Biplane fighter aces

The Commonwealth

Pilot Officer Stanley Anton ‘Stan’ Wells, RAF nos. 779025 (NCO), 89781 (Officer)

1911 – 27 September 1941

Stan Wells, from Weston, Ontario, was born in 1911.

He enlisted in the RAFVR in the Middle East in early summer 1940.

On completion of flying training he was commissioned on 9 November, joining ‘K’ Flight in East Africa.

In February 1941 ‘K’ Flight was based at Mersa Taclai and equipped with Gloster Gladiators.

On the 26 February Wells had been patrolling over Kub-Kub, when army personnel on the ground drew his attention to two CR.32s, which were flying above him and oblivious to his attention. Climbing up below them, he attacked one and shot it down over Keren in full view of the troops on the ground.

‘K’ Flight became the nucleus of 250 Squadron when this unit was formed in May 1941. This unit served in the Western Desert.

At 17:30 on 30 June, 250 Squadron were escorting a Tobruk convoy when 29 Ju 87s, escorted by twelve G.50s, ten Bf 109s and five Bf 110s were spotted. The seven Tomahawks of 250 Squadron attacked the formation, Pilot Officer Clive Caldwell destroying two Ju 87s, and sharing a Bf 110 with Sergeant ‘Bob’ Whittle, who also claimed a damaged Bf 109 and a probable G.50 while Flight Lieutenant ‘Dickie’ Martin claimed two G.50s and Pilot Officer Wells claimed a Bf 110.
The escorting G.50bis were from 20o Gruppo (take-off at 15:40) and Capitano Furio Niclot Doglio (353a Squadriglia) claimed a Hurricane while 3./JG 27’s Oberleutnant Ludwig Franzisket claimed a P-40 north of Marsa Luch at 16:35.
Two Bf 110s of 8./ZG 26 failed to return, Feldwebel Walter Schöne and his passenger, Unteroffizier Karl Rohde, a war film cameraman (Bf 110E-1 WNr 3459), and Unteroffizier Friedrich Wiesböck and his gunner Gefreiter Otto (BF 110E-2 Wnr 3311), all being lost.
27-year-old Australian Pilot Officer James Frederick Stamford Kent (RAAF no. 402124) of 250 Squadron was shot down and killed while Sergeant T. G. Ryan’s aircraft was badly damaged, resulting in a forced landing.
The attack force included four Ju 87Rs from the 239a Squadriglia, and one of these, flown by Sergente Maggiore Ennio Tarantola with 1o Aviere Ruggero Pittini as gunner was reportedly hit by AA fire when diving on the ships. Tarantola released his bombs and managed initially to keep the aircraft in the air. As the engine began to fail, Pittini baled out, but was not seen again. Tarantola spent 18 hours drifting in his dinghy before being rescued by a 196a Squadriglia Cant Z.501.

Off at 17:30 on 26 August to cover a minelayer, three destroyers and three cruisers, a dozen fighters each from 250 and 274 Squadrons, were followed at 18:50 by ten Tomahawks of 2 SAAF Squadron and 12 Hurricanes of the RNFS. At 18:30, 5 miles north of Sidi Barrani, a reported eleven Bf 109s dived on 250 Squadron out of the sun. They were spotted by Pilot Officer Wells (Tomahawk IIb AK416), who claimed one of them shot down as the unit went into a defensive circle, gaining height as it did so. The Bf 109s attacked twice more without result, and ten a third time when Wells claimed a second shot down and Sergeant Maurice Hards a third. However, Hards’ aircraft (Tomahawk IIb AK374) was hit and damaged, and he force-landed halfway between Maaten Bagush and Sidi Barrani, suffering a broken ankle.
The second formation was then also attacked out of the sun, the RNFS weaver Sub Lieutenant Bruce Pudney (Hurricane I Z4052), was killed when he was shot down into the sea.
Three claims were made by 1./JG 27 pilots, but none of their Messerschmitts appear actually to have been shot down or even badly damaged during this encounter. It seems that Hards was shot down by Feldwebel Günther Steinhausen, who claimed a P-40 north of Sidi Barrani while Leutnant Hans Remmer claimed a Hurricane 15 miles north of Sidi Barrani and Feldwebel Doktor Peter Werfft claimed a Hurricane north of Sidi Barrani.

