Squadron Leader William 'Cherry' Vale AFC DFC and Bar, RAF nos. 565293 (NCO); 44068 (Officer)
Bill 'Cherry' Vale was born in Chatham, Kent, the son of a Royal Marines Captain, but was raised in Framlingham, Suffolk, where he became a county athlete.
In 1931, he joined the RAF as an apprentice, qualifying as a Fitter, Acro Engines, and Aerial Gunner. Initially he served at Martlesham Heath until 1935, when he was posted to 33 Squadron in Egypt, then a light bomber unit with Hawker Harts.
He volunteered for pilot training in 1936, completing this at 4 FTS, Abu Sueir, in July 1937, when he was posted back to 33 Squadron as a Sergeant. In March 1938 the unit converted to Gladiators on becoming a fighter squadron, and in September he saw action against dissident Arabs in Palestine.
In June 1940, 33 Squadron was based at Mersa Matruh, commanded by Squadron Leader D. V. Johnson and equipped with 21 Gladiators (mainly Mk.IIs) (on 11 June) and six Gloster Gauntlets Mk.IIs kept in reserve. It had 22 pilots in three flights:
‘A’ Flight included Flight Sergeant Leonard Cottingham, Sergeant Roy Leslie Green, Flying Officer Monk, Pilot Officer Eric Woods, Pilot Officer Brown, Pilot Officer Preston, Pilot Officer Perry St. Quintin and Flight Lieutenant G. E. Hawkins.
‘B’ Flight included Flying Officer Ernest Dean, Sergeant Shaw, Pilot Officer Vernon Woodward, Sergeant J. Craig, Flying Officer Couchman, Flying Officer John Littler and Pilot Officer Alfred Costello.
‘C’ Flight included Flight Lieutenant Bolingbrooke, Sergeant Vale, Pilot Officier E. K. Leveille, Flight Sergeant Harry Goodchild, Flying Officier Henry Starrett and Pilot Officier Boulton.
When Italy entered the war in June 1940, he saw a few weeks' operations over the Egyptian-Libyan frontier area.
On 24 June, he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation with seniority from 2 May 1940.
On 1 July, Sergeant Vale claimed a CR.32 over Fort Capuzzo.
This claim can’t be verified with Italian sources since the 50o Stormo, which was the only unit operating this type, didn’t suffer any losses on this day. It is however possible that the victory was claimed during the widespread combats of the end of June and incorrectly recorded on this day.
During a defensive patrol on 15 July, Sergeant Vale of 33 Squadron claimed a shared S.79 near Mersa Matruh.
The Italian unit involved is not known.
Vale was later posted to 80 Squadron.
On 13 September, a 208 Squadron Lysander flown Pilot Officer Waymark discovered the Italian Army on the move during a morning tactical reconnaissance. Another reconnaissance was carried out in the evening and both missions were escorted by Gladiators of ‘A’ Flight 80 Squadron (detached at Sidi Barrani). During the day, possibly when returning from a late evening sortie in K8013, Pilot Officer Vale collided on landing with a barbed wire fence. The fighter was badly damaged but the pilot remained uninjured.
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 'Pat' Pattle, Flying Officers Greg Graham and Sidney Linnard, Pilot Officers Samuel Cooper, 'Heimar' Stuckey and 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 'Pat' 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 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 'Pat' Pattle, who led the whole formation, and Pilot Officer 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.
On 4 December, four Gladiators from 112 Squadron on detachment to 80 Squadron arrived at Larissa, flown by Flight Lieutenant Charles Fry, Flying Officer Homer Cochrane, Pilot Officer Robert Higson Smith and 2nd Lieutenant H. H. Geraty. These together with eleven of the resident Gladiators were flown up to Yannina for further operations. From here Squadron Leader William Hickey led 14 aircraft on an offensive patrol over the Tepelene area at 15:05. Here many CR.42s and G.50s were encountered at around 15:30. In cloudy conditions a confusing combat took place with heavy overclaiming (especially from the RAF). The fighters from 80 and 112 Squadrons had returned at 17:05 and made claims for ten destroyed (9 CR.42 and 1 G.50) and five probables (1 CR.32, 3 CR.42 and 1 G.50). One of the Gladiators seems to have been shot down (the unknown pilot was safe) and two more Gladiators were damaged (Flight Lieutenant ’Pat' Pattle and Pilot Officer Robert Higson Smith).
Flight Lieutenant Pattle (Gladiator II N5832) claimed three CR.42s shot down, one into 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. He reported:
“At 15.00 hours on the 4th December, 1940, 14 Gladiators of No. 80 Squadron and No. 112 Detachment took off from Juannuina landing ground to do an offensive patrol over the Tepelene area.Sergeant Edward Hewett (N5858) claimed two CR.42s and a G.50. He reported:
On the way to our patrol area a great number of aircraft were seen ahead of us over Delvinakion and Permedi areas. These aircraft consisted of our bombers and enemy fighters and bombers.
Our height was 7,500 ft.
The Squadron Commander leading the lower section turned towards a large formation of 27 enemy biplane fighters on our port side and was soon engaged.
Leading No. 3 Section I came up astern of a formation of 5 CR.42s and delivered a formation attack which was unobserved. The aircraft I attacked dived steeply towards the ground. I gave it two bursts and broke away but saw it flatten out about 2,000 ft above the ground. I dived again and this time after firing a few more bursts the E.A. crashed into the side of a hill a few miles north of Delvinakion.
On regaining height I found a member Squadron Ldrs. Flight (probably the C.O. himself) hard pressed with several CR.42s milling round him. Selecting a 42 just about to attack I had no difficulty in getting close behind his tail. After a few bursts his cockpit filled with smoke, and I observed flames spurting from his starboard side as he went down.
On turning round I found the sky filled with Gladiators and not a single E.A. in sight. The cloud base was only a few hundred feet above me so I climbed through and was amazed to find all the enemy fighters flying round in circles a thousand feet above me. Their tactics were obvious. They were hoping that the Gladiators would climb through the cloud to attack them and on emerging would be attacked from a superior altitude and probably unobserved.
As I emerged several fighters attacked me. I dived back into the cloud but unfortunately struck a thin patch and one E.A. attacking dead ahead managed to get a burst in, holing my main petrol tank, before I saw him. On my second attempt I managed to get within firing distance of a CR.42 which was flying immediately above me without being seen. I fired when slightly below and astern of him, the plane turned slowly to the right and I observed the pilot baling out. He appeared to almost strike my main plane as I passed him. The petrol streaming out behind me had attracted a certain amount of attention and I had again to resort to the cloud safety.
After several more attempts at penetrating the clouds I managed to get well clear of them and attacked a CR.42 at same altitude. After a short dog fight he went down through cloud in a spin with bluish black smoke pouring from him… this time a 42 attacking from Quarter damaged one of … with a well directed burst. I had several more dog fights but without success. One… spun down after one of the attacks but I am positive it was … to a stall as I spun soon afterwards. Lack of fuel in my … forced me to retire from the area and I landed at 16.15 hours.”
“The first CR.42 I destroyed by a short burst from almost dead astern after a short chase, and a few polished aerobatics on the part of the enemy. The second was a little more difficult but I finally got a long burst into the machine at the top of a loop. The enemy aircraft fell sideways and then burst into flames, it was gutted before it hit the ground. The first CR42 went into a hillside in a vertical dive and I saw the impact.Sergeant Donald Gregory (N5776) claimed one CR.42 and reported:
Gazing below I saw a monoplane flying very low across a snow clad mountain. I dived upon it and as my range closed I saw it to be a G.50. I opened fire and had a long burst at the aircraft and then pulled away. On sighting the aircraft again I saw it skidding violently sideways about 30 ft. up and heading for a hilltop over which there was no possibility of climbing. I was not able to witness the crash because I was distracted at that moment by machine gun fire from behind. A CR.42 was then on my tail. I rolled off the top of a loop and saw him no more.
