Number of Readers

To access Web Pages from this Blog

Please click on the links in each Blog entry to access web sites on that topic.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

3 Squadron RAAF engaged in its first aerial combat of WW2

This entry to my "Australia @ War" Blog has been provided by Gordon Clarke of ADF Serials:-

On this day (19th November), 69 years ago 3 Squadron RAAF was engaged in its first aerial combat of WW2. At 1340 four Gloster Galdiator IIs took off from Gerawla led by F/L Blake Pelly (260226) on a tactical reconnaissance operation of enemy positions (ie. the Italians). F/L Pelly was in Gladiator N5753 and had as escort S/L Peter Heath (87) in N5750, F/O Alan Rawlinson (386) in L9044 and F/O Alan Boyd in N5752. As they approached the township of Rabia they spotted Italian Fiat CR.42s strafing British troops and tanks that were engaged in a battle with Italian artillery.

At 1300 hours 18 Fiat CR.42 from 13 Gruppo took off from Gambut and comprised of 12 aircraft led by Secondo Revetria with an escort of 6 aircraft led by Guglielmo Chiarini which were some 6,000' higher and behind the initial group of CR.42s. They came across the battle between the Italian artillery and British tanks and Revetria led his formation on a strafing attack of the British positions.

When the Australians led by Pelly saw the Italian Fiats they turned around and headed for their base as per their orders. However, before they had managed to fly any distance they were jumped by the 6 Fiats led by Chiarini, who had estimated the Australian strength at 8 Gladiators. In the ensuing combat the Australian formation was broken up and the other Italian formation entered the fray. In the opening moves of the combat F/O Boyd was attacked by 3 CR.42s, presumably from the section led by Chiarini. By manoeuvring desperately Boyd managed to shoot down two of his attackers and damage the third, unfortunately during the engagement his guns jammed though he managed to free two of them. Then he saw Pelly, who was attempting to land, being attacked by two CR.42s. He went to Pelly's aid. Boyd managed to shoot down one before his two remaining guns jammed again. He took off, hotly pursued by the remaining Fiat at low level, before the latter eventually gave up. Boyd joined up with Pelly, but the latter had to land early when his engine gave out.

The Italian pilots claimed 6 Gladiators shot down with a seventh shared probable and the eighth seriously damaged, which is interesting given there were only 4 in the combat. Of the Australians as already mentioned Pelly landed early due to a damaged oil tank, while Alan Boyd and Alan Rawlinson both landed back at their base. S/L Peter Heath was shot down and killed and it appears buried next to his aircraft by Libyan army personnel, who claimed to have confirmed the six aircraft shot down by the Italians. F/O Boyd claimed four destroyed, but was given three destroyed with the fourth that was last seen trailing black smoke and spinning towards the ground as a probable. F/L Pelly claimed he shot down a CR.42 but was given no credit, while F/O Rawlinson claimed a damaged. Perhaps Pelly did shoot down a Fiat and that is what the Libyan's counted on the ground - one Gladiator and five CR.42s.