Returned to 102MU

7

K7963

I

00Jan41

26Jan41

Returned to 102MU

8

K8022

I

00Jan41

25Jan41

Shot down by Fiat G.50 fighters 8 miles SE of Mechili, Libya

9

K8048

I

00Jan41

24Jan41

Returned to 102MU

10

L7615

I

31Dec40

22Jan41

Returned to 51RSU

11

L7616

I

31Dec40

08Feb41

Returned to 102MU

12

L7617

I

31Dec40

26Jan41

Returned to 102MU

13

L8008

I

00Jan41

08Feb41

Returned to 102MU

14

L8009

I

00Jan41

01Feb41

Returned to 102MU

15

L9044

II

25Sep40

08Feb41

Returned to 102MU

16

N5750

II

25Sep40

19Nov40

Shot down while escorting a recce aircraft by Fiat CR.42 fighters

17

N5752

II

23Sep40

13Dec40

Shot down by Fiat CR.42 fighters near Sollum, Libya

18

N5753

II

23Sep40

28Dec40

Returned to 51RSU

19

N5754

II

17Dec40

16Jan41

Returned to 102MU

20

N5756

II

23Sep40

16Jan41

Returned to 102MU

21

N5763

II

17Dec40

07Jan41

Returned to 102MU

22

N5764

II

23Sep40

13Dec40

Crash landed after combat with Fiat CR.42 fighters. DBR

23

N5765

II

23Sep40

13Dec40

Shot down by gunners of SM79 bombers

24

N5766

II

23Sep40

13Dec40

Pilot bailed out after damaged by CR.42 fighters

25

N5768

II

25Sep40

11Dec40

Returned to 102MU

26

N5769

II

23Sep40

10Nov40

Returned to 102MU after training flight accident

27

N5777

II

23Sep40

24Dec40

Returned to 102MU

28

N5779

II

12Dec40

14Dec40

Returned to 102MU after combat damage

29

N5780

II

23Sep40

24Dec40

Returned to 102MU

30

N5782

II

23Sep40

12Jan41

Returned to 102MU

31

N5786

II

17Dec40

27Dec40

Returned to 102MU

32

N5810

II

05Dec40

26Dec40

Returned to 102MU

33

N5857

II

17Dec40

08Feb41

Returned to 102MU



Table 1

Operations from Helwan airfield Egypt. September-October 1940

Date

Time

Details

Aircraft Serial

23Sep40

n/a

10 Gladiators TOC from 33Sqn

L9044 N5750 N5752 N5756 N5764

N5765 N5766 N5769 N5777 N5780

25Sep40

1745

3 Gladiators TOC from 102MU

N5753 N5768 N5786

03Oct40

1425

Training flight accident

N5679

05Oct40

1130

Training flight accident

N5756

07Oct40

1500

Training flight accident

N5764

29Oct40

0615

Ferry to ALG

N5764 N5765


Table 2

Operations from Gerawla airfield Egypt. 03November 1940 to 40 to 08January 1941

Date

Time

Details

Aircraft Serial

03Nov40

1155

Arrived from Helwan

L9044 N5750 N5752 N5753 N5756

N5766 N5768 N5777 N5780 N5782

10Nov40

1000

Ferry from Helwan

N5750

13Nov40

0930-1115

Reconnaissance Mission

N5777 N5780

14Nov40

Ferry to 103MU for repair

N5777

15Nov40

0900-1052

Reconnaissance Mission

L9044 N5750

1025-1200

Reconnaissance Mission

N5752 N5764

17Nov40

0930-1103

Reconnaissance Mission

N5750 N5752 N5764 N5765

19Nov40

1340-1502

Reconnaissance Mission

L9044 N5750 N5752 N5753

1420-1610

Reconnaissance Mission

N5765 N5766 N5780

20Nov40

n/a

Aircraft SOC

N5750 shot down 19Nov

1-4Dec40

No operational flights

05Dec40

1215-1405

Escort Lysander on photo recce

N5766 N5782

6-7Dec40

No operational flights

08Dec40

0710-0845

Patrol over forward troops between Bir Mella and Alam-El-Qatrani

L9044 N5752 N5753 N5756 N5764 N5765.

