Archive number: 1473
Date interviewed: 06 February, 2004
You are listening to the interview audio
Can you tell us where you were born and grew up?
I was born on Kamiloroi Station which in those days was 120 miles north of Cloncurry. We had no telephone, nor wireless of course in those days. Mailman every fortnight or something, or a month, but he used to
get drunk and then bring rum to the Aborigines. I was born on the 21st of May 1918. My father managed Kamiloroi station. I have a brother but he’s 11 years younger than I am to the day. I had a little black boy as a playmate. My parents used to give him five shilling I think a week. A proportion of that went into a Commonwealth savings bank account. This was the law in those days. If you paid minors
they had to. I think most people would have adhered to it in those days. We left there in 1928 and moved down to Sydney where we had relatives.
Had you done correspondence?
Yeah. Correspondence school. You had an itinerant school teacher that travelled around and he would help you and that sort of thing.
So I went to correspondence school till I was nearly ten years of age and someone asked me what team sports did you play and I said, “I never seen more than two boys in a team at once”. Didn’t really know what a team was.
How did you enjoy it?
It’s the only life you know, and kids enjoy themselves. I used to hunt the offspring young piglets. Semi wild pigs. You get those sort of pigs around near the station because they become wild,
they become wild and they become a confounded nuisance because they happy to inhabit the place. We used to shoot them with bow and arrows. Young piglets. Used to get treed by the mother pig. We soon learned never to both go up the same tree. For obvious reasons, because the other one can attract the pig away from your tree if they’re up another tree.
Did you find yourself stuck up there for a while?
No. It didn’t often happen, but we did go up a tree occasionally because
a pig’s a fairly fierce animal. I’ll never forget that, particularly the mother one shielding it’s young. I learned to swim with the crocodiles, the freshwater crocodiles, in Leichhardt River. See we were are in a muddle now. In our days you call the freshwater ones crocodiles and you call the salt water ones alligator and you each knew what you were talking about. That is technically wrong. Now they’re all crocodiles. You occasionally see a photograph of a fierce
man eating crocodile and it’s a Johnsonian crocodile with a long thin snout, a mouth that is not a danger at all. No worse than a kangaroo. If it’s injured it’ll try and damage you. Then we went down to Sydney and I went to Manly Sydney Junior Primary School for nearly a year.
Then the Depression hit and we went out and lived in a tent near Mullaley. Mount Gunnedah, Coonabarabran area. Lived in a tent, went to correspondence school in a tent. Our cooking facilities were a sheet of galvanised iron stood upright lengthwise as a wind break and we cooked on that in a camp oven and a billy can.
My father was looking after sheep on agistment. I went to school at Merrygoen which is near Mendooran and used to ride three miles to school. The government gave you money for horse feed to feed the horse. I used to shoot crows and eagles for pocket money. You got sixpence a head for a crow and two shillings for an eagle on one side of the road
and two and six and a shilling the other side. You can guess which side the birds were shot. Then came the polio scare. We then moved to Sandgate.
Can you tell us about your school master at Mendorah?
Oh yes. He had 27
children of his own. Two rugby league teams and a referee. I went to Merrick Owen. That’s about ten miles away and within the last year or so I went down to Merrick Owen to see the old school and it doesn’t exist. It’s just a patch of Calamity Jane or Paterson’s Curse. Three acre school. You can’t even buy a patch of land now. I was doing a filming
job in Sydney years after, about the 50s after the 1945 war and they wouldn’t let me into White City because I didn’t have a pass. In those circumstances I don’t abuse that type of person because they’re doing their job. They quite often get a lot of abuse for that because they won’t let someone in or something. So we radioed back to the channel to send the ticket in. I saw this bloke’s hand and he looked like a country bloke. I said, “You look like a country bloke”. He said, “Yes I do”. I said, “Where do you come from?”
“You wouldn’t know the place. It’s Mendooran”. “I know it well. I went to school at Merrick Owen. I remember the number of offspring that the headmaster at Mendooran had.” He said, “Yes. I’m one of them”. Funny isn’t it?
How did the Depression impact your family?
There’s not been much written about it. I’ve been told in Sydney
probably most people are aware of a type of big drainage. You have a big canal. The bottom is almost flat but sloping into what is the normal width of a gutter. In the Depression there were people that liked racing that couldn’t afford the penny or tuppence or threepence entrance fee were racing paper boats in those things and betting on them in halfpennies or whatever. That sort of thing. I would believe it too because you had to
walk to get your food. You didn’t have the distribution points you would have today. Certain parts you had to go down to Circular Quay or something for vegetables and some other place for meat. It’s never been written up. There’s a lot of photographs but you don’t see them often. It really is a severe thing. That plus the polio thing. It’s a bit interesting
that one of the other members that went to London with us, Herb Koperman from Hobart, I’ve helped him recently within the last few weeks of pictures of Chester Canney because he gets talks on them. I think he’s one of the few doctors who really believed in what she was doing. She was on the right track. I’ve been helping him and faxing him some stuff I’ve been able to get locally. Now Lorraine’s gone I’ll go out and take some photographs out where she was buried at Nobby.
So you’d been living in Sydney and then you moved back out to the country when the Depression hit. Is that what happened?
Yeah. We moved down to Mullally. That’s when the Depression hit. The Depression hit when we were in Sydney. That’s why my father went out and was looking after some sheep on agistment. You’ve got to more or less stay with them
otherwise you’ve got to pay someone to look after them. They don’t need that much, not 24 hour a day looking after. You’re paying a lot of money for very little amount of work. But you can’t avoid it. Then the Depression had hit then but while we were camped out there a polio scare came up. That was a terrible disease. You went to bed with a cold and you got out of bed a year later if you were lucky.
Wearing an iron lung for part of that time. It was a terrible complaint. Because of that we came up to Sandgate near Brisbane. It appears it was a bit of a dry time too if I remember. Diseases seem to get a bit of a go in those times. Whether it’s a lack of water through the air, washing things, washing it clean or gutters not being flushed
by the natural sources.
What was your impression of Brisbane?
I lived in Sandgate which is part of Brisbane but we didn’t go into Brisbane much. I caught a train up and went to Brisbane Technical College up near the garden. Used to have to catch the train up from Sandgate then we moved up to Toowoomba, went to Toowoomba Grammar.
We were there for three years. I’m in the old boys’ association management committee now, have been for about ten years, take part in it. Although I was in the air force the cadets showed me a bit and I have my - the Toowoomba cadets I might mention are 11 years older than the Australian army.
Just got new colours the other day after that and I was the reviewing officer and guest of honour. I suppose I’ve got to hang around for another 110 years until they get the next one.
How did you find Toowoomba Grammar?
It’s quite good. It’s a very good school. You have to say that because I think it’s true. We had a meeting on Wednesday night
and the new headmaster stood up and said, “Okay fellas I’m no longer here. I’m no longer the new headmaster. I’m the headmaster”. He likes the place. He came from Melbourne. They got a good crew over there. Just initiated something that’s a little bit interesting. They’ve made a room over there with a lot of computers like a classroom and
every boy has to spend one session a week in that and do what he likes. Now this is because a lot of pupils when they leave school and go to university they can’t quite handle not being made to do things. And they don’t do them, some of them. So this is to ease them into that when your next year when you leave school. Never get the same things as this. There’s a master in there but he doesn’t force anyone to do anything.
He will answer any questions. I think it’s quite a good idea, just a little thing. You’ve got to move with the times. Try and cope with things that change and not object to them if you can’t change them.
When did you leave Toowoomba Grammar?
I went there ‘32, 33 and 34 and I had a year down at Gaddon College as a special. I did minimal amount of
class work of conventional subjects. I did mainly the practical stuff of tracking management and livestock management and veterinary science and that sort of thing. More or less the hands on thing of country life.
So your plan was to go to a farm somewhere?
Yes, actually my people have been on land all their lives. My people came to Australia in 1803.
That’s ten years before anyone crossed the Blue Mountains. When you look at it that way it’s interesting isn’t it? Nowadays they just hop in the helicopter and go anywhere. I went out to jackeroo on Glendella Station west of Cunnamulla. I was there for three years and then I was overseer on Darr River Down outside Longreach. That was 90,000 acres and 22,000 sheep.
They’ve cut them down now. We do this. We destroy properties by making them too small so they’re not viable. Although it was a bad time. I’ve been to Longreach recently but couldn’t get to the station because of 12 kilometres of impassable road etcetera. Four wheel drive. I met the owner of it. He’d been working till three o’clock in the morning in Longreach. Isn’t this a sad reflection on
a society? He has to do that to be able to afford to have that property. Overseas he’d be subsidised to some extent or other. Or it wouldn’t be broken down so that it gets to that stage when you get a dry time it’s just almost written off temporarily.
Were you west of Cunnamulla when war broke out?
No. I joined up from Longreach in ’39.
Could you tell us about that day when Menzies declared Australia’s involvement?
I doubt whether we would have heard that on the radio. I’d been brought up on the BBC, because west of Cunnamulla, you couldn’t get ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] in Brisbane. They turned the wires and you all had short-wave. Big long hundred feet aerials with a single wire parallel to the ground and all listened to the BBC. Recently I’ve been
listening to the BBC. I listened to the entire Iraqi episode from the BBC because the local FM station here quits at 10 o’clock and leaves it running until six o’clock in the morning the transmission from the BBC.
So you heard it via BBC radio then?
No. I don’t ever remember hearing it.
I don’t know when the announcement was made, what time of the day, because you’re not at home.
It was about nine o’clock at night I think.
No. I can’t remember hearing it. Those things don’t necessarily live in your memory if the word gets around and whatever. You can’t define it to a point. I think it would have left an impression on my memory more or less saying, “We are also at war” or similar phrase.
tell us when did you join up then?
1940. I wrote a month after war broke out. I was in a reserved occupation too, but that didn’t mean much I don’t think because the person that managed Dover Downs, Kelly Banks, he joined up, joined the army, went over to Italy.
How did they enforce
They didn’t. I think the boss’s son out at Glendella from Cunnamulla, I think he went down to Sydney and said he was a drover and delivered his mob of sheep and was out of work. There wasn’t any sort of checking. If you really wanted to go you’d just say, “I got the sack”. You couldn’t go, well you could, but you didn’t go checking because there was such a turmoil and organisation getting things under way. There
was something new happening that was pretty good. That would have gone on a lot.
Tell us about the day when you walked in and signed up?
I don’t remember that very much. I remember the medical exam. Pretty good hearing and I still have for my age I think. There was a test, you had to hold your breath
and I learnt later that I think that was a determination thing. To see how determined you were. I’d been practising with an empty 44 gallon drum that had just a car tube valve stem screwed in to the bones, sort of blowing up that and just holding it. It probably did me a bit of good, but I don’t think they went very much on that. If you started to go blue in the face they reckoned that was good.
What were your reasons for joining up?
I was interested in aircraft. I’d never flown of course. Very few of us had. I’d made model aeroplanes, used to fly them in the Newtown Park in Toowoomba with the Filchey brothers. They were both overseas in Italy. I was very interested in them. You would be in that. But I’d never flown.
My mother flew with Lester Brain who was part of the inauguration of Qantas. Not as high up as some of them. Flew in Cloncurry in 1925. I took my mother to Norfolk Island in 1975. She flew every 50 years. She never made the next trip unfortunately.
So it was more your interest in planes?
No. It was voluntary. You’ve only got to look at the signing on numbers. People felt it was necessary. They were darned well right. You wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t won that war, certainly wouldn’t have been doing what you’re doing now. It was absolutely necessary and people realised that. We’re not a warlike nation.
We’ve never declared war on anyone. We’ve never annexed anyone or anything like that but we join in when it’s necessary. If a lot of others did that you’d stop a lot of these things earlier. See, the first Iraqi fiasco with the heap of rubbish. You’ve got to put your fingers around the bloke’s neck. If they’d put Margaret Thatcher in charge of them I think she’d have done that.
The Americans just pulled out. That’s the worst thing you can do.
So did you have strong feeling of patriotism?
Yeah. I think we all did. You’ve only got to see the numbers of people that flocked to Sydney and various areas to see the Queen when she came out in what was it, 52 or 53? Those crowds wouldn’t happen now even though there are more people.
Were the values of the Empire strongly instilled in you?
Oh yeah. My grandmother used to call England home. Even though we came out in 1803 and she’d never been to England. That was the common word. I can still remember - not, only her, they’d just say England was home. Didn’t say England, it was home, even though they’d never been there.
And how aware were you of what was happening over in Germany and Europe?
I think we were fairly aware. You’re fairly keen on news to the best of your ability when you’re in the country. Sometimes you work late. Normally you’re not even near the homestead during the day. You get up and bring the horses in at four o’clock in the morning, breakfast and you left the homestead before probably early morning news was on. You didn’t have news 24 hours a day. They shut down at 10 o’clock or something.
I can remember when TV didn’t go past about 10 o’clock.
So what was your parents’ reaction to you joining up?
I don’t know. But if anything happened to me the minister for air, Drakeford , used to get a few messages from my mother. I’ve still got some of the answers to her queries.
She’d send them letters?
A lot of things happened to me. I had about five promotions and some decorations and got blown up with a time bomb. Every time one of those things happened my mother wanted to know why. They weren’t looking after me well enough. She was a great warrior. All those outback people were. They stood on their own feet and they did things.
What about your siblings, did they join up as well?
I was a bit older than a lot of people that signed up. I was born in 1918. I’ve got two sons. They were not of a joining up age either that or Vietnam. Anyway Vietnam really I think saved a lot of lives. You put that number of people in motor cars in Australia and you’ll find they write themselves off at an alarming rate. They also had motor
car accidents over there. I’m not degrading it. But they lost one a week. You get that number in Australia who were over there at that age and when you see the history of motor car deaths in this country…
How long was it between when you had joined up to when you were called up and sent off for your first?
I can’t remember that, a month or so. I think you get a month’s leave.
I went up to Cairns. My people were in Cairns then. They were forced to leave when the Japs came in but they weren’t essential, normal, weren’t established there. Everyone that could leave were asked to leave and did so.
Tell us about your initial training?
My initial training? Went down to Bradfield to do the theory part of things.
We swum against the Bondi Icebergs down there in the competition but we didn’t have much public exposure. I got measles down there and missed the course. I joined up in 7 Corps and got measles and ended up in 8. Then it came up to Archerfield which is a permanent thing which is very nice to be there because we all had individual rooms and beds and.
Just before you continue, you got measles? So did that happen frequently particularly with men who’d been in the country area when they’d gotten together with a lot of other…?
Measles I don’t think happened frequently because you’re only supposed to get it once. No. You always get that. You get what is called Barcoo Rot. In the country it had various names. You’d cut yourself and it just doesn’t heal,
forms a scab and then it breaks free around the scab and then gets wider. You go for ten days, fortnight’s holiday and it disappears. It’s obviously something to do with diet, I think, as well although you live quite well in the country, lot of fresh vegetables. That outback place usually had a Chinese gardener and you could supply the household and a nearby town. He can sell what he likes and that keeps his wages down or whatever and he’s happy.
He sells and keeps what’s surplus, keeps the money. That went on in more than one place. Nothing illegal about it.
Because you had measles were you a little bit behind then?
No, only just got on another course. Only behind in time, ended up in 8 Corps. Then I came to Archer Field. Always wanted to be a single seater pilot. Silly, isn’t it, because I was in a responsible position in
Darr River Down. I was second in charge but I suppose I didn’t want to get into twin engine and large aircraft because of so many people might be killed because of me. They only had crews of about seven or eight, the bombers, or nine. It didn’t occur to me till quite recently but in the end I was controlling 11 other aircraft and 11 other people, leading a squadron of single seater fighters.
It’s funny how your thinking comes full circle and you don’t realise it sort of got there, in effect, the same sort of thing. I graduated as a sergeant pilot from Amberley. Flying Wirraways at that stage. I was posted to Evans Head bombing and gunnery school.
Flying Fairy Battles which are clapped out single engine bombers like a big Hurricane. I did mainly bombing practice, not the gunnery. The gunnery were already short flips and restricted to a certain area up and down the coast, mainly teaching them bombing and navigation. So you got up to several thousand feet
and flew to the bombing range and higher at times and then you did cross country. Just a couple of them to train your navigators. One of ours was I think from Evans Head to Warwick and then down to Armidale and back again. Three legged mainly they are. You had spare time as it was coming home from a bombing detail. I eventually ended up with 630 hours I think
and a few battles in about seven months. In fact I flew myself out of that place. But there were three of us there. Paul Float and Arthur Collier. We all ended up in 3 Squadron. We used to nut out little scenarios in aerial combat which we knew nothing of and no-one else did on our way back from the bombing exercise
and you had to fly back and we didn’t always get on the same ones, but when we did we nutted out these little things and found out if we did a certain thing, well a certain thing would happen. You find out quite easily if you make the other person push his stick forward all the dirt comes up from the cockpit floor and he can get it in his eyes if he’s a bit unlucky. You’ve got to keep an aircraft very clean. When you push a stick forward everything comes up. I didn’t waste it. I was doing other things and learning other things and
one thing I did learn is there’s only one way to lose height in an aeroplane without gaining speed and that’s to side slip it. In the end I was side slipping Fairey Battles fairly happily although they were very heavy to handle. Towards the end of my career in flying nearly every landing I did in the Kittyhawk was what we call a dead stick landing on a down wind leg.
If you’re landing approach you just cut the engine off, put down about a third flap and when you’re going to overshoot you can see that. You put it down two third flap and that controls that and then put down the third lot of flap and if you’re overshooting a bit then you just side slip it in. Side slip’s quite safe because if it stalls you go over the top instead of going in the other direction and you’re falling on the ground with the aeroplane on top of you. It’s better to go through
the far fence at 40 kilometres an hour to hit the close fence at 110. So you ideally tend to overshoot marginally as against undershoot. It’s just as simple as that. That stood me in good stead because it gave me a lot of confidence in the aircraft and I was happy if I had to make a forced landing. I was better prepared for it than probably anyone else in the squadron by having trained every now and again coming back home with a forced landing.
Simple isn’t it?
You racked up a lot of flying hours in that time, didn’t you?
Nearly one and a half thousand all told.
But whilst you were at Amberley?
No. I got the conventional number. I forget what it was that you pass out with. I think it ended up at about 200 odd or something because a lot of the people that went into operations, which included that pre-operational training school,
they ended up with about 370. I joined 3 Squadron with 800 hours. I didn’t have the… I could fly a plane. I think I flew it well because I made myself fly it well. If I ever flew a new single seater flyer I’d sit in that aircraft for about anything up to one or two hours quite often with my eyes shut putting my hands on the things you had to have your hands on quickly sometimes. Nowadays if you want to fly there’s an aircraft out here at Toowoomba.
I think if a new person wants to fly it, they have to go to America to look at a program that’s on something that gives them the cockpit drill. We were just given a new aircraft and you flew it. You didn’t initially have any, in a single seater fighter when you’re competent on those.. I’ve flown Kittyhawks, Spitfires, Hurricanes, Mustangs -
had my own Mustang at one stage. And a Macchi 205. We captured a brand new Macchi 205, the latest aircraft in the war, captured it in Sicily. Only about three quarters of an hour old according to the soot in the exhaust and the colour of the…the metal changes colour when it’s new and when it’s used. We just hop in that and fly it. The throttle went back to front incidentally, all the European ones did in those days, which we changed over at Beltran [?].
No, we did that and then England found we had it and it was the most recent aircraft available and they grounded it. Shipped it home by boat to England for evaluation. Lovely aircraft, didn’t get a very high rate of climb. We didn’t realise it had been measured in metres and not in feet. Had three times what we thought. No, there is a good advantage in having a lot of hours.
When I went over to the Middle East I got posted to a general operation training unit in the Sudan. Eight hundred hours, all the others were 375 hours, shot straight at the 3 Squadron. They got sent back. Ridiculous isn’t it? I was the only one. I had all those hours and I got sent to an operational training unit which I should go to but they shouldn’t have sent the other ones back because they
then have to come back. I still needed a bit of extra training. They needed all they could get. The more you can be - you still see people looking at cars - they’ve had the same car for twenty years and they still look where the gear lever is. It’s not necessary.
How did you find the other men there in training?
We got on well because you’ve all got the same outlook on life really. There’s very few people that didn’t fit in. They quite often don’t last anyway. No it was good.
The same thing as this London event. It all comes together nicely. It did then too because you all had the common purpose. You didn’t go in there because you didn’t want a war. Not that you wanted war, but you felt it was necessary. I suppose you all had much the same outlook, quite a different outlook than now. We’re not so concerned with what goes on around us although we got more
facilities to know what’s going on around us in other areas.
What about the camaraderie between you all?
It was good. I was in 3 Squadron. I was acting CO [Commanding Officer] for 3 Squadron at the finish. I was in 450. I disbanded 450 in 1945 up near the Austrian border - near Udine.
We hold reunions every year. Three years ago 3 Squadron put…3 Squadron incidentally started in 1916 flying the hornets at Williamtown now. We had a reunion in Canberra and 3 Squadron put 74 people at a sit down dinner. The day after that finished 450 had one in Bathurst. We put 76 at a sit down
dinner and I had disbanded them literally in 1945. That answers your question. We’re still hanging on. We pulled our widows in. We had one widow - he was lost in Sicily, shot down. No-one saw it happen. I think he was shot down and his wife had never got anything other than a bit of paper from the authorities. No clothes, no nothing.
Ages later she went to some small thing in Melbourne of memorabilia or some such nature and here’s his log book. She’s subsequently become a member of 450 Association and she’s our staunchest member. You pull them in really and it’s better than some of your other organisations because it’s personal.
We don’t just look after them because we think we should. We come together and it’s a great thing. A year ago we put 40 into Bathurst. We had one person - Alan Harris, in 450 - he comes from Montreal in Canada. He’ll arrive in Australia on the Friday and come to, say Bathurst, on the Friday night, have a full day Saturday in Bathurst and a dinner that night and
go back to Sydney on Sunday and go back to Montreal. Done that for the last two years. He’ll be here this year I’d say from Montreal. Interesting, isn’t it?
Had you been issued with your uniform? What did that consist of?
No. This was interesting. The 3 Squadron is a peace time squadron and I believe you had to volunteer for it because I had to at Evans Head.
Because it’s a peacetime squadron you get your in those days fifty pounds and you go to Pike Bros in Brisbane or David Jones in Sydney who hold the material and you get your uniform made. I’m thrashing up and down the desert with a few truckloads of boots and shoes and shorts and shirts and things and given I think I said fifty pounds, didn’t I? It might have been thirty pounds, to get a uniform when I got commissioned.
It seems completely unrealistic. If you can go down to Cairo I suppose you can get the darned thing made, but it’s just handed to you and that’s it. I didn’t have a uniform. When I got a bit more rank and got up in Italy and you’re getting some of the top brass coming out because they’d fly out to Italy round through Gibraltar fairly safely I was occasionally required up at the headquarters of 239 wing which had about
five and six squadrons in it. Three and 450 were in it, a couple of English, a couple of RAF [Royal Air Force] squadrons, Spitfires and Kittyhawk. And I didn’t have a uniform and my adjutant who was pre war he had two of the lovely uniforms of a cloth you’ll never see again at David Jones. It was everyone’s whip cord sort of thing. I can show it to you later. He had two of them.
He sold me one and I gave him the 30 pounds for it and I can still wear it today. Murphy’s Law operated then. About three months after he sold it to me he was posted to England where you wear blue uniforms day and night in summer and winter. He didn’t ask for it back anyway. He’d get another one there.
Interviewee: Jack Doyle Archive ID 1473 Tape 02
Can I ask you about the first time that you flew, what that was like?
You mean in the air force? Well actually I got a civil airplane up to Cairns. That was actually the first time I flew technically.
What was that like?
That was good because in those days I think the train took three days to go from Brisbane to
Cairns. What happened a lot I think from somewhere up there, I forget where it was, Townsville or somewhere, a lot of them left the plane. They bought a ticket to there and caught the train. Caught the plane, I’m sorry. They left the train and caught the plane and bought a train ticket up to there. I suppose a lot of people joined the air force who’d never flown because very few people flew. There were very few chances to fly.
First up in the…our training was good. Our training was better then than it is now. Much better. You’re getting a lot of people taking off today having engine failure, which is wrong, it shouldn’t happen and they try to regain the aerodrome which you cannot do. You cannot regain the aerodrome.
What does that mean?
You can’t get back to the aerodrome.
I’m with you.
