Biplane fighter aces

The Commonwealth

Flight Lieutenant William Joseph 'Timber' Woods DFC, RAF no. 39605

1913 – 20 April 1941

Woods photographed in Greece, 1941.

William 'Timber' Woods was born in 1913 and was an Irishman.

He was commissioned in January 1938 and was serving with the Station Flight at Hal Far, Malta, as a Flying Officer at the start of 1940.

With the threat of war with Italy looming, he was one of the pilots selected to form the Fighter Flight, set up at Kalafrana with a handful of Sea Gladiators.

During the first air raid on Malta shortly before 07:00 on 11 June 1940, three Gladiators (N5519, N5520 and N5531) were scrambled. Led by Flight Lieutenant George Burges (N5531), Squadron Leader Alan 'Jock' Martin (N5519) and Flying Officer Woods (N5520) were ordered up to meet the attackers. There were so many targets over Valetta and Hal Far that the Gladiators became split up.
Burges saw nine bombers turning in a wide circle south of the island, obviously preparing to head back to Sicily. Cutting across the circle, he and one of the other pilots (probably Squadron Leader A. C. Martin) gave chase, and he was able to fire most of his ammunition at one bomber without apparent result. These were some of 34o Stormo BT S.79s which had hit Hal Far, and the crews reported that the Gladiators fired from long range. One S.79 piloted by Capitano Rosario Di Blasi from 52o Gruppo was hit in the fuselage.
At 19:25, the eighth and final raid came in and the Gladiators were scrambled again. Flying Officer Woods (N5520) first attacked two different S.79s without apparent result before being attacked by an escorting MC.200 from 79a Squadriglia flown by Tenente Giuseppe Pesola who blasted off 125 rounds at him without result. Woods immediately went into a steep left-hand turn. He circled with the enemy fighter for three minutes before he got it in his sight. He got in a good burst with full deflection. The Italian fighter went down in a steep dive with black smoke pouring from his tail. He couldn’t follow it but he taught it went into the sea. Woods was subsequently credited with an unconfirmed victory as the first victory for the defenders of Malta. In fact, Pesola’s aircraft hadn’t even been seriously damaged. Evasive action and the black exhaust smoke from the hastily opened throttle had obviously misled Woods.

On 23 June there was a raid by bombers from 11o Stormo BT with an escort of MC.200s. Two Gladiators flown by Woods (N5531) and George Burges (N5519) were scrambled. The two Gladiators attacked the bombers (reportedly five S.79s escorted by three MC.200s) without obvious result, but Burges was then attacked by one of the escorting fighters, an aircraft of the 88a Squadriglia flown by Sergente Maggiore Lamberto Molinelli (alternatively he was from 71a Squadriglia). Burges whirled his fighter round and a ”real old W.W.I dogfight” began over the sea off Sliema. The faster Macchi had the initiative, but overshot the nimble Gladiator, allowing Burges to “belt him up the backside as he went past”. After four or five such passes the Macchi suddenly caught fire and Molinelli baled out into the sea. (The Italians later recorded that he had been shot down by “one round of A.A.”). Swiftly recovered from the water, Molinelli was taken to Imtarfa Hospital where Burges later visited him. He did not find his victim particularly friendly!
While landing after this action, Woods collided with a Queen Bee target drone, causing damage to yet another of the invaluable Gladiators (N5531).

On 28 June two S.79s of the 11o Stormo B.T. was intercepted by him. He inflicted damage on an aircraft from the 33o Gruppo flown by Tenente Remo Maccagni. The pilot and two other members of the crew were wounded, while another crew member, 1e Aviere Motorista Angelo Alvisi, his sense reeling from the fumes from a punctured fuel tank, baled out into the sea and was lost. He received credit for the destruction of this bomber, but it managed to return back to base.

On the morning of 7 July fighters were scrambled from Malta to intercept two formations each of five S.79s, escorted by nine CR.42s. The target for the incoming raid was the Valetta dockyard. During the raid two Royal Navy personnel was killed and six injured, while nine civilians also died. Woods shot down one S.79 from 233a Squadriglia, 59o Gruppo, 41o Stormo B.T., which was flown by Tenente Pellegrino Zagnoli. There were no survivors from the bomber.

