Biplane fighter aces

The Commonwealth

Group Captain John Rowley 'Jock' Perrin DFC, RAAF no. 380

9 October 1916 – 18 September 1992

'Jock' Perrin was born in Melbourne, Australia, on 9 October 1916.

He made three applications for a short service commission in the RAF between 1935 and 1938 before he was accepted by the RAAF. He entered Point Cook on 19 July 1938, and upon graduation a year later, was posted to 3 RAAF Squadron.

On 15 July 1940 3 RAAF Squadron embarked on RMS Orontes at Sydney for service overseas.
At this time the unit consisted of the following flying personnel:
Squadron Leader Ian McLachlan (CO).
“A” Flight:
Flight Lieutenant Gordon Steege (OC), Flying Officer Alan Gatward, Flying Officer Alan Boyd, Pilot Officer Peter Turnbull and Pilot Officer Wilfred Arthur.
“B” Flight:
Pilot Officer Charles Gaden (OC), Pilot Officer L. E. Knowles, Pilot Officer V. East, Flying Officer Alan Rawlinson and Flying Officer B. L. Bracegirdle.
“C” Flight:
Squadron Leader P. R. Heath (OC), Flight Lieutenant Blake Pelly, Pilot Officer J. M. Davidson, Flying Officer Perrin and Pilot Officer M D. Ellerton.
Totally the squadron had 21 officers and 271 of other ranks on 24 July.

On 7 August RMS Orontes arrived at Bombay and the unit was transhipped the same day to HT Dilwara.

3 RAAF Squadron received a signal from H.Q.M.E. on 16 September advising that it had been decided to re-arm the squadron with two flights of Gladiators and one flight with Lysanders.
In order to carry out this re-arming, the unit was to move from Ismailia to Helwan on 23 September, where the Gladiators were to be taken over from 33 Squadron.
In view of the fact that the propellers and air cleaners had still not been received for the Lysanders, and that stores from overseas were still being received at Ismailia, it was decided that the main portion of the unit would proceed to Helwan on 23 September, whilst the remainder of the unit would remain at Ismailia to complete the erection of six Lysanders and for the sorting of stores. These last remainders moved to Helwan on 9 October.

On 18 September an advance party from 3 RAAF Squadron proceeded to Helwan by road to commence taking over Gladiator aircraft and other equipment from 33 Squadron.
The party consisted of Squadron Leader P. R. Heath, Flight Lieutenant Charles Gaden, Flying Officers Perrin, Alan Boyd, B. L. Bracegirdle, M. D. Ellerton and Alan Gatward and 14 other ranks.
During 21 to 23 September the advanced party took over four Gladiators from 33 Squadron and the pilots were put on daily stand-by for operational duty, which was defence of Cairo against air attack.
Eleven more personnel followed on to Helwan on 20 September while the rest of the squadron prepared for the move which was made on 23 September.

3 RAAF Squadron’s stand-by duty was discontinued on 24 September and the pilots were able to carry out flying training.
An intensive period of training followed and the training was complemented with exercises with 6th division AIF and air fighting tactics with Blenheims from 84 Squadron. The pilots also visited Haskard range for artillery co-operation training on 4 October. This training period continued up until 31 October.

While performing formation flying on 7 October for an Australian official newsreel an accident occurred to Gladiator N5764 but Flying Officer Perrin made a successful forced landing. The pilot was uninjured and the damage to the aircraft was not extensive, repairs being effected within the unit.

On 12 October, Flying Officers Perrin and J. M. Davidson with two Gauntlets joined the flight attached to 208 Squadron in the Western Desert.

On 18 October, 3 RAAF Squadron had six Lysanders, 12 Gladiators and six Gauntlets.
The Gauntlets were on detached duty with 208 Squadron. The pilots on this duty were Flight Lieutenant Gordon Steege, Flight Lieutenant Blake Pelly, Flying Officer L. E. Knowles, Flying Officer Alan Rawlinson, Flying Officer Perrin and Flying Officer J. M. Davidson.

