Biplane fighter aces

The Commonwealth

Pilot Officer Samuel George ‘Sam’ Cooper, RAF no. 42301

1916 – 19 December 1940

Samuel Cooper was born in 1916 and was from Nether Westcote, Kingham, Oxfordshire.

He was granted a short service commission in July 1938.
Confirmed as a Pilot Officer in February 1940, he was posted to the Middle East, where he joined 80 Squadron in Egypt.

80 Squadron was ordered to Greece and on 18 November the ‘B’ Flight of 80 Squadron left Egypt and reached Athens with at least nine Gladiator IIs led by Squadron Leader William Hickey and including Flight Lieutenant 'Pat' Pattle, Flying Officers Greg Graham and Sidney Linnard, Pilot Officers Cooper, 'Heimar' Stuckey and William Vale and Sergeant Charles Casbolt.
“A” Flight of 80 Squadron led by Flight Lieutenant Edward Jones left Egypt for Greece on 23 November.

On 19 November 1940, 'B' Flight of 80 Squadron, which recently had arrived to Greece to reinforce the Greek fighter forces, flew up to Trikkala during the morning. After refueling, nine Gladiators took off at 14:10, led by three Greek PZL P.24s (23 Mira), for an offensive patrol over the Koritza area. Squadron Leader William Hickey led the Gladiators.
When they neared the Italian airfield at Koritza the PZLs were obliged to turn back due to their short range. The Gladiators flew over Koritza were Italian anti-aircraft opened up. Flight Lieutenant 'Pat' Pattle, who were leading the second section, sighted four Fiat CR.42s climbing towards them from the starboard beam.
It had been arranged beforehand that the Gladiators would not use their radiotelephones unless it was absolutely essential, because they had discovered in the desert that the CR.42s used a similar wavelength; by listening in to the Gladiators, the Italians received prior information of an attack. Pattle warned Hickey of the presence of the CR.42s simply by diving past the Commanding Officer's section and pointing his Gladiator towards the Italian aircraft. Hickey acknowledged that he understood by waggling his wing and Pattle withdrew to his position at the head of his section.
As Hickey’s section dived towards the four CR.42s, Pattle noticed a second group of two more CR.42s and took his section, consisting of Pilot Officer 'Heimar' Stuckey and Sergeant Charles Casbolt, to engage these. Pattle went for the leading CR.42, which attempted to evade the attack by diving steeply and slipping from side to side. Pattle followed, closing in rapidly, but he didn't fire until the CR.42 straightened out and thereby offered a steadier target. From 100 yards astern, he lined up the CR.42 in his sight and opened fire. The CR.42 steepened its dive; the pilot had apparently been hit, because he fell forward over the control column. Pattle pulled away, as the CR.42 went straight down to crash about two miles west of Koritza, bursting into flames on striking the ground. Stuckey, following close behind Pattle's Gladiator, smiled and gave a thumbs-up signal to Pattle signifying confirmation of the victory.
The two Gladiators, now completely alone, climbed up to 15,000 feet immediately over the airfield, and saw a dogfight in progress a few miles to the north. Heading in that direction, they were soon engaged by five CR.42s and two G.50s. One of the G.50s came at Pattle in a head-on attack, but broke away much too early, the tracers passing yards below the Gladiator. A CR.42 had a go next, but Pattle quickly snap-rolled, up and over the Italian aircraft, and came down perfectly in position fifty yards behind the CR.42. A short burst and the cockpit of the CR.42 became a mass of flames and it fell away burning furiously. After this combat he noticed that his air pressure were so low that he couldn't fire his guns and he soon returned to base.
Totally in this combat the British pilots claimed nine and two probables shot down. Apart from Pattle's two CR.42s, Stuckey claimed one G.50, which crashed, and one CR.42, Flight Lieutenant Greg Graham claimed one G.50 and one CR.42, Pilot Officer Cooper claimed one shared CR.42 with Pilot Officer William Vale, who also claimed one additional CR.42, Sergeant Charles Casbolt claimed one G.50 and finally Flying Officer Sidney Linnard claimed two CR.42s as probables.
Pilot Officer Stuckey was hit in the combat by CR.42s and wounded in the right shoulder and leg. He was saved from being finished off by Squadron Leader Hickey, who managed to driving away the CR.42s and then escort him back to Trikkala from where he would be dispatched to the Greek Red Cross hospital in Athens.
Pilot Officer Vale reported:

