Biplane fighter aces

The Commonwealth

Squadron Leader Peter St George Bruce Turnbull DFC, RAAF no. 481

9 February 1917 - 27 August 1942

Flying Officers Peter Turnbull (left) and John H. W. Saunders.

Turnbull was born in Armidale, New South Wales, on 9 February 1917.

He worked as an electrician in Glen Innes, NSW, until he joined the RAAF as a regular officer.

He was posted to 3 RAAF Squadron.

At 11:40 on 27 October 1939, Pilot Officer Turnbull suffered an accident with Tiger Moth A17-7 at Bulga, New South Wales when the aircraft struck a wireless aerial 60 feet above ground. He had been uncertain of his bearing and had tried to locate his position from signposts. He managed to land the aircraft and he and his passenger, Pilot Officer G. T. Miles was safe. The aircraft suffered slight damage to upper mainplanes but the lower were extensively damaged. The engine bay was damaged, the centre section wire lugs and cross members were broken, the undercarriage damaged and the propeller broken.

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 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 John 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.

HT Dilwara sailed on 11 August and arrived at Suez on 23 August where the squadron disembarked.

On 19 September, 3 RAAF Squadron received instructions from H.Q.M.E. that four pilots with nine ground crew were to be attached to 208 Squadron in the Western Desert for operational duties. The pilots detailed for this duty were Flight Lieutenant Blake Pelly and Flying Officers Alan Rawlinson, Turnbull and L. E. Knowles.
The pilots collected Gloster Gauntlets from 102 MU at Abu Sueir the same day and proceed to 208 Squadron the following day while the ground crew followed in a Bombay.
Flying Officer Turnbull was evacuated to hospital from the detached flight with 208 Squadron on 6 October. He was replaced by Flight Lieutenant Gordon Steege.

Turnbull re-joined the unit at Helwan on 14 October.

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 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 John 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.

Turnbull flew dive-bombing sorties in Gauntlet biplanes at the start of the first Libyan Campaign in December 1940, and then Gladiators on fighter sorties.

Two Gauntlets from 3 RAAF Squadron flown by Flying Officers Turnbull (K7843) and John 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 Turnbull, Flying Officer John 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.

On 25 January, four Gladiators of 3 RAAF Squadron flown by Flight Lieutenant D. Campbell (N5857), Flight Lieutenant Alan Rawlinson (K7963), Flying Officer Turnbull (L9044) and Pilot Officer J. C. Campbell (K8022) took off from Tmini at 07:30 to carry out a protective patrol over the Armoured Brigades operating in the Mechili area. Whilst flying at 2,000 feet, 8 miles south-east of Mechili, five G.50s, which were flying at 10,000 feet, attacked and broke the Gladiators formation. During the combat was 22-year-old Pilot Officer James Chippindall Campbell (RAAF no. 634) shot down and killed, while D. Campbell was forced to make an emergency landing in the desert and the other two biplanes were damaged. Flying Officer Turnbull recalled:

“My position in the flight was astern of the vic formation. Each time I was attacked from astern and above, to avoid being hit I made a side-slipping turn back underneath. As the E/A passed overhead, it made a climbing turn to the left, and I was able to get well within range by turning right. I was attacked nine times, and each time I carried out the above action, but three of my guns ceased to fire owing to stoppages during the first attack and the fourth after the fifth attack. I could see bullets hitting E/A during the third, fourth and fifth attacks, which were at close range.

The E/A appeared to be similar to that of a Breda 65 but the pilots cockpit was well back near the trailing edge of the main planes. This being the only outstanding point which could be seen at the time. They were very fast, and by the dust made by their fire on the ground, they appeared to be armed with two.5's."

