Squadron Leader William ‘Cherry’ Vale AFC DFC and Bar, RAF nos. 565293 (NCO); 44068 (Officer).
Credited with 30 confirmed victories, 3 shared victories and 6 damaged, he scored 10 victories in a Gladiator Biplane…
He began WW2 in Egypt, and was posted to No.80 Squadron, claiming his 10 victories in the Gloster Gladiator. He switched to the Hawker Hurricane aircraft, adding to his tally of victories. He was awarded the DFC, and Bar to the DFC, and the AFC, before retiring from the RAF in 1946. William Vale died on 29th November 1981.
Bill ‘Cherry’ Vale was born 3 June 1914 in Chatham, Kent, the son of a Royal Marines Captain, but was raised in Framlingham, Suffolk, where he became a county athlete.
In 1931, he joined the RAF as an apprentice, qualifying as a Fitter, Acro Engines, and Aerial Gunner. Initially he served at Martlesham Heath until 1935, when he was posted to 33 Squadron in Egypt, then a light bomber unit with Hawker Harts.
He volunteered for pilot training in 1936, completing this at 4 FTS, Abu Sueir, in July 1937, when he was posted back to 33 Squadron as a Sergeant. In March 1938 the unit converted to Gladiators on becoming a fighter squadron, and in September he saw action against dissident Arabs in Palestine.
In June 1940, 33 Squadron was based at Mersa Matruh, commanded by Squadron Leader D. V. Johnson and equipped with 21 Gladiators (mainly Mk.IIs) (on 11 June) and six Gloster Gauntlets Mk.IIs kept in reserve.
It had 22 pilots in three flights:
‘A’ Flight included Flight Sergeant Leonard Cottingham, Sergeant Roy Leslie Green, Flying Officer Monk, Pilot Officer Eric Woods, Pilot Officer Brown, Pilot Officer Preston, Pilot Officer Perry St. Quintin and Flight Lieutenant G. E. Hawkins.
‘B’ Flight included Flying Officer Ernest Dean, Sergeant Shaw, Pilot Officer Vernon Woodward, Sergeant J. Craig, Flying Officer Couchman, Flying Officer John Littler and Pilot Officer Alfred Costello.
‘C’ Flight included Flight Lieutenant Bolingbrooke, Sergeant Vale, Pilot Officier E. K. Leveille, Flight Sergeant Harry Goodchild, Flying Officier Henry Starrett and Pilot Officier Boulton.
When Italy entered the war in June 1940, he saw a few weeks’ operations over the Egyptian-Libyan frontier area.
On 24 June 1940, he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation with seniority from 2 May 1940.
On 1 July, Sergeant Vale claimed a CR.32 over Fort Capuzzo.
This claim can’t be verified with Italian sources since the 50o Stormo, which was the only unit operating this type, didn’t suffer any losses on this day. It is however possible that the victory was claimed during the widespread combats of the end of June and incorrectly recorded on this day.
During a defensive patrol on 15 July 1940, Sergeant Vale of 33 Squadron claimed a shared S.79 near Mersa Matruh.
The Italian unit involved is not known.
Vale was later posted to 80 Squadron.
On 13 September 1940, a 208 Squadron Lysander flown Pilot Officer Waymark discovered the Italian Army on the move during a morning tactical reconnaissance. Another reconnaissance was carried out in the evening and both missions were escorted by Gladiators of ‘A’ Flight 80 Squadron (detached at Sidi Barrani). During the day, possibly when returning from a late evening sortie in K8013, Pilot Officer Vale collided on landing with a barbed wire fence. The fighter was badly damaged but the pilot remained uninjured.
80 Squadron was ordered to Greece and on 18 November the ‘B’ Flight of 80 Squadron left Egypt and reached Athens with at least nine Gladiator IIs led by Squadron Leader William Hickey and including Flight Lieutenant ‘Pat’ Pattle, Flying Officers Greg Graham and Sidney Linnard, Pilot Officers Samuel Cooper, ‘Heimar’ Stuckey and Vale and Sergeant Charles Casbolt.
“A” Flight of 80 Squadron led by Flight Lieutenant Edward Jones left Egypt for Greece on 23 November.
On 19 November 1940, ‘B’ Flight of 80 Squadron, which recently had arrived to Greece to reinforce the Greek fighter forces, flew up to Trikkala during the morning. After refueling, nine Gladiators took off at 14:10, led by three Greek PZL P.24s (23 Mira), for an offensive patrol over the Koritza area. Squadron Leader William Hickey led the Gladiators.
When they neared the Italian airfield at Koritza the PZLs were obliged to turn back due to their short range. The Gladiators flew over Koritza were Italian anti-aircraft opened up. Flight Lieutenant ‘Pat’ Pattle, who were leading the second section, sighted four Fiat CR.42s climbing towards them from the starboard beam.
It had been arranged beforehand that the Gladiators would not use their radiotelephones unless it was absolutely essential, because they had discovered in the desert that the CR.42s used a similar wavelength; by listening in to the Gladiators, the Italians received prior information of an attack. Pattle warned Hickey of the presence of the CR.42s simply by diving past the Commanding Officer’s section and pointing his Gladiator towards the Italian aircraft. Hickey acknowledged that he understood by waggling his wing and Pattle withdrew to his position at the head of his section.
