- Marmaduke Pattle
Marmaduke Thomas St. John Pattle Nickname "Pat" Born 3 July 1914
Butterworth, Cape Province
Died 20 April 1941 (aged 26)
Eleusis Bay near Athens, Greece
Allegiance United Kingdom Service/branch Royal Air Force Years of service 1936–1941 Rank Squadron Leader Unit No. 80 Squadron RAF
No. 33 Squadron RAF
Battles/wars Awards Distinguished Flying Cross & Bar
Squadron Leader Marmaduke Thomas St. John "Pat" Pattle DFC & Bar (3 July 1914 – 20 April 1941) was a South African-born Second World War flying ace for the Royal Air Force. Pattle was a fighter ace with a very high score, and is sometimes noted as being the highest-scoring British and Commonwealth pilot of the Second World War. If all claims made for him were in fact correct, his total would be in excess of 51. However, it can be stated with a degree of confidence, that his final score was at least 40.
Pattle has been unofficially credited with about 50 victories; in total, 26 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 (15 victories) and Hurricane (35 victories) fighters.
"Pat" Pattle was born in Butterworth, Cape Province, South Africa, on 3 July 1914, the son of English parents who had emigrated to the Union. He attended Keetmanshoop Secondary School, South West Africa, and Victoria Boy's High School, which in 1939 was renamed Graeme College, Grahamstown.
Pattle joined the South African Air Force as a cadet on leaving school, but in 1936 transferred to the RAF. On 24 August 1936, he was granted a short service commission as an Acting Pilot Officer. He completed his training in the UK in 1937 and in June 1937 as a Pilot Officer (he was confirmed in the rank on 27 July 1937) joined 80 Squadron, which had just re-equipped with Gloster Gladiator biplanes.
In April 1938, he accompanied the unit to Egypt, where by 1939 he had become a flight commander.
A gifted flyer and natural marksman, he took infinite pains to improve both talents, doing exercises to improve his distance vision and sharpen his reflexes.
Second World war
North African campaign
Following the outbreak of war, the unit moved up to the Libyan border, where in August 1940, Pattle first saw action. 80 Squadron received the order to deploy one of its Flights to Sidi Barrani. "B" Flight, commanded by Pattle moved to the forward airfield. During early battles with the Italians over the desert, he claimed four victories and a probable, although he was shot down himself on 4 August 1940.
That day, while escorting a Lysander, Pattle and his flight engaged first a force of six Breda Ba.65/A80s of the 159a Squadriglia and six Fiat CR-32 quarters of the 160a Squadriglia. Pattle forced-landing 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 attacked first but Pattle avoided their quarter and beam attacks, but soon discovered that one of the Fiat pilots was an exceptional shot who made repeated full deflection attacks with great accuracy. Eventually 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 Franco Lucchini of 90a Squadriglia, 10° Gruppo, 4° Stormo (his final score was 26). 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.
On 8 August, Pattle claimed two more kills, 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 (about 65 kilometres southeast of El Adem and 35 kilometres east of Bir El Gobi, well inside the Italian territory). He later recalled:
My own section then engaged those Enemy Aircraft who were attempting to reach their own base and immediately became engaged in separate combats. I engaged a CR.42 and, after a short skirmish, get into position immediately behind him. On firing two short bursts at about 50 yards range the E.A. fell into a spin and burst into flames on striking the ground. The pilot did not abandon his aircraft. I then attacked 3 E.A. immediately below me. This action was indecisive as after a few minutes they broke away by diving vertically for the ground and pulling out at very low altitude. ...I was about to turn for our base when a 42 attacked me from below. With the advantage of height I dived astern of him and after a short burst he spun into the ground into flames. As before the pilot didn’t abandon his aircraft. Flying Officer Graham confirms both my combats which ended decisively”.
One of his victims was probably Maresciallo Norino Renzi, a Regia Aeronautica pilot since 25 December 1930 and a pre-war member of 4° Stormo’s aerobatics group, who was killed. Pattle was promoted to Flight Lieutenant on 3 September 1940. That same month, Pattle damaged a Savoia-Marchetti S.79 bomber, though the speed of the Italian bomber enabled it to escape.
Greece and the Balkans
In November, the squadron was transferred to the Balkans to help the Greek Air Force against the Italian invasion on the Albanian Front. Here Pattle was to enjoy his significant success. On 19 November 1940, Pattle with eight other pilots from 80 Squadron attacked Fiat CR.42s and Fiat G.50bis near the Italian airfield at Korçë. In this combat, the RAF claimed nine and two probably destroyed while 160o Gruppo Autonomo C.T. lost three CR.42s and got one damaged while 355a Squadriglia, 24o Gruppo Autonomo C.T., lost one G.50 and the four pilots killed, while RAF lost a Gladiator. Pattle claimed two CR.42s that day.
