Biplane fighter aces

The Commonwealth

Squadron Leader Walter Thomas Jeffrey AFC, RAF no. 335362 (NCO) 45115 (Officer)

On 2 January 1941, Warrant Officer Walter Thomas Jeffrey was promoted to Flying Officer on probation (with seniority from 1 October 1940) (gazetted 21 January 1941).

Flying Officer Jeffrey took part in the revolt in Iraq in 1941 were he fought in the Fighter Flight at Habbaniya.

In June 1941, he was part of ‘X’ Flight, which had formed at Habbaniya on 6 June. This unit was equipped with Gloster Gladiators under the command of Flying Officer K. H. O. Young and had been formed to take part in Operation’Exporter’, which was an invasion in French-held Syria.

On 7 June the unit flew to Amman in Transjordan.

By 15 June ‘X’ Flight had begun making use of an advanced landing ground at Mafraq, to which six Gladiators flew each morning at daybreak for their scheduled patrol activity.
On this morning the six were all on patrol over Kissoué at 8000 feet when they entered the same airspace as a ‘patrouille double’ with Dewoitine D.520s from GC III/6, which had taken off at 08.30 to patrol over the Ezraa-Soueida area, led by Sous Lieutenant Pierre Le Gloan. At 09.30 three of the Gladiators were spotted below, Le Gloan leading Capitaine de Rivals-Mazeres and Sergeant Chef Mertzisen down in a dive on them, at once shooting down 35-year-old Flying Officer John Norman Craigie (RAF no. 43477) in Gladiator K7947, which crashed straight into the ground east of Ezraa, killing the pilot. A confusing engagement followed, during which Flying Officer Jeffrey and Sergeant Appleby each claimed a Dewoitine shot down.
Sergeant Chef Mertzisen’s No. 367 was badly hit and he came down in British-held territory at Sanamein but managed to return back home with the help of a Bedouin. Capitaine de Rivals-Mazeres claimed another Gladiator, which he claimed exploded on hitting the ground (he had probably also been firing on Craigie’s aircraft). Le Gloan attacked a second, claiming a probable, but then ran out of ammunition. His No. 277 was hit repeatedly, and he was pursued back towards Rayak by two Gladiators, crash-landing on the airfield with fighter in write-off condition.
A second patruille had meanwhile joined the fight, Sergeant Chef Elmlinger and Sergeant Mequet reporting a further victory between them, but incorrectly stating that the pilot had baled out. Either they or Le Gloan had hit Flying Officer Watson’s K7914, damaging it severely, causing him to fly directly to Amman.
The other four Gladiators landed safely at Mafraq.

On 30 September 1941, he was awarded the Air Force Cross.

On 2 January 1942, he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant (war subs.) with seniority from 1 October 1941 (gazetted 10 March 1942).

On 1 January 1944, he was mentioned in London Gazette ”For Valuable Service In The Air”.

He was promoted to Squadron Leader (temporary) on 1 July 1945 (gazetted on 28 August 1945).

Jeffrey ended the war with 1 biplane victory.

He continued to serve in the RAF after the war and on 24 June 1947 he was transferred to the Aircraft Control Branch.

On 1 November 1947, he was promoted to Squadron Leader (permanent).

Squadron Leader Jeffrey retired from the RAF on 29 July 1954.

Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 15/06/41 1 D.520 (a) Destroyed Gladiator   Kissoué area ’X’ Flight

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with D.520s from GC III/6. ‘X’ Flight claimed two victories for the loss of one Gladiator (Flying Officer J. N. Craigie killed) and a second damaged. GC III/6 claimed 3 Gladiators and 1 probable while losing two D.520 (Sergeant Chef Mertzisen in No. 367 and Sous Lieutenant Pierre Le Gloan in No. 277) without loss in life.

Dust Clouds in the Middle East - Christopher Shores, 1996 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-37-X
Gloster Gladiator Home Page - Alexander Crawford.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Last modified 20 January 2009