I then returned to base.”
“I was No. 2 in the leading flight and considered that my position was most trying as a large formation of CR.42s passed over and just astern of my flight. I had to watch each flight of CR.42s pass my tail and gradually gain height on me. However although I was in an unfavourable position to attack, when my flight turned towards the enemy I picked out one of the many CR.42s coming towards me and fired, then dived below the enemy, turning around I saw a Gladiator being engaged by a 42. After taking the 42s attention off the Gladiator I got into a tight corner, having to do tight turns to keep clear. The Gladiator came to my assistance and I was able to get in a close deflection shot, from below and three quarter front.Pilot Officer Vale (N5784) and Sergeant George Barker (N5811) each claimed one CR.42. Barker’s victory was claimed at Klissoura and he wrote:
The CR.42 went into a dive which I had no difficulty in following down and firing at it again, it finally crashed. I was short of ammunition so returned to base.
Examination of guns revealed three stopped with broken parts and one with stoppage.”
“I was No. 3 in formation led by F/L. Graham. Which was No. 4 flight in the Squadron formation. We were flying to the right, and above the rest of the echeloned flights.Flight Lieutenant Greg Graham (N5814) claimed one probable CR.42 and one probable G.50. He reported:
On approaching Permeti, I observed 9 G.50s on our starboard beam. F/Lt. Graham then began to climb fast. We turned left, and I observed a fight developing on our left, and below us. At this time I observed the CR.42s diving. I was led into the attack, and after the first initial dive, lost sight of my leader.
I went after a CR.42 which turned in front of me, and gave a short burst. The E.A. climbed and then dived away. I could not follow as another 42 was on my tail. Yet another 42 was doing a beam attack on me. A Gladiator took the first E.A. off my tail, and I out manoeuvred the other. The enemy then dived for the ground, I could not close the range, so I gave several long range bursts, and must have done some apparent damage, for his speed decreased. He tried twisting and turning, all the time heading west towards Argyrokoston. The enemy dived towards a hill, probably in the hope that if he would pull up close to it, I should crash into it.
After a slight pull out, however, he crashed into the hillside at high speed.
I then climbed up again, and when about 15,000 ft, I saw a Gladiator going down on three engine bombers. I followed it down, and delivered one attack, which was futile, as I could not hold them. An order was given to return to base, which I did, landing at approx. 16.10 hours.”
“At 1500 hours on the 4th Dec, 1940, fourteen Gladiators of No. 80 Squadron and No. 112 Sqdn . Detachment, took off from Yannina landing ground to do an offensive patrol over Tepelene area, also covering own bombers.Flying Officer Sidney Linnard claimed one probable CR.42 at 15:35. Strangely his name is not included in the Squadron’s ORB but he wrote a combat report on this occasion:
When proceeding to patrol over area in the vicinity of Delvinakion, I sighted about 27 G.50’s slightly above and approaching to starboard. At the same time I sighted the C.O.’s Flight of 3 Gladiators going in to attack a large number of C.R. 42s to port.
I was leading No. 4 Section of Gladiators and I lead them towards the C.R. 42s. The G.50s passed by on the starboard beam and made no effort to attack, instead appeared to climb up above the clouds. I attacked one C.R. 42 and after a short engagement it broke away and dived away towards enemy territory. I then climbed rapidly towards two other C.R. 42s and they disappeared in the cloud later at about 11,000 feet. Also climbing I circled around in the base of the cloud and could see only two or three Gladiators, so climbed up through the cloud. On breaking through, I sighted numerous G.50s and C.R. 42s circling above. I climbed towards one C.R. 42 and it immediately climbed above and ahead of me – I was unable to get my sights on and it disappeared in the clouds at about 19,000 feet. Then another C.R. 42 dived down to attack me and I engaged it, I fired several short bursts and it half rolled and dived steeply. I followed it, firing, and it appeared to slow down, and then pulled slowly out of the dive and I closed right in, and got a long burst at it. It pulled slowly up, stalled and then fell away, falling out of control. I followed it down to the clouds at 12,000 feet before it disappeared still falling out of control. At that moment I sighted one G.50 diving down steeply to attack two Gladiators flying in formation in the top of the clouds. I warned them over the R/T. and they immediately spilt up and avoided the attack. I then attacked the G.50 getting several bursts – it used the usual tactics of diving away. However after several minutes I fired a burst and it pulled out of a dive and climbed steeply, I closed in and could see my incendiaries hitting the vicinity of the engine cowling. The G.50 then stalled and fell away going down in a steep spiral out of control, I followed it down but lost sight of it in the clouds. I circled around for several minutes and as I could see no other aircraft, I returned to base.”
“I was No. 2 in the 4th Flight (topmost). I sighted a large number of aircraft to Port Quarter ahead (CR.42s) some miles away and above us and also a number of G.50s passed us on the starboard beam.The last of the probables was claimed by Sergeant Charles Casbolt (N5788) and it seems that this claim later was upgraded to a destroyed (at least in his logbook) but in his combat report, Casbolt reported it as a probable:
Closing with the enemy I engaged a CR.42 which promptly dived for the ground. I followed him down for about 3-4 thousand feet but could not close/on him. I then climbed up and was attacked by a CR.42 from above but managed to evade him and get on his tail and give him several bursts from astern. He half rolled down and I was unable to keep my sights on him.
I managed to get my sights on him again at about 200 yds. And he went into a spin. I fired a few more bursts whilst he was spinning, but did not keep him in sight to the ground as there were a number of E.A. above and my attention was distracted.
I then went through the clouds (about 11,000 ft). On clearing it, saw 5 42s and 2 G.50s above me. I climbed but was unable to reach them. Although they had height on me, they seemed reluctant to attack. Eventually a G.50 dived on me. I evaded him and dived after him but could not get in effective range. I followed him down into the cloud and then lost sight, I climbed again and the above happened several times. The invariable tactics of the enemy was to dive from superior heights, their initial attack being unsuccessful to carry on diving.”
“I was No. 3 in a flight lead by F/L Pattle in vic formation when the approach of 27 CR.42s from ahead and to port and 6 or 9 G.50s from our starboard beam were observed.Pilot Officer Robert Higson Smith (N5829) became separated during the combat and returned without any claims but with damage in the starboard wing and aileron control as a result of a head-on attack from a CR.42. Flying Officer Cochrane (N5881) reported hits on an enemy aircraft but observed no result from this.
F/L Pattle approached and attacked the leading flight of CR.42s and I picked out the E.A. on the left of the leader.
Closing to about 200 yards I fired a burst at the E.A. which immediately half rolled and dived vertically in a spiral. I followed the enemy down to about 500 ft. where the E.A. dived at the hill sides apparently in an attempt to cause me to crash.
Eventually after several short full deflection shots I was able to approach within about 50 to 100 yards firing a long burst as the E.A. turned along the side of the hill.
In order to avoid crashing into the hillside I then pulled sharply away losing sight of my target. When however I turned, the enemy had disappeared, so climbing over the hills as there were no more aircraft visible I returned to base.”
80 Squadron returned to Larissa next day.
At 10:00 on 20 December, Flight Lieutenant ’Pat' 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 3,000 meters and with Sergeant Charles Casbolt and Flight Sergeant Sidney Richens in Pattle’s section.