It there’s a brick wall straight ahead
you go through it the best way you can. Or go between two trees and take your wings off and slow yourself down. You cannot physically get back to that aerodrome unless it’s an enormous length and a very light aircraft. In a Tiger Moth you can take off halfway and land. You can’t get back. You can’t turn. The very act of turning loads Gs on you. You lose height. You can’t get back. You’re getting a lot of that now. You’re getting a lot of engine failure on take off which you shouldn’t get engine failure at all and certainly not on
take off and then you’re getting people trying to regain the aerodrome and they stall and spin in.
The first thing they did with you, did they throw you on a Lynx Trainer first?
No. I don’t think so. I can’t answer that question. But we had all the older blokes that had come in earlier and they learnt the hard way and they learnt well. They had to because they were still alive.
They were good. I was taken over Brisbane one day. We flew over Brisbane from Archerfield and the instructor in the back said, “Circle there, son” and we’re circling the cemetery, going round it and round it. Then a voice comes through the earphone. “See that down there son?” “Yes, sir.” “That is full of people who fly low and slow. Take it away boy.”
That stuck with me. I didn’t do silly shoot ups. Amazing the number of people that misjudge by a couple of feet and do a shoot up and they die.
Were there accidents in training?
Yes. You always have accidents in training. You have all sorts. You still have car accidents in training on the road out there. I don’t know the figures but
when I went over to 3 Squadron you hitchhiked your way out to the squadron. You were posted from Cairo and go up to the squadron. Any old plane going, only two directions in. They were away from the war or to the war. Anything that was going in the right direction you got onto it and I got myself up to Tripoli somehow with motor vehicles and whatever from Cairo. 3 Squadron was at the last little bit past
Tripoli and there was a three motor captured Italian aircraft down there that had brought a group of soccer players - the English I suppose then - down to Tripoli to play or something. I got onto that. This had three engines and was overheating and we had a problem getting the heating down before we took off. We did one attempt to take off and aborted that. We finally got in the air.
The method of putting the flaps down prior to landing was there was the pilot was sitting up there - not in the cockpit by himself - and there was an airman, ground staff bloke, behind him had a little engine - probably a petrol engine, might have been electric, but it doesn’t matter. The device to lower the flaps was by this gentleman, not necessarily the pilot of the aircraft. And coming in to land
at the 239 wing which was housing 3 Squadron and the 450 whether the pilot scratched his backside or something the bloke mistook the signal and put the flaps down and we landed through 450’s tents. Short of a runway, no fences fortunately. To this day some of 450 still remember three engine aircraft coming through their tents onto the runway.
And nobody was hurt?
It’d be free through the - you wouldn’t camp right at the end of a runway. There’d be still a laneway in the air if you know what I mean in England. But you don’t expect a three motor aircraft to be motoring through the grass and the sand.
How did you get over to the Middle East?
We went on a tour of duty. Eight of us went over there. We left Melbourne, by ourself, unescorted. They were doing this, using
small ships with a few people so if you lost them you didn’t lose too many. Eight of us, all pilots with 3 Squadron and we left Melbourne at seven eight thousand tons. It had the beer and whisky on for the 9th division in the Middle East and very honoured therefore of course. We left Melbourne and went about south, south west.
The waves got bigger, they got clearer, they were enormous in the end. It got colder, the waves coming over the front of that vessel right along the top deck and hitting the structure that goes up to the bridge. It was cold. Unescorted as I said. We knew the direction we were taking just by looking at the sun to a degree. I don’t know how far south we got. Then we turned west.
Then we came up across the Indian Ocean towards India and our defence on that was very interesting. We had a point five machine gun that would only fire once. It would only fire one bullet. I know they could only fire one bullet, but they could fire again pretty quickly. This would fire one round and stop. We couldn’t fix it. We had minimal knowledge on that.
We had a field gun mounted on the aft of the vessel and that was from the Boxer Rebellion which I think was in 1903 wasn’t it? And best of all, for defence against aircraft, we had a box kite. It was that long. The type of box kite that a child would fly in a suitable open space. That was out defence. Anyway our top speed,
I think, was seven knots. Our brake down speed which was frequent was three and I think both those speeds are slower than the submarine of the day even, I think, submerged. Unescorted the whole trip. Went across, pulled in at India, pulled in in the evening. Refuelled, sailed at three o’clock in the morning or thereabouts and on the way out
our mast fouled a barrage balloon travelling then and unbeknownst to everyone it slowly dragged it down until it exploded on the mast head and it was all this great big boom sort of thing. It’d be hydrogen I suppose. Then all these fluttering bits of burning fabric were coming past our porthole. We didn’t know what happened. We were terrified because we didn’t know what a war really was. No-one did.
Anyway we got to Cairo. Then I got sent up to this thing and had to catch a train in Cairo. I was the only person that wasn’t an officer.
What rank are you at this stage?
I was flight sergeant. Went up the Nile in a paddle wheel steamer. The bloke had a gramophone
there and he had a record, Emma Parlour. I always think of that. He played it incessantly. It was the only record he had. I think it was one sided too. We got on that train that goes across the Nubian Desert that was one of the classic trains apparently. It’s mentioned in Paddy Pallin’s, one of his trips that went down there. The sand was unbelievable across the Nubian Desert. It’s just like flour. Whiteness. All the windows were deep purple.
We came down there, they had monkeys everywhere and so there were bedbugs climbing up the wall in your rooms. They had captured Italian vehicles there that steered on all four wheels. Little trucks. The rear wheels followed precisely in the track of the front ones which is ideal in sand so they can really move around. Went up to 3 Squadron.
Bobby Gibbs was in charge then. He had been there for a fair while. We got a bit of extra training and a bit of flying practice formation. It’s very interesting the value they place on things. I at one stage got sent back to supply depot to bring up a new Kittyhawk. I had to go into the office and present myself and he said, “The Kittyhawk’s number 389” or whatever it was
“Down that row there. Will you sign for the clock?” So you sign for the clock and put it in your shirt. In case you’ve got to bale out the clock’s with you. And you get in the Kittyhawk that hadn’t even been signed for and you fly it back to the squadron. And that is true as I am here. I signed for the clock of an aircraft and took the aircraft.
What did conversion to the Kittyhawks involve?
You’d done that in that training. You’d flown Warhawks which are Kittyhawks. Kittyhawks only went through about four
marks. An extraordinary aircraft. They’re completely underrated. Spitfires gone through about 58. Nothing wrong with a Spitfire but we were carrying 2000 pounds of bombs on the Kittyhawk and 6.5 machine guns. No, as I say you sit in the cockpit if you’ve got any sense for a fair amount of time and just shut your eyes. When you’re coming in to land you do a pre landing drill. You have to do a drill then
in case you have to go round again if someone drives a truck across the runway or something. It’s no use looking then if you’ve got enough petrol to go round again. You do that before you come in every landing you make. Everyone does that, that’s the reason for it. But you’ve got to know where things are in a hurry. These are the unplanned happenings. I used to just sit in the cockpit and just shut my eyes and, this is there, the emergency fuel pump is there and other things like all these things that you had to know about.
It makes sense. It’s your own life.
If I can back up again, Jack, what was the aircraft that they first trained you on flying?
The Tiger Moth.
What were they like?
They’re lovely. They’re flown everywhere around the world. The gypsy engine’s licensed all over the world. The Italians make her. I had a flip in one over in Italy. They were great. And I flew Wirraways.
They weren’t really, they were a sort of a copy of a Harvard sort of thing. They had the old 1914/18 war, the Count Continesco synchronising gear to fire machine guns so at the propeller you pull up a big lever here, a big arm and then it slowly went down on the spring pressure under hydraulic fluid. Every so often there you’d put a hole through an air screw. Incidentally it’s an air screw,
it’s in the front of the propeller if it’s down the back and you’d stick one through an air screw blade. Someone at Air Board had the wonderful idea that if you removed one of the blades and made it a two bladed prop then it wouldn’t do so much. Of course there was never a dull moment trying to go round again with only two blades instead of three.
Can you remember the very first time you flew solo?
but it took me about seven hours which is plus or minus, much the same. It’s a great feeling of course. It’s then that some people do silly things and that’s the last time your entire flying career that you want to do a silly thing. You don’t have any experience or whatever. No. It was quite good. You didn’t mean in a fighter aircraft did you?
When did you first learnt to fly?
We didn’t have Lynx Trainers or anything for our fighter aircraft. They all feel different. Spitfires a beautiful feel. It never quits flying. If it’s going to stall it sends you a letter and says it’s going to stall. And it sends you a telegram and it rings you up and tells you it’s going to stall, then it pats you on the shoulder. Kittyhawks if you let go suddenly - I think it killed one of our 450 blokes in a fortnight. He’d come off
twin engines which he shouldn’t have. He should never have been put in that. He was strafing. If you do a high speed stall they just got on your back and went in upside-down.
So did you go from Tiger Moths to Wirraways to your Fairey Battle?
What did you go onto after the Fairey Battle?
We had Wirraways then. And I can’t remember whether we had Kittyhawks in Australia. Doesn’t matter. I got onto Kitty
Hawks overseas. Tomahawks were the first one, they had those, not much difference.
What was the difference between Tomahawk and a Kittyhawk?
Just the armament. They had synchronised arms and a canopy and the length of them, their stability. They’ve put a fin in and fill it in front of the rotor but they were much the same in performance. Then we had one with a Packard
Merle in, that had a two stage super charger. We didn’t fly high. We did most of our jobs at 8,000 eight and a half thousand feet. We dive bombed down to nothing. I’ve been hit three times with my own bomb.
What? Having to fly through the explosion?
Yes. Just misjudged. If you misjudged half a second in Italy you’re four feet underground in the winter and six feet underground in the summer.
Twelve feet underground in the summer. The ground freezes. No. You’re doing six or seven hundred kilometres and hour at the bottom. It’s a difficult thing, but human beings can do those things. Same in engineering. You can tell the difference of a thousandth of an inch of a diameter of wire when you’ve got the same surface colour. It can differ that way. Human beings have quite a skill in that.
Had you ridden a horse as a kid?
Yeah. Helps a lot. It’s all balance and feel. You don’t pull that rein to go around on a horse. It’s all feel, the horse, a good horse. A Kittyhawk’s like a good camp horse. It’s manoeuvrable. It’s not necessarily fast. It’s versatile and that sort of thing. Whereas some of the others, Kittyhawk particularly, some of the others
are almost race horses. The Kitty, there are three aspects in theory if you’re a fighter pilot. If you can do one of those three you can have a better chance of staying alive. If you can out turn the opposition. In other words, turn in a tighter circle. Or if you can out climb them. Or if you can out run them. If you can out turn them you got to stay as long as they want you to and hopefully they’ll run out of petrol. That’s the theory of it and that is true.
If it’s one against two it’s a different ball game.
Out of those three what could the Kitty do?
Out turn. When you turn too tightly you then stall and things happen then. When the Kitty stalls, well I had no problems with Kitty. I loved the things. Some people hated them. I know one of the top pilots in Australia that used to try and make his pilots do a tail down wheeler. Land
with it. Fly it on to the ground gently and let the tail sink on to the ground at your speed. I landed a three pointer. Three pointers are interesting when you come to think of it. You have to bring an aircraft in at a certain speed and make it stall that high above the ground at a certain place on your serve. Two of those things are easy to do. You can fly them straight in and hit that point. When you got to
bring those three together it has to come in with certain speed, it has to stall, it has to get to a state that it is no longer flying and you do that ideally about a foot above the ground and it sinks onto the ground. At a certain place, easy to do it. You can do it anywhere you like up and down that runway. When you think of those three things there’s a certain amount of skill isn’t it?
We heard that one of the more common problems with trainee pilots was judging
the height above ground that you’re flying. What was it that made it hard?
Nowadays you’re doing 70 miles an hour. You’re doing about 110 KB8. And you must remember that no-one had been that speed. Now you get into those same aircraft you’ve done it in the back streets of Toowoomba. Your knowledge now is just, everyone’s got it.
You’re even being driven along at that speed, 100 KB8. You’ve got to make it happen at a certain point. It’s a remarkable skill, isn’t it, when you come to think of it. A thing that weighs multi tons and it’s great if you’re getting its nose up and up but then when it stalls it’ll drop one wing perhaps.
So when we got our Kittyhawks, when 3 Squadron got its Kittyhawks, were they all brand new?
Yeah, they would have been.
Do you know how many we got?
No. I don’t know. When I disbanded, I could find out, when I disbanded 450 they pulled the radios out and baled heavy equipment out of them. I bet you England’s still paying interest on the Lend Lease deal on those Kittys
The aircraft were just trashed were they?
It’s a crying shame. They’re a beautiful aircraft. I’ve flown all the others. Spitty never quits flying. Where the Kittyhawk stalls, they stall suddenly when they’ve had a - doesn’t mean you come to grief but you’ve got to be aware of it. You do a high speed stall, they flip and that can happen down near the ground at the end of a bomb dive. I think we were doing
six and seven hundred kilometres an hour to bomb those bomb dives.. I had occasion to look at a cockpit of a Kittyhawk mocked up by Dill Martin who lives up locally more or less. He’s got that and I noticed that here on the instrument is 700 miles an hour. We were doing I thought about four or five. I remember when - you don’t look at your instruments in a bomb dive. They’d be false anyway.
There’d be a time lag. You don’t look at them, but I think we were travelling around about not far from the speed of sound in those days. Not that we knew about it. In fact there was a thing in Mustangs that the Mustang pilots used to talk about - porpoising. In hindsight they didn’t know that must have been near the speed of sound because in the early flying of the speed of sound you’ll recall we had reversal. Control reversal.
You were getting that. They’d destroy themselves. Just by luck and good management the Mustang was able to handle it by design. It was good luck because no-one knew anything about that at all. That’s where porpoising used to pop up when you got very fast in it.
You can recall that happening in the Kittyhawks in a dive?
No. Kittyhawk wouldn’t do it. If it got to the speed of sound you’d probably destroy it. Straight off. By a violent manoeuvre that is uncontrollable. No, we didn’t know anything about those. You didn’t have the
damage like you could pull your wings off. You could probably pull your wings off in a Kittyhawk if 2000 pounds of bombs stuck and didn’t release. You’d either do that or you’d go into the ground. No two ways about it. Because when you reach that stage - and you’re unconscious as you pull out. Every one of you. You black out at the bottom of a bomb dive and you regain consciousness on the way up. It’s only about, I’m guessing, how do you time these things?
About two or three seconds.
So you pull back on the stick and then you pass out?
Yeah. You had no visibility. You get the opposite of a red out, you get blood into your heart if you’re on the inverse. Very few aircraft are capable of doing that, called a red out. But you have all your pressure suits. You just compress all your - we used to compress our tummy muscles and scream sort of thing, give a yell, compressing your - to stop the blood going down there.
I suppose it was mildly effective.
So when you first got to 3 Squadron how many other blokes were there, can you recall?
It varied enormously. We had from about 16 to 26 would be about the structure of 3 Squadron right through the war. I got hit first. The average number of times you got hit by anti aircraft fire in 3 Squadron was believed to be three times. That was the figure.
I got hit twice in my first three operations. I was in the Battle of El Alamein and that. We were down at beggar all feet strafing. One of our pilots, Arthur Dawkins, got a paper wrapped safety razor blade in the scoop of his radiator. That’s how low we are and that’s how you can realise that a paper wrapped thing won’t go very high no matter how much force.
The paper was on it, the wrapping. He got that. We used to get stone fragments. I’ve been there you get some of them in bomb blasts sometimes. I got hit in the reduction gear just behind the air screw and I got oil over my windscreen and I was left to myself. I was down at bugger all feet.
Everyone had gone. It’s funny about aircraft like that. There can be a bit of a dogfight and there’s aircraft everywhere and next minute there’s none. They’re all travelling at a fair rate of knots and I suppose they go in their respective directions and there’s just none in the middle of it.. It just happens like that. There’s just none. All this oil’s coming up and I’m at bugger all feet. I’m over the desert which is pretty featureless and there’s no other aircraft around, not even my own
which was a little bit wrong. Being a bush kid I had a pretty fair direction sense, most of us have. Anyway it started to come round. I opened my cockpit, wound the canopy back and then it started to come round because it was getting more and more and coming along, creeping in. I pulled my goggles down because if you’ve got oil in your eyes that’ll be the end of you. I was trying to find my way back and - see if there’d been any aircraft there I could have been
shot down. I couldn’t have done anything about it. I could have done a bit about it, but I couldn’t see any. So when my goggles started to foul up I wound the canopy forward and got a bit of rag and cleaned them and did that procedure and got back to the aerodrome and that’s where my ability to slide slip an aircraft quite happily was great because I couldn’t see Stourhead and I put her down in a turning side slip onto the runway.
Let it run off. Didn’t fly again that engine, would have gone longer of course. That was that. What do you want to know next?
Can you remember your very first operation in a Kittyhawk in 3 Squadron?
No. They all meld into one. I’ve done a considerable number.
tell us other things about the Battle of El Alamein?
No. We didn’t see much of that. I saw very little of it. About three of us, we really dealt with them then. This is where it’s a bit unfair. I got a clasp on my desk at air force one, Africa Star, because I was in that battle. All the other beggars softened them up for us. They did all the hard going up near there and getting pushed right back to
the start again and coming forward again and it’s a bit unfair on them because as I say they softened them up. No. We were getting air superiority then and that’s a great thing.
At that stage was it just all ground targets? What sort of ground targets were you after?
Mainly right through the war front line support I suppose would sum it up. 3 Squadron really wasn’t that type of squadron initially
but that’s what it got to and we used it well. See in the end, in hindsight, the Spitfires in Italy were flying around at 15000 feet looking for something that wasn’t there. Should have had bombs or whatever on it doing shootable targets down low because it really demoralises people when you get a dozen Kittyhawks in the middle of them. Particularly transport. A lot of Italy’s hilly. You can get them in the daytime and just try and knock the front one off and that blocks the whole lot and you just destroy
the rest of them. They don’t move in the daytime anyway, but if they’re forced to, that’s what you do. Knock the front one.
Would you fly individually or would you fly in flights?
No. We flew 12 aircraft. In the end Murray Dars, he introduced - he was one of the flight commanders in 3 Squadron for six months, Murray, he was subsequently CO. He introduced three fours which was good, but when you flew the two sixes, you always fly 12. Every squadron flew 12.
You had roughly 16 aircraft and you’d choose your aircraft. You’d put two pilots about the same height to the one aircraft and they could leave a parachute in there and just get in and sit in and use it. The CO had his own and the flight commanders had their own but of course that goes by the board if you’re short of aircraft. No, you’d have used colours and used call signs.
3 Squadron was Shabby and 450 was Falcon. Red one leads and the bottom six is red and you have what is called top cover. That’s blue section. That’s led by the blue one and you have yellow, black and green and the other. Blue section top cover is always down sun from red
so that they were looking into sun, they’re looking over the top of red. So no enemy aircraft can come out of sun from both blue and red. If you had blue section towards the sun from red they might be in line with the sun and anyone that comes out on the shadow of blue might be on the shadow of red. In theory. Anyone coming out of the sun is not seen by 12 aircraft. So blue always sits where
- a thousand feet above, whatever, and so that you can’t come out of the sun and be obscured by the sun from six aircraft. That’s how you work it. If you fly in three fours you have red, white and blue. Blue flight’s the same. It’s down sun. But white flight goes up sun a bit. It can be forward or back. You can get out of visibility. It’s good because sometimes
you can bomb your target and you’ll put six aircraft down and the fourth or fifth bloke clobbers the target in that or second and third and you pull away for a couple of boats. They’d still drop the bomb and it’d do good. But you could probably get more targets. You might even get three different targets with those in theory. It gives you a good way to train a leader. Let him lead in the white section. They’re all the same, but he’s protected above and he hasn’t got to make any great decisions
as yet. It’s good to do that. No that was it. You don’t fly close to one another. It’s not a tight formation. Number twos fly behind your red one and red two and green one and green two and the leader flies straight ahead usually. It’s a wonder he isn’t shot out of the sky. I still don’t know why. All the others weave.
You weave a Kittyhawk - all your single seater fighters are blind from looking down and behind you. You weave that way and as you turn that way you’re looking down that way and turning your head round to there. Then as you swing over, swing your head up and you’re looking above you and behind you and you swing across you and look down there and then you do that. That covers as much as you can. It’s all rhythm
actually. I often wonder if that’s why a lot of us wear scarves. Because - my scarf’s there - because when you’re doing that, in the desert water was short. You quite often washed your shirt in petrol. If you wash your shirt in petrol and it’s not a good quality thing it’ll either disintegrate fairly quickly or it’ll become harsh and prickly. And your neck’s doing that the whole time,
looking round. Then the movement of your aircraft takes you up, you know what I mean? I tilt my chair over and now I’m looking up. And you look back again. Your number two’d be a safe distance behind you, probably 20 feet or something. Then the other two on your right would be your same height and they might be
200 or 300 metres over there. You’ve got room to move - move suddenly - you’re not going to hit anyone. Also it flows together - you’re looking at the other people. You can fly a Kittyhawk, in any single fighter, you can put your wing kit past the wing tip of the other aircraft in front you tailgate. If you do it when the other bloke doesn’t know you’re there it’s pushing enough air up the front of your wing to muck up his A line and you have funny little things and
he doesn’t know what’s happening. But that is quite safe. You’re all travelling at the same speed, but you don’t need to be close. You’ve got to be away so that you can do any violent move and you’re not going to hit anyone.
Could you put a rough guess on the sort of distance it would be between two aircraft?
As I said, about two or three hundred metres. There’d be two over there at two or three hundred metres and then a thousand feet up there there’d be another six up there.
I imagine that would help as far as anti aircraft fire as well?
Oh yeah. Amazing. 88 millimetres. Goes up to 20,000
feet and we only flew eight and a half thousand. They always seem to put it behind you. I’ve never understood this during the entire war they seemed to get your height accurately, but you can hear it, they go off in fours, black smoke. German’s had black smoke powder and we had whitish. They go off and you can hear them with a thump but it they put them in front of you, 100 metres in front of you, they’re not accurate enough to hit you,
but they put you approximately - no they deliberately put it in front of you. You’re flying it at shrapnel that’s coming at you at the rate of knots but slowing down and you’ve got your own speed on it where behind it’s trying to catch you up whereas there it’s a psychological deterrent. I don’t care how many shots you put behind me. That determines me to go even faster and further. But it’s a deterrent if it’s in front of you. These big bombs, bang! Gosh, they’re there in the tenth of a second, the three of them.
You mentioned in your first three ops
you got hit twice. What does it feel like to be hit?
Depends what hit you. I only got a bullet in the front and then all this oil. But you get various severities of hitting. I’ve never been shot down. I’ve been shot up thirteen times. But I’ve always got the Kittyhawk home. They took punishment. No, it depends where you got hit. It’s a bit unnerving
in a way because you don’t know what’s happened. You know you’ve been hit but you don’t know how it’s going to affect you in the next thousandth of a second, whether you’ve lost control of whatever or whatever. I had a a fortnight from the end of the war - a 20 millimetre shell. Down there with my finger pointing at the back of my chair, that is your leftwing tank, the same as the one down there, and then the main fuselage one ninety gallons
is behind you. I had a 20 millimetre shell come up through that wing tank and because the wing tank was full nothing happened. You can’t burn petrol without oxygen. You couldn’t strike a match with your hand under water in petrol. It wouldn’t ignite.
Did they have self sealing tanks?
Yeah. But this one didn’t seal. I made comment on that. It came out up the top and broke up in the tank.
Didn’t explode. Otherwise I’d have been blown up. The next one took my left elevator off. As I say that was an enormous thump and I was at bugger all feet too. No that was all right. A bit hard to fly. No. In the bombing
we started off in the desert I think about 250 pound bombs and then they put what they call daisy cutters on and they put on a rod about that far long sticking out the front. It almost felt it was synchronised through the airscrew up the front but when that hit across it went off above the ground. They had those and then we got to 500 pound bombs. Kitty was good. You could put one under the belly.
They other aircraft, the Spitty’s got a radiator there and the Mustang’s got various other things and you can’t hang them round. But you had three places that you could put a belly tank under a Kitty and two 500. In the end a normal load was three 500 pound bomb and for shipping we used 1000 pound and two 500. I carried and dropped in anger I believe the first 1000
pound bomb from a Kittyhawk and I dropped it on the tank workshops at Loreto in Italy. Much to their displeasure. Colonel Wilmott, the CO of the 239 wing had flown with one. I think he landed with it and I think it’d probably not fused, which would be the right thing to do. So as far as I’m aware I dropped the first one.