On 2 November 1940, squadron headquarters and ground personnel of ‘B’ and ‘C’ Flights of 3 RAAF Squadron moved by road from Helwan to Gerawla. The move started at 08:15 and was completed at 17:15 the next day.
Squadron Leader Ian McLachlan, Flying Officer Alan Gatward, Flying Officer M. D. Ellerton, Flying Officer Alan Boyd, Flight Lieutenant Charles Gaden, Flying Officer B. L. Bracegirdle, Flying Officer Peter Turnbull and Flying Officer Wilfred Arthur moved from Helwan to Gerawla by air on 3 November.
Flight Lieutenant Gordon Steege, Flight Lieutenant Blake Pelly and Flying Officer Alan Rawlinson left their attachments to 208 Squadron and rejoined 3 RAAF Squadron at Gerawla while Flying Officer Perrin, Flying Officer L. E. Knowles and Flying Officer J. M. Davidson, who also had been attached to 208 Squadron returned to ‘A’ Flight at Helwan.
15 Air gunner/Wireless operators from 3 RAAF Squadron were attached to 208 Squadron.
After the completion of these movements the disposition of the squadron was that at Gerawla there were: Officers: 13 pilots, 1 crew, 6 non-flying and 2 (attached) air intelligence liaison.
Airmen: 185 non-flying, 6 (attached) air intelligence liaison and 1 (attached) Royal Corps Signalist.
Aircraft: 10 Gladiators and 4 Gauntlets (two Gauntlets had been left at 208 Squadron, Qasaba, being unserviceable and awaiting spares).
At Helwan (‘A’ Flight):
Officers: 3 pilots and 1 crew.
Airmen: 5 crews and 32 non-flying.
Aircraft: 6 Lysanders and 2 Gladiators (in reserve for ‘B’ and ‘C’ Flights).
Attached to 208 Squadron:
Officers: 2 crew.
Airmen: 5 crew and 15 non-flying.
Attached to 6 Squadron:
Airmen: 6 crew and 14 non-flying.
At Hospital:
2 airmen.
At Abu Sueir (on anti-gas course):
2 airmen.

On 30 November, Flying Officer Perrin moved from Ikingi Maryut to Gerawla together with four other officers and eight rankings.

Two Gauntlets from 3 RAAF Squadron flown by Flying Officers Peter Turnbull (K7843) and Perrin (K7825) took off for Maaten Bagush at 07:45 at 16 December. At 08:00 they arrived at Bagush and took off again at 08:30 to escort three Lysanders conveying General Wavell and staff bound for ALG 75. They landed at 09:40. They took off again at 14:20 to escort one Lysander back to Bagush were the Lysander landed at 15:30. The Gauntlets (which didn’t land at Bagush) returned to Gerawla and landed at 15:40.