As Hickey’s section dived towards the four CR.42s, Pattle noticed a second group of two more CR.42s and took his section, consisting of Pilot Officer ‘Heimar’ Stuckey and Sergeant Charles Casbolt, to engage these. Pattle went for the leading CR.42, which attempted to evade the attack by diving steeply and slipping from side to side. Pattle followed, closing in rapidly, but he didn’t fire until the CR.42 straightened out and thereby offered a steadier target. From 100 yards astern, he lined up the CR.42 in his sight and opened fire. The CR.42 steepened its dive; the pilot had apparently been hit, because he fell forward over the control column. Pattle pulled away, as the CR.42 went straight down to crash about two miles west of Koritza, bursting into flames on striking the ground. Stuckey, following close behind Pattle’s Gladiator, smiled and gave a thumbs-up signal to Pattle signifying confirmation of the victory.
The two Gladiators, now completely alone, climbed up to 15,000 feet immediately over the airfield, and saw a dogfight in progress a few miles to the north. Heading in that direction, they were soon engaged by five CR.42s and two G.50s. One of the G.50s came at Pattle in a head-on attack, but broke away much too early, the tracers passing yards below the Gladiator. A CR.42 had a go next, but Pattle quickly snap-rolled, up and over the Italian aircraft, and came down perfectly in position fifty yards behind the CR.42. A short burst and the cockpit of the CR.42 became a mass of flames and it fell away burning furiously. After this combat he noticed that his air pressure were so low that he couldn’t fire his guns and he soon returned to base.
Totally in this combat the British pilots claimed nine and two probables shot down. Apart from Pattle’s two CR.42s, Stuckey claimed one G.50, which crashed, and one CR.42, Flight Lieutenant Greg Graham claimed one G.50 and one CR.42, Pilot Officer Samuel Cooper claimed one shared CR.42 with Pilot Officer Vale, who also claimed one additional CR.42, Sergeant Charles Casbolt claimed one G.50 and finally Flying Officer Sidney Linnard claimed two CR.42s as probables.
Pilot Officer Stuckey was hit in the combat by CR.42s and wounded in the right shoulder and leg. He was saved from being finished off by Squadron Leader Hickey, who managed to driving away the CR.42s and then escort him back to Trikkala from where he would be dispatched to the Greek Red Cross hospital in Athens.
Pilot Officer Vale reported:
“Nine Gladiators and three PZLs took off from Trikkala in four flights of three aircraft to carry out an offensive patrol over Koritza. I was flying in the second flight as No.2 to F/Lt Pattle. We arrived over the area at approximately 1440 hours and after patrolling for about five minutes two CR42s were seen approaching our formation at 14,000 feet from starboard ahead. The signal for line astern was given by the flight leader, who immediately attacked the enemy aircraft, which broke formation. F/Lt Pattle engaged one CR42 and after a shot dogfight shot it down out of control, with smoke coming from the engine.
The other CR42 was engage by No.1 Flight. I tried to regain my flight but finally attached myself to two Gladiators in formation, which I found out to be No.1 Flight led by S/Ldr Hickey. We carried on the patrol at about 10,000 feet over Koritza, where we met fairly accurate AA fire. ‘Tally-ho!’ was then given when three CR42s in formation were seen at about 6,000 feet. The formation split up and I dived on a CR42 which was attempting to escape to the north. I carried out a quarter attack and then slid in to an astern position, which I held while the enemy pilot did evasive tactics. He then carried out a manoeuvre which appeared to be a downward roll and I noticed that smoke was coming from his engine. I carried on firing in short bursts until he went between two hills through a small cloud. I followed over the cloud but no enemy aircraft appeared and so I went below into the valley and saw wreckage in a copse – at the same time getting fired at by enemy troops.
I climbed up immediately and at 6,000 feet saw a shiny monoplane with radial engine diving down. I gave chase but was out-distanced and so gave up after firing a short burst at about 400 yards. I gained altitude and observed a Gladiator and a CR42 in a dogfight very low down over the hill, and also noticed that the enemy pilot was attempting to lead the Gladiator over a group of enemy ground forces. I waited until the Gladiator pilot had manoeuvred into an astern attack and then carried out a quarter attack. I noticed that first white smoke and then black was coming from the engine of the e/a before I opened fire. I carried out quarter attacks until the other Gladiator pilot pulled away and then slid into an astern attack.
I remained in that position until very low over the main road and then the CR42 turned over and slid into the side of a hill. The aircraft did not burst into flames. While pulling up I fired at the enemy ground troops. I gained altitude and waggled my wings for the other Gladiator pilot to join me and then found the other pilot was P/O Cooper, who had apparently run out of ammunition. I then set course for home and finally landed at Eleusis, where I refuelled, before proceeding to the base aerodrome. I inspected my aeroplane and found that I had one bullet hole in my tail plane, which had done no damage. In each encounter with CR42s I found that both pilots used the downward roll manoeuvre at high speed for evasive action.”
On 29 November 1940, nine Blenheims from 84 Squadron, led by Squadron Leader Dudley-Lewis, were out to bomb targets at Tepelene escorted by Gladiators from 80 Squadron. The escort consisted of six Gladiators in three pairs. Flying in the first pair were Flying Officer Greg Graham and Sergeant Charles Casbolt, in the second were Pilot Officer Johnny Lancaster and Flight Sergeant ‘Mick’ Richens while Flight Lieutenant ‘Pat’ Pattle, who led the whole formation, and Pilot Officer Vale were flying in the third pair.