On 10 July S.79s were out to bomb Malta again, but this time they missed their rendezvous with their escorting CR.42, which meant that they arrived over the island unprotected and the intercepting British fighter struck hard. Two of the Italian bombers were shot down and another was badly damaged and force-landed back at Sicily. One of the bombers fell to Woods (P2653) who shot down a S.79 from 192a Squadriglia flown by Sottotenente Luigi Illica Magnani. The Italian bomber was initially claimed as a probable but it actually fell into the sea in flames and was consequently upgrade to a confirmed.

At 09:45 in the morning of 31 July, nine 23o Gruppo CR.42s escorted a single reconnaissance S.79 over Malta. Hardly any Hurricanes were now serviceable on the island, and three Gladiators took off to intercept, flown by Flying Officers Peter Hartley (N5519), Fred F. 'Eric' Taylor (N5529) and Woods (N5520). As they attacked the formation, the bomber turned away, but a dogfight at once began between the opposing fighters. A burst of fire from the guns of Sergente Manlio Tarantino’s aircraft caused the fuel tank of Hartley’s Gladiator (N5519) to explode, and he baled out suffering from severe burns. Woods shot down the commander of the Italian formation, Capitano Antonio Chiodi of the 75a Squadriglia, his aircraft falling into the sea five miles east of Grand Harbour. Chiodi was subsequently awarded a posthumous Medaglia d’oro al valor militare.
The returning Italian pilots claimed that they had seen five Gladiators and two of them were claimed shot down. One by the above mentioned Tarantino and one by Capitano Luigi Filippi. Two more Gladiators were attacked by Tenente Mario Rigatti.
South African Flying Officer Roger ‘Jock’ Barber of the Island’s Fighter Flight witnessed the shooting down of Hartley and N5519 from the ground:

“Peter Hartley must have been hit in his centre tank because his Gladiator burnt just like a magnesium flare - an actually brilliant light in the sky, and it was a very lovely day: typical Malta summer day very hot, clear blue sky, no clouds.
He actually baled out after his aircraft caught fire and he fell into the sea. He was very badly burnt, particularly about the knees and arms and face. In those days, we, of course, flew in khaki shirts and shorts and stockings and it was, of course, the exposed portion of his body that got damaged. He spent a very long time in hospital and was eventually evacuated to UK, but I believe made a good recovery and flew again.”
According to at least one report, Gladiator N5519 fell just offshore, close to Ras il-Fenek, in south-east Malta. Hartley was rescued by a boat from Kalafrana and admitted to the Station Sick Quarters suffering from shock and third degree burns. Soon after, he was transferred to the military hospital at Mtarfa. He did indeed return to flying duties in the UK and the Middle East, but was eventually reassigned a ground role due to continuing problems with his injuries.

In August, he was amongst those incorporated into 261 Squadron on its formation.

On 17 September, twelve Ju 87s from 96o Gruppo Autonomo Ba. T. approached Malta, seven from the 236a Squadriglia and five from the 237a Squadriglia targeting Luqa where a Wellington and a Hurricane were burnt out. Twenty-one CR.42s from 23o Gruppo and six 6o Gruppo MC200 gave escort. Three or four Hurricanes scrambled to intercept. During the ensuing dogfight one Italian Ju 87 was claimed by Flying Officer 'Jock' Barber and Flying Officer Woods shot down a CR.42 from the 70a Squadriglia. The pilot Sottoten Francesco Cavalli baled out and landed a few hundred metres north of Fort Bingemma, while his burning aircraft dived into a field near Mgarr and exploded, the wreckage continuing to smoulder for hours afterwards. The pilot was taken prisoner. An eyewitness reported:

"The end for the machine came quickly. It suddenly looped the loop and the pilot was seen struggling to free himself from the cockpit. Just as the machine started to nose-dive at a sharp angle, the pilot baled out, and his parachute opened not a second too soon, for no sooner was he clear than flames burst out. The aircraft crashed into a field and buried its nose some five feet deep into the red earth. A big explosion followed and flames leapt up two storeys high; it continued smouldering right into the night. Meanwhile the pilot was floating in the air, swinging dangerously. It took him six minutes to land…everyone was still undecided whether it was a British or enemy pilot and as he landed there was a rush to the spot. There were some angry cries when some of the villagers discovered that he was an enemy, but the man was lying helpless on his back. He asked for a glass of water which was quickly brought to him; he asked whether his mother would be informed he was alive. He was placed on a stretcher and carried to the village where he was taken charge of by military personnel." ('Times of Malta' No. 1587).
The Italian pilot stated during interrogation that neither AA nor a fighter had hit his aircraft, but that the oil feed had burst and that he had bailed out fearing a fire at any moment. Notwithstanding this statement the victory was credited to Woods.
During this raid the Italian dive-bombers claimed two Gladiators, but none of the surviving Gladiators took any part in this combat.
This was to be Woods' last claim over Malta.

Awarded a DFC in December, he departed for Egypt at the start of 1941, from where he was posted to Greece in early January 1941 to become a flight commander in 80 Squadron.

On 20 January 1941 80 Squadron was still maintaining a detachment at Eleusis for the defence of Athens and at 12.20 three Gladiators were ordered off to patrol over Piraeus, as Italian bombers were reported approaching from the west. Two minutes later two more Gladiators, with Flight Lieutenant Woods in the lead, were ordered off to patrol 15 miles to the south-west, and two of 30 Squadron's Blenheim IFs were also scrambled.
At 13.30 four Cant Z.1007bis from 47o Stormo B.T. appeared over Athens and bombed from 13.000 feet, escaping interception, as the trio of Gladiators were patrolling at 10.000 feet and had no chance of reaching the bombers, although they did chase them out to sea.
When a second formation of bombers approached however, the Gladiators had climbed to 15.000 feet and were well placed to intercept, making a head-on attack as the bombers turned east for their target. Pilot Officer 'Heimar' Stuckey, who flew as no. 3 in the first trio, then broke away and made an individual quarter attack closing to very short range; his Gladiator was struck by return fire and he broke away, diving to sea level and going in to land at a newly-constructed airfield at Hassani, just south of Athens. As he approached another aircraft was in his way, and he was forced circuit again. However, as he glided in over the hangars, flames were see coming from the underside fuel tank of K7902, and next moment the Gladiator was engulfed, crashing into the ground; Stuckey was killed instantly.
In the meantime Woods attacked the same bomber at which Stuckey had been firing, joined by one of the Blenheim IFs flown by Flight Sergeant D. J. Innes-Smith. After Woods’ second attack the big Cant trimotor also burst into flames and four members of the crew baled out just before it crashed into the sea ten miles south of Athens, exploding on impact. Three of the crew landed safely but the fourth was killed when his parachute failed to open.
The other four bombers in the formation all suffered damage from the fighters' attacks, one of them having also been hit by Innes-Smith.

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 Woods and Sergeant Charles Casbolt, each of these pilots claiming one damaged, while Pilot Officer William Valecaught 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 14 February 80 Squadron despatched five pilots led by Flight Lieutenant Woods, and including Flying Officer Richard Acworth, in a Bombay to Athens to collect the Squadrons eagerly awaited Hurricanes. Eight had been sent to the unit but only six where now available since two of them had been directed elsewhere.

In February he returned to Egypt to collect and fly over one of the first Hurricanes for the squadron.