N5766 N5768 N5780 N5782 N5810

1445-1645

Patrol over forward troops between Bir Mella and Alam-El-Qatrani

L9044 N5752 N5753 N5756 N5765 N5766

N5768 N5780 N5782 N5810

09Dec40

0650-0840

Patrol over forward troops between Bir Mella and Alam-El-Qatrani

L9044 N5752 N5753 N5756 N5765

N5766 N5768 N5780 N5782 N5810

Five aircraft landed at ALG 74

L9044 N5765 N5766 N5780 N5810

Five landed at Gerawla

N5752 N5753 N5756 N5768 N5782

1125-1307

Patrol over forward troops between Sofafi and Sidi Barrani

N5752 N5756 N5768

1455-1630

Patrol over forward troops between Sofafi and Sidi Barrani

N5753 N5756 N5768

10Dec40

0609-0755

Patrol over forward troops between Sofafi and Sidi Barrani

N5752 N5753 N5756 N5768

1055-1310

Patrol over forward troops between Sofafi and Buq Buq

N5752 N5753 N5768

11Dec40

0615-0815

Patrol over forward troops near Sidi Barrani

N5752 N5753 N5768

1130-1310

Patrol over forward troops near Sidi Barrani

N5752 N5768

1410-1630

Patrol over forward troops near Sidi Barrani

N5752 N5768

12Dec40

1202

Three detached to ALG

N5752 N5764 N5782

13Dec40

1400

One to ALG All serviceable Gladiators now at ALG.

N5779

15Dec40

1125

One Gladiator returned for repair

N5810

16Dec40

1244

One Detached to ALG

N5782

17Dec40

1150

Four new Gladiators arrived from 102MU

N5754 N5763 N5786 N5857

1430

Detached to ALG

N5754 N5763 N5786 N5857

18Dec40

From ALG for repair

N5756

19Dec40

Ferried to ALG

Ferried from ALG

N5756

N5786

21Dec40

One new aircraft from 103MU

N5777

22Dec40

Ferried to ALG

N5777 N5786

26Dec40

Returned from ALG

N5753 N5782

31Dec40

1130

Six Mk.I Gladiators arrived

L7615 L7616 L7617 K6142 K7922 K8048

1610

Take-off accident

K6142 damaged – to 51RSU for repair

02Jan41

1115

Ferried to ALG

N5782

03Jan41

0900-1500

Attack on Bardia

24 sorties flown but Serials are unknown

04Jan41

0645-1715

Attack on Bardia

24 sorties flown but Serials are unknown

0845

Ferry to Gerawla

N5754

1210

To 51RSU for 180 hourly

L9044

1410

Ferry to Sollum AGL

L7616

05Jan41

0655-1615

Attack on Bardia

23 sorties flown but Serials are unknown

0930

Ferry to Sollum AGL

L7617

0932

Burst tyre on TO

N5763

06Jan41

1030

Ferry from Sollum AGL

N5782

1038

Ferry to Sollum AGL

N5754

08Jan41

0610

All Sqn elements at Gerawla moved to ALG nr Gambut about ½ way between Bardia and Tobruk