After seeing the bombers to their targets four of the fighters flew low over the mountains searching for Flying Officer Harold Sykes, who was missing from a combat the previous day, while Pattle and Vale remained above as cover.
A number of trimotor aircraft were then spotted flying in two formations and they were identified as S.79s. Both Pattle and Vale attacked but though both the pilots were able to see their fire striking home, they observed no result other than thin trails of black smoke from two aircraft, which they claimed as shared damaged.
The Italian aircraft were in fact part of a formation of 28 Z.1007bis of the 47o Stormo B.T. from Grottaglie on a raid. The defending air gunners reported that nine Gladiators attacked them, claiming one of the probably shot down – presumably Pattle’s aircraft, which spun down after his attack.
No trace of Sykes was found.
At 10:25 on 21 December 1940, 80 Squadron took off from Yanina for the front in Greece. They were led by Squadron Leader William Hickey and flew in three sections. The first comprised four aircraft and was led by Hickey, the second of three was led by Flight Lieutenant ’Pat’ Pattle and the third trio was led by Flying Officer Sidney Linnard.
Near Argyrokastron three enemy trimotor bombers were seen. They were identified as SM 79s, and then three more aircraft with twin tails were seen, recognized in this case as Fiat BR.20s. All six were in fact Cant Z.1007bis aircraft from the 47o Stormo B.T. from Grottaglie. The Italian bombers were attacked by the Gladiators and Pattle believed that he had hit one.
At this moment however 15 CR.42s of the 160o Gruppo appeared on the scene. Maggiore Oscar Molinari, the Gruppo commander, was leading these Italian aircraft on an offensive reconnaissance over Yannina, Paramythia and Zitsa. Seeing the bombers under attack by an estimated 20 Gladiators, the Italian attacked, joined by six other CR.42s from the 150o Gruppo led by Capitano Luigi Corsini so that 80 Squadron pilots assessed the number of their opponents at 54!
After 25 minutes, the air battle broke up and eight of the British pilots returned to claim eight confirmed and three probably destroyed CR.42s and one probably destroyed BR.20.
Pilot Officer Vale (N5784) claimed three, one of them in flames (according to Pattle this was the fighter that shot down F/Lt Ripley). Vale’s own aircraft was riddled by explosive bullets during the combat.
“At 1050, ten Gladiators took off from Yannina on an offensive patrol, flying in three flights of four, three, and three aircraft. I was flying in No.3 in the third flight led by F/O Linnard.
On reaching the patrol line “Tally-ho!” was immediately given for three bombers seen going from west to east. The leading flight led by S/L Hickey immediately went into action. At the same moment three more bombers were seen approaching from our port beam. The leader of the second flight, F/L Pattle, immediately turned left and carried out a head-on attack, and my flight leader followed. I was able to get in a short burst before breaking away. On turning to follow, I observed a large formation of enemy C.R.42’s diving down from above. We immediately climbed to attack and a general dog fight started. I singled out one enemy aircraft who tried to dive away and dived down firing a burst at long range. He pulled up and I got in a full deflection shot from underneath and noticed flames coming from underneath his engine. The enemy aircraft went down out of control and finally hit the ground in flames. I then noticed a single Gladiator low down in a valley being attacked by five C.R.42’s. I dived down and engaged two of them and managed to get behind one and fire a long burst until it suddenly spun down out of control and crashed into the valley.
I was then attacked by more C.R.42’s who carried out frontal quarter attacks on me with the superior speed that could out-climb me. I carried out evasive action and noticed that the Gladiator below me was on fire and spinning down out of control [this was Squadron Leader Hickey’s aircraft]. I dived down towards it and saw the pilot leave the aircraft and use his parachute. I was again fired at by a C.R.42 from above who carried out his attack and then headed away North. When I again looked down I saw the Gladiator in flames on the ground with the pilot going down in his parachute. At the same time I saw a C.R.42 dive on the pilot and twin streams coming from behind his aircraft. I dived down and managed to get in a surprise attack, as he pulled away from the parachutist. I got on his tail and fired a long burst from a single fuselage gun until he turned over out of control and went straight down to crash in the valley. As I pulled up another C.R.42 came down very close to my machine, out of control, and crashed quite near to the burning Gladiator. I gained altitude and saw another Gladiator circling above me, and as I was short of ammunition, I joined formation and found the other pilot to be F/S. Richens, who had shot the C.R.42, which went past me. I noticed the position of the crashed Gladiator in respect to Argyrokastron and then returned to base. On landing I inspected my aircraft and found that my lower and upper starboard mainplanes had been hit twice by explosive bullets One of which had entered the wing ammunition tank and had exploded inside but had done no apparent damage to the structure of the mainplane.
The fuselage was hit in several places but with no structural damage.”
