Squadron Leader Marmaduke Thomas St. John Pattle DFC & Bar
© Dan & Nick’s Collaborative Experten Biographies
[photo credits | © IWM ME(RAF) 1260]
Squadron Leader Marmaduke Thomas St John “Pat” Pattle, Officer Commanding No. 33 Squadron RAF (on the left), and the Squadron Adjutant, Flight Lieutenant George Rumsey, standing by a Hawker Hurricane at Larissa, Thessaly, Greece.
Squadron Leader Marmaduke Thomas St. John Pattle DFC & Bar (3 July 1914 – 20 April 1941), usually known as Pat Pattle, was a South African-born Second World War fighter pilot and flying ace of the Royal Air Force (RAF).
His final “score” will probably never be known, as official squadron combat reports and RAF documents for the time were lost in the retreat from Greece and Crete.
Pattle was provisionally credited with 50 air victories (and two shared), seven (and one shared) probable victories, and four (and two shared) damaged.
Existing records up to early April 1941 list Pattle as claiming at least 34 confirmed kills, and many more probables.
Pattle claimed five or more aircraft destroyed in one day on three occasions, which qualified him for Ace in a Day status three times.
Aviation historian Christopher Shores, in his book of Commonwealth fighter pilots, Aces High, claims his final score as 50 individual and two shared victories by cross-checking squadron diaries, Pattle’s aircraft rigger’s personal journal and the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica loss records.
Andrew Thomas reports the same score in Osprey Aircraft of Aces 57: Hurricane Aces 1941–1945.
Recent research of his 50 claims has shown that some 27 can be directly linked to actual Italian and German losses, with only six claims discounted as no losses occurred.
This suggests Pattle’s true total could be at least 27–44 kills, making him the highest scoring RAF biplane ace, one of the top Hurricane pilots of the conflict, and possibly the top RAF ace of the war if the number is greater than the 34 scored by Johnnie Johnson.
The pilot who shot down Pattle most probably was Oberleutnant Sophus Baagoe of III./JG 26.
He was killed on the 14th of May 1941, over Heraklion. Pattle was very ill that day and was flying despite suffering from a high fever.
Pattles’ Victory Claims Research by Roy Davies;
Detail below is based on Shores’ work and on the diaries of W. J. Ringrose, who was Pattle’s Fitter in 33 Squadron. There may be discrepancies in dates due to the fact that Ringrose did not have a current 1941 diary at the time and he said that he may have used the days rather than the dates. He completed his diary, which he carried with him the whole of the time, as soon as Pattle returned from a mission. 10-15 of those listed as destroyed during April may be open to question as to date or certainty as Italian loss records however are not comprehensive and some periods are missing.
This all suggests Pattle’s aggregated total of claims was 52 destroyed, plus shares in the destruction of 3 more, 7 probably destroyed, 5 damaged, and 3 destroyed on the ground.
17:15-19:15 Bir Taieb el Esem
1 Ba.65 Destroyed, 1 CR.42 Destroyed
Flying Gladiator I K7910 “YK-E”
Versus. 6 Breda Ba.65 ground attack aircraft of 159a Squadriglia,50a Stormo and 6 Fiat CR.32s of 160a Squadriglia. The Italians claimed 3 Gladiators while suffering 4 damaged Ba.65s.
80 Sqn claimed 2 Ba.65s, 2 CR.32 and 1 CR.42 for the loss of 3 Gladiators and 1 damaged (1KIA). Pattle was shot down and bailed out. Possibly by future ace Tenente Franco Lucchini. .
18:00-19:10 El Gobi
2 CR.42 Destroyed
Gladiator I K7971
Versus 9o and 10o Gruppo CT., which lost 4 CR.42s destroyed and 4 fighters ‘force-landed’ (2 pilots badly wounded, but all reportedly later recovered) and one pilot KIA and 3 WIA, in return claiming 5 Gladiators shot down. 80 Sqn claimed 9 destroyed and 6 damaged, losing 2 Gladiators and 1 pilot KIA.
13:00 Sidi Barrani
1 S.79 Damaged
vs Savoia-Marchetti S.79s of 46o Gruppo, which claimed 1 Gladiator, 1 Hurricane and 1 Blenheim while losing 3 S.79s destroyed and 4 damaged. RAF claimed 3 destroyed, 1 ‘unconfirmed’ and 4 damaged, losing one Gladiator (1 KIA)
2 CR.42 Destroyed
Nine 80 Sqn. Gladiators engaged 6 CR.42s of 160o Gruppo and 2 Fiat G.50bis of 24o Gruppo. 3 CR.42s lost (Sergente Maggiore Natale Viola, Maresciallo Giuseppe Salvadori and Sergente Maggiore Arturo Bonato all KIA) and 1 G.50bis (Tenente Attilio meneghel KIA) and 1 damaged CR.42 (Sergente Maggiore Walter Ratticchieri WIA), while claiming 1 Gladiator.