Table 3

Operations from ALG74 - 9th to 13th December 1940

Date

Time

Details

Aircraft Serial

09Dec40

0840

Five Gladiators arrive

L9044 N5765 N5766 N5780 N5810

1230-1350

Patrol over forward troops between Sofafi and Sidi Barrani

N5765 N5766 N5780 N5810

1605-1755

Patrol over forward troops between Sofafi and Sidi Barrani

L9044 N5765 N5766 N5780 N5810

10Dec40

0635-0820

Patrol over forward troops between Sofafi and Sidi Barrani

L9044 N5765 N5766 N5780 N5810

1200-1325

Scramble to intercept EA near Tummar West camp

N5765 N5766 N5780 N5810

1540-1710

Scramble to intercept EA near Tummar West camp

N5765 N5766 N5780 N5810

11Dec40

0625-0812

Patrol over forward troops in Tummar area

L9044 N5765 N5766 N5810

1020-1205

Patrol over forward troops in Tummar area

L9044 N5765 N5766 N5810

1405-1555

Patrol over forward troops in Tummar area

L9044 N5765 N5766 N5810

1605-1812

Patrol over forward troops in Tummar area

L9044 N5765 N5780 N5810

12Dec40

0730

Three aircraft from Gerawla

N5752 N5764 N5782

0752-1005

Patrol over forward troops in Sidi Omar area

N5752 N5766 N5780 N5782

1125-1333

Patrol over forward troops in Sofafi area

N5752 N5764 N5766 N5780 N5782

1600-1815

Patrol over forward troops in Sofafi area

N5752 N5764 N5765 N5782 N5810

13Dec40

0600

All aircraft depart for Bir Mella airfield

L9044 N5752 N5764 N5765

N5766 N5780 N5782 N5810


Table 4

Operations from Bir Mella airfield - 13th to 23rd December 1940

Date

Time

Details

Aircraft Serial

13Dec40

0615

aircraft arrive from ALG74

L9044 N5752 N5764 N5765

N5766 N5780 N5782 N5810

0800-1010

Patrol over Sollum-Fort Capuzzo area

N5752 N5764 N5765 N5766 N5782 N5810

1600

Tyre burst landing. Severe damage, collected by 51RSU

N5779

14Dec40

0800-1005

Patrol over Sollum

L9044 N5780

1500

Patrol over Sollum

L9044 N5780

n/a

Aircraft SOC

N5752 shot down on 13Dec

n/a

Aircraft SOC

N5764 shot down on 13Dec

n/a

Aircraft SOC

N5765 shot down on 13Dec

n/a

Aircraft SOC

N5766 shot down on 13Dec

15Dec40

1015

to Gerawla for repair

N5810

16Dec40

1320

Ferry from Gerawla

N5782

17Dec40

1515

Received from Gerawla

N5753 N5754 N5756 N5763

N5780 N5786 N5810 N5857

18Dec40

1145-1415

Patrol over Fort Capuzzo -Bardia area

L9044 N5753 N5754 N5756 N5763

N5780 N5786 N5810 N5857

1500

to Gerawla for repair

N5756

1600-1820

Patrol over Sollum

L9044 N5780 N5782 N5786 N5810 N5857

19Dec40

0930

Ferry from Gerawla

N5756

1000

to Gerawla for repair

N5786

22Dec40

0445-0655

Patrol over Bardia

L9044 N5754 N5756 N5782 N5810

0800

Ferry from Gerawla

N5777 N5786

1000-1210

Escort Lysander on Artillery Recce over Bardia

L9044 N5753 N5754 N5756 N5763

N5777 N5780 N5810 N5857

1615-1825

Patrol over Bardia

L9044 N5753 N5754 N5756 N5763

N5780 N5786 N5780 N5810 N5857

23Dec40

0710

All moved to Sollum ALG

L9044 N5753 N5754 N5756 N5763 N5777

N5780 N5786 N5780 N5810 N5857


Table 5

Operations from Sollum ALG - 23rd December 1940 to 8th January 1941

Date

Time

Details

Aircraft Serial

23Dec40

0800

aircraft arrive from Bir Mella

L9044 N5753 N5754 N5756 N5763 N5777

N5780 N5786 N5780 N5810 N5857

24Dec40

1030-1242

Escort Lysander on Artillery Recce over Bardia

L9044 N5753 N5754 N5756 N5763

N5780 N5786 N5780 N5810 N5857

25Dec40

1030-1206

Escort Lysander on Artillery Recce over Bardia

N5753 N5754 N5756 N5763 N5780

N5782 N5786 N5810 N5857

1445-1700

Escort Lysander on Artillery Recce over Bardia

L9044 N5753 N5754 N5756 N5763

N5780 N5786 N5810 N5857

26Dec40

0630-0850

Escort Lysander on Artillery Recce over Bardia

Six aircraft but Serials not known

0915-1155

Patrol over Sollum

Eight aircraft but only four Serials known

N5753 N5756 N5782 N5810

27Dec40

1245-1335

Escort Lysander on Artillery Recce over Bardia

Four aircraft but Serials not known

1600

to Gerawla for repair

N5782

28Dec40

0945-1050

Escort Lysander on Artillery Recce over Bardia

Four aircraft but Serials not known

29Dec40

0805-0920

Patrol over Sollum

Six aircraft but Serials not known

130-1415

Patrol over Sollum

Seven aircraft but Serials not known

31Dec40

0830-1008

Escort Lysander on Artillery Recce over Bardia

Six aircraft but Serials not known

1110-1225

Escort Lysander on Artillery Recce over Bardia

Seven aircraft but Serials not known

01Jan41

0810-0930

Escort Lysander on Artillery Recce over Bardia

Seven aircraft but Serials not known

02Jan41

0910

Ferry from Gerawla

N5782

03Jan41

0650-0925

Patrol Bardia -Tobruk

Five aircraft but Serials not known

0910-1130

Patrol Bardia -Tobruk

Four aircraft but Serials not known

1135-1405

Patrol Bardia -Tobruk

Five aircraft but Serials not known

1400-1530

Patrol Bardia -Tobruk

Five aircraft but Serials not known

1535-1715

Patrol Bardia -Tobruk

Five aircraft but Serials not known

04Jan41

0645-0900

Patrol Bardia -Tobruk

Nine aircraft but Serials not known

1155-1330

Patrol Bardia -Tobruk

Nine aircraft but Serials not known

1320

To 51RSU

L9044

1410

to Gerawla for servicing

N5754

1555-1725

Patrol Bardia -Tobruk

Nine aircraft but Serials not known

1800

Ferry from Gerawla

L7616

05Jan41

0955-1130

Patrol Bardia -Tobruk

Nine aircraft but Serials not known

1245-1430

Patrol Bardia -Tobruk

Eight aircraft but Serials not known

1250

accident

N5763 crashed on TO for above.