On 3 March 1942, two Hurricanes from 80 Squadron were ordered up on patrol at 1025, flown by Flying Officer Nigel Cullen and Pilot Officer Vale, while a third, flown by the attached 112 Squadron pilot Flying Officer Richard Acworth, was sent up on an air test. As these got into the air ten Cant Z.1007bis bombers of 50o Gruppo Autonomo B.T. from Brindisi approached the area in two formations of five each, while other such aircraft from 47o Stormo B.T. were also over Greece at this time. The 50o Gruppo aircraft bombed the earthquake-shattered town of Larissa, and were on their way home by the time the Hurricanes were vectored onto them. Flying Officer Acworth was first on the scene, soon joined by the other pair, and he reported:
“Took off to test aircraft – before leaving heard that ten enemy aircraft heading towards Preveza. I flew in that direction and saw bombing in progress, and although I had not enough speed to catch the first section of bombers, I finally got near enough to second section – attacked No 5 and shot it down in flames – witnessed by Flying Officer Cullen, who shot down No 4. I saw one crew member leaving No 5 but afterwards, apart from an empty chute floating down, no trace of him was found. Both mine and Flying Officer Cullen’s first bomber crashed into the sea five miles south-west of Corfu.”
Cullen continued to attack and returned to claim a total of four Cants shot down and one probable, although his Hurricane was badly damaged by return fire, one bullet passing through his flying boot and grazing his shin; he reported seeing 18 parachutes in the air at one time. Pilot Officer Vale also claimed a bomber shot down, but identified his victim as an S.81.
It seems however that the 50o Gruppo formation lost only the first two bombers shot down; the crews reported that they were pursued initially by two Greek PZLs, both of which the gunners claimed to have shot down. They were then attacked south of Corfu by ‘seven Spitfires’, claiming two of these shot down also. The second formation reported encountering intense AA fire over Preveza and returned with three aircraft damaged, while a 47o Stormo Z.1007bis was also hit and one member of the crew wounded.
On 28 March 1941, a DFC was gazetted to Pilot Officer Vale and a DFM to Flight Sergeant Donald Gregory.
On 6 April 1941, Germany declared war on Yugoslavia and Greece and immediately attacked.
At 09:30 on 14 April 1941, eight Blenheims from 113 Squadron, escorted by ten Hurricanes (seven from 33 Squadron and three from 80 Squadron) attacked targets north of Ptolemais.
Returning from the attack, Ju 87s were seen dive-bombing Allied troops near Servia and one of these was claimed shot down by Pilot Officer Vale. A Blenheim gunner fired at one of the Ju 87s, reporting seeing smoke and flame pouring from this aircraft, but this is believed to have been the aircraft attacked by Vale.
Totally Allied fighters claimed five Ju 87s during the day and several Ju 87s were lost in the area. It seems that I/StG 3 lost Oberfeldwebel Rudolf Schnurawa and his gunner over Servia, while 9./StG 2 lost Oberleutnant Christian Banke and Feldwebel Georg Hoser in T6+KT south-west of Mount Olympus. A second 9 staffel aircraft was badly damaged and crash-landed on its return to Prilep-West. Oberfeldwebel Paul Lachmann and his gunner both were having been wounded. 2./StG, recently arrived from Libya, lost A5+EK to fighters near Trikkala (most probably shot down by PZL P.24 flown by Episminias (Sergeant) Argyropoulos of 22 Mira) with Fahnrich Walter Seeliger and Gefreiter Kurt Friedrich were taken prisoner.
At 08:45 on 15 April 1941, 25 Ju 88s from I/LG 1 and I/KG 51 appeared over Athens. They were intercepted by six Hurricanes of 80 Squadron and four Blenheims IFs of 30 Squadron. Pilot Officer Vale claimed two bombers shot down, Sergeant Edward Hewett one and one probable, while one each were claimed by Pilot Officer J. Still and Flight Sergeant Jacques Rivalant (one of the units French pilots). A sixth was claimed by a new pilot, Pilot Officer Roald Dahl (later a well-known author). On this, Dahl’s first operational sortie, and with only seven hours’ experience on Hurricanes, he came across six bombers. Attacking from astern he was greeted by a hail of fire from the rear gunner but succeeded in getting on the tail of one and, after a short burst, saw pieces fly off its starboard engine. The crippled Junkers slowly tumbled down, three crew being seen to bale out. In spite of intense return fire only one bullet hit Dahl’s V7826, this piercing the propeller.
One of these claims was adjudged to be the unit’s 100th victory of the war.
45 minutes later two Ju 88s were claimed by Blenheims from 30 Squadron over the capital.
It is believed that 80 Squadron’s opponents were the I/KG 51 aircraft, two of which were lost in crash-landings at Krumovo as a result of severe damage. Two more of this unit’s Ju 88s landed at Salonika with minor AA damage. 30 Squadron probably engaged the I/LG 1 aircraft, this unit losing Unteroffizier Karl Stütz and his crew in L1+SK. A second aircraft crash-landed at Kozani with engine troubles and was completely destroyed (although the crew survived), while a third crash-landed at Salonika with AA damage and was written off.
Towards the evening on 16 April 1941, six 80 Squadron Hurricanes were scrambled to intercept bombers (reported as Ju 88s), which were attacking a munitions factory half a mile from Eleusis. Pilot Officer Vale and Pilot Officer J. Still each claimed one destroyed near the target, whilst Sergeant Edward Hewett chased another to the north and claimed this shot down as well.
The German bombers appear to have been Do 17Zs of Stabstaffel/KG 2, which lost three such aircraft – reportedly in the Larissa area. These were U5+GA (Leutnant Ludwig Rohr), U5+BA (Leutnant Heinrich Hunger) and U5-DA (Hauptmann Konrad Ebsen); all the crews failed to return.
