Five Stuka’s shot down in one sortie

A later official portrait of Clive Caldwell in Australia, as a Wing Commander flying Spitfires in the defence of northern Australia. IWM CF90

As Operation Crusader continued in Libya there were fierce aerial dogfights as everything was thrown into the battle:

Our Hurricanes and Tomahawks patrolled the battle area, and intercepted many formations of Ju. 87s, escorted by German and Italian fighters often forcing them to jettison their bombs. In the course of two days, the 4th and the 5th, 22 Ju 87s and 12 fighters were destroyed, 15 aircraft probably destroyed and 20 damaged; our losses were 11 fighters, with at least three pilots safe.

Hurricanes made several low-flying attacks in the Jedabya area, destroying four and damaging at least six aircraft. On the Jedabya-El Agheila road two staff cars, three road tankers and three large vehicles were also destroyed, and 26 vehicles were damaged. Beaufighters and Blenheim fighters inflicted heavy damage on transport in the Marawa and Derna areas.

In the thick of the action was Clive Caldwell with No.250 Squadron RAAF. Flying a Tomahawk aircraft:

I received radio warning that a large enemy formation was approaching from the North-West. No. 250 Squadron went into line astern behind me and as No. 112 Squadron engaged the escorting enemy fighters we attacked the JUs from the rear quarter.

At 300 yards I opened fire with all my guns at the leader of one of the rear sections of three, allowing too little deflection, and hit No. 2 and No. 3, one of which burst into flames immediately, the other going down smoking and went into flames after losing about 1000 feet. I then attacked the leader of the rear section…from below and behind, opening fire with all guns at very close range. The enemy aircraft turned over and dived steeply…opened fire [at another Ju 87] again at close range, the enemy caught fire…and crashed in flames. I was able to pull up under the belly of one of the rear, holding the burst until very close range. The enemy…caught fire and dived into the ground.

Caldwell had shot down five Stuka dive bombers. He was well on the way to becoming one of the leading aces of the war and the top scoring Australian pilot. He was noted for his aggression, invariably landing without ammunition because he sought out land based targets and enemy transport to shoot up when he came to the end of his patrols.

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