A 2015 publication examines the contribution of eight Australian fighter pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain. Only one of the eight ever went home – so necessarily much of their service has been reconstructed from the available reports.
Australians Jack Kennedy and Stuart Walch were sent to 238 Squadron in May 1940, based at Middle Wallop in Hampshire. They were soon in the thick of the action. Jack Kennedy was killed on the 13th July. Stuart Walch had little time to grieve:
Following a two-day hiatus in operations because of bad weather, Stuart Walch was in the air again at 1.45 p.m. on 17 July, when the squadron scrambled to intercept a raid off Portland. His new mount was Hurricane P3618, which he had taken charge of on 15 July.
After a series of uneventful patrols, Red, Blue and Green sections were on convoy protection on 20 July. Blue Section had a new member that day, Sergeant Leslie Pidd, who had recently arrived from 6 Operational Training Unit, Sutton Bridge. Stuart was introducing him to operations as his number two.
Flying at 8000 feet, Blue Section arrived at the convoy, which was 15 miles southeast of Portland, at 12.20 p.m. They encountered the enemy ‘in force’ and ‘the sections broke for individual combat’.
Stuart ‘twice investigated aircraft which turned out to be Hurricanes’. By 1 p.m., he had lost sight of Pidd and Blue Three, Sergeant Eric Seabourne. His main petrol tank was empty, so he switched to the reserve and decided to return to base.
Approaching Swanage, a coastal town about 60 miles from Middle Wallop, he climbed from 6000 to 8000 feet and ‘observed 15 aircraft ﬂying in formation towards the convoy on [a northerly] course at approx. 12 000 feet’. He was too far away to identify the aircraft, but given the direction they were taking he concluded ‘they were hostile’.
Stuart tried to contact control to see if the relief section was on its way but could not raise them. He then ‘turned and headed for convoy climbing to get into sun’. When he was 5 miles from the vessels, he saw bombs exploding around the escorting destroyer. Despite being alone, he ‘pulled the plug and went after the enemy aircraft which had turned southwards’.
When he was southeast of the convoy, at 10000 feet, he saw ‘three Me 109s ﬂying in wide vic at about 9000 feet’. He dived and attacked the machine on the left, opening ﬁre at 200 yards and ﬁring two rapid 2—second bursts as he closed to astern at approximately 50 yards.
He watched as ‘black smoke poured from under the engine of the enemy aircraft’. It ‘turned right and made vertical dive towards sea’. He did not follow it down to conﬁrm its destruction, ‘as the other aircraft were trying to get astern of me’. His tanks were almost empty, so he ‘pulled up in a steep stall turn and made for home’.
Stuart did not mention it in his report, but as he had ‘ﬁred a burst causing the Me 109 to catch ﬁre’ he had been assisted by another friendly aircraft and was accordingly credited with a one-half share of the 109.