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david leigh-smith
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On This Day…28th May.

May 28, 2019 · in Photo Collections · · 16 · 2.6K

Hugh Dundas, only 19 years old on May 28th, 1940 (Group Commander by age 23), experienced his first dogfight. His relaxed demeanour, ‘scruffy' appearance, and attachment to his dog (below) did not endear him to the establishment, but his courage and skills more than made up for any perceived ‘faults' by the ‘hee-haws'.

Here, he very openly recalls his first encounter with the enemy over France, May 28th, 1940...

“The two Skuas of the Fleet Air Arm swooped by in the opposite direction, twisting and jinking. In the headlong manner of their flight there was something reminiscent of agitated sheep running from dogs. And killer dogs indeed were at their heels. I saw the black crosses and the swastikas, plain and clear, and recognized them as Messerschmitt 109S.”

“Fascinated, I craned my neck to watch the five planes, now diving away behind and to starboard. From the leading Messerschmitt came thin trails of grey smoke as the pilot fired his guns. The group faded into specks which, in an instant, disappeared beneath the thick black smoke cloud rising from Dunkirk and stretching down the Channel for seventy or eighty miles.

“Perhaps this little cameo lasted before my eyes for about five seconds, it was a personal introduction to the use of guns in earnest and to the terrifying quality of air fighting. But I did not at that time have so much as one second to reflect upon it, for I was suddenly aware that the formation in which I was flying as last man in the last section was breaking up in violent manoeuvre. My own section leader, George Moberley, wheeled round in a climbing turn. As I followed I heard a confusion of excited voices on the radio. Then I saw another Messerschmitt, curving round. It had a bright yellow nose.”

“Again I saw the ripples of grey smoke breaking away from it and the lights were winking and flashing from the propeller hub and engine cowling. Red blobs arced lazily through the air between us, accelerating dramatically as they approached and streaked close by, across my wing.”

“With sudden, sickening, stupid fear I realized that I was being fired on and I pulled my round hard, so that the blood was forced down from my head. The thick curtain of blackout blinded me for a moment and I felt the aircraft juddering on the brink of a stall. Straightening out, the curtain lifted and I saw a confusion of planes, diving and twisting. My eyes focused on two more Messerschmitts, flying in quite close formation, curving down towards me. Again I saw the ripple of smoke and the wink of lights; again I went into a blackout turn and again the bullets streaked harmlessly by.”

“At some stage in the next few seconds the silhouette of a Messerschmitt passed across my windscreen and I fired my guns in battle for the first time a full deflection shot which, I believe, was quite ineffectual.”

“I was close to panic in the bewilderment and hot fear of that first dog fight. Fortunately instinct drove me to keep turning and turning, twisting my neck all the time to look for the enemy behind. Certainly the consideration which was uppermost in my mind was the desire to stay alive.”

‘A sincere desire to engage the enemy' – that, Winston Churchill has written, was the criterion by which Lord Haig had judged his fellow soldiers. That, above all else, was the impulse which Churchill himself admired and demanded in fighting men. I found out that day, 28 May 1940, over Dunkirk, in my first close encounter with Britain's enemies, how hard it is to live up to that criterion.”

“When it comes to the point, a sincere desire to stay alive is all too likely to get the upper hand. Certainly, that was the impulse which consumed me at that moment that day. And that was to be the impulse which I had to fight against, to try and try and try again to overcome, during the years which followed.”

Posted a few days ago ‘On This Day' as a tribute to Robert ‘Tadpole' Smith, but today was the actual day on which this iconic and beautifully shot photo was taken. fighters of the American Volunteer Group flying over the Salween River Gorge on the Chinese-Burmese border on 28th of May, 1942.

‘Goodyear' FG 1A NAS ‘Black 3' at Akron Ohio, 28th of May, 1944.

The Belgian Army surrender to the Wehrmacht on May 28th, 1940.

