Percute et Percute Velocitor
Letters to Mum, from the Land of "Oz"
(All letters and stories herein are protected under Copyright laws and may only be reproduced with the expressed written permission of the author, Brian "OzZiggy" Ziegelaar, 10th Australian LightHorse)
(edited and designed with permission, by Jim "Goshawk" Herring)
Additional stories and letters are available at No609_OzZiggy's Diary Page.
10 July, 1941
Dear Mum ..
Im sorry I havent written in so long, mail is a priority out here, so I have no excuses save but one. I cant help but feel out of touch with home. Everything is so different here....even the sky isnt the
radiant blue that we always have at home.
The base is a hive of activity ..the sqn is moving forward to its temporary
dispersal sites from biggin hill. Finally the sqn is coming up to full strength,
so I guess I just didn't have time to write. It was on the XOs insistence that
I write this letter. He Compans a brit ...actually threw me in the brig until
I promised to write, so this is now where I am presently. Every now and again he checks in on me hands me a cuppa, and busies himself with the paperwork . I reckon we should call him mother goose always looking out for us little goslings. He has donated a 109 tail plane to the mess as a table,.. its the poor jerry who came under his guns this morning . No time for celebration though he says too much work to be done.
The "blokes" thank you mum for the ANZAC cookies. We have a really fine bunch here, the squadron is getting up to full strength now , probably the reason behind our move to the forward dispersal sites. I'm being looked after so don't worry, our sqn has a guardian angel in our adjutant Kos. Kos is from Canada (although he says he's French) he has 9 kills and takes all of us under his protective wing. The man has the luck of the devil, and has survived three forced landings. The air sea rescue lads and him often go drinking together, so I guess they are quick to respond to his mayday calls. Then there is one of my strongest mates, Relent, he joined up to get in on the battle of Britain, but missed the ship so to speak. Relent is an American ..he stowed away on cargo vessel to get to England and is actually in reality an illegal immigrant! He has showed me his forged birth certificates which claims his mother is English. I guess with all the bombings the records are all mixed up , so they
let him stay and fight. Anyway he is flying with us now , and we thank which ever forces sent him our way. Relent has bagged four jerries ,..three of them whilst on so called "instrument check flights" by himself. I guess if your
gonna come all that way to have a crack at the jerries you gotta get up there and take the fight to em. A real natural pilot, he has never been shot down and claims that the silk of the parachute gives him a rash anyway. Relent has taught me some of his tricks, and together we plane to survive this war. There are also three other Aussies in the sqn now, Destroyer , Munster and Heat. These guys are the best ..tell dad we are the top of the wings cricketers (I guess some things dont change) . Dest is our flight leader and was bounced on his way to our base, he had full tanks and as such his spit wasnt up to the fight. Although, he claims that the jerry that got him was a damn fine pilot, and is quick to remark " dont you get cocky lads ..those jerries know their flying". Heat is another who has hit the silk before "once in a training flight he got to close to a pilot called puma" and the resulting argument was settled in the air. Heat lost but It didnt effect him at all, and yesterday he roared over the hedge rows buzzing the field with a victory roll. He now has kitchen duties for a week because of his "dangerous antics" ..no matter he always comes to barracks with extra ham and eggs ..which he says "he borrowed from the brits" . A real card this guy, never lets anything get to him. I'm glad he is here. Munster went down with a fever upon arrival and was out for three weeks. With the extra food from heat he is well enough to
fly now and is eager to get at the jerries. Then there is the new crowd: Viper, Shredd and Shap. Viper and shredd are some more Americans. They were crop dusters back in the USA and were on holidays in blighty when the war broke out. They absolutely refused to leave the place and have been shuffled from one squad to the next. The brits didn't know what to do with em. Well Compans did ! and they are now ours . I tell ya those boys can fly.
