Doug Vanderfield was born in Sydney on 25 November 1914. Before the war he worked as a commercial travller based in Enfield, NSW, and joined the RAAF on 29 April 1940. He commenced  his flight training at 4 E.F.T.S, Mascot, before moving on to 2 S.F.T.S, Wagga Wagga, on 29 July 1940. Promoted to Flying Officer on the 19 November, he was then posted to the U.K to complete his flying training. Arriving at 56 OTU, Sutton Bridge, on 17 February 1941. On completion of his flying training he was posted to 258 Squadron, RAF, on 31 March 1941. Here he flew cross-Channel operations in Hurricane IIs, before a posting to the Far East at the end of September. By this time he was Flying Officer and joined 453 Squadron RAAF, flying Brewster Buffalo's. In action over Malaya and Singapore he claimed up to six aircraft destroyed and one shared probable in five separate engagements. Including up to three destroyed over Penang on 13 December 1941. This despite his undercarriage failing to retract, and remaining down throughout the combat.

Returning to Australia he joined 76 Squadron during its formation but did follow them into combat, instead he was appointed as an instructor at 2OTU on 3 September 1942. On 4 May 1943 he went back onto action, posted to 79 Squadron, flying Spitfires out of Goodenough Island. He became a Squadron Leader on 1 December 1944, and followed the squadron through to its deployment to Morotai. He was one of several leading pilots who were involved in what became known as the "Morotai Mutiny". When the officers involved submitted their resignations in protest at losses sustained in attacking worthless targets. He completed his tour on 9 March 1944, and finished the war as commander of 110 M.F.C.U. He was awarded a DFC for "Courage on tours in U.K, Malaya and New Guinea", gazetted in March 1945, and was discharged on 25 September 1945.

See Also:

Service Record

Combat Claims:

2     41.12.13 453 Buffalo Lily? Penang AN185 TD-V
1     41.12.13 453 Buffalo  Ki51 Penang AN185 TD-V
1     41.12.22 453 Buffalo Oscar? NE Kuala Lumpur AN210 TD-J
1     42.01.15 21/453 Buffalo Betty Singapore
  0.5P   42.01.17 21/453 Buffalo Ki27 Malacca area
1     42.01.19 21/453 Buffalo Ki51 Malacca








Wilbur Lawrence Wackett was born on 19 February 1921, in Townsville, Queensland. He was the first born son of Sir Lawrence Wackett, a highly decorated pilot during WWI with the Australian Flying Corp. Flying in the Middle East and over Europe Sir Lawrence was awarded both the AFC and DFC. He would later become manager and chief designer at the newly established Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) in 1936, and was responsible for the design of the Wackett trainer, the Wirraway and the Boomerang fighter. He was later knighted for his services to aviation. Wilbur's uncle, Ellis Wackett, was one of the first officers to join the fledgling Australian Flying Corp, and performed the first parachute jump from an aircraft in Australia. It seemed inevitable that Wilbur would follow in his families illustrious footsteps.

Wilbur was educated at Sydney Grammar School where he was junior school champion athlete in 1935. He later attended Melbourne Grammar School in 1938, before applying for a cadetship with the RAAF on 2 March 1939. He became an Air Cadet and sent to 1 FTS, Point Cook, for flying instruction on 4 September, attending No.26 Flying Training Course A. He was transferred to 21 Squadron, Laverton for further instruction on 11 December, 4 days before the squadron began convoy escort duties along Australia's southern coast. He was then posted to 2 Squadron, Laverton, on 18 March 1940, where he carried out further convoy escort duties and maritime patrols in Avro Anson's and Hudson's. Then on 24 January 1941 he was sent to 1 ATS (Armaments Training School) Cressy, and five months later to 1 AD as a ferry and test pilot. On 13 January 1942 he returned to 24 Squadron which was now stationed at Garbutt airfield in Townsville and equipped with Hudson's and Wirraways. The squadron was rebuilding after its ill-fated defense of Rabaul where it lost ten Wirraways, four Hudsons, ten personnel killed, six wounded and 4 POWs.

His stay would be short, being posted to the newly formed 75 Squadron (P-40 Kittyhawks) in Townsville on 12 March. As with most of the squadron's pilots Wilbur was to have minimal training on the new aircraft, logging only ten hours before flying into action on the day of the squadrons arrival at Port Moresby on 21 March. After a memorable welcome when Australian gunners unaccustomed to friendly fighters opened up on Wilbur and three other 75 Squadron aircraft, Wilbur and Barry Cox would take off, intercept, and share in the destruction of a bomber over the town, recording the squadron's first victory. Confident that the Japanese were still unaware of the Kittyhawks arrival at Moresby the squadron made a surprise attack on the Japanese airfield at Lae the following day. However in an otherwise highly successful mission, Wilbur, flying top cover for the strafing P-40s below was shot down by a fighter after damaging a Zero, and was forced to ditch in the sea between Lae and Salamaua. Swimming to shore he avoided capture and a shark only to spend days trekking through thick mountainous jungle before arriving at the mining town of Wau. He would return to his squadron exactly one month to the day that he was shot down, however he would not fly on operations again from Port Moresby after contracting a bad case of Malaria during his epic journey.

