Biplane fighter aces

The Commonwealth

Flying Officer Peter Charles Lindsay Brunton, RAF nos. 779034 (NCO) 89774 (Officer)

Pilots of 112 Squadron at Yanina, Greece.
(Left to right) Pilot Officer Robert Haldane MacDonald, Flying Officer Acworth and Pilot Officer Brunton.

On 11 November 1940, Leading Aircraftman Brunton was promoted to Pilot Officer (on probation), with seniority from 9 November 1940.

On 14 January 1941, Brunton was posted to 112 Squadron as a Pilot Officer.

Together with the Squadron he took part in the Greek campaign.

During the afternoon of 13 March Squadron Leader H. L. I. Brown led 14 Gladiators from 112 squadron and six of 33 Squadron's Hurricanes off from Paramythia for an offensive patrol over the Kelcyre area. Approaching Kelcyre at 15:30 on an altitude of 17,000 feet an estimated 14 S.79s were seen - aircraft from 104o Gruppo B.T. - with an escort identified as 20 G.50bis and 20 plus CR.42s.
Three of the Hurricanes attacked the mass of fighters, followed by the Gladiators, and many individual dogfights ensued. Squadron Leader Brown attacked the leading fighter of a flight of three, but it evaded him successfully. He then got on the tail of another, which turned and dived and eventually crashed; he claimed a G.50 and another damaged. Flight Lieutenant Joseph Fraser attacked a CR.42, which had not seen him. He reported that it burst into flames and crashed near Bousi. Two more were claimed destroyed by Flying Officer Homer Cochrane and Pilot Officer Jack Groves, while Pilot Officers Neville Bowker and D. G. H. McDonald each claimed a probable CR.42.
The Gladiators reformed, then spotted about 30 more CR.42s with 38o Stormo BR.20s. Seven of Flight Lieutenant Charles Fry’s ‘C’ Flight pilots went after the bombers, while Flight Lieutenant Fraser’s ‘A’ Flight tackled the fighters, claiming seven more shot down. Fraser attacked a CR.42, which flick-rolled and dived away. He followed it down and got in two long bursts after which the enemy aircraft levelled off and lost speed, with the pilot slumped forward in the cockpit. The aircraft then dived vertically into the ground north of Corovode. Fraser then climbed back up to 8,000 feet and got on the tail of another CR.42 firing at it continuously until it burst into flames and was destroyed. Fraser’s own aircraft was badly shot up, as was that of Pilot Officer Groves (after having claimed a second CR.42 and one damaged), but both managed to get back to base. Flying Officer Cochrane claimed two more CR.42s while Pilot Officer Brunton and Flying Officer E. H. Brown each claimed a CR.42.
The ‘G.50bis’ seem to have been 22o Gruppo Macchi MC.200s, 11 of which accompanied 18 CR.42s from the 160o Gruppo over the front. The Italian pilots claimed four Gladiators and one Hurricane shot down, losing just two CR.42s flown by Tenente Gualtiero Bacchi and Sottotenente Enzo Torroni (both from 375a Squadriglia), but no MC.200s. It seems that Capitano Vittorio Minguzzi claimed a probable Gladiator in this combat.
Although no claims were made against the bombers on this occasion, several were in fact hit and damaged, a number of crewmen being wounded.
In his combat report Fraser commented that the CR.42 pilots always tried to flick-roll when attacked.

At 10:30 on 14 March three of 33 Squadron's Hurricanes were off with twelve Gladiators to escort 211 Squadron Blenheims to the Tepelene-Kelcyre area, where a large formation of Italian fighters was reported, variously identified by the Hurricane pilots as twelve CR.42s, twelve G.50bis and twelve MC.200s, and by the Gladiator pilots as 40-50 CR.42s and G.50bis. In addition ten Z.1007bis and five BR.20s were seen - aircraft from 47o and 38o Stormo respectively. The opposing fighters were 16 MC.200s from the 22o Gruppo and twelve CR.42s of the 160o Gruppo reporting meeting 20 Gladiators and eight Hurricanes, escorting five Blenheims.
Flight Lieutenant Charles Fry and his flight attacked the bombers, Fry himself claiming a BR.20 shot down north of Kelcyre near the front line after having attacked three formations of enemy bombers. Flying Officer D. H. V. Smith claimed a damaged BR.20 (and a probable G.50). 'C' Flight led by Flight Lieutenant Joseph Fraser became involved in a swirling dogfight with the Italian monoplane fighters, claiming four shot down, four probables and a damaged. Sergeant 'Paddy' Donaldson claimed two, both of which dived away pouring smoke, while Flight Lieutenant Fraser was attacked head-on by one, but managed to evade this and get on its tail, his fire causing the aircraft to roll onto its back and the pilot to bale out. One Macchi shot the tail off N5916 and Squadron Leader H. L. I. Brown managed to bale out only with the greatest difficulty; Pilot Officer Neville Bowker's Gladiator was also damaged after having claimed a probable G.50, which was seen going down out of control. Pilot Officer Brunton attacked one and appeared to knock bits off it so that it went into a spiral dive with smoke coming from it. Other claims were made by Flying Officer R. J. Bennett (one G.50), Flying Officer Homer Cochrane (one G.50) and Pilot Officer Jack Groves (one probable G.50).
The Hurricanes also engaged the Macchis, 33 Squadron claming two shot down and two probables, but after believing that he had got one of these, Flying Officer Holman was himself shot down and had to bale out. Flight Sergeant Leonard Cottingham claimed one and one probable of the 'monoplanes' while Pilot Officer Starett claimed one probable..
The Italian pilots claimed two Hurricanes and two Gladiators shot down on this occasion. It seems that Capitano Vittorio Minguzzi claimed one of the Hurricanes and a shared in one of the Gladiators during this combat. The 22o Gruppo lost Tenente Luigi Locatelli, who was killed, and Sergente Ferruccio Miazzo, who baled out, while Sottotenente Edgardo Vaghi's fighter was damaged. Gunners in one Cant Z.1007bis claimed one Gladiator shot down, and one bomber was damaged (reportedly by AA) returning with some of the crew wounded.

