Biplane fighter aces


Lieutenant Shang Deh-Ren

Shang Deh-ren served with 29th Pursuit Squadron of the 5th Fighter Group in February 1938. The squadron was at this time equipped with Gloster Gladiator Mk.Is.

The Chinese Gladiators made their combat debut on 24 February 1938 when the seaplane carriers Notoro and Kinugasa Maru despatched eight and five Type 95 (E8N) seaplanes to attacked Nan Hsiung. Some of the Japanese aircraft carried bombs while others served as escorts. A group of twelve Gladiators from the 28th (three Gladiators) and 29th (nine Gladiators) Squadrons were scrambled from Nan Hsiung Airfield led by 29th PS's Squadron Leader Buffalo Wong to meet the intruders.
They were divided into two groups immediately after becoming airborne. The first group was led by Buffalo Wong and the other group by Deputy Squadron Leader Hsieh Chuan-ho. Flying at 6000 feet, they sighted the E8Ns at the 9 o'clock position.
During this combat the Gladiators where hampered by jamming guns, few had all four functioning while two had all four jamming. (Art Chin recalled that the problem was attributed to a bad load of ammunition from Belgium).
Buffalo Wong signalled the group to follow him to dive into the enemy formations. Buffalo Wong single-handed shot up two Type 95's, one hit over Nan Hsiung, caught fire, dived to extinguish the flames and flew away to the south. The other streamed fuel after being shot up over Shaokuan but escaped towards the south-east. Buffalo Wong also shot up another with the help of his wingmen Lieutenants Huang Kwang-ching, Chou Ling-hsu, Huang Neng-rong. The Japanese plane streamed fuel but also did not go down immediately.
Lieutenants Li Yu-rong, Chou Ling-hsu, Fan Hsin-min and Shang Deh-ren each took turns to fire at another enemy aircraft. The Japanese aircraft was seen leaving trailing black thick smoke.
Meanwhile, Deputy Squadron Leader Lieutenant Hsieh Chuan-ho and his wingmen Lieutenant Teng Chung-kai and Lieutenant Yang Ru-tong were attacking a floatplane when the nimble Japanese plane turned sharply and shot down and killed Yang (Gladiator #2902) in a head-on pass. Teng and Hsieh believed they hit the Japanese in turn but were unable to finish him off because of jamming guns.
A 28th PS pilot, Chen Chi-Wei chased an E8N 300 feet above the ground. Due to gun(s) jamming he pressed in too close to fire his remaining guns and lost control of his Gladiator #2808 and was unable to pull out of a tailspin. He crashed and was lost. The air battle ended at 10.00.
The Chinese Air Force lost two Gladiators and pilots in this combat. Additionally, Chou Ling-hsu's Gladiator #2810 was hit by a rear gunner shattering a wing strut and damaging an aileron and a control cable when some of his guns jammed and he pressed in too close during his. Huang Kwang-ching's #2907 hit a bomb crater during landing and its upper wing and elevators snapped. Deputy Squadron Leader Xieh Chuanwo's #2901 ran off the runway due to a brake failure inflicting minor damage to its right wings. #2909, which was grounded due to a leaking wing tank was hit by strafing Japanese aircraft.
No Japanese aircraft was seen to crash during the combat but two floatplane wrecks were found after the action way to the south, one at Tseng Cheng, 160km directly south of Shaokuan (and only 80km from Hong Kong) and the other at Hsin Feng, 90km south of Nan Hsiung. The two that caught fire during the combat (one claimed by Buffalo Wong and one by Lieutenants Li, Chou, Fan and Shang) were the most likely to have crashed. Japanese records states that the one Type 95 from each of the seaplane carriers "failed to return" and another from the Notoro was written off in a crash landing. This last Type 95 (no. 13 over 1) was hit 138 times (!) The observer was riddled with multiple hits and killed while the pilot was wounded in the right leg. In addition, Notoro and Kinugasa Maru each lost one other aircrew killed. From these casualty figures it appears that a total of 5 floatplanes were hit badly enough to have aircrew killed (Notoro; two lost on downed aircraft, one lost on aircraft written off in landing and one on another aircraft. Kinugasa Maru; two lost on downed aircraft, one on another aircraft.). This match with the Chinese claims of 5 Japanese aircraft being hit.

Shang Deh-ren ended the war with 1 shared biplane victory this one being claimed while flying Gloster Gladiator Mk.I.

Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  24/02/38 1/4 E8N (a) Shared destroyed Gladiator I #2810 Nan Hsiung area 29th PS

Biplane victories: 1 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 shared destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with E8N's from the seaplane carriers Notoro and Kinugasa Maru. The Chinese pilots claimed 2 aircraft (and 3 damaged) but the seaplane carriers only lost one aircraft each in the combat.

Chinese Air Force Gladiators in Action - D. Y. Louie, 1998 Small Air Forces Observer vol. 22 no. 4 (88) December 1998 kindly provided by Santiago Flores.
Much additional information kindly provided by Raymond Cheung.