80 Sqn claimed 6 CR.42s and 3 G.50bis destroyed, 2 probable CR.42s for 1 damaged Gladiator (pilot WIA).
2x ½ S.79 Shared damaged
Free hunt after escorting 9 Blenheims of 84 Sqn. Versus 28 Cant Z.1007bis of 47o Stormo BT. Italian gunners claimed Pattle’s aircraft shot down. Shared damaged with P/O W Vale.
11:00-8 km South Argyrokastron
Gladiator II N5832 ‘YK-W’
A Meridionali Ro.37bis biplane of 42a Squadriglia, 72o Gruppo OA. Sergente Luigi Del Manno and observer Tenente Michele Milano both KIA. Pattle was on a weather sortie.
Gladiator II N5832 ‘YK-W’
2 Meridionali Ro.37bis biplanes from 72o Gruppo OA were shot down. Capitano Gardella/Capitano Fuchs and Sergente Leoni/Sergente Vescia all KIA. 80 Sqn. made 2 claims (Pattle & F/O Cooper).
3 CR.42 Destroyed,
Gladiator II N5832 ‘YK-W’
14 Gladiators engaged 12 of 150o Gruppo CT. who lost 2 Fiat CR.42s. (Tenente Alberto Triolo & Sottotenente Paolo Penna KIA.) and 10 G.50bis of 154 o Gruppo, who claimed 2 Gladiators. Pattle’s fighter hit twice by bullets. RAF claimed 9 destroyed and 2 probables for no losses.
2 (CR.42 & CR.32) Probables
10:40 5m SE Tepelene and 15m N Kelcyre
1 S.79 Destroyed, 1 S.81 Destroyed
Gladiator II N5832 ‘YK-W’
9 Gladiators vs 9 Savoia-Marchetti S.79s of 253a Squadriglia, 104oGruppo BT, Tenente Berlingieri and his 3 crew MIA. One S. 79 was also badly damaged.
Also versus 6 Savoia-Marchetti S.81s of 38o Stormo B.T. escorted by 24o Gruppo G.50bis. The aircraft of unit CO Colonello Domenico Ludovico was badly damaged and returned with 3 dead, blowing up after force landing. Another S.81 was badly damaged with all crew WIA. 80 Sqn claimed two S.81s shot down for 2 Gladiators damaged.
1 BR.20 Probable, 1 CR.42 Destroyed
Gladiator II N5832 ‘YK-W’
10 Gladiators vs 6 Cant Z1007bis of 47oStormo B.T who claimed a Gladiator shot down and 15 CR.42s of 160o Gruppo C.T. who lost 2 (Sergente Magg Mario Carancini and Tenente Mario Frascadore KIA) and 1 one CR.42 crash-landed, with Magg Molinari (unit CO) WIA.. 160 Gruppo claimed 6. 80 Sqn claimed 8 downed and lost 2 & 2 damaged (S/L Hickey, P/O Ripley KIA, 2 WIA).
⅓ Z.1007 Shared destroyed, ½ BR.20 Shared Probable
Three 80 sqn. Gladiators versus 4 Fiat BR.20s of 37o Stormo and 5 Cant Z.1007bis of 35o Stormo.
One Cant Z.1007bis lost (2 baled out) and one damaged (3WIA). One BR20 later confirmed lost.
80 Sqn claimed 2 destroyed, 1 probable and 1 damaged.
10:30-outskirts of Tepelene
1 CR.42 Destroyed
14 Gladiators vs 16 CR.42s of 150oGruppo CT, who lost two CR42s (Sergente. Romano Maionica, Sergente. Barolo KIA) and two crash-landed. (Tenente Rovetta WIA, Capatino Travaglini force landed.) 150 Gruppo claimed 4 Gladiators. 80 Sqn. claimed 4 destroyed, 3 probables for 1 loss (1 pilot WIA).
mid-am Yanina area
1 Z.1007 Damaged
Gladiator II N5832 ‘YK-W’
3 Gladiators vs 5 Savoia-Marchetti S.79s of 104o Gruppo and 5 Cant Z.1007bis of 47o Stormo.
versus another formation of Cant Z.1007bis of 47 o Stormo.