Interviewee: Jack Doyle Archive ID 1473 Tape 03
Can you tell us how exactly you do a bombing run? The height you have to get to and pulling out and all that sort of … ?
You’ve got your target given to you and you’re all briefed before you go. Any information is given, as much as possible. You might be aiming at a
bunch of houses and it’s better to get up in that corner or whatever. You’ll fly out there, the number one’s leading and map reading. It can be difficult in Italy in the winter because sometimes overnight the enemy can use, because it needs to use, a non main road near a main road and then next morning that looks like the main road because of the usage of things on it.
When it’s covered in snow it can be a bit difficult. You can’t stop and have a look. You proceed to your target in the best route you know of avoiding known akak positions. Like the 88 millimetre, that’s a very good gun. It was in tanks and everything. It’s a good field gun, it’s a good everything, good all rounder.
You go there and there’s no speaking. I’ve seen a time that if someone spoke at the start of a sortie it’d probably be aborted because it would put so many enemy aircraft up into you, a bit before my time, would put them up into the air again. You’d have to get a few bombs and fight for your life and you’d done nothing. The leader would bring it up until it’s
forward of your left wing. We always turned left and dive bombed because you normally fired at the left hand circuit. It’s common nature, unless there’s some other reasons you can’t with adjacent hills or whatever, but you usually can. No-one ever does a vertical dive. It’s terribly hard to assess what it is. I’d say it’s probably about 65 degrees or something like that. But with all that weight
on you’re really accelerating. Accelerating is incredible. You don’t notice it, but it is. And you’re lining your gun fight up to your target. That means your aircraft is pointing at the target. Most of us, I don’t know whether every squadron did it, but we always fired our point five machine guns. Six of them. These will scatter because they’re outside your wing flying past your airscrew.
Three on each wing. They come to and you harmonise them at 270 yards in those days. I had mine harmonised on a point, they all came together. Normal harmonisation is like a door or something like that, a recover, a door. When you fire those they’re going to scatter because they’re going to cross one another at 300 yards and three lots are going that way and out that way. Also most would keep people’s heads down on the way down
and then in firing those you have released that number of empty shells and the metal lengths that hold them together. They are going to go everywhere. They are falling and tumbling, then they are further going down after you’ve arrived there and departed. We used to get odd reports that we had fired on our own troops but that would be the, when we’re doing it very close, all the main shells
of the things coming down the midst. Undoubtedly one would kill you if it hit you in the proper place, but if you’re wearing a tin helmet or whatever they wouldn’t be nasty, but that was it. We didn’t often bomb that close. That would keep them occupied dodging those when they should be firing at you.
Would there have been a general rule about what height you’d have to be flying at before commencing a dive?
No. We normally travelled eight and a half
thousand. You can go to high, you get too far. The Americans, of course, they flew at 15,000 and bombed through us, literally through us, that far above you. Same as they bombed the Chinese embassy when they got the 30 year old maps over in Yugoslavia. That was done at 15,000 feet. They’re still doing it. They call it glide bombing. Just go into shell it. You can go too fast, but they don’t go down.
Letting go above it and bomb.
So whereabouts did you do bombing practice to practise that sort of bombing?
You did it at your OTUs [Operational Training Units]. I think they were eight pound smoke bombs. In the Kitty you’d carry eight other little bombs under the wing. They were quite good fun. You didn’t have to own up to what you did with them. If you could drop them on tanks and certainly they’d give you ringing of the ears inside the tank, but they wouldn’t do
much damage. Could perhaps blow a track. You just had four in each wing and you pressed a little button and one dropped from each wing. When you got them as new they dropped one from the wing and then second, third and fourth. Then you’d drop, pressed again, and it’d change gear and go over the nine presses to drop eight bombs. One press and one goes. You can make them go at once. They didn’t have any great importance but you could inconvenience people with them if you put a bit of thought into it
and had the time to do it and didn’t muck anything up.
So if you were bombing a specific target would you strafe at the same time?
It depended. You’d make your own decision on that. I think I developed a bit like a poker player. There’s a country and western song about a poker player who knew when to hold and knew when to fold and knew when to walk and knew when to
run. I think if you can develop that to a reasonable degree it helps everyone. No, you just make your decision on what’s happening. If you lose one you just lose them suddenly. Can’t really say, oh we’re going to lose one and we’ll do two more strafes whatever. It’d depend what the target was, of course, if you strafe them and that sort of thing. Some you’d deliberately go out and you’d dispose and you’d
ask to strafe if it’s feasible. But if you’re getting so much stuff throwing up though, it’s terribly interesting, you can get akak so thick you can nearly get out and walk on it and you get home and no-one’s got a hole in them. And then other times you get hardly any ack-ack [anti-aircraft fire] and someone gets shot down. It varies a lot. You can go on your first op. You can go on your last. I’ve had one person go on his first op.
He was a New Zealander. He went on the 15th of December. So you can imagine the type of message his relatives got for Christmas. Lovely bloke. The first op. You don’t know how they go. When you’re leading, I didn’t always lead of course. I worked my way up to flight commander. I didn’t always lead. There are only three people that lead a squadron.
They’re a CO and two flight commanders. On some occasions in 3 Squadron we had two sergeant pilots, Keith Kilby and Danny Baldwin. They were leading the squadron. They were leading the wing show as sergeants. This was upsetting the Brits a bit because you might have a trusty squadron leader leading the top cover to 3 Squadron leading down, maybe three squadrons in the wings, but wing shows were rare up there. I’ve lead one wing show. I led
a wing show, I was leading 450 and 3 Squadron, and up above me was top cover. The whole squadron was top cover. We were on gun positions and various other things. Hodgkinson got shot down. He was a dentist in Orange. He got shot down and taken prisoner. I met him at the end of the war on Manly- Sydney - Beach. He told me that when he was taken prisoner of course you give your name and address and colour
of your eyes and that’s it and then you get handed up. If you strike the Gestapo you’re going to suffer brain damage at a later date if you live to a later date. He got passed up on the stage and when the real interrogation came and I’ll drop the story there. I’d been in 3 Squadron for three months and the call sign was Shabby and then six months later which is a short rest tour because a certain thing happened in my rest
tour that I decided it was safer in the air. I got back and the call sign was now Falcon. Anyway Hodge was sitting there at the table, they’d taken him to a room with a table and two chairs and this bloke marched in, this German marched in with a couple of cups of tea and sat down on a chair and said, “How is Doyle liking 450?”. That was the first remark. As if to say, “We know everything, you might as well tell us”. They’d pick up my absence and then they’d pick up my voice. It’d be easy to recognise. Change of call sign.
Before we leave Africa, we had an interesting episode happen there. When we pushed the Gerrys out of Africa there was an enormous congregation of entire forces. You’ve no idea. They were considerable. They would be. air force and army and the navy’d be there. And aircraft all lined up. Red soil so they’re not particularly sandy, but they’re gravelly and
shale and sand. There was a lovely area there smoothed out. King George came out from England. Here are all these enormous number of troops, beautiful troops, there was a place there that had been levelled for the small group that came from England. There was a place out the front of that chair levelled and a red carpet put down. This chair was incredible. It was
like a grandfather, I think they call it, dining chair with arms. Straight back. It was scarlet and gold. It would have been genuine gold. It would have either come from King Farouk’s palace in Cairo or it would certainly have come from an influential Egyptian. It was beautiful. The King came, a bit of speech making. We didn’t have the PA [public address] systems that you have now, so it was hard,
the whole lot didn’t hear it. The King sat in that chair. The gentleman went in front of him and marched up to him and knelt in front of him. The King tapped him on each shoulder with a sword and said, “Arise sir so and so”. That was the end of the ceremony. We were all scattered. 3 Squadron grabbed the padre’s truck and we cliftied that chair. The word cliftie is - we borrowed it if you know what I mean. And the 3 Squadron was known as the cliftie squadron. We cliftied that chair and we took it back to the
mess. Our mess was in a tent. We shoved it in the mess and it was glorious, it really was. We decided what could we do with it, we were going to take it back to Australia. So we decided you had to have a gong before you could sit in the chair. No-one had a gong in three at that stage. We held it and Desert Air Force got to us on the phone and apparently they knew we had the darned chair. They demanded that it be sent back.
There were no repercussions at all because repercussions had struck up. Desert Air Force lost the chair being lax. But no that was good. Gee that was a lovely chair. I’d like to have got it back in the museum here because some of the 450’s in the museum. We had three hats. Have you ever seen them in the museum? They’re there and a lot of the people know. The girls that run it, they know. We had a top hat, a bowler hat and you know the pith helmet? Tiger hunting.
We had one of those. If you got decorated or promoted you wore the top hat. That sort of frivolity. Top hat, white tie and tails and you shouted from the mess for an hour. And if you finished a tour you got the bowler hat because that in effect was civvy street [civilian life], but you didn’t go into civvie street. But that was the thing. But if you shot a lion - are you familiar with the expression, you’re shooting a lion? You’re making an exaggeration like “we were flying so low
to the sea our SP indicator was reading nought”. Or “We’re getting verdigris on the pit overhead”. So if you shot a line you wore the helmet tiger hunting and ditto. They’re in down in the war museum in Canberra, large as life. Then we had the gaggle board. You’d write on it all the positions of red one, red two, red three. When I was in 3 Squadron I discovered something.
There were some of them leading there that it had been so long since there was a new sprog they didn’t realise what you went through when you were a sprog. You didn’t get enough information on the target and where it was and that sort of thing. So I made a decision then that if ever in my life I got into that position of leading a squadron that I would do something about it. So I put myself down on the gaggle board as red two. This is the most protected thing in the lot.
You’ve got the red one leader there, his number two there. You’ve got the deputy leader there and his number two there. And the other member of the six there and there and this bloke’s really protected and he’s got top cover above him. I had CO written on that. We had South African pilots. We had Australian ground crew, but we could have any nationality and that was good. No young people had travelled overseas at my age. You had to have wealthy parents to go overseas. Really, very few had travelled. We’re getting all these other cultures,
we just got a couple of South African - what are they? They’re army air force there. They’d come in. I’d had a South African flight commander and made him a flight commander. I think it might have put an odd nose out of joint in the Australian component, but he was getting shot at the same as we were. He was there and this new recruit from South Africa had met me all shiny boots and gosh knows what and standing to attention. They’re very strong on discipline
and good on them. He’s standing there and he’s met me, knows who I am and Porky Shaw, the flight commander’s on the other side of me. He says, “I see CO on the board there. I understand that is commanding officer. That’s red two. Why is he flying there?” And Porky said, “He’s not very clued up so we put him there so we can look after him”. This poor kid, he went all coloured and … I felt sorry for him.
So I did that. Normally those three people lead a squadron. But if I flew more than every third flight, which I did fairly frequently, I wouldn’t lead. I’d go either deputy leader or go up and take blue. Blue, that’s good fun. You’re up there floating freely, you’re just positioning yourself correctly. That normally is the set up, only those three people
can lead. But I told you about one going on his first op. There was one went on his last up and I know this, in 450 we had been asked to bump some targets out on the Po Valley. No-one knew what the targets were, but they were promising they were scattered things and they could be ammo or petrol, scattered and camouflaged to the best of ability. We were sent out to bomb them. There was always akak. I don’t think I’ve ever flown without
being shot at. Even if you can’t see it there’s someone having a go at you particularly if you’re low enough, even with rifles or revolvers. We did this bombing and we had warrant officer Brown who was quite a good pilot. He’d never led the squadron. He’d brought us back occasionally and led top cover and that sort of thing. A tour was 200 hours. It’s a minimum of 150 operational hours. You usually made the blokes
do 200 hours but if they’d had a really tough time or whatever you’d chop them off at 180, 190, something like that. Of course if you’re losing the war that area maybe you’ve got to keep going because there may be a shortage of pilots. You can have a shortage of pilots. Anyway he’d reached about 200 and when we got back it was fairly late. There was an urgent request that the bombing was good and beneficial or suitable whatever,
could we do a quick turn round. That’s just ammunition and petrol. No inspections or anything. I said, yes. I said to Brownie, I was going to tour expire him, “Brownie, we’ve got to do the same job again. Would you like to lead the squadron?” He said, “Yes sir”. I said, “I’ll take myself off and put someone else in my place”. He just didn’t come back. That’s a known one. That was his last. Would have been.
Did you feel responsible for that? Or how did that make you feel?
Not as badly as you might think it should. It could have been me. No-one can tell when you’re going to go. There was a South African that had been shot down 21 times or shot up badly. He had all his organisation dropping into water. He’d carry cigarette thing and, see you don’t know how high the waves are.
It’s very hard to tell how far you are up from the water. They could be little ripples or they could be that size. So he’d drop a shoe a certain height and get the splash and then drop something else and then drop his cigarette thing. He’d been shot down 21 times. He’s at the bottom of Trieste Harbour. Twenty-two. He didn’t make it. You don’t know, you can’t really hold yourself responsible. I led 3 Squadron 49
times and I lost one pilot. I led 450 eighty-five times and lost five. I’ve been flying with them when they lost one but I wasn’t leading.
What happens in the squadron when a pilot’s killed?
If you know he’s killed all his affairs are wound up. Sad to say, there can be a bit of pilfering that goes on before his
things get back to his people. He might make a promise that if he goes, you can have my woolly jacket or something like that to someone else, but that’s different. That’s our normal procedure.
When you were squadron leader for 450 were you responsible for writing letters to next of kin?
Yeah. Adjutant does too.
Talk about writing things, we had one episode there where one of our ground force wanted to marry an Italian girl and I had to get permission. You have to get permission and you really can’t say no. He did marry this Italian and we couldn’t get the official papers that are necessary for Australians to have and I
couldn’t get them at all. So what the adjutant and I did, we got hold of some quality paper, incidentally the diary of 450 is all written on captured paper. We got hold of this paper and we did a missive I suppose you would call it. I think we did a duplicate and I often wonder if it’s in the museum because a lot of that stuff got dropped over the water.
We had the full address of the squadron. We had written - in a squadron you get one of everything. You’ve got forgers, you’ve got calligraphy people, you’ve got cocksmith. You’ve got everything. It’s the minimum number you can bring together and they can do anything. We got a calligraphy person. He wrote this beautiful handwriting, the full deal and the full address of 3 Squadron
in the field and he wrote about this asking for these things and we had the address down here. In the field it was. I put my signature on it and we got hold of some light blue and dark blue ribbon off a Christmas card and I got hold of a yale key. The round part of the key was about the size of a
modern 50 cent piece, with a hole in the middle. All that was hatched - not hash. They’re calling this other thing on the telephone hash. They’re in a stew. It’s really hatch and hatching, filling it. All hatched there like lattice work. We got red sealing wax and we put it over the folded ribbons, put the blob of sealing wax there and I put the key on top and put my thumb on it and my finger print came out in the hole in the middle and we got one of our despatch
riders which a squadron has - they’ve got everything - they get around in shorts and boots and even got polished leather leggings for the motor bike and rolled this up in scroll and tied it up with red ribbon and he presented himself to the Roman Catholic authorities and they gave him all the paperwork. That’s what you can do with a bit of cliftie stuff.
Bluff your way in. What other stuff did the squadron knock off being clifties?
Doonas. You get a lot of - houses get bombed and people flee because the war past them and you can’t sit in your house while the war is passing through. You’ve got to go. You go. And you get a lot of doonas. When you got a tent in mud and you can grab a doona and you put it on the floor and the moisture comes through and you put another doona and you might have
three or four doonas and ultimately the tent is warm and cosy and dry. People think that’s terrible. There’d be kapok everywhere eventually or whatever. No, we didn’t cliftie things. I think I’m one of the first people to put 450 into billets. When I took over the squadron in the AC [?] - I’ll show you a photo in the logbook with just tents in the water.
They’ve collapsed from the wind, whatever. Subsequently we took over in Farno. My adjutant and my doctor - my doctors was Dr Derek Scanlon who also went to Toowoomba Grammar with me. He’s deceased now unfortunately. We walked up the street and we requisitioned houses because Italy in winter
can be a bit severe. It’s amazing when you knock on the door of a house and tell a person you’re going to take their house how many of them suddenly find out they’ve got heart problems. We had a doctor in that trio. We gave them an option, we’re taking your house, if you can’t find alternative accommodation we are taking a large house and we will house you in the medical section, which we did, and you get a bit of food as well.
We looked after them that way. But when we took these houses there was a hospital over the way and they have emergency generating plants. We had 240 volts with Ford V8 engines mounted into charging batteries. I know Italy’s 240 now. I think it is, I went over there, but these were definitely 110 in the houses. We had
penicillin and the hospital knew we had penicillin. So an agreement that I called ‘erbs for aspros we got 110 volt wire pushed up to the thing and we hooked up to the thing and went through all the houses and they got penicillin. We had penicillin to spare. It annoys me when a lot of people think we raped women when we were overseas. That annoys me intensely because I was with Maxie Thomas one day and we’d got some lovely quarter pound
Cadbury blocks of chocolate. We were walking out one evening and a lovely Italian women, I suppose in her thirties with two young kids, and Max and I broke a piece off each and gave it to the kids. It didn’t work that way. It annoys me. A lot of that’s gone on, particularly the war, accusing war people. Half of them were on our side anyway. I’ve had lunch with
Major Mariotti. He had a shot at me down in Sicily. We were bombing up near Messina. The Messina station were based in Sicily. The navy only shell a small village once because they remove it. There’s, what’s its name - no I’m getting mixed up somehow. This little village, anyhow they shelled that village and we were attacked by some Macchi 202s and some Focke
Wulfs. We got one of them. Ron Susans got one and Rex Laver who’s cousin of Rod Laver, the tennis player, he’s living up the coast here still with us. He got shot up. We both had Spitfire cover but really a cover’s no good. It’s really only a bluffing effect because you can’t stop another aircraft going twice your speed going down near you. If you’re only firing straight ahead you can’t turn, it has
an effect. Anyway we got one of those and they shot one of us up. Subsequently Major Marriotti was on Mount Vesuvius aerodrome flying their Cobras for our side. You don’t see that much in history books. It’s written up in 3 Squadron. But he was in charge of us and Wing Commander Westlake was our wing commander flying in a wing,
which is a collection of squadrons. A group would be a collection of wing. You go squadron leader, wing commander, group commander. You have a wing commander flying. He does a bit of flying with the other squadrons just to see how they’re going and the group captain doesn’t really fly much. He’s done a fair whack anyway I guess at that stage. Wing Commander Westlake was in charge of them. He was on our side of the representation. Major Mariotti was there. I was invited up there and I went up there and had lunch with them.
It’s a typical salesman’s lunch from 11 o’clock until three with accordion music and red wine. He didn’t speak much English but we recalled this episode. “Yes” he said “Spitfires are no good. Navy boom boom Malazo.” That was the name of the little place. So he was part of that mob.
So he originally fought against the Allies and then when Italy surrendered he ended up flying with them?
Yep. He was killed over Yugoslavia. They didn’t ask him to bomb and strafe his own country. He flew air Cobras. He was killed during the war over Yugoslavia. They tried to get me. I wanted to go down to Darek [?] too, no … Foggia, to pick up an aircraft to fly
back to 3 Squadron. So they put me in like a Tiger Moth aircraft with a Gypsy engine in it and it’s in amongst vineyards and it’s had a wood tail wheel because they didn’t have good access to spares. And I get into the front cockpit and the pilot gets in the back. I’m going to be flown to Foggia near Naples. So we started up. Anyway the aircraft are very hard to steer. The Tiger Moth doesn’t have
brakes. They do in Canada because they’ve got ice and things which helps a bit. It doesn’t help much. Next thing we veered into the vineyard and the prop only spins slowly and there’s grapes going up in there air and this bloke in the back’s yelling “Contacto!” I’ve got the switch to shut it off and I don’t know. So that aircraft wasn’t much good to do what we wanted to do. So they got another cockpit one, low wing
little two seater. We take off to go to Foggia. This thing, the terrain is climbing a little bit too and this thing wasn’t climbing as fast as the terrain was climbing so we had to go back and circle and get there. We finally went over the top of the rise there inland from Naples. We’re coming in to land at Naples. Now a ground loop is when an aircraft does a loop on the ground.
It can only go horizontally. In other words, you lose control either in the design - Wirraway do it if you don’t lock the tail wheel on landing. You’ve got to lock on the tail wheel. Otherwise you can ground loop and it’s a hard thing to control. You really need to put on power to get effect on your rudder because your brakes are not able to control it. Anyway this thing had to brake levers and you work them differentially. When you’re taxiing along you can steer.
Anyway we got into the Foggia area and there’s a twin engine coming in and a Gossamer or Baltimore or something like that. It’s coming in and it’s secondary with us. Foggia’s a big grassed area. When we come into land, we don’t know where this other thing is, and as we land it starts to ground loop. This bloke’s pulling these twin things and trying to stop it ground looping and he
did what only an Italian would do. He threw his arms in the air and said, “Mama mia”. The thing did a great ground loop and the other thing landed about 300 metres further on. But you know any Australian, any pilot really, would have never quit in that. Obviously the brake was having some effect. Anyway, that was that. So I flew back to the squadron. My
rest tour is probably interesting. You do your tour, as I said it’s 200 hours or 150 and you’re given about a nine month rest tour. At the end of my 3 Squadron was a bit interesting too I suppose. When I got up and I was flight commander for six months and when I got up near my 200 hours I put in permission to do
a voluntary 50 hour extension. This was granted, so I continued on. When I had - I then became a squadron leader. I was never made CO of 3 Squadron which I thought was a bit miserable. I’d been there 14 months. I’d come from flight sergeant to squadron leader in 14 months and I was a squadron leader. I wasn’t acting squadron leader to my knowledge. This was because I was going elsewhere that I didn’t know.
I think I realised. But anyway I’ve got 15 minutes left of that 50 hours and I’m confident in my own self that I can get a Kittyhawk off the ground in much less than 15 minutes so we were on this PSP, perforated steel planking, over sand. You have a little road that you can’t go off in a Kitty because they just go straight down. I’m in my Kittyhawk leading 3 Squadron off for what is going to be
my last op and squad leader, Derek Scanlon, the doctor, drove in front of me on this PSP, switched off and got out and walked away. So a little conversation ensued subsequently on the thingo. That’s why my logbook reads 149 hours 45 minutes. We were still good friends after that. See, he could have saved my life. He could have, quite simply. Can’t argue it.
Anyway I got sent up to mobile operations unit as a sector commander in that because of my knowledge of the whole area half way up Italy. I got sent up on to Rover David or Cab Rank. This is being used today. It’s being used in Iraq. We pioneered it. Group Captain Hasham RAF, he pioneered it in the desert. What you did, you had what they called a cab rank. When the army were going to push they would ask for
this cab rank and you would have say from ten o’clock to twelve o’clock tomorrow that six aircraft would come over with bombs on and an alternative target which wasn’t important or you’d go and bomb it. You wouldn’t take your bombers back if they weren’t needed. They would patrol for half an hour or something and someone else would come and they’d be directed by Rover David. You could use the word, Rover David. You could use Rover Jack. And you would have a jeep and a radio operator.
And an army liaison officer would have a jeep and his radio operator and he would be your connection to that thing that the army up there is going to push. Now when you gave a target, the special bomb line, you were going to bomb within two or three hundred metres of your own troops. So you had to be very careful you got the information up there what the target was. They may not crop up, but they’d go away in half an hour and somebody else’d come over.
So you’d have like a street directory and there might be five houses near a fork in the road up there in the German side. They’re hiding tanks behind there and the army wants to push. You would say to the thing, “Tell me what you see on square nine z” and you’d say “the fork” - he’d be visible. And he’d say “There’s four or five houses there
near a fork on the road” and he’d say “Those houses are hiding tanks, will you bomb them?” So he would do it. You didn’t choose a place that you could necessarily see the area. That’s getting a bit dicey because the moment you spoke they shelled you if you were in shelling range because they knew your voice and knew it was all about. So I chose a villa in Rome. They are enormous these buildings. They own the whole area.
It was on land near Gioiella in Umbria near Lake Castiglione, near Orvieto. It’s in land about the size that a sporting oval would build and own the land around it. That’s about the size this mansion is. Two storeys. Had it’s own chapel, it’s own laundry, billiard room, you name it.