The Yanks I have met
are a proud mob and never shirk a scap....glad to have em along for
the show. Shredd was bounced will transferring spits to biggin
hill. A jerry identified by radio call sign as zigrat from NJG88
came at him guns blazing. Well shredd, cool as ice, flipped the
spit over at 200ft and nailed the guy!. Cropdusters ,
never fight em at low altitudes. Shap is a German guy I dont know how he came into the sqn...I think his father makes rolls royce engines for spitfires or something like that . So they couldnt refuse him entry into the RAF. As usual anyone you didnt quite entirely fit ends up in the 609. No matter , us misfits are turning into a damn fine unit if I may say so myself. So that's it, the blokes, we are still waiting for our CO to get back from leave...but
that's basically my family out here in a nutshell. You can see I'm well looked after so dont worry!.
Tell little brother I bagged another jerry myself today, thats my third .. I hope to serve Australia proud, but I am starting to realize that this war business is not all what the recruitment blokes said. Oh and I have a lucky white rabbit as a mascot. A stowaway on the liner that brought me here,.. I saved him from the ships cooks .I call him lucky digger....hes real fat and pampered by all the guys.
your son Ziggy.
22 July, 1942
I am writing a diary of events of my life in the 609 in my spare time. If I ever buy the farm, I have a number of Blokes who will send it to you. I say a number because some of the guys who have sworn to carry out this duty, may cop a packet at the same time I do. It seems to be the way of life around here. People come and people go. We have three of our experienced pilots listed as MIA (missing in action), the phrase "presumed dead" has not been added to this description of their fate , so we hope for the best and carry on as normal. In the last fortnight a number of our trainee pilots straight from OUT (operational training unit) have taken a one way flight to Hades. These pilots are barely able to fly straight and level, god knows we try to teach them, but we have limited time, so they often go up on their first patrol and never come back. As our famous bushranger, Ned Kelly said, "such is life". These losses combined with our MIAs have seen some sections reduced to just one pilot out of four. So its back to the "fly with whom ever you are put with roster". It was on such a flight with Compans and my new wingman Regsomble that I learned how confusing
and stupid this whole show gets.
The flight started off as normal, Compans was leading, I was No2 and Regsomble was No3. Reg is an Aussie lad from the eastern states and is one of the trainees that looks like he will make it. He has a fine grasp of technical skills and was involved in the testing of allied Vs German aircraft and came to the 609 with some interesting information on rates of climb etc. We formed up in our normal echelon right formation. The was a lot of sun about and very few clouds, visibility was high, all in all an unusual day. The lads wanted to play cricket but Tiny (the COs dog), the rascal,
had eaten the ball and we hadnt seen the bat for days (but we had our suspicions).
"Hallo, Compans here, climb to 26,000, over".
Visibility was great so Compans had wisely decided that getting as high as we could would be the safest option. I pointed the nose of my spit up and gave her heaps....she climbed like a homesick angel and in no time at all white condensation trails marked our ascent to heaven.
"Hallo Bring them down to 24,000 I don't want our trailer to give us away, over"
Another great decision. One problem with getting up high is that the vapor trials give away you presence I have heard them refereed to as the "coffin ropes" before. So the trick is to fly at an altitude just below where the trails start to form , in that way we are as high as we can get while maintaining a degree of stealth. This whole blasted affair of knocking down the Jerry came down to, "who saw whom first". I was trying to learn
all this stuff for when I have to lead my own section into battle. It just seemed like there was so much to learn and remember. If you forgot something it was gonna cost you, or some other poor bugger that had the misfortune to be flying with you, a packet. We had been flying our patrol over the channel for some time now when reg came online, and in a casual almost bored way suggested that we may wish to look down below us.