Due to his illness the RAAF would not permit Wilbur to return to flying in the tropics for one year. He would fly a desk at 1 ED (Embarkation Depot) Ascot Vale until 9 September when he returned to flying when posted to 2 PRU Laverton for photo reconnaissance training. He was then transferred to the Station HQ flight. Wilbur then returned to test and ferry duties with 2 AD, Richmond NSW on 20 November, 2 AP Bankstown in December, and 3 AD Amberley in early January 1944. On 5 February on a P-40 ferry flight from Amberley his motor cut out just after takeoff. With smoke pouring from the motor he managed to land but overshot the runway and put the aircraft on its nose. Wilbur would walk away uninjured. He was posted to 2 OTU Mildura for operational training on single engine fighters on 19 March but a little over a month later was moved to 5 OTU Tocumwal for conversion to Bristol Beaufighters. It was here where he would team up with his navigator P/O Keith Noble.

By 11 August he and Keith had arrived at Coomallie Creek in the Northern Territory for flying operations with 31 Squadron (Beaufighters). They were to fly a handful of missions to Timor before Wackett and Noble (A19-208) in the company of F/O Lloyd Richie and W/O George Warner in Beaufighter A19-192 flew a mission to Nila Island in the Banda Sea on 24 September 1944. They were to escort a Catalina attempting to insert an intelligence team onto the island to monitor Japanese movements in the area. The six hour flight was largely uneventful but returning after dark the two Beaufighters became disorientated and hopelessly lost after crossing the coast. Despite desperate attempts by 105 Fighter Control to guide them to an airfield both aircraft failed to return. Richie's aircraft fell agonizingly short of safety, crashing just a few miles north east of Fenton Field. Both crew had bailed out but only George Warner managed to survive. No trace was ever found of Lloyd Richie.

Meanwhile radar plotters had tracked Wackett's aircraft which had inexplicably turned east and was last plotted 65 miles north east of Fenton and heading north into remote and inhospitable country. Extensive searches failed to find any trace of the aircraft until  October 1945 when it was found by a prospector ten miles south east of its last radar plot. Early investigation indicated that both crew had exited the Beaufighter before it crashed but no trace of the crew was found. In May 1946 it was reported that local aborigines had found two parachutes in the vicinity of the crash site. A subsequent search of the area revealed a makeshift shelter built from a dinghy and parachute had been constructed on a rocky outcrop just 400 meters from the wreck! Empty ration tins and a Mae West also were found at the site, all pointing to the possibility that one or more of the crew had survived for a time. There was no suggestion that this may have been a camp constructed by local aborigines. Wilbur Wackett and Keith Noble remain missing in action, and there disappearance along with Lloyd Richie is an enduring mystery.

Known Promotions:   Air Cadet  4.9.39,  P/O  3.3.40,  F/O  3.9.40,  F/Lt  1.4.42,  S/Ldr  1.12.43

See Also:

Service Record

Casualty Report for P/O Keith Noble

RAAF Casualty Data Base

Newspapers  Newspapers II  Newspapers III  Newspapers IV Pt 1  Newspapers IV Pt 2

Combat Claims: 

0.5     42.03.21 75 P-40 Betty Pt.Moresby A29-6 F
    1D 42.03.22 75 P-40 Zero Lae A29-6 F









  F/Lt PHILIP HERBERT WATSON DFC (402267) 4/0/2 


Born in Melbourne, Victoria, on 9 February 1915. Philip Watson was employed as an accountant in Sydney before enlisting in 1940. Completed some training in Canada before finishing his flight training with 57 OTU in the UK. Watson was then posted to 457 Squadron in June 1941. He participated in 48 sweeps over Europe, damaging a FW 190 in April 1942, and was awarded a DFC with the following citation:

"This officer is a most capable leader who displays great coolness and courage on action. He has participated in over 40 sorties and his inspiring example has proved a great  source of encouragement to other members of his flight."

The squadron was then transfered to Australia where it was deployed in the defence of Darwin. He was in the thick of the action in this theatre, and could be considered unlucky not to become an ace, claiming a career total of 4 destroyed and 3 damaged. In November 1943 he became an instructor with several CFSs until his discharge in April 1945. After the war he had a successful business career, being a director and chairman of several prominent companies and organisations. For a time he was president of the Spitfire Association of Australia. A keen interest in horse racing and breeding, saw his horse "So Called" win the high profile Cox Plate in 1978. Watson died in 1998.

