Fighter aces

The Commonwealth

Flight Lieutenant David John Colin Pinckney, RAF no. 72520

- 23 January 1942

Colin Pinckney on the wing of Miles Master.
Image kindly via Colin McCubbin.

Colin Pinckney was born in Hungerford, Berkshire, attending Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he joined the University Air Squadron.

Subsequently he became part of the RAFVR being commissioned to Pilot Officer on 6 December 1938, and was called up in October 1939.

He was promoted to Pilot Officer (RAF) on 2 October, serving initially at 1 School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum in May 1940, on completion of training.

On 6 June, he was promoted to Flying Officer.

With the fall of France, he was sent to 5 OTU at Aston Down on 23 June and after converting to Spitfires joined 603 Squadron on 6 July 1940.

On 29 August, after claiming his first victory, he was shot down and suffered slight burns.
His Spitfire (R6753) crashed at St Mary's Road, Dymchurch.

He quickly recovered, and was back in action by late September.

On the 23 November a fighter sweep was flown by 29 CR.42s of the 18o Gruppo led by Maggiore Ferruccio Vosilla with Sottotenente Franco Bordoni-Bisleri as his wingman. The course was Dunquerque - Margate - Eastchurch - Folkestone - Calais while 24 G.50s of the 20o Gruppo covered them, operating a little further inland. At 11:40, 12 Spitfires Mk.IIs (P7550, P7597, P7311, P7496, P7529, P7388, P7289, P7543, P7389, P7449, P7528, and P7324) from 603 Squadron were scrambled from Hornchurch and headed south. Off Folkestone, 603 Squadron spotted the Italian CR.42s travelling west and the Spitfires hit them from astern. The CR.42s were badly bounced and two of them were lost when MM5694 of the 83a Squadriglia flown by Tenente Guido Mazza and MM5665 of the 95a Squadriglia flown by Sergente Maggiore Giacomo Grillo were shot down into the sea and reported missing. On return to base Sergente Maggiore F. Campanile and Sergente P. Melano of the 83a Squadriglia had to force-land and both pilots were slightly injured. Later it was found out that Campanile had, due to the lack of armour plating, been saved by his parachute pack, which had stopped several machinegun bullets. During the combat Tenente Giulio Cesare Giuntella’s CR.42 was hit several times but he returned claiming hits on a Spitfire. Maresciallo Felice Sozzi of the 83a Squadriglia (83-15) attacked and chased off a Spitfire on the tail of Sergente Maggiore Luigi Gorrini’s aircraft, who in his turn were attacking other British Spitfires. Sozzi was however hit in return by two other Spitfires, who attacked him from behind. He was seriously wounded with three bullets in his lungs, but he succeeded despite pain and a damaged aircraft, to return for an emergency landing on a Belgian beach. He survived his ordeal and recovered to receive the Medaglia d’argento al valor militare “in the field”.
603 Squadron reported that they were to patrol Hornchurch at 4500 meters together with 64 Squadron. They were then ordered on to the Maidstone Patrol Line, then to the Rochford Line. When over Rochford they were detailed to Raid 44 and the squadron went south at 8500 meters. They were given correct height and direction of the enemy raid and dived through misty clouds which was 10/10 from 5500 meters to 7900 meters. When about 16km south-west of Dover they saw about 20 Fiat CR.42s at about 6000 meters flying west parallel to the English coast. There appeared to two separate groups of CR.42s flying one behind the other.
In the front group were four CR.42s in vic echelon starboard, flying wing tip to wing tip. To the right and slightly behind was one CR.42, which was attacked and shot down. There were several CR.42s to the left of this formation.
The second formation consisted of vics, pairs and single aircraft in no special order. Behind and about 90 meters above were two CR.42s flying absolutely straight (no weaving). The Cr42s were flying at about 320km/h.
603 Squadron dived and attacked the rear formation. On the whole, the Italian aircraft took no evasive action and those not attacked flew straight on, keeping their formation although Spitfires were weaving in and out of them. 603 Squadron reported that this was like attacking bombers.
Of those attacked from the rear, one climbed almost vertically, one turned slightly to port and one reduced speed considerably and made a sharp turn.
Pilot Officer Gilroy made head-on attacks on three separate CR.42s, the first of which took no evasive action and he had to pull out over the top of it at the last moment. When at 180 meters range the second CR.42 turned to the right and he had to pull out over the top of the third. All three aircraft fired at him, and twin streams of tracer were seen. Pilot Officer Gilroy’s Spitfire was hit by an amour piercing 7.7mm bullet in the spinner.
Pilot Officer Ronald Berry (P7449) thought that he had hit a reserve petrol in the top wing of an aircraft he attacked. He had a five-minute dogfight with two CR.42s which were on his tail and turned inside him every time. He spun three or four times but the CR.42s were always waiting for him and eventually he had to dive out of range.
Flying Officer Brian MacNamara (P7388), on attacking an enemy aircraft, reported first white and then black smoke coming from in front of the pilot, followed by a shower of small white objects., After this the CR.42 caught fire.
Pilot Officer Archie Winskill (P7389) had four CR.42s on his tail, one of which splintered his Perspex hood. He climbed straight up and left them behind.
The CR.42s had yellow nose, white engine cowlings, green and black camouflage resembling a mackerel, white crosses on tail and white circles with three red fasces on their wings.
None of the Italian pilots baled out and it was thought from the reactions of the aircraft after being fired on that in almost every case the pilot was killed.
It was not understood why the CR.42s kept formation when they were not being attacked and flew straight on. The two CR.42s flying behind the formation did not appear to be guarding it.
603 Squadron was very impressed by the willingness of the Italian pilots to dogfight when attacked, compared to previous experience with Bf 109s and in general their morale was far higher than they had been given to understand.
603 Squadron didn’t suffer any casualties and ten Spitfire landed at Hornchurch at 13:30, one aircraft landed at Rochford while one aircraft landed at Hawkinge. 603 Squadron claimed seven destroyed, two probables and two damaged:
Pilot Officer Winskill claimed two CR.42s destroyed (one in flames, one in sea).
Sergeant Andrew Darling (P7324) claimed two CR.42s destroyed (both in sea).
Flying Officer MacNamara claimed one CR.42 destroyed (in flames).
Flying Officer Pinckney (P7529) claimed one CR.42 destroyed (in sea).
Pilot Officer Berry claimed one CR.42 destroyed (in sea) and one probably destroyed CR.42 (out of control).
Flight Lieutenant John Boulter (P7597) claimed one probably destroyed CR.42 (clouds of smoke and thinks it caught fire).
Pilot Officer David Scott-Malden (P7278 (?)/D) claimed two damaged CR.42s (1 bits of rudder, 1 tracer entered fuselage).
Squadron Leader George Denholm (P7550), CO 603 Squadron, described the combat:

The Italians looked quite toy-like in their brightly-coloured camouflage, and I remember thinking that it seemed almost a shame to shoot down such pretty machines. I must have been wrong, for the pilot who saw six going down at the same time said afterwards that it was a glorious sight. But I must say this about the Eye-ties: they showed fight in a way the Germans have never done with our squadron.
Denholm chased one Fiat halfway across the Channel but had to let it limp home as his own engine started to splutter.
18o Gruppo claimed five enemy fighters. However, it appears that only one Spitfire was actually damaged when Pilot Officer Winskill returned to base with the canopy shattered and the Spitfire damaged by return fire from the CR.42s. Winskill was however safe.
As 603 Squadron disengaged, more RAF units were alerted to the presence of furthers enemy units. 92 Squadron left Biggin Hill at 12:25 together with 74 Squadron. Aircraft identified as Bf 109s were sighted by 92 Squadron pilots some miles south of Dover, but these particular fighters avoided combat. It seems that it is likely that these were the Fiat G.50s of the 20o Gruppo. The Italian pilots reported sighting a formation of British fighters but did not engage them.

In December, he was posted to Singapore, initially to 243 Squadron, but then to 67 Squadron, where as a Flying Officer he was acting commanding officer when this unit formed in March 1941.

He then moved with the unit to Burma, becoming a flight commander.

During the initial attack on Rangoon by the Japanese in December 1941, he was in action flying Brewster Buffalos W8190 and W8191.

Japanese aircraft attacked Rangoon on 25 December 1941. The units of the 7th Hikodan were off first, 27 Ki-21s from the 12th Sentai and 36 more from the 60th Sentai, escorted by 25 Ki-43s from the 64th Sentai. The 10th Hikodan followed with eight Ki-21s from the 62nd Sentai and 27 Ki-30s of the 31st Sentai escorted by 32 Ki-27s of the 77th Sentai. Four Ki-44s of the 47th I F Chutai provided patrols over Don Muang in case of attack during take-off or landing. The commander of the 7th Hikodan, Wing Commander Kenji Yamamoto, flew in the leading aircraft of the 12th Sentai together with the 12th Sentai commander, Colonel Kumao Kitajima.
Before takeoff from Don Muang, the CO of 64th Sentai, Major Tateo Kato, told his pilots:

"We must drive away the enemy fighters from our bombers like a paper fan against flies."
On the way the leading Ki-21 of the 12th Sentai with Yamamoto and Kitajima, suffered an engine failure and turned back. The other bombers followed, but realized something was wrong, resumed their original course and proceeded separately from the main force, but still escorted by some of the Ki-43s (from 64th Sentai).
Due to the lack of a proper Operations Room at Mingaladon following the damage suffered after the attack on 23 December, no adequate warning was given to the Allied fighters and most were scrambled rather late. However, three P-40s of the 3rd Sq., AVG, were already up on patrol and these reported a huge bomber formation on the way. Three more went up, meeting the raiders ten miles from Mingaladon, where the Japanese force split into two, half heading for the airfield and half for the city. The AVG went off after the latter and Flight Leaders Haywood and Older (P-8157) each claimed two of these shot down, whilst Flight Leaders Hedman and McMillan claimed three apiece. Return fire hit the latter’s aircraft, shattering the windscreen and damaging the engine, obliging him to carry out a forced-landing near Thongwa, south-east of Rangoon with a flesh wound in his arm. Haywood’s aircraft was also hit, bullets damaging his port wing. Having broken the bombers’ formation, the remaining P-40s – now joined by others – climbed again before diving on scattered pairs and trios. At that point 20 more bombers with eight fighters were seen approaching, and giving up the attack on the first formation, the Americans climbed from below to attack these.
Flight Leader R. T. Smith (in ‘77’) claimed one that “started smoking badly and dove out heading for the ground”, while Hedman, having already claimed three bombers, attacked another three as they were leaving formation and reported that one blew up in mid air. He then chased a fighter, which he identified as a ‘Navy Zero’, for ten miles before claiming this as his fifth victory of the action. With his canopy shot away, he then made a dead-stick landing on the satellite airstrip at Pegu. Overend claimed two bombers, reporting shooting the wing off the second, but he was then attacked by a fighter and had to make a crash-landing in a paddy field with his aircraft shot full of holes. Smith meanwhile engaged a ‘Type 0’ fighter head-on until “he was in flames and went down in the Gulf” – and then he reported shooting down another bomber, plus two more damaged off the Gulf of Martaban. Curtis E. Smith (making his first and only operational flight with the AVG) also claimed two bombers damaged.
The pilot of the three patrolling P-40s, which were further out, spotted 27 bombers escorted by fighters identified as ‘Zeros’ (obviously the 64th Sentai’s Ki-43s) at 18,000 feet over Mingaladon. Flight Leader Parker Dupouy and Fred S. Hodges attacked two, Dupouy claiming one shot down, which he believed was a ‘Messerschmitt 109’, and Hodges the other as a probable – claimed as a ‘Model 0’. Having also claimed a ‘Model 0’ shot down, Flight Leader William N. Reed attacked a bomber and believed he had hit the tail gunner, but this aircraft was then attacked by a Buffalo, which set the starboard engine on fire. Reed then had to dive away from the fight to clear his guns after they had jammed. Dupouy and Reed then pursued three fighters out over the Gulf of Martaban, Reed claiming one shot down in flames and Sergeant Major Shigekatsu Wakayam (Sho-4) of the 64th Sentai was killed. Dupouy, whose guns jammed, rammed a second, losing four feet off the port wing of his aircraft (‘72’); he reported that his opponent lost its complete starboard wing and was seen to spin down and crash. This was 23-year-old First Lieutenant Hiroshi Okuyama (Class 52) of the 64th Sentai, who was killed. William Reed described the combat in his diary:
"I saw another P-40 who was also leaving the scrap. By now we were 140-150 miles across the gulf from Rangoon. I joined the other ship and saw that it was Dupouy. We started back across the gulf at 17,000ft, and had only gone about 30 miles out off the shore of Moulmein when we spotted three Model Os in a V-formation below us, apparently heading home. We dropped down on their tails and surprised them. Dupouy was following me as I picked out the right-hand wingman. I fired from about 50 yards, and Dupouy fired behind me. The Jap exploded right in front of my face. I pulled sharply up to the right to avoid hitting him, and Dupouy pulled up to the left. In doing so, his right wing clipped the other Jap wingman's ship right in the wing root, and the Jap spun into the gulf, too."
It seems that Reed and Dupouy had scored the first two P-40 victories over the Ki-43.
Soon after the action had begun, two pilots of Dupouy’s flight – Bob Brouk and Lewis Bishop – heard over the R/T an order to “pancake immediately”. Believing this to be an order from Dupouy to return to Mingaladon, they had just lowered their wheels to land when six Ki-27s appeared over the airfield and attacked. Although both P-40s were hit, they were able to get away. Bishop subsequently claiming a bomber probable and two damaged. As the Japanese force departed, Brouk claimed a Ki-27 ten miles east of Rangoon, while a few minutes later Flight Leader Ken Jernstedt claimed a ‘Zero’ east of Kyaikto, and Older claimed another – for his third victory – over the Gulf of Martaban, to bring AVG claims to a highly optimistic 24 destroyed, two probables and seven damaged!
The Buffaloes of 67 Squadron had also seen heavy action. Two formations were ordered to patrol in the vicinity of Mingaladon – Flight Lieutenant J. Brandt (W8213) leading six aircraft of ‘B’ Flight in two vics of three (Blue and Green Sections) at 12,000 feet, while Flight Lieutenant Pinckney (W8144/C) patrolled ten miles east of Rangoon with six aircraft of ‘A’ Flight in line abreast at 17,000 feet. Two other Buffaloes flown by Flying Officer Bingham-Wallis (W8146/D) and Sergeant Gordon Williams (W8228) flew top cover to this formation, 3,000 feet higher.
Two formations of enemy bombers were spotted and the top cover attacked the first formation. Bingham-Wallis and Williams together claimed one bomber, which reportedly crashed into the sea. Bingham-Wallis then claimed one of the escorts (reported as a ‘Type 0’; obviously one of the Ki-43s from the 64th Sentai) as a probable while Williams claimed one fighter as a probable. The main formation from 67 Squadron also attacked but 25-year-old Sergeant John Macpherson (RNZAF no. 41486) (AN216) was shot down by the escorting Japanese fighters and he was killed. The remaining aircraft from ‘A’ Flight engaged the fighters, mainly identified as ‘Type 96s’. Sergeant Charles 'Ketchil' Bargh hit one during a 20 minute dogfight, and saw it trail smoke. He was then chased down to ground level by a Ki-43, which he eventually managed to evade. Three more Ki-43s bounced Sergeant K. A. Rutherford as he was attacking a bomber, but he returned safely to Mingaladon. Pilot Officer G. S. Sharp and Sergeant E. E. Pedersen dogfought a number of the Ki-27s for 15 minutes, Sharp claiming one probable before his own aircraft was hit; he force-landed at Mingaladon with some controls and electric cables cut and bullet holes in the ammunition tank. The recently fitted armour plate behind his seat had saved him from injury. Sergeant Pedersen returned safely claiming to have damaged two ‘Type 96’ fighters. Flight Lieutenant Pinckney also claimed a damaged enemy fighter.
The Blue Section of ‘B’ Flight was also engaged with the fighters and Flight Lieutenant Brandt claimed one of them. Brandt’s Buffalo suffered some damage during the action when bullets pierced the petrol tank and aileron; other struck the armour plating behind his back. One of the fighters that attacked Brandt was claimed shot down by Sergeant E. H. Beable. He then made several more attacks and claimed a second fighter as a damaged. His own aircraft also suffered bullets through the airscrew, R/T, fuel tank and wing, though he was able to return to base safely. Sergeant J. G. Finn (W8240) claimed one fighter shot down in flames. His Buffalo received bullet holes in the tail and lower fuselage.
The green Section of ‘B’ Flight, however, suffered heavily. The leader 23-year-old Flight Lieutenant John Lambert (RAF no. 40924) (W8220/U) crashed near Rangoon; he had been shot in the back and had bled to death. The other two aircraft of the section was also shot down and 19-year-old Sergeant Edward ‘Ted’ Hewitt (RNZAF no. 405269) (W8248) and 19-year-old Sergeant Ronald ‘Ron’ McNabb (RNZAF no. 404393) (W8206) were both killed.
Totally the 67 Squadron claimed one bomber and three fighters destroyed, four fighters probably destroyed and three more damaged. Together with the AVG claims this brought the total to 16 bombers and 12 fighters destroyed, 1 bomber and 4 fighters probably destroyed, 7 bombers and 3 fighters damaged for the loss of two P-40s and four Buffaloes; four RAF pilots were killed.
The separate 12th Sentai suffered most heavily, losing three Ki-21s over the target area, while a fourth was badly hit and later force-landed. Most others in the formation were hit, and two or three crewmen were killed in these. The following 60th Sentai was also attacked, and reported that several of its bombers were damaged, but none actually lost. The bombers of the 10th Hikodan didn’t suffer any losses. The escorting fighters were involved in numerous dogfights; the 64th Sentai became broken up and lost two Ki-43s to the opposing fighters (Okuyama and Wakayama), and only the commanding officer, Major Tateo Kato, was able to stay with the bombers during the return journey. The 77th Sentai lost two Ki-27s in the fight when First Lieutenant Masashi Someya (Class 52) was killed and Sergeant Major Kontetu Ri (Sho-2) was shot down and taken POW. A third damaged aircraft later force-landed.
The Japanese also heavily overclaimed. Kato and his pilots of the 64th Sentai claimed ten Allied fighters shot down (two by Kato; one possibly Edmund Overend and one Buffalo by Lieutenant Yohei Hinoki), while the 77th Sentai claimed seven more and four probables. Claiming pilots of the 77th Sentai were Lieutenant Kisaji Beppu, Sergeant Major Matsunaga, Sergeant Niino, Lieutenant Yoshihide Matsuo, Sergeant Major Akamatsu (and one probable), Sergeant Ono (who force-landed on return) and Lieutenant Tsuguo Kojima. The last three probables were claimed by Captain Mitsuhiro Matsuda, Captain Toyoki Eto and Warrant Officer Kitasaka. The gunners of the 12th Sentai claimed no less than 19 fighters shot down!
Mingaladon was heavily bombed. Three Buffaloes at dispersal were destroyed or damaged beyond repair and five more, which were awaiting final assemble, were lost in one of the bombed hangars. The runways were pitted with craters and practically unserviceable, returning fighters landing with difficulty – but fortunately without accident. In Rangoon, civilian casualties were estimated to 5000 killed.

