Wing Commander Donald Swift 'Don' Gregory DFM, RAF nos. 565558 (NCO); 47849 (Officer)
Image kindly provided by David Slade.
Don Gregory was born in Northampton on 8 May 1915. He lived in Nottingham where he attended Workshop Central School.
He enlisted as an Aircraft Apprentice in September 1931 and was later selected for pilot training.
He was posted from 3 FTS in the Middle East to 33 Squadron in 1938 and was subsequently posted to 80 Squadron.
On 3 April 1940 he was involved in a mid-air collision with Flight Lieutenant, John Lapsley and baled out.
When the war started in North Africa on 10 June 1940, 80 Squadron was commanded by Squadron Leader R. C. Jonas and based at Amriya. It had 22 Gladiators (mainly Mk.Is) and one Hurricane Mk.I (L1669 – nicknamed Collie’s Battleship) on hand. Its main role was the defence of Alexandria. The pilots were divided into three Flights.
‘A’ Flight included Squadron Leader R. C. Jonas (CO), Flight Lieutenant Edward Jones, Flying Officer George Kettlewell, Pilot Officer Anthony Hugh Cholmeley,Pilot Officer Ernest Mason, Pilot Officer Arthur Weller, Pilot Officer Johnny Lancaster, Pilot Officer P. T. Dowding, Sergeant Gregory, Flight Sergeant T. C. Morris and Sergeant J. C. Hulbert.
In November 1940 he accompanied the squadron to Greece, where he was promoted to Flight Sergeant.
On 27 November, Squadron Leader William Hickey led nine Gladiators from 80 Squadron off from Trikkala to patrol to the north of Yanina. Here they spotted a trio of S.79s escorted by some dozen 150o Gruppo CR.42s, led by Capitano Nicola Magaldi, commander of the 364a Squadriglia. The British pilots attacked at once. Flight Lieutenant Edward 'Tap' Jones (Gladiator II N5816) and Sergeant Gregory (Gladiator II N5776), each claiming one Fiat shot down.
Magaldi was killed in this combat and Sergente Giovanni Negri returned to base unhurt, but with his aircraft very badly shot-up.
On 28 November 1940, six Gladiators from 80 Squadron's 'A' Flight flew a fighter mission led by Flight Lieutenant ’Tap’ Jones. Over Delvinakion they reported meeting 20 CR.42s. This was in fact ten aircraft of 150o Gruppo C.T. led by Capitano Giorgio Graffer, CO of the 365a Squadriglia.
In the ensuing dogfight Flying Officer H. U. Sykes (Gladiator N5812) and Sergente Corrado Mignani collided, both pilots being killed. Flight Lieutenant Jones, after claiming two CR.42s shot down off the tails of fellow pilots, had Gladiator N5816 badly shot-up, his instrument panel smashed, and a bullet wound in his neck. He was escorted back to Yanina by Sergeant Gregory, where he managed to land safely. Sergeant Gregory claimed three destroyed CR.42s in this combat. Flying Officer Wanklyn Flower was also shot-up in N5854, but believed he had shot down one CR.42 first. Gladiators N5788 flown by Flying Officer W. B. Price-Owen and N5786 flown by Flying Officer F. W. Hosken were also damaged, but both pilots also claimed one probable CR.42 each.
Apart from Mignani, two more CR.42s were actually lost, Graffer - one of the most successful Italian fighter pilots of the war thus, with five victories credited to him - being killed, while Sergente Achille Pacini baled out. Maresciallo Guglielmo Bacci's and Sergente Bruno Zotti’s CR.42s were damaged and both pilots were wounded but managed to return to base. Four Gladiators and one probable were claimed shot down.
On 4 December, four Gladiators from 112 Squadron on detachment to 80 Squadron arrived at Larissa, flown by Flight Lieutenant Charles Fry, Flying Officer Homer Cochrane, Pilot Officer Robert Higson Smith and 2nd Lieutenant H. H. Geraty. These together with eleven of the resident Gladiators were flown up to Yannina for further operations. From here Squadron Leader William Hickey led 14 aircraft on an offensive patrol over the Tepelene area at 15:05. Here many CR.42s and G.50s were encountered at around 15:30. In cloudy conditions a confusing combat took place with heavy overclaiming (especially from the RAF). The fighters from 80 and 112 Squadrons had returned at 17:05 and made claims for ten destroyed (9 CR.42 and 1 G.50) and five probables (1 CR.32, 3 CR.42 and 1 G.50). One of the Gladiators seems to have been shot down (the unknown pilot was safe) and two more Gladiators were damaged (Flight Lieutenant ’Pat' Pattle and Pilot Officer Robert Higson Smith).