At daybreak on 19 April 1941, Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft spotted Australian, New Zealand and Greek troops retreating across the Thessaly Plain when they were near Pmokos. Soon some 40 Ju 87s arrived, bombing and strafing, and causing much damage and confusion, and many casualties.
Seven Hurricanes of 80 Squadron, led by Flight Lieutenant William Woods, arrived in the area and promptly claimed four of the Stukas shot down before escorting Bf 109Es of II/JG 27 could intervene. Cheering troops reported seeing at last three of these crash; two were claimed by Pilot Officer Vale (Hurricane V7134), and one each by Flying Officer P. T. Dowding and Flight Sergeant Rivalant.
Apparently two Ju 87s were lost, one from Stab/StG 2, crewed by Oberleutnant Sebastian Ulitz and Oberfeldwebel Emil Kuklau, which crashed south-west of Elasson with the death of the crew (recorded by the Germans as having been on 18 April), and one of I/StG 3, which crash-landed near Kozani, Leutnant Herbert Wingelmayer being killed and his gunner wounded. The escorting Bf 109s then attacked, two Hurricanes being claimed shot down, one each by Oberleutnant Wilhelm Wiesinger and one by Unteroffizier Alfred Heidel. In fact only Sergeant Charles Casbolt’s aircraft was hit, and he was able to return to Eleusis without undue trouble. Casbolt claimed to have damage one of the Bf 109s, and Flying Officer Eldon Trollip to have shot down one, but no Messerschmitts were hit on this occasion.
During the day on 20 April 1941, Eleusis was almost under constant attack but in the afternoon there was a pause in activity, which allowed a little time for the ground crews to bring the maximum possible number of Hurricanes up to readiness state. Squadron Leader ‘Tap’ Jones decided that if no further attack had developed by 18:00, all available Hurricanes would undertake an offensive sweep in an effort to raise morale amongst the civilian population of Athens and the surrounding areas, and as a boost to the defenders of Eleusis as well as to the pilots themselves.
However at about 16:45 a formation of 100 plus Ju 88s and Do 17s, escorted by Bf 109s and Bf 110s was reported approaching Athens. The Ju 88s (from I/LG 1) peeled off to make low-flying attacks on shipping at Piraeus, while individual Bf 110s of II/ZG 26 scoured the area, shooting up likely targets. One appeared over Eleusis just as the Hurricanes (nine of 33 Squadron and six of 80 Squadron) were preparing to take off. Fortunately, none were hit, and all took to the air individually, climbed to 20 000 feet and headed for Piraeus, forming sections of two or three en route.
The first trio to arrive over the port, flown by Flying Officers Peter Wickham, Flight Lieutenant Henry John Starrett (RAF no. 40188) and Percival ‘Ping’ Newton (a Rhodesian), caught 15 Ju 88s dive-bombing ships in the harbour (the Greek hospital ship Ellenis was sunk during the attack). The three Hurricanes followed them down and attacked as they pulled out of their dives; Wickham claimed one shot down, whilst Newton claimed two more. Just then Pilot Officer Vale arrived on the scene, reporting seeing some 30 Ju 88s:
“I carried out eight attacks on the Ju 88s. One caught fire and started going down, so I left him and attacked another. Big chunks broke away from his wings and fuselage, and smoke poured from his engines. He went down vertically. I was then attacked by a 109, but I easily outmanoeuvred him, had a crack at some more, and came home when my ammo was exhausted.”
One Ju 88 flown by Unteroffizier Helmut Benke (L1+ZH) was lost near Athens with all the crew; a second L1+UK, piloted by Oberfähnrich Werner Ziegler, was hit by a Hurricane’s fire and the navigator Gefreiter Heinrich Baumgartner, received three bullets in the head and neck, dying almost at once. The gunners believed that they had shot down the attacking fighter, reporting seeing it fall into the sea near Kalamaki (it was probably the crash of Benke’s Ju 88 they had seen or the explosions of bombs). A second Hurricane then attacked, putting the starboard engine out of action. This was also claimed hit by Gefreiter Hans Baumann (radio operator/air gunner) and was seen making for land. However the Ju 88 was rapidly losing height and although the crew threw out all removable equipment to reduce weight, it ditched in shallow water near Karies, at the foot of Mount Athos. The remaining members of the crew survived the crash. A third Ju 88 suffered engine trouble, but struggled back to Krumovo, where it crash-landed.
The Hurricane hit by Baumann was probably that flown by ‘Harry’ Starrett (V7804), which caught fire as a result. Starrett decided to fly back to Eleusis to attempt to save his aircraft. He made a hard wheels-up landing and the glycol tank blew up, enveloping the aircraft in flames. Starrett managed to get out, but had been very severely burned; he was rushed to hospital but died two days later.
