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:
" 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."
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.
The following table details Caldwell's tally of kills:
|1||26/6/41||Bf 109 (a)||Destroyed||Capuzzo|
|2||30/6/41||Bf 110 (b)||Destroyed (shared)||off Tobruk|
|3||30/6/41||Ju 87 (c)||Destroyed||off Tobruk|
|4||30/6/41||Ju 87||Destroyed||off Tobruk|
|6||16/8/41||G.50||Destroyed (shared)||Convoy patrol|
|7||29/8/41||Bf 109F||Destroyed||Sidi Barrani|
|11||23/11/41||Bf 109 (d)||Destroyed||Baheira|
|12||5/12/41||Ju 87||Destroyed||S El Adem|
|13||5/12/41||Ju 87||Destroyed||S El Adem|
|14||5/12/41||Ju 87||Destroyed||S El Adem|
|15||5/12/41||Ju 87||Destroyed||S El Adem|
|16||5/12/41||Ju 87||Destroyed||S El Adem|
|18||20/12/41||Bf 109||Destroyed||S Barce|
|24/12/41||Bf 109 (e)||Damaged|
|19||21/2/42||Bf 109 (f)||Destroyed||Derna-Gazala|
|21||14/3/42||C.202||Destroyed (shared)||NW Tobruk|
|22||23/4/42||Bf 109||Destroyed||Bir Hacheim|
|23||2/3/43||Zeke (A6M)||Destroyed||50 km WNW Pt Charles|
|24||2/3/43||Kate (B5N)||Destroyed||50 km WNW Pt Charles|
|25||2/5/43||Zeke (A6M)||Destroyed||65 to 95 km NW Darwin|
|26||2/5/43||Zeke (A6M)||Destroyed||65 to 95 km NW Darwin|
|27||20/6/43||Zeke (A6M)||Destroyed||SW Darwin|
|28||30/6/43||Zeke (A6M)||Destroyed||65 km W Batchelor|
|29||30/6/43||Betty (G4M)||Destroyed||65 km W Batchelor|
|30||20/8/43||Dinah (Ki-46) (g)||Destroyed||30 km W Cape Fourcroy|
(a) Bf 109E of I/JG27, flown by Lt. Heinz Scmidt; (b) Aircraft of III/ZG26; (c) Ju87s of II/StG2, flown by Lt. Wagner and Uffz Walz; (d) Leading Bf 109F of four; Hpt Wolfgang Lippert, Kommandeur of II/JG27 and Knight's Cross holder, bailed out; (e) Bf 109F of III/JG27 damaged. Bullet hit Oblt Erbo Graf von Kageneck, 69 victory 'Experte' and Knight's Cross holder, who died of wounds in hospital on 12 Jan, 1942; (f) Bf 109F of II/JG27; Lt Hans-Arnold Stahlschmidt crash landed; (g) Aircraft of 202 Sentai.
No 112 Squadron
First formed on 30 July 1917 at Throwley in the home defence role, equipped initially with Pups, it received Camels in 1918. One of its first commanding officers being Major Brand (later AVM Sir Qunitin), who would become one of Fighter Command's Group Commanders during the Battle of Britain. The squadron disbanded on 13 June 1919.
The squadron was reformed aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Argus, on 16 May 1939 and it arrived in Egypt ten days later. Gladiators arrived the following month and were immediately in action following the Italian declaration of war on 10 June 1940. One flight was also detached to the Sudan at this time, but was taken over by No 14 Squadron on 30 June.
The squadron joined British forces defending Greece in January 1941, first supplying air cover to and offensive support over Albania and later in the air defence of the Athens area. With the collapse of the Allied forces in Greece, the unit withdrew to Crete and then back to Egypt.
In July 1941 the squadron began receiving the Tomahawk, which it now used in both the fighter and fighter-bomber role in support of the 8th Army. In December 1941 the Tomahawks were replaced by the Kittyhawk, which it used for the remainder of its time in the desert. Following the invasion of Sicily the squadron moved there in July 1943 and onto the Italian mainland in September. In June 1944 the Kittyhawks were replaced with Mustang IIIs and from February 1945, Mustang IVs. The squadron remained in Italy as part of the occupying forces until disbanding on 30 December 1946 at Treviso.
The squadron reformed at Fassburg in Germany on 12 May 1951 in the fighter-bomber role, equipped with Vampire FB Mk 5s, but on 7 March 1952 it re-located to Jever. In January 1954 it reverted to the day fighter role when its Vampires were replaced by Sabre F Mk 4s, by which time it had been based at Bruggen since 6 July 1953. Hunters arrived in April 1956 but just over a year later on 31 May 1957, the squadron disbanded at Bruggen, to where it had moved on 6 July 1953.
No 112's next appearance on the order of battle began on 1 August 1960, when it reformed as a Bloodhound surface-to-air missile unit at Church Fenton to defend the Thor IRBM sites in the area. However, its operational base was to be Breighton and it moved there in November 1960.
With the withdrawal of Thor the need for this type of unit was reduced and the squadron disbanded on 31 March 1964. However, a new No 112 SAM unit formed on 2 November of the same year, this time at Woodhall Spa, equipped with the Bloodhound Mk 2. The squadron moved to Cyprus on 1 October 1967 and remained there until finally disbanding on 1 July 1975.
Motto: Swift in destruction
Camouflage and markings of
No. 112 Squadron RAF
by Rick Kent
Curtiss Tomahawk Mk. IIB
112 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Sidi Heneish, Egypt, September 1941
112 Sqn operated the Tomahawk IIB from July to December 1941 and at this time adopted the famous Sharkmouth markings by which it was known from then on. It is said that they copied them from the Me 110's of ZG 26 - which may well be true as at a later date 81 Sqn copied the Ace of Spades marking on to its Spitfires in North Africa from the Me 109's of JG 53.