1 BR.20 Damaged
Gladiator II N5832 ‘YK-W’
1 G.50 Destroyed
Hurricane I V7724
Blenheim escort. Engaged 8 154o Autonomo Gruppo C.T.; who lost two Fiat G.50s- Tenente A Fusco of 361a Squadriglia KIA (probably Pattle’s victim) and Tenente L Bassi (7v) of 395a Squadriglia DOW and one damaged (Sergente Gambetta). 154o Gruppo claimed 1 bomber and 1 ‘Spitfire’, RAF lost one fighter and one Blenheim damaged. 80 (5v) and 112 Sqns (1v) claimed 5 G.50s and a CR42 destroyed
1 CR.42 Destroyed
Hurricane I V7724
9 Hurricanes escort to 9 Blenheims. Engaged 13 CR.42s of 150o Gruppo. 150o Gruppo lost 2 CR.42s -Sottotenente E Faltoni WIA and Sergente Osvaldo Bertolaccini (5v) DOW.
80 (5v) and 33(2v) Sqns claimed 7 Fiats shot down and 2 more reported ‘collided with each other and crashed’. The Italians didn’t claim and the RAF suffered 5 damaged Blenheims and a bullet through Pattle’s fuel tank.
Hurricane I V7589
This set of running air battles meant RAF over-claimed;
5 destroyed and 2 damaged Fiat BR.20s,
3 destroyed and 2 damaged Savoia-Marchetti S.79s,
13 destroyed, 3 probable and 1 damaged CR.42s
6 destroyed and 3 probable G.50bis. = 27 in total
Records indicate at least 4 (of 15) Fiat BR.20s of 37o Stormo B.T. were lost (with ‘several’ damaged and 2 crew WIA, 1 KIA)
1 S.79 of 104o Gruppo damaged,
1 S.79 of 105o Gruppo damaged (1 KIA),
At least 1 CR.42 of 160o Gruppo lost (Sottotenente Raoul Francinetti wounded in the leg, Sottotenente Italo Traini killed) 2 G.50bis of 24o Gruppo were lost. (Both Tenente Bellagambi, Capitano Ettore Foschini wounded and force-landed)
= at least 7
Regia Aeronautica claimed 6 Gladiators and 1 ‘Spitfire’
Only 1 Gladiator of 112 Sqn was lost (F/L Abrahams b/o.)
p.m. Tepelene Coast
2CR.42 Destroyed,1 CR.42 Probable
Hurricane I V7724
15:00 N Himare, SW Valona, W Valona and Valona Harbour
3 G.50 Destroyed, 1CR.42 Probable
Escort to 14 Blenheims. 10 Hurricanes vs 24 G.50bis and CR42s of 24o Gruppo C.T.
No G.50bis losses recorded, but 24o Gruppo CT. lost 2 CR.42s (Sottoten Nicolo Gigli, Sergente. Marcello De Salvia both KIA) and one damaged (Tennente Fransesco Rocca WIA), claiming 4 Gladiators, 1 ‘Spitfire’ and 1 ‘Battle’.
RAF claimed 7 G.50bis destroyed, 4 probables and 4 damaged, and 3 CR.42s destroyed and one probable, losing 2 Hurricanes and 2 pilots KIA.
V Berat near Fier airfield
1G.50 Destroyed, 1G.50 Probable
154 o Gruppo CT claimed 1 fighter shot down and 1 probable, as did the CR.42s of 150 o Gruppo. No RAF fighters lost. 33 Sqn claimed 3-1-2 G.50bis. Italian records can’t verify these claims.
3 G.50 Destroyed on the ground
10 Hurris took off. Airfield strafed by only Pattle and F/O V Woodward. According to Italian records one Fiat G.50bis was destroyed (caught fire)
p.m. Rupel Pass, Bulgaria
2 Bf 109 Destroyed
Versus 8 Bf 109Es of 8/JG27.who lost 4 aircraft and 1 crash-landed.
Oblt. A Becker (1v) Bf 109E-7 Werk # 4185 “Black 1” (or Black 2) KIA, Bf 109E-4 Werk # 5345 Lt. Klaus Faber (3v) baled out/POW (both by Pattle) and Ofw. G Fromming (Black 8) shot down & wounded. One other 109 was lost, the unnamed pilot baling out and returning to Axis lines.
33 Sqn claimed 5 without loss.
p.m. E Strumica
1 Do 215 Destroyed
Escort to 11 Sqn. Single a/c spotted and engaged. Possibly Do 17 of Stab/StG2, reported attacked & 15% damaged.
2 Enemy aircraft Destroyed on ground
Bulgarian airfield. 8 211 Sqn Blenheims bombed and 9 Hurricanes also strafed. Several aircraft left in flames on the ground.
1 Do 17 Destroyed
Initially claimed as a ‘Ju 88 damaged’, probably Do 17Z “U5+BT” of 9./KG2 flown by Uffz. U. Sonnemann and crew rescued. Pattle inspected the wreckage.
p.m. Bitolj area
1 Bf 110 Destroyed, 1 Bf 109 Destroyed
33 Sqn escort to bombing raid on the Prilep-Bitolj road, intercepted by Bf 109Es and Bf 110s. Pattle got a burst into a Bf 110, which he reported crashed in flames, then attacked a Bf 109, seeing the pilot bale out. These claims cannot be easily verified with Luftwaffe records.