Flight Lieutenant Pattle (Gladiator II N5832) claimed three CR.42s shot down, one into a hillside north of Delvinakion, one in flames from which the pilot baled out, and after his own aircraft had been hit in the main fuel tank and a wing strut, a third from which the pilot was also seen to bale out. He claimed a fourth as a probable when it poured black smoke. He then attacked a fighter, which he identified as a CR.32, which stalled into cloud, claiming this as a probable also. He reported:
“At 15.00 hours on the 4th December, 1940, 14 Gladiators of No. 80 Squadron and No. 112 Detachment took off from Juannuina landing ground to do an offensive patrol over the Tepelene area.Sergeant Edward Hewett (N5858) claimed two CR.42s and a G.50. He reported:
On the way to our patrol area a great number of aircraft were seen ahead of us over Delvinakion and Permedi areas. These aircraft consisted of our bombers and enemy fighters and bombers.
Our height was 7,500 ft.
The Squadron Commander leading the lower section turned towards a large formation of 27 enemy biplane fighters on our port side and was soon engaged.
Leading No. 3 Section I came up astern of a formation of 5 CR.42s and delivered a formation attack which was unobserved. The aircraft I attacked dived steeply towards the ground. I gave it two bursts and broke away but saw it flatten out about 2,000 ft above the ground. I dived again and this time after firing a few more bursts the E.A. crashed into the side of a hill a few miles north of Delvinakion.
On regaining height I found a member Squadron Ldrs. Flight (probably the C.O. himself) hard pressed with several CR.42s milling round him. Selecting a 42 just about to attack I had no difficulty in getting close behind his tail. After a few bursts his cockpit filled with smoke, and I observed flames spurting from his starboard side as he went down.
On turning round I found the sky filled with Gladiators and not a single E.A. in sight. The cloud base was only a few hundred feet above me so I climbed through and was amazed to find all the enemy fighters flying round in circles a thousand feet above me. Their tactics were obvious. They were hoping that the Gladiators would climb through the cloud to attack them and on emerging would be attacked from a superior altitude and probably unobserved.
As I emerged several fighters attacked me. I dived back into the cloud but unfortunately struck a thin patch and one E.A. attacking dead ahead managed to get a burst in, holing my main petrol tank, before I saw him. On my second attempt I managed to get within firing distance of a CR.42 which was flying immediately above me without being seen. I fired when slightly below and astern of him, the plane turned slowly to the right and I observed the pilot baling out. He appeared to almost strike my main plane as I passed him. The petrol streaming out behind me had attracted a certain amount of attention and I had again to resort to the cloud safety.
After several more attempts at penetrating the clouds I managed to get well clear of them and attacked a CR.42 at same altitude. After a short dog fight he went down through cloud in a spin with bluish black smoke pouring from him… this time a 42 attacking from Quarter damaged one of … with a well directed burst. I had several more dog fights but without success. One… spun down after one of the attacks but I am positive it was … to a stall as I spun soon afterwards. Lack of fuel in my … forced me to retire from the area and I landed at 16.15 hours.”
“The first CR.42 I destroyed by a short burst from almost dead astern after a short chase, and a few polished aerobatics on the part of the enemy. The second was a little more difficult but I finally got a long burst into the machine at the top of a loop. The enemy aircraft fell sideways and then burst into flames, it was gutted before it hit the ground. The first CR42 went into a hillside in a vertical dive and I saw the impact.Sergeant Gregory (N5776) claimed one CR.42 and reported:
Gazing below I saw a monoplane flying very low across a snow clad mountain. I dived upon it and as my range closed I saw it to be a G.50. I opened fire and had a long burst at the aircraft and then pulled away. On sighting the aircraft again I saw it skidding violently sideways about 30 ft. up and heading for a hilltop over which there was no possibility of climbing. I was not able to witness the crash because I was distracted at that moment by machine gun fire from behind. A CR.42 was then on my tail. I rolled off the top of a loop and saw him no more.
I then returned to base.”
“I was No. 2 in the leading flight and considered that my position was most trying as a large formation of CR.42s passed over and just astern of my flight. I had to watch each flight of CR.42s pass my tail and gradually gain height on me. However although I was in an unfavourable position to attack, when my flight turned towards the enemy I picked out one of the many CR.42s coming towards me and fired, then dived below the enemy, turning around I saw a Gladiator being engaged by a 42. After taking the 42s attention off the Gladiator I got into a tight corner, having to do tight turns to keep clear. The Gladiator came to my assistance and I was able to get in a close deflection shot, from below and three quarter front.Pilot Officer William Vale (N5784) and Sergeant George Barker (N5811) each claimed one CR.42. Barker’s victory was claimed at Klissoura and he wrote:
The CR.42 went into a dive which I had no difficulty in following down and firing at it again, it finally crashed. I was short of ammunition so returned to base.
Examination of guns revealed three stopped with broken parts and one with stoppage.”
“I was No. 3 in formation led by F/L. Graham. Which was No. 4 flight in the Squadron formation. We were flying to the right, and above the rest of the echeloned flights.Flight Lieutenant Greg Graham (N5814) claimed one probable CR.42 and one probable G.50. He reported:
On approaching Permeti, I observed 9 G.50s on our starboard beam. F/Lt. Graham then began to climb fast. We turned left, and I observed a fight developing on our left, and below us. At this time I observed the CR.42s diving. I was led into the attack, and after the first initial dive, lost sight of my leader.