Four more 80 Squadron Hurricanes now joined the battle, Flight Lieutenant William Woods leading Sergeant Charles Casbolt and Flight Sergeant Pierre Wintersdorff (a Frenchman) to attack a formation identified as Bf 110s, but probably composed of Do 17Z from I and III/KG 2, escorted by Bf 110s. Woods carried out two or three separate attacks, believing that he had probably shot down two (but only being credited with one) before breaking off to return to Eleusis to rearm. Wintersdorff claimed one aircraft shot down in flames, which he identified as an ‘Fw187’, but he was then attacked by a Bf 110 and wounded in one leg; his Hurricane was hard hit and he baled out into the sea from where he was soon rescued. Casbolt claimed two aircraft as Bf 110s, but was also then attacked from astern and had his rudder shot away. Breaking away, he encountered a Bf 109 which he reported he had shot down in flames.
THE DEATH OF MARMADUKE PATTLE:
At Eleusis the returning Hurricanes were being refuelled and rearmed as swiftly as possible, before climbing back into the fray. Squadron Leader Pattle was by now very ill with influenza, his temperature having been recorded as 103°. Nonetheless he took off for the third time of the day together with Flying Officer Vernon Woodward, following Flight Lieutenant William Woods, who was now off for the second time. Pattle and Woodward had not taken off before, as their aircraft had not been ready.
“I took off late with Squadron Leader Pattle – we climbed into a swarm of Ju 88s protected by masses of Messerschmitt 110s. We were overwhelmed. In sun I recall shooting down a 110 off Pattle’s tail, in flames, then probably a Ju 88. Shortly afterwards Pattle got a confirmed Ju 88 (or Bf 110). Subsequently I lost contact with him, then damaged three more 110s, then, being out of ammunition returned tentatively to Eleusis. It was all over – for that day.”
Ahead of Woodward, Pattle was seen going to aid of the Hurricane flown by Flight Lieutenant Woods, which was being attacked by a Bf 110. He opened fire at this aircraft and it was seen to burst into flames (presumably the aircraft Woodward had seem him to destroy), just as Woods’ Hurricane also caught fire and dived into Eleusis bay, killing him.
Two more Bf 110s latched onto the tail of Pattle’s AS988, and it quickly began to blaze – there was an explosion, and the wreckage fell into the sea. Flight Lieutenant George Kettlewell arrived on the scene just in time to see the demise of his gallant leader and attacked one of the two Bf 110s responsible, shooting this down into the Bay also.
He claimed a second Bf 110 before he too was attacked by yet another Bf 110, and was forced to bale out when V7807 was badly hit. A large and solid man, he landed heavily, cracking two vertebrae in his spine and spending several months in a plaster cast as a result.
Yet another Hurricane was falling to the Bf 110s at this time; Flight Sergeant Leonard Cottingham had claimed three Bf 110s in flames, but he was hit by a fourth and wounded, baling out of his stricken aircraft. The pilots of II/ZG 26’s 5 staffel, led by Hauptmann Theodor Rossiwall, claimed five Hurricanes shot down in this engagement, one each by Rossiwall himself (victory no. 12), Oberleutnant Sophus Baggoe (victory no. 14), Oberfeldwebel Hermann Schönthier, Unteroffizier Fritz Muller and Oberfeldwebel Theodor Pietschmann. However two of the Gruppe’s aircraft were lost in return – 3U+EN (Oberleutnant Kurt Specka) and 3U+FN (Feldwebel Georg Leinfelder), while a third crash-landed with severe damage.
Vale is also credited with an additional shared Do 17 destroyed on this day but at an unknown time.
After the battle on 20 April 1941, hardly any fighters remained and they were moved to Argos in the Peloponnesus to cover the withdrawal of the British troops to Crete.
At Argos in the morning on 23 April, ground crews were working hard in very primitive conditions to get as many Hurricanes as possible serviceable, but many tools and spare parts had been lost during the retreat, and only sufficient aircraft would be readied for limited patrols and reconnaissance sorties.
During one reconnaissance during the late morning Pilot Officer Vale (V7134) encountered a Do 17 near the airfield and chased it away, claiming damage.
It is possible that this was 5K+DS of III/KG 3, reported shot down by AA near Corinth; Unteroffizier Wiesmüller and his crew were lost.
On 29 April 1941, Squadron Leader Edward ‘Tap’ Jones and Flying Officer Wanklyn Flower departed from Crete, leaving the small Malmeme detachment under Flying Officer Vale’s command.
At 10:15 on the same day, 29 April, a number of Hurricanes were scrambled from Maleme. Over Suda Bay Flying Officer Vale (Hurricane V7781) spotted a Do 17 heading out to sea and pursued it to within 400 yards, firing all his ammunition, while the rear gunner maintained a constant return fire, which gained several hits on the Hurricane, none of them serious. He last saw the bomber losing height, with black smoke pouring from its port engine.
The alarm sounded again at 16:15 as some 20 Ju 88s approached Suda Bay. This time all available Hurricanes were scrambled, as well as 805 Squadron’s Fulmars and Sea Gladiator N5509 in the hands of Lieutenant Commander Black. Again it was Vale (Hurricane V7795) who made contact, seeing nine bombers at 6000 feet, two which he attacked. He reported that following a short burst, the first fell away with flames pouring from the starboard engine and crashed just north of Maleme. Giving chase to two more which were heading out to sea, he got close enough to fire after five minutes, his victim this time apparently diving into the sea. Circling above, he spotted two survivors in the water, reporting this to control. As he returned to Maleme, he encountered another Ju 88, carrying out a head-on attack, but after a short burst, he ran out of ammunition.