2 Bf 110s of 7./LG2 (crews killed) were lost during the day, as was a Bf 109E of Stab/JG27 (Oblt Mardaas killed), but all apparently recorded as ‘accidents’ and far enough away from Bitolj to cause doubt.
morning off Velos
1 Ju 88 Destroyed, 1 He 111 Destroyed
Both were single low-flying Ju 88A-4s of III/KG30; “4D+JR” of 7./KG30 (Oblt Hans Schaible, B Ltn Helmut Saure, BF Uffz Wilhelm Knichmeier, Bs Gef Siegfried Redser all missing,) and “4D+FS” of 8./ KG30 (Lt. Wimmer and crew killed).
p.m. E Salonica and Larissa area
1Do 215 Destroyed, 1 S.79 Destroyed, 1 Bf 109 Damaged
33 Sqn on a sweep up the Struma valley, claimed a lone 215. Claims can’t be totally verified with Axis records, although Fliegerkorps VIII reported loss of a Ju 88– possibly of I/LG1.
Second claim versus a ‘vic’ of 3 S.79s. 33 Sqn claimed 2 destroyed. The 109 claimed was part of their escort.
1 Bf 109 Destroyed
Not confirmed from Luftwaffe records. Sole Bf 109 loss was Hpt. Gerlach, SK of 6.JG27, taken POW when his Bf 109E-7 “Yellow 1 + -” was hit ‘during a strafing attack’.
1 Ju 88 Destroyed
One Ju 88 claimed, probably of II/KG51, who lost 2 (one crew bailed out, other crashed at base) or 1.LG1 Ju 88A-5 WNo 3291 “L1 + UH”- Lt. G Blanke, which was shot down the previous day (13 April).
1 Bf 110 Destroyed
Not confirmed with Luftwaffe records. II/KG51 lost 2 Ju88s, or I/LG 1 shot down the previous day (13 April).
1 S.79 Destroyed
Not confirmed with Regia Aeronautica records.
1 Ju 88 Destroyed
Not confirmed with Luftwaffe records. II/KG51 lost 2, or I/LG1 shot down the previous day (13 April).
06:35 Athens area
2 Ju 88 Destroyed, 1 Ju 88 Probable
Interception of bombers approaching Athens. These claims can’t be verified with German records.
09:20 -? S Lamia
⅓ Hs126 Shared destroyed
Henschel Hs 126 ‘6K+AH’ of l.(H)/23. Fw H Wilhus & observer KIA. Pattle shared with F/L Littler and F/O Woodward.
2 Bf 109 Destroyed
In combat with 5 Bf 109Es of III/JG 77. III/JG77 claimed 3, losing 3 109Es. Bf 109E-7 Werk # 3401 Oblt Arnim Schmidt (4v) of 9./JG77 KIA, Oblt. K Ubben of 8./JG 77 force-landed in Allied lines and picked up, while Oblt. W Patz crash-landed at Larissa in Bf 109E-7 Werk # 5272 (40% dam) 33 Sqn claimed 4 Bf 109s for 1 Hurricane lost, 2 badly damaged.
14:50 –? N Khalkis
1 Ju 88 Destroyed
Scramble with Casbolt against two aircraft over Khalkis harbour.- Casbolt attacked on Ju88 and it went down trailing black smoke. Pattle then spotted a bomber heading north and attacked, and it dived into the sea after its crew had baled out. 2./KG51, Ju 88A-5 WNo 6330 “9K+EK” was lost (GK Hpt. Heinrich Hahn returned to his unit safe, possibly 18th?)
1 Bf 109 Destroyed, 1 Bf 109 Probable
These claims can’t be verified with German records.
2 Bf 109 Destroyed
Interception of ground strafing fighters; Bf 109E of III/JG77; Bf 109E-7 Werk # 3282 “Black 10” Uffz F Borchert MIA and Obfw Fritz Rockel WIA 4.JG27in Bf 109E-7 Werk # 4952 “White 13” reportedly ‘hit by ground fire’ near Eleusis airfield; returned w/off.
15:41 Athens area
1 Ju 88 Destroyed
15 Hurricanes of 33 & 80 Sqn. intercepted 12 Ju88s of II/LG1 (Uffz Helmut Benke “L1+ZH” and crew killed; Ju 88A-5 Werk # 5235 “L1+UK”, piloted by Ltn. Werner Ziegler, (1 KIA), and Do17s from III/KG2 (Three Do17Zs; “U5+AL” (Uffz Helmut Reim), “U5+HL” (Lt Joachim Brüdern) and “U5+AR” (Oblt Ludger Holtkampe) were all lost.)