1530-1725

Patrol Bardia -Tobruk

Eight aircraft but Serials not known

1810

Ferry from Gerawla

L7617

06Jan41

0700

to Gerawla for servicing

N5782

0810

Ferry from Gerawla

N5754

0945-1130

Patrol Bardia -Tobruk

Seven aircraft but Serials not known

08Jan41

0710

All moved to Gambut ALG

Eleven aircraft but Serials not known


Table 6

Operations from Gambut/Bir Hacheim/Gambut ALGs - 9th January to 8th February 1941

Date

Time

Details

Aircraft Serial

08Jan41

0820

Arrive from Sollum ALG

Eleven aircraft but Serials not known

1545-1810

Patrol Bardia -Tobruk

Nine aircraft but Serials not known

09Jan41

1545-1730

Patrol Bardia-Tobruk

Eight aircraft but Serials not known

10Jan41

0800-1000

Escort Lysander on Artillery Recce over Tobruk

Eight aircraft but Serials not known

1050-1255

Patrol Tobruk

Eight aircraft but Serials not known

12Jan41

1025

To 102MU for servicing

N5754 N5756 N5782

16Jan41

1300-1345

to new ALG at Bir Hacheim

K7893 K7901 K7913 K7947 K7963

K8022 L7616 L8008 N5857

1545-1712

Patrol Bir Hacheim

K7893 K7901 K7913 K7947 K7963

K8022 L7616 L8008 N5857

17Jan41

0730-0814

to new ALG at Gambut

K7893 K7901 K7913 K7947 K7963

K8022 L7616 L8008 N5857

19Jan41

1030

From 51 RU

L9044

21Jan41

0700-0900

Patrol Acroma

K7947 L7615 L7616

0830-1030

Patrol Acroma

K7913 L8008

1000-1200

Patrol Acroma

K7901 K7963 L8008

1130-1330

Patrol Acroma

K7947 L7615 L8022

1300-1500

Patrol Acroma

K7913 L7617 L8008

1430-1630

Patrol Acroma

K7901 K7947 K7963

1600-1750

Patrol Acroma

K7947 K8022 L7616

22Jan41

0900

To 51RSU for repair

L7615

1020-1110

Anti-ship strike

K7963 L8008

1530-1725

Patrol El Adem

K7913 K7963 K8022 L7616

L7617 L8008 L8009 L9044

23Jan41

0700-0905

Patrol Mechili area

Landed at Tmimi airfield

K7901 K7913 K7963 K8022

K8048 L7616 L8008 L9044

1005-1050

To new base at Tmimi

L7617 L8009 N5857

24Jan41

1000-1200

Patrol Martuba-Derna

K7901 K7913 K7963 L8008 L9044 N5857

1300-1450

Patrol Martuba-Derna

K7901 K7913 K7963 L7617 L8008 L9044

1530-1755

Patrol Martuba-Derna

K7893 K7963 L7616 L8008 L9044 N5857

25Jan41

0730-0845

Patrol Mechili area

K7963 K8022 L9044 N5857

1400

All to Martuba airfield

K7893 K7901 K7913 K7947 K7963 L7616

L7617 L8008 L8009 L9044 N5857

26Jan41

n/a

Aircraft SOC

K8022 shot down on 25Jan

28Jan41

0958-1020

Scramble Derna area

K7913 K7947 L7616 L8009

29Jan41

1520-1700

Recce over Slonta area

K7913 K7947 L7616 L8008

L8009 L9044 N5857

31Jan41

1120-1210

Recce Derna airfield

K7913 K7947 L7616 L8008 L9044

01Feb41

n/a

Returned to No.102MU

K8048

02Feb41

1200

Escort recce Lysander

K7913 K7947 L7616 L8008 L9044

03Feb41

n/a

Returned to No.102MU

K7893 K7901 K7963 L7616

05Feb41

n/a

Returned to No.102MU

L8009

08Feb42

1100

Last six Gladiators returned to No.102MU at Abu Sueir

K7913 K7947 L7616 L8008 L9044 N5857

PMcG 2023-02-18

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