Squadron Leader Marmaduke Thomas St John ‘Pat’ Pattle DFC and Bar, RAF no. 39029
3 July 1914 – 20 April 1941
'Pat' Pattle was born in Butterworth, Cape Province, South Africa, on 3 July 1914, the son of English parents who had emigrated to the Union. He attended Keetman’s Hoop Secondary School, South West Africa, and Victoria Boy’s High School, Grahamstown.
He joined the SAAF as a cadet on leaving school, but in 1936 transferred to the RAF. From 24 August 1936, he was granted a short service commission as an Acting Pilot Officer on probation. He completed his training in the UK in 1937 and on 29 June 1937, he was confirmed as a Pilot Officer. He joined 80 Squadron, which had just re-equipped with Gladiator biplanes.
In April 1938, he accompanied the unit to Egypt, where by 1939 he had become a flight commander.
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.
‘B’ Flight included Flight Lieutenant Pattle, Flying Officer Greg Graham, Flying Officer John Lapsley, Pilot Officer Sidney Linnard, Pilot Officer Vincent 'Heimar' Stuckey, Flight Sergeant Sidney Richens, Flight Sergeant Trevor Martin Vaughan and Flight Sergeant Charles Casbolt.
In August 1940, the unit moved up to the Libyan border, where he first saw action.
During the night of 21-22 June a formation of twelve Savoia Marchetti S.81 bombers of the 39o Stormo B.T. based on Rhodes, in the Aegean Islands, took off and attacked Alexandria in clear moonlight during the first hours of 22 June.
Five aircraft of 80 Squadron took off from Amriya, but failed to intercept and were fired on by their own anti-aircraft defences; the involved pilots were Flight Lieutenant Pattle, Flight Lieutenant R. V. Evers-Swindell, Flying Officer 'Heimar' Stuckey, Flying Officer John Lapsley and Pilot Officer Wanklyn Flower.
On the return flight one of the Italian bombers exhausted all the fuel and was forced to ditch. It went down 45 miles south of Rhodes and the crew was rescued five hours later by an Italian flying boat.
On 29 July 80 Squadron received the order to deploy one of its Flights to Sidi El Barrani, the choice falling on ‘B’ Flight, commanded by Flight Lieutenant Pattle.
The next day Pattle and Squadron Leader Patrick Dunn flew to Sidi El Barrani airfield to arrange for the detachment there. They were to replace 33 Squadron starting from 1 August.
During the morning on 4 August, 80 Squadrons ‘B’ Flight received a signal from the headquarters to provide four Gladiators to escort a Lysander from 208 Squadron flown by Pilot Officer Burwell, which was to observe enemy troops movement at Bir Taieb el Esem on the other side of the Libyan border. Pattle (Gladiator Mk.I K7910) decided to lead the escort and took with him Flying Officer Peter Wykeham-Barnes (L8009), Pilot Officer Johnny Lancaster (K7923) and Sergeant Kenneth George Russell Rew (RAF no. 526687) (Gladiator K7908). They took of at 17:15 and reached the rendezvous point in ten minutes where they found the Lysander circling at 6000 feet. Wykeham-Barnes and Rew took up a position about 3000 feet above and immediately behind the Lysander, whilst Pattle and Lancaster climbed 1000 feet higher on the starboard flank. The aircraft crossed the border a few miles south of Sidi Omar twenty minutes later and followed the sand tracks leading to their target.
During the same morning eleven CR.42s of the 97a Squadriglia went from Benghazi-Berka to El Adem T3 to participate, together with twelve other CR.42s from the 96a Squadriglia, which had arrived the previous day, and with nine CR.42s of the 10o Gruppo, in an aerial covering flight of the 2a Divisione Libica of Regio Esercito. This Division was marching from Bir el Gobi to Gabr Saleh.
In the meantime, a concentration of British armoured vehicles was discovered in the Bir Sheferzen area, around 30 kilometres south-west of Sollum, near the border where a logistic outpost of the Western Desert Force was located and consequently an air attack was planned.
At 16:50, a formation of assault aircraft of the 50o Stormo took off together with an escorting group of Fiat CR.42 fighters of the 4o Stormo heading for it. The assault aircraft took off from Tobruk T2bis and were twelve aircraft of the resident 12o Gruppo Assalto. They included six Breda Ba.65/A80s of the 159a Squadriglia, armed with 2kg bombs (the Bredas could carry up to 168 of these small calibre bombs) commanded by the Squadriglia Commander Capitano Antonio Dell’Oro and flown by Tenente Adriano Visconti, Tenente Fioravante Montanari (who led the second section), Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Bianchelli, Sergente Maggiore Gianni Pappalepore and Sergente Maggiore Paolo Perno. The other six were Fiat CR.32quaters of the 160a Squadriglia, armed with eight 2kg bombs and divided in two groups of three. The first group led by Capitano Duilio Fanali (Squadriglia CO) included Sottotenente Giuseppe Mezzatesta and Sergente Maggiore Corrado Sarti as wingmen while the second group was lead by Sottotenente Giuseppe Rossi with Sottotenente Mirko Erzetti and Maresciallo Romolo Cantelli as wingmen.
The Italian fighter escort took off from El Adem T3 and was composed of 31 CR.42s (ten from the 97a Squadriglia, eleven from the 96a Squadriglia, one from the 73a Squadriglia and nine from the 10o Gruppo). At the head of the two formations were Maggiore Ernesto Botto (in the aircraft from the 73a Squadriglia) and Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli. Pilots from the 97a Squadriglia were Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni, Sottotenente Giovanni Barcaro, Sergente Franco Sarasino, Sottotenente Riccardo Vaccari, Sergente Angelo Golino, Sottotenente Jacopo Frigerio, Sergente Maggiore Otello Perotti, Maresciallo Vanni Zuliani, Sergente Maggiore Raffaello Novelli and Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore. Pilots from the 10o Gruppo were apart from Maggiore Romagnoli, Capitano Giuseppe D’Agostinis, Tenente Enzo Martissa, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali and Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato from the 91a Squadriglia, Capitano Luigi Monti and Tenente Giuseppe Aurili from the 84a Squadriglia and Tenente Franco Lucchini and Sergente Amleto Monterumici from the 90a Squadriglia.
The two Italian formations met at a rendezvous point twenty kilometres east of El Adem and then headed for the target. The 4o Stormo’s aircraft flew at heights between 3500 and 4500 meters, the Fiat CR.32s at 1000 meters and the Bredas at 300 meters.
On the way towards the frontline, at 5000 m over Ridotta Capuzzo, they spotted a formation of nine Blenheims heading to El Adem, escorted by many Glosters Gladiators. Aircraft of the 96a Squadriglia and the 10o Gruppo attacked the bombers and then chased the fighters. In the fierce combat that followed, Tenente Lucchini claimed a Gladiator with the use of 385 rounds of ammunition. Pilots from the 91a Squadriglia claimed two Gladiators and three Blenheims as shared, with two additional Gladiators as shared probables (one of the Glosters was most probably the same claimed by Lucchini). Capitano Monti and Tenente Aurili claimed to have damaged two Blenheims each and then reported being credited with the three Blenheims shot down by the Stormo’s formation as shared. The pilots from the 90a Squadriglia claimed the same three Blenheims and a Gladiator jointly with the 96a Squadriglia and other pilots of the 10o Gruppo plus the individual victory of Lucchini and recorded “other Glosters shot down by pilots of 9o and 10o Gruppi”. At the end of the combat, Maggiore Botto, who personally claimed a damaged British bomber with the use of 200 rounds of ammunition, recorded ten enemy aircraft shot down together with other units. Apart from the five confirmed and two probables already detailed, the remaining victories should be those of the 50o Stormo, more prudently the 10o Gruppo’s Diary claimed only three Blenheims and a single Gloster shot down.
The 97a Squadriglia, covering at a higher altitude, spotted first six Blenheims, which were attacked by the other Squadriglie and then three other Blenheims that were heading towards Egyptian territory and dived to pursue them. Capitano Larsimont Pergameni and Sergente Sarasino chased them for a while, claiming hits on them.
The fighters from the 97a Squadriglia had most probably attacked a trio of Blenheim Mk.Is (L8667, L8391 and L8530) from 55 Squadron, which had been ordered on short notice to bomb up and meet two other flights from other squadrons over Ma’aten Bagush at 17:00 to attack an Italian M. T. convoy, 13 miles east of Bir El Gobi (obviously the Libyan division). Commanded by Pilot Officer T. O. Walker in L8667, they missed the rendezvous with the other Squadrons over Ma’aten Bagush and headed alone towards the front. After crossing the frontier, the trio spotted a big formation of about 25 CR.42s (4o Stormo’s formation). Twelve of these fighters started in pursuit as the Blenheims turned for home (the 97a Squadriglia formation). A running engagement, which lasted seven minutes started after which the Italian fighters broke off without having caused or suffered any damage. The other RAF Squadrons involved in this combat were 211 Squadron and most probably 112 and 113 Squadrons. 211 Squadron was up with two Blenheims piloted by Squadron Leader Bax (L8533) and Flight Lieutenant G. D. Jones (L8532), which were intercepted by a reportedly 40-50 fighters. Sergeant J. McIntosh, gunner of L8532, was wounded in the forearm and it seems that it was badly damaged and forced to land before reaching its base since it was salvaged by 51 RSU at Sidi Barrani on 10 August but Struck off Charge on 20 September. The total lack of records of 113 Squadron and the high level of incompleteness of those of 112 Squadron makes it quite difficult to reconstruct their contribution to the combat. It seems however probable that at least three Gladiators of 112 Squadron were around this area at the time, because it is known that Pilot Officers R. H. Clark, Homer Cochrane and B. B. E. Duff left Maaten Gerawla during the day for Sidi Barrani, with the task of patrolling over Sidi Omar (extremely close to the area where the evening combat developed). No encounters with the enemy are however recorded in the fragmentary reconstructed ORB of the unit.
The formation from the 50o Stormo continued alone towards the border, arriving over Bir Sheferzen (around thirty kilometres south and slightly east of the position where the escort left it) at 17:20, where they discovered numerous British vehicles that were immediately attacked by the Bredas and Fanali’s trio of CR.32s while Rossi’s stayed at 1000 meters as cover. The Italian aircraft performed two passes over the vehicles and while they were preparing the third the 208 Squadron Lysander and 80 Squadron Gladiators came into the area. The crew of the Lysander spotted the Italians first and alerted the escort with a red Very light before heading due east at low altitude to reach safety. Pilot Officer Burwell carried some bombs that he tried to aim at Italian transports that he saw in the vicinity but missed, then he was forced to return by the strong opposition encountered.
Pattle and Lancaster dived down but failed to spot any enemy aircraft. Wykeham-Barnes and Rew had also disappeared but a few seconds later Pattle heard Wykeham-Barnes over the radio ordering Rew to attack. Immediately afterwards Pattle saw a reported seven Breda Ba.65s in two separate flights - one containing three aircraft in vic formation and the other made up of two pairs, heading east hunting the Lysander.
Wykeham-Barnes and Rew attacked the formation of four Bredas before they could reach the Lysander and Wykeham-Barnes shot down one of them in flames immediately but at the same time was Rew shot down and killed. Pattle and Lancaster meanwhile attacked the other three Italians from astern. The Bredas dispersed and all four Gladiators separated as they each selected a different enemy machine as a target. Pattle attacked two aircraft, which kept close together and turned in a complete circle. The Bredas dropped to around 200 feet and each released two bombs. This reduced weight meant that they slowly began to creep away from Pattle’s slower Gladiator. Suddenly they however turned north towards the fighter base at El Adem. Pattle quickly cut inside their turn and closed in to 150 yards. He delivered a quarter attack on the nearest Breda but his two port guns almost immediately ceased firing. His aim had been good however and he had hit one of the Italians who slowed down considerably. He swung in directly astern of it and, after a few more bursts from his remaining two guns, saw a puff of white smoke from the starboard side of the engine. He continued to attack the Breda, which dropped lower and lower and finally force-landed on good grounds five miles further on. The second Breda got away. Lancaster had also been having trouble with his guns. After his initial burst, all four guns jammed and he spent the next ten minutes frantically pulling his Constantinescu gear pistons and aiming at various enemy aircraft, but without any further bullets leaving his guns. Eventually he was forced to go on to the defensive and got an explosive bullet in the left arm and shoulder. Because he feared the loss of blood would cause him to lose consciousness, he wriggled out of the fight and with his right thumb pressed tightly against his left radial artery, held the stick between his knees and waggled his way home. In spite of his wounds and the serious damage to his Gladiator, he made quite a smooth landing before losing consciousness. It is reported, that the fitter who came to examine the aircraft shortly afterwards pronounced it too damaged to repair in situ and ordered it to be burned forthwith! However, in fact it seems that even if 80 Squadron didn’t fly it any more, Gladiator Mk.I K 7923 was repaired and later in the year passed to the Greek Air Force.
After claiming the Breda, Wykeham-Barnes was attacked by the CR.32s. He claimed one of them before another, attacked him, which hit his Gladiator, in his Combat Fighter Report he recorded: “The left side of the instrument panel and most of the windscreen went and two bullets came through the back of the seat before I could close the throttle, and the CR 32 passed under me. My machine then fell into a dive and I abandoned it, landing me by parachute.” He had received a shrapnel wound. He was also to receive a swollen tongue and a pair of very painful blistered feet before being rescued by a detachment of 11th Hussars, who brought him back to Sidi Barrani.