The bombers had attacked shipping in the bay, the Greek freighter Konistra (3537 tons) being badly hit and beached. Two Bofors guns sited to protect the anchorage, were also knocked out, but without any casualties to the gun crews. On this occasion no Luftwaffe bomber losses appear to have been recorded.
Just after 17:00 on 30 April, six Ju 88s were seen low over Suda Bay, and were intercepted by Flying Officer Vale, who chased them northwards. He reported:
‘I attacked one after a very long chase, firing nearly all my ammunition into it from very close range and it hit the sea. I was then fired upon by another Ju 88 which came up in line abreast, so I carried out a quarter attack which finished off my ammo. No apparent damage. While returning to base I saw four aircraft in line astern, very low down. I went very close and recognised them as Blenheims with what appeared to be English markings… I reported this and was informed that no Blenheims were airborne.’
It seems that no Luftwaffe bombers were lost this day. The Blenheims seems to have been from 203 Squadron on their way to Egypt.
In the early evening on 5 May Flying Officer Vale (V7181) intercepted a Ju 88 over Suda Bay and claimed it shot down; he also claimed a second as damaged.
No Ju 88 seems to have been lost on this date.
At 20:00 on 13 May Flying Officer Vale scrambled after an unidentified plot reported flying off the coast. Within 30 minutes he had been vectored onto a Ju 52/3m and had landed again, claiming to have shot this down into the sea.
At this time Vale was operating virtually as a ‘one-man air force’ so far as 80 Squadron was concerned. The only other member of the unit still present was Sergeant Bennett.
At 06:15 on 16 May Hurricanes were scrambled from Maleme and Flying Officer Vale (Hurricane V7795) encountered a number of Bf 109s, one of which he claimed to have shot down.
At about 16:30 a new raid developed over Crete when Ju 87s of I/StG 2, escorted by Bf 110s of II/ZG 26 attacked Maleme and Suda Bay. Bf 109s of I(J)/LG 2 and III/JG 77 were also in the air.
Vale had been on patrol over Suda Bay in his 80 Squadron aircraft when the raid approached. He attacked the Ju 87s, which were attacking the shipping in the Bay, and claimed one shot down before being attacked by Bf 109s, which he evaded.
Early in the afternoon on 17 May the three remaining serviceable Hurricanes were scrambled from Maleme. Flying Officer Vale (V7795), Lieutenant Commander Black (V7761) and N2610 flown by a pilot from 33 Squadron intercepted approaching Ju 88s. Vale claimed damage to one of the bombers.
Later in the day Vale and Black were unable to make an interception when ordered off again.
The next day both Hurricanes V7795 and V7761 were destroyed in attacks on Maleme airfield.
At 18:00 in the evening on 18 May 1941, Vale was evacuated from Crete to Egypt in Sunderland N9020 flown by Flight Lieutenant Lywood.
Vale flew over Syria against the Vichy French after 80 Squadron had reformed on return to Egypt.
On 11 June 1941, Pilot Officer Vale apparently claimed the destruction of a Potez 63 whilst on patrol in Hurricane V6939 during the day. GR II/39’s No 676, flown by Capitaine Forget, was indeed intercepted and hit by two bullets whilst on a reconnaissance of the Merjayoun-Sidon-Nagoura area.
Next day he claimed two D.520, one of which crashed with the death of the pilot on the coast near Haifa. French sources however seems to credit this loss to AA fire.
Vale was awarded a Bar to his DFC at the end of June (gazetted on 11 July 1941), and a Greek DFC.
On 5 July 1941, he was posted to RAF Haifa as Operations Officer.
Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)
Period: Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank: Pilot Officer
Unit: No. 80 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Awarded on: July 11th, 1941
“After the evacuation operations from Greece, this officer remained at Maleme aerodrome with some members of his unit. In the course of enemy air attacks on Crete, Pilot Officer Vale proved himself to be a staunch pilot. Frequently against odds, he continued his attacks against the enemy and destroyed four of their aircraft during an attack on the anchorage at Suda Bay. He displayed great courage and determination.”
Second DFC awarded as a bar to be worn on the ribbon of the first DFC.
He was promoted to Flight Lieutenant on 17 January 1942.
In April 1942, he returned to the UK to become CFI at 59 OTU at Millfield, and then Crosby-on-Eden.
In March 1943, he attended the Central Gunnery School at Sutton Bridge, then becoming SGO at Wittering until September. Subsequently he commanded 11 AFC at Fairwood Common until the end of the war, attending the Fighter Leaders’ Course at Tangmere.
Vale ended the war with 10 and 2 shared biplane victories and a total of 30 and 3 shared destroyed.
In 1946, he was o/c Gunnery and Armament Testing at West Raynham, but he left the service in October of that year, having also been awarded an AFC.
He subsequently settled in Nottinghamshire, where he was killed in a road accident on 29 November 1981.