"Hallo, Reg here, 4 Jerry 190s , 10 oclock low, over"
Sure enough Reg had spotted them, good man. The 190's were cruising in what seems like a very loose stack formation with absolutely no order. It was in fact a highly ordered and very precise way of flying in two man teams, affording the pilots more time to concentrate on looking for us and less time concentrating on keeping formation. The Jerrys are by no means stupid, no matter what the recruitment posters say. Like a school of fish they threw off the occasional glint of light. This is no doubt caused by the sun reflecting of the waggling of wings of the 109. These guys were clearly not amateurs and we had to be quick if we wanted to catch em with their pants down
" OK lets take out the wingman , one pass only , them climb and we are going home, low on fuel . over"
Just as we were closing in on them the 190's turned and headed for home. Apparently they were low on fuel as well. I saw compans fire at one Jerry , a long burst, 3 seconds at 15 degree deflection. A hard shot, none the less the Jerry belched smoke and limped off in a dive towards Britain. The poor Joker had got confused and was heading away from his flight, France and salvation. Compans pulled up vigorously and began his climb. Reg sprayed at one of the lead Jerrys , who expertly jinked right then left and kept on going towards France. Cool customer that one, he knew a bad
plot when he saw it and was heading for home. The other lead Jerry was doing the same , but his wingman (my target) had pulled up in a half loop, held his plane at near stall and was firing what seemed like the whole of Krupp Steels 1942 stock at me. I hunched down lower in my seat as I heard some big thonks (the sound of cannon rounds hitting my spitfire). Not to be outdone I applied rudder , skidded slightly and gave him the works back (all I had). The spit rocked as my guns fired, the Jerry loomed large in the reflector sight. In his state of semi stall he just hung there in mid
air like a big hot air balloon getting larger by the second. I could make out the yellow/white edges to the black crosses on his wings. I could even see the pilot hunching down in his armored seat for protection just like I was. All of a sudden he burst into flames his nose dropped and he headed seawards. As ordered I climbed away (almost blacking out, I forgot to close the throttle in my dive, came darn close to ramming the Jerry). However, this did not stop me from yelling "I got one I got one" as my sixth kill was definitely going to be confirmed.
We headed for home secure in the knowledge we had got two of em and they had got none of us. This was not to be the case. When we had landed and refreshed we learnt that an army AA gun had claimed one 190 shot down in inland from our patrol area and the wreckage of a further 190 found on the beach. The army search team had found tracks of the pilot from this 190 along the beach. He had apparently made off in a small sailing boat and left behind his gloves and a flask of brandy. Attached to the flask was a note written in perfect English.
"I knew that stall was going to get me in trouble but I had to try and help out poor "Axel". Until next time Englander enjoy the brandy and I left you my gloves as a souvenir . Salute. Lt Preusse JG11 "
It was thus determined that Compans kill was a probable with the aircraft not identified adequately (that will teach us for not identifying our targets by the book) and I received confirmed kill. I wondered about the jerry whom I had been trying to kill earlier , perhaps at another time we would have been friends.
"SUCH IS LIFE"
Your son Ziggy (alive and well)
Ps: could you send two batches of ANZAC cookies next time , we can trade the second batch to Ae71 for some more beer.
Some new spitfires arrived today. This is not an unusual event since planes breakdown, get shot to bits or simply never come back from a flight. What was a suprise, was when the pilots of one of the spitfires turned out to be a
It seems that the RAF has most its male pilots off to war and is using a small number of female pilots (from civy street and the recreational glider schools) to ferry replacement aircraft around the place. I noticed the Spit flown by the "gal" (as the Americans call girls) had blackened gun ports and the canvas coverings were burnt away. Apparently, she had seen a Jerry recon plane on her way over and gave chase. No kill, but the Jerry wasn't hanging about to take any photos I can tell you. I bet if you tell big Sis that there are girl pilots, she would be down to recruiting like a shot. She always said I could never look after myself. The gal is a big hit and has been invited to the Tally Ho Pub by most of the blokes here, but it seems she only has eyes for one of the handsome Black Section lads, SSGF, lucky sod! The way the two of em are getting along I wont be surprised if 609 will be getting the pick of the new planes just so she can get over to the base more often. The blokes have
taken to calling this lovely lady Mrs-SSGf.
The arrival of the new spitfires was well timed as base rumor is that the squadron will soon be deployed in full, as a covering force for a bomber raid across the channel. This will be a big show and is bound to bring our "mates" from NJG88 and JG 300 swarming up at us like disturbed hornets. I am quite nervous of this deployment, since I was recently promoted to section leader, moved into B Flight under the command of Shap and still haven't seen any sign of the new pilots which will make up my section. The prospect of taking a bunch of raw recruits with 5 hours flying time up against those crack Jerries doesn't thrill me. It will be akin to murder. Shap and I agree that it is better if they arrive after this one is over.