Four of the Bredas were damaged and in particular that of Sergente Maggiore Perno, which was hit fifty times and the pilot was slightly wounded in the leg, before Fanali’s Fiats were able to intervene. In the meantime, it was the section of Sottotenente Rossi, which was waiting higher up for its turn to attack, that first fell over the RAF fighters, taking them by surprise. After the sharp initial attack of the Fiats the combat developed into a WW I style dogfight which lasted fifteen minutes. At the end all the Italian aircraft returned to base claiming three of the enemies; one by Fanali (probably Wykeham-Barnes) and two by Cantelli (probably Rew and Lancaster).
One of the damaged Bredas was piloted by Tenente Adriano Visconti who pressed home his attacks against the enemy armoured vehicles notwithstanding the enemy’s fighter opposition. The behaviour of Visconti in this particular combat deeply impressed his commander Capitano Dell’Oro who proposed him for a Medaglia d’argento al valor militare. The motivation of this award that Visconti received “in the field” stated that: ”During a strafing attack against enemy’s armoured vehicles he pressed home his attacks careless of an enemy fighter that was following him shooting at him from short distance (…) and with its last ammunitions he succeeded in burning one of the armoured cars of the enemy(…)”.
After Pattle had claimed the Breda he broke away while attempting, without much success, to clear his port fuselage gun. Immediately, he was attacked by five biplanes (identified as CR.42s) diving towards him from the direction of El Adem, which was approximately 10 miles north-west. He flew on, pretending that he had not seen the Italians, until they were almost in position to open fire and then, with a flick of the wrist and a sharp prod of the foot, shot up and away from the Fiats. The Italians split up and attacked him independently from all directions. The Fiats made repeated attacks simultaneously from the quarter and beam, using the speed they gained in the dive to regain altitude. After each attack Pattle was forced on to the defensive and turned away from each attack, occasionally delivering a short attack on the most suitably target as it dived past. One Fiat on completing its attack turned directly in front of his Gladiator, presenting him with an excellent deflection shot at close range. He fired a long burst with his remaining two guns, which caused the Italian fighter to turn slowly onto its back and then spin down towards the desert. Pattle last saw it spinning at 200 feet and didn’t claim it for sure, but was later credited with this victory. Soon after his starboard wing gun also jammed but fortunately, at the same time the remaining Italian fighters broke away. He was now 40 miles behind enemy lines with only one gun operational and he turned for home at 1000 feet altitude.
When some miles north-west of Bir Taieb El Essem, he was again spotted and attacked by twelve CR.42s and three Breda Ba.65s. The Bredas broke away after a few dives while the CR.42s attacked. They used the same tactics as the five earlier had used with quarter and beam attacks. Within a few seconds Pattle’s remaining gun jammed because of an exploded round in the breach, so he attempted to make the border by evasive tactics and heading east at every opportunity. He soon discovered that one of the Italian pilots was an exceptional shot who made repeated attacks using full deflection with great accuracy. Each time this particular Italian came in, he had to use all his skill and cunning to keep out of the sights of the Fiat. The remainder of the Italians as a whole lacked accuracy and did not press home their attacks to a decisive range. Nevertheless, their presence and the fact that he had to consider each attack made the work of the more determined pilot very much easier. He managed to keep this up for fully fifteen minutes before the determined Italian came out of a loop directly Pattle’s Gladiator and opened fire. Pattle turned away to avoid the bullets, but flew straight into the line of fire from another Fiat. The rudder controls were shot away, so he could no longer turn. He pulled back on the control column, climbed to about 400 feet and jumped. As he fell the pilot parachute caught his foot, but he managed to kick it free and the main chute opened just in time for him to make a safe landing off the first swing. The time was now around 19:00. He started to walk towards what he thought was Egypt during the night but found out at dawn to his horror that he had actually walked in the opposite direction, deeper into Libya. He turned around and crossed the border at around midday. At 16:00 on 5 August, he was rescued by a detachment from 11th Hussars, which brought him back to Sidi Barrani.
It is possible that Pattle was shot down by Tenente Franco Lucchini.
At 17:00 on 8 August, Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli (CO of the 10o Gruppo) took off from El Adem T3 airfield with 15 other aircraft from the 9o and 10o Gruppi to patrol along the Egyptian border and to give indirect cover to five SM 79 bombers and a single reconnaissance Ro.37, which were out to patrol the same area. The five SM 79s were a formation from the 44a Squadriglia, 35o Gruppo, led by Capitano Giuseppe Pagliacci, which were out to bomb enemy vehicles and aircraft in the Bir El Chreigat area.
Participating pilots were Romagnoli, Capitano Giuseppe D’Agostinis (CO 91a Squadriglia), Tenente Enzo Martissa (91a Squadriglia), Sergente Aldo Rosa (91a Squadriglia), Tenente Giovanni Guiducci (CO 90a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini (90a Squadriglia), Capitano Luigi Monti (CO 84aSquadriglia), Tenente Vittorio Pezzè (CO 73a Squadriglia), Tenente Valerio De Campo (73a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Carlo Battaglia (73a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Alvaro Querci (73a Squadriglia), Maresciallo Norino Renzi (73a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Enrico Dallari (73a Squadriglia), Sergente Antonio Valle (73a Squadriglia), Sergente Santo Gino (73a Squadriglia) and Sergente Lido Poli (73a Squadriglia).
Immediately after take-off, Romagnoli started to climb, keeping the sun in the back. At 2500 meters over Gabr Saleh (around 65 kilometres south-east of El Adem and 35 kilometres east of Bir El Gobi, well inside the Italian territory) when the Italian formation was still climbing, Tenente Pezzè saw two formations of Gloster Gladiators higher and, after giving the alarm to the gruppo commander, tried to attack the enemy fighters frontally and from below.
Then, completely unseen by Pezzè and the other Italian pilots a third formation of Glosters attacked the 73a Squadriglia formation from above (the surviving Italian pilots estimated that each British formation was nine planes strong so, after the combat, they assessed that they fought against 27 enemy fighters for fifteen minutes).
The Gloster Gladiators were from 80 Squadron (‘C’ Flight had arrived at Sidi Barrani during the day, led by the commanding officer, Squadron Leader ‘Paddy’ Dunn). At 17:40, 14 Gladiators from the Squadron flew an offensive patrol in the neighbourhood of El Gobi since it had been reported by observers that large formations of CR.42s had been patrolling a triangle between El Adem, Sidi Omar and El Gobi fairly regularly twice a day at about 07:00 and 18:15 and it was decided to attempt to destroy a portion of this patrol. The mission had been suggested by Squadron Leader Dunn to the HQ as a reprisal and to re-establish “the moral superiority already gained previously by other Squadrons” after the gruelling engagement on 4 August. Tactics had been carefully discussed by Dunn and his Flight Commanders on the agreed assumption that if the engagement could be controlled for the initial two minutes, a decided advantage would be with the side in control. To do this, it was arranged (as it was expected to be seen as soon as, or even before being able to see the Italians) that a Sub-Flight of the formation (Sub-Flight one) should fly low (at 8,000 feet) and slightly in front to act as bait. These three Gladiators were flown (after that lots had been drawn) by Dunn (leader) (Gladiator K8009), Flying Officer Peter Wykeham-Barnes (K7916) and Pilot Officer 'Heimar' Stuckey (K8022). The rest of the formation, divided in three Sub-Flights of three fighters with an independent aircraft between the lower Sub-Flights, would be stepped at 10,000, 12,000 and 14,000 feet. The independent machine was that of Flight Sergeant Trevor Martin Vaughan (K7903), who attacked with Sub-Flight one. It seems that Pilot Officer Anthony Hugh Cholmeley flew a fourteenth Gladiator but that he was forced to turn back early, probably with engine problems.
Sub-Flight two included Flight Lieutenant Ralph Evers-Swindell (leader) (L8010), Flying Officer Wanklyn Flower (K8011) and Flying Officer P. T. Dowding (K7912). Sub-Flight three included Pilot Officer Harold Sykes (leader) (K8003), Sergeant Donald Gregory (K8051) and Flying Officer Sidney Linnard (K8017). Sub-Flight four at 14,000 feet included Flight Lieutenant Pattle (leader) (K7971), Flying Officer Greg Graham (L8008) and Flight Sergeant Sidney Richens (K7892). The plan was for Sub-Flight one to engage (or being engaged) by the Italians, do what it could until Sub-Flights two, three and four would be ordered to enter the combat on seeing the trend, the overall control being given to Sub-Flight four. All formations flew in a broad vic and it was the first time that the 80 Squadron operated at full operational strength.
Just after 18:00, the Squadron crossed the frontier south of Sidi Omar, and immediately changed course to head north towards Bir Taieb el Esem. At 18:25, as they were approaching Bir el Gobi, a formation of CR.42 flying in echelons was spotted by Flight Lieutenant Pattle. The Fiats were flying approximately parallel but reciprocal to the course of the British formation and they were at 2 o’clock and slightly (500 feet) below the lower Sub-Flight. With a careful turning on the right, ordered by radio, Pattle put the 80 Squadron’s formation behind the Italian one, up-sun and between it and its base at El Adem, then a full boast and throttle stern chase began to catch up with the fast cruising (in fact climbing) Italian fighters. Pilots in the lower Sub-Flights now began to see their opponents, dead ahead and lower. The ideal attack position! Squadron Leader Dunn counted 18 of them in four formations of seven, five, three and three; he was very close to the truth but later Sub-Flight four reported that an additional Italian formation of nine planes was present and it was incorrectly assessed that the Italians were 27, flying in nine sections of three aircraft. After an unobserved astern chase Sub-Flight one engaged the starboard flank of three aircraft and shot down all of them (they were probably part of the 73a Squadriglia). Squadron Leader Dunn later reported:
“(…) I followed my first target down, who rolled over slowly on to his back with smoke coming out: Observed P/O. Stuckey’s (No. 3 on my left) quarry in much the same condition and gave him a burst of my own, then pulled up and across the rear of the formation of 18 that was beginning to peel-off.”Flying Officer Stuckey experienced a very successful combat:
“(…) our C.O. led the first Flight and attacked the right hand enemy flight.The third CR.42 of the section probably fell victim to Flight Sergeant Trevor Martin Vaughan. Flying Officer Peter Wykeham-Barnes confirmed the shooting down of all three Italian CR.42s of the section. Wykeham-Barnes seems to have claimed the first Italian aircraft, witnessed by Flight Lieutenant Evers-Swindell.
I was No. 3 of the C.O.’s Flight and managed to get in a long burst with full deflection as my opposite aircraft stall turned out of his formation. (later the C.O. said that he followed this aircraft down giving it bursts and saw it crash.
Immediately after I attacked No. 3 aircraft of the farthest flight and gave it a short burst before that flight broke up as well.”
“(…) A C.R.42 did a steep diving turn away from his formation and I was easily able to give him a full deflection shot for about 8 seconds, he continued in a dive with smoke issuing from him but as the formation of 18 was approaching around about me with advantage of number and height, it was impossible to pursue him. I claimed it definitely shot down and consider it to be one of the five observed on the ground by Sub 4 before entering. Then followed a long period of loose play in which numerous targets offered themselves.In the end, Dunn was credited with two confirmed victories and 1 probable and reported that the Sub-Flight gained five confirmed victories and two unconfirmed.
At the same time large numbers of enemy aircraft attacked me, chiefly from straight ahead and beam but not driving home determinedly. In one of them I throttled back and stall turned on the attacker’s tail before he was quite past me, he then rolled on to his back and dived down in the second half of a loop. I followed and gave this aircraft what I thought was an effective burst with the result that he did not recover and continued down with bluish smoke issuing from him.
The other flights had by now entered and attacked their opponents, and the number of enemy aircraft thinned down. Two or three enemy aircraft were still about ; I pulled up steeply to avoid one in particular who was dangerously near to my tail, having chased me down in the dive from the port quarter. In the ensuing black-out I have little knowledge of what he did but at the top of what was the first half of something like a rocket loop, I found myself going in the opposite direction with the aircraft climbing rapidly past me on my left and below, he then appeared ahead of me and did a slow roll, unfortunately, I was too surprised and failed to get him in my sight, whereupon he half rolled and dived out; another stall turn brought me on his tail, but he did a rapid dive, turned to the left and streamed off like a homing rabbit - next stop El Adem.
I engaged one more enemy aircraft but my guns failed to fire (after 300 rounds approx.) I tried to clear them but was only able to get one more short burst. I left the fight, gained height at 12,000 feet and returned to witness a dog-fight between three aircraft two of which were Gladiators. I then set off home and picked up two other Gladiators.”