I drove my jeep straight up the front stairs of this into the beautiful chandelier in the session. Now if you ask me why I did that you’ll get a silly answer of course because it looked like rain but it was a sensible thing to do. Jeeps go up stairs quite nicely and the other bloke took his jeep up. We proceeded to go up to the attic, I actually took some tiles off and got out on the roof and looked and my army bloke castigated me a bit
for spoiling the roof. The Germans had pulled out 24 hours ago. The servants were still in the building and also the owner, unbeknown to us and anyone - see you had no sophisticated devices in those days to check on anything. There was a 500 kilogram aircraft bomb in the basement. At three o’clock
it blew up. Three of us lived out of thirty. I went over there in 1999, found a person that as a four year old boy had seen that blow up and does it impress a four year old kid? You tell a kid a house has blown up and he forgets it in 10 seconds. You let him see it go up. And I also found a young woman who had gone past there looking for a relative and was invited in by the owners or the owners’ children, the adult children - late teenage children -
for a drink. She refused because of time and she’s alive today. The owner’s daughter was killed. Had a lovely letter from the brother who’s a solicitor in Italy. We found it. Three out of thirty.
Interviewee: Jack Doyle Archive ID 1473 Tape 04
So what happened when the bomb was set off?
A time bomb. They heard over the German radio that the device set to explode at 3 pm did so satisfactorily. Informing the other - the other side they listen in. We had a nice little party over there too in Italy at a little bar at Gioiella, a nearby town. We came back here
and we sent some lovely cakes that are made locally with nuts, they’re beautiful, sent a couple of those over. The girl that had looked after us, woman she was, Janet Dethie, she held a little party there and the press came and they wrote it up in two editions of the local press. The thing that impressed the Italians - getting off that subject but into the Italian side of things - about the Americans was the whiteness of their bread. Still remember 60 years afterwards,
the whiteness. See all their bread I think’s made from wholemeal, it’s all the same beige colour. You never find white. The very whiteness of it, that was interesting. All I had in my log book was a 26,000 feet PR photo taken of that area and it was taken eight days before it blew up. I didn’t know where it was. I knew I could find it because I was evacuated from
Orvieto, so I knew it was further north than shelling distance. I leased a chalet over there for a week and I was lucky in that - oh it’s a terribly involved story. Italians don’t chase a person with the post even if he’s gone. They don’t do the thing like we do in Australia. I chose the chalet because the owner was an Englishman and lived above it.
So I thought, he’s not silly, he speaks English and he obviously speaks a good grip of Italian because I didn’t know his name, I wrote to the proprietor. This was my lucky day because they then took it to this girl who was managing it. The Englishman had gone home to England I suppose. They would never have got in touch with him. Anyway Janet Dethie came and I showed her this copy of the map I took. She said “My God I drive that road
every day”. So we found that and my doings inspired her to write a book which is in my house. I’m in it about a dozen times - only as a link. Not about me, it’s about the army and there. It’s a lovely book. She came out, we got her out here. Wonderful girl. She’s lived ten years in Italy. She is an interpreter, full interpreter for quality books and she wrote this book. After she’d gone back from here she said,
“I found two more New Zealanders”. She’s chasing the New Zealanders too because the Australians didn’t go through in Italy. They went home from up north. But the New Zealand army went through. The New Zealand army I think opened the Bank of Bologna. It had closed doors and they opened it in the traditional method. Janet came out here and when she went back to England she got in touch with me afterwards and said, “I found two more New Zealanders in
Australia that were over there. One’s at Gold Coast and one’s at Mount Surprise.” Mount Surprise I think has a population of 20 people on picnic race day. When you think of it, those people were in Italy 20 years before Janet was born. Isn’t it incredible how these people get in and get their teeth into a thing? Makes you wonder. I did that. I got evacuated in a hospital. It was 14 days or ten.
What happened to you when it exploded?
I fell three floors. Landed on a steel girder on my stomach and a portion of a wall that had remained intact lent towards me. It didn’t touch me. I couldn’t get my chest back over the beam of the one and I couldn’t get my head over that way and my army liaison bloke was sitting in a chair with a broken pelvis I realise. I didn’t break any bones. I lost a lot of skin. I had no
skin on my fingers. I think I was climbing all the time just to stay on top. Because I came off a T model Ford once with a load of saplings on the back when I was at Cunnamulla. I remember I walked all the way up those as they went towards the ground because they bounce when they hit. I think I was climbing to stay above it and in hindsight, I put a lot of thought into it, you couldn’t fall three floors and live without damage.
I think what happened, it was in the basement. It was known to be in the basement. I think the ground stopped it going that way. It went up, you’d have a stone floor or whatever then the next floor would be solid wood. They were really solid and the walls were solid too and it would be contained in that. If it had blown the walls out I would have fallen the full distance but it was contained and the floors were like more pistons that were blocking the thingo.
I probably only collapsed halfway down to the next floor or something like that. You couldn’t fall and the other bloke was okay except for a broken pelvis. He was sitting in his chair, still sitting there, but I don’t remember much about that then. I lost a few documents. They put a guard over us for a fortnight because it had a mild degree of secrecy that expired. That was my rest tour. So I got back in about six months.
I did a junior commander’s course in Cairo and I did a front pilot gunnery course and then …
What did those two courses involve?
It was only mainly administration and business and I lived on a house boat on the Nile. If you fall in the Nile you’ve got to have 28 injections or something. In those days you’d never fall in let alone drink it.
It was front gunnery. The Americans are funny like that. Either give good scores or nothing. The difficulty of that is you’re flying aircraft you’re not used to and you’re flying a different kind, Spitfire and Hurricane. I was used to Kitties and they were quite different. They just paint - four of you fire on the one target in turn. They just put different colour paint on your bullets and then it goes through the cloth and leaves a paint mark.
I got back then and I was actually posted to 3 Squadron. Posted via headquarters to take command of 3 Squadron but the group captain, Eaton who I admire greatly, he was a real all rounder, he’s dead now, but he sent me to take over 450 cause he reckoned I could handle them.
There was nothing wrong with 450 except perhaps that they had blown up the officers’ mess in Sicily with gelignite. What you did when you got liquor overseas - you bought it, you could arm a few blokes and take it if you wanted to, no short of armoury. You paid for it and a bit of haggling. Because you get a greater volume of beer than you do in spirits you usually give the beer to the ground staff and the officers
take the spirits and if there’s enough the ground staff will get an odd bottle of whisky or gin or whatever because we weren’t miserable. But the distribution didn’t work out as it should have apparently. The officers mess’ - it’s called the officers’ mess or the pilots’ mess - Australians introduced, I think they never had any other in the 39- 45 war, the pilots were all together whether you were a sergeant pilot or not. This is silly. You’re in the bomber and the captain in charge of the bomber can be a sergeant pilot and you’ve got a flight lieutenant
navigating. He’s in charge of it. It’s silly because you should talk to one another. It’s a group thing. The more cohesive and that the better you get on and you understand the other people and whatever. Any rate… I’ve lost the track.
You were just talking about the mess, about how the mess had sergeants and officers in there.
Yes. Alcohol. So during the night all the pilots’
log books were removed from Agnioni [Aglioni?] Railway Station. There are photos here in 450 books, a before and after. There’s a photo of a beer advertisement and then the after is Agnioni Railway station demolished. When the tents were searched the next day, every tent had a stick of gelignite in it so it was rather difficult to pin it on anyone.
So relations weren’t too good between ground crew and…?
It was alright. They got a rough time the
ground crew there. There were some in 450 that never got home. I did three and a half years over there. I did six countries and 2000 kilometres. No, see there wasn’t the establishment there. You either got killed or got posted. Well ground staff didn’t get killed that often and didn’t get posted. 3 were a bit like 460 Squadron. They had more decorations than anyone. You’ve only got to read a list of them.
They were never withdrawn and they were in everything. And Bennett with his Pathfinder. Bennett went to school, lived in Toowoomba. Air Vice Marshal Bennett, one of the finest navigators the world’s ever seen and good ideas. He started the Pathfinders for us. Then he was shoving a 4000 bomb in a Mosquito and letting them go and that was really causing havoc instead of not very much more than that and eleven or twelve people in it. In an aircraft with four engine
to look after. No nothing wrong with 450, they were a good bunch. I’m very proud of them.
So did they establish the reason why the mess had been blown up?
Unfair distribution of alcohol. I don’t know what it was but obviously the airmen didn’t get as much as they thought they should have. They’d be right too. Fair enough.
I always looked after them that way. Derek Shannon and I discovered that a doctor can also give reason for rum issue because of inclement weather. I also found out that a CO can give a rum issue because of intense operation. One nip of rum for heaven’s sake.
You mentioned the rain before?
Did you say you parked in the building before because of the rain?
No. People ask me why I drove it up the steps. I say, it looked like rain. But it’s the most sensible thing to do. You take it in there and it’s under shelter and you take your gears in there. It didn’t have a hood on it, I didn’t have a hood on my - I was given a jeep to get around in Italy with no hood on and snow and whatever and getting a lot of sinus problems and this was caused a bit by dive bombing too. You can get it in
scuba diving because you get one atmosphere down to 30 feet and you get things, well you can fix sinus in one dive just by going down and coming up. If you can clear your ears it’ll take all the stuff out. The air goes into all your seven sinal cavities and then comes out as you go up. Oh yeah. That’s a side issue. I just drove it up there because you can put it up and the people that got killed some of the blokes that come out of the army, that put the numbers up.
They were probably pulled out and they just went in there for might have been 24 hours out of operations or something and lay down in the first dry place and the whole house fell on them. No. That was that.
You mentioned there was South Africans and Kiwis. What other nationalities were there?
We could have any that were on the right side. We had this bloke that comes from Montreal, a Canadian. He was on radar.
Colin Harris. We could have any and that was good.
And the squadron would sometimes fly with RAF squadrons, sometimes flying cover and that as well?
That’d be a wing show. You very seldom did that. I’ve been part of a couple of wing shows in the desert. We were giving support to bombers. 3 Squadron
didn’t lose - nearly lost a bomber there at Scotty. They lost one in the final. I’m going to mention this because there was a case that studied it and they were exonerated about three months before the end of the war. Let me start again. There’s a German aircraft, the Fieseler Storch. It’s one of the best aircraft in the world of its time. A light runabout. Very short landing and take off. It’s
the right size and holds, I don’t know how many, four or six people. Single engine. And anyone who’s ever captured on the Allied side is the top brass there. You’ve got it cause you’re moving about planes you see and it’s safe to do so. You’d paint roundels on it as large as you could all over it. About three months before the end of the war - this is written up in 3 Squadron’s official history - there were some
top brass that went to fly into Germany to negotiate a ceasefire. One can guess who they were. There’d be a senior American, a senior British, a senior Italian and whatever, secretary, note taker, something else. They were escorted by 3 Squadron flying Mustangs. That aircraft
was shot down in flames by an American flying a Mustang. You cannot recognise the aircraft you are flying. Twelve aircraft can’t stop one aircraft doing that. You can’t, if it’s done suddenly and that’s what they do. They just fire at you and take a squirt and then just deviate. I’ve seen them personally shoot at Colonel Wilmott test flying a Kittyhawk over the top of his aerodrome. I heard these machine guns
that I’m familiar with the sound of and looked up and here’s smoke coming out of the American aircraft that’s just deviated like that and pressed the button and gone back to Foggia or wherever it’s going. At one stage the wing was 20 miles from the bomb line. It’d been there six months. It was on the coast if you can’t map read a coast even in snow you can map read a coast. It doesn’t alter. It was there. This was attacked
by an American aircraft which strafed them. They killed the air sea rescue pilot who was based with us. They’ve got to be based somewhere. They’re not a complete unit. They don’t hold, they get base with someone who can do their instrument work and whatever. They have a fitter and a rigger for the engine and the air frame to do that. They killed the air sea rescue pilot who’d been plucking Americans out of the Adriatic when they came back from bombing and they shot up the aerodrome.
One of our staff got a mention in despatches for dropping a bomb off a burning aircraft and taking it away. I wasn’t on the squadron then. Next day when the top brass flew up, two aircraft flew up from down Foggia way and I think they came in a Mustang and some of my ground staff painted a
roundel round the canopy of the Mustangs. If you shot Germans down you painted a swastika and you painted a roundel round the CO’s thingos. There was hell to pay over that. That’s not in the - I don’t think that’s really well known. That was appalling. Killed the air sea rescue pilot. There’s 70, 100 aircraft all with roundels on them sitting there and they
shoot the things up and then just took off. No, that’s bad to do. It’s called friendly fire and it’s still going on.
Did you personally have anything to do with the Americans?
No. I like them individually. They’re nice people. They’re well educated and they’re generous but when you get them into a group they seem to become
exhibitionists or whatever. You had 99 Squadron, SBS [Special Broadcasting Service] ran a documentary on this. They usually do it every year. 99 Squadron it was Major Davies’ negro squadron. Their call sign was - I’ll get it in a minute … No. They had Thunderbolts and they had
Mustangs and they all talk and they go through everything. Someone might say, we might be flying and someone might say, “Shabby, bogey aircraft five o’clock high”. And if I’d seen them I’d say, “Okay”. If I hadn’t I’d just say “Watch them”. That’d indicate that I hadn’t seen them but Americans will chat. “Translake” was their call sign. One of them
would call up and say, “Hello Translake, green one. My ships been hit in the tail and I’m going home.” And Translake red one would say, “Hello Translake red one, boy we’re all a coming with you”. We’d just click you know you might say “Yellow two I’ve been hit” something like that. There’s no chattering going on. They used to - 99 Squad - they would
fly at 15000 feet as the Yanks seemed stuck on and they’d bomb through us. It only happened once and really you couldn’t hit another aircraft if you tried, but it could be hit accidentally. But it’s not comfortable knowing those blokes up there are going to bomb much the same target as we are and they are going to dive bomb and they’re going to pull out over us and their bombs going to leave the aircraft and go down. Of course they don’t hit anything. There’s no accuracy at that height. You just put your gun sight on the target and then at the bottom
you pull out a certain amount. You can do it at various rates. You can then let go of your bomb because your bomb’s going to go in that trajectory, it’s going to fall short. You always bomb along a railway line or along a bridge, so if you’re short that way. Talking about that, we had a situation that arose in 450 squadron, or with Kittyhawk squadron, that we were losing blokes in the air.
They were blowing up. 88 millimetres can blow you up, but I’ve never known anyone blown up with it. We always think of it as sabotage. It lowered the morale a bit. We were putting seals on the petrol tanks in case somebody had put a pressure sensitive thing that went off. We lost a few of it with that one. I can remember in my log book, a rather sad thing,
I’ve written “Warrant Officer Denholm seen in the inverted position at 3000 feet minus support wing”. That was pretty hopeless. English bombs, we now found out, were exploding during the bomb dive. It’s a rather complicated thing. You can briefly say it was doing this because the English bomb was not meant to be carried
in contact with three and four and five and six hundred kilometres an hour wind. It was meant to be carried inside an aeroplane with bomb doors folded round it to make it nice and aerodynamic. It was something to do with a sort of a nut on the front of the bomb. The nut had little blades on it so that when it encounters fast air it will unwind itself and let the rest of the thing be driven in when it hits
the ground. You have a little sheer wire going across, usually made of thing copper or something so there’s enough strength to cut it, it sheers it off. It’s a scientific little thing. The diameter’s got to be right, and if you drop your bombs safe, there’s a little cable goes from that little pin to your aircraft. If you drop the bomb safe that releases this cable up here.
It falls with the bomb and that little pin’s still doing its job. Hopefully won’t go off when it hits the ground. It’s relatively so thick you could drop them low but there’s always an element, but this thing, when you arm them, this then hangs over this little wire at the top and it pulls out when the bomb leaves and that spins off. I think what was happening, in the bomb dive that very speed you were going
was really spinning that thing off and winding the - in the dive before you released the bomb it was winding the - if you hold a nut still and wind it off the bolt, the bolt’ll move. It was winding it into that. We were getting them going off in the bomb dive. That’s what I think killed that bloke that went on his last op. And I had one episode that is highly documented. I was in my bomb dive and
a couple of seconds after I released my bomb it exploded. We didn’t realise that. In my logbook it says I’ve got akak 128 millimetre with a question mark in the original thing. The blast was seen from top cover in line with my aircraft. My aircraft got about 22 holes in the left hand side.
The other two bombs went way to the right. Bombs only vary fore and aft if you release them too soon or too late. I was probably within another two seconds the other way and I’d have exploded. In view of that when you look back on some we probably lost three or four people in that same way. Might well have lost that bloke that went on his first op.
He might have either had too much petrol in his fuselage tank, altered his centre of gravity. He should have used it more first and may not have. Or one of those bombs could have gone off like that. It was eventually discovered that was the reason we used the American bomb which is quite happy in different - and I learnt later that those later British bombs we were having trouble with they were also meant to be used as a mine somehow. So some of that mechanism may not have been compatible with what we were doing. We were doing
things that shouldn’t have been done with bombs. Travelling at six or seven hundred kilometres an hour with a bomb exposed to the most of the wind.
You mentioned that the Americans would fly at 15000 feet, just start their dives and do bomb through you. If it wasn’t accurate, why would they do it like that?
Why did they hit the Chinese embassy? They were bombing civilians there because 15000 feet you can’t tell whether a person is a civilian or a soldier.
They’re not accurate dive bombers. They’ve done it all the time. We’re getting holed with our own bombs. I’m not advocating you do that. If you get a bit enthusiastic it’s easy enough to do. But they’re flying at 15000 feet and let go at 8000, eight and a half thousand or something. We were flying at eight. Letting them go at bugger all. I don’t know what we were letting go at.
When you pull out of your bomb dive you’d be down amongst the tops of gum trees you got growing around here at that height.
Just about every single pilot we’ve spoken to has talked about the Americans and how they were poor navigators.
Yeah. They’re childish. I like them. They’re generous. But they’ve got this habit, now we had a thing at Evans Head. Everyone I think in the world really knows what a
drogue is for. You tow a drogue and someone shoots at it. It’s a windsock. It was put on rear gunnery. What you do, you have a Fairy Battle flying along there with a long tail line down there and there’s a drogue flying behind it. What you have to do is, you overtake that drogue and you throttle back and let it overtake you and that gives you the deflection shooting with a gunner, because you’ve got to aim in front of it there
at a certain time or aim behind the back of it, overtaking you and whatever. You do that. The easiest way to do that if you’re a pilot flying with a gunner, the drogue is behind you so rather than look round there and fly on the drogue, your relative positions, you look where the towing aircraft is so you sneak up a bit of the towing aircraft and you drop back a bit and you sneak up and you drop back and you have a look occasionally that you’re relatively in the right position and that’s all right. I’d done this thing
and the gunner, how he got and told me with thingie he’d finished. I looked over at the drogue and there’s an Airacobra formatting on it. An American, he’s seen the drogue and was formatting on it just for something to do. It’s being shot at. I mean a drogue has one purpose in life, to be shot at, nothing else. And he’s formatting with Airacobra on it.
Hard to believe isn’t it really? They were putting Airacobras down all the way between Casino and Evans Head because they couldn’t find New Guinea. You keep the Pacific on your right and Australia to your left. They were flying up and down south. With a dry shield undercart you could do that. Put them down the road. They were putting them down there and coming up to Evans Head. Couldn’t find the aerodrome anywhere. It’s right under there. You couldn’t win a war without their productivity.
Did you ever come across any
No. They were boys. There’s another nationality that I won’t mention that never got in the war that should. The Poles got in it. I struck a Polish bloke about 30 years after the war in Sydney. He was still whingeing about he couldn’t get into the air force because he spoke English fairly well and they kept him in England for all the Poles that were coming to England. The moment they got to England they got into an aircraft because
that’s the quickest way to get the enemy. You don’t want to hit him with an army. They had the Polish squadron. They got stuck into it. Really did.
How many hours would a Kittyhawk fly before it had to go in for general maintenance, engine overhaul, things like that?
I don’t know those figures really. I had one Kittyhawk that got the highest
engine thing. We had wonderful ground staff really. They were really good. Because they got initiative and that sort of thing. They can do things. See most Australians as against English, if you had a motor car you quite often had to fix it yourself. particularly country people. Wouldn’t happen so much in England just because of the ambient conditions. They were good.
I had a clip winged Kittyhawk. I clipped the wing tips off it. I believe it’d be the only clipped wing Kittyhawk in the world.
Can you tell us about that? What that involves?
It only involves removing the wing tips. Might be a little model of a Kittyhawk there. Press the top.
I got this Kittyhawk made be a gentleman who’s won national competitions in the assembly of these things. On that side of course you see the “CVL”. That is 3 Squadron, the CV, and I always flew hell for leather whenever I could, and that’s the camouflage of the desert. Then if you turn it round
on this side you’ll see “OKL”. OK was the thing of 450 and they’re in the different colour camouflage cause they’re European. And the serial numbers of that particular aircraft are correct on either side. Now the wing tips, they’re under a lot of screws there. See, Spitfires had clipped wings.
You can remove a whole lot of Phillips screws and take that wing tip off and the other side. We had a couple of wooden ones made that are mirror image and we put them on. This was after the war because you’ve got to keep people busy otherwise they get into mischief. We did that and I flew it. I led the desert air force flight path in it. There’s an official photograph in the air of me leading with this thing. When I had this thing made - this incidentally took a year to
make. Two months searching for the right colour white. I love these fanatics. I led the air force flight path in it and when I talked to this modeller and talked about the clipped wing Kittyhawk he said, “I’ve got a plan of it”. Isn’t it interesting how the modellers get hold - not official. He showed me the plan of it.
That’s it. It’s with the two 500 pound bombs in the belly tank. It’s the latest model with no bar down there. I did a little three way cross country when the war finished. As I say, you’ve got to keep people working a bit, not heavily. I did a little three way competition
and I flew my clipped wing Kitty over the Alps and put it at 10000 feet over Munich, just in case someone had kept an 88 millimetre in his backyard, I thought 10000 was a nice friendly height. And then flew back to Berchtesgaden, not knowing anything. It was a three way there from Eden there to Munich/München and Berchtesgaden and back. I just took them over to show that we’d arrived. I’ll stick it over here.
Beautifully correct that thing. You’ve no idea. The Japs are turning out beautiful things. All the rivets and everything on them. Beautiful.
So how did clipping the wings affect the performance of the aircraft?
There’s never a dull moment in the approach. No it’s more manoeuvrable
on the roll and it would not climb as high. I didn’t fly it in office. It would have been imprudent, it’d have different characteristics. But talking about height, I’ve had a Kittyhawk up to 32000 feet just to see how high they go.
What was the official ceiling?
I think it’s 16000 or something like that. It was low down. It was made for that. You get people
to come down low you could talk to them. They knew about that too. You had the old saying, “The higher, the fewer”. We could have said, “The lower, the more afraid” no doubt. I had an interesting thing, it was a subsequent thing, there was a jet aircraft coming down over on the seaboard of Italy, the Adriatic Coast,
then flying along the bomb line to the other side and going back. The Spitties could get to it alright, but it would beat them downhill because the jets were not fast. The potential was obvious, but they were not fast. They were heavy and the heavier you go downhill faster. They couldn’t get to them so I was assigned to go across to 3 Squadron - I was in 450 - and get one of their Mustangs.
Wing Commander Westlake came up with me and what we did, we reduced some of the weight of the Mustang by leaving some of the ammo out and not taking much petrol cause they’ve got a good range without it. We had six Kittyhawks, Spitfires at 20,000 feet and we went up to 30,000 feet till we started making paper trails and then we dropped down a bit. Then the wing commander
got a bit of sinus headache and we started to come down. Then we got sent back again. I’m a bit wrong there. We didn’t start to come down. The wing commander went home and I stayed up there. But then we got sent up again before we got down very far. This plot was found to be friendly. So
I came home at about the speed of sound. It was very interesting. I didn’t get any of that porpoising but I wasn’t at that speed, didn’t want to. Came back and that was alright. But I’ve been in touch with Russell Brown who’s written Desert Warriors. I’m just getting the end of that book because I had three operations in it in Africa. He’s well into the second one now in which I’ll probably feature a bit more prominently from the other one. And the
German in charge of that whole operation of the chaps who are doing PR work is resident in South Australia and is doing that for quite a while. So I know his name and I think I’ll get in touch with him and tell him he was a bit of a wuss because he didn’t come down when we went up there looking for him. I think he’s probably got an Australian sense of humour now that he’s been out here a fair while. Might be interesting.
You mentioned you went up against the Focke Wulfs and the Macchi 202s. What other aircraft did you encounter?
109 mainly. The Messerschmitt. BF109 it’s usually referred to. 3 Squadron captured a lovely 109 in Egypt. That’s the one that’s over in England now.
