Clive "Killer" Caldwell ..Aussie Ace

Discussion in 'Stories' started by aussie jim, Mar 1, 2004.

  1. aussie jim

    aussie jim Member

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    Group Captain Clive Caldwell, DSO, DFC Bar, Polish Cross of Valour.
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    Clive Robertson Caldwell was born in Lewisham, Sydney on the 28th of July, 1911. Pre war he trained for his civil pilot's licence whilst a member of the Royal Aero Club. He joined the RAAF at the beginning of the war in 1939 and was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in 1940. As he was destined to become an instructor after completing his training, he resigned and re-applied as an air-crew trainee. His commission was reinstated in January 1941, and he was sent to the Middle East where he took up flying duties in Tomahawks with 250 Squadron RAF. Following a short period of operations in Syria and Cyprus, Caldwell and the squadron were relocated to the Western Desert. It was in this theatre that he achieved great success during intensive operations.

    By mid-1941, Caldwell had flown about 40 operational sorties, but had only one confirmed kill - a Bf 109. He was perplexed by the fact that he had trouble scoring hits on enemy aircraft. Whilst returning to base one day, he noted his squadron's aircraft casting shadows on the desert below. He fired a burst of his guns and noted the fall of shot relative to his shadow. He realised this method allowed for the assessment of required deflection to hit moving targets. Further experimentation lead him to acquire the knowledge to assess deflection needed for a range of speeds. Within a couple of weeks he had attained four further kills and a half share. Caldwell's method of "shadow shooting" became a standard method of gunnery practice in the Middle East.

    On 29 August 1941 Clive Caldwell was attacked by two Bf 109s North-West of Sidi Barrani. One of his attackers was the Bf 109 E-7 "black 8" of 2./JG 27 piloted by one of Germany's top aces, Leutnant Werner Schroer who was credited with 114 Allied planes in only 197 combat missions. Caldwell's P-40 "Tomahawk" of 250 Squadron was riddled with more than 100 rounds of 7.9 mm slugs, plus five 20 mm cannon strikes which punctured a tyre and rendered the flaps inoperative. In the first attack Caldwell suffered bullet wounds to the back, left shoulder, and leg. In the next pass one shot slammed through the canopy, causing splinters which wounded him with perspex in the face and shrapnel in the neck. Two cannon shells also punched their way through the rear fuselage just behind him and the starboard wing was badly damaged. Despite damage to both himself and the aircraft, Caldwell, feeling, as he remembers, "quite hostile" turned on his attackers and sent down one of the Bf 109s in flames. The pilot of the second Messerschmitt, the renowned Leutnant Schroer, shocked by this turn of events, evidently made off in some haste. Caldwell's engine had caught fire, however he managed to extinguish the flames with a violent slip. He then nursed his flying wreck back to base at Sidi Haneish.

    Caldwell's most successful day was the 5th of December 1941 when he shot down five Ju 87s in a single engagement during operation "Crusader". Here is the combat report of that action:
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    "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."
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    Due to his aggressiveness, exceptional combat skills, and determination to strafe ground targets, Caldwell soon acquired the nickname "Killer" which he apparently was not particularly proud of. The name however stuck and was commonly used in referring to Caldwell. In opinion of Wing Commander R.H. "Bobby" Gibbes (he battled in 3 Sqdn RAAF in North Africa and in the SW Pacific under Caldwell's command): "Clive Caldwell was given the name "Killer" (a name which was not of his choosing or liking) due to his habit of shooting up any enemy vehicle which he saw below when returning from a sortie. Invariably he landed back at his base with almost no ammunition left."

    Caldwell was promoted to flight commander in November 1941 and received the DFC and Bar simultaneously on December 26 by which time he had 17 victories. He was promoted to Squadron Leader in January 1942 and took command of 112 Squadron RAF flying Kittyhawks. It was due to his leadership, confidence and daring, his work with a contingent of Polish pilots attached to 112 Squadron, and continued success with this squadron that he received the Polish Cross of Valour (Krzyz Walecznych).

    In contrast with the great successes of Skalski's Circus , Polish pilots' endeavours with 112 Squadron weren't as fruitful. A group of 12 Polish ferry-transport pilots volunteered for RAF service on 29 August 1941 and after training they joined "Shark" squadron in February 1942. On 14 February, 1942 the patrolling 112 Sqn RAF and 3 Sqn RAAF encountered a formation of 32 enemy aircraft and Sec.Ltn. Dula downed an MC 200. In combat with 6 Bf 109 fighters from I/JG 27 on 21 February 1942 three "Kittyhawks" of 112 Sqn were downed, two of them piloted by Polish pilots: Sgt. Derma and Ltn. Jander. On 13 March 1942 pilots P/O Bartle (English) and Sgt. Rozanski (Polish) left a formation of 12 "Sharks" in the Tobruk area and they were caught by surprise and attacked by Oberfeldtwebel Otto Schulz (4./JG 27, MIA on 17 June 1942, 42 victories). Both were downed, but Rozanski luckily escaped his crashed, burning aircraft. On the following day Sgt. Urbanczyk together with S/L Caldwell got one Bf 109. On 15 March 1942 112 Squadron was moved from the front line to Sidi Haneish for replacements. Polish pilots didn't return to duty in this unit from 16 April 1942.