The Blenheims were late and at 10:40, a reported nine SM 79s were seen. This was actually six aircraft of the 104o Gruppo B.T. drawn equally from the 252a and 253a Squadriglie escorted by eleven CR.42s flying at 6,000 meters. Pattle at once attacked one of the SM 79s from the 253o 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 253o 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 SM 79 Tenente Vivarelli’s crew claimed a second Gladiator shot down. The Gladiators flown Sergeant Casbolt (N5817) and Flight Sergeant Richens (N5825) were damaged during this engagement but they were able to return to Yannina.
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 24 km north of Kelcyre, tipping onto its nose and losing its starboard wing. Pilot Officer 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.
Flight Lieutenant Pattle wrote a long narrative on this combat:
“At 10.00 hours nine Gladiators took off from Yannina to patrol the front between Kelcura and Tepelini. The object of the patrol was to cover the return of our bombers and to engage any aircraft in that area.Pilot Officer Vale in turn reported:
I was leading the formation and estimated that our bombers would pass us on their return flight at approx. 10.30 hours. We reached the patrol line at 10.15 hours and until 10.35 maintained a cover patrol for our bombers. The formation was flying in 3 sections of 3 echelon away from enemy territory at a height of 10,000 ft. Neither myself nor any member of the formation saw the bombers returning but at 10.40 I sighted a formation of nine bombers approaching from N.W. Their presence was given away by the condensation of vapour streaming out behind them. As they were approaching us from dead ahead our position for attack was ideal. I prepared the formation for combat but was still uncertain whether the bombers were friendly or enemy.
At this period I noticed a formation of 11 C.R.42s flying about 8,000 ft above us. There presence was to be expected but they appeared not not to have noticed us and I hoped to engage the bombers without being disturbed.
The bombers approached very rapidly and they were almost on top of us before I was able to identify them as enemy S.79s. I dived at the first three followed by my section in line astern but realised they would pass me before closing into effective range. I therefore swung round and attacked the section of three from ahead and slightly to one quarter. As I closed I opened fire and maintained the fire as I swung through the beam and ended my attack from quarter astern and only about 50 yards from the S.79 on the right of the formation. Just before breaking away I saw a puff of black smoke steam out from the starboard engine and the airscrew immediately slowed up. The E.A. once disabled fell behind the remainder of the section, jettisoned its bombs and turned right towards Tepelini. I then fell in dead astern of it at about 100 yards range and fired short bursts at the fuselage in an attempt to disable the crew and pilots. The reminder of my section and No.2 section carried out quarter attacks on it from both sides. A fire broke out just in front of the bottom turret but did not spread appreciably. After a good deal of lead was pumped into my myself and the others the S.79 finally dropped its nose and dived straight into the top of a mountain about 5 miles S.E. of Tepelini where it exploded with a terrible sheet of flames.
During this attack I noticed No.3 section of the bomber formation turn round and head back for Albania. The formation then reformed and we continued the patrol. Two Gladiators at this stage returned to the base leaving 7 still on patrol.
I again spotted the fighters this time about 18 of them. Throughout the engagement they had not attempted to engage us. It seemed impossible that they had not seen us. P/O Dowding flying on my left point upwards with violent gestures, I merely nodded in reply and only on landing discovered he had seen a second large formation making over 40 in all.
I repeated the attack on No. 2 of the leading section. The S.81 being slower afforded an easier target and I closed right up to it before breaking away. The bombs were jettisoned right in front of my airscrew.
On my first attack I managed to hole the starboard petrol tank and damage the engine. Unfortunately I had no incendiary left as only the fuselage guns were still operating. The S.79 turned back towards Albania and, getting dead astern I fired my remaining few rounds into the port engine. Petrol streamed from the tank and smoke started coming out in short puffs from the engines.
Having no further rounds I formated above it hoping another Gladiator would come and finish it off. The remainder of my flight however were busy elsewhere.
After flying about 5 miles the starboard engine packed up while I could see the port engine was running badly. The E.A. slowly lost height and finally crash landed in a valley about 15 miles North of Kelcura. The aircraft landed on bad ground and finally ended up against a tree.
I then returned to base and landed at about 11.45 hours. On landing I discovered that P/O. Vale had brought down another S.81 which was destroyed. Only one Gladiator received slight damage.”
“At 1000 hours, nine Gladiators took off from Yannina to patrol the front between Kelcura and Tepelene. The object of the patrol was to cover the return of our bombers and to engage any enemy aircraft in that area. I was flying as No.3 in the third formation lead by F/O Linnard and after reaching the patrol line carried out the patrol. At approximately 10.40 aircraft were sighted to the N.W. of our formation and we were given the order to form line astern ready for the attack. The two lower flights carried out a head on attack and managed to split up one S.79 from the formation. I noticed that the S.79 had slowed down after a single Gladiator had slid into a close line astern position. I carried out frontal quarter attacks with other Gladiators until the S.79 heeled over and went down out of control and finally exploded on the ground.
I rejoined formation with F/O. Linnard and again re-assembled in two formations to carry on patrol. At about 11.00 hours two flights of three bombers were seen approaching from the North and the order for line astern again given. The leading flight led by F/L Pattle attacked the leading three E.A. and we carried out a head on attack on the second flight.
I managed to get quite a long burst into my E.A. and noticed as I broke away that they were S.81s. I turned to get into line astern position but noticed that the leading flight of E.A. had split up and that one had turned and was heading straight for me. I carried out a head on attack and on turning slid into an astern attack. I fired at the starboard engine and noticed small licks of flame coming from the cowling which I presumed were my bullets hitting the engine. After a few short bursts the engine finally stopped and I had to break away because the E.A. slowed down. I carried out another astern attack and noticed another Gladiator carrying out a frontal quarter attack and breaking away early, and downwards which gave me the impression that it had been hit. I later found out that it was F/O. Linnard who had run out of ammunition but was attempting to head the S.81 off. I carried out firing until the S.81 finally put its nose down and although apparently under control, crashed into a valley but did not go up in flames. I circled round and noticed a single Gladiator heading for home and so I climbed up and when I caught it up I found it to be F/O. Linnard.
We were later joined by two more Gladiators and all four returned to base. I inspected my aircraft and found one bullet hole which had passed through the tail plane without doing any damage.”
At 10:25 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 ’Pat’ Pattle and the third trio was led by Flying Officer Sidney Linnard.
Near Argyrokastron three enemy trimotor bombers were seen. They were identified as SM 79s, and then three more aircraft with twin tails were seen, recognized 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 Yannina, Paramythia and Zitsa. Seeing the bombers under attack by an estimated 20 Gladiators, the Italian attacked, joined by six other CR.42s from the 150o Gruppo led by Capitano Luigi Corsini 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 probably destroyed CR.42s and one probably destroyed BR.20.
Pattle (Gladiator II N5832) again wrote a long narrative of this combat:
“At 10.40 hours on the 21st December, 1940. 10 Gladiators led by S/Ldr. Hickey took off from Yannina to do an offensive patrol in the area between Tepelini area and the coast. The formation flew in one section of four and two sections of three echelon right, at a height of 10,000 feet.Pilot Officer Vale (N5784) claimed three, one of them in flames (according to Pattle this was the fighter that shot down F/Lt Ripley). Vale’s own aircraft was riddled by explosive bullets during the combat. Vale reported:
On approaching the patrol line just North of Agyrokastron a formation of three enemy bombers were sighted, dead ahead. The “tally ho” was given and the Squadron prepared to attack, No. 1 Section leading. While approaching the bombers I (leading No. 2 Section) searched for escort fighters and in doing so, I saw a formation of three BR.20’s approaching the port beam. As these were in the more favourable position for attack I turned my section towards them at same time continuing to search for fighters. I saw the escort dead astern of us and about 10,000 feet above. I sent a warning over the R/T. giving the position of the fighters and opening up to full throttle attempted to engage the bombers before the escort intercepted us.