It’s a good one. And then we got that Macchi. When I was over in England I made a bit of an attempt to find out if and where it was. But we were doing 15 things in nine days and I’m not complaining about that because the more we did the more we saw, but that could be well over there. That was a beautiful aircraft that thing.
Interviewee: Jack Doyle Archive ID 1473 Tape 05
Just want to ask you about your DFC [Distinguished Flying Cross]?
The DFC is really a community effort. You got a bunch of people with you, there’s a lot of luck in these things.
You’ll find the word hero is used. In my opinion a hero is someone that’s been observed doing his duty. You have certain things to do and you just do them. You win some and you lose some. That’s the way it’s gone with me. I just had a very long history in the war - three and a half years over there. Three or 450 were never withdrawn
during the entire war. They were in the war all the time, the same as 460 Australian Squadron was. I have a considerable number of sorties. I’ve done 255 sorties and 403 operational hours. Mainly my ability has been to remain alive. You can’t say that. That’s easy. It’s just the luck of the game.
You really accept them and I wear them on behalf of 400 very good ground staff in three and 450. I’m just proud to wear them on their behalf. Without them we can’t get those sort of things. A squadron can’t be a good squadron. Both 3 and 450 are quite good squadrons. They came right through the war, in Kittyhawks too. Which is a very
lowly rated, hardly rated at all, and yet it carries 2000 pounds of bombs and went right through the war hardly modified or altered. I think it fought in just about every area there was including Russia. I forget how many were made, but a considerable number.
How did you find out about receiving your DFC?
You do all these jobs and you come back from one job and you see, that was a bit hot. I mean, the Straits of Messina, you could nearly get out and walk on the flak there. So we gave it a good burst. But you do some jobs and everything goes wrong and whatever. Then you go out on some other job and everything just goes like clockwork and you lose two blokes. It’s all so terribly variable because with so many people shooting at you
in ground support that there can be a bloke half a kilometre over there, he’s cleaning his rifle, he doesn’t know it’s loaded and it goes off and shoots you down. You’ve only got to get hit in the body or something and be unconscious for two or three seconds and if you’re down near the ground you’ll probably die. With due respect to the army, you can be wounded and lie out in no man’s land and get rescued at night. I’m not belittling the army in any way. It’s just so different.
You can get killed easier in the air force because you’re travelling round at such a speed. That’s the way it goes. Then sometimes everything’ll go wrong and no-one gets hurt and sometimes hardly any akak and some bloke goes in. You don’t know you’ve got it until long after the event. It doesn’t enter your head
on these things. Then you find that you’ve been awarded…it’s a distinction. Then of course you wear the top hat and shout beer for… I mentioned in the earlier episodes.
So it was handled fairly jovially by the squadron?
Yes. It’s a good rejoicing thing. It depends. We had a thing in the squadron too
that - only brought in lately - that when you left the squadron you sent a beer tankard. That was starting to be good because you might have a beer in the mess and the steward serving the beer - in a tent always of course - he’d just reach down and pull down a tankard and you’d look at it and you’d see “Oh so and so” and he might have been killed or he might have finished his tour and gone home or finished completely or got promoted or whatever. It’s just good. There’s Wing Commander Westlake’s tankard
up there. He was the wing commander flying with 239 Wing. He liked those. He was a bit of an Australian type of bloke, I think. I got it when we distributed - I brought it from the thing, we distributed them when we came back. Got his name on it and 450 Squadron.
What did the move involve when you went
from 3 Squadron to 450 Squadron?
I thought it was rather good because I got blown up in the meantime by a booby trap bomb.
How long did that put you out of action for?
About 14 days in hospital. It’s in my log book. In Naples Hospital. It’s a postie. I was posted into the hospital. They flew us out in DC3s and they put a breachers’ buoy under me and sat me up
because I sustained a mark just inside my neck here. I think something went in there. They were frightened I might have damaged my lungs. Sat me up. I was the only person that wasn’t sick. They flew at a very low altitude all up the valley because of this happening, wishing to release pressure. Course all the army blokes not being flyers were sick and I thought the trip was as good as a trip could be under my circumstances.
Then I used swimming in the Mediterranean as a rehabilitation thing which is good because every joint in my body would hurt. Nothing broke. Lots of skin missing. No final result.
Did you get leave at all when you were there?
Oh yes. We’d get leave down to Rome or whatever
and various other places, three or four days or four or five days. Sometimes some of the ground staff would go AWL [Absent Without Leave] and I abhor this wretched thing of AWOL that we are using now. How can you be absent without official leave? It’s absent without leave full stop. If they went in a time when things were a bit tough and lots of work was required their mates would deal with them so we didn’t have much of that. That was the beauty of - three and 450 were great that way. More the Australian spirit.
I might mention that when I was in Rome I bought that watch in 1945. Still keeps reasonably good time and it’s flown over Munich with me and all my other sorties in 450.
What else did you do in Rome when you were there?
I didn’t do much. I had a friendly Italian family and we used to go down there and we could draw rations and we just
took rations there and lived in Naples with them. Took the girls to the opera and this sort of thing. You put the Italians in a motor car and I think they’re like the Fijians and the Welsh and they sing. Australians don’t, Australians don’t sing at all really whereas other nations do. They just get into song and sing. We did that and we just reserved that family and only certain people went there because they respected the family.
It was quite good.
Were you aware of the two different lots of Italians? The Loyalists and…?
Yes. We were. To the extent that this family I speak of, some of the uncles or aunts or whatever were on the other side. It’s a wonder.
It’s really amazing, cause you walked round - I mean Italy in those days was safer than some of your Australian towns now. Walk around at night. None of that. I probably think really most of the Italians were on our side. They could see what had happened to their country and they really weren’t in it. Just the hardened ones were but they drew back and kept the other side of the line. They had to.
We had Nicky Var. He was shot down the other side of the line. He spent quite a while behind the lines and once he got hold of a radio and he was doing good work there - he got a military cross for it. He helped some Partisans at one stage. They were going to blow up a bridge, so he worked under extreme difficulties at night and digging and heavy work
and they all agreed that it was now ready and he said, “Okay the explosives” and they said, “We haven’t got any explosives yet”. I think he left them. I actually brought him through the front line. When we got word that he’d arrived at the front line - it come through one of our padres, either Padre Davies, Church of England, or Fred Mackay, of the Inland Mission.
Padre Fred MacNamara was the other one. He died rather early unfortunately because the three of them were beaut people. They were picked for that area. The diocese was bigger than England. I just brought him back to the mess and we gave him a few beers and he didn’t fly there again because of his captivity - or non captivity.
Did you have any correspondence with home?
Yes. We had - I forget what you called it - when you wrote a letter out they put it on microfilm. Put it on 16 millimetre and that was sent. A mate and I we grabbed a typewriter. We bought a typewriter, that was good because you can put a lot more as you know on a letter, and that was sent. We used to get parcels. They all had to be sewn up in cloth.
I had one. One of my armourers, Reg Brabham, he’s a cousin of Jack Brabham. Reg is deceased now. He had kidney troubles, he was a wonderful character. He posted a Fiat home to Australia. Posted the engine home. Four cylinder when it left Italy and two cylinder when it got to Australia cause it didn’t all get where he wanted to. But he posted the thing home. Didn’t
quite make it.
What about correspondence the other way? Did you receive mail and get parcels?
Yes we got parcels. Used to get chocolate and that type of thing. There was a thing they used to do with tins of condensed milk. Apparently you put them in water and boil them for so long - don’t open them obviously - it becomes a sort of toffee type of thing. If you like eating that sort of thing.
You got parcels and you shared them round of course. You had different - living in tents you’d share amongst your mates. A lot of brewing up of coffee at night, tea, eggs. What they used to do in the desert, largely, they would dry the tea leaves if the tea was made up and sell the dried tea leaves to the wogs for eats. There’s a lovely
photograph in existence - it’s in my house, it’s an official photograph. There’s two people killing a sheep. Killing it on the ground and dressing it. We bought the sheep and people gathered round. The caption is “Cooks and butchers of an all Australian squadron in the desert killing a sheep”. The point is, it’s Jack Doyle and Murray Knox. Murray came from Maxwell and we’re country people. We are killing a sheep each.
And the cooks and butchers are gathered around watching how you do it. It’s an official photograph with that caption.
What was the food situation like for you guys?
I’m a country person and I thought it was okay. I don’t mind baked beans and bully beef. The food was hard. But what you find in my limited experience with some of the people is that if they
live with Americans, their food is soft and pappy and in the long haul you end up really liking the hard stuff. Perhaps not of the moment. Americans have coffee and everything else. The British got good in the end. They had packs. I think they were seven people for one day or one person for seven days. They had a bit of everything. They were a complete solid menu. They were quite good but it varied with what you could buy.
We used to go out and scrounge and then buy food and buy alcohol and that sort of thing. I think we got the mess drunker for three and sixpence in Italy at one stage because the little peroni [?], the little over the centre bottles where the cork goes over and you press the little thing down. They were I think threepence halfpenny something on the bottle and I think you got threepence on the bottle. I’d say we got
the mess drunk for about three and sixpence, exaggerating it a bit. No, we’d send the truck away. That’s how I got my staff car. They only gave me a jeep to get round doing my duties in Italy in the snow. It had no hood on it, just a plain thing. I think I showed you how ultimately I did get a body put on it with
panel beating tin and iron found in a rubbish heap. My ground crew did it for me, but then I decided I should have a better transport than that so I picked a Sydney taxi driver and asked him to grab a mate, take a truck which we called the Gary, and put what equipment you needed to get me a vehicle. So he shot off up near the Austrian borders
and there was a car pool up there. No, they went through some border or some block and the English are very impecunious in their operations. Fair enough. They were hard up. They would only get three or four days leave. And then you’d go down to the local Peroni [?]. Might be a day’s hitchhiking to a NAAFI [Navy, Army, Air Force Institute, British Military stores] and get in a queue and get a beer and drink it and go down the end of the queue again. You’ve got to admire them
that way. They were good toilers. They worked differently to we did. They found one of the Redcaps [military police]. That’s the British police on this boundary thing. So they gave him an orange or an apple and had a bit of a yarn with him and went on. They came to this car pool. I don’t know the finer details but I know there was a shot fired. Probably not in anger. They grabbed an Oldsmobile. You had to be careful what
motor vehicle you got. It had to take 600 by 16 tyres. That was the common tyre in those days. Jeeps took it, a lot of the American cars took it. They shot off and there was a shot fired, not necessarily at them, but then they came to this bloke on the thingo again. He remembered the orange and went through.
They went behind an international railway station and spray painted the car. I told you I picked a taxi driver from Sydney to take what he wanted. I’m not condemning taxi drivers but they’re versatile people when required, same as I am at times. They painted it up and we got it back to squadron and we put the crest on it and put a number plate on it. It was my staff car. It wasn’t abused. It was necessary.
When I disbanded 450 at the end of the war I was offered from two different sources 2000 pounds sterling - what was the basic wage then? One sterling a week or something like that? Something like that. It was phenomenal. One of the offers was from the Vatican. I didn’t sell it. I walked away from it.
But if I had sold it I might have been the one time owner of the first pope mobile. It would have been quite an honour I think. I walked away from it. I don’t know where it is now.
You got some other stories there of episodes that happened during the war?
This should really come at the finish but you don’t know where the finish is. One of our 3 Squadron members, he was an older person and he drank a bit and he smoked, but he did two tours and he got a DFC and he earned it and he was a flight commander. He was put on training flight after his first tour in 3 Squadron and he was drinking with a town major. I might explain,
the town major is the person who takes hold of a town when you capture it. He’s usually an army - he’s invariably an army person obviously, he’s usually a major, but he’s called the town major and he would take the place of the mayor of the town. He gets the sewerage going and all piping and water and all those sort of things, hospitals going. My friend, Natter, we’ll call him Natter - he was drinking with the town major in a pub and there was some mild screaming
from upstairs and this town major said, “Natty, your pilots are annoying my staff up there” or something. So Natty punched him in the jaw, which is not a good thing to do particularly with a senior officer, or more senior than you are. So he was court martialled and dismissed with ignominy. Which I think means tearing the buttons off. AnywayGgroup Captain Eaton got hold of that, he was good on red tape and he was good in the air too so he was a good all rounder. Really worthwhile bloke in this situation.
For heavens’ sake you’ve got to be practical in some things. Anyway we redid him and he was then reduced in rank. He was sent to me. They reckoned I could handle him. He wasn’t hard to handle. He was okay. He did a full second tour and I made him a flight commander eventually. He got a DFC which he deserved. When the war finished
things did get a bit less form. You had good top brass there because you had some of them had operated in India and they were interesting characters. They were good. We had a semi formal gathering and Pussy Foster who was in charge of things there, he’s making a bit of casual comment and we’re not standing stiffly to attention and he said, “I hear the troops are going back by train down to Cairo.
Going down to the end of Italy and then taking a thing”. Incidentally I was posted home through Austria. But it got squashed because poor England nearly sank with all the POWs [Prisoners of War] coming out of Germany and you have to feed them, billet them and all that sort of thing. The Americans picked up the first thing that’d float and went home quickly as they could. Pussy Foster said, “How are the troops going back?”
We pointed out they were going by train down to the end of Italy and across by boat to Egypt. And he said, “Who’s in charge of the train?” just for something to say. Group Captain Eaton said, “Flight Lieutenant Foster, sir, a bloke that we have resurrected from a court martial”. Pussy Foster went a few shades of red and white and said, “Who put him in charge?” I said, “I did, sir”. That was alright. That ended but I subsequently learnt that
Natter when we’d disbanded properly got hold and drew all the rations for the trip right down the length of Italy and he immediately flogged the sugar for beer. They climbed aboard the train and proceeded down near the Adriatic coast and when they came to a suitable beach he halted the train and they had a barbecue. I believe the Orient Express had nothing on that train trip. It’s spoken of quite a bit.
How different were the
operations that you were flying with 450 compared to 3 Squadron?
Same. They had Mustangs in the finish. I was promised Mustangs. Two and threes got them. They didn’t give 450 Mustangs. They gave me one for my own use or whatever use, which was good. You could have a practice flight and go up and jump them with a different aircraft. They didn’t know they were going to be jumped anyway.
Keeps them on their toes.
How’d you find the Mustang compared to the Kittyhawk?
It’s a lovely thing, but you can’t say which is best because it’s horses for courses. If you want to do what we were doing it’s hard to beat a Kittyhawk. Carries 2000 pounds of bombs with the Mustang only carrying 1000. It hasn’t got the range. Fair enough. I believe it’s steadier in the bomb dive. I’ve only done that one sortie,
official sortie in a Mustang I did in 3 Squadron. I was chasing that jet that didn’t come over. But they have advantages, but the Kittyhawk takes a lot of punishment. The Mustang’s got a radiator down the back. There’s a lot of plumbing there. You only need one bullet and you’re going to catch fire in four five minutes by overheating. You’ve got an indication of radiator temperature depending how bad the damage is.
But it took so much punishment the Kittyhawk. Its bomb load is quite formidable. You put 1000 pound in two five hundreds and you’re a reasonable size ship that’ll use the Adriatic and with a bit of luck you can sink the darn thing. That’s quite a lot of damage anyway the 1000 pounds itself does. The Spitfires are lightly built. I think if they turn over they’re likely to break their back. I’d get a belly landing rather
than risk it on a false landing, not putting down the wheels and turning them upside down and breaking them in half. They’re lightly built. They were made for quick defence. Their main criteria would be to climb quickly because when you’re being attacked from Europe you don’t get much warning so you’ve got to get up there high and get quickly. That was before radar of course. That’s it. That’s the criteria and it meets it very successfully.
It climbs fast because it’s so light and it’s manoeuvrable. The Kitty has different characteristics. The Kittyhawk’s hard to beat for front line close support and shipping or knocking out railway bridges. Blocking roads.
I was going to ask you about the drop tanks that are on the Kittyhawks.
What sort of distance could you get out having a drop…?
They were 90 or 110 United States gunners. Which way is it? It’s 110 to 90 or something. Roughly a hundred gallons. Our tank was 90 gallons behind us and two 27 wing tanks there. I forget what our radius was. I think at the belly tank it was about
three or 400. You tend to get mixed up with miles too. I’m happy in kilometres, but sometimes you wonder whether you’re remembering in miles or kilometres. Kilometres have been in so long you can think the other way. Talking about distance, we did an interesting thing when we moved from Sicily into Italy. When we pushed the axis over the straits of Messina. 3 Squadron -
I was in 3 Squadron then. We got into our Kitties and flew to Gotali which is not on many maps. It was the air force base near Taranto which was a navy base. Toronto’s near enough. We flew quite a few hundred kilometres there and landed there. That was a peace time (UNCLEAR) nautical base. And that was quite nice. We had nice facilities. We were then attacking the Germans from
hundreds of kilometres behind them with nothing between us and them. That must have given them a hell of a shock to withdraw some of your tanks to a nice area and regroup and someone comes from the other direction to where the front line is and belts the daylights out of you.
Did you ever have to drop your fuel tanks?
Yeah. You dropped them. When you’re doing a sortie, when you’re about to finish, or if you’re going to attack something and you still had them, you’d drop them.
You’d only need to get a bullet or something in that and that’d be bad enough. You just drop them.
So did they tend to blow when they hit the ground?
It depends how much in them. That’s how they made the napalm bomb. They just mixed stuff with petrol and in effect put it in a belly tank and then go and put a fuse in it and drop it. Napalm is just terrible stuff.
But it wouldn’t actually be consciously used as a weapon?
No. No we didn’t use that in those days. Only thing, rockets - I haven’t fired the rockets. I’ve only ever fired a cannon from an aircraft. I borrowed one of the South Africans’ Spitfires with a cannon and offered him a flight in my Kittyhawk which he steadfastly refused. They really didn’t have a good name. There’s nothing wrong with them. They’re just not so gentle as other aircraft. They don’t give you warning of things
that might be detrimental to your health. We did the same, we flew across the Mediterranean to Malta too when we left. That was good fun too because we headed off into the unknown, invaded another country and all by yourself up in a Kittyhawk. Not much boot room in a Kittyhawk so some people left out a bit of ammo.
Put some bottles of beer there. A lot of us put our bed roll, our swag, on the bomb rack. The average swag is not accustomed to being about 400 kilometres an hour for an hour and 20 or something and every extra circuit you did of Malta you could lose another blanket. Even so, the edges of your bed linen were a bit frayed on some of them.
But as I say we got there and we never thought anything of it. We actually landed on three different aerodromes at Malta on that first day. It was a good place not to be. You wouldn’t want to have a forced landing there. The locals there don’t have, the farming community there, big trucks or that to cart stones around and tip them over the nearest cliff into the sea when they’re clearing the land for tilling it. They build a fence out of it. If you have a forced landing at
Malta about every 20 or 30 metres you’re going to go through a rock fence and that’s not a good thing. I didn’t have a single forced landing in my entire career except a Fairy Battle in Evans Head. Only forced landing I had.
Can you tell me about that?
I had to stop. The observer I was carrying wanted to jump out and try a parachute. He was a confounded nuisance on that day and I had other worries than trying to stop blokes doing silly things.
I put it down in a paddock full of stumps and trees and ended up with nearly the wing tip over the corner fence. I’d run out of land, but I’d stopped it before I ran out of space. So that was all right. But they were old and clapped out. I think the average life in it was 90 minutes in the first down there because they were operating on a sandy runway. The British have their air intake just behind the airscrew underneath and if you see any propeller driven aircraft
on dusty ground idling and halted it’ll have a little vortex up to the airscrew. Straight of the ground to the air screw and as soon as it gets within ambit of the airscrew it’s going straight back. You don’t see it. If the air intake is there, straight up into the engine. When they came to the desert they had to put extra filters, make special filters on them. England’s all grassy in effect.
Did the Kitties have a problem with that?
No. Because the air intake’s on top of the bonnet,
for another word, just behind the airscrew on the top. When the air comes up it can’t go past the airscrew if it spins. Just gets thrown back. No. It was on the top there. The Kitties were almost made for it and you didn’t have to alter them. They’d just go anywhere. Go to the snow or whatever. The under carriage must have been magnificently over engineered. Just simple, simple undercart. Never had an undercart collapse or anything. It’s amazing when you think of everything they carried, isn’t it? And they’re only made for a pilot
to sit in.
You were talking to me earlier about the two seater Kittyhawks that they had.
The Eaton Hawk. Not plural. The Eaton Hawk. Brian Eaton had it done. He made it up. Took out the 90 gallon fuselage tank behind the pilot behind the armour plating. Put in another seat there, a seat out of a Gary.
We put that in there and that was handy because you get an aircraft damaged on an aerodrome and maybe it gets fixed up in that aerodrome later and you move forward you might have to go back x number of kilometres to pick it up when it’s ready. That hundred, hundred and fifty, ninety kilometres you have to go back, it’s mountainous and it’s snowy and you’ve got horse drawn vehicles, you’ve got mud, you’ve got army, you’ve got civilians
with a limited thingo and it might take you three quarters of a day to get back there. With the Eaton Hawk you just threw a pilot in the back seat and flew him back and in three quarters of an hour, back home. Just flies the aircraft back. It’s useful that way. We subsequently got an Auster which is a twin seater light aircraft high wing little monoplane used for spotting. We got hold of one of those that was damaged. I forget whether the wing
or the fuselage was damaged. It didn’t matter. We subsequently found a RSU, a repairing service unit, that had another Auster on thingo whatever and it had a good body that we needed or the wing. The wing, I think. So we just swapped and they don’t care. They’ve got the same thing on strength. Two of my English pilots, Matt Walters and I forget the other one, they more or less did it up with the help of
the ground staff doing technical stuff. They worked on it. We got it flying. I made it a rule that no two pilots could go up together. You had to take a ground staff if you took someone. See, the single engine don’t get a chance to fly. The ground staff rarely leave the ground. I had a funny episode before it had finished. I had an English engineering officer. He’d been a cadet. You can imagine how strict he was and everything in his training.
Everything for engineering, and it’s high in aeronautics anyway. He came to me one night in the mess and he said, “We got a problem with the Auster, sir”. I said, “What’s your problem?” “The A line cables don’t fit this new wing we’ve got.” I said, “What’s wrong with them? Are they too long or are they too short?” He said, “They’re too long”. “Why don’t you tie a knot in them?” This to a bloke who’s working in the thousandth of an inch in those days.
He didn’t know what to say, poor beggar. Really. We sorted it out.
How’d they overcome that?
I don’t know. You can shorten cable. You can resplice them. There’s so much you can do. You could get the ends or whatever. I don’t know what they are on the ends. You could put them on another suitable cable or something. We did it and these two boys, Taffy Davies and Rock Walters, I think it was. I used to ask them permission to fly it. They never refused me.
I flew Derek Scanlon down to Venice one day and landed on the Lido on the thing and dropped him off. He found a doctor down there, another medical doctor that was operating around. He’d had the same thing. You take a pilot somewhere and - when I say it wasn’t abused, what’s wrong with having that, it’s a service thing. When I disbanded the squadron they went to 250 or 260,
I think, that had Kittyhawks. The aeroplane went with them when it was finished. Of course they lost control of it then. They worked on it and fair enough they had a say in who could fly it whatever. That’s the way things work well.
Can you remember hearing early on in the piece about Pearl Harbor being attacked?
I even forget where I was when Pearl Harbor was on. What year is it? ’42? I’d have been at Evans Head. No. It’s a bit hard, see you get rumours and when we heard the atomic bomb went off we didn’t know what an atomic bomb was. We knew it was bigger than anything else and that sort of thing but you don’t know if it’s a rumour.
You get a lot of furphies on that sort of thing. We didn’t, we just thought, “We’ll find out later”. You get a lot of rumours. Best you don’t talk. What else have we got to discuss?
I was just going to ask you in regard to Pearl Harbor whether it was a relief in a way that the Americans had entered the war as well?
It would have been.
You can’t beat them for supply of material, an uninterrupted source of supply.
So as far as maintenance and needing parts for the Kittyhawks went, how did you go with that sort of thing?
They were pretty fair when you come to think of it because they went for so long. They were flying the channels over in South East Asia. As I say they were all over the place. They weren’t in
England. Some got over there. We were never really very short of them. You did get a bit short at times. Pilots varied from 16 up to about 26. We did a lot of maintenance too. We did things that a lot of people wouldn’t even attempt.
Interviewee: Jack Doyle Archive ID 1473 Tape 06
About the Australians did maintenance that a lot of the others didn’t do?
