Strong to Serve: An Australian Spitfire Pilot’s war over Europe

Joseph Mack

Strong to Serve: An Australian Spitfire Pilot's war over Europe
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Strong to Serve: An Australian Spitfire Pilot’s war over Europe

Joseph Mack

Following training in Australia, Canada and the UK, Fred Riley flew Spitfires with No 130 (Punjab) Squadron RAF from October 1943 until December 1944. Flying the Spitfire Mk.V, he escorted bombers, flew fighter sweeps, and undertook hazardous patrols on D-Day. With a new Spitfire Mk.XIV, Fred intercepted V-1 flying bombs aimed at London. Later, from the Netherlands and Belgium, he conducted anti jet and low-level sorties over those countries and into Germany. During one such flight, Fred and his colleagues were surprised by a superior force of Luftwaffe fighters. Fred’s logbook records historically significant names, places and events. He served with notable aces, escorted General Eisenhower, and protected transport aircraft during Operation Market Garden. The logbook ends on 22 December 1944 - Fred was shot down and severely injured while supporting beleaguered American forces. However, it is Fred’s memories of instructors, fellow trainees, and the pilots he flew with that are most enlightening. This account details Fred’s journey to becoming a fighter pilot and his remarkable recollections of combat over the UK and Europe. It also highlights the courage, achievements and sacrifices of the men of 130 Squadron - a multi-national group of pilots who lived up to their motto: ‘Strong to Serve’.

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