My section approached the bombers from quarter ahead attacking in line astern with each aircraft following his attack through the beam to quarter astern before breaking away. I gave the bomber a good burst but did not notice any damage as it continued on its way maintaining formation.
By time the C.R.42’s had arrived on the scene and as they dived down to attack us I counted nine sections of three aircraft. The aircraft of each section were in echelon right. Behind them another formation of approximately equal size was coming up making fifty four in all.
The fight then became a general melee and although I tried to keep touch with the rest of the Gladiators it was impossible to do so as I was forced to continuous evasive action against repeated attack of the 42’s in quick succession.
After each attack the enemy would climb for height while another would dive down to attack. In this way I was unable to climb up to their height as continuous evasive action made climbing impossible. At time two of these would attack together and very violent evasive action was necessary to prevent being shot up. For fully five minutes I was kept on the defensive without being able to fire a shot in return. I then noticed another Gladiator at the same height being harassed by a 42 on his tail. In between evading attacks from 42’s above me, I manoeuvred into a position behind this E.A. and fired at point blank range. The E.A. climbed vertically upwards, stalled and spun into the foothills a few miles North of Agyrokastron.
Realising that I was ineffective unless I reached the height at which the enemy were circling, I wriggled out of the fight and climbed to 20,000 feet south of Agyrokastron. With the sun behind me I approached nine 42’s who were circling the town at approximately 18,000 feet. I could not see any Gladiators and the fight seemed to be over.
I singled out the nearest 42 as my target but unfortunately when still about 300 yards away the pilot saw me and dived for the ground. I gave him a quick burst but did not do any noticeable damage.
The E.A. must have been on the point of leaving as the remainder by this time were on their way towards Tepelini. I circled Argyrokastron for a further five minutes but could not see any other aircraft so returned to base landing at 11.50 hours. On landing I discovered that Sgt. Gregory had received a wound in the right eye and F/O. Linnard was hit in the left leg. S/Ldr. Hickey and F/O. Ripley did not return from this engagement.
The Squadron confirmed 8 definitely shot down and 3 probable. The Greek forward troops however reported 19 42’s and 2 Gladiators crashed in the area North of Argyrokastron.”
“At 1050, ten Gladiators took off from Yannina on an offensive patrol, flying in three flights of four, three, and three aircraft. I was flying in No.3 in the third flight led by F/O Linnard.Flight Sergeant Sidney Richens (N5825) claimed one CR.42 and reported:
On reaching the patrol line “Tally-ho!” was immediately given for three bombers seen going from west to east. The leading flight led by S/L Hickey immediately went into action. At the same moment three more bombers were seen approaching from our port beam. The leader of the second flight, F/L Pattle, immediately turned left and carried out a head-on attack, and my flight leader followed. I was able to get in a short burst before breaking away. On turning to follow, I observed a large formation of enemy C.R.42’s diving down from above. We immediately climbed to attack and a general dog fight started. I singled out one enemy aircraft who tried to dive away and dived down firing a burst at long range. He pulled up and I got in a full deflection shot from underneath and noticed flames coming from underneath his engine. The enemy aircraft went down out of control and finally hit the ground in flames. I then noticed a single Gladiator low down in a valley being attacked by five C.R.42’s. I dived down and engaged two of them and managed to get behind one and fire a long burst until it suddenly spun down out of control and crashed into the valley.
I was then attacked by more C.R.42’s who carried out frontal quarter attacks on me with the superior speed that could out-climb me. I carried out evasive action and noticed that the Gladiator below me was on fire and spinning down out of control [this was Squadron Leader Hickey’s aircraft]. I dived down towards it and saw the pilot leave the aircraft and use his parachute. I was again fired at by a C.R.42 from above who carried out his attack and then headed away North. When I again looked down I saw the Gladiator in flames on the ground with the pilot going down in his parachute. At the same time I saw a C.R.42 dive on the pilot and twin streams coming from behind his aircraft. I dived down and managed to get in a surprise attack, as he pulled away from the parachutist. I got on his tail and fired a long burst from a single fuselage gun until he turned over out of control and went straight down to crash in the valley. As I pulled up another C.R.42 came down very close to my machine, out of control, and crashed quite near to the burning Gladiator. I gained altitude and saw another Gladiator circling above me, and as I was short of ammunition, I joined formation and found the other pilot to be F/S. Richens, who had shot the C.R.42, which went past me. I noticed the position of the crashed Gladiator in respect to Argyrokastron and then returned to base. On landing I inspected my aircraft and found that my lower and upper starboard mainplanes had been hit twice by explosive bullets One of which had entered the wing ammunition tank and had exploded inside but had done no apparent damage to the structure of the mainplane. The fuselage was hit in several places but with no structural damage.”
“On December, 1940, I was No.2 in second flight of squadron of ten Gladiators led by S/Ldr. Hickey. At approximately 11.00 hours F/L. Pattle saw three enemy bombers to the North and three more approaching us from the West and endeavoured to lead his flight, of which I was right man, in a head on attack against the latter. Accordingly to plan, we went line astern and turned into them. They frustrated us by turning slightly right so we were forced to make a line astern front quarter round to the rear quarter attack. The escort on which we had been keeping a watchful eye then attacked. The Fiats came down in batches and eventually I found myself at about 4,000 ft. with two more Gladiators about 2,000 ft. below. Approximately seven C.R.42s were milling around, I saw one Gladiator go down in flames the pilot baling out. I then managed to pull round inside a 42 that came in front of me in a climbing turn. I gave him a very long burst and he went down in a very slow spiral. P/O. Vale confirms the destruction of this aircraft. The E.A. were rapidly dispersing and as there were none in the vicinity I joined P/O. Vale and returned to base.”Sergeant Charles Casbolt (N5817) claimed one CR.42 during the combat, which blew up and another, which spun down (later downgraded to a probable). Casbolt reported:
“On 21.12.40. a formation of ten Gladiators in three flights vic led by S/Ldr. Hickey, left Yannina to carry out an offensive patrol over the front.The second probably destroyed CR.42 was claimed by Flying Officer Waldo Barker Price-Owen:
I was flying No.3 in the second flight, led by F/Lt. Pattle.
As we arrived in the Agyrokastron area, two formations of three enemy aircraft were observed, one approaching from the West and one formation from the North.
As previously arranged we went into line astern, and F/Lt. Pattle lead in a head on attack at the three approaching from the West.
As we approached the enemy I observed the leading formation led by S/Ldr. Hickey heading for the other three bombers and also that the E.A. were escorted by about 27 C.R.42’s.
The E.A. turned slightly right as we approached, and the attack developed into a quarter ahead to quarter astern. I fired a long burst at close range but with no apparent effect.
I then followed my leader away and the Fiats came down in what appeared to be an undisciplined mass.
A Fiat then dived past me to attack my leader. I was able to get astern of him and at about 50 yards range fired a long burst, smoke appeared, and then the aircraft burst into flames, and dived steeply to earth.
The enemy aircraft the attacked singly, coming from above, but turning into them they were easily avoided and a position astern of them obtained as they dived past. On several occasions short bursts were fired in this manner at a range of about 300 yards.
One on occasion a Fiat appeared in front of me pointing vertically upwards and almost stalled, I fired a long burst with very little deflection closing rapidly to about 50 yards, the enemy went into a spin and was last seen spinning, and leaving a long trail of black smoke about 3,000 feet below.