I went after a CR.42 which turned in front of me, and gave a short burst. The E.A. climbed and then dived away. I could not follow as another 42 was on my tail. Yet another 42 was doing a beam attack on me. A Gladiator took the first E.A. off my tail, and I out manoeuvred the other. The enemy then dived for the ground, I could not close the range, so I gave several long range bursts, and must have done some apparent damage, for his speed decreased. He tried twisting and turning, all the time heading west towards Argyrokoston. The enemy dived towards a hill, probably in the hope that if he would pull up close to it, I should crash into it.
After a slight pull out, however, he crashed into the hillside at high speed.
I then climbed up again, and when about 15,000 ft, I saw a Gladiator going down on three engine bombers. I followed it down, and delivered one attack, which was futile, as I could not hold them. An order was given to return to base, which I did, landing at approx. 16.10 hours.”
“At 1500 hours on the 4th Dec, 1940, fourteen Gladiators of No. 80 Squadron and No. 112 Sqdn . Detachment, took off from Yannina landing ground to do an offensive patrol over Tepelene area, also covering own bombers.Flying Officer Sidney Linnard claimed one probable CR.42 at 15:35. Strangely his name is not included in the Squadron’s ORB but he wrote a combat report on this occasion:
When proceeding to patrol over area in the vicinity of Delvinakion, I sighted about 27 G.50’s slightly above and approaching to starboard. At the same time I sighted the C.O.’s Flight of 3 Gladiators going in to attack a large number of C.R. 42s to port.
I was leading No. 4 Section of Gladiators and I lead them towards the C.R. 42s. The G.50s passed by on the starboard beam and made no effort to attack, instead appeared to climb up above the clouds. I attacked one C.R. 42 and after a short engagement it broke away and dived away towards enemy territory. I then climbed rapidly towards two other C.R. 42s and they disappeared in the cloud later at about 11,000 feet. Also climbing I circled around in the base of the cloud and could see only two or three Gladiators, so climbed up through the cloud. On breaking through, I sighted numerous G.50s and C.R. 42s circling above. I climbed towards one C.R. 42 and it immediately climbed above and ahead of me – I was unable to get my sights on and it disappeared in the clouds at about 19,000 feet. Then another C.R. 42 dived down to attack me and I engaged it, I fired several short bursts and it half rolled and dived steeply. I followed it, firing, and it appeared to slow down, and then pulled slowly out of the dive and I closed right in, and got a long burst at it. It pulled slowly up, stalled and then fell away, falling out of control. I followed it down to the clouds at 12,000 feet before it disappeared still falling out of control. At that moment I sighted one G.50 diving down steeply to attack two Gladiators flying in formation in the top of the clouds. I warned them over the R/T. and they immediately spilt up and avoided the attack. I then attacked the G.50 getting several bursts – it used the usual tactics of diving away. However after several minutes I fired a burst and it pulled out of a dive and climbed steeply, I closed in and could see my incendiaries hitting the vicinity of the engine cowling. The G.50 then stalled and fell away going down in a steep spiral out of control, I followed it down but lost sight of it in the clouds. I circled around for several minutes and as I could see no other aircraft, I returned to base.”
“I was No. 2 in the 4th Flight (topmost). I sighted a large number of aircraft to Port Quarter ahead (CR.42s) some miles away and above us and also a number of G.50s passed us on the starboard beam.The last of the probables was claimed by Sergeant Charles Casbolt (N5788) and it seems that this claim later was upgraded to a destroyed (at least in his logbook) but in his combat report, Casbolt reported it as a probable:
Closing with the enemy I engaged a CR.42 which promptly dived for the ground. I followed him down for about 3-4 thousand feet but could not close/on him. I then climbed up and was attacked by a CR.42 from above but managed to evade him and get on his tail and give him several bursts from astern. He half rolled down and I was unable to keep my sights on him.
I managed to get my sights on him again at about 200 yds. And he went into a spin. I fired a few more bursts whilst he was spinning, but did not keep him in sight to the ground as there were a number of E.A. above and my attention was distracted.
I then went through the clouds (about 11,000 ft). On clearing it, saw 5 42s and 2 G.50s above me. I climbed but was unable to reach them. Although they had height on me, they seemed reluctant to attack. Eventually a G.50 dived on me. I evaded him and dived after him but could not get in effective range. I followed him down into the cloud and then lost sight, I climbed again and the above happened several times. The invariable tactics of the enemy was to dive from superior heights, their initial attack being unsuccessful to carry on diving.”
“I was No. 3 in a flight lead by F/L Pattle in vic formation when the approach of 27 CR.42s from ahead and to port and 6 or 9 G.50s from our starboard beam were observed.Pilot Officer Robert Higson Smith (N5829) became separated during the combat and returned without any claims but with damage in the starboard wing and aileron control as a result of a head-on attack from a CR.42. Flying Officer Cochrane (N5881) reported hits on an enemy aircraft but observed no result from this.