We’d change engines in the desert. Some others wouldn’t under those conditions. They’d send them back to repair and salvage or to an appropriate place. Same as the Eaton Hawke. I believe that was too hard for the aircraft to be put together. It was a cut and shove job. A lot of others wouldn’t attempt that, it was just done. The same when I clip winged the Kittyhawk.
That wasn’t a highly skilled job. It was just a couple of mirror image wooden inserts on each wing tip. The Australians have more ingenuity. Nothing wrong with the British. They live in different conditions. They don’t have to do that thing so much. You get broken down in the bush, if you can’t get yourself out of that soon you can be in problems. You can make improvisation, all sorts of things.
interest in…I had a look at your log book there with the entry beside your flight in the clipped wing and you said it flew like a bomb.
That’s just an expression. Went like a bomb or something.
What does that mean?
Just went well.
That’s a good thing.
It was great. It only took about a third of metre of each tip I suppose but you got the impression that you’d got to lean out over the end and look
Was the Hawker Tempest that had clipped wings?
No. The Spittie had clipped wings. They had a classic that had clipped wings. They made one around about Mark V, a clipped wing Spitfire. Then I think they made one with actually an extended tip, that’d be for higher altitude. Then the lovely one was the one the PR [Public Relations] went over. They were taking photographs. That’s a beautiful thing
if it’s waxed. They waxed it and the cabin was pressurised. You had no armament. The petrol tank was in the wings. That was called the, not the flying petrol tank. That is a beautiful machine. Then of course we met one of PR bloke in Italy. He’d been over - what they used to do is take off for England at breakfast and fly over
to Italy in lunch and back to England by evening meal, taking photographs. But this bloke had bent his throttle forward so much because he found one of these - it was a rocket one, and this thing was doing head on attacks at him. It’s a bit disconcerting when you think you’re the fastest aircraft in the world and a bloke takes a head on attack at you, turns around and goes and gets ahead of you, turns around and another head on attack on you. It’s very demoralising. I think that might have happened to a
Mosquito because they’re fairly fast. It’s a funny one with the Mosquito. The Americans boast, same as everyone does, and there was an American twin aircraft there - Gossamer, something like that - and a Mosquito and they were heading to Malta. The American was boasting how fast his plane was and chatting about “You Limeys, how do you get around in that?” and it’s made of wood anyway, it’s all plywood. It was a Mosquito.
They all set off for Malta on the way to Cairo and the English bloke let the Yank take off fast and he climbed behind him and gradually lost, losing bits, when he got a fair way back he climbed and he climbed and he had a hell of a lot of height over the other bloke and he dived down behind him. You can get enormous speed when you dive down somewhere full bore and he feathered one engine before he went past him and here’s the
Mosquito goes past him on one engine. Got ahead far enough to unfeather it and keep ahead. I think the Mosquito was faster. But he really proved it on the spot.
Have you heard any stories of Kittyhawks that would lose their engine in the air?
Everything can have engine failure.
How would they perform?
You’d have a gliding angle of brick. I forget what the speed is.
150 knots or something, but it wouldn’t have a good gliding angle. No as I say I did every landing I subsequently made in the latter part of my career as a forced landing. That was it. You should be aware of what you’re training. I’m still to these days more or less aware of what the verges of my road is when I’m driving. It’s safe to go off or it’s not safe to go off, to that extent.
It’s the same with things. You can ready yourself for a lot of things if you’re that type of person I suppose. Always admire people that went and joined up into the air force and that that were not dexterous and didn’t even handle gear changes in a motor car well. You’ve got to admire those people that get into a thing that’s so highly sophisticated by comparison to what their everyday life is.
Good on them.
You said that you’d never had to crash land a Kittyhawk, but seeing the photos of the one that you nursed back when you were hit by the 88, pretty incredible damage. How did it perform? Its characteristics, trying to fly that home, nurse that home?
Certainly your controls are not as sensitive as they
should be. When I got out of that thing I could hardly stand up because my legs were sore from holding on to the rudder. You’ve still got to have a bit of power in the air flow coming back. You’ve got to fly a bit faster because you don’t know where the stalling speed is now until you try it out. I was fairly low down. I was strafing front ground troops up near the Alps in northern Italy. You just sort it out and if everything goes all right and all the
instruments are okay, your temperatures are right and oil pressure and various other things you just keep on going. Come back and pull it in and hope that things don’t drop off as you land. There was one funny one with a bomb dropping off. That brings it to my memory. When you’re flying off the perforated steel planking, the PSP, makes a bit of a noise too because it gets loose. I think they put, they grade the sand -
it’s usually done mainly on sand, and then put hessian down and then they put the PSP down and because of the weight of the aircraft you’ll get tracks in the take off thing. Not as defined as the motor car, but there are grooves, parallel dishes in the PSP all heading along in one direction of course and what the airmen do when you come in to land, they go up the far end of the runaway.
A single seater that’s a tail dragger, that you’ve got a tail wheel, not like your modern classical things, you can’t see where you’re going. So if you’ve got to taxi anywhere you’ve really got to weave and swing so you can look ahead. But the airmen go up the other end and they’ll get on and sit on your wing and they’ll just go like that, straight ahead, or left like that and they guide you back even though when you’re on PSP you’ve probably got a
coming back made of the same stuff. But they still go up there even though they may not be needed so much. It’s a tradition they go up there. Anyway all these fellas are clustered up the far end of the runway. One bloke came back - I forget which squadron it was, but one of three or 450. As he came back one of his bombs had hung up and he didn’t know it. Not that he could do anything. When he landed it dropped off. Now, a bomb
has no brakes and a Kittyhawk has. When you land you start to apply the brakes and steel on steel is a pretty slippery thing, because you look at the small incline that a steam engine train can’t get up. They got to get sand on front of the wheel. These airmen, these ground staff at the far end slowly became aware of some dark object preceding the Kittyhawk by a good margin cause the bloke really stood on his brakes when the bomb appeared
out from ahead of the wing because the wing bomb came off and he was braking and the bombs going faster and he really stood on the brakes then. But the blokes up the other end became aware of this thing proceeding towards them and slowly woke up what it was. It didn’t go off. It’d be fairly stable really. It caused a bit of consternation for the runaway mob.
With the matting,
the metal matting - what did you call it?
PSP. Perforated steel planking. You can see it. People make fences out of it.
Just one of the other terms I’ve heard it called is Marsden matting.
Could be the same. That might be an American thing.
I wonder is it the same or whether it’s a different configuration?
I don’t know. Where was it used?
(UNCLEAR) So it would have been American. The stuff that you guys had, where did you get that from?
I don’t know. Just PSP. It all just slotted in.
Locked in. It was good on a beach. You could make a squadron operational very quickly. All you do is a couple of hits with a bulldozer and pull up - it’d be half a dozen hits and you’ve got a place to put an aircraft and three walls round them. And just two hits and you’ve got a tent place. It’s good, really good. And sand drains very quickly so at the worst if you’re not in buildings the sandy area is good.
How did it go landing
on that if it was wet? Were there any occasions where it would get wet?
It’ll rain on it and snow, but it goes straight through. It’s all perforated. You still see fences made of it somewhere. You got good draining on a beach. No water really lies round on sand. It just goes through.
What about it, did the guns ever jam?
Not often. Except that one on the boat the Terridenti. That was a permanent jam. No, you didn’t really know because with six of them going off - see you’ve only got about 17 seconds of firing. If you can’t hit a thing in two seconds you shouldn’t be trying. That’s it, you can blow a thing up. You can blow tents up.
It’s enormous energy that is released when you fire through tents and hit the ground. The amount of energy that is released by the hitting of that thing where you almost explode a tent. That’s since I told you the razor blade and the bloke’s radiator grill, picked it up in the radiator. It’s like killing animals. If the bullet passes straight through them it doesn’t have much affect. But if you can make the bullet
pull up inside by making it a dum dum thing, all that energy then has to be dispersed by the body. Not just where it pulls up. The whole energy has to be absorbed. It’s there. If it goes through, a tenth of it dissipated in there, nine tenths travelling through the air behind you, it’s surprising how that works. You can destroy an empty tent by firing at the floor. It’s the burst of energy
that just pushes it.
So knowing how much ammunition you have in your wing guns would be purely on you remembering?
It’s automatic. You can tell the difference between certain things. You don’t need a time unit or anything. In my scuba diving days, it’s a bit different from this, I never swam without two bottles. Nowadays they have a J valve I think it’s called and its got a one and a half
minute left and if you bump that on accidentally when you enter the water you’ve got nothing left and you run out of air. It’s gone. Otherwise you’ve got a one and a half. I always found with my more or less private I call it Aqualung but it’s wrong because that’s patent. At my scuba private club in Sydney we all had twin bottles. You have 20 minutes in each bottle, have them connected, then you don’t even have to
check them for pressure cause you leave them in the shed for a month or a fortnight both turned off and they’re hooked together and sealed both off. You turn both on and if there’s a hissing noise from one air going into another you know one’s leaking. Just a tiny little thing, beep, like that. Or change of temperature whatever. You know they’re both the same pressure, haven’t even got to check them. When you put that on when you go in, you turn one on and leave it on and you go under water and in twenty minutes you run out of -
in forty minutes, it would have been about forty cubic feet, it’s worked differently now. We were only allowed 1800 pounds a square inch. I think they go higher. You have forty minutes more or less. Now, the human being can assess forty minutes. You don’t have to even know what a minute is. You can assess the period of time and assess a more or less equal period of time. But when you run out in forty minutes you turn the other bottle on that’s been turned off all the time and they sing across, your mates can hear it,
and they equalise. Now you got twenty minutes in each bottle, you turn that off then. When you run out again, the same. You’ve got ten minutes, you’ve got five minutes, you’ve got two and three quarters. You’ve got half the previous one all the way down. You can assess that without looking at a watch. Nowadays one and a half minutes Nowadays one and a half minute and she’s empty. Never swum with one bottle.
You just made me think of a question, it probably sounds ridiculous to someone that does it, to you, but for someone that doesn’t know, how was the Kittyhawk
There were various ways. It was a nurse’s starting with amazing energy and a really small little flywheel if you can get it doing 20000 revs a minute. They had a handle that I think two people get on. In other words the handle part of the crank was about that long. They wound this little flywheel up.
Then you could engage it into the engine. It would slowly turn the engine round. In the end it got a bit better because you had to start from hand start with ideally two crew. It would be possible to start it yourself if you were setting things correctly and chock the thing properly. In the end I had a tiny little pedal on the floor. You put your foot - doesn’t matter which - on the top of - you put your foot on -
it rocked like that, like a pedal on an organ or something. That used the electric power in the batteries to spin a little fly wheel and you could hear this little whine - cause the engine’s not far - that rose in a crescendo and got up that. When you got up to that and took your foot off the top of that and pushed the bottom of it there’s this hinge there could go like
that either way. You pushed the bottom of that with the toe of your foot from memory. That engaged that with the engine. At the same time it didn’t take off the electric power as well. So you still had that turning engine They just fired quite well. In the Spit you had a guy gas thing. You unscrewed the thing and did a pump and that put a spray of, like a fly spray of petrol into your induction manifold. They started quite happily.
There’s lots of cunning little tricks you can do. I usually get straight into my aircraft and start the engine. Wouldn’t do any checks at all. Lot of people get in and do all the checks and start your engine. Then you’ve got to wait till the oil gets to a certain temperature before you take off. So if you just get in and start your engine and then do all your petrol check, just turn the petrol and start it, that’s all, then check everything, you have a cockpit drill. It varies with the engine and the aircraft. Mine was PM
CRAFT. P for petrol. M for mixture. C for coolant. R for retractor and undercarriage. A for airscrew. F for flap and T for trim. You might have something else to do, lock your tail wheel in the wheelwright or something else. You just did PMCRAFT and that got everything. You didn’t have to use that, but you had to have some cockpit and then when you’re going round again you’d look at the petrol that you had enough and a few other things
So they’d refuel your aircraft as soon as you landed?
And look at the oxygen. Put in petrol.
Did you ever have any problems with the oxygen?
No. It’s a bit of a nuisance. We didn’t fly with oxygen all the time, but you had to have the oxygen mask on because that was the microphone.
In Sicily I got hold of a larynx mike either side of the Adam’s apple from the Americans. I used that. That was good because you could leave your oxygen mask to one side and it wasn’t so hot. It gets very hot in the Kittyhawk. You got this 1000, four or five hundred horse power from here to you in front of you churning out so there was no shortage
of heating and all the flame comes back at night. I landed a Hurricane at night. When you throttle back it all waffles over. You can see it on racing cars with a burst out the side of the exhaust. It comes back at you and you can’t see. Some aircraft you’ll see a little piece of metal going back there that keeps them under there visibly blocks it.
The taking off’s interesting. We did one job on Forli . It’s mentioned in one of those things there. They were a couple of hundred kilometres behind the line, Forli aerodrome. We were way down Fano or Pissaro or somewhere. I forget where. So many different places. I think 450 ended up about 50 or 60 places all told from way back near Egypt.
Our flare path would be large tins of fruit - pineapple or prunes or whatever of a commercial size, emptied normally. Fill them with sand and put some petrol in. I did one. I only did about two different take offs at night. One of them I went and took off first and went out and blew out every second sort of flare which inconvenienced some of the later ones coming off, but I was alright.
We took off at dawn. I didn’t lead this though. I was the deputy leader. Ken Watts led it. We were attacking Forli aerodrome which was about 200 kilometres behind the bomb line. It was in from Rimini which is a bit south of Venice. Remeny there was a dead straight plane line went up to Forli. We took off in the dark and we
went out to sea. We were on the Adriatic coast. This was really exciting. We had 12 Kittyhawks all leaving a wake on the Adriatic. We were radar dodging. It was really good. It made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It was a wonderful sight. We were out of sight of land, flat out on the water and we made land fall at Remeny. We flew up the railway line at the North Sea.
We overtook and passed over the top of an electric train. You’ve no idea the appeal of an electric train. When you hit them they all give off blue sparks at 600 volts worldwide they operate on and then anything that hits them is guaranteed to let off great blue sparks. We went straight over the top of this train. I don’t know what he thought. Must have given him a hell of a fright because we were low. We got into Forli and we got stuck into the aerodrome.
That’s where I got nicked with eight little anti aircraft perimeter defence things around the perimeter. We didn’t lose Wally Hogg. He got shot down, got back, but then we couldn’t find the train on the way back although we didn’t look really hard because we were a long way from home and had belly tanks on. We dropped those just before we attacked the aerodrome.
Went back to Rimini and belted up a few boats there that we’d spotted on the harbour coming over, all from North Sea and went out to sea again, came back. That was like going from here to Tenterfield down the road. Down the road, away behind the lines, along the ground.
You mentioned flying the Hurricane. A couple of blokes have said that the Hurricane was a very underrated aircraft as well.
You can’t say who won the Battle of Britain but they were two thirds Hurricanes and one third Spitfires. You always hear of the Spitfire at the thing, but they overrate the numbers. There were more Hurricanes than Spitfires. They’re like a small Fairey Battle. They’re a benign, nicely mannered aircraft. They’re easy to repair because of the fabric. Okay, it’s a bit out of date in time, but you can repair a fabric aircraft
quite often better and quicker than one that’s stressed metal because metal plays part in the stressing whereas the others you’ve got your framework underneath which a lot of bullets can go through without damaging it. They were putting 40 millimetre cannons on them and using them for tank busters and that. Then they brought in the Tempest and the Tempest has got a savage engine. I think they got hammered round, the Tempest pilots.
The Hurricane is good. It’s just a benign aircraft, like a Spitfire. The British make an aeroplane to fly and you’ve got some very reliable engines - your Merlins and your Rolls Royce. The Americans go on the principle that you can make that table fly if you give it enough power. They don’t design a thing to fly and put an engine in it. They make something they want to and if it doesn’t work then we’ll put in a bigger engine. That’s it. But
those other aircraft fly beautifully. They’re made to fly first and then someone puts an engine in them. They’re great. They’re lovely.
What did you know at the time of Australia’s attempts to build fighters with the Boomerang and stuff?
The Boomerang. Yeah. But I’d left then. I won’t comment on the Boomerang. It appears to be quite a successful aircraft in what it could do. It depends too. You can get an aircraft that can do a certain thing, well then
ideally it should do that certain thing. You can’t blame the aircraft if it’s put on a job that really it’s not suited for. That’s the same as I’m saying on Spitfires in hindsight. They were rushing around looking for something that wasn’t there at the finish. There would be strafing jobs that they could have done and that sort of thing. It’s just horses for courses. We were lucky we had a variety of aircraft, did we? When you look at the Germans only had the one,
oh Nines, it was a single seater fighter. We had three or four different fighters. If you were sensible and put them where they could best be used and put the armament on them - we were short in putting bigger calibres on aircraft. We had 303s and Hurricanes. I think some of them, the pilots in 3 Squadron got over England and hammered them to put better armament on them.
Do you know if the Spitfires had problems in the desert?
Just with the sand?
Yeah. They built special filters for them. You see the little vortex comes up. It comes up beautifully. You should see it if you’re ever near a desert aerodrome and someone’s not taxiing, got the engine running, with a bit of dirt under there, it just comes straight up underneath.
Is that when they moved it out to the wing as well? On the later model?
No. The air intake always came from underneath. But the Mustang - see the German one
comes out the side and it’s still a bit suspect but they had filters on it. But they didn’t have filters in it. The airman down at Evans Head, I think, in the early days of the battle had to get handfuls of grease and throw them up at the intake to try and block sand coming up. But then the filters were designed for them. That’s the way it goes. The Kitty was good. It from the word go had the intake on top,
just behind the airscrew. It had filters built into it and little holes in the side and there was a flap in the front. It was spring loaded. When you took off with the flap open to let most of the air come through instead of being drawn through out the side here while you were just taxiing it was being drawn through holes in the side. It was a safety fail safe thing on that flap. It was spring loaded so if you took off with it shut ,it’d have a bit less power
but it would come open enough to give you enough to take off. You wouldn’t crash because you couldn’t get enough speed at the far fence. That was all right. Then you just had radiator grills at the back. That’s your altar griller. They were an overriding vein that opened and closed like that when you moved here and you just flew it on the air temperature of the radiator.
Did you have in the Kittyhawks any sort of rear view mirror?
No. I’ve never flown with them. The Spitfires had them. But I think anything you could see back you’d just know you were being hit. You wouldn’t be able to see very far away.
Because you mentioned having to fly…?
The Spitties had mirrors. That took about three miles an hour off them. They’ve got a figure on all those things. Most of the Spitfires didn’t detract the tail wheel which is strange but the Kittyhawk did.
With the Kittyhawks…You mentioned about flying so that you could land and steer, what about, did you have any rearward ability at all?
No. What do you mean? Mirrors or anything. No. You wouldn’t trust them. You couldn’t see enough. At the speed you could overtake them anyone that dives on you, you couldn’t have a wide rear vision mirror because from here to my front fence there you wouldn’t want to see an aircraft really with rear vision. And if you have one that’s just normal
you’ve got a limited view of the area. They can come from anywhere, straight above you or whatever. You’ve got that third dimension that opens it up. It really does.
Were there any modifications done to the Australian Kittyhawks that weren’t done to other Kittyhawks that you know of?
I don’t know. I don’t think they’d have made much adjustments. They were pretty okay. See, the Spitfires then they made
enormous filters for those and they looked ugly. They were on the front there. Very interesting with one bloke I spoke to - I loved his turn of phrase - they had trouble getting aircraft from Malta to help them. What they used to do in the end when they could, they would put an aircraft carrier down through Gibraltar and they’d fly the Spits off to Malta. They were then
modified. I think they needed a bit of modification for Malta, maybe not quite so much. I spoke to this bloke, he’d taken off in this aircraft carrier in a Spittie and he’d flown to Malta and he got shot down before he got to Malta into the Mediterranean. So he’s in the drink. The air sea rescue hauled him out and they give him a cup of tea and a Bex and no lie down at all. Stick him in another Spitfire and he gets shot down again.
His phrase was beautiful, I really think it was. He said, “The air sea rescue was so efficient, you never got wet above the waist”. Just imagine. As you come down your chute, they’re grabbing you. That was a fairly hectic spot, Malta, in its heyday.
What about your parachutes?
I had a silk parachute
and I kept it. I thought it might save my life against a plastic nylon one or whatever it was because silk is springy. In the old days when you have a silk handkerchief it’ll crease, but crunch it up in your hand and let it go and it jumps out. I thought that might make the difference between coming out at 500 feet or 300 feet or whatever if you ever had to make a decision and come out quickly. I
went right through the first tour in the parachute and when I left, Ian Rodiger, one time 3 Squadron, was going in for his second tour so I gave him my parachute and my bed. When I came back for my second tour he was leaving and I got my parachute back again. I saw the war out in the one parachute. Not quite in the one bed.
When did they start to change over from the silk to the other type?
I don’t know. A lot of those things,
see you lose track of the day. I find that even when I’m retired that while I’m still active in a lot of things that sometimes you don’t know what day it is because you’re retired and you don’t need so much. Then days don’t mean anything at all. Nothing. So you don’t have a good overview of the passing of time really because of that. I always wore
boots. I got hold of some English army putties I think. The ones you wrap round. When we went into Sicily we got into the, what do they call them? The equivalent of a NAAFI, the American pack or something, the stores. And I got hold of a lovely pair of -
they were really orthopaedic boots. They fitted your feet beautifully. I got hold of some pigskin gloves which are really working gloves. They were pigskin. I got hold of a loose American style jacket. It was a conventional looking straight jacket. It came down fairly low because I’m a bit tall and there’s always a gap behind when you’re sitting down in an aircraft particularly and you get a bit hot and sweaty and a lot of wind going round
and whatever. I got one of those. It was a loosely fitting thing. I got these boots and I always flew in long trousers and long sleeves. I flew in gloves because I reckoned if you had to go through flames and baling out even a bit of newspaper would give you a little bit of protection. I never flew in shorts even in the summer in the desert.
I got hold of these gloves and I also thought I needed the support that if I came down in the parachute jump being only about as heavy as I am now -I’m in the lightweight scale for my height - the support there round the ankles meant you didn’t break an ankle and you could move about and do things. I always did that. I’ve still got the gloves I flew with.
I wore out about two or three pairs of gloves. The ones I have now are dense gloves made in England, a top supreme glove. They’re really a social glove. You’re not meant to be shooting people with them but they still go with my uniform. They’re still legal.
Tell us about inside the cockpit. Was there any method of air cooling in the cockpit whatsoever?
no. I can’t remember doing anything to get around it. But it was okay. See, anywhere in the world I think at 10,000 feet should be nought degrees centigrade. As long as too much heat’s not allowed to come through from the engine side. It’s surprising. Well anywhere I’d say in the world it’d be ten degrees or much less. May not be
much less anyway in a cold country. Up at 30,000 feet it’s about minus 30 degrees. Minus 35 I think you’ll find in the civil stuff. That’s what I found when I went up to 32,000 feet in the Kitty. Minus 35 degrees and you just hanging on your prop and your speed’s about 110 knots or something, be over a storm. Just hanging there. It’s a long way down.
But the higher the fewer. It’s fairly safe.
With your chute, whereabouts would you wear it?
You sit on it. You sit on a rectangle or a square device that’d be about 50 millimetres thick and square and that contains your dinghy and it contains a little bit of food. Chocolate and pills to put in water to purify it.
Various things like that, applicable to the thing. I think you might find a fishing line and a hook or something if you were near the sea or veering over the land. In the navy they have things like that. If you tend to come near the sea a bit it’d be slanted that way. But what happens in those things, you get your parachute pre-packed, that thing is pre-packed. It’s then sore to sit on
because your backside gets used to a certain shape. You’re sitting on it, there’s nothing wrong with it, but gee when you been on it a bit it can get uncomfortable even though your flights are only an hour twenty or an hour forty minutes and something like that or forty minutes. It interferes with your comfort.
Did you carry a sidearm at all?
Yes. I carried a shoulder holster. I don’t seem to be picking on the Americans
because we do it occasionally. You get someone with a bit of rank, he writes his name and his rank around the side of his cockpit. I think that’s terribly silly because if he goes down behind the line and the plane is not destroyed and he makes his escape, if you find there’s a colonel or a lieutenant colonel or a wing commander or a group captain or whatever there’s going to be a bit of a harder search for that bloke. I think it’s silly. I never did that.