"Nine Gladiators and three PZLs took off from Trikkala in four flights of three aircraft to carry out an offensive patrol over Koritza. I was flying in the second flight as No.2 to F/Lt Pattle. We arrived over the area at approximately 1440 hours and after patrolling for about five minutes two CR42s were seen approaching our formation at 14,000 feet from starboard ahead. The signal for line astern was given by the flight leader, who immediately attacked the enemy aircraft, which broke formation. F/Lt Pattle engaged one CR42 and after a shot dogfight shot it down out of control, with smoke coming from the engine.
The other CR42 was engage by No.1 Flight. I tried to regain my flight but finally attached myself to two Gladiators in formation, which I found out to be No.1 Flight led by S/Ldr Hickey. We carried on the patrol at about 10,000 feet over Koritza, where we met fairly accurate AA fire. ‘Tally-ho!’ was then given when three CR42s in formation were seen at about 6,000 feet. The formation split up and I dived on a CR42 which was attempting to escape to the north. I carried out a quarter attack and then slid in to an astern position, which I held while the enemy pilot did evasive tactics. He then carried out a manoeuvre which appeared to be a downward roll and I noticed that smoke was coming from his engine. I carried on firing in short bursts until he went between two hills through a small cloud. I followed over the cloud but no enemy aircraft appeared and so I went below into the valley and saw wreckage in a copse – at the same time getting fired at by enemy troops.
I climbed up immediately and at 6,000 feet saw a shiny monoplane with radial engine diving down. I gave chase but was out-distanced and so gave up after firing a short burst at about 400 yards. I gained altitude and observed a Gladiator and a CR42 in a dogfight very low down over the hill, and also noticed that the enemy pilot was attempting to lead the Gladiator over a group of enemy ground forces. I waited until the Gladiator pilot had manoeuvred into an astern attack and then carried out a quarter attack. I noticed that first white smoke and then black was coming from the engine of the e/a before I opened fire. I carried out quarter attacks until the other Gladiator pilot pulled away and then slid into an astern attack.
I remained in that position until very low over the main road and then the CR42 turned over and slid into the side of a hill. The aircraft did not burst into flames. While pulling up I fired at the enemy ground troops. I gained altitude and waggled my wings for the other Gladiator pilot to join me and then found the other pilot was P/O Cooper, who had apparently run out of ammunition. I then set course for home and finally landed at Eleusis, where I refuelled, before proceeding to the base aerodrome. I inspected my aeroplane and found that I had one bullet hole in my tail plane, which had done no damage. In each encounter with CR42s I found that both pilots used the downward roll manoeuvre at high speed for evasive action."
80 Squadron had been involved in combat with Fiat CR.42s of 160o Gruppo Autonomo C.T., which were patrolling over this area, and with G.50bis from 24o Gruppo Autonomo C.T., which were escorting bombers in the same area.
In fact, when the British aircraft arrived over the front there were four CR.42s of the 160o Gruppo led by Tenente Torquato Testerini (CO 393a Squadriglia) and two G.50bis of the 24o Gruppo led by Tenente Attilio Meneghel (355a Squadriglia) in the air. The Fiat of Sergente Maggiore Natale Viola (363a Squadriglia) was attacked by a reportedly “20 Glosters and three PZL” and shot down, the pilot being killed while Meneghel attacked six Glosters alone before being shot down himself and killed. It is possible that Sergente Maggiore Viola was shot down by Flight Lieutenant Pattle.
From Koritza airfield, the eight remaining combat ready CR.42s of the 160o Gruppo were scrambled at 15:25 to help their comrades. They were led by Capitano Paolo Arcangeletti but were taken at disadvantage while climbing by the aggressive Glosters losing two more of their numbers when Maresciallo Giuseppe Salvadori (363a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Arturo Bonato (393a Squadriglia) were killed. Sergente Maggiore Walter Ratticchieri was hit early in the fight and wounded in both legs being however able to return to base and land.
Totally three CR.42s (Viola, Salvadori and Bonato) and one G.50bis (Meneghel ) were lost and one CR.42 was damaged (Ratticchieri). Sergente Maggiore Luciano Tarantini claimed a Gladiator shot down, two more being claimed as probables, one by Capitano Paolo Arcangeletti, the other by a G.50bis pilot.