The big day was apparently closer than I had thought and I found myself without a section and flying as number two for Shap , (the recruits hadn't got through OCTU in time, thank God!). One of Shap's veteran pilots was transferred at the last moment. A typical top brass decision (flaming desk jockeys)! It will be a wonder if we win this war I'll give you the tip. Poor Icepick is having a blue fit and our adjutant, Compans, has taken to kicking waste paper bins to relieve his frustration as people come and go from the squadron roster with alarming
A quick word with Shap, Blacksky and Dupradier and we were strapping in and taking off. Flying with the European flight was a bit over-awing as some of these guys were veterans of the air battle for France and thus were among the sqns most senior pilots. We formed up and swanned about above our shanty-like home in slow
lazy circles waiting for and C Flight to take off. A-Flight was already formed up above us and I craned my neck to see Kos's plane. Sure enough he was there with Relent and Shredd close by...these guys were our best and I felt safer just having them about. Black section was high above them to the right in perfect formation, they would be acting as the top most cover, a good decision on the skippers part. I wonder if Viper had noticed the chalk inscription I scrawled across his engine cowling just before dispersal muster, "Blue Sky's".
C-flight was forming up to our left and this gave us a pyramid of planes, one flight up and two flights across. We were all ready I quickly scanned the sky.. What a sight, good weather and a sky full of spitfires. I looked once more over at C Flight.. I missed flying with those bloke.
"Skipper to all pilots, Gods speed, over!"
We were off, I checked my knee-board instructions for the 50th time. I must of been half asleep during the early morning (practically nighttime) briefing. I could barely read my own writing, but it was simple enough we were to meet up with 602 sqn and then rendezvous with the bomber stream on its way back from the target at which point the Americans, who had escorted the bombers over the target would hand the duty to us as.
"Hallo this is Compans. Friends below, over!"
602 was bang on time, albeit a bit low.
"Hallo Cas here, P38's 5 o'clock low. Look like they are heading for home, over"
Sure enough, there they were, the "twin tailed devils", glinting like barracuda in the shallows. These guys were low on fuel and with exhausted ammo they were heading for home in discreet groups of three and four.
"Hallo Wolfman here, Bandits and bombers 12 o'clock, over!"
Well the bombers were ahead of schedule and Jerry was hot on their heals . The sky ahead seemed filled with aircraft, all going different directions. The bomber stream was a mess, I could see one main group of eight B-17's relatively untouched and then a morass of straggling bombers lagging behind and fanned out from this main body, huddling in groups of three and four for mutual fire support. The Jerry's were eating these guys up, even now I could make out the 109's diving through the formations in pairs, making attack runs and climbing away to come
round again, it looked very confused. It was time to get in there.
"bandits 8 o'clock high"
I had no idea who called that one in, but I frantically looked above and behind to spot them. No luck, the sun was at our back and I hadn't brought my smoked goggles along (bloody useless things anyway).
"Hallo, Viper here, I see em, 190's ..its the NJG 88 boys, over!"
Bloody marvelous. This show was going from bad to worse. Enemy in front enemy .. Enemy behind. My hands started to sweat inside my captured German aviator gloves. At that moment I wondered if Lt. Preusse and JG 11 was out there somewhere weaving terror amongst the bombers. It was at this point my cockpit lamp blinked on for no apparent reason, looking down I figured that is all I need, an electrical fault.
"Icepick here, A flight engage 190's ..B and C flight go and save the bomber boy's, give 602 time to get some altitude, Over!"
"Rgr, B flight copy". "Rgr, C flight copy"
I recognized the unmistakable accent of Shap and watched as he banked and went into a shallow dive towards the mass of men and metal that was before us. I followed like a lost sheep. I was vaguely aware of other orders being issued over our RT channel . I recognized Destroyer ordering his boys to climb and then engage a group of 109's at the back of the bomber stream.