Also, if you’re carrying a 38 revolver, when you come down, if you do, behind the lines… I never did. you’ve got to make a decision whether you’re going to hold onto that weapon or you’re going to get rid of. You’ve got better things to do than make that decision and find a place to get rid of it or whatever. So I made myself a shoulder holster and that jacket I told you was a shapeless type of jacket and it just fitted straight over it and if I came down behind the lines I would
make the decision whether I’d take the revolver out and throw it away or keep it. I didn’t have to conceal it because you’d probably get picked up by civilians first and they’d probably help you. We had one person, Arthur Kyer, he took his revolver. See, then you’ve got to get rid of your belt or part of it. I just didn’t do that at all. He got down and put his revolver in his pocket, but put it in upside-down and he was felt like that…
they never even picked it up. I think they mightn’t have been very serious. Might have been going to help him anyway from the word go. No, you want to pre-think those things and not have to worry about something that you should worry about once and only prior to a certain operation.
Interviewee: Jack Doyle Archive ID 1473 Tape 07
Can you tell us about the crest of 450 Squadron?
Yes. All English and Australians, they have a
crest. They don’t seem to have it in some other countries. In America you can put anything on your kite and make your own thing. In 3 Squadron in the desert we did have what we thought to be our own symbol. It was a shape of a conventional classic shield in desert sand colours and a cross on it and an eagle with a bomb on it.
We didn’t know really that 3 Squadron started in 1916 and it’s still going now and flying the Hornets at Williamtown. We didn’t realise that it did have a crest. That was okay. It’s always had it. It’s still got it. We accepted that and in the long haul. When we went to 450 they didn’t have a crest. Being an Empire Air Training Scheme all your numbers from 450 onwards and higher I think are air training
scheme squadrons. I don’t think there’s any exception to that. They go right up. So we decided to have a crest. It’s not as easy as you think. There’s a surround with a crown on top and a little space at either side that you can write 3 Squadron or whatever and a place round the bottom that you can write your motto or the statement that you’re making.
We discovered fairly early that if you want to have an eagle you have to go through the Chester College of Heralds in England. If you want to have an eagle, whether you like it or not you’ll find it looks like a half plucked turkey. So you’ve got to make that decision, accept it or not. If you want an animal you can’t have blood dripping from its jaws and if you want a rapier or something it must not point downwards. We eventually got through what I think is quite a nice one.
I would think that of course. It’s a jaguar with a rapier up through its head or neck and there’s no blood showing. And our motto I think is lovely because our motto in 450 Squadron is “Harass”. We got that from Lord Haw Haw who was always mentioning that we were harassing his troops and things like that so I think it’s a lovely motto for us. That’s what we did, we were harassers. We finally got that. But
any dealings with them are done in copperplate writing because they’re these type of people. I think these things are lovely. They give some character to countries. I think you should have those things that are maybe out of date or whatever but they just lend a bit of class to the thing. I actually have the original that was in water colour that was drawn up by Allan Rigby, of the 3 Squadron crest, and that is our crest. I think there’s not an Australian squadron that really hasn’t got a crest. It’s a pity
because they’re there for the getting and a bit of imagination.
You mention Lord Haw Haw. Can you tell us about hearing him broadcasting?
I can’t remember whether we had a radio in the mess in the desert. We had a gramophone and the gramophone records, 78s, that sort of thing. But you quite often did things or you were in your own
camp and there wasn’t that much moving around. In the desert you couldn’t move around because you had to have transport. We did got hold of a lot of cars and when the war ended there there was a race of all captured cars. 3 Squadron I think won it. We had a good collection. We were collectors of cars.
Think it was won by a little Peugeot or something. There was a Maybach there and I think that engine came back to Australia and was used in the championships in Australia, into a vehicle for a competition in Australia in those days. The first car race held nationally in Australia was held at Layburn[?] Aerodrome. I went out there helping a bloke that flew with me, Ian Cummings with BP [British Petroleum].
We went out there to the aerodrome the evening before the race. They had a dummy fence across the aerodrome because it was property that had had grazing on it. The night before the race we were there and a motor bike came in and turned a different direction to what we were and let it go round the track and we knew there was a fence there and we couldn’t tell him. We heard him slow down and he laid it down on the ground and got away with it alright.
Very unnerving thing to hear a bloke on his bike heading for a fence that he didn’t know was there.
Could you tell us about the two Englishmen that were in 450 Squadron?
Yes, because we had a good record in servicing Kittyhawks because of Australians’ ability in that sort of thing. We had David Haysham, English group captain, he was the one that initiated the
Rover David thing. He had his aircraft and he had an aircraft - a Kittyhawk - and he kept his Kittyhawk in 450 Squadron and he supplied two of his English ground staff. There would have been a fitter for the engine and a rigger for the fuselage person. Anyhow, the instruments or whatever
and the petrol refuelling would come from us. He’s kept these two English people and they shared a tent with some of our ground staff. They got into the way, they became Australians in effect, I suppose that’s the best way of saying it. They had the basis of our sense of humour. They lived there and accepted it and we liked them. 450 got very few ground crew replacements. So did 3 Squadron. Some of 450
went about four years over there in the Middle East. It was very limited capability of getting promotion too which was a pity. People who didn’t come over were getting promotions more than they did because there wasn’t the scope for those promotions to be there. But we’d get an odd few ground crew come over and they’d get together and there’d be a bit of a gathering over there amongst them and they’d
be talking to one another. These two English blokes, they had learnt a lot about Australia by hearsay. It didn’t always happen, but sometimes one of the Englishmen might say, “Where do you come from in Australia?” This bloke might say, “Mildura”. The English bloke would say, “Oh you know Tilly the barmaid in the hotel so and so” and the Australian would get excited because here’s someone that comes from his home area and he’s looking forward to a life long mate and these English people had never been closer
to Australia and Italy. But they picked up who the barmaid at whatsername was. Or who else was where or something like that. It didn’t happen often, but it did. There were lots of funny things because of their - they entered in the whole spirit of it. They’d never been close to Australia. When I disbanded the squadron I posted them home to Australia. I’d love to get them home. But I know they didn’t go because I think they would have been picked up on the list of people because their number was a different style of number.
I really suppose I should have tried to find out if they came out here. It wouldn’t surprise me if they’d emigrated afterwards and come out because they were really Australian in outlook. We were happy with them and they enjoyed their life.
What was the Australian humour and the Australian outlook like in the squadron?
It’s the attitude that’s different. See, the English accept discipline more than I do, more than Australians do. It can be best
told by illustrating the thing. Now in the desert we’d move and we’d all have to put down perimeter defence, a section there that would look after the aerodrome from the air. The British would go and have to dig a hole in the stony ground. They’d have all these dimensions laid down. It’d be this wide and this long and this deep and they’d go digging away there before they had dinner or anything.
What the Australians would do, they’d go there and they wouldn’t dig a hole at all. They’d pick up stones and build a little rock wall around there. That was probably almost as effective and took half the time. You could be attacked while you were digging a hole, the different attitude to doing it. The English, they didn’t have the facility to do it. Our blokes would go AWL, but they wouldn’t
go AWL if it was serious and there were going to be a lot of operations on and you were going to be hard pressed. They wouldn’t do that. Or they’d get dealt with by their own mates. But the English got underpaid and they’d go to a NAAFI and they’d line up for a beer and when they’d drunk the beer they’d go back in the line again and try to get two in a day, something of that nature. We had them go on leave if it was okay to go on leave.
One of my cooks, the gentleman that I mentioned got married to an Italian girl, I lent him my personal jeep to go on his honeymoon. That wouldn’t be done in many squadrons, English or Australian, I’d say. That’s okay. That was it. In the end
the English had a system of giving them a little bit of leave. I love this phrase. When it was safe to fly from Italy to England, as safe as those things can be, they would get an aircraft and they would draw circles on the floor that a person could stand in and they’d put numbers in them. Might be 30 or 40. And you’d be flown to England
standing up. I love what it was called. It was called lollipop. Lots of little leave in place of posting. Instead of posting, you’re on leave. Rather than post you somewhere you were given lots of little leave. You’d still stay in the dangerous old job you’d been in for four years or something. Lollipop. Then you were all numbered off on the tarmac. You marched up and you found your square, I suppose there’d be a sequence or order you came in and you stood in your square
and hung on and away you went to England for three or four days or so.
Can you tell us about Bobby Gibbs in 3 Squadron?
Bobby was an outstanding bloke but I think he’d been there in effect too long. He didn’t realise what a newcomer went through. That’s what I said, that I became determined that if I got into a leading position that
I would sometimes fly as red two, which I did and then relearn what I really did know. No. Bobby was an extraordinary character. He went on for ages. He’s got a few more hours than I have, I think, mainly because he ended up north and he was doing two hours trips in Mustangs for the same sorties. He’s got slightly more hours and slightly more
operations than I have. He’s a wonderful character but he was really severe on punishments. He’d make people run round the aerodrome with parachutes on their back or something. He was always adamant - he never spoke to me about this because I joined the squadron when he was CO - he liked people to make a tail down wheeler in the Kittyhawks for safety reasons. But I had no problem with that.
He never spoke to me. I like and admire him. We get on alright together.
Were any of the airstrips that you were at ever come under air raid?
Yes. Malta was. Sicily was at Catania, big air raid on that. We got a bit of fair opposition then.
They used to bomb Malta while we were there but I joined three when all the hard work had been done. It wasn’t so much aerial opposition and we were getting aerial superiority. I do remember we had one place in the desert - it doesn’t matter where it was - there’d been slit trenches dug there. There was a bit of an air raid there. You get told all these things, if an air raid comes and you’re lying in your bed you just roll out
blankets and all. At least you’ve got some protection. If you haven’t got a slit trench to go to just take the whole lot with you and on to the floor and you’ve at least got a bit of padding then. There was one bit of a raid there at night and a few search lights around and we’re outside on a bit of a slit trench there and bloke’s crouched in it and I’m there and I’m making a trench and he’s saying “I’ve been hit.” Someone else complains again or something. There’s a bloke
standing above them dropping clods of red earth. People take it differently when they’re wandering around in an air raid. They get under their bed or they get in a slit trench. We never had much of that. But the one in Sicily, that did, I’ve got one extraordinary photo here when they bombed the aerodrome at Catania. We’d moved out of camping in the aerodrome because of the mosquitos, they were savage, and
we moved up the hill. Some of the other squadrons stayed down there and some lost, some of those English squadrons, I think they lost about 16 people in this air raid. They dropped bombs on the aerodrome. I’ve got a most extraordinary photo of the cavity that must be 20 feet deep alongside a Kittyhawk and nothing happened to the Kittyhawk. It just went in to delayed action
and the sand blew up and the thing just got a bit of mud on it and everything went over the top of it and any weight fell elsewhere. They did lose some aircraft but we were lucky that way. We didn’t lose many but otherwise they didn’t attack. I’m amazed they didn’t do an attack like we did on Forli. Do a daylight one because there were aircraft everywhere, not much protection.
What protection did you have on the aerodromes?
No protection other than when
you bulldoze a bay in the sand, protects it on three sides, if you get strafed from there like the American thing, strafed it and wrote quite a lot of aircraft off with the bullet holes in them and whatever.
Did you have your own anti aircraft batteries at those aerodromes?
I don’t think so. See it might sound silly, but we were
on attack there. We had complete superiority in the air at the end. It got to the stage that the Germans could gain superiority if they threw everything in the air at once but they got very timid. In the end they only put in their best pilots up because they had so few aircraft. They didn’t mix it with us. They didn’t have the numbers. Two bloke are not going to take on 12 Kittyhawks specially at the height we were flying.
They’d get a sod amount of trouble before they could get above us so it was really one sided in that way.
What did you think of your enemy pilots?
They were good. It’s interesting about shooting people in parachutes. Bobby Gibbs made a nice remark about that. He said, “If you ever want to shoot anyone in a parachute you really want to make sure who he is”.
They sit in a dogfight, it’s all bedlam and the next minute there’s no-one there. But if there’s someone floating down in a parachute you want to know what side he’s on before you go shooting him. It’s quite a wise remark. I think there’d be quite a few people that wouldn’t shoot someone else down in a parachute and I think that I’m one of them. But you must remember too when that bloke lands uninjured and gets another aircraft he might thump you tomorrow. We had some of this
with the South Africans. We had one South African, not in my squadron, he had an uncle in the Luftwaffe and they used to exchange letters. They’d take about three months to come through. They’d get held up in Switzerland. They could come through but the Swiss would be asked I suppose to hold them for three months or so. That was alright. You’ve got recorded acts of chivalry where some German fighter has flown
next to a bomber that’s badly shot up and points the direction to Norway or whatever where it’s quicker to go to get something under foot. Actually point the direction and let them go. But no it’s a mixture that. You wouldn’t want to trust your luck.
was the circumstances around capturing the Macchi 205?
I just found it on the aerodrome. They’d left it. It’s amazing. You’ve got to be careful too. There’s all sorts of tricks you can do. You can pour acid down the tail plane in amongst the aluminium joins and that’ll eat itself away and you can go up there and might be two months later or something. See, we had the 109 - I’ve got a photo of that, that’s the one we captured. I didn’t fly that. I ran out of rank. I was only a flight sergeant.
My flying record was all right. I never flew it although I would have liked to. I was keeping them happy. We had these captured Gibbly and three engine things and two engine and we used to fly down to Cairo and you could bring beer back in them, they were a beer truck sort of thing, and you’d go on leave and you could send down to Cairo on leave. Where else can you go in the desert except
Cairo? There’s nowhere else to go, literally. We could put half a dozen blokes in there and chaps from another squadron as well, three or four of them flying down to Cairo for a week, but it’s all random. We got a fair bit of leave when we ended the war in North Africa because then we prepared for invasion. The vehicles had to be water proofed
to a certain degree. That’s why you have flights really. 3 Squadron was interesting. It had B and C flight. They didn’t have A flight, they got lost somewhere or something. I was a bit disappointed 3 Squadron in its present thing didn’t carry on the tradition, should have been just two flights. Those little things mean something. They had B flight and C flight and there was a flight commander in charge of each so you’ve got to spread the squadron, we haven’t got too much out and see who should go and who can do this and who can’t. It’s done here now so you can
put at least one straight into war very quickly and the other ones go straight into Sicily or something. That’s how you do those things so there’s a lot of preparation. Then they have to waterproof their vehicles with a certain amount of water. That kept us all busy. Shouldn’t get back to where I started, but in the war in North Africa when we finished it
a friend of mine, Arthur Collier, who I was friends with at Evans Head, we went and got a vehicle of some sort and we went up north to Tunis. Amazing we never got shot, the things you do, because there were mines and all that sort of thing. See, if I’d have gone off that road when I went up to that mansion that I drove up the front steps, if I’d have gone off there I’d have probably struck a mine near the side of the pathway.
What about when you were chasing the Germans out of the desert, you were moving on to aerodromes
that they had previously used, did you?
Yeah. Quite often.
Did they mine those before they left?
Depends how hurriedly they left. We did one move in Italy, I forget where it was, we moved up - see you’re really working on it you’ll take off on an operation and land on your new aerodrome because they move forward. We landed on one aerodrome and a friend and I were walking across
the paddock near it. There’s all bombs scattered lying on the ground. We got shelled by the Germans. It was too close. They hadn’t withdrawn like they ought to have been. We heard a shell scream overhead and we were in all mines. It landed there. We just went back to the previous aerodrome, but that only happened once. I think 450 went through 64 aerodromes or something from one end to the other.
Didn’t you blokes also do things to your bombs to make them scream as they
Oh yes. Ron Thurgon initiated that. Some of the German bombs had whistles on them. This is to terrorise everyone as it’s coming down and they’d be shooting guns at all of us and everything’s falling on us. You just have to take a couple of screws off the top of the wing tip that’s held on there and another couple underneath and the right distance apart and you could screw these whistles one on the top, one on the bottom of the wing and one on top of the other.
It was good because in the bombard they fairly screamed. This is terrorising the enemy. I don’t know whether it’s politically correct or not but we had what was also good, 3 Squadron could hear and identify the squadron coming back before they could identify it by actual sight. They all wait for you to come back and count the aircraft coming back and could hear this whistling approaching long before you could hear it so it had its uses that way. It died a natural death.
I think it just petered out.
Did you ever see the Stukas?
No, not in action. They were fairly vulnerable. They had one machine gun at the back. I never shot down an enemy aircraft. I’ve made bursts but I don’t make any claim. A lot of those, some of those people, I’m not an ace, you’re not an ace until you’ve shot down five aircraft.
Due respect to some of them, some of them are true aces in that term but others get unarmed aircraft going out of North Africa, shoot them down, something that’s got three engines, 50 people trying to get out and shoot them down. A bit of a slaughter really.
Yeah. We’ve had another pilot say shooting down five Stukas does not make you an ace.
Were you in the Venice raid?
No, I was on leave. Incidentally, on that Forli aerodrome raid, there’s a painting in this country which I’ve seen - I must try and get a copy of it - I think it might have been done by an Italian cause my aircraft’s the only one that’s identifiable. It’s got an L on it. I must try and get hold of it. What was your question?
About the Venice raid.
I was on leave. It was led by Teddy Strong. He was one of the flight commanders, he’d done two tours. He’s dead now. He was devoured by diabetes unfortunately. He had a great spirit. He was a goer to the finish. Wonderful bloke. He should have got CO 450. I should have taken over three because he’d done his first tour with 450. He got the DFC
and bar [indicates a second award of the medal]. He was a really worthwhile character. He led that. 3 Squadron had rockets, 450 had I think a thousand pound bomb only, anti aircraft positions and they had some American Thunderbolts there. Three with rockets I think were attacking the anti aircraft
further out and Drew Harrison who does quite a lot of drawings - he’s won a air force prize, he’s got a drawing over there I’ve got a copy of here - he’s got a drawing of my aircraft in it but Harrison was flying it and he got it shot up and I didn’t like people who got my aircraft shot up. I could do enough of that myself.
How long from those photos that we saw, from when your plane got shot up by the 88, how long did it take them to repair that?
It wasn’t an 88. It was a 20 millimetre in the fuel tank. I forget now. I suppose you could look in my log book and see when that serial number came back on, but it was only the rudder and they’d have another rudder and need a rudder and elevator. Wouldn’t take that long. They worked through the night depending whether they had to or not but they worked hard, those blokes.
You showed me earlier in your log book the fact that was a pretty bad knock around and that was on the 18th of April and then the next day you flew every day …
I flew twice the next day.
Yes. So you were talking about how it didn’t matter what you went through you’d still have to rock up the next day and keep on going?
You didn’t have to but you did. It was just normal. That was par for the course
that you come back with a few holes in your aircraft. No, that was alright. It’s how you accepted those things, I suppose. Some blokes - I think Murray Nash went right through 3 Squadron with one bullet hole. Now I got hit twice on my first three ops, so you can see the variability on the thing. It’s all I - I got hit 13 times.
You found that blokes that didn’t get hit were a bit apprehensive. It didn’t really worry me because I knew what it was and I was I suppose, if you can get used to that sort of thing, you can get used to it.
What about at the end of the war you had to disband 450 Squadron? That must have been quite hard to do.
It was, but I think it a shame they didn’t bring 450 back. I’m not belittling 75 and there’s a couple of other Australian squadrons in Kittyhawks but we were in there from the word go. 450 was the first Empire training thing and they formed up at Williamtown and they went over there as soon as they could. It would have been nice if they’d eliminated one of those other
three or four squadrons that they have already, with due respect to them, and had 450. It had a longer war history. It and 3 Squadron are the war history in Kittyhawks. That’s what Russell Brown is writing up in Desert Warriors and he’s found six of us that are still alive that can speak on the entire history between us of 3 and 450 in the Middle East in Kittyhawks.
I went right through in Kitties but 4 had Mustangs at the finish, but in those two squadrons it’s a pity they didn’t bring it back. What happened was, I only learnt this when I went to London recently, England sold the warrant or gave the warrant to Canada. 450 is now in Canada. We’d known that for a long while, but we didn’t realise that the warrant had been given to them. We thought they’d just formed up and that wasn’t a name of 450. It’s a sort of
personnel transport squadron. It’s got that type of aircraft I think they can fly big knobs around and or transport of maybe freight but it’s not a hands on training squadron as such as we were.
So when people come up and ask you what did 3 Squadron accomplish during the war, or what did 450 squadron accomplish during the war, what do you say?
That’s a hard question to answer.
We didn’t win the war. No one really won the war. We just were triumphant in the end. But our record speaks for itself. I don’t have the figures on me, they’re only academic interest, but I believe that only five of us in 450 did a second tour. I was speaking to Herb Capon in Tasmania
and found that he’s ex-Toowoomba Grammar as well. They had 79 killed in their Typhoon squadron and 49 captured and 10 of them made it through. I don’t know the details of that operation. They can vary, but as I say if there’s only 10 of you doing five years or six years of war over there and you make it to a second tour the attrition’s pretty savage.
I think we lasted longer, but theirs was pretty savage stuff and maybe not for so long.
Did you find there were blokes in the squadron that wanted to come back to the Pacific theatre?
You don’t hear of those things. I refused the posting as much as I in my rank can refuse it. They wanted me to go out and get on a naval vessel and fly around the Pacific. I wasn’t keen on that.
I know that several postings of mine were squashed by Brian Eaton. He squashed my posting to 3 Squadron and sent me to 450. I knew where I was posted when I left Egypt. I know where I ended up when I got to Italy. It didn’t worry me. It worried me then, but it didn’t now because it was a different ball game. We were all Australians and Australians were more self centred. Four hundred and fifty was great. It had all different thingos. I liked them both is the best way of saying it.
I won’t say which was the best. It was great. The records are really much the same, the number of aircraft we shot down from the time we were together and all that sort of thing. There wasn’t much to it at all really.
I just wondered whether blokes would have been worried that the defence of Australia was on a bit of a knife edge with the Japanese.
Yes and no. You can’t do what you want to. I knocked back a posting there because I didn’t want to
learn again. I reckoned I could handle the situation as well as anyone else over there and that means nothing at all because you can go tomorrow. But I was comfortable in the conditions that were there. Why go to another theatre and it’s entirely different? You’re virtually useless. You’re worth something over there because you’ve got it. Look at the 9th division. They got a bit of a hammering up in New Guinea because it was instead of
open desert, dry desert, it’s raining all the time and you’re in mountains and mud. That’s okay. You can’t help that but you don’t do those things deliberately unless you have to. I suppose we had to then to get them back. It was finished in there. See, the New Zealanders went on, the army, but the 9th division came back. That’s okay. The Australians went on in the air force. Horses for courses. It’d be silly to put your nose
into a different thing all together.
Can you tell us about your DSO [Distinguished Service Order]?
That’s a long service thing. You’ve just got to be lucky for a long time I think. As I said, you’ve got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them. Know when to walk and know when to run. I think it’s just a long service gesture, but it’s nice that you’re a companion
of the order and the King writes you a lovely letter. In 11 lines of the preamble, there’s no mention of a citation or anything you’ve done. You’re just invited to be a member and partake of all it offers. It’s just, not that one should gloss over it like that, it obviously has more meaning for me, but it only effects the value that the squadron is held in.
I wear my medals on behalf of 400 good ground staff that knew their job and did it well. I’m very proud of them.
When you think back on your war service flying, does anything stand out above all else?
No. I’m just comfortable in Kittyhawks and I love them. You’re part of the aircraft and you can do what you want with them and they respond.
It’s like having a good stock horse and you each know what the other’s capable of and it’s great. But the killing is not pleasant. It’s more impartial up there. It’s less so in the army because quite often you’re obviously aiming at someone but up there you’re bombing a house, you’re bombing a ship and you know people are on the ship, but some of them would have got away and maybe no-one in the house. Railway lines don’t hurt things.
It’s not nice doing it, but you have to do it. Someone has to do it or we’d end up in an entirely different situation than we’re in now.
A lot of the blokes that we’ve spoken to that flew in bomber planes with RAF spoke of the term LMF.
Yeah. Lack of moral fibre.
Was that ever bandied around amongst the Australian squadrons?
Not bandied, but I did have to put someone out because of it, in one of the squadrons, and you have
to do it because if you don’t what he was doing can spread. He was pulling out a bit high in the bomb dive. He claimed his eyesight was bad and I’m not good at remembering names, but I can remember that Air Commodore Lisle, the king’s ophthalmologist was in Italy at the time and he was inspected for eyesight and there was nothing wrong with his eyesight and we went ahead with it. But as I say you have to do it.
It’s terrible thing to do but you just have to or a certain thing can get worse and you’re really responsible. It’s the only one I’ve heard of. We didn’t talk about those sort of things. There were obviously others but I don’t know them.