On 2 December, in the Gjirokastër area, Pattle shot down a IMAM Ro.37bis from 42a Squadriglia, 72o Gruppo O.A., and Sergente Luigi Del Manno and his observer, Tenente Michele Milano, were both killed. In the afternoon Pattle shot down another Ro.37bis from 72oGruppo O.A. near Premet, killing Capt. Gardella and his observer. On 4 December 1940, the RAF claimed nine Fiat CR.42s destroyed and two probables. Pattle (who had his own aircraft hit in the main fuel tank and a wing strut) claimed three CR.42s plus another and a Fiat CR.32 as probables. Combat records show 150° Gruppo C.T., involved in that combat, lost two CR.42s when Tenente Alberto Triolo and Sottotenente Paolo Penna were killed.
No 80 Squadron was equipped with the Hawker Hurricane Mk I on 20 February 1941. That day, Flight Lieutenant Pattle, flying Hurricane Mk I V7724, was leading a group of six Hurricanes of No. 80 Sqdn to escort 16 Blenheims (eight of No. 84 Squadron, six of No. 211 Squadron and three of No. 30 Squadron) to Berat. Fiat G.50bis from the 361a and 395a Squadriglie, 154° Autonomo Gruppo C.T. were scrambled from Berat airfield. But they were attacked by the Hurricanes. Pattle led his section straight towards four Fiat G.50s and selected the leading aircraft as his own target. As he closed, the Fiat pulled away in a steep turn, but he managed to hold it in his gunsight until he came into range and shot at it. It was the first time he had fired the eight guns of the Hurricane, and the "G.50 exploded right before his eyes, disintegrating in hundreds of small flaming pieces", as his biography relates. The Fiat G.50 was from 154° Gruppo and it was the first of about 35 Hurricane victories that Pattle would claim flying the Hawker fighter over the next two months.[N 1]
Some of Pattle “kills” were overclaimed. On the 27 (or on the 28, according to other sources) February, the British pilots in Greece celebrated their biggest day of combat. In that day's report, Air Vice Marshal J.H. d'Albiac, RAF commander in Greece, wrote that No. 80 Squadron, re-equipped with Hawker Hurricanes, had destroyed 27 Italian aircraft in 90 minutes of air combat, without losses (or, according to other sources, a Gloster Gladiator was lost and two Blenheims damaged by CR.42s had to crash-land while returning to base). Pattle himself claimed three Fiat CR.42s shot down in less than three minutes. “But that day”, recalled Corrado Ricci, Capitano of Regia Aeronautica "we lost only a CR.42... Our pilots, in return, claimed four Glosters and a Hurricane". The Regia Aeronautica, according to other sources, lost two Fiat biplanes that day (plus five bombers and two Fiat G.50s). In a previous fight south of Valona, Pattle had to return to base with the windscreen covered by oil from a shot down enemy bomber.
Pattle received a bar to his DFC on 18 March 1941, for which the citation read:Air Ministry, 18th March, 1941.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.In March 1941, during an engagement over Himara Flight Lieutenant Pattle shot down three enemy fighters. This courageous and skillful fighter pilot has now destroyed at least 23 enemy aircraft.
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy: —
Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross.
Flight Lieutenant Marmaduke Thomas St. John Pattle, D.F.C. (39029), No. 80 Squadron.
This citation referred to an action on 4 March 1941, when Pattle claimed three enemy Fiat G-50bis fighters of 24oGruppo C.T. He claimed the first, while he was flying with his No 2, on this occasion, Flying Officer Nigel Cullen. He reported that a lone G.50bis attacked him and Cullen but that he shot this down and watched it spiral into a mountainside just north of Himare (at this moment a second Fiat "jumped" Cullen (Hurricane V7288) and he was not seen again; his aircraft crashed near Himare, and the Australian ace was killed).