On 23 January 1942, the first three Hurricanes arrived to Mingaladon where they landed at 09:15. Within minutes of their arrival the approach of a Japanese raiding force was announced.
The first wave of the attack comprised 24 Ki-27s of the 50th Sentai but, before their arrival over Mingaladon, two Buffaloes had been scrambled when a reconnaissance aircraft had been sighted over Zayatkwin; before they could make an interception however, Flight Lieutenant Pinckney and Sergeant Christiansen ran into the Ki-27s, Pinckney (W8239) being shot down and killed near Pegu (the award of a DFC to this pilot would be announced the following June), while Christiansen claimed one of the attackers shot down. A further Buffalo (flown by Pilot Officer Cooper of 67 Squadron) together with five P-40s then joined the battle, followed by the three Hurricanes - still with the ungainly long-range tanks underwing - in the hands of Wing Commander Pennington-Legh (BG853), Squadron Leaders Stone (Z4726) and Elsdon (Z5334). The P-40s engaged the Ki-27s, Flight Leaders Hill and Lawlor of the 2nd AVG Squadron claiming two apiece, Hill adding a probable, while Bill Bartling of the 1st AVG Squadron claimed one and a probable. Pilot Officer Cooper also reported damaging one. The Hurricanes were attacked as they attempted to reach altitude; the one flown by Stone returning damaged.
During the fight, the 50th Sentai claimed two P-40s and one probable, one Buffalo, one ‘Spitfire’ and one probable, and one unidentified aircraft for the loss of two Ki-27s.

