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Old 04-28-2010, 04:37 PM
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Australian Sergeant Pilot Paul Brennan, 249 Squadron:

[4th May 1942]"Almos [Pilot Officer Fred Almos] and Linny [Pilot Officer Ossie Linton] were rather slow getting off the ground and when the fighter sweep came in we were only at 8,000 feet. The Huns caught us as we headed up sun, a little south of Gozo. The 109s were everywhere. Linny and I were at once separated from Mac and Almos. The two of us mixed it with eight 109s in a Hell of a dog-fight. We went into violent steep turns, dived down and pulled up again at them. But the Hun fighters came at us from every direction - from the beam, underneath, astern and head-on. We were separated in a twinkling. The last I saw of Linny was when he was in a vertical dive, skidding and twisting like blazes, with four 109s hotly pursuing him. It seemed to me as if I had been throwing my aircraft about for an hour, although probably it was less than five minutes, when a Hun blundered. He made a belly attack on me, missed and overshot. He pulled straight up ahead of me. He was a sitting target. I gave him four seconds. He went into a spin, pouring glycol. During the next few minutes, by manoeuvring violently, I succeded in shaking off the other 109s.

I called up Linny and learning he was over Ta-Kali, joined him there. Woody [Group Captain A. B. Woodhall, Senior Controller] reported that some 109s, low down, were off the harbour and we went out to meet them. As we crossed the coast, however, Almos called up that Mac was in trouble and wanted to land. Followed by Linny, I turned back to give Mac cover. We were approaching Ta-Kali when I saw him. He was gliding across the aerodrome at 5,000 feet and seemed to be under control. As I watched his aircraft gave a sudden lurch, side-slipped about 1,000 feet, and then seemed to come under control again. I did not like the look of things. I called up: 'Mac, if you're not okay, for God's sake bale out. I will cover you.' There was no reply. A couple of seconds later his aircraft gave another lurch, went into a vertical dive and crashed at Naxxar, a mile from the aerodrome. Almos and Linny landed while I covered them in but it was some time before I was able to get in myself.

Everybody was down in the dumps over Mac. We felt his loss very keenly. He was one of the finest pilots and had shot down at least eight Huns. He had been one of the first Spitfire pilots awarded the DFC for operations over Malta and he had richly earned his gong. At the time of his death he was acting CO of the squadron but neither that nor the fact that I was merely a sergeant-pilot had prevented us from being the best of cobbers. We had made many plans against our return to England."

"The Japanese aircraft were considerably more manoeuvrable than ours were. If we got down and mixed it with them at low altitude we were in trouble because we couldn't accelerate away from them unless we had a bit of height to dive away and they could run rings round us. The Japs at that stage were flying fixed-undercarriage monoplanes called Army 97s. They were extremely light and, for their weight, had very powerful engines but not much in the way of gunfire. They also didn't have any armour plating behind them. If you got a good squirt at them they used to fold up.

They really worked, those Japs. One Jap that I shot down had deliberately crash-landed, trying to dive into a revetment with a Blenheim there. We got the whole aircraft and body and everything else - he'd got 27 bullets in him and he was still flying that thing around the airfield looking for a target. They always used to try to dive into something. That was what we were up against. We also had to deal with an appalling lack of facilities - no spares, no tools, no equipment. Sometimes, to get an engine out, we wheeled a plane under a palm tree, pulled the tree down, tied it to the engine and slowly released it. Often we cannibalised one aircraft to keep others going.

When we made our first advance against the Japanese down the Arakan border with Burma, I flew to a recently repaired airfield at Cox's Bazaar to test its suitability for operations. On the return journey I had to refuel at Chittagong, which had only emergency fuel supplies on it. The refuelling party were in the process of finishing their job, and I was in the cockpit waiting to start up, when I noticed a number of fighter aircraft appear from behind a cloud - about 27 in all. I knew they must be Japanese because we didn't have that many aircraft in the place.

Being without radar cover or any other warning was always a hazard, and here it was in large lumps! I started my engine, yelled to the ground crew to get under cover, and then had to taxi a long way to get to the end of the runway. I opened up but long before I was airborne the bullets were flying and kicking up the dust around me. I got up in the air and immediately began to jink and skid to make myself an awkward target. I was helped by my own fury with myself for having been stupid enough to take off into such a suicidal position! However, luck was with me again and I led the Japs on my tail up the river at absolutely nought feet between the river boats, finally working my way up into the hills and leading them away from their own base at Akyab. Eventually they had to break off - I suppose their fuel was getting low. I thought I saw one of them crash behind me but that was never confirmed. I really lost a lot of weight on that sortie."

Frank Carey quoted in: "Forgotten Voices of the Second World War", Max Arthur, Ebury Press/IWM 2004.

"Gp Captain Frank Carey One of the highest scoring British fighter pilots of the 1939-45 War; entered the RAF in 1927 as a 15-year-old apprentice; earned 25 kills in the Battle of Britain and in Burma; was awarded the US Silver Star and appointed CBE in 1960; retired from the RAF in '62 and joined Rolls-Royce as its aero division representative in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji; retired to Britain in '74; died Dec. 6, 2004, aged 92. Obituary"

"Mechili was still in enemy hands and on the 18th I flew down the track once again to check on the situation with Masher as my cover... It was a long haul down the desert track and when I arrived at Mechili, being unfamiliar with the area, I blundered on the German landing ground. It was marked on my map and I had planned to give it a wide berth, but the country was so featureless that I couldn't check my position accurately. The field was crammed with aircraft of all kinds.

A twin-engined Me 110 was on the approach with its wheels down, a perfect sitter. I was at about the same height, 600 feet and so close that it would have been easy to shoot it down. We seem to have been unrecognised as British planes and there was no anti-aircraft fire. Mechili had been over a hundred miles behind the lines for the past six months and, apart from a few sneaky reconnaissance sorties, the people there had not seen much invasion of their airspace. The recent fighter sweeps and bomber attacks had all been concentrated in the Gazala region where the ground fighting was taking place.

"I'm going to get this one", I shouted to Masher.

Get close. One burst. Then disappear, I mutter to myself. I was almost within range, tense as a drum, leaning forward against my straps to peer through the sight.

"Three MEs overhead", Masher's voice crackled, spoiling my dreams.

I looked up. They were 3000 feet above us in loose line astern formation.

I cursed and turned steeply away, diving to ground level, watching with increasing bitterness as the fighters flew blandly north, ignoring us. Another thirty seconds and I could have pressed the tit on my spade stick and blown the Messerschmitt out of the sky.

Why didn't I hang on for a few extra ticks and finish the job? I was disgusted with myself. If the MEs had peeled off to attack us, it would have been a different matter. But they weren't even looking at us.

Ray Hudson would have shot the bugger down, I grumbled to myself, as I headed east along the Trigh Capuzzo toward the safety of our own lines. He'd have escaped in the confusion and chalked another one up. I've become too timid. A clapped out recce boy, an escape artist, a Houdini of the airways, a counter of tanks and transport for the army. It was my last chance. Damn those German fighters!

I glanced back at Masher's Hurricane, weaving steadily behind my tail. I pressed my speak button.

"Damn those German fighters", I said.

Masher didn't reply."

From: Wing Commander Geoffrey Morley-Mower DFC, AFC, "Messerschmitt Roulette: The Western Desert 1941-2", Phalanx Books 1993.
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