At 09:15 on 26 December, eight Gladiators from 3 RAAF Squadron took off from the LG south-west of Sollum to escort a Lysander doing artillery reconnaissance over Bardia. The Lysander failed to appear. At approximately 14:05 (obviously during a third patrol) two flights of five SM 79s escorted by a number of CR.42s were observed a few miles north-east of Sollum Bay. A separate formation of 18 CR.42s was following the bomber formation and escort 2,000 feet higher as top cover. Two Gladiators attacked the bomber formation whilst the remainder climbed to meet the higher formation. The attack on the bombers was broken off when the higher formation attacked the Gladiators. In the ensuing combat, Flight Lieutenant Gordon Steege and Flying Officer Wilfred Arthur each claimed a destroyed (seen to fall into the sea) and a damaged CR.42. Flying Officer Peter Turnbull, Flying Officer Perrin and Flying Officer Alan Rawlinson each claimed one probable.
The CR.42s were 14 fighters from the newly arrived 23o Gruppo led by the CO, Maggiore Tito Falconi and 22 CR.42s from the 10o Gruppo. The CR.42s from the 23o Gruppo included three from the 70a Squadriglia (Tenente Claudio Solaro, Sergente Pardino Pardini and Tenente Gino Battaggion), five from the 74a Squadriglia (Capitano Guido Bobba, Tenente Lorenzo Lorenzoni, Sottotenente Sante Schiroli, Sergente Maggiore Raffaele Marzocca (forced to return early due to a sudden illness) and Sergente Manlio Tarantino) and five from the 75a Squadriglia (Tenente Pietro Calistri, Tenente Ezio Monti, Sottotenente Renato Villa, Sottotenente Leopoldo Marangoni and Maresciallo Carlo Dentis). The fighters from the the 10o Gruppo included seven from the 91a Squadriglia (Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Capitano Mario Pluda, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali, Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato and Sergente Elio Miotto), nine from the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Monti, Tenente Antonio Angeloni, Sottotenente Luigi Prati, Sottotenente Bruno Devoto, Sergente Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Corrado Patrizi, Sergente Piero Buttazzi, Sergente Luciano Perdoni and Sergente Mario Veronesi) and six from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Franco Lucchini, Sottotenente Alessandro Rusconi, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sergente Luigi Contarini and Sergente Giovanni Battista Ceoletta), which had taken off at 13:00.
They were escorting ten SM 79s from the 41o Stormo under Tenente Colonnello Draghelli and five SM 79s 216a Squadriglia, 53o Gruppo, 34o Stormo, led by Tenente Stringa. The SM 79s had taken off from M2 at 12:25 and attacked Sollum harbour’s jetty (reportedly hit) and two destroyers inside Sollum Bay (with poor results because of the heavy AA fire). AA from the ships hit four bombers from the 34o Stormo; one of them, piloted by Sottotenente Bellini had to force land close to Ain El Gazala with the central engine out of action. Returning pilots reported an attempt to intercept by some Gladiators but the escort repulsed the British fighters. They landed without further problems at 15:15.
Over the target, immediately after the bombing, the Italian fighters reported the interception of “enemy aircraft” alternatively “many Glosters” or “Hurricanes and Glosters”. The 70a Squadrigli pilots claimed a shared Hurricane, this was possibly an aircraft from 33 Squadron. This unit’s ORB reported that during the day’s patrols many SM 79s and CR.42s were intercepted with one CR.42 believed damaged. Two Gladiators confirmed and two probables were shared between the whole 10o Gruppo. Another Gladiator was assigned to the 23o Gruppo (in the documents of 75a Squadriglia but this is not confirmed by the other two Squadriglie). Many Glosters were claimed damaged by Tenente Lorenzoni, Sottotenente Schiroli, Sergente Tarantino, Sottotenente Marangoni, Tenente Calistri, Tenente Monti and Sottotenente Villa. The CR.42s were back between 14:30 and 15:05.
No Gladiators were lost even if three of them were damaged (all repairable within the unit). The Australians had done a very good job indeed, facing a formation four times more numerous (even if it seem improbable that all the Italian fighters were able to join the combat). From the Italian reports it seems that only the front sections of the escort (including the 74a, 75a and the 84a Squadriglie) were engaged in a sharp dogfight with the Gladiators. The Australians were able to shot down the CO of the 74a Squadriglia, Capitano Guido Bobba, who was killed when his fighter fell in flames into the sea and damaged Tenente Lorenzoni’s fighter, who landed at T2 (and came back to Z1 the day after). Three more CR.42s were damaged when Tenente Angeloni was forced to land at T5 before reaching Z1, Sergente Veronesi’s fighter was damaged and Sottotenente Prati was forced to make an emergency landing short of T2 (his fighter was reportedly undamaged and only suffering for a slight engine breakdown). Maggiore Falconi’s fighter was also heavily damaged but managed to return. The morning after Angeloni was able to return to Z1 with his aircraft.
Capitano Guido Bobba was awarded a posthumously Medaglia d’Argento al valor militare. He was replaced as CO of the 74a Squadriglia by Tenente Mario Pinna.


Image kindly from 3 RAAF Squadron Association.

On 22 January 1941, 3 RAAF Squadron commenced the first step for the reequipping with Hurricanes.
Flying Officers Alan Gatward, Jackson and Saunders departed for Amiriya to join Flight Lieutenant Gordon Steege and Flying Officers Perrin and Alan Boyd for the collection of the first flight of Hurricanes.