33 & 80 Sqn. claimed 4 Ju88s, 3 109s (III/JG77 lost 2) and a Do17 for 2 losses.
1 Bf 110 Destroyed
Hurricane I (Trop) AS988
15 Hurricanes intercepted ~12 Ju88s and entered combat with the Bf 110 escort of 5.ZG26. 2 Bf 110s lost – “3U+EN” (Oblt K Specka) and “3U+FN” (Fw. G Leinfelder), and a third crash-landed severely damaged and written off.
RAF claimed 7 Bf 110s for the loss of 3 Hurricanes and two pilots (S/L Pattle & F/L Woods both KIA). 5. ZG26 claimed 5 Hurricanes: Hpt. Theodor Rossiwall, (victory no. 12), Oblt. Sophus Baggoe (no. 14), Obfw Hermann Schönthier, Uffz. Fritz Muller and Obfw. Theodor Pietschmann.
Born in 1914 in South Africa, Pattle applied to join the South African Air Force at 18 and was rejected. He travelled to the United Kingdom and joined the RAF in 1936, on a Short Service Commission (SSC).
Pattle was a pilot in 1937 and was posted to 80 Squadron based in Egypt upon the outbreak of war in September 1939.
In June 1940 Italy entered the war on the side of the Axis Powers and he began combat operations against the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force), gaining his first successes during the Italian invasion of Egypt.
80 Squadron received the order to deploy one of its flights to Sidi Barrani in anticipation of Italian air attacks. “B” Flight, commanded by Pattle, moved to the forward airfield.
On 4 August 1940 Pattle claimed his first victories. While escorting a Westland Lysander, Pattle and his flight engaged first a force of six Breda Ba.65/A80s of the 159a Squadriglia (“squadron”) and six Fiat CR.42 quarters of the 160a Squadriglia. Pattle downed a Breda but was then attacked by the escorting Fiat CR.42s. He managed to hit one, that he saw falling spinning, but later was himself attacked by another formation of Bredas and CR.42s.
The Bredas dived and delivered attacks from the quarter and beam. Pattle avoided them by turning away and opening fire on the nearest target as they dived past to gain speed, climbed, and then engaged Pattle again. The Gladiator’s guns jammed one by one, leaving him without any form of defence, other than bluff attacks.
After 15 minutes of battle, while avoiding one enemy fighter, he flew into the line of sight of another and was hit. Pattle’s rudder controls were shot away, so he climbed to 400 ft and bailed out.
He was shot down most probably by Italian Spanish Civil War ace Tenente (“Lieutenant”) Franco Lucchini of 90a Squadriglia, 10° Gruppo (“group”), 4° Stormo (“wing”). He landed, winded, and played dead to avoid being strafed. He started to walk towards the Allied lines and crossed the border at around midday the following day.
After two days he was rescued by a detachment from the 11th Hussars, who returned him to Sidi Barrani. Pattle was annoyed. He considered being shot down by the Italians as an embarrassment and regarded the episode as a slur on his reputation.
After his forced march to friendly lines, he was also determined not to get lost in the desert again so he flew to Alexandria and bought a compass which he never flew without.
On 8 August Pattle claimed two more victories (nos 3–4). While leading 14 Gladiators of 80 Squadron in a surprise attack against 16 Fiat CR.42s from 9° and 10° Gruppi of 4° Stormo, over Gabr Saleh inside the Italian territory.
Sergente (Sergeant) Rosa, Dallari and Valla baled out and Sotto Tenente Querci, Sergente Gino and Poli forced landed.
One pilot, Norino Renzi a Regia Aeronautica pilot since 25 December 1930 and a pre-war member of 4° Stormo’s aerobatics group, was killed.
“Shorty” Graham, Pattle’s wingman that day, confirmed he saw two fall to Pattle.
On 3 September 1940 Pattle was promoted to flight lieutenant.
Three days later, the Italian invasion of Egypt began. Much to Pattle’s distaste, the squadron was heavily involved in close air support operations and ordered specifically to avoid air-to-air combat unless attacked. On occasion he chanced upon Italian aircraft, but the Gladiator’s limited speed denied Pattle further success.
Pattle succeeded in damaging a Savoia-Marchetti S.79 bomber which emitted black smoke but dived away and Pattle could not catch it. The speed of the Savoia-Marchetti S.79 enabled it to escape the RAF fighters on a consistent basis. The unit withdrew to Habbaniyah to re-equip with Mark II machines but was then ordered to Greece after the Italian attack.
After the Italian invasion, his squadron was sent to Greece in November 1940, where Pattle achieved most of his victories.
Pattle achieved further success on 20 December 1940. On this day he achieved 12 or 13 air victories.
