By Kristen Alexander
A party of the extraordinary army achievements of Captain Clive 'Killer' Caldwell, Australia's most sensible scoring fighter pilot through the moment international warfare.
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You will have harsh experiences and will suffer wounds. ’ This prediction proved true. ‘Each of the other three was soon to be killed flying with me in the Western Desert in June and July 1941 . . ’36 In late 1940, the Western Desert Force,37 the British Commonwealth Army unit commanded by General Sir Richard O’Connor, had been particularly successful chasing the badly organised Italian colonial army across Cyrenaica. Bardia, Tobruk and Benghazi were taken, and the British had advanced to the borders of Tripolitania, before halting.
The school’s headquarters was in the Royal Aero Club’s Clubhouse, so Caldwell felt on familiar turf. Caldwell was one of the oldest in his group and had an air of the leader about him. He also displayed a tendency towards the maverick, which hinted at things to come. Adam Gillespie recalled that one day, some of them decided they would sleep in. Luck was not on their side—they were caught, lost their weekend leave and had to peel potatoes. Caldwell decided he would cut the potatoes into squares and that evening square potatoes were served up for dinner.
8 Initially based at Aqir in Palestine, 250 Squadron became operational on 11 May when a detachment of ten pilots and aircraft was ordered to participate in the defence of Alexandria. Caldwell did not, however, accompany these pilots—he stayed behind and had to content himself with some practice sessions on the Tomahawk to familiarise himself with the aircraft and to get an idea of his new surroundings. He quickly discovered that flying in the desert had its own special challenges: . . You’ve got nothing to fly on.