“I was then attacked from about 2 o’clock by the two flights that had already broken; I pulled away and down from them, and as I came up in a climbing turn saw a CR 42 following one of our Gladiators in a loop. While it was going up I gave it a long burst and saw it fall away and dive, the pilot jumped almost as soon as I attacked him. Another 42 came straight towards me while I was circling the parachute but I made a quick turn in the opposite direction and he passed just under my port wings. I then saw a 42 with a Gladiator on its’ tail and as I flew in on a beam attack the 42 flick rolled two or three times and continued doing so in a dive. I followed it all the way in a steep turn and dive giving a lot of short bursts and saw it crash. I was then at only about 3,000’ and when I had climbed to about 5,000’ joined in a dog-fight that ended when the 42 dived away and headed for Bir El Essem.”Form 541 of 80 Squadron ORB credited Stuckey only with a single confirmed victory, probably his first victim was credited to his Commanding Officer who finished it off while of the last biplane he saw hitting the ground he wrote “(…) seen to crash but believed hit before I attacked it”. However, it seems that he later was credited with two destroyed and one probable.
“(…) I saw the leading formation attack the right hand formation of 9 E.A: so I put my sub flight into line astern expecting the E.A. to break up which they did as soon the first machine was shot down by No.2 of the leading formation. I led my sub flight into the centre formation of nine E.A. which by then were scattered all over the sky. I did a diving quarter attack on an E.A. up to about 50 feet, it turned over on its back and went down in a steep spiral. I was then attacked head on by another E.A. after this I looked down and saw the first one crash in flames. The pilot still in the cockpit. I managed to manoeuvre myself on to the tail of a third and after having given him a longish burst, saw him go down in the same way as the first, but was unable to follow him down as an explosive bullet took away one of my port flying wires and another burst on the starboard side of the instrument panel. I got in two more quick burst on two different E.A. but don’t think I did any damage. My engine then started to pour out smoke and soon afterwards cut out. I glided down in a series of steep turns and found no E.A. following. I looked round and saw nine a/c burning on the ground and one pilot coming down by parachute. I glided for about three miles and at about 200 feet the engine seized up I did not have time to inspect the engine so set the aircraft on fire (…).”Evers-Swindell was credited of two unconfirmed victories. Flying Officer Wanklyn Flower was able to claim a probable, he reported:
“(…) I picked out a CR 42 flying in left hand turn ahead of me. I dropped in behind and fired three long bursts at close range – I last saw the aircraft diving vertically downwards. At this moment another C.R 42 fired a burst into my machine damaging the engine. I got away from him and, as there were no more enemy machines in sight, made for home (…)”Flying Officer Dowding also claimed a probable:
“(…) Before we had reached them they had already been broken up before we joined amongst them.Pilot Officer Sykes led his Sub-Flight into the right flank of the Italian formation:
I then saw a CR.42 coming towards me on port beam, it pulled its nose up and did a half roll to the left. I got my sights on to it, as it started to pull its nose up, and followed it round as it did the half roll, giving it a longish burst. It went into a spin, and went down a long way until I lost sight of it.
When I looked again there was an aircraft burning on the ground at approximately the position where the one went down, but I cannot say for certain whether it was the same as the one I saw go down.
I also saw at least four other aircraft burning on the ground, and three people descending by parachutes (…)”
“(…) I was leading sub 3 flight and putting the flight into echelon right turned on to their right flank. The enemy aircraft suddenly reeled of from their echelon formation probably owing to the fact that the leading flight had come into firing range and had opened fire. A general dog fight then commenced, I engaged a CR.42 which commenced a steep climbing turn, I commenced firing at the beginning of the climb and continued until I saw him fall and commence a flay spiral. I saw fragments or splinters falling from the centre section or the cockpit and saw the aircraft drop about 4-5000 feet and then engaged another which I followed in a steep turn firing all the time. This enemy aircraft went into a spin suddenly and saw one of our own aircraft follow it down. There were no more enemy aircraft in sight. During the action I saw several parachute open and several aircraft burning. I landed back on our aerodrome at 1915. One aircraft in my flight was forced to return just before the action because all its guns stopped.”Sykes was credited with two unconfirmed victories. The returning aircraft was flown by Sergeant Gregory, who had had tested his gun before the attack, but found them all jammed and had been forced to withdraw. Flying Officer Linnard was more successful:
“(…) We were given R/T instructions by the top flight to enter the fight.Linnard was credited with two confirmed victories.
I slipped under my leader to the left and found myself in a mass of milling aircraft. I went to attack a CR.42 which was on a Gladiator’s tail when another CR.42 passed in front of me. I gave him deflection burst and got on to his tail – he pulled up in a loop. I followed him around giving him bursts and when he was upside down in the loop he baled out dropping past me, his parachute opening just below me. My range would be about 50 yards or less. I got on to another CR.42 and practically the same thing happened as before except that I did not get him and my engine cut as I was following him in the loop when I was in the vertical position. I saw the enemy aircraft diving past me but I was so close to him that he could not fire at me. I pushed my nose down and got my engine started and then saw a CR.42 diving down on me from vertically above but he did not hit me. I then saw a CR.42 practically head-on. I gave him a burst at very close range. The enemy aircraft turned over to the right on its back and went into a flat spin. I was at about 4,000 feet at this time. I watched the aircraft spin for about 1000 feet and then heard gunfire which I thought was from behind but there were no enemy aircraft within range of me. I then looked for the spinning aircraft but all I saw was an aircraft in flames on the ground beneath me. Another CR.42 dived past going very fast. I gave him a quick burst and saw some black smoke coming from him, but he kept straight on diving as fast as he could go towards Bir-el-Gobi. I did not follow him down. I then turned back towards where the fight had been but saw only one aircraft a Gladiator (P/O. Stuckey). We hung around a bit and then made for home. I caught up with F/Lt. Pattle and F/O. Graham and returned with them. I landed at 1910. I sustained no damage to self or aircraft except for one Fabric panel torn out.
I saw altogether 6 aircraft burning on ground and 4 parachutes dropping.”
“(…) I saw no’s 2 and 3 sections engage and before I brought my section into the fight I saw five crashed aircraft on the ground , three of which were in flames.Pattle’s two claims were confirmed by Flying Officer Graham, who claimed one victory (later downgraded to a probable). Flight Sergeant Richens claimed one probable while confirming Graham’s claim.
My own section then engaged those E.A. who were attempting to reach their own base and immediately became engaged in separate combats.
I engaged a CR 42 and, after a short skirmish, get into position immediately behind him. On firing two short bursts at about 50 yards range the E.A. fell into a spin and burst into flames on striking the ground. The pilot did not abandon his aircraft.
I then attacked 3 E.A. immediately below me. This action was indecisive as after a few minutes they broke away by diving vertically for the ground and pulling out at very low altitude.
Whilst searching for other E.A. I saw two more aircraft crash and burst into flames. Owing to the widespread area and the number of aircraft engaged it was impossible to confirm what types of aircraft were involved in these crashes or who shot them down.
The sky seemed clear of 42s’ although several Gladiators were still in the vicinity. I was about to turn for our base when a 42 attacked me from below. With the advantage of height I dived astern of him and after a short burst he spun into the ground into flames. As before the pilot didn’t abandon his aircraft. Flying Officer Graham confirms both my combats which ended decisively.
Seeing no further sign of Enemy Aircraft over the area, I turned towards our base. On my way home F/O Graham and P/O Linnard joined me in formation and my section landed at 19.10 hrs.”
“(…) set the aircraft on fire. First removing the water bottle and Very pistol. I walked for three hours away from the sun and then lay down to sleep. I slept till about 01.00 hours finding dense fog and myself wet through. I then dug a hole in some soft sand and buried my self. There I stayed till daylight. At about 06.30 next morning when the fog started to lift I started to walk into the sun until 15.00hrs. when I saw three armoured cars on the horizon. I fired three very light cartridges, the next thing I remember I was lying in the shade of the armoured car the crew told me I was about five miles from the wire.”He had been picked up by three armoured cars of the 11th Hussars.
Martissa, who was initially missing, had force-landed his CR.42 with a hundred bullet holes in it, only 15 kilometres from El Adem. The wounded pilot claimed the individual destruction of two Gladiators (not confirmed in the official documents of his unit but later credited to him by post-war studies). In fact, Martissa was awarded with a third Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (in as many months) for this action. The official motivation of the award stated that he: ”shared in the destruction of five enemy planes together with other pilots”. He survived his ordeal by drinking dewdrops at dawn but after two days, he was becoming to expect the worst. One of the bullets, which had hit his aircraft, had pierced the griffin's head of Squadriglia's badge on the port wheel cover and Martissa wrote with a knife on the white background disc of the badge:
“You, little griffin, have been struck in the head. I would have suffered less if I had been likewise! I'm not mortally wounded, but I shall pass away, since I can't walk for 10-20 km to reach a track. And it will be by hunger and thirst.”Martissa was found on 10 August by the XXII Compagnia Bersaglieri Motociclisti, led by Tenente Domenico Raspini, which was patrolling 80 km south of Tobruk. Raspini recalled:
"We saw an aircraft in the desert. We approached and found Tenente Martissa under a wing, with a leg almost torn off by an explosive bullet from a British fighter. We rescued him. He told us that if we didn't come [to save him], he'd shoot himself in the head with his gun, because he was dying of thirst.
We rescued the pilot and left the aircraft."
The Fiat CR.42 flown by Martissa (MM4306) was recovered and, in September 1940, assigned to the 84a Squadriglia of the 10o Gruppo as “84-4”.
Tenente Guiducci was also awarded with a Medaglia d’argento al Valor militare for this combat.
The Italians totally lost four aircraft while four more force-landed (it seems that all were later recovered). In return the Italian pilots claimed five Gladiators (three shared amongst the pilots of 10o Gruppo and two shared by the surviving 73a Squadriglia pilots) and two probables (the 90a Squadriglia’s Diary reported six victories). Remembering the combat for the press, the Italian leader (obviously Maggiore Romagnoli) recalled that even if the attack of the Gladiators was possibly the deadliest he had ever seen, the reaction of his pilots was ”miraculously immediate”. He had just heard the first bullets whistling around him when his right wingman already was breaking with a zoom. Then he saw in his gunsight, the belly of a Gladiator and shot this down (most likely Flight Sergeant Vaughan, who had overshot during the first bounce).
For this exploit, 80 Squadron received the Press honours as well as written congratulations from the RAF HQ Middle East. Dunn and his pilots had exploited the strong points of the Gladiator over the CR.42 to the maximum extent especially the radio equipment, which had permitted a coordinated attack, being also crucial for obtaining the initial surprise and the Gladiators superior low altitude overall performances.
During the combat, the Gladiator demonstrated another interesting characteristic: a markedly superior horizontal manoeuvrability over its opponent. On regard of this point, it is interesting to report the impressions of Flying Officer Stuckey and Flying Officer Linnard.
“With trimming gear slightly back, found I could easily out manoeuvre a/c attacking from rear. No blacking out.”After this combat, morale, particularly among the 9o Gruppo’s pilots suffering their first African experiences, fell considerably. The 73a Squadriglia was considered the top gun unit of 4o Stormo, its pilots (notably among them Enrico Dallari, Renzi, Valerio De Campo and Vittorio Pezzè) were mostly part of the last Italian aerobatic team, which had performed with great success in Berlin Staaken on 23 June 1939, in honour of the returning Condor Legion’s pilots. However, this air battle demonstrated clearly, even in a pure biplane dogfight, that good tactics and sound flight discipline, enhanced by R/T communications were better than the pure aerobatic skill. However, despite this heavy beating, operations for the 9o Gruppo restarted the next day.
“No difficulty in keeping astern of enemy aircraft. Enemy invariably looped for evasive action.”
On 15 September, 80 Squadron flew both its Flights up to the front to a location simply known as ‘Y’ landing ground.
The Italian targets of the day were closer to the battlefront and centred in the area of Sidi Barrani. At around 13:00 (the sixth Italian mission of the day) ten SM 79s from the 46o Gruppo, led by Maggiore Cunteri, were intercepted over Sidi Barrani by Gladiators from 112 Squadron, which were on patrol at 16,000 feet, thirty miles out to sea. The Gladiators were divided into two sub-Flights. In the first flew Flight Lieutenant Charles Fry, Flight Lieutenant R. J. Abrahams and Flying Officer Joseph Fraser (Gladiator K8019). In the second flew Pilot Officer R. H. Clark, Flying Officer Edwin Banks and Pilot Officer R. J. Bennett.
When the Italian bombers approached, the No 1 sub-Flight took on the first formation of five aircraft and drove them out to sea before they could release their bombs while No 2 sub-Flight closed on the second five after they had released their bombs. Banks and Clark chased this formation out to sea and managed to get close enough to open fire. Both claimed damaged to one aircraft each. Banks attacked the outside aircraft but the enemy took evasive action causing his aircraft to be hit by cross fire from the bombers and he was forced to break off the action. It seems that Flying Officer Fraser was able to put a good burst into an SM 79, which was seen loosing height but remained unconfirmed.
Two Hurricanes of 274 Squadron and two Blenheims of 30 Squadron flown by Flight Lieutenant Frank Marlow (Blenheim K7096 with gunner Sergeant Lord) and Pilot Officer Jarvis (Blenheim K7105 with gunner Sergeant Sigsworth) got amongst the enemy formation as well. Flight Lieutenant John Lapsley (Hurricane P2544/YK-T) and Sergeant John Clarke (Hurricane P2641) each claimed one SM 79 in this combat (this was Lapsley’s 6th kill of a total of 11 kills). Clarke’s Hurricane was hit and a bullet tore the mouthpiece of his flying helmet away. Jarvis and Marlow chased the SM 79s for twenty-five minutes, firing all their ammunition. They damaged two, one of which was later confirmed as destroyed by 202 Group HQ (and possibly credited to Flight Lieutenant Marlow).