See Also:

Service Record 


Combat Claims:

1     43.03.15 457 Spitfire Zero Darwin

    1D 43.03.15 457 Spitfire Betty Darwin

1     43.08.17 457 Spitfire Dinah Channel Pt. LZ866 ZP-F
1     43.09.07 457 Spitfire Zeke Pt. Patterson LZ866 ZP-F
    1D 43.05.28 457 Spitfire Betty Millimgimbi

1     43.07.06 457 Spitfire Betty Fenton BR540 ZP-J

(Information updated 5 Mar 2013)





F/Lt REX WYNDHAM WATSON (404714)  2 & 1sh/0/3


Born in Woolacombe, Devon, England on 17 August 1914. Rex Watson was brought up in Australia and was working as a car salesman in Lismore, NSW at the time of his enlistment on 8 November 1940. Earned his flying badge on 26 June 1941 and posted to 457 Squadron in 1943. Watson scored all of claims as a Flight Sergeant in the fighting over Darwin and the Northern Territory. He had a second tour of duty with 452 Squadron and was discharged on 19 December 1945. During his service he flew a total of 875 hours with 175 operational hours on Spitfires. He died on 27 August 1959. Watsons service record lists 1 less damaged claim than listed below.

See Also:

Service Record


Combat Claims:

1     43.03.15 457 Spitfire Zero Darwin

1   1D 43.05.10 457 Spitfire Zeke Millimgimbi
    2D 43.07.06 457 Spitfire Betty Anson Bay BS219 ZP-X
0.5     43.08.17 457 Spitfire Dinah Melville Is. BS169 ZP-R



 (Information updated 30 Oct 2014)






Clive Wawn was born in Melbourne on 5 November 1910. He worked as a grazier in Langkoop, Victoria, before his enlistment in the RAAF on 23 June 1940. He undertook training in Australia, Canada and finally in the UK, where he was posted to 111 Squadron RAF in May 1941. In early July he served briefly with 92 Squadron, before transfering to 452 Squadron RAAF in mid August 1941. Here he was to claim 2 aircraft destroyed, 1 probable and 3 damaged before being recalled to Australia in March 1942. He completed over 90 sorties over the UK and France and was awarded a DFC in April with the following citation:

"This officer has completed a large number of operational sorties. He has proved himself to be a sterling pilot and a good leader. He has destroyed at least 2 hostile aircraft."

He was posted to 76 Squadron, RAAF,  in June 1942 during its formation, and was to see more combat in New Guinea during the Battle of Milne Bay, before his tour ended on 27 August 1942.

In mid August 1943, Wawn and S/Ldr Les Jackson, flew evaluation flights and mock dogfights, between a Spitfire MkV and a rebuilt Zeke 32, over Eagle Farm, Brisbane. The Zeke, constructed from five separate wrecks, was found to be superior below 20,000 feet, and that the Spitfire needed to keep its airspeed above 250mph (400kph) to gain an advantage over the Zero.

Wawn was to spend much of the rest of his war as an instructor at 2OTU, and was released into RAAF reserve to resume his civil occupation in July 1944. Wawn was finally discharged 1 July 1947.

See Also:

Service Record

Newspapers   Newspapers II

Combat Claims:

1 1P   42.08.11 76 P-40 Zero Milne Bay  A29-34  IB



 76 Squadron Kittyhawk "Tojo's Jinx" (A29-34) undergoes extensive repairs at Darwin, February 1943. "Bardie" flew this aircraft when he claimed one Zero destroyed and one probable over Milne Bay. (AWM)

(Information updated 21 May 2015)





F/Lt GORDON HORACE WHITE MiD (406121) 3/0/0 † 


Gordon White was born in Albany, Western Australia on 4 January 1922. He worked with T&G Assurance as a clerk before his enlistment on 15 August 1940 when he was posted to 1ITS at Somers, Victoria. From there he was sent to 7 EFTS at Western Junction for basic flying training in Tiger Moths from 19 September 1940, then to 1 SFTS at Point Cook, Victoria for advanced flying on Wirraways before deployment to a squadron. On 19 March 1941 as a Sgt pilot he was posted to 25 Squadron at Pearce WA and met Dick Sudlow, who was later to become CO of 78 Squadron.

On 9 September 1941 he embarked from Perth WA bound for the Middle East. He was posted to 3 Squadron RAAF on 25 September but was only there about 5 weeks before being posted to 71 OTU for conversion to Tomahawks and Kittyhawks, and when he'd finished the conversion training spent some time at Middle East HQ from 20 December 1941. He returned to 3 Squadron early in the new year, and on 14 February 1942 claimed a Bf109 destroyed (actually a MC202) south east of El Gazala in Kittyhawk AK605. In the same combat he also damaged two Ju87s. Two days later he damaged a Bf109 south east of El Adem. He left 3 Squadron on 1 May 1942 for posting back to Australia, but spent some time in 23 PTC RAF before arriving back at Perth on 3 December 1942.