Covering the withdrawal of Blenheims from 211 Squadron over the Kelcyre sector, he missed the rendezvous. Instead, Pattle opted to fly a patrol between Tepelene and Kelcyre. He intercepted a flight of escorted SM.79s and attacked them before the escort could react.
He downed one via a head-on attack. The crew bailed out and the bomber crashed near Tepelene. Two Gladiators had been damaged and withdrew after being hit by withering return fire.
Soon he spotted another formation of much slower Savoia-Marchetti SM.81. He expended all his ammunition and watched the Italian pilot attempt a crash-landing, only for the bomber to hit a tree and disintegrate 15 miles north of Kelcyre. His victims were from 104° Gruppo and drawn from 252 and 253 Squadriglia.
His first victim was piloted by Tenente Andrea Berlingieri. Berlingieri and his crew were killed.
On 21 December 1940, he downed a CR.42, but his unit suffered the loss of Squadron Leader Hickey. Hickey bailed out and was subsequently shot in his parachute. Pilot Officer Ripley was killed also — Pattle witnessed his death. The squadron claimed a number of victories in return.
Pattle’s 15th and last victory in the Gladiator was claimed on 9 February 1941.
In view of his actions, Pattle was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) on 11 February 1941.
No. 80 Squadron was re-equipped with newer model Hawker Hurricane Mk Is on 20 February 1941.
That day, Pattle, flying Hurricane Mk I V7724, was leading a group of six Hurricanes escorting 16 Blenheim light bombers — eight from No. 84 Squadron RAF, six from No. 211 Squadron and three from No. 30 Squadron RAF—to Berat.
Fiat G.50bis from the 361a and 395a Squadriglia, 154° Autonomo Gruppo were scrambled from Berat airfield, but they were attacked by the higher altitude Hurricanes. Pattle led his section straight towards four Fiat G.50s and selected the leading aircraft as his own target.
It was the first time he had fired the eight guns of the Hurricane, and the G.50 exploded. The Fiat G.50 was from 154° Gruppo and it was the first Hurricane victory that Pattle would claim.
Tenente Livio Bassi was killed in this battle.
Another CR.42 fell to Pattle on 27 February 1941 — his 17th victory. His Hurricane sustained a bullet hole in the fuel tank.
On 28 February 1941, British pilots in Greece celebrated their biggest success in combat. No. 80 Squadron claimed 27 Italian aircraft without loss in 90 minutes of air combat.
Pattle himself claimed three Fiat CR.42s shot down in less than three minutes.
The Regia Aeronautica claimed that day it lost just one CR.42 (as confirmed by Italian pilot Corrado Ricci, a participant in those battles), plus four Fiat BR.20s and two G.50bis.
The Italians claimed six Gladiators and one Supermarine Spitfire — none would be in the Mediterranean Theatre until March 1942 — while in fact only one Gladiator of No. 112 Squadron was lost, while two Blenheims, attacked by CR.42s had to crash-land returning to base.
In a previous fight south of Vlorë, Pattle had to return to base with the windscreen covered by oil from a shot down enemy bomber.
His tally was now 21 air victories.
Later sources suggested two of Pattle’s claim were from the 37° Stormo.
On 4 March 1941, Pattle claimed three enemy Fiat G.50bis fighters (nos 22–24) belonging to 24oGruppo. He claimed the first, while Nigel Cullen — another leading fighter ace — flew as his wingman.
Escorting Blenheims to attack Italian warships, the pair were engaged by a lone G.50. Pattle engaged the Fiat and shot it down — its landing gear dropped down and it rolled over and into a mountainside just north of Himare.
Pattle searched for Cullen, expecting him to be behind him but saw no sign of the Australian. He assumed Cullen had gone off to scout for more enemy aircraft after missing out on Pattle’s victory.
Now alone, he was attacked by another lone G.50bis while flying towards Vlorë. After a brief combat, he shot down the Fiat. It crashed into the sea southwest of Vlorë harbour.
He then became involved with a third such fighter over Valona harbour and claimed to have shot this down into the sea in flames on the west side of the promontory.
After his return to base, he was informed Cullen had been posted missing in action. Pattle and the squadron considered he had most likely been shot down and killed.
On 12 March 1941, Pattle was promoted to squadron leader. The following day, the squadron returned to Eleusis north of Athens. There, Pattle was reassigned to No. 33 Squadron.
Pattle received a Bar to his DFC on 18 March 1941, for which the citation read:
“In March 1941, during an engagement over Himara Flight Lieutenant Pattle shot down three enemy fighters. This courageous and skilful fighter pilot has now destroyed at least 23 enemy aircraft”.
On 23 March 1941, Pattle flew his first missions with No. 33 Squadron, now based at Larissa. They flew as escort for Blenheims from No. 84 Squadron over the Pindus Mountains and Paramythia. Supported by No. 112 Squadron Gladiators, they flew to raid Berat.