Rawlinson claimed two more G.50s damaged. These three claims for damaged aircraft are, however, not officially credited in the unit’s ORB. After the smooth force landing, D. Campbell was able to inspect the plane and assessing the damage suffered as light, took off again and landed back in Tmini. The Gladiators were all back by 08:45.
The Italians were in fact four Fiat G.50s from the 358a Squadriglia, which had taken off from Maraua at 07:30 to fly a protective patrol over El Mechili. Capitano Annibale Sterzi (G.50bis MM6335) led the formation with Tenente Bruno Mondini (MM6346), Tenente Giorgio Gasperoni and Maresciallo Marco Aicardi (MM5455). Over Mechili they discovered four Glosters flying lower and bounced them claiming two by Tenente Mondini, one by Maresciallo Aicardi and one by Capitano Sterzi. The Italian fighters were back at 09:30 after having used 1130 rounds of ammunition. Damage suffered by the three surviving Gladiators should had been light indeed because they were repaired during the day and were able to fly to Martuba during the evening.

Shortly after lunch on 3 April during the retreat at the end of the first Libyan Campaign, seven Hurricanes of 3 RAAF Squadron - now operating from a landing ground at Got es Sultan about 20 miles north-east of Benina, to where it had hurriedly withdrawn the previous night - accompanied by ‘B’ Flight of 73 Squadron, encountered eight Ju 87s of II./StG 2 about 15 miles south of Sceleidima, escorted by an equal number of Bf 110s of 7./ZG 26 led by the newly appointed Staffelkapitän, Hauptmann Georg Christl. The Stukas had been attacking British troops near Derna.
One section of RAAF Hurricanes led by Flight Lieutenant Alan Rawlinson (Hurricane V7772) and including Lieutenant G. K. Smith (P3980) and Flying Officer Jimmy Davidson (V7566) waded into the divebombers while Flight Lieutenant Gordon Steege's (P3937/OS-B) section, which included Flying Officer J. H. Jackson (V7770), Flying Officer John Saunders (V6737) and Flying Officer Turnbull (V7492), engaged the escort. ‘B’ Flight of 73 Squadron did not become involved in this combat.
Flying Officer Jackson's journal provides an account of the ensuing series of engagements:

"About noon we went off on another patrol, about ten of us. We now have four or five pilots from 73 Squadron attached to us. We need them too, as some of our chaps are very war-weary and showing the effects of the strain. We got no distance south of Sceleidima when somebody spotted enemy aircraft. We were in three flights, Gordon Steege leading bottom flight with myself, John Saunders and Pete Turnbull, Alan Rawlinson leading middle flight about 1,000 feet above us, and a flight of 73 Squadron above them. The top flight did a wild goose chase after one of our Blenheims they spotted out on our starboard side, which happened to be returning from a reconnaissance, and they did not see the enemy which turned out to be about ten ME110s escorting about 15 Ju87s, which were dive-bombing and ground strafing our retreating ground forces. I only spotted two ME110s and didn't see any of the other enemy aircraft. I followed Gordon Steege into attack and got on the tail of a ME110, just after he had fired a few rounds at it and sheered away from it. I fired two bursts then my guns stopped – rotten luck. Just as I was getting in close, I saw a few bits and pieces and sparks flying from the ME110. Pete Turnbull followed me in on the same ME110 and gave it a burst also. Gordon Steege got credit for this kite as he attacked first and probably got in the best attack. Immediately my guns stopped I did a steep spiral to gain speed and went like hell to get out of the area as it was useless to remain without guns firing. I flew back to Benina, where I knew the CO was still waiting, and gave him news of the fight.
Pete Turnbull had a go at two more ME110s and blew an engine out of one and bits off another, and fired at a couple of others. Smithy, one of the three South African pilots attached to us, attacked the Ju87s and blew the tail clean off one and sent it down in flames. Jimmy Davidson also claimed a Ju87 and Alan Rawlinson sent two 87s down in flames. Wish my guns hadn’t stopped, I was feeling very fit and enjoyed the bit I had. I’m satisfied ME110s are no match for a Hurricane – at low heights we can catch them and out-turn them without too much trouble. All our chaps returned safely to Sultan through some had bullet holes - both Pete Turnbull and Jimmy Davidson had holes through their ailerons and both were jamming badly – they were very fortunate to get back. Pete also had a bullet through one of his tyres and landed nicely with one flat tyre. Three ME110s and five Ju87s, about five of them down in flames, and possibly others damaged.”
Totally in this combat 3 RAAF Squadron claimed 5 destroyed and 3 damaged Bf 110s and 4 destroyed, 2 probables and 2 damaged Ju 87s. Steege claimed 1 destroyed and 3 damaged Bf110s, Turnbull claimed 2 destroyed and 2 probable Bf110s (these were later upgraded to 4 destroyed), Saunders claimed 1 damaged Ju 87, Rawlinson claimed 2 destroyed, 1 probable and 1 damaged Ju 87s, Davidson and Smith claimed 1 destroyed Ju 87 each while Jackson claimed a probable Ju 87.
Overclaiming was heavy and despite the claims for five Bf 110s destroyed, only one (Bf 110E-1WNr 3885) was shot down in which the pilot, Unteroffizier Georg Stirnweiss was safe but the gunner Unteroffizier Bock suffered wounds. Two Ju8 7s failed to return from this operation, a 5 Staffel machine (Ju 87R-2 WNr 5885) crashing about 20 miles south-west of Sollum in which the gunner, Unteroffizier Peter Ott, was killed, although the pilot, Unteroffizier Christian Appmann baled out and was wounded. The second Stuka (Ju 87R-2 WNr 6034), from 6 Staffel, crash-landed north-east of Agedabia with a wounded gunner, Unteroffizier Erwin Dürr, on board (died of wounds later).
The Zerstörer crews similarly overestimated their successes, two Hurricanes being claimed shot down south-west of Solluch at 11:51 and 11:55 by Hauptmann Christl and a third by Oberfeldwebel Franz Sander at 11:58.