F/L Pattle approached and attacked the leading flight of CR.42s and I picked out the E.A. on the left of the leader.
Closing to about 200 yards I fired a burst at the E.A. which immediately half rolled and dived vertically in a spiral. I followed the enemy down to about 500 ft. where the E.A. dived at the hill sides apparently in an attempt to cause me to crash.
Eventually after several short full deflection shots I was able to approach within about 50 to 100 yards firing a long burst as the E.A. turned along the side of the hill.
In order to avoid crashing into the hillside I then pulled sharply away losing sight of my target. When however I turned, the enemy had disappeared, so climbing over the hills as there were no more aircraft visible I returned to base.”
80 Squadron returned to Larissa next day.
At 10:25 on 21 December 1940, 80 Squadron took off from Yanina for the front in Greece. They were led by Squadron Leader William Hickey and flew in three sections. The first comprised four aircraft and was led by Hickey, the second of three was led by Flight Lieutenant ’Pat’ Pattle and the third trio was led by Flying Officer Sidney Linnard.
Near Argyrokastron three enemy trimotor bombers were seen. They were identified as SM 79s, and then three more aircraft with twin tails were seen, recognized in this case as Fiat BR.20s. All six were in fact Cant Z.1007bis aircraft from the 47o Stormo B.T. from Grottaglie. The Italian bombers were attacked by the Gladiators and Pattle believed that he had hit one.
At this moment however 15 CR.42s of the 160o Gruppo appeared on the scene. Maggiore Oscar Molinari, the Gruppo commander, was leading these Italian aircraft on an offensive reconnaissance over Yannina, Paramythia and Zitsa. Seeing the bombers under attack by an estimated 20 Gladiators, the Italian attacked, joined by six other CR.42s from the 150o Gruppo led by Capitano Luigi Corsini so that 80 Squadron pilots assessed the number of their opponents at 54!
After 25 minutes, the air battle broke up and eight of the British pilots returned to claim eight confirmed and three probably destroyed CR.42s and one probably destroyed BR.20.
Pattle (Gladiator II N5832) again wrote a long narrative of this combat:
“At 10.40 hours on the 21st December, 1940. 10 Gladiators led by S/Ldr. Hickey took off from Yannina to do an offensive patrol in the area between Tepelini area and the coast. The formation flew in one section of four and two sections of three echelon right, at a height of 10,000 feet.Pilot Officer William Vale (N5784) claimed three, one of them in flames (according to Pattle this was the fighter that shot down F/Lt Ripley). Vale’s own aircraft was riddled by explosive bullets during the combat. Vale reported:
On approaching the patrol line just North of Agyrokastron a formation of three enemy bombers were sighted, dead ahead. The “tally ho” was given and the Squadron prepared to attack, No. 1 Section leading. While approaching the bombers I (leading No. 2 Section) searched for escort fighters and in doing so, I saw a formation of three BR.20’s approaching the port beam. As these were in the more favourable position for attack I turned my section towards them at same time continuing to search for fighters. I saw the escort dead astern of us and about 10,000 feet above. I sent a warning over the R/T. giving the position of the fighters and opening up to full throttle attempted to engage the bombers before the escort intercepted us.
My section approached the bombers from quarter ahead attacking in line astern with each aircraft following his attack through the beam to quarter astern before breaking away. I gave the bomber a good burst but did not notice any damage as it continued on its way maintaining formation.
By time the C.R.42’s had arrived on the scene and as they dived down to attack us I counted nine sections of three aircraft. The aircraft of each section were in echelon right. Behind them another formation of approximately equal size was coming up making fifty four in all.
The fight then became a general melee and although I tried to keep touch with the rest of the Gladiators it was impossible to do so as I was forced to continuous evasive action against repeated attack of the 42’s in quick succession.
After each attack the enemy would climb for height while another would dive down to attack. In this way I was unable to climb up to their height as continuous evasive action made climbing impossible. At time two of these would attack together and very violent evasive action was necessary to prevent being shot up. For fully five minutes I was kept on the defensive without being able to fire a shot in return. I then noticed another Gladiator at the same height being harassed by a 42 on his tail. In between evading attacks from 42’s above me, I manoeuvred into a position behind this E.A. and fired at point blank range. The E.A. climbed vertically upwards, stalled and spun into the foothills a few miles North of Agyrokastron.
Realising that I was ineffective unless I reached the height at which the enemy were circling, I wriggled out of the fight and climbed to 20,000 feet south of Agyrokastron. With the sun behind me I approached nine 42’s who were circling the town at approximately 18,000 feet. I could not see any Gladiators and the fight seemed to be over.
I singled out the nearest 42 as my target but unfortunately when still about 300 yards away the pilot saw me and dived for the ground. I gave him a quick burst but did not do any noticeable damage.