As I left the scene of action I noticed three Fiats still circling at about 20,000 feet.”
“On the 21.12.40 ten Gladiators took off from Yannina at 10.30 hours to carry out an offensive patrol.Sergeant Donald Gregory claimed another two, again one in flames, but his own aircraft was badly shot up with the engine and the undercarriage damaged by a series of frontal attacks from a CR.42s that had also wounded him in the right eye and was barely able to save himself. He however managed to return to Yannina and reported:
I was flying No.4 in the leading flight of 4 Gladiators. After about 30 minutes when over the Argyrokastron area I sighted three bombers dead ahead some 6 or 7 miles away. We went into line astern and carried out a beam attack on the nearest bomber. This did not seem to effect it very much. In the meantime the other two flights of Gladiators were attacking three more bombers some two miles away on our port quarter, when they in turn were attacked by about 50 C.R.42s. We left the three bombers who were now heading towards Albania and went to the assistance of the other Gladiators, who were now dog fighting with the CR.42s.
I attacked a CR42, firing several long bursts into it from about 100 yards range. It ceased taking evasive action, turned slowly over and went down in a spiral dive. I watched it go down about 3,000 feet but was then attacked by three or four more CR.42s, and consequently did not see it hit the ground, so I was unable to confirm it.
A hectic dog fight ensued with the other CR.42s. I was attacked from head on and quarter at the same time. As soon as I got anywhere near a 42s tail I was attacked by one or two others, and had to break it off to avoid their fire. I fired long bursts into most of them from somewhat awkward positions, they appeared more reluctant after this. I had now finished my ammunition so as soon as an opportunity arose I dived very steeply and returned to base.”
“I was flying in No.1 flight in No.3 position, after we had attacked a bomber formation of 3 B.R.20’s we broke away to find that Nos. 2 and 3 flights had already been attacked by escorting C.R.42’s. At this time there must have been two squadrons of 27 each attacking six Gladiators.Sergeant Gregory was recommended for an immediate DFM. The third probable was claimed by Flying Officer Frederick William Hosken (N5811). However Flight Lieutenant Henry Derek Ripley (RAF no. 70575) 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. Of Hickey’s death, Pilot Officer Vale reported:
Diving down astern with my leader I observed a formation of three C.R.42 in vic diving towards the fight. I pulled up and trained my sights on the leader, as the range closed I put a long burst into the 42 until I had to put my nose down to go under the formation.
Turning round in a “stall turn” I observed the leader diving vertically whilst the remaining two had split, No.2 going up, No.3 down. As I had the advantage over the lower aircraft I decided to attack this first. He attempted to come up under me but as I was near to stalling, I had no difficulty in bringing my sight round to get in a deflection shot and then astern on him.
I followed him down, at the same time I observed the leading aircraft crash on a hill and burst into flames. This dive was very steep, so much so, that I very nearly hit the ground with the 42. When I pulled up sharply out of this dive the third 42 came past and then pulled up underneath me into such a position that we could both get in quick deflection shots.
This happened three times and each time we missed colliding by inches, so that after each attack I had to find him again, quite naturally this developed into a head on attack, the first of which I slid out of, but as the following attack was head on also I became rather worried and brought him into my sights, fired, ducked down behind my engine for cover, at the same time pulling back on the control column.
Immediately after this my right eye became warm and I found I had lost my sight in this eye. It took me some seconds to get used to this, as I would try to look towards the rear on the right side, but all I saw was the extensive damage to the centre section, starboard lower plane and a flying wire that had broken. I seem to remember at this point that he came at me from below and we had another deflection shot at each other, but as I had seen him so often in this position it may have stuck in my mind. However I do remember I decided that my position was desperate and I weighed up the ground that was to receive me below, then I was overcome by a wave of determination, possibly due to the fact that when I was hit and saw the blood I turned my oxygen on at full. I pulled up in a loop and rolled off the top into a tight turn back into the direction I had come from. I looked at my compass but it appeared blurred, although I could see the sun, I could not convince myself which direction to fly.
Diving down into the valley seemed to be the only means of escape. I was unable to look behind, as this brought on pain to my eye. At one period my sight was so blurred that I could not decide whether I was being chased by 42 or if it was anti-aircraft fire. Fortunately it was the latter. I discovered my position to be 10 miles north of Valona at 4,000 feet. As I could use only 1600 revs due to damage to rocker arm, causing excessive vibration, it took 40 minutes to return to base, where a landing was made under difficulties due to damage to eyesight and to undercarriage.”
“The Gladiator was flat-spinning too. Suddenly the pilot hurled out of the cockpit like a black ant and the white burst of his parachute spreading in a puff … the parachute burst into flames and the sudden black smudge as its slow speed became a lightning streak of charred smoke and the black figure of the Gladiator pilot hurtling two thousand feet down to the black earth.”Flying Officer 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 Yannina. Flight Lieutenant Pattle noted:
“Enemy fighters used a definite plan of attack. Attacking from superior height they maintained that height by attacking the Gladiators singly and in quick succession and climbing after each attack. The Gladiators, forced to evade, were unable to climb.”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 (his aircraft was damaged by enemy fire) 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 when Capitano Luigi Corsini claimed one Gladiator and a probable while Sergente Maggiore Virgilio Pongiluppi claimed one Gladiator; both pilots were from the 364a Squadriglia. The 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 in a dry river-bed with a damaged engine (it seems that the aircraft was written off).
At 10:30 on 9 February 1941, Squadron Leader "Tap" Jones led off 14 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 "Pat" 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 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 365a 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 three 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.
Pilot Officer Vale reported:
"I was slightly behind the main formation … I observed about six or more formations of five CR42s [each] above us and so I gave ‘Tally-ho!’ and I immediately climbed. A dogfight started and from my position the policy of the e/a seemed to be diving attacks and gaining height straight away. One CR42 dived on me from above but I managed to evade his fire by pulling round and up towards him. I fired a short burst, which seemed to scare him away. I then saw a CR42 diving down on another Gladiator and so carried out a diving quarter attack and he pulled away, which left me in an astern position close in. I carried on firing until the e/a turned over on its back and the pilot left the machine. I saw his parachute open and so gained height and fired a long burst at a CR42, which dived down on me from above. I then broke away from the combat and owing to shortage of ammunition and fuel returned to base with F/O Cullen, who came up and formatted with me. We landed at 1240 and on inspecting aircraft found no damage.The initial claims had been nearer the truth, for four CR.42s were in fact hit. Sergente Romano Maionica (365a Squadriglia) and Sergente Danilo Birolo (364a Squadriglia) both failed to return, the latter being believed to have baled out (Maionica was KIA and Birolo landed in Yugoslavian territory), while Tenente Enzo Rovetta (364a Squadriglia) 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. 364a Squadriglia pilots Tenente Alberto Spigaglia, Sottotenente Pasquale Faltoni and Maresciallo Ugo Guidi were each credited with a victory.
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 ('Pat' 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 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.