During the retreat he subsequently flew out a Hurricane from Got es Sultan to El Adem with a damaged tyre stuffed with grass and blankets.

On 15 April Turnbull led a patrol of 3 RAAF Squadron to the Tobruk area. While on patrol he spotted what he thought were enemy aircraft and went over on his own to investigate. They turned out to be fighter Blenheims ground strafing. He joined them and did a bit of ground strafing with them, destroying a motorbike and a few trucks.

As an acting flight commander, he achieved further multiple successes against the Vichy French during the campaign in Syria in June and July 1941.

At the end of the afternoon on 15 June 1941 five Martin M-167Fs from GB I/39, Armée de l'Air were raiding in the Deraa area. They were spotted by the pilots of seven 3 RAAF Squadron Tomahawks, which were strafing in the Sheikh Meskine area. The Australians attacked at once and Squadron Leader Jeffrey and Flying Officer Turnbull shot down two of the bombers. Turnbull reported:

“chased one eastwards making three stern attacks, setting the starboard engine on fire – so I followed until it crashed and burnt.”
No. 111 crashed near Deraa with Lieutenant Baron and two of his crew being wounded, although the forth member remained unhurt; all were captured. No. 118 crashed in flames with the pilot, Sergent-chef Jaques Tanchoux and his crew (Sous-lieutenant Henri Maillou, Adjutant Auguste Scheer and Sergent Raoul Plessiez) all being killed. Tanchoux, Maillou and Plessiez were later buried at the Rayak French Military Cemetery (Lebenon)

Sergent-Chef Jacques Tanchoux killed on 15 June 1941
Image kindly provided by Antoine Ros

On 19 June ten of Flotille 4F's Martin M-167Fs were off in two groups to attack the Australians around Sidon at 16.05, while seven Tomahawks of 3 RAAF Squadron escorted Blenheims on a leaflet raid over Masbaja and Merjayoun. Having seen their charges safely back into Allied territory, the Australians were ordered to the Sidon area, where four bombers of Escadrille 7B and three of 6B were seen and attacked, four being claimed damaged. Lieutenant de Vaisseau De Gail's 7B-3 at the rear of the formation suffered severe damage, while Ensigne de Vaisseau Lacoste was unwise enough to leave the formation when his 6B-6 was hit. Fortunately for him, the Tomahawks were by now low on fuel, and departed for their base without pressing the attack further.
It is most probable that three of the four damaged that were claimed were claimed by Flight Lieutenant Alan Rawlinson (two damaged) and Flying Officer Turnbull (one damaged) since both claimed damaged M-167s on this day.