Meanwhile, ten Gladiators from 80 Squadron had been on patrol on the seaward side of Sidi Barrani. Nothing was seen and the squadron split up into sections. The section lead by Pilot Officer Anthony Hugh Cholmeley (RAF no. 40988) came across five of the SM 79s approaching from the northeast. The Gladiators attacked and forced the bombers to turn back, but return fire hit Cholmeley’s aircraft (K7916) and it fell into the sea killing the 22-year-old pilot. One SM 79s was damaged by Flight Lieutenant Pattle.
The Italian bombers fought back with determination and claimed one Gladiator, one Hurricane and one Blenheim with a second Gladiator as a probable. Three SM 79s didn’t make it back to Maraua while four other SM 79s returned damaged. Two of the three bombers that didn’t returned were forced to make emergency landings at T2 (and were probably written off after landing). On the SM 79 flown by Sottotenente Di Francesco there were one dead and four wounded and on the SM 79 flown by Maresciallo Berghino was Maresciallo Fotografo Walter Nencini (operator of the Istituto LUCE, the propaganda service) killed and two wounded. The third SM 79 flown by Capitano Masoero of 21a Squadriglia (co-pilot Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Furini) crash-landed at Ponticelli airstrip with two crewmembers dead (1o Aviere Marconista Eustachio Masone and 1o Aviere Armiere Antonio Bordigato) and two wounded (Furini and Sergente Maggiore Motorista Mario Macerati). Masoero correctly identified his attackers as two monoplanes that had hit them in the left engine with their first bursts of fire before he was able to release the bombs, then after the bombing his bomber slowing, lagged behind the other machines of his “arrow” and once left alone they were wildly attacked by the two monoplanes. Wounded himself in the left arm and with nobody inside his bomber still able to return fire, Masoero started a steep dive with the two remaining engines at full power that possibly seemed “final” to his attackers, which in fact broke off the chase. He landed on the right leg of the landing gear only. The wreck had suffered between 600 and 700 bullet holes and was most likely abandoned in place.
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 Pattle, Flying Officers Greg Graham and Sidney Linnard, Pilot Officers Samuel 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 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 Samuel 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.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.
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."
On 29 November nine Blenheims from 84 Squadron, led by Squadron Leader Dudley-Lewis, were out to bomb targets at Tepelene escorted by Gladiators from 80 Squadron. The escort consisted of six Gladiators in three pairs. Flying in the first pair were Flying Officer Greg Graham and Sergeant Charles Casbolt, in the second were Pilot Officer Johnny Lancaster and Flight Sergeant ‘Mick’ Richens while Flight Lieutenant Pattle, who led the whole formation, and Pilot Officer William Vale were flying in the third pair.
After seeing the bombers to their targets four of the fighters flew low over the mountains searching for Flying Officer Harold Sykes, who was missing from a combat the previous day, while Pattle and Vale remained above as cover.
A number of trimotor aircraft were then spotted flying in two formations and they were identified as S.79s. Both Pattle and Vale attacked but though both the pilots were able to see their fire striking home, they observed no result other than thin trails of black smoke from two aircraft, which they claimed as shared damaged.
The Italian aircraft were in fact part of a formation of 28 Z.1007bis of the 47o Stormo B.T. from Grottaglie on a raid. The defending air gunners reported that nine Gladiators attacked them, claiming one of the probably shot down - presumably Pattle’s aircraft, which spun down after his attack.
No trace of Sykes was found.
Just before 11.00 on 2 December Flight Lieutenant Pattle took off from Yanina on a morning weather reconnaissance. In the Argyrokastron area he spotted another lone biplane, which he quickly saw to be a Ro.37bis reconnaissance aircraft. He attacked the unsuspecting enemy and shot it down in flames near the road about five miles to the south of Argyrokastron.
This was a Ro.37bis from 42a Squadriglia, 72o Gruppo O.A. and Sergente Luigi Del Manno and his observer, Tenente Michele Milano, were both killed.
At 14.30 in the afternoon 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 Samuel George 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.
On 4 December four newly arrived Gladiators from 112 Squadron on detachment to 80 Squadron and 11 of the resident Gladiators were flown up to Yanina for further operations, from where Squadron Leader William Hickey led 14 aircraft on an offensive patrol over the Tepelene area. Here an estimated 27 CR.42s were seen.
Flight Lieutenant Pattle claimed three CR.42s shot down, one onto 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.
Sergeant Edward Hewett claimed two CR.42s and a G.50, whilst Pilot Officer William Vale, Sergeant Donald Gregory and Sergeant George Barker each claimed one CR.42 for a total of nine victories and two probables. Barker’s victory was claimed at Klissoura.
The Italian aircraft were actually 12 CR.42s of 150o Gruppo led by Tenente Colonello Rolando Pratelli, and ten G.50bis of the 154o Gruppo. The returning G.50bis pilots claimed two Gladiators shot down, but 150o Gruppo lost two CR.42s, Tenente Alberto Triolo and Sottotenente Paolo Penna being killed. These were the only Italian losses.
80 Squadron returned to Larissa next day.
At 10.00 on 20 December Flight Lieutenant Pattle was off at the head of nine Gladiators to meet Blenheims of 211 Squadron returning from a raid, and to carry out an offensive patrol over the Tepelene-Kelcyre area. The Squadron flew in three sections of three at 10,000 feet and with Sergeant Charles Casbolt and Flight Sergeant ‘Mick’ Richens in Pattle’s section.
The Blenheims were late and at 10.40 a reported nine S.79s were seen. This was actually six aircraft of the 104o Gruppo B.T. drawn equally from the 252a and 253a Squadriglia escorted by eleven CR.42s flying at 20,000 feet. Pattle at once attacked one of the S.79s from 253a Squadriglia, flown by Tenente Andrea Berlingieri, and shot it down in flames, the crew of four being seen to bale out before it crashed into the mountainside about five miles south-east of Tepelene and blew up. The crew did not return, and were reported missing. A second 253a Squadriglia machine was badly damaged, returning to Tirana where the crew reported that a Gladiator had collided with them and had been seen to crash, minus its propeller. In another S.79 Tenente Vivarelli's crew claimed a second Gladiator shot down. Two Gladiators were in fact damaged during this engagement and returned to Yanina.
The rest of the 80 Squadron formation continued their patrol, soon spotting another formation of trimotors - this time six S.81s from the 38o Stormo B.T., escorted by 24o Gruppo G.50bis. These fighters had no chance to intervene as Pattle bored in to attack the middle aircraft of the leading section, and this was soon streaming fuel from the area of the starboard engine. He fired all his remaining ammunition into it and reported that it slowly lost height and force-landed some 15 miles north of Kelcyre, tipping onto its nose and losing its starboard wing. Pilot Officer William Vale (Gladiator N5784) claimed a second S.81 shot down. In fact one aircraft, carrying the Stormo commander, Colonello Domenico Ludovico, was badly damaged and landed at Berat with three dead, including Capitano Giulio Beccia, the pilot, and three wounded. The survivors just managed to get out before the aircraft with all its bombs still aboard, blew up. A second S.81 returned with all its crew wounded. The British pilots reported that throughout the engagement the G.50bis patrolled overhead without attacking the Gladiators.
At 10.30 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 Pattle and the third trio was led by Flying Officer Sidney Linnard.
Near Argyrokastron three enemy trimotor bombers were seen. They were identified as S.79s, and then three more aircraft with twin tails were seen, recognised 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 Yanina, Paramythia and Zitsa. Seeing the bombers under attack by an estimated 20 Gladiators, the Italian attacked, joined by other aircraft from the 150o Gruppo 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 probables. Pilot Officer ’Bill’ Vale claimed three, one of them in flames. Sergeant Charles Casbolt claimed one, which blew up and another, which spun down (later down-graded to a probable). Sergeant Donald Gregory claimed another two, again one in flames, but his own aircraft was badly shot up and he was wounded in the right eye. He however managed to return to Yanina. Pattle and Flight Sergeant S. A. Richens also claimed one CR.42 each, Pattle reporting that his victim fell in flames, whilst Flying Officers W. B. Price-Owen and F. W. Hosken both claimed probables. However Flying Officer A. D. Ripley 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. Flying Officer Sidney 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 Yanina.
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 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 in collaboration, while 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 with a damaged engine.
On 28 January, Squadron Leader Edward 'Tap' Jones led 15 Gladiators from 80 Squadron on an offensive patrol between Kelcyre and Premet.
At 14.20 four 37o Stormo BR.20s and five 35o Stormo Z.1007bis were sighted, and Flight Lieutenant Pattle’s section of three (Pattle, Sergeant Charles Casbolt and Pilot Officer Eldon Trollip) engaged one of the latter unit's new aircraft in a line-astern attack, which fell in flames, only two members of the crew managing to bale out. Casbolt then attacked a second Cant, while Pattle and Trollip went after one of the BR.20s. The Fiat was seen to go down gushing smoke from its starboard engine, disappearing into the clouds covering the mountains near Premeti and was claimed as a probable. Flying Officer Nigel Cullen also reported shooting down a Z.1007bis, which exploded in midair, but as only one was actually lost it is presumed that he also fired at the aircraft shot down by Pattle’s section. One other Cant in another formation was damaged and returned with three wounded aboard - presumably the second bomber attacked and claimed damaged by Casbolt.
At 10.30 on 9 February 1941 Squadron Leader "Tap" Jones led off fourteen 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 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 152a 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 the 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 Donald Gregory and Sergeant Charles Casbolt, as well as Pattle and Cullen.
The initial claims had been nearer the truth, for four CR.42s were in fact hit. Sergente Romano Maionica and Sergente Barolo both failed to return, the latter being believed to have baled out, while Tenente Rovetta 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. Flying Officer F. W. Hosken baled out of Gladiator N5811, wounded in one leg, when his controls were shot away and he came down near Tepelene. Flight Lieutenant Kettlewell force-landed Gladiator N5858 some 50 miles north of Yanina due to lack of oil pressure, but with his aircraft undamaged. Both returned to Yanina aided by the Greek army.
Pattle was awarded a DFC on 9 February 1941 and during that month some Hurricanes reached the unit.
On 10 February Italian bombers of all types made sustained attacks on Yanina. Fighters of both the EVA and the RAF patrolled and intercepted in a series of rather confused engagements.
During the morning three formations of 47o Stormo Z.1007bis and five S.79s from the 104o Gruppo attacked Yanina. The latter formation were escorted by 154o Gruppo CT G.50bis fighters, led by Maggiore (CO) Eugenio Leotta. This formation was intercepted by a trio of 21 Mira Gladiators, but the escort were on them like a shot, Maggiore Leotta claiming one shot down and his pilots a second in collaboration. The Greek unit only lost one aircraft when Anthyposminagos (Second Lieutenant) Anastassios Bardivilias was shot down and killed.
Three Gladiators of 80 Squadron (Pattle, Greg Graham and P. T. Dowding) had chased five Z.1007bis bombers during mid morning (probably a formation from 47o Stormo), but could not gain sufficient height to make an effective attack. Nevertheless they saw their fire strike two of the bombers, Flight Lieutenant Pattle claiming one damaged. During these morning raids bombs fell on the west and north sides of the airfield, but little damage was caused other than to one staff car.
The afternoon was practically a continual air raid alarm. Four S.79s of 104o Gruppo attacked under escort by a dozen 154o Gruppo G.50bis, the escort claiming a further Gladiator shot down when a single Allied fighter of this type intercepted. Ten more 47o Stormo Z.1007bis crews reported attack by ten Gladiators and seven PZLs, claiming four Gladiators shot down. However seven of the bombers were hit, one of them badly, and a number of aircrew were wounded. Fourteen RAF Gladiators, from 80 Squadron and two from 112 Squadron, undertook defensive patrols, during one of which Flying Officer Nigel Cullen chased away one formation of five trimotors, then attacked five more head-on (identified as S.79s) and chased these out to sea, claiming to have shot one down into the sea south of Corfu. Another formation identified as BR.20s, but almost certainly the 47o Stormo Z.1007bis, was intercepted by Flight Lieutenant Pattle, Flight Lieutenant 'Timber' Woods and Sergeant Charles Casbolt, each of these pilots claiming one damaged, while Pilot Officer William Vale caught another which he reported crashed some 15 miles south-west of Yanina. At least five formations raided the airfield during the afternoon, an estimated 150 heavy bombs falling on or near the base. Three 80 Squadron Gladiators were damaged and one 21 Mira fighter was destroyed. In the nearby town much damage was caused and many civilians killed or injured.
Early in the afternoon on 20 February 1941 eight Gladiators of 80 Squadron and nine of 112 Squadron flew up to Paramythia from Yannina. At 14:45 15 of these Gladiators took off in five sections of three aircraft flying in vic formation, echeloned to starboard and led by Squadron Leader H. L. I. Brown, to escort two Wellingtons of 37 Squadron, flown by Flight Lieutenant M. J. Baird-Smith and Sergeant R. T. Spiller, each carrying about one and a halt tons of supplies. A Greek Ju 52/3m accompanied the Wellingtons and their mission was to drop the supplies to the troops near Kelcyre. Low cloud and rain made the flight difficult, and near Korouode five hostile aircraft were seen, but these did not approach. The supplies were dropped successfully, and the three aircraft were escorted back to Paramythia. The fighters then returned to the frontline to patrol.