The Sharkmouth squadron markings were, of course, highly unofficial but several squadrons in North Africa were able to get away with using such coloured markings (eg 73, 208, and 274, all on Hurricanes). As readers will see on the rest of these profiles the painting of the sharkmouth was by no means the same on all aircraft; in particular the teeth were sometimes straight edged, as on this one, and sometimes curved. The eyes above the mouth also varied quite a lot.
The Squadron was very busy with both air-to-air and ground attack fighting in the Western Desert throughout its time with Tomahawks.
These aircraft were delivered to the RAF from Curtiss already painted in the standard early wartime fighter finish of Dark Earth and Dark Green upper surface camouflage with Sky undersurfaces (these colours were, of course, very close American equivalents of the British shades). During this period, the use of squadron code letters had been discontinued in North Africa, aircraft carrying only individual identity letters in light grey or white.
By the time that the Squadron re-equipped with Kittyhawks in December 1941 the new code letters "GA" were used so it may be that later Tomahawks had these letters and also perhaps desert camouflage, though I have to say that I have never seen any photos of them if they did.
The propeller spinner is painted the normal red recognition colour used on fighters right through the war in the Mediterranean Theatre. Note that the wing root fairing goes over the top of the fuselage roundel yellow - this was common on RAF Tomahawks both in the UK and North Africa (presumably the aircraft were painted at the factory before assembly). The serial number is smaller than the standard 8 inches specified, being about only 6 inches high; this again was a common feature on aircraft in the African theatre.
Curtiss Kittyhawk Mk. I
112 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Gambut Main, Libya, February 1942
Firstly I would like to offer the following explanation for the confusing business of the RAF Kittyhawk I and IA designations, and comparable USAAF P-40D and P-40E. The RAF first ordered by direct purchase 560 Hawk 87A's with the new Allison V-1710-39 engine with the deeper cowling. The USAAF also placed a large order for the same type as the P-40D. All of these aircraft were intended to be fitted with only four wing mounted .50 calibre Browning machine guns. However the USAAF were not satisfied with the four guns only and only took delivery of 22 of them before switching instead to the six gun Hawk 87A-3 which it designated P-40E.
The RAF only took delivery of 20 of the four gun aircraft (AK571-AK590) before also switching to the six gun aircraft for the remainder of its purchase of 560 (serialled between AK591 and AL230). Now many references state that the RAF Kittyhawk I was the four gun equivalent of the P-40D and that the Kittyhawk IA was the six gun version equivalent to the P-40E. Most of these reference sources at the same time refer to six gunned aircraft in these serial ranges as Mk I and, above all, credit the Mk I as having served with far too many squadrons for a mere 20 aircraft. In my view the truth of the situation is that all of the 560 purchased aircraft were known to the RAF as Kittyhawk I; it was the P-40E's delivered as Lease-Lend aircraft that were designated as Kittyhawk IA and serialled between ET239 and EV431; in other words the 'A' suffix on the RAF designation had nothing to do with the armament but indicated Lease-Lend aircraft which probably had some slight differences of US equipment instead of British. There were supposed to be 1,500 Lease-Lend P-40E's for the RAF but many of these were diverted to other air forces, including the USSR, Canada, and Australia, and some were also retained by the USAAF itself.
The 112 Squadron Kittyhawk I shown here is thus a six-gunned aircraft with the serial number AK675 repainted in black in the often seen smaller characters used in North Africa. These Kittyhawks were delivered in the usual Dark Green/Dark Earth over Sky finish and, so, had to be repainted in the desert camouflage of Dark Earth/Mid Stone and Azure Blue, thus the serial on this one is repainted in the small characters. Quite often a rectangle of the original Green and Earth was simply left around the serial numbers to avoid the necessity of repainting them.
The new code letters "GA", which 112 used for the rest of the war, plus the individual ident letter "F" are in white. Note that the whole area in the middle of the sharkmouth is red and the front teeth are curved, also this aircraft has no eyes. The red in the Squadron markings was always brighter than the dull red in the national insignia and on the propeller spinner.
112 Sqn flew Kittyhawk Mk I's and IA's between December 1941 and October 1942, flying mostly bomber escort missions but also some fighter bomber missions of its own against enemy armour. They flew from many different bases in Egypt and Libya throughout this time in support of the famous Eighth Army.
Curtiss Kittyhawk Mk. IA
112 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Amirya (LG.175), Egypt, October 1942
Here's the Mk.IA Kittyhawk, with its serial number yet again painted in the smaller characters so often seen in North Africa and also a slight gap between the letters and numbers, something else that was common on African repaints.
The basic camouflage scheme is the same as for the Mk.I but the markings differ somewhat. The roundels and fin flash have the narrow (2 inches) white and yellow introduced in July 1942. This aircraft also has the yellow wing leading edges outboard of the guns, a feature that was also quite common on Kittyhawks and some other single-engined fighters in the Mediterranean Theatre even on the desert finish; indeed many had the yellow right up to the fuselage.
To avoid boring readers by saying it for every single profile, I will say that this aircraft has the usual red propeller spinner of this theatre as did all of 112 Sqn's aircraft from the Tomahawk onwards to the Mustang by the end of WW II in Italy. Yet again the middle of the mouth is red only but the teeth are quite different from the previous Mk.I profile; also this aircraft has its eyes in place. The other thing of note is that the white code letters are fairly thin in stroke and quite square in shape, something that became a feature of most of the Squadron's aircraft for the rest of the war.