On 23 June 3 RAAF Squadron was engaged in combat with nine Dewoitine D.520s of GC III/6 from Rayak, which had scrambled at 18.34. The Australian Tomahawks surprised the French aircraft and they shot down two of them and claimed a third as a probable and a fourth as damaged. Turnbull's Tomahawk (AK463) was however damaged and he crashed his aircraft when returning to Jenin. A second of the Australian aircraft was also damaged in this combat.

On 28 June nine 3 RAAF Squadron Tomahawks led by Flight Lieutenant Alan Rawlinson flew up to Damascus-Mezze where they refuelled, taking off again at 10:15 to escort Blenheims on a raid. At 10:10 meanwhile, six Martin M-167Fs of Flotille 4F had taken off, one section of two being sent to bomb troops south-east of Palmyra, while the other four as a second section headed for a British concentration near Mohammed Ben Ali, to the north of the oasis. The sections were:
1st section:
7B-5 (No 274) Ensigne de Vaisseau Massicot (pilot), Lieutenant de Vaisseau Lainé (observer)
7B-4 Osserver Engineur Le Friant
2nd section:
6B-3 Lieutenant de Vaisseau Ziegler
6B-4 Ensigne de Vaisseau Playe
6B-6 Ensigne de Vaisseau Lacoste
7B-6 (No 31) Lieutenant de Vaisseau De Gail, Premier Maître Sarrotte (pilot), Sous Maître Gueret
The Blenheims having completed their attack, the Australian's attention was caught by the explosions of bombs dropped by the Aeronavale aircraft, all six being seen bombing in pairs. In the execution, which followed, all the bombers were shot down, 6B-3, 6B-4, 6B-6 and 7B-4 all crashing with total loss of life. Premier Maître Sarrotte, the pilot of 7B-6, held the aircraft in the air long enough for the crew to bale out, he and Sous Maître Gueret surviving. From 7B-5, Lieutenant de Vaisseau Lainé and Ensigne de Vaisseau Massicot survived, though both were badly injured. They were found by Bedouins and carried to T-4 next day. Six officers and 14 airmen had died.
The Tomahawks returned to Damascus without damage, victories being credited to Flight Lieutenant Rawlinson (three), Flying Officer Turnbull (two) and Sergeant Wilson.