On 27 January, many pilots of 3 RAAF Squadron were promoted. Squadron Leader Ian McLachlan was promoted to temporary Wing Commander, Flight Lieutenant D. Campbell and Flight Lieutenant P. Jeffrey was promoted to temporary Squadron Leaders while Flying Officers Perrin and Alan Rawlinson was promoted to temporary Flight Commanders.

He was promoted Flight Lieutenant early in 1941 as the unit re-equipped with Hurricanes.

Around midday on 19 February, three 3 RAAF Squadron Hurricanes flown by Flying Officer Alan Gatward (Hurricane I V7314), Flight Lieutenant Perrin (Hurricane I V7757) and Flying Officer Alan Boyd set out for Agedabia, from where they were tasked to carry out an offensive patrol. They encountered a number of Ju 87s from II./StG 2 dive-bombing the village.
Perrin looked around for escorting enemy fighters before attacking together with Gatward, leaving Boyd as cover above. Perrin shot down Ju 87R-1 WNr. 5455 of 5./StG 2 flown by Unteroffizier Kurt Stuber and Unteroffizier Walter Neutwig (gunner). The Ju 87 crash-landed near Nofilia with both members of the crew wounded..
At this time four Bf 110s from 8./ZG 26, which had escorted the Ju 87s attacked the Australian Hurricanes. Unteroffizier Max Hohmann (who claimed a Hurricane at 1,000 ft over El Brega at 11:41) and the Staffelkapitän Oberleutnant Richard Prang probably (who claimed a Hurricane at 1,000 ft over El Brega at 11:48) both attacked Gatward and shot him down.
Gatward was last seen by Perrin in flames and crashing into the seashore. Feldwebel Richard Heller (who claimed a Hurricane at 66 ft over El Brega at 11:48) and Leutnant Alfred Wehmeyer (who claimed a Hurricane at 66 ft over El Brega at 11:42) then probably attacked and shot down Perrin. Perrin however managed to turn around a shot down a Bf 110 before force-landing his burning aircraft. This was Leutnant Wehmeyer's Messerschmitt (WNr. 3886), which he managed to ditch into the sea. Wehmeyer and his wounded gunner, Obergefreiter Wilhelm Wüst got into their dinghy and was picked up 24 hours later by an Axis rescue craft.
These claims were Luftwaffe’s first in North Africa!
Flying Officer John Jackson from 3 RAAF Squadron recorded:

“Jock Perrin, Gaty and Boyd had gone ahead earlier and did a patrol down to Agheila. We were just waiting for them to return before taking off, when we heard bombs being dropped to the south, so we hopped into the air and made south. Passed several villages that had just been bombed and came cross Boyd returning on his own, so realised something was wrong. He went back to Agedabia and we flew on a saw an aircraft in flames. We flew low and found it to be a Hurricane burning furiously, much to our sorrow. However, Jeffrey spotted Jock Perrin nearby, waving.
We finished the patrol and got back to Agedabia and found out from Boyd that they had spotted a number of Ju 87s dive-bombing the village just near where we saw them yesterday and, before attacking, Jock had a good look around but could see no other aircraft, so he and Gaty dived to attack - Boyd held back. Jock got a Ju 87 and looked around to see three Messerschmitts on his tail. One came up from under him and set his gravity tank on fire. Anyway he turned and managed to shoot down an Me 110 and then had to force-land with his plane on fire, and luckily got out unhurt. Poor old Gaty was last seen by Boyd in flames, crashing onto the seashore, and evidently he went into the sea as no further trace of him has since been seen. The Me 110s were evidently sitting up above the dive-bombers – we were fortunate yesterday, as they either were not above the Ju 87s or did not see us. The Me 110 is much faster than a Hurricane, accordingly to Boyd, and he reckons he held back because he could see it was just murder. I think he should have shared the fight.”
Perrin was wounded in one eye and severely burned. He was picked up by a patrol car and taken to Benina were he related to his colleagues that as he staggered from his burning aircraft following the crash-landing he was repeatedly machine-gunned by the Messerschmitts, which dived on him as, half blinded by oil and blood, he made a desperate dash for shelter of a tree:
"It was the fastest 100 yards I have ever run and, when I barged into that tree in my haste, I saw stars by the thousands."
He was sent to hospital in Tobruk. On the night of his arrival, Tobruk was raided and a bomb exploded close to the hospital, with the result that he ended up on the floor with a window frame draped around his neck. Shortly after this all the hospital patients in Tobruk was evacuated to Alexandria aboard the hospital ship RAMB 111, but Ju 87s sank this en route. He fortunately was lucky to survive.