On an early morning reconnaissance on 27 September, the crew of a Maryland from 12 SAAF Squadron spotted one large (estimated 6,000 tons) and three smaller ships in Bardia harbour, unloading supplies. An initial bombing attack was frustrated by cloud, a second raid being sent off at 15:06 when Major J. F. Britz led nine 21 SAAF Squadron Marylands to this target, escorted by Tomahawks of 250 and 3 RAAF Squadrons. Britz later recorded spotting several fighters climbing towards the formation and others taking off and patrolling over the harbour.
As he dived to attack, he saw tracers flying past his starboard wing and looking in that direction, he observed Lieutenant A. Louw’s aircraft (1650/G) on fire with members of the crew in the process of baling out. The aircraft. Containing a crew on their first sortie, had been attacked by a pair of Bf 109s from 3./JG 27. Britz was heard to call: ”Look out, I’m going to fire my front guns.” Surrounded by Flak bursts, he opened fire on the two fighters which had just despatched Louw’s aircraft, following which one Messerschmitt pulled up in an inverted position, and reportedly the pilot dropped out ”in a ball of flames”, his parachute failing to open. This all occurred as Louw’s Maryland was falling towards the sea, blazing furiously (Louw became PoW and three of the crew were KIA). As Britz pressed on through the Flak, one of his gunner, Air Sergeant M. H. Petterson, reportedly sent a second fighter down trailing smoke, while Air Sergeant P. Earnshaw fired short bursts at long range at a third which had now appeared.
3./JG 27 claimed two ‘Martin 167s’ at 16:38. These were claimed by Leutnant Friedrich Hoffman (6km south-east of Bardia) and Oberfähnrich Karl Kugelbauer (4km south-east of Bardia). Despite the details recorded, no Messerschmitt appear to have been lost or badly damaged. A few minutes later, however, Hauptmann Karl-Wolfgang Redlich, staffelkapitän of 1.Staffel, shot down one of the escorting Tomahawks south-west of Sidi Barrani at 16:50, Pilot Officer Wells being killed. In return two claims for Bf 109s were submitted at 16:35 15m south of Buq Buq by Pilot Officer Clive Caldwell (AK324) and Sergeant A. Humphries (AK221), but again, no German losses were recorded.
Of this operation, John Jackson of 3 RAAF Squadron wrote of his last operational flight in North Africa:

“We escorted eight Maryland bombers on their job of bombing Bardia. No. 250 Squadron were escort also. The bombers were at 18,000 ft, we at 20,000 ft, and 250 Squadron about the same height. All went well until we got over the target area and the bombers split up. We kept over a section of three bombers and they were OK. One of the other bombers was shot down either by ack-ack or by an ME 109 – we saw the splash it made. One of the 250 Squadron pilots was shot down in flames, Flying Officer Wells. The bombing didn’t seem very effective and I am very dubious about the value of bombing unless on a very big and concentrated target like an industrial area, or big concentration of MT or aircraft. We noticed several Me 110s low down over Bardia, but our job was purely protective, so did not go down after them.
Results in the air war in the desert recently have not been very satisfactory. The Hun has been getting more of our fighters than we are getting of his. We need better aircraft as he can outspeed and outclimb us easily, and his armament is superior – we must at least have equal armament. So far our .3 ammunition in the Tommies has been ball, just useless against armour plating. I heard today that armour-piercing ammunition has now arrived – about time too. We will have to get aircraft equal to the 109; the Hun now is using a later model 109, the ME 109F.
Hear I am to go on leave tomorrow – have had a lot of boils for about a fortnight and have been feeling very off colour, and Doc has declared I will clear up quicker and better if I go back to Alex were I can have a couple of hot baths every day; evidently my skin does not react too well to dirt, dust and sand. Ed reckons I’m soft!”

At the time of his death Wells was credited with 1 biplane victory and a total of 4.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 26/02/41   1 CR.32 Destroyed Gladiator N5815 Keren ’K’ Flight
2 30/06/41 17:35 1 Bf 110 (a) Destroyed Tomahawk IIb AK349 50m NE Tobruk 250 Squadron
3 26/08/41 18:30 1 Bf 109 (b) Destroyed Tomahawk IIb AK416 5m N Sidi Barrani 250 Squadron
4 26/08/41 18:30 1 Bf 109 (b) Destroyed Tomahawk IIb AK416 5m N Sidi Barrani 250 Squadron

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 4 destroyed.
(a) 250 Squadron claimed two Bf 110s of III/ZG 26, which lost two aircraft; Felwebel Walter Schöne and his passenger, Unteroffizier Karl Rohde, a war film cameraman, and Unteroffizier Friedrich Wiesböck and his gunner Gefreiter Otto, all being lost.
(b) Claimed in combat with Bf 109s from 1./JG 27, which didn’t suffer any losses.

A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume One – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, 2012 Grub Street, London, ISBN 978-1908117076
Dust Clouds in the Middle East - Christopher Shores, 1996 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-37-X
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
Gloster Gladiator Home Page - Alexander Crawford.
Luftwaffe Claims Lists - Tony Wood
Those Other Eagles – Christopher Shores, 2004 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-904010-88-1

Last modified 06 March 2016