Soon after the supply-droppers had gone, 17 Blenheims (eight of 84 Squadron, six of 211 Squadron and three of 30 Squadron) commenced taking off for a bombing attack on Berat. One of the 84 Squadron aircraft suffered an engine failure and belly-landed, but the remaining 16, with an escort of six Hurricanes led by Flight Lieutenant Pattle (Hurricane Mk.I V7724), arrived over the target, their bombs falling on the town, supply dumps, and demolishing a bridge carrying the main road over the River Osem. AA fire was experienced and Fiat G.50bis from the 361a and 395a Squadriglie, 154o Autonomo Gruppo C.T. were scrambled from Berat airfield. As the Blenheim formation, which had completed its attack, was turning a few miles to the north of the target the climbing Italian fighters were spotted by the escorting Hurricanes.
Pattle’s section took on four of the attackers and Pattle shouted to Flight Lieutenant 'Timber' Woods and Sergeant Charles Casbolt to attack individually. Pattle selected the leading G.50 as his own target. As he approached, the dark green Fiat pulled away into a steep turn, but he managed to hold it in his sights until he came into range. When he opened fire the Italian fighter exploded and disintegrated. Woods (Hurricane Mk.I V7138) claimed another and Casbolt claimed two destroyed in this combat. The crews of the Blenheims under attack verified these claims. Pilot Officer Cox's Blenheim L8542 of 211 Squadron was badly shot-up, but two Hurricanes shot down their attacker. Pilot Officer Geary, gunner in Squadron Leader Gordon-Finlayson's aircraft, reported:
‘A G 50 came for us and in a flash a Hurricane just shot it off our wingtip. It simply rolled over, went on fire, and dived into the mountain. It was wizard.’Other Fiats followed the Blenheims as they withdrew. One of the 30 Squadron Blenheims had its starboard engine shot out, but Sergeant Ratlidge managed to get it back to Paramythia. As the formation neared the front, the patrolling Gladiators of 80 and 112 Squadrons spotted the pursuing Italian fighters and engaged them. Flying Officer Nigel Cullen (Gladiator Mk.II N5817) reported:
‘The leader came into close range and then flicked over on its back and dived down. I did a half-roll and got into position dead astern. Four long bursts and the enemy caught fire and crashed into a snow-covered hill. Then engaged another G.50 and got in some good deflection shots. Saw two formations of biplanes, thought they were Glads and went to take a look at them. They were CR 42s. Got on the tail of one, gave him a burst, and he went over on his back, and the pilot baled out. The others made off at once. Just as well- I hadn't any ammo left.’Cullen’s Gladiator received some damage during these combats and one bullet furrowed the knuckles of his right hand, but he returned to Yannina without further incident. Three G.50s were claimed damaged by 112 Squadron pilots Flight Lieutenant R. J. Abrahams, Flying Officer Edwin Banks and Pilot Officer Jack Groves. Flight Lieutenant George Kettlewell (Gladiator Mk.II N5917) of 80 Squadron also claimed a G.50, but did not see it crash (thus it was only credit as a probable) whilst Pilot Officer Eldon Trollip claimed another probably destroyed.
At 15.00 on 27 February nine Blenheims, six from 211 Squadron and three from 11 Squadron, set off to bomb Valona, escorted by five 80 Squadron Hurricanes and four more from 33 Squadron. An hour later, as the formation arrived over Valona, 13 CR.42s of the 150o Gruppo attacked as the Blenheims were bombing. Although the Hurricane escort engaged them at once, some got through to the bombers and damaged five of them, including all three of the 11 Squadron machines. Two of these would crash-land on return to Paramythia, both having suffered heavy damage to their hydraulic systems; N3579 would be written off. The Hurricanes meanwhile had become involved in a heavy battle with the Fiats during which seven of the Italian fighters were claimed shot down, and two more were reported to have collided with each other after being attacked by Sergeant Edward Hewett and crashed. Claims were made by Flight Lieutenant Pattle, Flying Officer Nigel Cullen, Sergeant Hewett (two), Flying Officer Richard Acworth, and Flying Officer Wanklyn Flower, who shared one with a 33 Squadron pilot, believed to have been Flying Officer H. J. Starrett. The seventh claim was believed to have been made by 33's Flight Sergeant Leonard Cottingham.
In the event it seems that only two CR.42s were lost, Sottotenente Egidio Faltoni, the formation leader, baling out after suffering wounds, as did Sergente Osvaldo Bertolaccini, who was almost dead when he hit the ground. The Italians made no claims and believed that their attackers had been Spitfires. Pattle’s Hurricane suffered a single bullet through the petrol tank - the only damage recorded to the British fighters. A further CR.42 of the Gruppo's 364a Squadriglia was destroyed on the ground by the Blenheims’ bombs, and several others were damaged. A dozen drums of fuel went up in flames, and two airmen were wounded.
Pilot Officer Geary, gunner in Blenheim L1481 of the 211 Squadron, recorded his impressions of the raid:
“ I had a grandstand view of the whole affair. It was lovely bombing - direct hits all over the aerodrome and on buildings. A large formation of CR42s took of to intercept us. One got on my tail, so I put a burst into him, and he fell away. Then two Hurricanes appeared in a flash, and well, he just fell to pieces. The Hurricanes wheeled and proceeded to deal with the others. The sky was full of crashing aircraft - and they were all enemy. We had a most pleasant tour home, and the scenery looked more lovely than ever.”
On 28 February HQ 'W' Wing ordered that all available aircraft should patrol between Tepelene and the coast between 15:30 and 16:30, since Intelligence sources indicated the operation of large numbers of Italian aircraft in that area at that time. Hence during the morning all available Gladiators of 80 and 112 Squadrons were flown up to Paramythia in preparation for this action. Patrols were flown during the morning by flights of Hurricanes but nothing was seen.
At about 15:00 Squadron Leader H. L. I. Brown and Squadron Leader Edward 'Tap' Jones led of eleven Gladiators of 112 Squadron and seven of 80 Squadron to patrol over the designated area; they were accompanied by the 'W' Wing leader, Wing Commander ’Paddy’ Coote, flying an 80 Squadron Gladiator. Fifteen minutes later Flight Lieutenant Pattle in Hurricane V7589 led Flying Officer Nigel Cullen (V7138), Flying Officer Wanklyn Flower (V6749) and Flying Officer Richard Acworth (V7288) to the same area, while Flight Lieutenant Young led four 33 Squadron Hurricanes to patrol near the coast. Here some S.79s were seen and chased over Corfu, two being claimed damaged, one of them by Pilot Officer D. S. F. Winsland (Winsland was later during the war shot down by Bernardino Serafini). These were probably 105o Gruppo B.T. aircraft, which reported being attacked by Spitfires, one Savoia landing at Tirana with one member of the crew dead.
Meanwhile Pattle’s section spotted BR.20s of 37o Stormo B.T. flying south from Valona; they identified the ten-strong formation as comprising 15 aircraft, while the bomber crews reported being attacked by 18 ‘Spitfires'! Pattle selected one on the starboard flank of the formation, and after three short bursts it broke into flames and went down; a second bomber likewise burst into flames following a further attack by Pattle, and his windscreen was covered in oil from this doomed aircraft. Reducing speed, Pattle attempted to clean the screen with his scarf, but he was then attacked by five G.50bis which dived on him. After a brief skirmish he managed to get away and returned to Paramythia. Both Flower and Acworth also claimed BR.20s. although the latter thought his victim may have been a Z.1007bis. Flying Officer Cullen reported considerable success in the run of claims which was to bring him the award of an immediate DFC. He later recalled:
“The battle extended right across Albania. First I found four Breda 20s (sic). I got one, which went down in flames Then we found three formations of S.79s. I took on one and aimed at the starboard engine. It caught fire, and crashed in flames. I climbed and dived on the next - and he too crashed in flames. Then we attacked ten CR.42s, climbing to get above them. I got behind one, and he caught fire and went down in flames. Up again immediately, dived, fired into the cockpit, and another took fire, rolled over and crashed. I had to come home then - no more ammo.”Three BR.20s were in fact shot down during this combat and a fourth force-landed near Otranto; others returned with wounded crewmembers aboard, plus one dead.
“The old Glad suddenly went all soft. Nothing would work. I sat there and then decided I had better get out. I couldn't, so I sat there with my hands on my lap, the aircraft spinning like mad. Then, eventually, I did manage to get out. It was so pleasant sitting there in the air than I damn nearly forgot to pull the ripcord. I reckon I did the record delayed drop for all Albania and Greece. I landed, and no sooner had I fallen sprawling on the ground than I was picked up by Greek soldiers who cheered and patted me on the back. I thought I was a hell of a hero until one soldier asked me. "Milano, Roma?" and I realized that they thought I was an Iti. They didn't realize it was possible for an Englishman to be shot down. So I said "Inglese", and then the party began. I was hoisted on their shoulders, and the "here the conquering hero comes" procession started. We wined and had fun. Jolly good chaps.”Following his initial combats, Pattle had returned to Paramythia, landed, and taken off again ten minutes later in another Hurricane (V7724). Returning to the battle area, he spotted three CR.42s in formation, heading back towards Valona:
“I got behind them and put a long burst into all three. One went down vertically at once, but in case it was a trick I followed him. He was in difficulties, that was most obvious, and when it looked as if he was going straight into the sea I decided to go and see what the other two were up to. As I climbed again I was most surprised to see tow parachutes float down past me.”On his return, Pattle claimed two destroyed, those from which he had seen the pilots come down by parachute, and one probable for that which he had followed down. Just before he got back to Paramythia for the second time at 17.40, Flying Officer Flower, who had returned an hour earlier, also took off for a second patrol over the area after his Hurricane had been refuelled and rearmed. There was nothing to be seen - the battle was over.
On 1 March the Hurricanes of 33 and 80 Squadrons were out three times to escort Blenheims of 30 and 211 Squadrons to attack Paraboa (to the north of Bousi), Berat and Valona harbour. At the latter target Flight Lieutenant Pattle with 33 Squadron's Pilot Officer Percy Newton (later to claim 3 destroyed and 2 probables during the Greek campaign while flying Hurricanes) as his wingman, went below cloud to see what activity there might be in the harbour itself. They spotted a large merchant vessel, which was strafed, Pattle going in for a second attack at very close range.
During the morning on 4 March five Italian warships identified as two cruisers and three destroyers, sortied down the Albanian coast and commenced shelling the coastal road near Himare and Port Palermo, under cover of a strong fighter escort of G.50bis and CR42s from the 24o Gruppo C.T. The flotilla actually comprised of the destroyer Augusto Riboty, the torpedo boat Andromeda and three MAS boats.
An immediate strike was ordered by RAF units, 15 Blenheims being ordered off. Nine 211 Squadron aircraft and five from 84 Squadron (a sixth failed to start) were led to the area by Squadron Leaders Gordon-Finlayson and Jones, escorted by ten Hurricanes, followed by 17 Gladiators, 14 from 112 Squadron and three from 80 Squadron. Four 80 Squadron Hurricanes led by Flight Lieutenant Pattle flew on the starboard flank of the bombers, with four from 33 Squadron to port, and two more above as ‘weavers’. At 15:00 the warships were seen ten miles south of Valona, and the Blenheims went in to bomb in line astern; several near misses were seen, but no hits were recorded.
At this point six G.50bis dived on the Hurricanes, shooting down V7801 in flames; 24-year-old Warrant Officer Harry J. Goodchild DFM (RAF No. 517435) was killed. It seems that the Italian fighters did not see the bombers, for they reported only single-engined types - ten ‘Spitfires’, three ‘Battles’ (obviously Hurricanes) and 20 Gladiators. Once the Blenheims had completed their run and were on their return flight, Pattle ordered the Hurricanes to hunt in pairs over the warships, where a number of Italian fighters were seen. At once a lone G.50bis attacked Pattle and his No 2 - on this occasion Flying Officer Nigel Cullen - but Pattle promptly shot this down and watched it spiral into a mountainside just north of Himare. At this moment a second Fiat ‘jumped’ Cullen (Hurricane V7288) and he was not seen again; his aircraft crashed near Himare, and the Australian ‘ace’ was killed.
Pattle flew on towards Valona, and was attacked by another lone G.50bis which he reported went into the sea south-west of Valona harbour after a brief combat. He then became involved with a third such fighter over Valona harbour and claimed to have shot this down into the sea in flames on the west side of the promontory. Nine CR.42s were then seen below and he dived on these, reporting that one went into a spin with smoke pouring from its engine; he claimed this as a probable. Sergeant Edward Hewett was also heavily engaged, claiming one G.50bis shot down near Himare and three of eight CR.42s near Valona. The only other claim by a Hurricane pilot was made by Pilot Officer William Vale, who claimed another G.50bis.