On 20 March, he was awarded a DFC for the combat on 19 February, as the second pilot of 3 RAAF Squadron.
His Majesty, the King at Buckingham Palace on 27 February 1945, presented the award to him.

Sufficiently recovered he rejoined the squadron at the start of April.

At 16.35 on 5 April a Hurricane patrol from 3 RAAF Squadron took off from Maraua, led by Squadron Leader Campbell (Hurricane V7567), to provide cover for the hard-pressed British forces and, at the same time to carry out a search for a missing pilot (Flying Officer Edwards, who had force-landed uninjured during another mission earlier in the day and taken PoW). The seven Hurricanes, including three from ‘B’ Flight of 73 Squadron, soon sighted a dozen dive-bombers from 4/StG2 south of the Barce Pass.
In the ensuing combat Campbell was shot down and killed, presumably mortally wounded by return fire from the Stuka he engaged. Nine of the Ju 87s were believed to have been shot down in this action. Flight Lieutenant Perrin (Hurricane P3967/OS-B) and Flying Officer Jewell (P3818) each claimed three destroyed, while Flying Officer Jackson (V7772) was awarded one and two probables. Pilot Officer Millist (V7766/TP-Z) and Sergeant Garton (V7716/TP-U), both from 73 Squadron, each claimed one with Millist reporting a second as a damaged. Only Sergeant Webster (V7546/TP-Q) failed to score.
4 Staffel lost it leader, Oberleutnant Hans Sonntag and his gunner Feldwebel Heinrich Kieselhorst both being killed when their aircraft (WkNr 6046) crashed. Unteroffizier Heinrich Ehlers, gunner aboard Oberfeldwebel Heinz Gragert’s aircraft (WkNr 5951/T6+GH), was also killed. Gragert was taken prisoner and may have been Jackson’s victim. Three other Ju 87s were forced down, each with a wounded gunner aboard (Feldwebel Günther Stulken, Obergefreiter Kurt Heinrich and Obergefreiter Walter Rauer).
As soon as the Hurricanes landed at Maraua the pilots were told to leave immediately for Derna since enemy ground units were outflanking the British forces in the area.

In May, he led a flight to Cyprus to undertake patrols along the Turkish coast. Soon after the unit re-equipped with Tomahawks.

On 12 June, 3 RAAF Squadron twice provided patrols over the 15th Cruiser Squadron, which was operating outside the Syrian and Lebanese coast during the British invasion of this Vichy held territory.
On the second operation, which commenced at 14.50, the eight Tomahawks intercepted eight Ju 88s, which were attempting to bomb the ships, identifying these (incorrectly) as Italian-flown aircraft. Three of these were claimed shot down by Squadron Leader Peter Jeffrey, Flight Lieutenant Perrin and Flying Officer J. W. H. Saunders, while two more were believed to have been damaged. These were in fact Luftwaffe aircraft of II/LG1 from Crete. Two of the German bombers actually failed to return, one from 4 Staffel (L1+DM) flown by Leutnant H. Dickjobst, and one of 5 Staffel, flown by Leutnant R. Bennewitz.
These were the first victories obtained anywhere by aircraft of the Curtiss P-40 series.

He was mentioned in Despatches on 24 September 1941.

He returned to Australia, where he commanded 5 and 24 RAAF Squadrons on Wirraways, and then 76 RAAF Squadron on Kittyhawks during late 1942, operating from Milne Bay and Goodenough Island.

During 1943-44, he was Deputy Director of Operations at RAAF HQ, and then in 1944-46 was SASO, RAAF HQ Overseas.

Perrin ended the war with 1 probable biplane victory and a total of 6 destroyed.

He continued to serve in the RAAF after the war and retired on 10 October 1968 as a Group Captain servicing at the Department of Air.