‘Rene III' coming in to land on one wheel, 28th May, 1944.

The B-17 was named for the Pilot's wife and tragically was lost to flack with all crew killed on March 21st, 1945, so close to the end of the war.

Messerschmitt Bf 109G6 Trop - 365 Squadron ‘White 365' (7) - flown (past tense) by Eugenio Lecchi - Sicily, Italy, 28th May 1943.

Vought 1 Corsair VMF-124 (White 13) 2nd Lt Kenneth Ambrose Walsh over Guadalcanal 28th May 1943.

Below, same aircraft, same day, flying over Guadalcanal.

And the very same aircraft modeled by our very own Chuck Villaneuva @uscusn

Uffz Herbert Meissler in Hartmann's Bf109G-4 14997 made a force landing and became a POW. He returned to Germany (eventually) after the war. From his words, his Bf109 had a technical troubles, nothing about battle damages.

The Soviet version (shown to the public as a propaganda movie) was that the Bf109 was damaged in a dogfight and forced by 3 Yak-1s into landing on the Soviet side.

Reader reactions:
17  Awesome

16 responses

  1. Hello David,
    Still keeping track of your contributions.
    They are truly great.
    Regards, Dirk

  2. Appreciated, Dirk. And best wishes to ‘Tomboy’!

  3. great story about that pilot chit…i thought the first picture was Phillip dancing with Camilla for a second, then i put on my glasses…exciting piece of writing...and i always wondered if those guys got their own oxygen masks...that is kind of a personal item like a toothbrush i imagine

  4. Bob, you men that ISN’T Charles dancing with Camilla?

    • snickering here boss…boy he’s a big lug isn’t he...and thank you for the correction...and i haven't even had my first pint yet

  5. Dave, do ya reckon Queen Elizabeth has made a deal with the powers that be to live long enough to make sure there will never be a Camilla Queen Consort. Not that I’d think the old gal would hold a grudge...yikes

  6. David, my compliments on another fine installment of 'On This Day'. It's the first thing I look for when I visit iModeler. Your presentation of history is outstanding and much appreciated. To add a bit more information on that #3 FG-1A Corsair shot, it was BuNo 13374 and it had the test installation for the F2G air scoop on the top of the fuselage behind the cowl flaps. It was one of several modified Corsairs used by Goodyear to test design concepts for the upcoming F2G series. The nose was painted in a chrome yellow with a big black #3.

  7. Bob M, you said (you) "thought the first picture was Phillip dancing with Camilla for a second"


    Glad you chimed in, Jim!
    David - as always, your OTD is excellent & great reading! Thanks!

  8. This article has to be one of your best yet and most likely my favorite. Look at all the Corsairs ! Man you really know how to grab my attention ! Sort of like a horse and a carrot ... instead you used Spitfires, P-40’s, B-17’s Bf-109’s and a whole gaggle of F4U’s. Here I go like a lemming off the cliff.

    Is this the same RAF pilot named Dundas who shot down Helmut Wick, only to be shot down by Wick’s wingman a few seconds later ?

    You hit a home run today ...
    Definitely worth pressing the “like” button... so I did.

    Thanks again for making my day.

  9. Thanks, Louis. Yes, that was the same Dundas. Another (very special) Corsair coming your way later today.

    Thank you for the comments, I think you’ll find it’s YOU that made MY day.

  10. Gosh, Wolfgang - You are correct, tell you waht really confused me, I did a write up on the Wick incident but the fact is that both Dundas brothers were almost identical in personality, likes, and looks.

    Hugh Dundas (younger brother, died aged 75)...

    --- pic2 not found ---

    John Dundas...died after shooting down Helmut Wick...

    Both were journalists, scruffy, and indifferent to rules and regulations.

    Well spotted, Wolfgang.


    1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

  11. And this is John Dundas (for some reason I can’t grt both photos on the same post) can see the very close family resemblance.


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