Early in the afternoon on 20 February 1941 eight Gladiators of 80 Squadron and nine of 112 Squadron flew up to Paramythia from Yannina. At 14:45 15 of these Gladiators took off in five sections of three aircraft flying in vic formation, echeloned to starboard and led by Squadron Leader H. L. I. Brown, to escort two Wellingtons of 37 Squadron, flown by Flight Lieutenant M. J. Baird-Smith and Sergeant R. T. Spiller, each carrying about one and a halt tons of supplies. A Greek Ju 52/3m accompanied the Wellingtons and their mission was to drop the supplies to the troops near Kelcyre. Low cloud and rain made the flight difficult, and near Korouode five hostile aircraft were seen, but these did not approach. The supplies were dropped successfully, and the three aircraft were escorted back to Paramythia. The fighters then returned to the frontline to patrol.
Soon after the supply-droppers had gone, 17 Blenheims (eight of 84 Squadron, six of 211 Squadron and three of 30 Squadron) commenced taking off for a bombing attack on Berat. One of the 84 Squadron aircraft suffered an engine failure and belly-landed, but the remaining 16, with an escort of six Hurricanes led by Flight Lieutenant 'Pat' Pattle (Hurricane Mk.I V7724), arrived over the target, their bombs falling on the town, supply dumps, and demolishing a bridge carrying the main road over the River Osem. AA fire was experienced and Fiat G.50bis from the 361a and 395a Squadriglie, 154o Autonomo Gruppo C.T. were scrambled from Berat airfield. As the Blenheim formation, which had completed its attack, was turning a few miles to the north of the target the climbing Italian fighters were spotted by the escorting Hurricanes.
Pattle's section took on four of the attackers and Pattle shouted to Flight Lieutenant Woods and Sergeant Charles Casbolt to attack individually. Pattle selected the leading G.50 as his own target. As he approached, the dark green Fiat pulled away into a steep turn, but he managed to hold it in his sights until he came into range. When he opened fire the Italian fighter exploded and disintegrated. Woods (Hurricane Mk.I V7138) claimed another and Casbolt claimed two destroyed in this combat. The crews of the Blenheims under attack verified these claims. Pilot Officer Cox's Blenheim L8542 of 211 Squadron was badly shot-up, but two Hurricanes shot down their attacker. Pilot Officer Geary, gunner in Squadron Leader Gordon-Finlayson's aircraft, reported:

'A G 50 came for us and in a flash a Hurricane just shot it off our wingtip. It simply rolled over, went on fire, and dived into the mountain. It was wizard.'
Other Fiats followed the Blenheims as they withdrew. One of the 30 Squadron Blenheims had its starboard engine shot out, but Sergeant Ratlidge managed to get it back to Paramythia. As the formation neared the front, the patrolling Gladiators of 80 and 112 Squadrons spotted the pursuing Italian fighters and engaged them. Flying Officer Nigel Cullen (Gladiator Mk.II N5817) reported:
'The leader came into close range and then flicked over on its back and dived down. I did a half-roll and got into position dead astern. Four long bursts and the enemy caught fire and crashed into a snow-covered hill. Then engaged another G.50 and got in some good deflection shots. Saw two formations of biplanes, thought they were Glads and went to take a look at them. They were CR 42s. Got on the tail of one, gave him a burst, and he went over on his back, and the pilot baled out. The others made off at once. Just as well- I hadn't any ammo left.'
Cullen's Gladiator received some damage during these combats and one bullet furrowed the knuckles of his right hand, but he returned to Yannina without further incident. Three G.50s were claimed damaged by 112 Squadron pilots Flight Lieutenant R. J. Abrahams, Flying Officer Edwin Banks and Pilot Officer Jack Groves. Flight Lieutenant George Kettlewell (Gladiator Mk.II N5917) of 80 Squadron also claimed a G.50, but did not see it crash (thus it was only credit as a probable) whilst Pilot Officer Eldon Trollip claimed another probably destroyed.
The Italian fighters had claimed one Blenheim shot down and one fighter identified as a 'Spitfire'. Despite the many RAF claims, it seems that only two Fiats were actually lost. Tenente Alfredo Fusco of the 361a Squadriglia was shot down and killed, while Tenente Livio Bassi of 395a Squadriglia was wounded and while attempting to force-land his damaged aircraft at Berat, the Fiat flipped over and caught fire. Bassi, credited at this time with seven victories, was to linger for 43 days before dying in hospital in Rome. A third G.50bis, flown by Sergente Gambetta, was damaged. Both Bassi and Fusco were subsequently awarded posthumous Medaglia d'oro al valor militare.

On 6 April Germany declared war on Yugoslavia and Greece and immediately attacked.