The E.A. must have been on the point of leaving as the remainder by this time were on their way towards Tepelini. I circled Argyrokastron for a further five minutes but could not see any other aircraft so returned to base landing at 11.50 hours. On landing I discovered that Sgt. Gregory had received a wound in the right eye and F/O. Linnard was hit in the left leg. S/Ldr. Hickey and F/O. Ripley did not return from this engagement.
The Squadron confirmed 8 definitely shot down and 3 probable. The Greek forward troops however reported 19 42’s and 2 Gladiators crashed in the area North of Argyrokastron.”
“At 1050, ten Gladiators took off from Yannina on an offensive patrol, flying in three flights of four, three, and three aircraft. I was flying in No.3 in the third flight led by F/O Linnard.Flight Sergeant Sidney Richens (N5825) claimed one CR.42 and reported:
On reaching the patrol line “Tally-ho!” was immediately given for three bombers seen going from west to east. The leading flight led by S/L Hickey immediately went into action. At the same moment three more bombers were seen approaching from our port beam. The leader of the second flight, F/L Pattle, immediately turned left and carried out a head-on attack, and my flight leader followed. I was able to get in a short burst before breaking away. On turning to follow, I observed a large formation of enemy C.R.42’s diving down from above. We immediately climbed to attack and a general dog fight started. I singled out one enemy aircraft who tried to dive away and dived down firing a burst at long range. He pulled up and I got in a full deflection shot from underneath and noticed flames coming from underneath his engine. The enemy aircraft went down out of control and finally hit the ground in flames. I then noticed a single Gladiator low down in a valley being attacked by five C.R.42’s. I dived down and engaged two of them and managed to get behind one and fire a long burst until it suddenly spun down out of control and crashed into the valley.
I was then attacked by more C.R.42’s who carried out frontal quarter attacks on me with the superior speed that could out-climb me. I carried out evasive action and noticed that the Gladiator below me was on fire and spinning down out of control [this was Squadron Leader Hickey’s aircraft]. I dived down towards it and saw the pilot leave the aircraft and use his parachute. I was again fired at by a C.R.42 from above who carried out his attack and then headed away North. When I again looked down I saw the Gladiator in flames on the ground with the pilot going down in his parachute. At the same time I saw a C.R.42 dive on the pilot and twin streams coming from behind his aircraft. I dived down and managed to get in a surprise attack, as he pulled away from the parachutist. I got on his tail and fired a long burst from a single fuselage gun until he turned over out of control and went straight down to crash in the valley. As I pulled up another C.R.42 came down very close to my machine, out of control, and crashed quite near to the burning Gladiator. I gained altitude and saw another Gladiator circling above me, and as I was short of ammunition, I joined formation and found the other pilot to be F/S. Richens, who had shot the C.R.42, which went past me. I noticed the position of the crashed Gladiator in respect to Argyrokastron and then returned to base. On landing I inspected my aircraft and found that my lower and upper starboard mainplanes had been hit twice by explosive bullets One of which had entered the wing ammunition tank and had exploded inside but had done no apparent damage to the structure of the mainplane. The fuselage was hit in several places but with no structural damage.”
“On December, 1940, I was No.2 in second flight of squadron of ten Gladiators led by S/Ldr. Hickey. At approximately 11.00 hours F/L. Pattle saw three enemy bombers to the North and three more approaching us from the West and endeavoured to lead his flight, of which I was right man, in a head on attack against the latter. Accordingly to plan, we went line astern and turned into them. They frustrated us by turning slightly right so we were forced to make a line astern front quarter round to the rear quarter attack. The escort on which we had been keeping a watchful eye then attacked. The Fiats came down in batches and eventually I found myself at about 4,000 ft. with two more Gladiators about 2,000 ft. below. Approximately seven C.R.42s were milling around, I saw one Gladiator go down in flames the pilot baling out. I then managed to pull round inside a 42 that came in front of me in a climbing turn. I gave him a very long burst and he went down in a very slow spiral. P/O. Vale confirms the destruction of this aircraft. The E.A. were rapidly dispersing and as there were none in the vicinity I joined P/O. Vale and returned to base.”Sergeant Charles Casbolt (N5817) claimed one CR.42 during the combat, which blew up and another, which spun down (later downgraded to a probable). Casbolt reported:
“On 21.12.40. a formation of ten Gladiators in three flights vic led by S/Ldr. Hickey, left Yannina to carry out an offensive patrol over the front.The second probably destroyed CR.42 was claimed by Flying Officer Waldo Barker Price-Owen:
I was flying No.3 in the second flight, led by F/Lt. Pattle.
As we arrived in the Agyrokastron area, two formations of three enemy aircraft were observed, one approaching from the West and one formation from the North.
As previously arranged we went into line astern, and F/Lt. Pattle lead in a head on attack at the three approaching from the West.
As we approached the enemy I observed the leading formation led by S/Ldr. Hickey heading for the other three bombers and also that the E.A. were escorted by about 27 C.R.42’s.
The E.A. turned slightly right as we approached, and the attack developed into a quarter ahead to quarter astern. I fired a long burst at close range but with no apparent effect.