Pattle claimed that another lone G.50bis attacked him while flying towards Valona. After a brief combat he shot down the Fiat, that went into the sea southwest of Valona 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. [N 2]
Pattle later served with 33 Squadron as Commanding officer during March and April 1941. On his first encounter with the Luftwaffe on 6 April 1941, Pattle claimed two victories over the Bf 109Es of 8. Staffel, Jagdgeschwader 27 over the Rupel Pass. Oberleutnant Becker was shot down and killed, and Leutnant Faber made a prisoner. [N 3] Thereafter, details vary as to his score as all records were destroyed. According to a diary kept by one of his ground crew, he claimed eight more victories by 12 April, and destroyed two more Bf 109s on the ground, subsequently claiming five in a day on the 14th and six on the 19th. [N 4]
All five victories Pattle claimed during five sorties on 14 April seem unconfirmed: a Bf 109 at 07:10, two Junkers Ju 88s (at 08:43 and 17:40), a Messerschmitt Bf 110 at 10:04 and a Savoia-Marchetti SM.79, at 13:08. Luftwaffe II/KG 51 lost two Ju 88s in combats with 33 Squadron, although the other victories claimed during the day are not confirmed by Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica records. On 19 April, Pattle claimed six destroyed (three Ju 88s and three Bf 109s), plus one shared (a Henschel Hs 126) and two probables (still a Ju 88 and a Bf 109), but the kills of two Ju 88s (and one probable, claimed on Athens area), and that of a Bf 109, cannot be verified.
In late April Pattle was suffering from influenza, and his condition had worsened to a point where Sqn/Ldr Edward Jones, acting as Wing Commander, ordered him to reduce his flying and to only take off only when the air raid alarm was sounded.
On his last combat operation, a formation of 12 Hawker Hurricanes, the entire Allied air presence in Greece at the time, participated in a prestige mission over Athens to bolster morale for the Greeks. The formation was attacked by Axis fighters in what became known as the Battle of Athens. F/L Roald Dahl records five Hurricanes were downed, with four pilots dying; one of those was Pattle. Still suffering from combat fatigue and influenza with a fever over 39˚C, he tried to save one of his pilots (F/Lt Woods) from a Bf 110 before two other Bf 110s of Zerstörergeschwader (ZG) 26 shot him down over Eleusis Bay, some five miles SW of Athens. Surviving records show among the German claimants were Staffelkapitän Hauptmann Theodor Rossiwall and Oberleutnant Sophus Baagoe who were credited with kills against Hurricanes, taking their scores to 12 and 14 respectively. Oblt Baagoe, would be killed in action within a month, on 14 May 1941. It cannot be known for certain which one shot down Pattle. F/Lt W.J. "Timber" Woods, an ace in No. 80 Squadron with 6.5 kills, was also killed in this battle.
Recent research into the Battle of Athens and those engaged in it, indicates the Hurricanes of Pattle and Woods fell on the east coast of the island of Psitallea, outside the harbor of Piraeus, not in Eleusis Bay. No. 33 Squadron met the first wave of Bf 110s over Kallithea, a suburb of Athens, and were chased to the south into Faliron Bay from where Woods, low on fuel and ammunition, turned west to try to reach his base at Eleusis. He was reported to have been shot down along this track during the first engagement over Faliron and Piraeus.
Pattle is commemorated on the Alamein Memorial at El Alamein together with 3,000 other Commonwealth airmen who lost their lives in the Middle East (Egypt, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Greece, Crete and the Aegean, Ethiopia, Eritrea and the Somalilands, the Sudan, East Africa, Aden or Madagascar) during the Second World War, and who have no known grave.
Pattle did all his scoring in a period of nine months, against Axis opponents who outnumbered the RAF fighter contingent at all times. Pattle was reputed to be a crack shot, a better-than-average pilot and a highly capable formation leader in the air. As a squadron commander, he demanded more from himself than anyone else, and it is said he died because he should have been grounded because of illness, yet insisted on leading his squadron.
Pattle's 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. Existing records up to early April 1941 list Pattle as claiming at least 34 confirmed kills, and many more probables. Aviation historian Christopher Shores, in his book of Commonwealth fighter pilots, Aces High, by cross-checking squadron diaries, reviewing Pattle's aircraft rigger's (W.J. Ringrose) personal journal and the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica loss records, claims Pattle's final score as 50 individual and two shared victories. 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 at least 27 can be directly linked to specific Italian and German losses, while only six claims discounted as no Axis losses are recorded. 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. [N 5] Even while suffering from high fever, he scored nine air kills in his last four days.
Pattle is mentioned in Roald Dahl's second autobiography, Going Solo. Dahl flew with him in Greece and calls Pattle "the Second World War's greatest flying ace."
Air Marshal Sir Peter Wykeham, recalled: "Pat Pattle was a natural. Some fighter pilots did not last long because they were too kind to their aircraft; others were successful because they caned it half to death. And their victories were accompanied by burst engines, popping rivets, stretched wire, wrinkled wings. But Pat was a sensitive pilot, who considered his machine, but, somehow he got more from it than anyone else, and possibly more than it had to give."
- ^ Probably the victim of Pattle was Tenente Alfredo Fusco of the 361a Squadriglia flying a Fiat G.50 who was shot down and killed, the only G.50 destroyed that day. Hurricane pilots claimed four and Gladiator pilots claimed one.
