Australian Air Force joins Desert war

Australian Air Force No. 3 Squadron RAAF

Personnel of No. 3 Squadron RAAF carry their baggage to the train for Ismailia, after disembarking at Port Tewfik, Egypt. No. 3 Squadron was the first RAAF unit to leave Australia for a war zone, its 21 officers and 271 airmen, under the command of Squadron Leader I D McLachlan, sailing from Fremantle for Egypt on board the SS ORONTES on 24 July 1940.

RAF Westland Lysanders

An official photograph of RAF Westland Lysander reconnaissance aircraft over the Suez canal in 1940.

No. 3 squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force became operational in Egypt on 3rd November 1940.

During the next four and a half years, 3 Squadron became one of the most active squadrons in the RAAF, quickly becoming a jack-of-all-trades. In addition to the conventional reconnaissance and ground attack roles of an army co-operation squadron, it defended ground forces and bombers from enemy aircraft, and conducted strikes against enemy shipping.

For more on 3 Squadron RAAF see Australian War Memorial

Australian Air Force No. 3 Squadron RAAF

In late 1940, the squadron first saw action, operating obsolete Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters against the Italian Regia Aeronautica, which it encountered while conducting reconnaissance and ground attack sorties.
Gladiator Mark II, N5786, of No. 3 Squadron RAAF, airborne from their landing ground near Sollum, Egypt, during the last stages of the British assault on Bardia (Operation COMPASS).

Australian Air Force

Flying Officer A C Rawlinson, Flight Lieutenant B R Pelly and Flying Officer A H Boyd of No. 3 Squadron RAAF, walk away from Gloster Gladiator Mark II, N5752 ‘NW-G’, at LG 10/Gerawala, Egypt, on the day following their major engagement with 17 Italian fighters over Bir Enba, Libya, during which a fourth pilot, Squadron Leader P R Heath, was shot down and killed. Boyd scored three victories in N5752 before it was shot down by Italian fighters near Sollum on 13 December 1940.

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