I then followed my leader away and the Fiats came down in what appeared to be an undisciplined mass.
A Fiat then dived past me to attack my leader. I was able to get astern of him and at about 50 yards range fired a long burst, smoke appeared, and then the aircraft burst into flames, and dived steeply to earth.
The enemy aircraft the attacked singly, coming from above, but turning into them they were easily avoided and a position astern of them obtained as they dived past. On several occasions short bursts were fired in this manner at a range of about 300 yards.
One on occasion a Fiat appeared in front of me pointing vertically upwards and almost stalled, I fired a long burst with very little deflection closing rapidly to about 50 yards, the enemy went into a spin and was last seen spinning, and leaving a long trail of black smoke about 3,000 feet below.
As I left the scene of action I noticed three Fiats still circling at about 20,000 feet.”
“On the 21.12.40 ten Gladiators took off from Yannina at 10.30 hours to carry out an offensive patrol.Sergeant Gregory claimed another two, again one in flames, but his own aircraft was badly shot up with the engine and the undercarriage damaged by a series of frontal attacks from a CR.42s that had also wounded him in the right eye and was barely able to save himself. He however managed to return to Yannina and reported:
I was flying No.4 in the leading flight of 4 Gladiators. After about 30 minutes when over the Argyrokastron area I sighted three bombers dead ahead some 6 or 7 miles away. We went into line astern and carried out a beam attack on the nearest bomber. This did not seem to effect it very much. In the meantime the other two flights of Gladiators were attacking three more bombers some two miles away on our port quarter, when they in turn were attacked by about 50 C.R.42s. We left the three bombers who were now heading towards Albania and went to the assistance of the other Gladiators, who were now dog fighting with the CR.42s.
I attacked a CR42, firing several long bursts into it from about 100 yards range. It ceased taking evasive action, turned slowly over and went down in a spiral dive. I watched it go down about 3,000 feet but was then attacked by three or four more CR.42s, and consequently did not see it hit the ground, so I was unable to confirm it.
A hectic dog fight ensued with the other CR.42s. I was attacked from head on and quarter at the same time. As soon as I got anywhere near a 42s tail I was attacked by one or two others, and had to break it off to avoid their fire. I fired long bursts into most of them from somewhat awkward positions, they appeared more reluctant after this. I had now finished my ammunition so as soon as an opportunity arose I dived very steeply and returned to base.”
“I was flying in No.1 flight in No.3 position, after we had attacked a bomber formation of 3 B.R.20’s we broke away to find that Nos. 2 and 3 flights had already been attacked by escorting C.R.42’s. At this time there must have been two squadrons of 27 each attacking six Gladiators.Sergeant Gregory was recommended for an immediate DFM. The third probable was claimed by Flying Officer Frederick William Hosken (N5811). However Flight Lieutenant Henry Derek Ripley (RAF no. 70575) in N5854 was seen to be shot down in flames and killed, while Squadron Leader Hickey was spotted bailing out of N5816; sadly his parachute caught fire, and he died from injuries soon after reaching the ground. Greek troops recovered the bodies of both pilots. Of Hickey’s death, Pilot Officer Vale reported:
Diving down astern with my leader I observed a formation of three C.R.42 in vic diving towards the fight. I pulled up and trained my sights on the leader, as the range closed I put a long burst into the 42 until I had to put my nose down to go under the formation.
Turning round in a “stall turn” I observed the leader diving vertically whilst the remaining two had split, No.2 going up, No.3 down. As I had the advantage over the lower aircraft I decided to attack this first. He attempted to come up under me but as I was near to stalling, I had no difficulty in bringing my sight round to get in a deflection shot and then astern on him.
I followed him down, at the same time I observed the leading aircraft crash on a hill and burst into flames. This dive was very steep, so much so, that I very nearly hit the ground with the 42. When I pulled up sharply out of this dive the third 42 came past and then pulled up underneath me into such a position that we could both get in quick deflection shots.
This happened three times and each time we missed colliding by inches, so that after each attack I had to find him again, quite naturally this developed into a head on attack, the first of which I slid out of, but as the following attack was head on also I became rather worried and brought him into my sights, fired, ducked down behind my engine for cover, at the same time pulling back on the control column.
Immediately after this my right eye became warm and I found I had lost my sight in this eye. It took me some seconds to get used to this, as I would try to look towards the rear on the right side, but all I saw was the extensive damage to the centre section, starboard lower plane and a flying wire that had broken. I seem to remember at this point that he came at me from below and we had another deflection shot at each other, but as I had seen him so often in this position it may have stuck in my mind. However I do remember I decided that my position was desperate and I weighed up the ground that was to receive me below, then I was overcome by a wave of determination, possibly due to the fact that when I was hit and saw the blood I turned my oxygen on at full. I pulled up in a loop and rolled off the top into a tight turn back into the direction I had come from. I looked at my compass but it appeared blurred, although I could see the sun, I could not convince myself which direction to fly.