Early in the afternoon of 26 March, the 153o Gruppo C.T. Macchi MC.200s were out to strafe Paramythia. As they approached in four sections they were met at 12:50 by four 112 Squadron Gladiators from ‘A’ Flight (Flight Lieutenant Lloyd Schwab, Pilot Officer McDonald, Pilot Officer Brunton and Pilot Officer Neville Bowker (Gladiator N5917)), which they identified as 12 in numbers. One Gladiator was badly damaged, but the pilot managed to land safely, while Flight Lieutenant Schwab pursued the MC.200s to the coast, believing that he had possibly managed to shoot one down into the sea off Perdika. He also shot at a Hurricane in error, not realizing they were in the area. Pilot Officer Brunton claimed a damaged MC.200 in this combat.
During the dogfight, two Macchis broke away and strafed the airfield, claiming two Gladiators and a Wellington destroyed. In fact, they managed to destroy one Gladiator, and hit the wreckage of the Wellington, which they had already destroyed four days earlier.

On 13 April 112 Squadron was in action for the first time since the German attack on Yugoslavia and Greece when Squadron Leader Lloyd Schwab led the Gladiators on an offensive patrol over Koritza. They spotted eight S.79s from 104o Gruppo B.T. escorted by a recorded three Bf 109s and one G.50. The escort was almost certainly all MC.200s of 153o Gruppo C.T. Schwab claimed the ‘G.50’ shot down, but Pilot Officer Brunton was forced to bale out when the propeller flew off his aircraft. He returned on muleback with the aid of local peasants. Gunners in the S.79s claimed one Gladiator shot down and two probables. 153o Gruppo didn’t suffer any losses in this combat.

On 15 April nine G.50bis from the 24o Gruppo C.T. attacked Yanina, while 15 more flew top cover. Six of 112 Squadron's Gladiators managed to get off and a sharp dogfight began. Pilot Officer Brunton got on the tail of one Fiat, but his guns jammed and another attacked him, his aircraft being badly shot-up, while he was wounded. As he came in to land several G.50s followed, but the airfield defences drove them off. Two G.50s were claimed during this fracas, whilst the Italian pilots claimed three Gladiators shot down and three probables, six further aircraft being claimed destroyed on the ground. No RAF losses or casualties were suffered other than to Brunton's aircraft, but the Yugoslav S.79 at this airfield was destroyed, and other Yugoslav aircraft may also have fallen victim to the strafing.

He was reported as wounded or injured in action in Flight magazine from 12 June 1941 but whether this was from the action on 13 April or a later action is not known.

On 11 November 1941, Brunton was promoted to Flying Officer, with seniority from 9 November 1941.

In the afternoon on 3 February 1942, six Kittyhawks of 112 Squadron staffed vehicles on the Derna road. During this mission Brunton was shot down and killed by ground fire.

At the time of his death, Brunton was credited with 1 biplane victory, this one being claimed while flying Gloster Gladiators.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 13/03/41   1 CR.42 (a) Destroyed Gladiator   Kelcyre area 112 Squadron
  14/03/41   1 G.50 (b) Damaged Gladiator   Tepelene-Kelcyre area 112 Squadron
  26/03/41 12:50 1 G.50 (c) Damaged Gladiator   Perdika area 112 Squadron

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed, 2 damaged.
TOTAL: 1 destroyed, 2 damaged.
(a) Claimed in combat with MC.200s from 22o Gruppo and CR.42s from 160o Gruppo. 112 Squadron claimed 10 CR.42s destroyed, 2 probables and 1 damaged and 1 ‘G.50bis’ and 1 damaged without losses. The Italian pilots claimed four Gladiators and one Hurricane shot down, losing two CR.42s flown by Tenente Gualtiero Bacchi and Sottotenente Enzo Torroni (both from 375a Squadriglia), but no MC.200s.
(b) Claimed in combat with Z.1007bis and BR.20s from 47o and 38o Stormo and MC.200s from the 22o Gruppo and CR.42s of the 160o Gruppo, which claimed 2 Hurricanes and 3 Gladiators while losing 2 MC.200s and getting 1 MC.200 and 1 Z.1007bis damaged. 112 Squadron claimed 5 destroyed, 2 probables and 1 damaged G.50s and 1 destroyed and 1 damaged BR.20 while losing 1 Gladiator. 33 Squadron claimed 2 ‘monoplanes’ and 2 probables while losing 1 Hurricane.
(c) Claimed in combat against MC.200s of 153o Gruppo CT., which didn't suffer any losses.

53o Stormo - Marco Mattioli, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-977-5
Air war for Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete - Christopher Shores, Brian Cull and Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-07-0
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
Flight Global RAF 112 Sqn Tribute
Shark Squadron - The history of 112 Squadron 1917-1975 - Robin Brown, 1994 Crécy Books, ISBN 0-947554-33-5
The London Gazette
Additional information kindly provided by Rob Brown and Carlo Minguzzi.

Last modified 26 February 2012