ON 10 MAY 1943

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At 0900 hours on Monday 10 May 1943, five Spitfires from 457 Squadron RAAF took off from Millingimbi Airfield in the Northern Territory to intercept some unidentified aircraft approaching Millingimbi from the north.

Pilot Officer Bruce Little (403521) in Spitfire A58-81 (BS199, ZP-S) accompanied F/Lt Philip Herbert Watson DFC (402267), and P/O Ian Sutherland Morse (403358), F/Sgt Arthur Evan Batchelor (411729) and F/Sgt R. Watson were in the other three Spitfires.

They intercepted nine Japanese Zeros. During the combat that followed, P/O Little's Spitfire was damaged in the elevators and he returned to land at Millingimbi Airfield. After landing on the East West runway, P/O Little noticed three Japanese Zeros in V formation strafing the North South runway of the airfield. He took off again and engaged one of the Japanese aircraft in a general dog fight at about 200 feet for approximately 10 minutes.

During a steep turn at about 0945 hours, P/O Little was unable to maintain height and his Spitfire struck the ground at approximately 160 miles per hour, somersaulted several times, severely damaging the aircraft.

P/O Little received injuries to both legs and arms and above one eye. Despite this he was able to walk three miles back to Millingimbi Airfield where he received medical attention. He returned to his unit by aircraft arriving at 2100 hours.

In later years the remains of P/O Little's Spitfire were recovered by well known Spitfire enthusiast Langdon Badger from Adelaide in South Australia. The aircraft's recovered remains were then acquired by Wing Commander Geoff Trappet. The recovered remains were then stored at Latrobe Valley in Victoria for possible restoration or use as spare parts. In May 1998 the remains of Spitfire A58-81were held by Robert Eastgate, at Point Cook for restoration.


Wings Magazine 20 July 1943



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This page first produced 4 October 2016

This page last updated 18 October 2016