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 'Pat' 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 3 March two Hurricanes from 80 Squadron were ordered up on patrol at 1025, flown by Flying Officer Nigel Cullen and Pilot Officer Vale, while a third, flown by the attached 112 Squadron pilot Flying Officer Richard Acworth, was sent up on an air test. As these got into the air ten Cant Z.1007bis bombers of 50o Gruppo Autonomo B.T. from Brindisi approached the area in two formations of five each, while other such aircraft from 47o Stormo B.T. were also over Greece at this time. The 50o Gruppo aircraft bombed the earthquake-shattered town of Larissa, and were on their way home by the time the Hurricanes were vectored onto them. Flying Officer Acworth was first on the scene, soon joined by the other pair, and he reported:
“Took off to test aircraft - before leaving heard that ten enemy aircraft heading towards Preveza. I flew in that direction and saw bombing in progress, and although I had not enough speed to catch the first section of bombers, I finally got near enough to second section - attacked No 5 and shot it down in flames - witnessed by Flying Officer Cullen, who shot down No 4. I saw one crew member leaving No 5 but afterwards, apart from an empty chute floating down, no trace of him was found. Both mine and Flying Officer Cullen’s first bomber crashed into the sea five miles south-west of Corfu.”Cullen continued to attack and returned to claim a total of four Cants shot down and one probable, although his Hurricane was badly damaged by return fire, one bullet passing through his flying boot and grazing his shin; he reported seeing 18 parachutes in the air at one time. Pilot Officer Vale also claimed a bomber shot down, but identified his victim as an S.81.
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 'Pat' 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 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.
On 28 March, a DFC was gazetted to Pilot Officer Vale and a DFM to Flight Sergeant Donald Gregory.
On 6 April Germany declared war on Yugoslavia and Greece and immediately attacked.
At 09:30 on 14 April eight Blenheims from 113 Squadron, escorted by ten Hurricanes (seven from 33 Squadron and three from 80 Squadron) attacked targets north of Ptolemais.
Returning from the attack, Ju 87s were seen dive-bombing Allied troops near Servia and one of these was claimed shot down by Pilot Officer Vale. A Blenheim gunner fired at one of the Ju 87s, reporting seeing smoke and flame pouring from this aircraft, but this is believed to have been the aircraft attacked by Vale.
Totally Allied fighters claimed five Ju 87s during the day and several Ju 87s were lost in the area. It seems that I/StG 3 lost Oberfeldwebel Rudolf Schnurawa and his gunner over Servia, while 9./StG 2 lost Oberleutnant Christian Banke and Feldwebel Georg Hoser in T6+KT south-west of Mount Olympus. A second 9 staffel aircraft was badly damaged and crash-landed on its return to Prilep-West. Oberfeldwebel Paul Lachmann and his gunner both were having been wounded. 2./StG, recently arrived from Libya, lost A5+EK to fighters near Trikkala (most probably shot down by PZL P.24 flown by Episminias (Sergeant) Argyropoulos of 22 Mira) with Fahnrich Walter Seeliger and Gefreiter Kurt Friedrich were taken prisoner.
At 08:45 on 15 April 25 Ju 88s from I/LG 1 and I/KG 51 appeared over Athens. They were intercepted by six Hurricanes of 80 Squadron and four Blenheims IFs of 30 Squadron. Pilot Officer Vale claimed two bombers shot down, Sergeant Edward Hewett one and one probable, while one each were claimed by Pilot Officer J. Still and Flight Sergeant Jacques Rivalant (one of the units French pilots). A sixth was claimed by a new pilot, Pilot Officer Roald Dahl (later a well-known author). On this, Dahl’s first operational sortie, and with only seven hours’ experience on Hurricanes, he came across six bombers. Attacking from astern he was greeted by a hail of fire from the rear gunner but succeeded in getting on the tail of one and, after a short burst, saw pieces fly off its starboard engine. The crippled Junkers slowly tumbled down, three crew being seen to bale out. In spite of intense return fire only one bullet hit Dahl’s V7826, this piercing the propeller.
One of these claims was adjudged to be the unit’s 100th victory of the war.
45 minutes later two Ju 88s were claimed by Blenheims from 30 Squadron over the capital.
It is believed that 80 Squadron’s opponents were the I/KG 51 aircraft, two of which were lost in crash-landings at Krumovo as a result of severe damage. Two more of this unit’s Ju 88s landed at Salonika with minor AA damage. 30 Squadron probably engaged the I/LG 1 aircraft, this unit losing Unteroffizier Karl Stütz and his crew in L1+SK. A second aircraft crash-landed at Kozani with engine troubles and was completely destroyed (although the crew survived), while a third crash-landed at Salonika with AA damage and was written off.
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.
Towards the evening on 16 April six 80 Squadron Hurricanes were scrambled to intercept bombers (reported as Ju 88s), which were attacking a munitions factory half a mile from Eleusis. Pilot Officer Vale and Pilot Officer J. Still each claimed one destroyed near the target, whilst Sergeant Edward Hewett chased another to the north and claimed this shot down as well.
The German bombers appear to have been Do 17Zs of Stabstaffel/KG 2, which lost three such aircraft – reportedly in the Larissa area. These were U5+GA (Leutnant Ludwig Rohr), U5+BA (Leutnant Heinrich Hunger) and U5-DA (Hauptmann Konrad Ebsen); all the crews failed to return.
At daybreak on 19 April Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft spotted Australian, New Zealand and Greek troops retreating across the Thessaly Plain when they were near Pmokos. Soon some 40 Ju 87s arrived, bombing and strafing, and causing much damage and confusion, and many casualties.
Seven Hurricanes of 80 Squadron, led by Flight Lieutenant William Woods, arrived in the area and promptly claimed four of the Stukas shot down before escorting Bf 109Es of II/JG 27 could intervene. Cheering troops reported seeing at last three of these crash; two were claimed by Pilot Officer Vale (Hurricane V7134), and one each by Flying Officer P. T. Dowding and Flight Sergeant Rivalant.
Apparently two Ju 87s were lost, one from Stab/StG 2, crewed by Oberleutnant Sebastian Ulitz and Oberfeldwebel Emil Kuklau, which crashed south-west of Elasson with the death of the crew (recorded by the Germans as having been on 18 April), and one of I/StG 3, which crash-landed near Kozani, Leutnant Herbert Wingelmayer being killed and his gunner wounded. The escorting Bf 109s then attacked, two Hurricanes being claimed shot down, one each by Oberleutnant Wilhelm Wiesinger and one by Unteroffizier Alfred Heidel. In fact only Sergeant Charles Casbolt’s aircraft was hit, and he was able to return to Eleusis without undue trouble. Casbolt claimed to have damage one of the Bf 109s, and Flying Officer Eldon Trollip to have shot down one, but no Messerschmitts were hit on this occasion.
During the day on 20 April 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 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.
After the battle on 20 April hardly any fighters remained and they were moved to Argos in the Peloponnesus to cover the withdrawal of the British troops to Crete.
At Argos in the morning on 23 April, ground crews were working hard in very primitive conditions to get as many Hurricanes as possible serviceable, but many tools and spare parts had been lost during the retreat, and only sufficient aircraft would be readied for limited patrols and reconnaissance sorties.
During one reconnaissance during the late morning Pilot Officer Vale (V7134) encountered a Do 17 near the airfield and chased it away, claiming damage.
It is possible that this was 5K+DS of III/KG 3, reported shot down by AA near Corinth; Unteroffizier Wiesmüller and his crew were lost.
During 24 April the full evacuation of troops from Greece commenced under the codename Operation ’Demon’ and 80 Squadron was transferred to Crete. However due to shortage of Hurricanes the squadron was required to leave only four pilots on the island, the remainder being evacuated to Egypt in a 267 Squadron Lockheed Lodestar. These four, Flying Officer Wanklyn Flower, Pilot Officer Vale, Flight Sergeant Rivalant and Sergeant M. W. Bennett, joined others of 33 Squadron to form a composite unit with seven Hurricanes (V7181, V7461, V7761, V7795, V7800, V7826 and W9297). One of these had an irreparable hole some ten inches in diameter through the main spar of one wing, but was still to be used due to small numbers available; the pilots agreed to take turns in flying it, although it was feared that any tight turning would probably result in the wing breaking off!