In the afternoon on 10 April four Hurricanes from 80 Squadron were out to strafe Bitolj. The quartet strafed vehicles and troops, and a small ammunition dump south of Bitolj. Heavy return fire was encountered and the engine of Flight Lieutenant Woods’ Hurricane was hit, seizing up immediately. Woods was able to locate a level field and put his aircraft down on its belly at once, recalling:

“As I clambered out the aircraft went on fire. One of the others – Ginger (Pilot Officer Still) – circled round with his wheels down as if about to land. I realised he would never make it and waved him away. The field was much too rough for a Hurricane landing, though I would have liked to ridden back with him. The Jerries were about a mile away and a patrol was after me, so I sprinted away as hard as I could go in the direction of our lines. I should think I ran for about a quarter of an hour when a patrol of Aussies picked me up. I was just about dead beat. They quickly got in position and put a few shots in the direction of the advancing Jerries, who at once pushed off. The Aussies said they had seen me land and had come out at once, for they could also see the Germans making towards the aircraft. We continued back to their position in some hills, where they fed me and then sent me back in a car.”

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 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 William 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 William 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.
The Hurricane hit by Baumann was probably that flown by ‘Harry’ Starrett (V7804), which caught fire as a result. Starrett decided to fly back to Eleusis to attempt to save his aircraft. He made a hard wheels-up landing and the glycol tank blew up, enveloping the aircraft in flames. Starrett managed to get out, but had been very severely burned; he was rushed to hospital but died two days later.
Four more 80 Squadron Hurricanes now joined the battle, Flight Lieutenant Woods leading Sergeant Charles Casbolt and Flight Sergeant Pierre Wintersdorff (a Frenchman) to attack a formation identified as Bf 110s, but probably composed of Do 17Z from I and III/KG 2, escorted by Bf 110s. Woods carried out two or three separate attacks, believing that he had probably shot down two (but only being credited with one) before breaking off to return to Eleusis to rearm. Wintersdorff claimed one aircraft shot down in flames, which he identified as an ‘Fw187’, but he was then attacked by a Bf 110 and wounded in one leg; his Hurricane was hard hit and he baled out into the sea from where he was soon rescued. Casbolt claimed two aircraft as Bf 110s, but was also then attacked from astern and had his rudder shot away. Breaking away, he encountered a Bf 109 which he reported he had shot down in flames.
Meanwhile the fourth pilot, Sergeant Edward Hewett found himself above six Bf 109s and later reported:
“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.
At Eleusis the returning Hurricanes were being refuelled and rearmed as swiftly as possible, before climbing back into the fray. Squadron Leader Pattle was by now very ill with influenza, his temperature having been recorded as 103o. Nonetheless he took off for the third time of the day together with Flying Officer Vernon Woodward, following Flight Lieutenant Woods, who was now off for the second time. Pattle and Woodward had not taken off before, as their aircraft had not been ready. Woodward recalled:
“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.
Yet another Hurricane was falling to the Bf 110s at this time; Flight Sergeant Leonard Cottingham had claimed three Bf 110s in flames, but he was hit by a fourth and wounded, baling out of his stricken aircraft. The pilots of II/ZG 26’s 5 staffel, led by Hauptmann Theodor Rossiwall, claimed five Hurricanes shot down in this engagement, one each by Rossiwall himself (victory no. 12), Oberleutnant Sophus Baggoe (victory no. 14), Oberfeldwebel Hermann Schönthier, Unteroffizier Fritz Muller and Oberfeldwebel Theodor Pietschmann. However two of the Gruppe’s aircraft were lost in return – 3U+EN (Oberleutnant Kurt Specka) and 3U+FN (Feldwebel Georg Leinfelder), while a third crash-landed with severe damage.