At 14.30 on 2 December Flight Lieutenant 'Pat' Pattle was off again, this time at the head of 12 Gladiators to undertake an offensive patrol over the front lines in support of the Greek Army. Near Premet two Ro.37bis were seen 1000 feet below. Pattle led his flight (Pilot Officer Cooper and Flight Sergeant ‘Mick’ Richens) down. He levelled out just behind and beneath the left-hand aircraft and waited for Cooper to get into position astern the second unsuspecting reconnaissance aircraft. They opened fire simultaneously and both Italian aircraft fell in flames. One man was seen to bale out of Cooper’s victim.
This was two more Ro.37bis from 72o Gruppo O.A. in which Capitano Gardella/Capitano Fuchs and Sergente Leoni/Sergente Vescia were all killed.

Shortly before midday on 19 December Squadron Leader William Hickey led 14 of 80 Squadron's Gladiators up to Yanina, followed by the ground party in a Ju 52/3m. After refuelling, 13 of these fighters were off to patrol over the Tepelene area where five S.79s of the 46o Stormo were seen, escorted by CR.42s and G.50bis. The British pilots at once engaged the bombers, believing that they had shot one down (no loss was actually suffered), but return fire struck N5785 and it went down in flames, Pilot Officer Cooper being seen to bale out. Squadron Leader Hickey thought that he had shot down one of the escorting CR.42s, which now attempted to intervene, but he then went down to land on a waterlogged field near Argyrokastron to look for his missing pilot. With the aid of some Greek soldiers, the badly wounded Cooper was located, and was transferred to hospital in Argyrokastron, where he died that evening. Meanwhile Sergeant Edward Hewett’s N5827 had been hit and badly damaged by AA fire, and he was obliged to force-land 20 miles north of Yanina during the return flight; this Gladiator was later salvaged.
No escorting CR.42s were actually lost in this combat.

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

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940                
  19/11/40 14:10- ½ CR.42 (a) Shared destroyed Gladiator   Koritza area 80 Squadron
1 02/12/40   1 Ro.37bis (b) Destroyed Gladiator   near Premet 80 Squadron

Biplane victories: 1 and 1 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 and 1 shared destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with CR.42s from the 160o Gruppo and G.50bis from the 24o Gruppo, which lost 3 CR.42s and 1 G.50bis and 1 damaged CR.42 while claiming 1 and 2 probable Gladiators. 80 Squadron claimed 6 destroyed and 2 probables CR.42s and 3 G.50bis destroyed with 1 damaged Gladiator.
(b) Two Ro.37bis from 72o Gruppo O.A. shot down after two claims from 80 Squadron. Capitano Gardella/Capitano Fuchs and Sergente Leoni/Sergente Vescia were all killed.

Sources:
Ace of Aces: M T StJ Pattle - E C R Baker, 1992 Crécy Books, Somerton, ISBN 0-947554-36-X
Air war for Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete - Christopher Shores, Brian Cull and Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-07-0
Desert Prelude: Early clashes June-November 1940 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2010 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-89450-52-4
Fiat CR.42 Aces of World War 2 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-427-5
Gladiator Ace: Bill 'Cherry' Vale, the RAF's forgotten fighter ace - Brian Cull with Ludovico Slongo and Håkan Gustavsson, 2010 Haynes Publishing, ISBN 978-1-84425-657-0
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Those Other Eagles – Christopher Shores, 2004 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-904010-88-1




Last modified 10 April 2011