His next posting was to 6 Fighter Squadron HQ in Perth WA on 14 January 1943, where he was advised his promotion to F/O had come through effective from 1 November the previous year. On 5 May 1943 he was posted as an instructor to 2 OTU at Mildura Victoria. From there he received his second operational posting, this time to 78 Squadron via 1 RPP Townsville Queensland. He arrived at 78 Squadron, now based at Cape Gloucester on 17 April 1944 and was allocated to B Flight, but did little flying there as the squadron moved to Aitape within a week. He was to show his value to the squadron when on 3 June 1944, while flying Kittyhawk A29-576 south of Biak Island, he was the highest scorer in the squadrons 'Big Do' with three aircraft destroyed of a total of 10 aircraft destroyed and one damaged by the squadron during the encounter. His effort was the highest number of aircraft shot down in a single engagement by a RAAF pilot in the SWPA. In early August 1944 he was assigned OC B Flight.

Just over two months after the 'Big Do' on 8 August 1944 he was to lose his life after apparently being hit by enemy fire during a low level barge sweep south west of Sagan, DNG (Dutch New Guinea). His Kittyhawk was seen emitting black smoke and shedding parts of its engine cowl, before crashing into the sea some 300 yards from shore. Gordon White's body and aircraft have never been recovered. The CO, S/L Brydon tried on numerous occasions to have a posthumous DFC conferred on White but it was to no avail. In September 1944 advice came through to say F/O White had been promoted to F/L effective from 1 May 1944 and he is in rare company for a RAAF pilot being in a group of about a dozen or so who were one short of ace status. On 12 May 1945 recommendation of a MID be given to F/L White for 'distinguished service in 10 Operation Group'.         - Gordon Clarke

See Also:

Casualty Report

RAAF Casualty Database

Combat Claims:

44.06.03 78 P-40 Judy
Japen Straits
1     44.06.03 78 P-40 Zero
Japen Straits



 Gordon White at Hollandia in what is thought to be Kittyhawk A29-570 "Stormy Weather". The same aircraft in which he lost his life on 8 August 1944.  Photo via Gordon Clarke

(information updated 5 June 2013)







Bob Whittle was born in Brisbane on 10 July 1910. He worked as a chemist in Murwillumbah, NSW, before he enlisted in the RAAF in April 1940. He was sent to the Middle East after training and posted to 250 Squadron on 5 May 1941. Seeing much action over the Western Desert, his aerial claims rose steadily over the following months, until by mid December he had amassed 9 aircraft destroyed, 1 shared destroyed, 2 probables and 2 damaged. Whittle received a DFM for his service with 250 Squadron. The citation saying much about his character:

 "This airman has proved himself to be a courageous and skilful fighter pilot. In one engagement when his formation was fighting against a superior number of enemy aircraft, Sgt. Whittle destroyed two, probably destroyed another and damaged a further two of the enemy's aircraft. His determination is such that on one occasion after being shot down he walked twenty miles during the night, rejoining his Squadron for duty the next day. During an engagement two days later Sgt. Whittle was wounded in the foot and arm and his aircraft was badly damaged but flew back to base where he made a successful forced landing. Within two days Sgt. Whittle resumed operational flying. He has destroyed at least seven enemy aircraft".

 He served briefly with 73OTU in the UK before his return to Australia in April 1942. He was posted to 86 Squadron early 1943, flying from Merauke, DNG. He was promoted to flight leader in September and commanding officer on 17 December. Here he would make his final claims, downing a Zeke and sharing in the destruction of a Betty near Cape Valsch. In June 1944 he left the squadron and served as an instructor until his discharge on 4 December 1945. After the war he returned to his prewar profession and formed the local Aero Club, flying as an instructor.

NB: Although listed by some sources, the shared Zero victory listed below probably cannot be claimed, as combat reports indicate he did not fire on this second Zero.

See Also:

Service Record

Combat Claims:

1     44.01.23 86 P-40 Zero C.Valsch A29-305 MP-F
0.5     44.01.23 86 P-40 Betty C.Valsch A29-305 MP-F
0.5     44.01.23 86 P-40 Zero C.Valsch A29-305 MP-F




 Merauke, Dutch New Guinea. 23 April 1944. Pilots of No. 86 (Kittyhawk) Squadron RAAF talk with the squadron's intelligence officer about a recent barge strafing mission while standing around a Kittyhawk aircraft. From left to right: Harry Fellow, Intelligence Officer; Pilot Officer Scottie Duguid; Flight Sergeant Peter Lavender; 404009 Flight Lieutenant Robert J. C. Whittle DFM; Flight Sergeant Steve Kerrison. (AWM)

 (information updated 4 April 2014)