- ^ But no Fiat G.50s were actually lost by Italians that day while the RAF fighters claimed seven destroyed, four probables and four damaged plus three CR.42s and one probable. In fact, Regia Aeronautica losses were two Fiat CR.42s while Fiat G.50bis shot down Hurricane V7288 of Cullen and Hurricane V7801 of 24-year-old Warrant Officer Harry J. Goodchild DFM (RAF No. 517435) that fell down in flames.
- ^ No. 80 Sqn claimed five 109s downed, with JG 27 actually losing four aircraft.)
- ^ These claims may be a considerable overestimate, and may have indicated the claims of the squadron as a whole.
- ^ Johnnie Johnson's victory total stood at 38, while George Beurling was officially credited with 31 1/3.
- ^ a b c Shores 1983, p. 82.
- ^ Spick, Mike. The Complete Fighter Ace: All the World's Fighter Aces, 1914-2000. London: Greenhills Books, 1999. ISBN 1-85367-374-9.
- ^ London Gazette: . 15 September 1936. Retrieved 3 June 2008.
- ^ London Gazette: . 27 July 1937. Retrieved 3 June 2008.
- ^ Spick 1997, p. 131.
- ^ Gustavsson, Håkan. "Capitano Franco Lucchini Medaglia d'Oro al Valor Militare." surfcity.kund.dalnet.se. Retrieved: 15 August 2010.
- ^ a b c d e f g Gustavsson, Håkan. "Flight Lieutenant Marmaduke Thomas St. John Pattle, D.F.C. (39029), No. 80 Squadron." surfcity.kund.dalnet.se. Retrieved: 4 April 2010.
- ^ London Gazette: . 12 November 1940. Retrieved 3 June 2008.
- ^ a b Spick 1997, p. 132.
- ^ London Gazette: . 11 February 1941. Retrieved 3 June 2008.
- ^ a b Thomas 2003 p. 34.
- ^ a b c Boyne 1997, p. 81.
- ^ Gustavsson, Håkan. "The Commonwealth: Flight Lieutenant Richard Nigel 'Ape' Cullen DFC, RAF no. 39967." Biplane fighter aces, 21 April 2010. Retrieved: 22 October 2010.
- ^ Jackson 1989, p. 81.
- ^ London Gazette: . 18 March 1941. Retrieved 3 June 2008.
- ^ a b Gustavsson, Håkan. "Commonwealth biplane fighter aces: William Vale." surfcity.kund.dalnet.se. Retrieved: 25 August 2010.
- ^ a b Shores et al. 1992
- ^ Dahl 1986, p. 149.
- ^ Baker 1965, p. 184.
- ^ Weal 1999, p. 64.
- ^ "Casualty details—Pattle, Marmaduke Thomas St John." cwgc.org. Retrieved: 4 April 2010.
- ^ "Alamein Memorial." Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved: 12 April 2009.
- ^ Shores 1975, p. 74.
- ^ Dahl 1986, pp. 149, 153.
- ^ Lucas 1983, p. 130.
- Baker, E.C.R. Ace of Aces. London: New English Library, 1965. ISBN 1-87480-048-0.
- Boyne, Walter J. Scontro di Ali: L'aviazione militare nella Seconda Guerra Mondiale (Clash of Wings: The Air Force in World War II (in Italian). Milan: Mursia, 1997. ISBN 978-8842522560.
- Dahl, Roald. Going Solo. London: Penguin, 1986. ISBN 0-14010-306-6.
- Jackson, Robert. The Forgotten Aces: The Story of the Unsung Heroes of World War II. London: Sphere Books Limited, 1989. ISBN 978-0747403104.
- Lucas, Laddie, ed. Wings of War: Airmen of All Nations Tell their Stories 1939-1945. London: Hutchinson, 1983. ISBN 0-09-154-280-4.
- Shores, Christopher. Air Aces. Greenwich, CT: Bison Books, 1983. ISBN 0-86124-104-4.
- Shores, Christopher. Fighter Aces. London: Hamlyn Publishing, 1975. ISBN 0-600-30230-X.
- Shores, Christopher, Brian Cull and Maria Malizia. Air War for Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete: 1940-41. London: Grub Street, 1992. ISBN 0-94881-707-0.
- Spick, Mike. Allied Fighter Aces of World War II. London: Greenhill Books, 1997. ISBN 1-85367-282-3.
- Weal, John. Messerschmitt Bf 110 Zerstörer Aces of World War Two (Osprey Aircraft of the Aces No 25). Oxford, UK: Osprey, 1999. ISBN 1-85532-753-8.
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