At 10.25 on 10 July seven Tomahawks took off to cover a dozen Blenheims of 45 Squadron which were to attack an ammunition dump near Hamana, just south of Beirut. Five minutes later M-167Fs 6B-1, 7B-2 and 6B-2 took off from Madjaloun to bomb vehicles in the Khalde region, covered by five D.520s of Escadrille 1AC. The Blenheims arrived over their target, which was hit repeatedly, many large explosions being seen. However, the French naval fighter pilots, who identified the British bombers as 15 Marylands, also saw these. The French fighters at once attacked the Blenheims from head-on and below. In moments three Blenheims were shot down, a fourth so badly damaged that it crash-landed on return, and six others damaged to a lesser extent.
Looking down on the craggy, scrub-covered terrain, the Australians failed to spot this attack until the stricken Blenheims were falling, but they then dived to the attack, claiming all five French fighters shot down. These were credited, two to Flying Officer Turnbull, and one each to Flying Officer J. F. Jackson, Pilot Officer Lane and Sergeant Hiller. It is notoriously difficult to judge results in a diving attack such as this, and French losses were nowhere near as severe as believed.
Premier Maître Ancyon was shot down at once, critically wounded (he would die a few days later). Premier Maître Goffeny was pursued by a Tomahawk, but believed that his pursuer had crashed into a mountain whilst trying to follow his evasive manoeuvres. However, his own aircraft, No 75, had been set on fire and he baled out of it over the Bekaa Valley. Returning with only slight wounds, he claimed, and was credited with, the aircraft, which he believed he had caused to crash. In fact the Australians suffered no such loss. These were the only losses suffered by the French, the other three pilots returning to claim four bombers shot down, two by Ensigne de Vaisseau Du Merle, one by Premier Maître Benezet, and one which Lieutenant de Vaisseau Pirel had shared with Goffeny, before the latter's engagement with the Tomahawk.
Blenheim losses included V5967, from which Flight Sergeant Wilton-Jones baled out to become a prisoner. The other two members of his crew were lost when Sergeant Wimhurst was killed during the attack and Sergeant Lowe's parachute failed to open. The full crews of Sergeant Hardy (V6433) and Sergeant Cawthen (V5926) were lost. T2049 was the aircraft, which crash-landed. All the missing crews were recent arrivals from the UK.

Turnbull left 3 RAAF Squadron in October 1941 to return to Australia.
At this time, he had suffered a broken arm in a car accident.

He was awarded a DFC on 10 October 1941.

Returning to Australia after the outbreak of war with Japan, he joined the new 75 RAAF Squadron as a flight commander, going with the unit to Port Moresby, New Guinea, on 19 March 1942, where he was able to claim a Japanese fighter shot down a few days later.

According to some sources he was credited with two ‘Zeros’ on 10 April 1942 but these claims have not been possible to verify with the 75 Squadrons Operational Records.
On this day nine Kittyhawks of the squadron attacked a formation of seven Japanese bombers with a fighter cover of six Zeros. It seems that the squadron only made claims against the bombers when G. Atherton claimed one destroyed and M. Ellerton claimed on probable. J. Piper (two, who both broke away from formation with engines streaming petrol and thick black smoke), A. Tucker and R. Crawford claimed damaged bombers. It a sixth know pilot who took part in this interception was M. Butler.
It has not been possible to find any claims against the escorting Zeros. Also the IO (Intelligence Officer) who made up a summary of the claims of 75 Squadron when they defended Port Moresby makes no such claim either. However the IO's summary appears to have some mistakes in it.

On return to Australia he took command of 76 RAAF Squadron, leading this unit back to New Guinea later in the year.

He was much involved in strafing attacks on Japanese ground forces at this time, but on 27 August 1942, as he dived on a tank to attack it, his Kittyhawk flipped on its back around 200 feet off the ground and crashed, Turnbull being killed instantly. His aircraft had probably been hit by small arms fire or hit a tall palm up on the wall of the ravine.
His body was found in his wrecked aircraft near the KB Mission by a patrol from the 2/12th Battalion 4 September 1942.