He subsequently moved to New Zealand where he died on 18 September 1992.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940                
  26/12/40 14:05 1 CR.42 (a) Probable Gladiator II   NE Sollum Bay 3 RAAF Squadron
  1941                
1 19/02/41 11:45 1 Ju 87 (b) Destroyed Hurricane V7757 Marsa el Brega 3 RAAF Squadron
2 19/02/41 11:45 1 Bf 110 (c) Destroyed Hurricane V7757 Marsa el Brega 3 RAAF Squadron
3 05/04/41   1 Ju 87 (d) Destroyed Hurricane P3967/OS-B Bu Cassal, 20m S Marouri 3 RAAF Squadron
4 05/04/41   1 Ju 87 (d) Destroyed Hurricane P3967/OS-B Bu Cassal, 20m S Marouri 3 RAAF Squadron
5 05/04/41   1 Ju 87 (d) Destroyed Hurricane P3967/OS-B Bu Cassal, 20m S Marouri 3 RAAF Squadron
6 12/06/41   1 Ju 88 Destroyed Tomahawk IIb AK464 3m W Saida 3 RAAF Squadron
Biplane victories: 1 probable.
TOTAL: 6 destroyed, 1 probable.
(a) Claimed in combat with CR.42s from the 23o Gruppo, which claimed 1 Hurricane and 1 Gladiator and the 10o Gruppo, which claimed 2 and 2 probable Gladiators while losing one CR.42 and getting five more damaged. 3 RAAF Squadron claimed 2 and 3 probables without any losses while Hurricanes from 33 Squadron possibly claimed a damaged CR.42 during the day.
b) Ju 87R-1 WNr. 5455 of 5./StG 2 flown by Unteroffizier Kurt Stuber and Unteroffizier Walter Neutwig (gunner) shot down. Both survived but both suffered wounds in this action.
(c) Bf 110E-1 WNr. 3886) of 8./ZG 26 flown by Leutnant Alfred Wehmeyer shot down. The aircraft was ditched and the pilot and his wounded gunner, Obergefreiter Wilhelm Wüst got into their dinghy and was picked up 24 hours later by an Axis rescue craft.
(d) Claimed in combat with Ju 87s from 4 Staffel II/StG2. 3 RAAF Squadron and 73 Squadron claimed 9 destroyed, 2 probables and 1 damaged. 4 Staffel lost 5 aircraft including Ju 87 WkNr 6046 (Oberleutnant Hans Sonntag and his gunner Feldwebel Heinrich Kieselhorst both being killed) and Ju 87 WkNr 5951/T6+GH (Oberfeldwebel Heinz Gragert (PoW) and gunner Unteroffizier Heinrich Ehlers killed). Three other Ju 87s were forced down, each with a wounded gunner aboard (Feldwebel Günther Stulken, Obergefreiter Kurt Heinrich and Obergefreiter Walter Rauer).
(e) Claimed in combat with Ju 88s from II/LG1. 3 RAAF Squadron claimed three shot down and two damaged. Two of the German bombers actually failed to return, one from 4 Staffel (L1+DM) flown by Leutnant H. Dickjobst, and one of 5 Staffel, flown by Leutnant R. Bennewitz.

Sources:
3 RAAF Squadron Association
3o Stormo, storia fotografica - Dai biplani agli aviogetti - C. Lucchini and E. Leproni, 1990 Gino Rossato Editore kindly provided by Jean Michel Cala with translations kindly provided by Birgitta Hallberg-Lombardi
Aces High - Christopher Shores, 1994, Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-00-0
Aces High Volume 2 - Christopher Shores, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-03-9
A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume One – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, 2012 Grub Street, London, ISBN 978-1908117076
Desert Prelude: Early clashes June-November 1940 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2010 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-89450-52-4
Dust Clouds in the Middle East - Christopher Shores, 1996 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-37-X
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
Gloster Gladiator Home Page - Alexander Crawford.
Hurricanes over Tobruk - Brian Cull with Don Minterne, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-11-X
National Archives of Australia
The London Gazette
Additional information kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo.




Last modified 12 August 2014