On 29 April Squadron Leader Edward 'Tap' Jones and Flying Officer Wanklyn Flower departed from Crete, leaving the small Malmeme detachment under Flying Officer Vale’s command.
At 10:15 on the same day, 29 April, a number of Hurricanes were scrambled from Maleme. Over Suda Bay Flying Officer Vale (Hurricane V7781) spotted a Do 17 heading out to sea and pursued it to within 400 yards, firing all his ammunition, while the rear gunner maintained a constant return fire, which gained several hits on the Hurricane, none of them serious. He last saw the bomber losing height, with black smoke pouring from its port engine.
The alarm sounded again at 16:15 as some 20 Ju 88s approached Suda Bay. This time all available Hurricanes were scrambled, as well as 805 Squadron’s Fulmars and Sea Gladiator N5509 in the hands of Lieutenant Commander Black. Again it was Vale (Hurricane V7795) who made contact, seeing nine bombers at 6000 feet, two which he attacked. He reported that following a short burst, the first fell away with flames pouring from the starboard engine and crashed just north of Maleme. Giving chase to two more which were heading out to sea, he got close enough to fire after five minutes, his victim this time apparently diving into the sea. Circling above, he spotted two survivors in the water, reporting this to control. As he returned to Maleme, he encountered another Ju 88, carrying out a head-on attack, but after a short burst, he ran out of ammunition.
The bombers had attacked shipping in the bay, the Greek freighter Konistra (3537 tons) being badly hit and beached. Two Bofors guns sited to protect the anchorage, were also knocked out, but without any casualties to the gun crews. On this occasion no Luftwaffe bomber losses appear to have been recorded.
Just after 17:00 on 30 April, six Ju 88s were seen low over Suda Bay, and were intercepted by Flying Officer Vale, who chased them northwards. He reported:
‘I attacked one after a very long chase, firing nearly all my ammunition into it from very close range and it hit the sea. I was then fired upon by another Ju 88 which came up in line abreast, so I carried out a quarter attack which finished off my ammo. No apparent damage. While returning to base I saw four aircraft in line astern, very low down. I went very close and recognised them as Blenheims with what appeared to be English markings... I reported this and was informed that no Blenheims were airborne.’It seems that no Luftwaffe bombers were lost this day. The Blenheims seems to have been from 203 Squadron on their way to Egypt.
In the early evening on 5 May Flying Officer Vale (V7181) intercepted a Ju 88 over Suda Bay and claimed it shot down; he also claimed a second as damaged.
No Ju 88 seems to have been lost on this date.
At 20:00 on 13 May Flying Officer Vale scrambled after an unidentified plot reported flying off the coast. Within 30 minutes he had been vectored onto a Ju 52/3m and had landed again, claiming to have shot this down into the sea.
At this time Vale was operating virtually as a ‘one-man air force’ so far as 80 Squadron was concerned. The only other member of the unit still present was Sergeant Bennett.
At 06:15 on 16 May Hurricanes were scrambled from Maleme and Flying Officer Vale (Hurricane V7795) encountered a number of Bf 109s, one of which he claimed to have shot down.
At about 16:30 a new raid developed over Crete when Ju 87s of I/StG 2, escorted by Bf 110s of II/ZG 26 attacked Maleme and Suda Bay. Bf 109s of I(J)/LG 2 and III/JG 77 were also in the air.
Vale had been on patrol over Suda Bay in his 80 Squadron aircraft when the raid approached. He attacked the Ju 87s, which were attacking the shipping in the Bay, and claimed one shot down before being attacked by Bf 109s, which he evaded.
Early in the afternoon on 17 May the three remaining serviceable Hurricanes were scrambled from Maleme. Flying Officer Vale (V7795), Lieutenant Commander Black (V7761) and N2610 flown by a pilot from 33 Squadron intercepted approaching Ju 88s. Vale claimed damage to one of the bombers.
Later in the day Vale and Black were unable to make an interception when ordered off again.
The next day both Hurricanes V7795 and V7761 were destroyed in attacks on Maleme airfield.
At 18:00 in the evening on 18 May Vale was evacuated from Crete to Egypt in Sunderland N9020 flown by Flight Lieutenant Lywood.
Vale flew over Syria against the Vichy French after 80 Squadron had reformed on return to Egypt.
On 11 June 1941, Pilot Officer Vale apparently claimed the destruction of a Potez 63 whilst on patrol in Hurricane V6939 during the day. GR II/39's No 676, flown by Capitaine Forget, was indeed intercepted and hit by two bullets whilst on a reconnaissance of the Merjayoun-Sidon-Nagoura area.
Next day he claimed two D.520, one of which crashed with the death of the pilot on the coast near Haifa. French sources however seems to credit this loss to AA fire.
Vale was awarded a Bar to his DFC at the end of June (gazetted on 11 July 1941), and a Greek DFC.
On 5 July, he was posted to RAF Haifa as Operations Officer.
He was promoted to Flight Lieutenant on 17 January 1942.
In April 1942, he returned to the UK to become CFI at 59 OTU at Millfield, and then Crosby-on-Eden.
In March 1943, he attended the Central Gunnery School at Sutton Bridge, then becoming SGO at Wittering until September. Subsequently he commanded 11 AFC at Fairwood Common until the end of the war, attending the Fighter Leaders' Course at Tangmere.
Vale ended the war with 10 and 2 shared biplane victories and a total of 30 and 3 shared destroyed.
In 1946 he was o/c Gunnery and Armament Testing at West Raynham, but he left the service in October of that year, having also been awarded an AFC.
He subsequently settled in Nottinghamshire, where he was killed in a road accident on 29 November 1981.