Diving down into the valley seemed to be the only means of escape. I was unable to look behind, as this brought on pain to my eye. At one period my sight was so blurred that I could not decide whether I was being chased by 42 or if it was anti-aircraft fire. Fortunately it was the latter. I discovered my position to be 10 miles north of Valona at 4,000 feet. As I could use only 1600 revs due to damage to rocker arm, causing excessive vibration, it took 40 minutes to return to base, where a landing was made under difficulties due to damage to eyesight and to undercarriage.”
“The Gladiator was flat-spinning too. Suddenly the pilot hurled out of the cockpit like a black ant and the white burst of his parachute spreading in a puff … the parachute burst into flames and the sudden black smudge as its slow speed became a lightning streak of charred smoke and the black figure of the Gladiator pilot hurtling two thousand feet down to the black earth.”Flying Officer Linnard’s aircraft (N5834) was also badly hit and he was hit in the left calf by an explosive bullet and was taken to hospital after landing at Yannina. Flight Lieutenant Pattle noted:
“Enemy fighters used a definite plan of attack. Attacking from superior height they maintained that height by attacking the Gladiators singly and in quick succession and climbing after each attack. The Gladiators, forced to evade, were unable to climb.”In return the 160o Gruppo pilots claimed six Gladiators, two each by Maggiore Molinari and Tenente Edoardo Crainz (in CR.42 '394-7'), and one apiece by Tenente Eber Giudici (his aircraft was damaged by enemy fire) and Capitano Paolo Arcangeletti. Probables were claimed by Tenente Torquato Testerini, Sergente Maggiore Francesco Penna and Sergente Maggiore Domenico Tufano. The 150o Gruppo pilots claimed two more Gladiators when Capitano Luigi Corsini claimed one Gladiator and a probable while Sergente Maggiore Virgilio Pongiluppi claimed one Gladiator; both pilots were from the 364a Squadriglia. The 47o Stormo gunners claimed one more and a probable. As in the case of the British fighters, actual Italian losses totalled only two aircraft, Tenente Mario Gaetano Carancini and Tenente Mario Frascadore of the 160o Gruppo being lost, while Maggiore Molinari was wounded in the right foot and force-landed near Tepelene in a dry river-bed with a damaged engine (it seems that the aircraft was written off).
At 10:30 on 9 February 1941, Squadron Leader "Tap" Jones led off 14 of 80 Squadron's Gladiators on an offensive patrol over the Tepelene area. They took off in four sub-flights led by Jones, Flight Lieutenant "Pat" Pattle, Flying Officer 'Shorty' Graham and Flight Lieutenant "Timber" Woods. During the take-off Flying Officer W. B. Price-Owen, in the last section, experienced engine stoppage as his Gladiator became airborne and he was forced to glide back to the airfield.
Near Tepelene a trio of S.79s were seen, but lost in cloud. It is however possible that Pilot Officer William Vale claimed that he damaged one of these since he did claim one damaged during the day.
Jones took the Squadron round in a wide arc just north of Kelcyre and led them back towards Tepelene. His engine had been running rough for the last fifteen minutes and now it was beginning to vibrate. He called Pattle over the radiotelephone and told him to take over the lead. Then he throttled right back to ease the shuddering. Within a few seconds he was joined by Flying Officer Wanklyn Flower, who was also having trouble with his engine and together they flew back to Yanina.
Meanwhile, the Squadron continued their patrol and just before midday five CR.42s were seen far away off the port beam by Pattle, followed by many more, 30-40 being reported. In fact there were just 16 fighters of the 150o Gruppo, led by Capitano Edmondo Travaglini, commander of the 365a Squadriglia. The Italian pilots also overestimated the opposition, identifying the eleven Gladiators as 20 strong.
Many individual dogfights developed between Tepelene and Argyrokastron. Pattle shot down one Fiat CR.42, which crashed into the ground at speed on the outskirts of Tepelene, while Flying Officer Nigel Cullen put four bursts into another and reported seeing it crash into the hillside and burst into flames. The Squadron returned to claim four definitely shot down and three probables, but the Greek authorities provided confirmation next day that all seven had crashed, and victories were credited to Flight Lieutenant George Kettlewell, Pilot Officer Vale, Pilot Officer C. H. Tulloch, Sergeant Gregory and Sergeant Charles Casbolt, as well as Pattle and Cullen.
