On This Day…28th May.
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 lightning 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 Spitfire 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. Kittyhawk 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 Corsair NAS ‘Black 3’ at Akron Ohio, 28th of May, 1944.
The Belgian Army surrender to the Wehrmacht on May 28th, 1940.
B-17 ‘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 F4U 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.