Woods was credited with 2 and 1 shared biplane victories and a total of 6 and 1 shared destroyed at the time of his death.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  11/06/40 19:25- 1 MC.200 (a) Unconfirmed destroyed Sea Gladiator N5520 S Valetta Hal Far Fighter Flt.
1 28/06/40   1 S.79 (b) Destroyed Sea Gladiator   off Malta Hal Far Fighter Flt.
2 07/07/40   1 S.79 (c) Destroyed Hurricane I P2653 Valetta Hal Far Fighter Flt.
3 10/07/40   1 S.79 (d) Destroyed Hurricane I P2653 Grand Harbour Hal Far Fighter Flt.
4 31/07/40 09:45- 1 CR.42 (e) Destroyed Sea Gladiator N5520 Hal Far Hal Far Fighter Flt.
5 17/09/40   1 CR.42 (f) Destroyed Hurricane I   Valetta 261 Squadron
  20/01/41   1/3 Z.1007 (g) Shared destroyed Gladiator II   in sea 10m S Athens 80 Squadron
  10/02/41   1 BR.20 (h) Damaged Gladiator II N5917 Yanina area 80 Squadron
6 20/02/41   1 G.50 (i) Destroyed Hurricane I V7138 Berat airfield area 80 Squadron
  20/04/41   1 Bf 110 (j) Probable Hurricane I   Athens area 80 Squadron

Biplane victories: 2 and 1 shared destroyed, 1 unconfirmed destroyed, 1 damaged.
TOTAL: 6 and 1 shared destroyed, 1 unconfirmed destroyed, 2 probables, 1 damaged.
(a) MC.200 of 79a Squadriglia, 6o Gruppo CT - not badly damaged.
(b) S.79 of 11o Stormo BT damaged, but returned.
(c) S.79 of 233a Squadriglia, 59o Gruppo, 41o Stormo B.T., flown by Tenente Pellegrino Zagnoli, shot down. There were no survivors from the bomber.
(d) S.79 of 192a Squadriglia, 87o Gruppo, 30o Stormo BT, flown by Sottotenente Luigi Illica Magnani, fell in flames; originally claimed as a probable, but later confirmed.
(e) CR.42 of 75a Squadriglia, 23o Gruppo CT; Capitano Antonio Chiodi killed; awarded posthumous Medaglia D'Oro.
(f) CR.42 of 70a Squadriglia, 23o Gruppo CT; Sottoten Franco Cavalli POW.
(g) Cant Z.1007bis of 47o Stormo B.T., which blew up on hitting sea. Three of the crew became POWs.
(h) Claimed in combat with S.79s of 104o Gruppo and Z.1007bis of 47o Stormo.
(i) 80 and 112 Squadrons claimed six destroyed and two probables in this combat while 154o Autonomo Gruppo C.T. lost two G.50s (Tenente Alfredo Fusco of 361a Squadriglia was killed and Tenente Livio Bassi of 395a Squadriglia was later to die from wounds sustained) and got one damaged (Sergente Gambetta). 154o Gruppo claimed one bomber and one fighter but RAF only got one fighter and one bomber damaged.
(j) Probably claimed in combat with Do 17Zs of I and III/KG 2, which lost three; U5+AL (Unteroffizier Helmut Reim), U5+HL (Leutnant Joachim Brüdern) and U5+AR (Oberleutnant Ludger Holtkampe) with all their crews against RAF claims for four and one probable.

3o Stormo, storia fotografica - Dai biplani agli aviogetti - C. Lucchini and E. Leproni, 1990 Gino Rossato Editore kindly provided by Jean Michel Cala with translations kindly provided by Birgitta Hallberg-Lombardi
Aces High - Christopher Shores and Clive Williams, 1994 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-00-0
Aces High Volume 2 - Christopher Shores, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-03-9
Ace of Aces: M T StJ Pattle - E C R Baker, 1992 Crécy Books, Somerton, ISBN 0-947554-36-X
Air war for Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete - Christopher Shores, Brian Cull and Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-07-0
Battle over Malta - Anthony Rogers, 2000 Sutton Publishing Limited, Gloucestershire, ISBN 0-7509-2392-X
Gladiators over Malta: The Story of Faith, Hope and Charity – Brian Cull and Frederick Galea, 2008 Wise Owl Publications, ISBN 978-99932-92-78-4
Hurricanes over Malta - Brian Cull and Frederick Galea, 2001 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-91-8
Luftwaffe Claims Lists - Tony Wood
Malta: The Hurricane Years 1940-41 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-89747-207-1
Shark Squadron - The history of 112 Squadron 1917-1975 - Robin Brown, 1994 Crécy Books, ISBN 0-947554-33-5
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Last modified 26 May 2011