All of a sudden we were in the fray. I saw Shap bank hard right and go into a split S down. I followed a moment later seeing that he was diving down onto and behind two 109's who were unloading through the muzzles at an already smoking B-17. At that moment I saw a 190, radial engine glowing about to pass between us. I rolled, aimed off two rings and gave it a short burst , all guns. I saw hits but no smoke and the 190 continued on its way . Which was a flaming good thing because I then noticed it was an American P47 with a big Swooping Hawk stenciled over the engine cowling. I later learned that some of my 20mm cannon rounds had damaged the rear control surfaces, the engine and blown the radio of this stubby plane. The pilot, a Major, known affectionately as Goshawk managed to get it back to Blightly and make an emergency crash-landing at our airfield (we were close to the coast). I never owned up to almost killing him, but I did buy him several beers and gave him a lift back to his base on my BSA tiger motorbike (and he thought that mission was dangerous).
"Shap here, Horrido! Horrido!.
Fixated momentarily by the fate of the P47 I failed to notice Shap downing one of the 109's and was brought out of my momentary stupor by his unmistakable victory yell. Shap being of German origin thought it amusing to use the Jerries call sign for a kill.
I lined up on the second 109 who was climbing away after the fate of his wingmate. A quick burst and his left wing parted with the fuselage ..sending him cartwheeling past a B-17.
"I got one ..I got one"
Tracer flashed by so close I swear it illuminated my cockpit , there was a 109 behind me. I didn't even have to look to know that. I banked left, too hard.. blacking out .and awoke almost at sea level ,..no sign of the 109. I upped my oxygen intake to clear my fuzzy head, I felt like someone had bashed me with a cricket bat wrapped in velvet. I swear in my uncontrolled descent my body must have hit every knob and lever in this shoebox the brits call a cockpit. I later learned that the 109 had simply overshot me and had continued on its way being harassed by Dupradier who had come in to save me from myself.
"Hallo, Oz here, heading for home at 200ft, over"
"Rgr, that glad you could make it back to the world of the living, see you at home"
This was the unmistakable voice of Compans. He had come down and bagged a Jerry that was taking a little to much interest in my uncontrollably descending spitfire and had been trying to raise me on the RT ever since I leveled out (which I cant recall doing). I guess it was just one of those days.
Just then my cockpit lamp decided to switch itself off again . I would have to get that checked out.
Comp and I were first back at base followed shortly by SSGF who had developed engine problems a soon a the scrap started. We learned over the base RT that the lads had bagged a few Jerries which took our Squadrons total to 50. Viper had also brought his score up to 5 making him an ace so we decided a celebration was in
order. Goshawk, the P47 driver while not being overly impressed that a Spitfire had shot him down was somewhat placated when we invited him to the party . ..I guess he likes a free beer as much as the next bloke.
The squadron arrived back more or less intact a few were missing. Destroyer had been picked up floating in the channel, he had got one 109 but had copped a hosing from another. Heat had diverted to another base with a badly damage plane . He was to be transferred out of 609 shortly so I'm glad he was ok. All these stories were
being recounted in a loud din as the party moved into full swing with Compans playing the French national anthem on the banjo- (the result of a bet that he couldn't)- and Kos singing along. SSGF had managed to secure the beer from "alternative stores" so the booze was costing us nothing , even "tiny", Icepicks dog was under the tables getting a muzzle full.
Tired of the Kos and comp duo, Shap had dragged the squads spare Radio in was busily trying to find the German channel so we can all listen to "Anika", the sultry seductive voice of the German propaganda. This is forbidden but so are a lot of things.and as Shap points out, she has voice like honey straight from the hive. It was at this point all noise in the Tally Ho tavern stopped and Shap froze. It was that unmistakable sound , a panicked voice yelling mayday, mayday, we had all heard it before. We listened transfixed as the unidentified pilot started to scream , a sound so shrill that it practically nailed your feet to the floor , I think the pilot was burning. Shap reacted first and switched the unit over to some big band music.. miscued and got static. In that static filled
silence I still could hear that bloke screaming .. I guess we all could. It was time to call it a night.