|Kill no.||Date||Time||Number||Type||Result||Plane type||Serial no.||Locality||Unit|
|1||01/07/40||1||CR.32 (a)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||N5769||Fort Capuzzo||33 Squadron|
|15/07/40||1||S.79 (b)||Shared destroyed||Gladiator II||N5766||Mersa Matruh||33 Squadron|
|2||19/11/40||14:10-||1||CR.42 (c)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||N5784||Koritza area||80 Squadron|
|19/11/40||14:10-||½||CR.42 (c)||Shared destroyed||Gladiator II||N5784||Koritza area||80 Squadron|
|29/11/40||½||Z.1007 (d)||Shared damaged||Gladiator II||N5784||Tepelene area||80 Squadron|
|29/11/40||½||Z.1007 (d)||Shared damaged||Gladiator II||N5784||Tepelene area||80 Squadron|
|3||04/12/40||15:30||1||CR.42 (e)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||N5784||Argyrokastron||80 Squadron|
|4||20/12/40||11:00||1||S.81 (f)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||N5784||Kelcyre area||80 Squadron|
|5||21/12/40||11:00||1||CR.42 (g)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||N5784||Argyrokastron area||80 Squadron|
|6||21/12/40||11:00||1||CR.42 (g)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||N5784||Argyrokastron area||80 Squadron|
|7||21/12/40||11:00||1||CR.42 (g)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||N5784||Argyrokastron area||80 Squadron|
|09/02/41||10:30-12:40||1||S.79||Damaged||Gladiator II||N5825||Tepelene-Argyrokastron||80 Squadron|
|8||09/02/41||10:30-12:40||1||CR.42 (h)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||N5825||Tepelene-Argyrokastron||80 Squadron|
|?||10/02/41||1||Z.1007 (i)||Destroyed||Gladiator||15m SW Yanina||80 Squadron|
|9||28/02/41||1||G.50 (j)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||N5829||Himare||80 Squadron|
|10||28/02/41||1||S.79 (j)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||N5829||Himare||80 Squadron|
|11||03/03/41||1||S.81 (k)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7288||W Larisa||80 Squadron|
|12||04/03/41||1||G.50 (l)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7589||Himare-Valona area||80 Squadron|
|13||14/04/41||1||Ju 87 (m)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7795||near Servia, Bulgaria||80 Squadron|
|14||15/04/41||1||Ju 88 (n)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7795||Athens||80 Squadron|
|15||15/04/41||1||Ju 88 (n)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7795||Athens||80 Squadron|
|16||16/04/41||1||Ju 88 (o)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7134||Eleusis||80 Squadron|
|17||19/04/41||1||Ju 87 (p)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7134||Larisa||80 Squadron|
|18||19/04/41||1||Ju 87 (p)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7134||Larisa||80 Squadron|
|20/04/41||1||Do 17||Shared destroyed||Hurricane I||V7134||Larisa||80 Squadron|
|19||20/04/41||1||Ju 88 (q)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7134||Piraeus||80 Squadron|
|20||20/04/41||1||Ju 88 (q)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7134||Piraeus||80 Squadron|
|23/04/41||1||Do 17 (r)||Damaged||Hurricane I||V7134||Argos airfield||80 Squadron|
|29/04/41||1||Do 17||Damaged||Hurricane I||V7781||Suda Bay area||80 Squadron|
|21||29/04/41||1||Ju 88 (s)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7795||N Maleme||80 Squadron|
|22||29/04/41||1||Ju 88 (s)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7795||N Maleme||80 Squadron|
|23||30/04/41||1||Ju 88 (t)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7795||Suda Bay||80 Squadron|
|30/04/41||1||Ju 88 (t)||Damaged||Hurricane I||V7795||Suda Bay||80 Squadron|
|24||05/05/41||1||Ju 88 (u)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7781||Suda Bay, Crete||80 Squadron|
|05/05/41||1||Ju 88 (u)||Damaged||Hurricane I||V7781||Suda Bay, Crete||80 Squadron|
|25||13/05/41||1||Ju 52/3m (v)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7781||off Crete||80 Squadron|
|26||16/05/41||1||Bf 109||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7795||Maleme||80 Squadron|
|27||16/05/41||1||Ju 87||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V7795||Suda Bay||80 Squadron|
|17/05/41||1||Ju 88||Damaged||Hurricane I||V7795||Suda Bay||80 Squadron|
|28||11/06/41||1||Potez 63 (w)||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V6939||over Fleet off Syrian coast||80 Squadron|
|29||12/06/41||1||Dewoitine D520||Destroyed||Hurricane I||Z4200||over Fleet off Syrian coast||80 Squadron|
|30||12/06/41||1||Dewoitine D520||Destroyed||Hurricane I||Z4200||over Fleet off Syrian coast||80 Squadron|
Biplane victories: 10 and 2 shared destroyed, 1 and 2 shared damaged.
TOTAL: 30 and 3 shared destroyed, 6 and 2 shared damaged.
(a) This claim can’t be verified with Regia Aeronautica records.
(b) This claim can’t be verified with Regia Aeronautica records.
(c) 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.
(d) Claimed in combat with Z.1007bis of the 47o Stormo B.T.
(e) Claimed in combat with CR.42s from the 150o Gruppo and G.50bis from the 154o Gruppo. The 150o Gruppo C.T. lost two CR.42s (Tenente Alberto Triolo and Sottotenante Paolo Penna KIA) while the 154o Gruppo claimed two Gladiators shot down. 80 Squadron and 112 Squadron detachment claimed ten destroyed (9 CR.42 and 1 G.50) and five probables (1 CR.32, 3 CR.42 and 1 G.50). One of the Gladiators seems to have been shot down (the unknown pilot was safe) and two more Gladiators were damaged.
(f) Claimed in combat with S.81s from the 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.
(g) The fighters from the Regia Aeronautica claimed 8 and 4 probables while suffering 2 aircraft lost (2 pilot KIA) and 1 force-landed. The 80 Squadron claimed 8 and 3 probables while suffering 2 aircraft lost (2 pilots KIA) and 3 damaged.
(h) Claimed in combat with the 150o Gruppo, which claimed 4 Gladiators destroyed and 9 damaged while losing 4 CR.42s. 80 Squadron claimed 7 CR.42s while losing 2 Gladiators.
(i) Claimed in combat with S.79s of 104o Gruppo and Z.1007bis of 47o Stormo. This claim does not appear in any official list of Vale’s claims, so it’s possible that it never was credited to him.
(j) 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.
(k) Claimed in combat with Z.1007bis from 50o Gruppo B.T. 80 Squadron claimed 6 and 1 probable while only 2 were in fact lost.
(l) 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.
(m) During the day Allied fighters made claims for five Ju 87s. Four from 2./St G 1, 9./StG 2 (two) and I/StG 3 were lost.
(n) Claimed in combat with Ju 88s from I/LG 1 and I/KG 51. 80 Squadron claimed 6 and 1 probable while 30 Squadron claimed 2 more without losses. 2 from I/KG 51 (probably 80 Squadron’s claims) was lost and two received AA damage while I/LG 1 (probably 30 Squadron’s claims) lost two and got one damage by AA fire.
(o) Believed to have been claimed in combat with Do 17Zs of Stabstaffel/KG 2, 80 Squadron claimed three bombers shot down and KG 2 lost three aircraft in the Larissa area. These were U5+GA (Leutnant Ludwig Rohr), U5+BA (Leutnant Heinrich Hunger) and U5-DA (Hauptmann Konrad Ebsen); all the crews failed to return.
(p) Claimed in combat with Bf 109Es from II/JG 27 and Ju 87s from StG 2 and StG 3. 80 Squadron claimed four Ju 87s and one Bf 109 and one damaged while getting one Hurricane damaged. Apparently two Ju 87s were lost, one from Stab/StG 2 (Oberleutnant Sebastian Ulitz and Oberfeldwebel Emil Kuklau both killed) (recorded by the Germans as having been on 18 April) and one of I/StG 3 (Leutnant Herbert Wingelmayer being killed and his gunner wounded). The escorting Bf 109s claimed two Hurricanes and all of them returned without damage.
(q) Probably claimed in combat with Ju 88s from I/LG 1. RAF claimed five for the loss of one Hurricane. I/LG 1 lost one aircraft (L1+ZH - Unteroffizier Helmut Benke and his crew killed) and got one damaged while claiming one Hurricane.
(r) Possibly 5K+DS of III/KG 3, reported shot down by AA near Corinth; Unteroffizier Wiesmüller and his crew were lost.
(s) This claim can’t be verified with Luftwaffe records.
(t) This claim can’t be verified with Luftwaffe records.
(u) This claim can’t be verified with Luftwaffe records.
(v) This claim can’t be verified with Luftwaffe records.
(w) Possibly claimed in combat with Potez 63 from GR II/39. The Potez, No 676, flown by Capitaine Forget returned with two bullet hits.
53o Stormo - Marco Mattioli, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-977-5
Ace of Aces: M T StJ Pattle - E C R Baker, 1992 Crécy Books, Somerton, ISBN 0-947554-36-X
Aces High - Christopher Shores, 1994, Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-00-0
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
Dust Clouds in the Middle East - Christopher Shores, 1996 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-37-X
Fiat CR.42 Aces of World War 2 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-427-5
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
Luftwaffe Claims Lists - Tony Wood
Shark Squadron - The history of 112 Squadron 1917-1975 - Robin Brown, 1994 Crécy Books, ISBN 0-947554-33-5
The London Gazette
Additional information kindly provided by Csaba Becze, Simon Muggleton and Ludovico Slongo.