Meanwhile the Gladiators, led by Squadron Leader H. L. I. Brown, tangled with a reported ten G.50bis and five CR.42s. Flight Lieutenant Joseph Fraser led the third section after some G.50bis which entered clouds, but he claimed one shot down and a second shared with Brown, Pilot Officer Jack Groves and Pilot Officer D. G. H. McDonald. Flying Officer Richard Acworth was about to attack another when he came under fire himself and was driven down to 2000 feet. He got in a few deflection shots, saw smoke issue from his opponent’s engine before being attacked by another, and thus only claimed a probable. Flying Officer Edwin Banks attacked a G.50bis which went into a spin; as he saw a parachute in the vicinity he also claimed a probable, and two more such claims were made by Flight Lieutenant Charles Fry and Sergeant 'Paddy' Donaldson, while four more aircraft damaged were claimed by Groves, Brown, McDonald and Flying Officer Homer Cochrane.
In return the 24o Gruppo pilots claimed four Gladiators, one ‘Spitfire’ and one ‘Battle’ shot down. Sottotenente Nicolo Cobolli Gigli of 355a Squadriglia, who was flying a CR.42 on this occasion, and Sergente Marcello De Salvia of 354a Squadriglia were both shot down and killed, while Tenente Francesco Rocca of the latter unit was wounded. No losses by other CR.42 equipped units have been discovered. Cobolli Gigli and De Salvia were both awarded posthumous Medaglia d’Oro al valor militare.
When a Bar to his DFC was gazetted on 18 March, he was already credited with 23 victories. At that point, he was promoted and given command of 33 Squadron, which had also now reached Greece.
On 23 March, Squadron Leader Pattle led 33 Squadron for the first time when he led 13 Hurricanes from Larissa, rendezvousing with 11 Gladiators of 112 Squadron to escort six Blenheims from 84 Squadron to attack Berat airfield. Approaching at low level due to heavy cloud, the Blenheims bombed from only 1500 feet, but the AA defences caused only minor shrapnel damage. Two Hurricanes were harder hit, and were forced to return to Larissa under escort by Flying Officer Frankie Holman’s section. The remaining Hurricanes regrouped close around the bombers, but near the border a 24o Gruppo G.50bis attacked Flying Officer Charles Dyson’s V7415, hitting the glycol and fuel tanks, escaping fluid almost blinding the pilot. He managed almost to reach Larissa before baling out when the engine seized up; he was soon picked up by Greek troops and returned to the airfield. The result of the raid was two Ro.37bis and a G.50bis damaged on the ground.
During this interception Tenente Enrico Giordanino and Sottotenente Giorgio Moretti of the 24o Gruppo claimed one Hurricane shot down and one probable.
Early in the afternoon on the same day Pattle was off at the head of ten Hurricanes from 33 Squadron, briefed to strafe Fier airfield, some miles west of Berat. As the fighters approached the target they were attacked by an estimated 20 G.50s and MC.200s, and a number of dogfights ensued, three G.50bis being claimed shot down, one each by Pattle, Flying Officer Holman and Flying Officer Vernon Woodward, who also claimed another damaged. Flying Officer Newton claimed a probable and a damaged also.
As a result the Hurricanes were scattered all over the sky, only Pattle and Woodward actually carrying out the strafe on the airfield, where the former claimed three aircraft destroyed. He then spotted a G.50bis at 200 feet, preparing to land, and gave this a burst. He saw it roll over, but did not witness it crash, so claimed only a probable.
On return he was extremely angry with his pilots for not carrying out the full strafe as briefed.
According to Italian records a G.50bis went up in flames on the ground but despite the claims made, there is no record of any Italian fighters having been shot down in combat on this occasion. Italian pilots of 154o Gruppo claimed one British fighter shot down and one probable, while similar claims were put in by the CR.42 pilots of 150o Gruppo. No RAF aircraft were lost.
On 6 April Germany declared war on Yugoslavia and Greece and immediately attacked.
As German forces streamed through the Rupel Pass, the Royal Air Force waited tensely for news. Pilot Officer Winsland of 33 Squadron at Larissa later recorded:
“We heard the news before dawn, got up, washed in freezing water- and dressed. Everyone was tense; our feelings and thoughts were confused - what was going to happen now? Our army was on the retreat in Egypt; the Greeks were only just managing to hold the Italians back in Albania; had we sufficient British troops to hold the Germans in Greece? What was going to happen in the air? While we had sufficient to cope with the Italians, surely we were going to be hopelessly outnumbered by the Germans? For weeks past we had heard of colossal German air forces forming up in Bulgaria. What were we in for? Little did we know! In the afternoon (having been on instant readiness all morning, with all available Hurricanes parked at the end of the runway, facing into wind, ready for take off) all available Hurricanes (12) took off for an offensive patrol over Bulgaria. I had the good fortune to be flying next to Sqn Ldr Pattle. Suddenly we spotted eight Me109s and dived to attack. This was my first really good look at a Hun from close quarters. I saw the CO beside me shoot down two of them in a few seconds. What a sight. I shall never forget it. What shooting too. A two second burst from his eight guns at the first enemy machine caused a large piece to break off in mid air, while the machine turned over vertically onto one wingtip as the pilot baled out - his parachute opened while his feet were still in the cockpit but he got clear in spite of the chute opening so soon. A similar fate awaited the second enemy machine which went spiralling down in flames. I did not have time to see what happened to its pilot.”The Bf 109Es were aircraft of 8/JG 27, led on patrol over the Rupel Pass area by Oberleutnant Arno Becker; Becker was one of those shot down and killed, his aircraft -B1ack 2 - crashing in flames. He was possibly Squadron Leader Pattle’s second victim; the first was undoubtedly Leutnant Klaus Faber, who baled out to become a prisoner. Flight Sergeant Leonard Cottingham claimed a third Bf 109 shot down, from which he saw the pilot bale out. As the German pilot floated down, another Messerschmitt circled round to give protection, and Cottingham promptly attacked this aircraft. It would seem that this was the fighter under attack by Winsland, who added:
“While all this was in full swing and machines were twisting and turning in all directions I found myself directly on the tail of another Hun at whom I let off burst after burst, but either he was made of cast iron or possibly my shooting wasn't so hot! I fear it was the latter as I have had cause to discover several times since. However, I do know the cause - excitement - which is something. I start firing with the centre of the gunsight dead on target, then find myself a few seconds later aiming purely by my tracer - looking round the edge of the sight instead of through it! On this occasion the enemy plane merely "vibrated" all over and started a diving turn to the left. I continued to chase it but still could not get it down. Luckily another Hurricane (F/Sgt Cottingham) suddenly came diving at it as well as myself and at last the enemy “bought his packet.”.”The two pilots claimed a half share each, whilst Flying Officer Peter Wickham claimed one more shot down out of a trio he engaged. Apart from the loss of Becker and Faber, Oberfeldwebel Gerhard Fromming was wounded and crash-landed his badly damaged ‘Black 8’, while a fourth pilot baled out of ‘Black 6’ and returned to his unit on foot, unharmed.
Late in the day on 7 April three Blenheims from 11 Squadron was out to attack German columns east of Strumica, inside Yugoslavia, escorted by two of 33 Squadron's Hurricanes. As the little formation turned for home, Squadron Leader Pattle spotted a single aircraft several thousand feet below, which he identified as a Dornier Do215, and diving on this, he claimed to have shot it down in flames.
This may have been a Do 17 from the Stabstaffel of Stukageschwader 2, which suffered 15% damage from enemy action during the day in the Theodaristi area; other losses of Do 17s on this date were over northern areas of Yugoslavia.
On 8 April eight Blenheims of 211 Squadron with an escort of nine 33 Squadron Hurricanes attacked Petrich airfield in the south-west corner of Bulgaria, which had been occupied by the Luftwaffe. After the bombing, the Hurricanes strafed and several aircraft were reportedly left in flames, two of them by Squadron Leader Pattle.
On 9 April a pair of 33 Squadron’s fighters (Squadron Leader Pattle and Flying Officer Charlie Dyson) was scrambled from Larissa. Pattle spotted a twin-engined aircraft by chance as it was disappearing into the murk. Believing it to be a Ju 88 he got in one god burst into its starboard engine before losing it to sight, and returned to claim it damaged with flame gushing from the stricken engine.
After lunch he was informed that a bomber had crashed in the vicinity of his engagement, and with Flying Officer Frankie Holman he drove to the site to inspect the remains. His victim would in fact appear to have been another Do 17Z (U5+BT) of 9/KG2, which had been flown by Unteroffizier Ulrich Sonnemann.
In the afternoon on 10 April ten bomber Blenheims from 11 Squadron escorted by number of 33 Squadron Hurricanes where out to bomb the Prilep-Bitolj road. They were intercepted by a number of Bf 109Es and Bf 110s. Cloud provided cover, which prevented losses being suffered, while Squadron Leader Pattle got a burst into a Bf 110, which he reported crashed in flames. Hen then attacked a Bf 109, seeing the pilot bale out before the aircraft spun down.
Two Bf 110s from 7./LG2 were lost during the day, as was a Bf 109E of Stab/JG27, but all apparently as a result of accidents.
Early in the morning on 11 April, Fliegerkorps X bombers from Sicily again approached the Greek coast. Squadron Leader Pattle who had taken off after breakfast to fly to a satellite airfield at ‘Churtons Bottom’, was vectored onto a number of unidentified low-flying aircraft near Volos. He identified these as Ju 88s and He 111s, which were attempting to lay mines in the sea at the entrance to Volos harbour. Attacking at once he claimed one of each shot down before the standby flight of Hurricanes arrived and chased the others away. It would seem that both his victims were Ju 88s however, III/KG30 losing Oberleutnant Hans Schaible’s 4D+JR of 7 Staffel and Leutnant Wimmer’s 4D+FS of 8 Staffel, with their respective crews.
In the afternoon on 12 April Squadron Leader Pattle led a formation of 33 Squadron Hurricanes on a sweep up the Struma valley. East of Salonika a lone aircraft identified as a Do215 was intercepted and this was at once claimed shot down by Pattle.
As the squadron returned towards Larissa they were warned of hostile aircraft in the vicinity and almost at once encountered a reported three S.79s 3000 feet below, apparently escorted by Bf 109s. Ordering three sections to take on the fighters, Pattle led Flying Officers Frankie Holman and Harry Starrett down on the bombers, reportedly sending the leader down in flames, while the other pair claimed a second. Pattle then engaged the Bf 109s, reporting hits on one, which caused a panel to fly off the starboard wing and the wheels were seen to drop down.
Fliegerkorps VIII reported the loss of a Ju 88 on this date – possible an aircraft of I/LG1 – but the details of this casualty are not included in the Quartermaster’s Loss Returns.
It seems that Pattle claimed five victories during five sorties on 14 April. A Bf 109 was claimed 07:10, Ju 88s at 08:43 and 17:40, a Bf 110 at 10:04 and a S.79 at 13:08.
II/KG 51 lost two Ju 88s one this date, one shot down during a raid on Illidza, the crew baling out unhurt, while the second crash-landed at Pecs airfield on return, after suffering battle damage. These would thus seem to have been the opponents of 33 Squadron either during morning or evening raids. With regard to the other victories claimed during the day, few possibilities exist. It is also possible that one of the Ju 88s was L1+UH flown by Leutnant Gert Blanke, which was shot down the previous day (13 April) when 20 Ju 88 from I/LG 1 were intercepted by seven 33 Squadron Hurricanes. The only Bf 109 lost on this day was that flown by Hauptmann Gerlach, Staffelkapitän of 6./JG 27, who was taken prisoner when his aircraft was hit in the engine during a strafing attack. The only possible identity of the Bf 110 is a Do 17Z of 10./KG 2, which crash-landed in Rumania 60% damaged – a highly unlikely candidate, while no Italian trimotor bombers are recorded lost in combat with fighters on this date, although one Z.1007bis of the 262a Squadriglia, flown by Tenente Mario di Angelis, was reported shot down by AA fire over Preveza harbour during an attack by five of these bombers. It is very unlikely that this was involved however, as its loss was reported far from the area over which 33 Squadron was operating.
On 15 April it was decided that 33 Squadron’s remaining Hurricanes would join 30 and 80 Squadrons at Eleusis, while 112 Squadron’s Gladiators would share Hassani with 208 Squadron.
At this time Pattle were both combat fatigued and ill. Although feverish, he would barely accept medication, let alone consider hospitalization, and insisted on continuing to fly. He did however allow his adjutant Flight Lieutenant Rumsey, to take over the more mundane duties of squadron administration.
During the rest of the month the RAF fighters were engaged in increasingly chaotic conditions, as the Greek and British forces were forced into retreat.
At 06:35 on 19 April Squadron Leader Pattle was reported to have intercepted bombers approaching Athens (the first of an almost continuous chain of raiders throughout the day) and apparently claimed two Ju 88s shot down and a third probable.
There is no confirmation of such losses from the German records on this occasion.
At 09:20 seven 33 Squadron Hurricanes were led of by Pattle to cover the Lamia area, where the army was still hard-pressed as it approached the end of its current withdrawal. Here a lone Hs126 from 1(H)/23 flown by Feldwebel Herman Wilhus (6K+AH) was seen. Although the slow reconnaissance aircraft was flying very low, Pattle led his section down onto its tail and fired a brief burst into it. His attack was followed by Flying Officer Vernon Woodward, and then by Flight Lieutenant Littler, after which the Henschel caught fire, tipped forward and crashed in flames into the forested hillside.
The Hurricanes regrouped and continued their patrol for another half an hour when an estimated nine Bf 109Es (actually five aircraft from III/JG 77) were encountered head-on.