Interviewee: Jack Doyle Archive ID 1473 Tape 08
Did any of the men or did you hear of any of the men receiving white feathers?
I joined up from Longreach and on one property over on Longreach and in the Winton area the fowls were all just about plucked naked for the sending of white feathers to certain people. Not to me,
not anyone I knew. My boss joined up and we were both reserved occupations. We both went. My previous boss joined up from Cunnamulla and we all came back.
When the pressure was on in the Pacific did a lot of the men get letters from home asking why they weren’t coming back?
No. I don’t think so. I don’t know anyway.
Letters are not censored in, they’re censored - I don’t know what happens now they’re in. But I’ve censored a few letters out because I’m an officer. No, I don’t think there was anything of that. I didn’t hear. That might have happened more in the army or navy. You don’t know. The different services, they have different happenings. The navy can be
not having the problems in one area that the air force isn’t or something like that. You’re just so differently operating. The army are individuals and the navy’s different. If a ship gets sunk you all go down with it. No, I didn’t hear of any of those things. They’d be kept from you because there was quite a good censorship on that sort of thing. You didn’t get that much mail anyway.
There was no connection between Australia and over there. There was that flight that Qantas put in Catalinas from Perth up to India. That was an incredible flight. You see a double sunrise on that flight which a Catalina can do. It can go round the clock with its range. So there wasn’t that sort of close connection to come over that way. It got better later on, but it’s still pretty
touch and grab because you had the Japanese mucking up the free passage of vessels over that way didn’t you? You had the Germans to start with and then the Japs. I don’t know much about that. I’ve still got some of the letters from my mother and some I sent her, because I used a typewriter - keep a copy of it. I’ve got the originals. A little print out on 15 millimetre
film and then blown up - half an A4 size.
You were pretty lucky being hit 13 times but surviving them okay. Were there any superstitions that you had at all?
No lucky charms?
No. I always flew with a scarf around my neck and I flew with three different gloves and I’m quite happy with any of that thing and I had no particular
charms. See if a charm goes wrong , well you’re really up a dry creek. Or you lose the charm. No. I just like the same aircraft. I really got upset when someone, I appeared to get upset when someone got my aircraft full of holes. But I was doing the same thing myself so I really didn’t have a case to stand on.
What about other men? Did you see other men with lucky charms or little rituals or things like that?
No. I think you’ll find that it’s more in the
tail gunner and bombers and that sort of thing because they’re so dependent on - they can’t do much to alter their situation. Do you follow? If you’re in a single seater fighter you’re strapped on to it and you’re part of it. You can do individual things, individually, that a large bomber with five or six people on it can’t. If it gets blown up they all go. You can’t do any.
thing about it prior to it but you can when you’re an individual. Not that you don’t follow one another down the bomb dive. You don’t refuse to go down because you think you might get shot up. But B section might see them going down and he might alter the position and angle of the coming down slightly because it would appear to be a better thing to do and that sort of thing. You’ve got more flexibility. Not your own individual flexibility, but you marginally have a little bit of individual
flexibility and that’s it. Horses for courses.
Did you have a padre there?
Yeah. Had three of them. Padre Bob Davies, the Bishop of Tasmania. and Padre Fred McKay, with the inland and provo Johnny MacNamara, Roman Catholic. They were wonderful people. Wonderful. They’re still part of 3 Squadron. They’re all
dead now only recently. Father Davies was the last to go. Padre Fred McKay did the eulogy for Menzies, Sir Robert Menzies. He was asked to do it. They were wonderful people. It was a diocese equal to the size of England. I think they operated over the Mediterranean. They were all picked for that job. They stayed with us, 3 Squadron mainly.
I think they’d all take one another’s services if necessary. They were great mates and the right type of people. They always attended our reunion. Padre MacNamara died very early. Can’t remember the date, but very early after the war. But Padre Davies and Fred McKay have died in the last five or six, seven years.
How did you find your faith served you?
Your faith. How did you find it served you?
How did I find it which?
How did you find your religion, your faith, served you?
It’s a hard question to answer. My surname might be misleading. I’m Church of England. All our family have been for a long while. I remember Padre McKay telling me one day this one bloke was a bit nervous and he blessed a Mintie and gave it to him.
He took off all right and I think the Mintie did its job. But you get that close bondage with that and I’ve read a service with Padre McKay down in Wagga long after the war and they attend all our reunions and you get that lovely bond there, but it’s nice having your own people. I’ve seen a burial - you don’t see many burials over there - with an English padre who
because the coffin didn’t fit down the hole he jumped on top of it. He also called in at the wing to see if there was any mail for him on the way to the cemetery. That sort of thing. I think that might be unusual in other people’s padres. I’d say we might have an Australian padre who would do that sort of thing but in the main you had your own people and they were wonderful people. They would pick people and they were the salt of the earth really. Really were.
What would you say the ups and downs were of your
I didn’t have many. I had no problems. We didn’t have any riots or anything like that. One of the padres got Koala Casa. Casa’s Italian for house as you probably know. Koala Casa, that’s in Farno over in Italy and it’s still there. All the Italians know where it was. See, we were more individually
like that than the English were. Maybe we had a bit more money to do it or whatever but we commandeered this house and the padre got it as a coffee thing and we would have that as a Koala Casa and you’d have dances there. Well the British squadron didn’t seem to do that. I think some of the Italians used to come there and they certainly worked in it and we would paid them or given them food or whatever or something. I was happy we could coerce Italians into it.
We paid them to do our laundry and they did that. It was quite good. We were lucky I suppose that we weren’t in a 100 per cent hostile country. It was I’d say most, more than half, would be friendly from the word go and then a lot of the bad ones again just went back. They didn’t stay where they were when you passed over them
in the war. They went back. I think the further you went the more you got probably up to 80 per cent of the population round you were on your side. When you’re up near the northern end of Italy, I’m only guessing but there was no hostility from them. You didn’t have any trouble guarding aircraft, sabotage or anything.
Where were you when the war ended?
Up at Udine in Labariano which I don’t think’s
on the map. It’s near Udine which is north of Trieste, isn’t it? There’s Trieste and Fiume. Not long off of Venice, near the Austrian border. That was nearly as far as we could go then. It folded then. No there’s no great fireworks or anything. We were just glad it was all over. I don’t think we held any -
we held a fly past. That was an official thing and 82 squadrons in Italy on the flypast. I got a list of them and I was second off the ground, 250 Squadron and our squadron flying Kittyhawks. We went first because we’re the slowest. We just got off the ground first and flew the circuit and that was it.
What was the circuit?
We flew a certain area. It was all officially photographed. The photograph I showed you of the clipped wing Kittyhawk in the fly past, that’s an official photograph. In fact I was down at Naples at one stage on the way home and I heard a bit of discussion by some airmen behind me. English. They were discussing something behind me and they said, “It’s not real” and they were discussing my clipped wing Kittyhawk. The official photograph in this wherever it was, don’t know whether it was a hotel, they billeted a lot of people, but it was
there and they were discussing the darn thing. I said it really was mine. I had no indication of who it was. No, you have an official fly past. Eighty-two squadrons, a pretty hefty whack, all went past at one point one after the other. You had to do something.
When we were talking earlier - was it on tape or off tape about the way the Italians received the Australians?
Well obviously most of them were friendly because the ones that didn’t like us didn’t come near us. They were quite friendly. They weren’t allowed on the drome or anything like that. I didn’t get around much because when you’re a CO or even a flight commander you can’t go mixing with the boys.
It’s not being snobbish, but you’re over them and you do more work than they do and if you can get away less you need one of those three people, need two of those three people always at the squadron. You probably can’t go away with one of your mates or whatever and Murray and I shared the same tent as flight commanders for six months. Then when he became CO of 3 Squadron I addressed him as sir which I should do.
That was that. We didn’t have that much formality, but I felt there was always respect. But in those positions of minor command even you don’t get as much leave as you can, you don’t abuse the privilege. You’ve got to set an example. I didn’t have to fly next day when I got shot up. I flew twice. I think it sets a good example. Flew twice
the next day as well but I needn’t have flown at all because I’m a CO you’re not pinned down to a definite thing you’ve got to fly so often. It’s just reasonable that you take your turn in leaving the squadron. All through my career when I had command of the squadron I flew more than one in every three. But if I flew a second time, if it wasn’t my turn I would not lead. I would fly as deputy leader or top cover
where you can roam around fairly freely. It’s all nice and comfy up there. That’s it. I think that’s a fair thing.
You talked earlier about people writing their names and ranks on the planes. Were there any other way that you’d personalise the planes?
It flew well. No. Other than clipping the wings off it. Oh I did have it waxed once. I got a bit of a spell in the desert and we waxed it which I suppose
is the worst place in the world to wax and aeroplane because it’s pretty hot. We sand papered it and waxed it and I took it up to the same height and tested various things and I think we got about ten knots more speed. This’d be okay too because talking about the photographic reconnaissance Spitfires, the special ones, the flying petrol tank or whatever it was that they put
mainly petrol in the wings, a lot of petrol because if flew a long way. They were waxed and I’ve got all the figures that if you retract the tail wheel it’s three knots better and if you take the mirror off it’s one knot better and all those things, and they all add up. It had a bit of an advantage. But if you do that all the time I suppose it may be worth doing it in certain circumstances but you’re putting a lot of work on to ground staff.
It’s a bit thing to sandpaper an aircraft. See, your camouflage paint is rough. In the end of the war when we had superiority the Mustangs came out silver. That was a natural thing of the metal. They were faster than any of the others really because less resistance, they were lighter and they cost less anyway. Less work on them, that was it but it did fly faster and it would handle a bit more nicely
too I suppose. But it’s a pretty big surface to wax.
What about naming or nose art or anything like that?
A lot of them have it. I didn’t have it because you’d get that on and you’d lose your aircraft. I don’t know how many aircraft I got rid of - accidentally as it were. You didn’t have the same aircraft. It got shot up and destroyed. Until you became a flight commander you
could fly in any aircraft. Flight commander has his own and so does the CO but if the pressure’s on and you’re short of aircraft well you never go short with one on the ground that can fly no matter who owns it. Our serviceability was the best of the lot. When I finished my first tour and went to mobile operations room unit and I could see what is called a Mayfly - that is a list of all the
aircraft in all the squadrons that can fly next morning. That’s submitted at nine. Three and 450 were always more or less leaders in the number of aircraft out of 16 - they had the highest percentage just because of our greater ability in mechanical things and that sort of thing. Some of the others used to cheat a bit. If any aircraft didn’t have a tail wheel that the tail wheel was in the store, they’d put that as okay. But it wasn’t. It’d
have to be put on before the aircraft could fly. You might fly it out in an emergency if you were being attacked. That didn’t happen with us at all. To get it out of the way you could get it off the ground, but you wouldn’t put it on an ordinary sortie.
Did you have gun cameras?
No. There was provision for them. But we didn’t have them. Bobby Gibbs did a sensible thing. He got hold of a 35 millimetre probably Bell and Howell silent
camera and he got some 35 ml stuff. But see you can put a thing in your camera and take it up tomorrow and your aircraft gets shot up. You’ve got to change it over and slightly modify a camera for something else. You could do it as a CO I suppose. As I say I’ve never worked out how many aeroplanes I’ve had but I’ve gone through quite a few of them.
Can you tell me about how you got back to Australia?
Yes. I ended up being posted to England as I mentioned and that fell through for obvious reasons. Then I flew back by aircraft and again by DC3. There’s a lot of movement going and if you have a bit of rank you can get on them. You only sit down the back on a load of tarpaulins.
Did you fall sick at some stage?
I got infective hepatitis
down in the Middle East when I was in Cairo before I went up to three. I was in Alexandria hospital and then I got it again when I was coming home before I left Egypt and I missed the normal boat home. You just hop on aircraft. You get permission to get on and actually
there is an aircraft pool for anyone with a bit of rank and you grab hold of that, same as someone can get hold of a car out of the car pool and take it somewhere and leave it there and it’ll get flown back by someone else. I think even the rental mobs have that. You can take one down to Melbourne and let it go and they’ll find someone who wants to go to Brisbane or wherever you came from. But I got myself down to the Middle East and then got infective hepatitis again. Ended up in Alexandria hospital and missed the boat that I should have got on.
So I didn’t get home until 1946 because I missed the boat.
What did you do whilst you were waiting?
You’re just in a PTC. Personnel transit centre. There’s lots of those. We were in one PTC down in Cairo in the wartime and Natter Foster, this bloke I told you used to get in all this trouble,
the piano wasn’t sounding very sweet so he poured some beer down it to make it sound sweet. The result is that we were all confined to barracks until we had paid in an amount of - doesn’t matter five dollars or whatever - and we were then allowed to leave camp. You always get smart people everywhere. Someone woke up to the fact that it is not legal for you to charge money to confine you to a camp.
So what some person did then was paid in twice and got a chit. See, you paid in your five dollars and you got a chit saying you’d paid in five and you handed that in at the gate when you went out and you were okay. You were marked off the books. But he just paid twice and got one chit and took it into air force headquarters and said, “Look, this is what they’re doing”. So that was stopped immediately. But no you get put in those camps and they’re pretty
dreary things. But you go into Cairo, but you get sick of that in the end. Cairo in those days was all people trying to sell you diamonds and all the glass on the windows of shops are all scratched where they show you this stone will scratch glass. A lot of stones other than diamonds will scratch glass. Then there was a stone, an Alexandrian, Alexandretta, that’s an extraordinary stone. It’s nearly extinct now.
It changes the colour with what you’re wearing it on. Quite an incredible stone, beautiful stone. The Egyptians were great in taking your wallet or fountain pen. I got a fountain pen taken out of my pocket. You didn’t know that it went because they’d hold up three cards like postcards and hold them like curved like you would a hand of ordinary cards. You can slide it up someone’s shirt to show them a thing
and they’d take your fountain pen. If you got a wallet in your shirt pocket you won’t notice it going because that weight’ll keep it down. They just get it under the clip. If you want a parker they’ll go and look for a parker so you can see the arrow on them. Pre sale, someone wants a parker. I had one taken out of my pocket, except it fell off the cards. I got him.
So what did you finally go home on?
Athlone Castle, I think in January.
What was the trip like?
Pretty jammed into cabins. I had Padre Davies in my cabin. He was a squadron leader and he should have been given a cabin to himself. I was a squadron leader too but it didn’t worry me. There was a lot of two up being played on the boat and when we pulled in at India on the way back
some people went ashore with a suitcase - I’d say that’d be money -put it in a bank and transferred it. Lot of gambling and that type of thing.
What was the reception like when you landed back in Australia?
Not many people there. As I say, it was 1946. They’d all gone home. The mass had gone home. I got written up in the Melbourne paper
with about three or four lines. I’d come from the Middle East. That was that. Then I just got a train up to Sydney and stayed there with an aunt of mine and her daughter, a cousin. Stayed there for a while because people thought, weren’t you mad to get home? I’d been three and a half years and I felt a week didn’t really matter in that respect. I was home and safe.
My parents weren’t worried about me any more. Weren’t writing letters to Drakeford, the minister for air, about my well being.
And when did you get discharged?
October ’46 I think. Five years and four months I had served.
How did you find the transition back into civilian life?
nearly impossible to transit back. You’ve got nothing in common. Nothing at all. I just read newspapers. I read advertisements and everything because you’ve got nothing to discuss. Your life’s entirely different. The other absorbed your whole life. You don’t have any much civil life. In England they would have. See, you’d go to a pub at night and you’re in billets. We were in tents. You didn’t have transport and that sort of thing.
You just had no connection whatsoever with the real world around you. You didn’t know about anything, particularly being over there. You wouldn’t have got that much news that the people up north would have got because they were part of Australia but we were part of Europe. Ninety per cent of the people around us were Europeans. No
army there, just air force and a bit of navy. So we’d been in no idea. It was a sort of dead end. I got in a, I had a massive haemorrhage. I filled a double bed with blood. When I got back my stomach ruptured. Thought it was an ulcer but it wasn’t. It was my whole system was in a pretty low level of living. Had a blood
transfusion, I think I was unconscious for two or three days in Dalby hospital, about five or six days in hospital or more. I don’t remember much about it.
Did you start marching in Anzac parades straight away?
Yep. I’ve laid a wreath in Sydney with 9th division in Sydney for about 40 years straight. I was even doing it from up here in Toowoomba except that one day on the way down to Sydney by myself I hit a 2000 dollar kangaroo near
Deepwater in New South Wales. That stopped it a bit by myself. For forty years straight I only missed once and that’s when I deliberately went to Melbourne and laid a wreath down there because I was president of 3 Squadron association for 20 or 30 years.
What did you have planned for when you got back?
Well you can’t plan anything when you’re away five and a half years.
Nothing is stable. Land prices I think went from five shillings an acre to 32 pounds. That sort of thing. You don’t know anything about what’s gone home. There’s been no building and houses are short. There was one person in Sydney that was living in Orange and working in Sydney. That I think gives you one hour at home by train.
There were a lot of people went up and lived in the Blue Mountains. That wasn’t as good as it was these days because there’s far more people working up there now with the suitable transport, electric trains. Housing was really short. There was no building.
Did you go back to live in your parents’ house?
Yes. When I came back I did. I didn’t
have any home of my own.
What was it like seeing them?
It was great, obviously it was. They were in Cairns when I left and they were in Toowoomba back here when I came back. Then I went down to - I went broke growing wheat out at Dalby on one of the McWilliams properties. Had the worst drought for 32 years.
I got my kerosene bill back from a little bit of oats I did grow on Oak Park which is Mr McWilliams’ property out on the outskirts of Dalby. Then I went down to Sydney to work in an engineering firm owned by my uncle called Steelcraft. He had the name first, ahead of the baby carriages one but didn’t register it for Australia. Only registered for New South Wales.
It was making cold forged products. Bolts and pins and rivets - no nuts. Everything that comes out gets made out of different gauge wires, that sort of thing. High speed stuff, making 105 a minute. I made the first cold forged set screws in Australia ahead of McPherson the big firm that made them. That was quite interesting. I was there for three years.
I travelled on the road rustling up business for that sort of thing. We made a lot of the copper rivets for the Corvettes that were being made in Sydney.
How did you get involved in filming?
I’ve always had a still camera. Before the war I bought a 9.5 millimetre one that you actually projected the film
in the camera. 9.5 was terribly interesting. It had lots of funny things about it and good things. Pathay were handling it, were taking up a lot of film. Titles take up a lot of film. The nine point five millimetre had - you just put a cut in the side of the film with a proper little device and that made the film stop there. The film didn’t move so you could - one line of thing could only take one frame and it stayed there long enough for it to be read and another line would move
on. I bought lots of it. Nine point five is the same film area as 16 millimetre because it’s got the whole in the middle of the frame. They had sound very early. Nine was terribly inventive.
So how did you get into underwater filming?
When I came back I read Cousteau’s book, The Silent World, and I
got hold of an American magazine that was well known. I forget the name of it. It tells you how you can make an aqualung in half a day or something. And I made my own aqualung. I work in metal. If I cut a piece of wood I tend to do it with a hacksaw. I work in metal and I’ve got my own lathe now today. It’s only a model making one. I had a better lathe than that and I made that underwater camera entirely
in my garage in Sydney. And I took up scuba diving which I must call it I suppose in respect to Cousteau because that’s his patent name, Aqualung. And I had a sort of private club. I forget how I became interested in it. I met Bill Hudson who started the ABC when it started. He’d been
in the air force in Burma in bombers. He was a pilot. Then he flew on to America after the war and had experience in TV. Then he came out here and he started channel two, ABC, in Sydney as news supervisor. He had federal responsibility for news and sporting and what else? I’ll think of it
in a minute. He also started up Channel Ten. They mucked up the opening ceremony and Mike Whatsername from Channel Nine sent them a get well card. But anyway, no I got mixed up with Bill somehow. I forget how it ended up. He lent me his camera. A Bell and Howell 70DL which is one of the finest
still silent cameras in the world. It’s used by about every army in the world. The Japanese, the German, the Bell and Howell. I shot Pony Trail was the first story I shot for Channel Two. I’ve got all my assignments here, about three quarters of a million feet. Cause you get an assignment. I got four and a quarter minutes on Pony Trail I think. If you got over two minutes
the ABC gave you a voluntary bonus of ,I think, two shillings a minute.
How did you find the television industry then?
I was only a freelance. I’ve been on a temporary staff of the ABC I think, but I’ve worked for Nine and Seven.
I was NBC representative in Australia and I was tied in with them with the nonuplets. Do you know there were nine babies born at the Oxford Street Womens Hospital in Sydney? And I’ve never heard anything about them. One of the papers, the Women’s Weekly or one of the two big ones, bought them and there was no film shot of them, not from
any I knew and every evening a gentleman which may or may not have been a doctor came from the hospital down to a building in the grounds of the Women’s Hospital in Paddington and made a statement about those nine babies, nonuplets, that’s nine. And I’ve never heard anything about them since. I’m saying this publicly. It can be proved that they at one stage existed, we think, in the hospital.
There was nothing really to get on them. I was with Nine quite a bit more than the ABC eventually because they could call me in and the ABC was seldom short of people. I’ve also done sound for Channel Ten. I’m the most highly paid and worst sound operator in Sydney perhaps. They pulled me in - I’m on an A plus in camera work. I’m a lighting/camera man. I
worked two and a half years with Channel Ten with eight days off. They just had enough camera men to go take one a week - as you know better than anyone else, you can’t have a blank screen on a television set. You can’t all go away for Christmas holidays. So I used to just come in on a Friday and take the camera and the equipment and head cameraman, John Gillies, takes his home and I had full security. Very few people knew I wasn’t a
permanent employee. I had a pay number, 633 from Channel Ten. Two and a half years with eight days off. Just went round the cameramen as it went through the year.
When you look back over your life do you see your years in the war as a separate chapter to everything else?
Oh yeah. It’s an entirely different ball game. You’re killing people.
It is something that you’ve never regretted at all?
No. Well you can’t really. You wouldn’t have gone. I regret the war, because there still is because we’re just silly people. We don’t band together and all that type of thing. I mean, the Great War was the war to end all wars, wasn’t it? We should give it its proper name. It was called the Great War. They named it that officially.
I just use ’14-’18 and ’39-’45 or you don’t know who you’re talking about sometimes. I worked for Channel Ten and Nine, Two. They respected me. I never let any secrets out because I could be one week at Channel Ten and then a month at Channel Nine, or maybe not at all, and the ABC used me occasionally. As I say I read Cousteau’s book, The Silent World, and decided to make an
aqualung and did so. In the end I was making the taps to go in the bottles and then Bill Hudson was extremely difficult to work with. There was only about two cameramen in Australia that will work voluntarily with him and I’m one of them. He was a terribly abrasive character, but he had the most extraordinary news sense. I could work with him and so I say we took each other up to Thursday Island, Bill and I. We went on Vic Morrow’s boat,
Solo, and it navigated Australia. Solo’s the winner of the Hobart yacht race. And we sailed up to Brampton Island on Solo and Vic Morrow put us off the boat because Bill used that much detergent in the washing up instead of that much. We had to get off the boat. Vic Morrow’s like that. If you hear a story about him it’ll be true. And we went up there and we shot a story - there’s a bit of a prelude to that.
We decided to do the longest pilot course in the world. This is the navigation of ocean vessel. The longest in the world is really down the South American coast, that’s not in operation, but the pilot course that is the longest in the world is Thursday Island to Sydney. You’ve got pilots based up there - seafaring pilots, merchant navy based up there,
and you couldn’t sail down within the Barrier Reef unless you were under the guidance of a pilot the whole way. I think it might have altered now. We went up there. We were going to shoot a story on that and we tied in with Eric Shackleton in BP and he was looking for a source for a film because every year BP submitted forth a film script to BP in England
I think it is and a best in the world for that year is made. So Shackleton, the power bloke in BP in Sydney, he was going to do something on that. So Bill and I think on our feet as all gentlemen do as you know. We said, “We’ll shoot you a rough one with it. We’ll shoot you a pilot one”. To cut a long story short we did a bit of underwater in it.
Just really rough and a rough thing put on it, but that won the contest for the year and Cinesound I think produced it at so many thousands and thousands of dollars for BP. So we then transferred our attention to what we did up there and we shot a story on the cultured pearl industry. I dived with the native helmet divers looking for pearl shells.
There’s no real pearl industry. That’s the off shoot, that’s the lucky one. You go for pearl meat that you eat. If you find the pearl that’s good luck.