by Squadron Leader D. P. Tidy
"Ace" pilots have long been recognized as fighter pilots who have been officially credited with five or more victories. The authorities, particularly in the Royal Air Force have never recognized the ace as such, and the pilots themselves have never really accepted the concept . This is because many fine pilots never became aces, either through lack of opportunities or sheer circumstance, or because they were killed or injured before they could build up their scores. As Christopher Shores and Clive Williams point out in their comprehensive, albeit inaccurate book, "Aces High" (Neville Spearman, 1966), "to judge a fighter pilot purely by the number of his victories is as unfair as to judge an angler purely by the number of fish he catches". Given the necessary skills and the right tools, an element of luck must always exist to put the right man in the right place at the right moment, and life has ever been thus.
A fighter pilot who destroyed aircraft in air-to-air combat in conjunction with other fighter pilots, was usually credited with his share, e.g. if five pilots shared a ''kill'' each would be credited with one-fifth; if two pilots shared the kill, with one-half. So that if he destroyed four on his own ''on his Tod" -- Todd Sloan -own in RAF parlance), and shared with five others in the destruction of five more, he would be credited with a total of five.
It is not intended to glorify or sensationalize the aces, but to record the names and decorations of these fighting men of South Africa.
It is necessary to consider the campaigns and areas of combat which produced aces, for there are three distinct species of ace, although many in fact combined something of each kind. As Shores and Williams point out, these three are: (1) The Defensive Ace: that is, the pilot flying over his own country or lines, in an effort to prevent the enemy attaining air superiority. South Africans Tom Pattle and 'Sailor' Malan (with 41and 35 kills respectively) were the supreme examples of this type of ace, and finished first and third in the grand list of all Commonwealth aces. (2) The Offensive Ace: the pilot flying into the enemy's lines to seek out and destroy him, in an effort to attain air superiority. 'Johnny' Johnson was the supreme example of this type and finished second overall (between Tom Pattle and 'Sailor' Malan) with 38. (3) The Night Fighter Ace: unlike the other two (although 'Sailor' Malan shot down two enemy aircraft in one night in an individual "hate effort"), he had to fly alone, rather than in a pack, and had to proceed with infinite patience and caution in order to find his prey. John Cunningham was the most successful in this category with 20 kills.
During the course of World War II the ace pilots claimed something over 60 per cent of all confirmed victories, though during the early years of the year this percentage was considerably higher. There were over 1,000 of these pilots, of whom at least 40 were South Africans.
It is my intention in the forthcoming issues of this Journal to provide brief pen-pictures and photographs of these fighter pilots, a list of whom appears below. If any of our readers has photographs or reminiscences which will help to make these brief biographies more comprehensive the Editor will be very pleased to receive them.
|THE SOUTH AFRICAN ACES|
|M.T.St.J.Pattle, DFC and bar||41||"Tom"||80 and 33 RAF|
|A.G. Malan, DSO and bar, DFC and bar||35||''Sailor"||74 RAF|
|J.J. Le Roux,DFC and two bars||23.5||"Chris"||73, 91, 111, 602 RAF|
|P.H. Hugo, DSO, DFC and two bars||22||"Dutch"||615 and 41 RAF|
|J.E.Frost, DFC and bar||15||"John"||3 and 5 SAAF|
|M.S. Osler, DFC and bar||12||"Benny"||145 and 601 RAF, 1 SAAF|
|C.A. van Vliet, DFC||12||"Kees"||1, 4 and 7 SAAF|
|K.W. Driver, DFC||12||"Ken"||1 SAAF|
|A.C. Bosman, DSO, DFC||10.5||"Andy"||72 RAF, 1, 2 and 4 SAAF|
|Davis, DFC||10,5||"Carl"||601 RAF|
|E.J. Morris, DSO||10||"Ted"||79, 238 and 250 RAF|
|R.H. Talbot||10||"Bob"||274 RAF and 1 SAAF|
|S.F.B. Theron, DSO, DFC||10||"Servaas"||250 RAF and 3 SAAF|
|D.W. Golding, DFC||9||"Doug"||4 SAAF|
|H.P. Lardner-Burke, DFC and bar||8.5||"Henry"||1, 19, 46, 126 and 222 RAF|
|E.C. Saville, DFC and bar||8||"Eric"||112 and 260 RAF; 2 and 5 SAAF|
|T.Y. Wallace, DFM||8||"Tom"||111 and 610 RAF|
|B. van Mentz, DFC||7.5||"Brian"||222 and 504 RAF|
|A.C. Rabagliati, DFC and bar||7||"Alex"||46 and 126 RAF|
|B.G. Stapleton, DFC||6.5||"Hugh"||32, 247, 257 and 603 RAF|
|H. Starrett||6.5||"Harry"||33 RAF|
|G.D.L. Haysom, DSO, DFC||6||"David"||79 RAF|
|J.R.A. Bailey, DFC||6.5||"Jim"||85, 125, 264 and 600 RAF|
|D.V.D. Lacey, DFC||6||"Dennis"||2 and 5 SAAF|
|G.J. Le Mesurier, DFC||6||"Lemmie"||1 SAAF|
|R. Pare, DFC||6||"Robin"||1 and 5 SAAF|
|L.R.S. Waugh, DFC||6||"Laurie"||417 and 601 RAF, 1 SAAF|
|B.J.C. Boyle, DFC||5.5||"John"||1 SAAF|
|A. Duncan, DFC||5.5||"Dunk"||1 and 5 SAAF|
|J.M. Faure, DSO, DFC and bar||5.5||"Johannes"||92 RAF, 1 and 4 SAAF|
|J.H. Gaynor, DFC||5.5||"John"||1, 2 and 7 SAAF|
|McC.E.S. Robinson, DFC||5.5||"Mac"||1 SAAF|
|M.C.H. Barber, DFC||5||"Maurice"||250 and 450 RAF|
|A.J. Botha||5||"Boet"||1 SAAF|
|L.C. Botha, DFC||5||"Louis"||5 SAAF|
|R.J.P. Collingwood, DFC||5||"Moon"||82 and 152 RAF, 1 SAAF|
|J.L. Hewitson, DFC||5||"John"||1, 4 and 5 SAAF|
|J.D.W. Human, DSO, DFC and bar||5||"John"||1, 2 and 5 SAAF|
|V.M.L. Lindsay, DFC||5||"Vernon"||2 SAAF|
|P.C.R. Metelerkamp||5||"Pete"||1 SAAF|
|D.G. Morris, DSO, DFC||5||"Zulu"||406 RCAF||(Scores given correct to the nearest 0.5)|