Pattle’s quick reactions allowed him to Immelmann out and come out on the tail of one Bf 109 at the extreme left of the German formation, and he reported that following his attack it went down in a glide, flipped over and crashed into the ground inverted. The sky was now full of dogfighting aircraft, but Pattle managed to get on the tail of another Bf 109 which he spotted flying low down in a valley towards Lamia. He believed that he had killed the pilot with his first burst, as this aircraft went into a dive and crashed. Meanwhile Flying Officer Woodward saw a Hurricane smoking. He tried to join it, but two Bf 109s intervened; one of these he shot down in flames. The crippled Hurricane with 25-year-old Flying Officer Frank Holman (RAF no. 40176) at the controls came down wheels down in swampy land near Megara and overturned, breaking the pilot’s neck. Flying Officer Moir claimed a further Bf 109, whilst Flight Lieutenants Littler and A. B. Mitchell both claimed damage to others. In return Moir’s aircraft was badly hit and he was forced down at Amphiklia, were P2643 was later destroyed as there were no spares available to repair it. Flight Lieutenant Mitchell’s aircraft was also hard hit, but he was able to get back and force-landed at Eleusis.
Three Hurricanes were claimed shot down by the German pilots, one each by Oberleutnant Kurt Ubben, Unteroffizier Johann Pichler (according to other sources Feldwebel Heinrich Hackler of 8/JG 77) and Oberfeldwebel Erwin Riehl 25 km north-west of Lamia. However Ubben’s Bf 109 was badly damaged and he force-landed in Allied lines, while the Staffelkapitän of 9/JG 77, Oberleutnant Armin Schmidt, was shot down and killed north-east of Lamia. A third Messerschmitt flown by Oberleutnant Werner Patz, was also hit and crash-landed at Larissa during the day, but there is no definite confirmation that he had been involved in the fight with 33 Squadron. Subsequently Stabsarzt Dr. Stormer of his Gruppe flew down in a Fieseler Storch and landed to pick up Ubben and fly him out; so sudden had been the combat that Ubben believed his aircraft had been hit by ground fire.
By now Pattle’s condition had worsened to a point where Squadron Leader Edward Jones, now acting as Wing Commander, Eleusis, ordered him to reduce his flying and to take off only when the air raid alarm sounded. Pattle took him at his word, and was in the air again with Sergeant Charles Casbolt when the alarm went off at 14:50. The two flew around for some time without seeing anything, and became separated before Pattle at last saw two aircraft over Khalkis harbour - Casbolt had found the raiders, and as Pattle watched, the Ju 88 he was attacking went down trailing black smoke. Pattle then spotted another bomber heading north and diving for its lines. Giving chase, he soon caught up and attacked, reporting that it dived into the sea after its crew had baled out.
One Ju 88 was indeed reported lost in this area, 9K+EK of I/KG 51 being lost, although the Gruppenkommandeur, Hauptmann Heinrich Hahn, who was abroad, survived to return to his unit. Asecond Ju 88 from I/LG 1 flown by Hauptmann Siegfried von Eickhorn crash-landed at Salonika due to icing-up, the pilot being injured.
At 18:20 Pattle again was involved in an interception, when according to his fitter’s diary he engaged a number of Bf 109s, claiming one shot down and possibly a second, but no further losses were recorded by the Luftwaffe in such circumstances.
Reportedly by the 20th, when he was leading the combined remnants of 33 and 80 Squadrons from Eleusis airfield in the Athens area, he was suffering from influenza and fatigue.
At 14:00 on 20 April 29 Bf 109Es from II and III/JG 77 appeared over Eleusis and Tanagra airfields. Squadron Leader Pattle engaged one formation from III Gruppe and claimed two shot down during a brief combat.
One of these is believed to have been the aircraft flown by Unteroffizier Fritz Borchert, which failed to return, whilst the second was damaged and crash-landed at Larissa. The German pilots returned claiming 13 aircraft destroyed on the ground.
At 15:41 on the same day he claimed a Ju 88. He then returned to Eleusis to replenish his ammunition.
During the day Eleusis was almost under constant attack but in the afternoon there was a pause in activity, which allowed a little time for the ground crews to bring the maximum possible number of Hurricanes up to readiness state. Squadron Leader 'Tap' Jones decided that if no further attack had developed by 18:00, all available Hurricanes would undertake an offensive sweep in an effort to raise morale amongst the civilian population of Athens and the surrounding areas, and as a boost to the defenders of Eleusis as well as to the pilots themselves.
However at about 16:45 a formation of 100 plus Ju 88s and Do 17s, escorted by Bf 109s and Bf 110s was reported approaching Athens. The Ju 88s (from I/LG 1) peeled off to make low-flying attacks on shipping at Piraeus, while individual Bf 110s of II/ZG 26 scoured the area, shooting up likely targets. One appeared over Eleusis just as the Hurricanes (nine of 33 Squadron and six of 80 Squadron) were preparing to take off. Fortunately, none were hit, and all took to the air individually, climbed to 20 000 feet and headed for Piraeus, forming sections of two or three en route.
The first trio to arrive over the port, flown by Flying Officers Peter Wickham, Flight Lieutenant Henry John Starrett (RAF no. 40188) and Percival ‘Ping’ Newton (a Rhodesian), caught 15 Ju 88s dive-bombing ships in the harbour (the Greek hospital ship Ellenis was sunk during the attack). The three Hurricanes followed them down and attacked as they pulled out of their dives; Wickham claimed one shot down, whilst Newton claimed two more. Just then Pilot Officer William Vale arrived on the scene, reporting seeing some 30 Ju 88s:
“I carried out eight attacks on the Ju 88s. One caught fire and started going down, so I left him and attacked another. Big chunks broke away from his wings and fuselage, and smoke poured from his engines. He went down vertically. I was then attacked by a 109, but I easily outmanoeuvred him, had a crack at some more, and came home when my ammo was exhausted.”One Ju 88 flown by Unteroffizier Helmut Benke (L1+ZH) was lost near Athens with all the crew; a second L1+UK, piloted by Oberfähnrich Werner Ziegler, was hit by a Hurricane’s fire and the navigator Gefreiter Heinrich Baumgartner, received three bullets in the head and neck, dying almost at once. The gunners believed that they had shot down the attacking fighter, reporting seeing it fall into the sea near Kalamaki (it was probably the crash of Benke’s Ju 88 they had seen or the explosions of bombs). A second Hurricane then attacked, putting the starboard engine out of action. This was also claimed hit by Gefreiter Hans Baumann (radio operator/air gunner) and was seen making for land. However the Ju 88 was rapidly losing height and although the crew threw out all removable equipment to reduce weight, it ditched in shallow water near Karies, at the foot of Mount Athos. The remaining members of the crew survived the crash. A third Ju 88 suffered engine trouble, but struggled back to Krumovo, where it crash-landed.
“I dived on the rear one, and he rolled on his back, and crashed to the ground with smoke pouring out. I made a similar attack on a second, and the pilot baled out. I had a go at a third, but didn’t see what happened this time.”These Bf 109s were possibly from III/JG 77, two aircraft from this unit crash-landing, badly damaged. Three Do 17Zs also failed to return; U5+AL (Unteroffizier Helmut Reim), U5+HL (Leutnant Joachim Brüdern) and U5+AR (Oberleutnant Ludger Holtkampe) were all lost with their crews. Apparently Bf 109Es from 4./JG 27 were also involved in combat at this time, possibly with the 80 Squadron aircraft. Oberleutnant Rödel claimed three Hurricanes shot down in just over ten minutes 16:57, 17:01 and 17:08 (victories nos. 18-20), while Oberfelwebel Otto Schulz (victory no. 6) claimed another at 17:10. It seems that Flight Sergeant Leonard Cottingham of 33 Squadron also claimed a Do 17 in this combat.
“I took off late with Squadron Leader Pattle - we climbed into a swarm of Ju 88s protected by masses of Messerschmitt 110s. We were overwhelmed. In sun I recall shooting down a 110 off Pattle’s tail, in flames, then probably a Ju 88. Shortly afterwards Pattle got a confirmed Ju 88 (or Bf 110). Subsequently I lost contact with him, then damaged three more 110s, then, being out of ammunition returned tentatively to Eleusis. It was all over – for that day.”Ahead of Woodward, Pattle was seen going to aid of the Hurricane flown by Flight Lieutenant Woods, which was being attacked by a Bf 110. He opened fire at this aircraft and it was seen to burst into flames (presumably the aircraft Woodward had seem him to destroy), just as Woods’ Hurricane also caught fire and dived into Eleusis bay, killing him. Two more Bf 110s latched onto the tail of Pattle’s AS988, and it quickly began to blaze – there was an explosion, and the wreckage fell into the sea. Flight Lieutenant George Kettlewell arrived on the scene just in time to see the demise of his gallant leader and attacked one of the two Bf 110s responsible, shooting this down into the Bay also. He claimed a second Bf 110 before he too was attacked by yet another Bf 110, and was forced to bale out when V7807 was badly hit. A large and solid man, he landed heavily, cracking two vertebrae in his spine and spending several months in a plaster cast as a result.
Pattle had claimed 15 and 1 shared biplane victories and a total of 50 and 2 shared destroyed at the time of his death.
Pattle’s initial claims against the Luftwaffe were documented, but increasingly, loss of records for April 1941 has forced reliance upon diaries and memoirs - particularly the diary maintained by his fitter, W. J. Ringrose. Whilst many of the April claims did not receive official confirmation or recognition, it does appear that by 20th his score had reached at least 50, making him the RAF's top-scoring pilot of the war.