The cloud base was low and thick and they descended below it at 1,900 feet. The bombers attacked and two Hurricanes were badly damaged by ground fire. One of the squadron was shot down by a Fiat G.50 and bailed out — the Italians disappeared before they could retaliate.
In the afternoon, he was briefed to strafe the heavily defended Fieri airfield. It was an unpopular sort of mission. At 25,000 feet, they were intercepted and a dogfight began with G.50s and Macchi C.200s. Only Pattle and one other Hurricane attacked the airfield.
Furious, Pattle berated the pilots for not carrying out their primary assignment. He had claimed one enemy fighter as a probable and proceeded to the airfield to claim another victory — his 25th — and claimed another three on the ground.
After the German intervention, and in fourteen days of operations, Pattle claimed victories 24–50.
On Apirl 6 1941, No. 33 Squadron was immediately put on alert. At noon, Pattle was ordered to fly a fighter patrol over the Rupel Pass, Bulgaria, another Axis partner.
Here he had his first encounter with the Luftwaffe. No. 33 Squadron attacked 20 Bf 109s and claimed five without loss.
Pattle claimed two victories over Bf 109Es over the Rupel Pass —Oberleutnant Arno Becker was killed and Leutnant Klaus Faber was captured.
These successes represented his 26th and 27th aerial victories.
Thereafter, details vary as to his score as all records were destroyed.
The air war intensified after a period of bad weather and the Luftwaffe began exerting severe pressure on communications and Allied ground forces.
On 9 April 1941, Pattle claimed a Junkers Ju 88 (actually a Do 17) damaged. He left the burning machine as it disappeared into cloud.
Pattle received confirmation that the aircraft crashed and he drove out with a member of the squadron to bring back souvenirs.
On 10 April, he flew as fighter escort for No. 11 Squadron Blenheims on a mission over Betjol, Yugoslavia. They were attacked by flights of Messerschmitt Bf 110s and Bf 109s.
Pattle shot down a Bf 110 which was seen to crash in flames and a Bf 109 whose pilot bailed out.
On Good Friday, Pattle led his squadron into battle against German bombers minelaying over Volos harbour. He dispatched a Ju 88 and Heinkel He 111 into the sea.
The successes represented his 33rd and 34th aerial victories.
A couple days later while covering the Greek forces from Larissa, Pattle claimed another Do 17 and SM.79 along with a Bf 109 damaged, for his 35th and 36th aerial victories.
On 13 April 1941, Pattle witnessed 15 Bf 109s strafe the airfield as three Hurricanes took off. Two veteran pilots were killed in the very brief battle in exchange for two Bf 109s.
Pattle searched for the Hurricane pilots and found one fighter with a parachute beside it but no pilot.
Pattle was to be further disheartened. One of the German pilots bailed out and Pattle watched in horror as the Greek soldiers guarding the airfield shot him dead as he floated down in his parachute.
One of the Bf 109s crash-landed perfectly. He ordered that no-one should approach the Bf 109 in case it was rigged with explosives. The pilot was likely Hans-Jakob Arnoldy.
Pattle claimed four victories during five sorties on 14 April 1941.
One Bf 109, one Ju 88 and a Bf 110 were claimed as destroyed.
His final victory was an Italian SM.79 in the afternoon. The day took his tally to 40 enemy aircraft.
Later that day, John D’Albiac, Air Officer Commanding British Forces in Greece, arrived to warn him of the Allied collapse in the north. After seeing the AOC off in a Lysander aircraft escorted by five squadron Hurricanes, Pattle evacuated his squadron to Eleusis.
During the journey, Pattle developed a fever and high temperature. Nevertheless, on 19 April he took to the skies in several missions.
Pattle achieved his greatest success on 19 April 1941, claiming six victories.
By this date, Pattle’s fever had metamorphosed into influenza and his condition had worsened. He did not want his squadron to know he was unwell. Pattle feared the effect it would have on morale and vowed to continue flying.
The officer commanding No. 80 Squadron, Tap Jones, visited Pattle the day before and noticed he was very gaunt, drawn and that he had lost weight. Jones was acting wing commander, but did not ban Pattle from operations.
Pattle claimed six victories this day — three Ju 88s and three Bf 109s — plus one Henschel Hs 126 shared and two probables (a Ju 88 and a Bf 109).
One of the Ju 88 claims can be corroborated. Pattle shot down Gruppenkommandeur (Group Commander) Hauptmann Heinrich Hahn of I./KG 51.
The battle with the Bf 109s took place over Eleusis and Tanagra airfields. He engaged III./Jagdgeschwader 77 (Fighter Wing 77 or JG 77) in a head-on position and executed an Immelmann turn which took him behind and above the Messerschmitts and allowed him to claim three of them shot down.