Pilot Officer Vale reported:
"I was slightly behind the main formation … I observed about six or more formations of five CR42s [each] above us and so I gave ‘Tally-ho!’ and I immediately climbed. A dogfight started and from my position the policy of the e/a seemed to be diving attacks and gaining height straight away. One CR42 dived on me from above but I managed to evade his fire by pulling round and up towards him. I fired a short burst, which seemed to scare him away. I then saw a CR42 diving down on another Gladiator and so carried out a diving quarter attack and he pulled away, which left me in an astern position close in. I carried on firing until the e/a turned over on its back and the pilot left the machine. I saw his parachute open and so gained height and fired a long burst at a CR42, which dived down on me from above. I then broke away from the combat and owing to shortage of ammunition and fuel returned to base with F/O Cullen, who came up and formatted with me. We landed at 1240 and on inspecting aircraft found no damage.The initial claims had been nearer the truth, for four CR.42s were in fact hit. Sergente Romano Maionica (365a Squadriglia) and Sergente Danilo Birolo (364a Squadriglia) both failed to return, the latter being believed to have baled out (Maionica was KIA and Birolo landed in Yugoslavian territory), while Tenente Enzo Rovetta (364a Squadriglia) was wounded and crashed while attempting to land at base, and Capitano Travaglini force-landed near Tirana. In return, the Italians claimed four Gladiators destroyed and nine damaged. 364a Squadriglia pilots Tenente Alberto Spigaglia, Sottotenente Pasquale Faltoni and Maresciallo Ugo Guidi were each credited with a victory.
By February 1941, he had claimed eight victories.
On 28 March, a DFC was gazetted to Pilot Officer William Vale and a DFM to Flight Sergeant Gregory.
Following the withdrawal from Greece, he served as an instructor at 71 OUT in late 1941 as a Warrant Officer. He was commissioned on 7 March 1942 (gazetted on 24 March and with seniority from 20 January 1942) and joined 250 Squadron in April 1942 as a Pilot Officer.
He was promoted to Flying Officer on 1 October 1942 and to Flight Lieutenant on 23 January 1944.
Gregory ended the war with 8 victories, all of them claimed while flying Gladiators.
Little else is known of his subsequent career, save that he remained in the RAF. He was promoted to Squadron Leader on 1 January 1952 and to Wing Commander before retirement on 16 January 1967.
He passed away in 1986.
|Kill no.||Date||Time||Number||Type||Result||Plane type||Serial no.||Locality||Unit|
|1||27/11/40||1||CR.42 (a)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||N5776||N Yanina||80 Squadron|
|2||28/11/40||1||CR.42 (b)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||N5776||Delvinakion||80 Squadron|
|3||28/11/40||1||CR.42 (b)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||N5776||Delvinakion||80 Squadron|
|4||28/11/40||1||CR.42 (b)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||N5776||Delvinakion||80 Squadron|
|5||04/12/40||15:30||1||CR.42 (c)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||N5776||Delvinakion||80 Squadron|
|6||21/12/40||11:00||1||CR.42 (d)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||? (e)||N Argyrokastron||80 Squadron|
|7||21/12/40||11:00||1||CR.42 (d)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||? (e)||N Argyrokastron||80 Squadron|
|8||09/02/41||10:30-12:40||1||CR.42 (f)||Destroyed||Gladiator I||K6138 (g)||Tepelene-Argyrokastron||80 Squadron|
Biplane victories: 8 destroyed.
TOTAL: 8 destroyed.
(a) 80 Squadron claimed two Fiat CR.42s. 150o Gruppo lost one when the CO Capitano Nicola Magaldi was killed. A second Fiat was damaged but the pilot Sergente Negri was unhurt.
(b) Claimed in combat with 150o Gruppo C.T. 80 Squadron claimed seven destroyed and two probables while 150o Gruppo lost three CR.42s and got two damaged. One of the lost pilots were the commander of 365a Squadriglia and ace Capitano Giorgio Graffer.
(c) Claimed in combat with CR.42s from the 150o Gruppo and G.50bis from the 154o Gruppo. The 150o Gruppo C.T. lost two CR.42s (Tenente Alberto Triolo and Sottotenante Paolo Penna KIA) while the 154o Gruppo claimed two Gladiators shot down. 80 Squadron and 112 Squadron detachment claimed ten destroyed (9 CR.42 and 1 G.50) and five probables (1 CR.32, 3 CR.42 and 1 G.50). One of the Gladiators seems to have been shot down (the unknown pilot was safe) and two more Gladiators were damaged.
(d) The fighters from the Regia Aeronautica claimed 8 and 4 probables while suffering 2 aircraft lost (2 pilot KIA) and 1 force-landed. The 80 Squadron claimed 8 and 3 probables while suffering 2 aircraft lost (2 pilots KIA) and 3 damaged.
(e) Some sources claim that he flew Gladiator N5854 in this combat but this aircraft was most probably used by Flying Officer A. D. Ripley, who was shot down and killed in this combat.
(f) Claimed in combat with the 150o Gruppo, which claimed 4 Gladiators destroyed and 9 damaged while losing 4 CR.42s. 80 Squadron claimed 7 CR.42s while losing 2 Gladiators.
(g) Aircraft belonging to 112 Sq..
53o Stormo - Marco Mattioli, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-977-5
Ace of Aces: M T StJ Pattle - E C R Baker, 1992 Crécy Books, Somerton, ISBN 0-947554-36-X
Aces High - Christopher Shores, 1994, Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-00-0
Aces High Volume 2 - Christopher Shores, 1999, Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-03-9
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
The London Gazette
Additional information kindly provided by Simon Muggleton and David Slade.