|Kill no.||Date||Time||Number||Type||Result||Plane type||Serial no.||Locality||Unit|
|1||04/08/40||17:15-19:15||1||Ba.65 (a)||Destroyed||Gladiator I||K7910||Bir Taieb el Esem||80 Squadron|
|2||04/08/40||17:15-19:15||1||CR.42 (a)||Destroyed||Gladiator I||K7910||E Bir Taieb el Esem||80 Squadron|
|3||08/08/40||18:00-19:10||1||CR.42 (b)||Destroyed||Gladiator I||K7971||El Gobi||80 Squadron|
|4||08/08/40||18:00-19:10||1||CR.42 (b)||Destroyed||Gladiator I||K7971||El Gobi||80 Squadron|
|15/09/40||13:00||1||S.79 (c)||Damaged||Gladiator I||Sidi Barrani||80 Squadron|
|5||19/11/40||14:10-||1||CR.42 (d)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||Koritza area||80 Squadron|
|6||19/11/40||14:10-||1||CR.42 (d)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||Koritza area||80 Squadron|
|29/11/40||½||S.79 (e)||Shared damaged||Gladiator II||Tepelene area||80 Squadron|
|29/11/40||½||S.79 (e)||Shared damaged||Gladiator II||Tepelene area||80 Squadron|
|7||02/12/40||11:00-||1||Ro.37 (f)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||N5832||8 km S Argyrokastron||80 Squadron|
|8||02/12/40||14:30-||1||Ro.37 (g)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||N5832||near Premet||80 Squadron|
|9||04/12/40||1||CR.42 (h)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||N Delvinakion||80 Squadron|
|10||04/12/40||1||CR.42 (h)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||Tepelene area||80 Squadron|
|11||04/12/40||1||CR.42 (h)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||Tepelene area||80 Squadron|
|04/12/40||1||CR.42 (h)||Probable||Gladiator II||Tepelene area||80 Squadron|
|04/12/40||1||CR.32 (h)||Probable||Gladiator II||Tepelene area||80 Squadron|
|12||20/12/40||10:40||1||S.79 (i)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||5m SE Tepelene||80 Squadron|
|13||20/12/40||10:40||1||S.81 (j)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||15m N Kelcyre||80 Squadron|
|21/12/40||10:30-||1||BR.20 (k)||Probable||Gladiator II||near Argyrokastron||80 Squadron|
|14||21/12/40||10:30-||1||CR.42 (l)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||near Argyrokastron||80 Squadron|
|28/01/41||14:20||1/3||Z.1007 (m)||Shared destroyed||Gladiator II||Kelcyre-Premet||80 Squadron|
|28/01/41||14:20||½||BR.20 (m)||Shared Probable||Gladiator II||Kelcyre-Premet||80 Squadron|
|15||09/02/41||10:30-||1||CR.42 (n)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||outskirts of Tepelene||80 Squadron|
|10/02/41||mid morning||1||Z.1007 (o)||Damaged||Gladiator II||N5832||Yanina area||80 Squadron|
|10/02/41||p.m.||1||BR.20 (o)||Damaged||Gladiator II||N5832||Yanina area||80 Squadron|
|16||20/02/41||14:45-||1||G.50 (p)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7724||Berat||80 Squadron|
|17||27/02/41||16:00||1||CR.42 (q)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7724||Valona||80 Squadron|
|18||28/02/41||15:30-16:30||1||BR.20 (r)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7589||Tepelene-Coast||80 Squadron|
|19||28/02/41||15:30-16:30||1||BR.20 (r)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7589||Tepelene-Coast||80 Squadron|
|20||28/02/41||p.m.||1||CR.42 (r)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7724||Tepelene-Coast||80 Squadron|
|21||28/02/41||p.m.||1||CR.42 (r)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7724||Tepelene-Coast||80 Squadron|
|28/02/41||p.m.||1||CR.42 (r)||Probable||Hurricane I||V7724||Tepelene-Coast||80 Squadron|
|22||04/03/41||15:00||1||G.50 (s)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||N Himare||80 Squadron|
|23||04/03/41||15:00||1||G.50 (s)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||SW Valona||80 Squadron|
|24||04/03/41||15:00||1||G.50 (s)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||W Valona||80 Squadron|
|04/03/41||15:00||1||CR.42 (s)||Probable||Hurricane I||Valona Harbour||80 Squadron|
|25||23/03/41||1||G.50 (t)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V Berat near Fier a/f||33 Squadron|
|23/03/41||1||G.50 (t)||Probable||Hurricane I||Fier airfield||33 Squadron|
|23/03/41||1||G.50 (u)||Destroyed on the ground||Hurricane I||Fier airfield||33 Squadron|
|23/03/41||1||G.50 (u)||Destroyed on the ground||Hurricane I||Fier airfield||33 Squadron|
|23/03/41||1||G.50 (u)||Destroyed on the ground||Hurricane I||Fier airfield||33 Squadron|
|26||06/04/41||p.m.||1||Bf 109 (v)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||Rupel Pass, Bulgaria||33 Squadron|
|27||06/04/41||p.m.||1||Bf 109 (v)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||Rupel Pass, Bulgaria||33 Squadron|
|28||07/04/41||p.m.||1||Do 17 (w)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||E Strumica||33 Squadron|
|08/04/41||1||Enemy aircraft (x)||Destroyed on the ground||Hurricane I||Petrich airfield||33 Squadron|
|08/04/41||1||Enemy aircraft (x)||Destroyed on the ground||Hurricane I||Petrich airfield||33 Squadron|
|29||09/04/41||a.m.||1||Do 17 (y)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||Larissa||33 Squadron|
|30||10/04/41||p.m.||1||Bf 110 (z)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||Bitolj area||33 Squadron|
|31||10/04/41||p.m.||1||Bf 109 (z)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||Bitolj area||33 Squadron|
|32||11/04/41||morning||1||Ju 88 (aa)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||off Velos||33 Squadron|
|33||11/04/41||morning||1||He 111 (aa)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||off Velos||33 Squadron|
|34||12/04/41||p.m.||1||Do 17 (bb)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||E Salonica||33 Squadron|
|35||12/04/41||p.m.||1||S.79 (bb)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||Larissa area||33 Squadron|
|12/04/41||p.m.||1||Bf 109 (bb)||Damaged||Hurricane I||Larissa area||33 Squadron|
|36||14/04/41||07:10||1||Bf 109 (cc)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||33 Squadron|
|37||14/04/41||08:43||1||Ju 88 (dd)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||33 Squadron|
|38||14/04/41||10:04||1||Bf 110 (cc)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||33 Squadron|
|39||14/04/41||13:08||1||S.79 (ee)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||33 Squadron|
|40||14/04/41||17:40||1||Ju 88 (cc)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||33 Squadron|
|41||19/04/41||06:35||1||Ju 88 (ff)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||Athens area||33 Squadron|
|42||19/04/41||06:35||1||Ju 88 (ff)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||Athens area||33 Squadron|
|19/04/41||06:35||1||Ju 88 (ff)||Probable||Hurricane I||Athens area||33 Squadron|
|19/04/41||09:20 –||1/3||Hs126 (gg)||Shared destroyed||Hurricane I||S Lamia||33 Squadron|
|43||19/04/41||09:20 –||1||Bf 109 (hh)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||Lamia area||33 Squadron|
|44||19/04/41||09:20 –||1||Bf 109 (hh)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||Lamia area||33 Squadron|
|45||19/04/41||14:50 –||1||Ju 88 (ii)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||N Khalkis||33 Squadron|
|46||19/04/41||18:20||1||Bf 109 (jj)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||33 Squadron|
|19/04/41||18:20||1||Bf 109 (jj)||Probable||Hurricane I||33 Squadron|
|47||20/04/41||14:00||1||Bf 109 (kk)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||Eleusis-Tanagra a/f||33 Squadron|
|48||20/04/41||14:00||1||Bf 109 (kk)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||Eleusis-Tanagra a/f||33 Squadron|
|49||20/04/41||15:41||1||Ju 88||Destroyed||Hurricane I||Athens area||33 Squadron|
|50||20/04/41||p.m.||1||Bf 110 (ll)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||AS988||Piraeus||33 Squadron|
Biplane victories: 15 and 1 shared destroyed, 3 and 1 shared probable, 3 and 2 shared damaged.
TOTALT: Provisionally about 50 and 2 shared destroyed, 8 and 1 shared probable, 4 and 2 shared damaged and 5 destroyed on the ground. (NB 10-15 of those listed as destroyed during April may be open to question as to date or certainty).
(a) Claimed in combat with 6 Ba.65s of the 159a Squadriglia and 6 CR.32s of the 160a Squadriglia. The Italian aircraft claimed three Gladiators while only suffering four damaged Ba.65s. 80 Squadron claimed two Ba.65s, one CR.32 and one CR.42 for the loss of three Gladiators and 1 damaged.
(b) Claimed in combat with 9o and 10o Gruppi C.T., which lost 4 CR.42s, 4 fighters force-landed (it seems that all were later recovered) and one pilot KIA while claiming 5 and 2 probable Gladiators. 80 Squadron claimed 14 and 6 probably destroyed while losing 2 Gladiators and 1 pilot.
(c) Claimed in combat with S.79s from the 46o Gruppo, which claimed 1 and 1 probable Gladiator, 1 Hurricane and 1 Blenheim while losing 3 S.79s and getting 4 more damaged. RAF claimed 3 destroyed, 1 unconfirmed and 4 damaged while losing one Gladiator (Pilot Officer Cholmeley KIA).
(d) 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.
(e) Claimed in combat with Z.1007bis of the 47o Stormo B.T.
(f) Ro.37bis from 42a Squadriglia, 72o Gruppo O.A. shot down. Sergente Luigi Del Manno and his observer, Tenente Michele Milano, were both killed.
(g) 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.
(h) 150o Gruppo C.T. lost two CR.42s against RAF claims for 9 and 2 probables when Tenente Alberto Triolo and Sottotenente Paolo Penna were killed.
(i) S.79 of 253a Squadriglia, 104oGruppo BT shot down. Tenente Andrea Berlingieri and his crew became MIA.
(j) Claimed in combat with S.81s from 38o Stormo B.T. 80 Squadron claimed two S.81s shot down and in fact two were badly damaged, one of them blowing up after a forced landing.
(k) Claimed in combat with Z1007bis of 47oStormo B.T.
(l) In this combat 80 Squadron claimed 8 and 3 probables while the 160o Gruppo C.T. lost 2 aircraft and 1 one force-landed. Regia Aeronatica claimed 9 and 4 probables while 80 Squadron lost 2 aircraft and 2 damaged.
(m) Claimed in combat with BR.20s from 37o Stormo and Z.1007bis from 35o Stormo. 80 Squadron claimed 2 destroyed, 1 probable and 1 damaged. It seems that only one Z.1007bis was lost and one was damaged.
(n) 150oGruppo CT lost two and two crash-landed against RAF claims for four and three probables.
(o) Claimed in combat with S.79s of 104o Gruppo and Z.1007bis of 47o Stormo.
(p) 80 and 112 Squadrons claimed six destroyed and two probables in this combat while 154o Autonomo Gruppo C.T. lost two G.50s (Tenente Alfredo Fusco of 361a Squadriglia was killed and Tenente Livio Bassi of 395a Squadriglia was later to die from wounds sustained) and got one damaged (Sergente Gambetta). 154o Gruppo claimed one bomber and one fighter but RAF only got one fighter and one bomber damaged.
(q) Claimed in combat with CR.42 of 150o Gruppo. 80 and 33 Squadrons claimed seven Fiats shot down and two more were reported to have collided with each other and crashed. 150o Gruppo lost only two CR.42s when Sottotenente Egidio Faltoni and Sergente Osvaldo Bertolaccini were shot down, both pilots baling out. The Italian aircraft didn’t claim anything and the British aircraft didn’t suffer any losses.
(r) During this large engagements RAF made claims for 5 and 2 damaged BR.20s, 3 and 2 damaged S.79s, 13 destroyed, 3 probable and 1 damaged CR.42s and 6 and 3 probable G.50bis. In fact 4 BR.20s of 37o Stormo B.T. were lost with several damaged, 1 S.79 of 104o Gruppo was damaged, 1 CR.42 of 160o Gruppo and 2 G.50bis of 24o Gruppo were lost. Regia Aeronautica claimed 6 and 2 probable Gladiators and 1 ‘Spitfire’ while in fact only 1 Gladiator of 112 Squadron was lost.
(s) Claimed in combat with G.50bis and CR42s of the 24o Gruppo C.T. RAF claimed seven G.50bis destroyed, four probables and four damaged, three CR.42s and one probable, while losing two Hurricanes. 24o Gruppo C.T. lost two CR.42s and got one damaged while claiming four Gladiators, one Spitfire and one Battle. No losses to G.50bis have been found.
(t) 33 Squadron claimed 3 G.50bis shot down, 1 probable and 2 damaged. Italian records can’t verify these claims.
(u) According to Italian records one 50bis went up in flames on the ground.
(v) Claimed in combat with Bf 109Es of 8/JG27. 33 Squadron claimed 5 without losses while 8/JG27 lost four aircraft and a fifth crash-landed. Oberleutnant Arno Becker (Black 2) was killed (possibly by Pattle), Leutnant Klaus Faber baled out and became POW (possibly by Pattle) and Gerhard Fromming (Black 8) was wounded.
(w) Possibly Do 17 of Stabst/StG2, 15% damaged.
(x) Several aircraft left in flames.
(y) Initially claimed as Ju 88 damaged, but Pattle later inspected the wreckage and believed to have been Do 17Z U5+BT of 9/KG2 flown by Unteroffizier Ulrich Sonnemann.
(z) These claims can’t be verified with German records.
(aa) Apparently both Ju 88s of III/KG30; 4D+JR of 7 Staffel (Oberleutnant Hans Schaible and crew killed) and 4D+FS of 8 Staffel (Leutnant Wimmer and crew killed).
(bb) These claims can’t be verified with Axis records.
(cc) Not confirmed with Luftwaffe records.
(dd) One of theJu 88s claimed on this date may have been from II/KG51, which lost two or L1+UH of I/LG 1 flown by Leutnant Gert Blanke, which was shot down the previous day (13 April).
(ee) Not confirmed with Regia Aeronautica records.
(ff) These claims can’t be verified with German records.
(gg) Hs 126 6K+AH of l(H)/23 flown by Feldwebel Herman Wilhus shot down.
(hh) Claimed in combat with five Bf 109Es of III/JG 77. 33 Squadron claimed four Bf 109s for one shot down and two badly damaged Hurricanes. III/JG 77 claimed three Hurricanes while losing three Bf 109Es. Staffelkapitän Oberleutnant Armin Schmidt of 9/JG 77 was killed, Oberleutnant Kurt Ubben of 8/JG 77 force-landed in Allied lines while possibly one more flown by Oberleutnant Werner Patz damaged and crash-landed at Larissa.
(ii) Two Ju 88 was claimed in this interception and Ju 88 9K+EK of I/KG51 was lost.
(jj) This claim can’t be verified with German records.
(kk) Bf 109Es of III/JG77; Uffz Fritz Borchert missing; one crash-landed at Larissa due to damage.
(ll) Claimed in combat with Bf 110s of 5./ZG 26. RAF claimed seven and one probable for the loss of three Hurricanes and two pilots (Pattle and Woods). 5./ZG 26 claimed five for the loss of two aircraft and one crash-landed.
Ace of Aces: M T StJ Pattle - E C R Baker, 1992 Crécy Books, Somerton, ISBN 0-947554-36-X
Aces High - Christopher Shores and Clive Williams, 1994 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-00-0
Aces High Volume 2 - Christopher Shores, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-03-9
Adriano Visconti Asso di Guerra - Giuseppe Pesce and Giovanni Massimello, 1997 kindly provided by Vincent Biondi
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
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
GORIZIA ed il QUARTO STORMO
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
Gloster Gladiator - Alex Crawford, 2002 Mushroom Model Publications, ISBN 83-916327-0-9
Gloster Gladiator Home Page - Alexander Crawford.
Hurricanes over Tobruk - Brian Cull with Don Minterne, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-11-X
Italy's Breda Ba.65 (World War II November 1996) - Jon Guttman, 1996
Le Giovani Aquile – Antonino Trizzino, 1972 Longanesi, Milano, (narration by Guglielmo Biffani at GORIZIA ed il QUARTO STORMO) kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Luftwaffe Claims Lists - Tony Wood
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Shark Squadron - The history of 112 Squadron 1917-1975 - Robin Brown, 1994 Crécy Books, ISBN 0-947554-33-5
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The Desert Air War 1939 – 1945 – Richard Townshend Bickers, 1991 Leo Cooper, London, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
The London Gazette
Those Other Eagles – Christopher Shores, 2004 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-904010-88-1
Additional information kindly provided by Csaba Becze, Stefano Lazzaro, Giovanni Massimello, Simon Muggleton, Flavio Silvestri and Ludovico Slongo.