He was awarded a DFC posthumously, which was gazetted on 8 May 1942, the citation crediting him with four victories.

At the time of his death, Pinckney was credited 3 victories.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 29/08/40   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Spitfire R6753/G Manston 603 Squadron
  27/09/40   1 Bf 109 Probable Spitfire R6836 Canterbury 603 Squadron
  10/10/40   1 Bf 109 Damaged Spitfire X4594 Dover Straits 603 Squadron
2 20/10/40   1 Bf 109 Destroyed Spitfire P7295 Maidstone area 603 Squadron
  11/11/40   1 Bf 109 Probable Spitfire P7311 Thames Estuary 603 Squadron
  17/11/40   1 Bf 109 Probable Spitfire P7529 E Herne Bay 603 Squadron
3 23/11/40 13:00 ca 1 CR.42 (a) Destroyed Spitfire P7529 16km SW Dover 603 Squadron
  25/12/41   1 Enemy fighter Damaged Buffalo W8144/C Rangoon area 67 Squadron
  14/01/42   1 "Ju 52" (b) Destroyed on the ground Buffalo W8239 Mesoht airfield 67 Squadron

TOTAL: 3 destroyed, 3 probably destroyed, 2 damaged, 1 destroyed on the ground.
(a) Engagement with CR.42s from the 18o Gruppo.
(b) Japanese transport aircraft.

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
Men of the Battle of Britain - Kenneth G. Wynn, 1999 CCB Associates, ISBN 1-902074-10-6
RAF Fighter Command Victory Claims Of World War Two: Part One 1939-1940 - John Foreman, 2003 Red Kite, ISBN 0-9538061-8-9
Additional information kindly provided by Colin McCubbin.

Last modified 31 August 2022