No. 33 Squadron claimed four Bf 109s (three were lost).
Among the victims was the German ace, Kurt Ubben. Ubben landed in Allied territory and was picked up by a Fieseler Fi 156, escaping to his own lines.
The following day, on April 20th, 1941, having claimed more aerial victories than any other Western Allied pilot, he took off against orders, while suffering from a high temperature, to engage German aircraft near Athens.
Pattle had flown several patrols that morning and was suffering from a high temperature and fever.
He had downed a Ju 88 and two Bf 109s on a morning interception to interdict German air operations. One of his victims, a Bf 109 from III./JG 77 crash-landed at Larissa.
His success took Pattle’s total from 47 to 49.
At 17:00 in the afternoon, another raid approached. He was seen, just before an air raid alarm, in the mess, lying on a couch, shivering under the blankets. He was detailed to take a patrol over the lines but during the mission briefing, around 100 German bombers with fighter escort attacked the capital, seeking to attack Allied shipping in the harbour.
He ran for the door towards a Hurricane. His adjutant, George Rumsey, tried to stop him, but Pattle was determined to fly.
On the way to his fighter, he narrowly avoided being killed in a strafing attack by a low-flying Bf 110. He took to the skies minutes later. Pattle climbed to gain altitude and headed for Piraeus Harbour at 20,000 feet.
At this time, other Hurricanes were already in action with Bf 110s from Zerstörergeschwader 26 (ZG 26). The Irish ace Timber Woods attacked a formation of Bf 110s positioned above him.
One of the Bf 110s detached itself and dived on the RAF pilot. Pattle, instinctively knowing that the German had the advantage and the Hurricane pilot had acted foolishly, dived toward the Bf 110. He engaged the Bf 110, knowing he too would likely be followed and attacked from behind.
He succeeded in shooting it down in flames, but not before it had fired at point-blank range into the Hurricane, with the same effect. Woods died when his fighter crashed into the harbour.
Pattle avoided a German counter-attack and climbed instead of attempting a dive, since the Bf 110s could out-dive the Hurricane.
He fired into another Bf 110 and avoided a collision with a third.
No RAF pilot saw Pattle die for certain.
Jimmy ‘Kettle’ Kettlewell, one of Pattle’s unit, arrived on the scene moments after Pattle had scored his victory.
He saw a lone Hurricane diving towards the sea, its pilot slumped forward over the controls and flames engulfing the engine compartment. Two Bf 110s were still firing at it.
Seizing the opportunity, he engaged and shot one of them down watching it and the Hurricane hit the sea simultaneously. Kettle did not specify the fate of the German crew — the victory was his fifth, making him an ace.
It is possible Kettlewell’s victim was one of two 5./ZG 26 Bf 110s that were lost: Bf 110E (Werknummer 4272—factory number), Oberfeldwebel Georg Leinfelder and Unteroffizier Franz Beckel who were killed in action or Bf 110E (Werknummer 4299), Oberleutnant Kurt Specka and Günther Frank.
A third Bf 110 crash-landed with severe damage.
Jimmy ‘Kettle’ Kettlewell also was shot down and wounded in this same battle.
The pilot who shot down Pattle most probably was Oberleutnant Sofous Baagoe of III./JG 26.
Surviving records show that the German claimants included Staffelkapitän Hauptmann Theodor Rossiwall and Oberleutnant Sophus Baagoe, who were credited with kills against Hurricanes
On 14 May 1941, Oberleutnant Baagoe was strafing the airfield at Heraklion when his Bf 110D-3 (W.Nr. 4290) was shot down into the sea off Crete’s north coast.
He was the victim of either New Zealander Pilot Officer D F Westenra (9.333 confirmed, 2 probables and 4 damaged victories) of 1430 Flight, RAF, who had scrambled from the airfield Baagoe was attacking in his Gladiator biplane fighter, or anti-aircraft fire from the airfield defences or, possibly, a combination of both. Baagoe was awarded a posthumous Ritterkreuz on 14 June 1941.
Sophus Baagoe is credited with 14 victories in 95 missions.
Pattle is sometimes noted as being the highest-scoring British Commonwealth pilot of the war. If all claims made for him are correct, his total could be more than 51. It can be stated that his final total was at least 40 and could exceed this value.
Log-books and semi-official records suggest this figure, while personnel attached to his squadron suspect the figure to be closer to 60.
A total of 26 of Pattle’s victims were Italian; 15 were downed with Gloster Gladiators, the rest with Hawker Hurricanes.
He is considered to be the highest-scoring ace on both Gladiator and Hurricane (35 victories) fighters.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owners © Dan & Nick’s Collaborative Experten Biographies.
AWG Team would like to thank Dan Case & Nick Hector for their contribution and continuous support for our Project.
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