    Whilst with 112 Squadron, the Australian government asked that he be released to return to Australia to command a Wing in the defence of Australia. This Wing was to consist of 3 Squadrons of "Spitfires", and Caldwell spent some time with the Kenley Wing before returning home to acquaint himself with the new aircraft. The Japanese were threatening Northern Australia, and several Australian towns were regularly being bombed. Caldwell left the Middle East with nineteen individual and three shared confirmed enemy kills, six probables, and fifteen damaged.

    On his departure from the Middle East, the Marshall of the RAF Lord Tedder wrote of Caldwell: 'An excellent leader - and a first class shot.'

    On taking up his command of No. 1 Fighter Wing based in Darwin, Caldwell again showed his outstanding fighting abilities and claimed a further eight Japanese aircraft by August 1943. Caldwell's tally was twenty-eight and a half by the time he left the Wing in August and for this feat he received a DSO to add to his DFC and Bar and Polish Cross of Valour.
     

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  2. nutter

    nutter Member

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    another good read thanx again mate:)
     
  3. Hot Space

    Hot Space Active Member

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    Excellent 8) 8)

    Hot Space
     
  4. Pisis

    Pisis Active Member

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    Great AJ, did find it only accidentaly, hehe. great story!
     
  5. Nonskimmer

    Nonskimmer Active Member

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    Thanks, aussie jim. That was indeed a good read! :thumbright:
     
  6. ricardo

    ricardo Member

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    Read this carefully:

    According to OSPREY Aircraft of the Aces #38 (TOMAHAWK AND KITTYHAWK ACES OF THE RAF AND COMMONWEALTH), pages 12-13 the facts are a similar to what I read above with one difference: Clive Caldwell did not shot down Werner Schroer's wingman. Read this:

    PAGE 12 (3rd paragraph):

    During the evening of 29 August No250 Sqn was again on convoy duty when its Tomahawks were intercepted by Bf109s from I./JG 27. The 'weaver' was Clive Caldwell in AK493, and he was attacked by Leutnant Werner Schroer, an experte (who finished the war with 114 kills, 61 of which were scored in the North Africa) flying Bf109E "Black 8".

    The Australian had a tough time, as he later recalled:

    "I was attacked by two Me109s, one coming from astern and the other from the port side. Bullets from astern damaged my tail, tail triming....

    PAGE 13 (continuation)

    ....gear, fuselage and starboard mainplane, while the aileron on that side was destroyed and a sizeable hole made in the trailing edge.

    Fire from the port side damaged the fuselage and entered my left shoulder and hip, small pieces of glass embedding in my face. I blacked out when pulling out of the ensuing dive, recovering to find flames in the cockpit. I started to climb out to abandon the aircraft when the fire died out, so I decided to remain and attempt a landing".

    Schroer left, claiming a victory, but as Caldwell continued;

    "I saw a number of aeroplanes manoeuvring, which suggested an engagement. I made a gradual turn and climbed back towards said aircraft, finally carrying out an attack on what I believed was an Me 109"

    His indomitable spirit and bravery is evident in this account - The Bf109 he attacked was credited as his seventh confirmed kill, two of which were shared.


    I understand, that he destroyed the Bf109 on his way home, but did not turn to his attackers and send down one in flames as he loss consciousness and his attackers disengaged.
     
  7. Pisis

    Pisis Active Member

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    Interesting, thanks for additinal info Ricardo mate! ;)
     
  8. jrk

    jrk Member

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    he was the 7th overall top scoring british and commonwealth pilot :D
     
  9. Tommy Enfield

    Tommy Enfield New Member

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    Excellent reading!!! thanks!!! :)
     
  10. loomaluftwaffe

    loomaluftwaffe Active Member

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    the germans said he was a killer cause he shot pilots off their parachutes and that news said that Schroer killed Caldwell.

    guess they didnt confirm with the americans
     
  11. GCvanderL

    GCvanderL New Member

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    Anyone know if Caldwell was assigned a particular Kittyhawk when he was assigned to 112 Squadron? I can't seem to find any pictures or documentation on the internet. Most of the info on the net is of his Tomahawk (LD-C) during his deployment with 250 Squadron. I'm trying to find out which aircraft and which squadron was he in when downed most of his kills (Tomahawk or Kittyhawk? 250 or 112 Squadron?) or in particular, more info on the Kittyhawk he flew. Any info would be great. Thanks!
     
  12. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    Caldwell got the most of his kills with 250 sqn, a total of 16 and 2 shared. I believe these were all achieved in Tomahawks. With 112 sqn he shot down 3 and 1 shared on Kittyhawks.The made kills in the following 112 sqn Kittyhawks - AK658. AK968. AK772 and AK766. He also made claims for probables and damaged in AK900.
    AK772 is the often seen GA-Y "London's pride" in which he shot down 1 MC.202 and 1 shared MC.202 on 14-Mar-42.
    HTH.
     
  13. Clay_Allison

    Clay_Allison Active Member

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    No matter how hard I try to hate the P-40, I just can't do it because of things like this.
     
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