At the time of his death Turnbull was credited one probable biplane victory and a total of 10.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  26/12/40 14:05 1 CR.42 (a) Probable Gladiator II   NE Sollum Bay 3 RAAF Squadron
  25/01/41 07:30-08:45 1 G.50 (b) Damaged Gladiator NW-Z/L9044 (c) 8m SE Mechili 3 RAAF Squadron
1 03/04/41 13:00 1 Bf 110 (d) Destroyed Hurricane I V7492 Scelediema 3 RAAF Squadron
2 03/04/41 13:00 1 Bf 110 (d) Destroyed Hurricane I V7492 Scelediema 3 RAAF Squadron
3 03/04/41 13:00 1 Bf 110 (d) Destroyed Hurricane I V7492 Scelediema 3 RAAF Squadron
4 03/04/41 13:00 1 Bf 110 (d) Destroyed Hurricane I V7492 Scelediema 3 RAAF Squadron
5 15/06/41   1 Martin M-167 (e) Destroyed Tomahawk IIb AK427 Sheik Meskine 3 RAAF Squadron
  19/06/41   1 Martin M-167 (f) Damaged Tomahawk IIb AK456 Saida 3 RAAF Squadron
6 28/06/41   1 Martin M-167 (g) Destroyed Tomahawk IIb AK476 Palmyra area 3 RAAF Squadron
7 28/06/41   1 Martin M-167 (g) Destroyed Tomahawk IIb AK476 Palmyra area 3 RAAF Squadron
8 10/07/41   1 D.520 (h) Destroyed Tomahawk IIb AK386 Hamanara area 3 RAAF Squadron
9 10/07/41   1 D.520 (h) Destroyed Tomahawk IIb AK386 Hamanara area 3 RAAF Squadron
10 22/03/42   1 'Zero' Destroyed Kittyhawk Ia A29-12 N Lae 75 RAAF Squadron
  10/04/42   1 'Zero' Destroyed (i) Kittyhawk Ia     75 RAAF Squadron
  10/04/42   1 'Zero' Destroyed (i) Kittyhawk Ia     75 RAAF Squadron

Biplane victories: 1 probable, 1 damaged.
TOTAL: 10 destroyed, 1 probable, 2 damaged.
(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) Claimed in combat with Fiat G.50bis from the 358a Squadriglia, which claimed four Gladiators without losses. 3 RAAF Squadron claimed three G.50s damaged while losing one Gladiator and getting three lightly damaged.
(c) Actually a Royal Egyptian Air Force serial. This aircraft was repossessed from this air force to 3 RAAF Squadron.
(d) Claimed in combat with 8 Bf 110s from 7./ZG 26 and 8 Ju 87s from II./StG 2. 3 RAAF Squadron claimed 5 destroyed and 3 damaged Bf110s and 4 destroyed, 2 probable and 2 damaged Ju 87s without losing any of their aircraft. 1 Bf 110 and 2 Ju 87s were lost. The Bf 110s claimed 3 Hurricanes.
(e) Claimed in combat with Martin M-167Fs of GB I/39, Armée de l'Air. No. 111 crashed near Deraa with Lieutenant Baron and two of his crew being wounded The forth member remained unhurt but all were captured. No. 118 crashed in flames with Sergeant-chef Tanchoux and his crew all being killed.
(f) Claimed in combat with Martin M-167Fs of Flotille 4F. 3 RAAF Squadron claimed four damaged but only two were in fact damaged.
(g) Claimed in combat with Martin M-167Fs of Flotille 4F, which lost six bombers (all involved in this sortie). 3 RAAF Squadron claimed six destroyed and didn't sustain any losses.
(h) Claimed in combat with Dewoitine D.520s of Escadrille 1AC, Aeronavale. 3 RAAF Squadron claimed five aircraft while losing none although four of the Blenheims they escorted were lost and six were damage. Escadrille 1AC claimed four bombers and one fighter while losing two D.520s. Premier Maître Ancyon was shot down and died of his wounds and Premier Maître Goffeny was also shot down but bailed out safely.
(i) These claims can’t be verified by the squadrons ORB.

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
Australian Air Aces - Denis Newton, 1996 kindly provided by Gordon Clarke
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
Hurricanes over Tobruk - Brian Cull with Don Minterne, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-11-X
Gloster Gladiator Home Page - Alexander Crawford.
National Archives of Australia
Royal Australian Air Force 1939-42 - Douglas Gillison, 1962 kindly provided by Gordon Clarke
The Decisive Factor - David Wilson, 1991 kindly provided by Gordon Clarke
Tomahawk and Kittyhawk Aces of the RAF and Commonwealth - Andrew Thomas, 2002 Osprey Publishing, London, ISBN 1-84176-083-8
Additional information kindly provided by Gordon Clarke, Alexander Crawford, Antoine Ros and Ludovico Slongo.

Last modified 09 August 2020