June 22nd, 1940: Pilot Officer (on probation)
June 24th, 1941: Flying Officer (war sub)
January 17th, 1942: Flight Lieutenant (war sub)
1 01/07/40 1 CR.32 (a) Destroyed Gladiator II N5769 Fort Capuzzo 33 Squadron
15/07/40 1 S.79 (b) Shared destroyed Gladiator II N5766 Mersa Matruh 33 Squadron
2 19/11/40 14:10- 1 CR.42 (c) Destroyed Gladiator II N5784 Koritza area 80 Squadron
19/11/40 14:10- ½ CR.42 (c) Shared destroyed Gladiator II N5784 Koritza area 80 Squadron
29/11/40 ½ Z.1007 (d) Shared damaged Gladiator II N5784 Tepelene area 80 Squadron
29/11/40 ½ Z.1007 (d) Shared damaged Gladiator II N5784 Tepelene area 80 Squadron
3 04/12/40 15:30 1 CR.42 (e) Destroyed Gladiator II N5784 Argyrokastron 80 Squadron
4 20/12/40 11:00 1 S.81 (f) Destroyed Gladiator II N5784 Kelcyre area 80 Squadron
5 21/12/40 11:00 1 CR.42 (g) Destroyed Gladiator II N5784 Argyrokastron area 80 Squadron
6 21/12/40 11:00 1 CR.42 (g) Destroyed Gladiator II N5784 Argyrokastron area 80 Squadron
7 21/12/40 11:00 1 CR.42 (g) Destroyed Gladiator II N5784 Argyrokastron area 80 Squadron
09/02/41 10:30-12:40 1 S.79 Damaged Gladiator II N5825 Tepelene-Argyrokastron 80 Squadron
8 09/02/41 10:30-12:40 1 CR.42 (h) Destroyed Gladiator II N5825 Tepelene-Argyrokastron 80 Squadron
? 10/02/41 1 Z.1007 (i) Destroyed Gladiator 15m SW Yanina 80 Squadron
9 28/02/41 1 G.50 (j) Destroyed Gladiator II N5829 Himare 80 Squadron
10 28/02/41 1 S.79 (j) Destroyed Gladiator II N5829 Himare 80 Squadron
11 03/03/41 1 S.81 (k) Destroyed Hurricane I V7288 W Larisa 80 Squadron
12 04/03/41 1 G.50 (l) Destroyed Hurricane I V7589 Himare-Valona area 80 Squadron
13 14/04/41 1 Ju 87 (m) Destroyed Hurricane I V7795 near Servia, Bulgaria 80 Squadron
14 15/04/41 1 Ju 88 Destroyed Hurricane I V7795 Athens 80 Squadron
15 15/04/41 1 Ju 88 Destroyed Hurricane I V7795 Athens 80 Squadron
16 16/04/41 1 Ju 88 (o) Destroyed Hurricane I V7134 Eleusis 80 Squadron
17 19/04/41 1 Ju 87 (p) Destroyed Hurricane I V7134 Larisa 80 Squadron
18 19/04/41 1 Ju 87 (p) Destroyed Hurricane I V7134 Larisa 80 Squadron
20/04/41 1 Do 17 Shared destroyed Hurricane I V7134 Larisa 80 Squadron
19 20/04/41 1 Ju 88 (q) Destroyed Hurricane I V7134 Piraeus 80 Squadron
20 20/04/41 1 Ju 88 (q) Destroyed Hurricane I V7134 Piraeus 80 Squadron
23/04/41 1 Do 17 (r) Damaged Hurricane I V7134 Argos airfield 80 Squadron
29/04/41 1 Do 17 Damaged Hurricane I V7781 Suda Bay area 80 Squadron
21 29/04/41 1 Ju 88 (s) Destroyed Hurricane I V7795 N Maleme 80 Squadron
22 29/04/41 1 Ju 88 (s) Destroyed Hurricane I V7795 N Maleme 80 Squadron
23 30/04/41 1 Ju 88 (t) Destroyed Hurricane I V7795 Suda Bay 80 Squadron
30/04/41 1 Ju 88 (t) Damaged Hurricane I V7795 Suda Bay 80 Squadron
24 05/05/41 1 Ju 88 (u) Destroyed Hurricane I V7781 Suda Bay, Crete 80 Squadron
05/05/41 1 Ju 88 (u) Damaged Hurricane I V7781 Suda Bay, Crete 80 Squadron
25 13/05/41 1 Ju 52/3m (v) Destroyed Hurricane I V7781 off Crete 80 Squadron
26 16/05/41 1 Bf 109 Destroyed Hurricane I V7795 Maleme 80 Squadron
27 16/05/41 1 Ju 87 Destroyed Hurricane I V7795 Suda Bay 80 Squadron
17/05/41 1 Ju 88 Damaged Hurricane I V7795 Suda Bay 80 Squadron
28 11/06/41 1 Potez 63 (w) Destroyed Hurricane I V6939 over Fleet off Syrian coast 80 Squadron
29 12/06/41 1 Dewoitine D520 Destroyed Hurricane I Z4200 over Fleet off Syrian coast 80 Squadron
30 12/06/41 1 Dewoitine D520 Destroyed Hurricane I Z4200 over Fleet off Syrian coast 80 Squadron
Biplane victories: 10 and 2 shared destroyed, 1 and 2 shared damaged.
TOTAL: 30 and 3 shared destroyed, 6 and 2 shared damaged.
Vale was one of the RAF’s top ten fighter aces of the Second World War, but surprisingly there is no published biography about him. He fought the Luftwaffe and the Regia Aeronautica in the Western Desert and Greece in 1940, flying antiquated Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters, then in Crete flying Hawker Hurricanes against the Germans, and latterly in Egypt against Vichy French forces in Syria. Vale’s final score was 30 kills plus three shared.