SAUNDERS John Henry 471

LEST WE FORGET

Flight Lieutenant John Henry William SAUNDERS

Service No: 471
Born: Richmond England, 8 April 1920
Enlisted in the RAAF: 16 January 1939 (at Point Cook VIC)
Unit: No. 3 Squadron, Sidi Hanesh (Landing Ground 102), Libya
Died: Air Operations (No. 3 Squadron Tomahawk aircraft AK539), Cyrenaica, Libya, 22 November 1941, Aged 21 Years
Buried: Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Libya
CWGC Additional Information: Son of John Edward Stanley Saunders and Florence Catherine Saunders, of Cottesloe, Western Australia.
Roll of Honour: Cottesloe WA
Remembered: Panel 98, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Cenotaph Undercroft, State War Memorial, Kings Park WA

It so happened that the Axis fighters also adopted a system of fighter sweeps at this juncture, with the object of clearing the air for their dive bombers, and, although No. 3 flew two uneventful sweeps on 21st November, the following day it engaged in an air battle which did much to determine the subsequent course of events. During the morning of the 22nd the Australians were escorting Blenheim bombers near Bir e Gubi when at least fifteen Messerschmitts attacked as the bombers were making their run. The ensuing fight resolved itself into a contest between the superior speed of the Messerschmitt and the manoeuvrability of the Tomahawk and went slightly in favour of the former, two Germans and three Australians being shot down.

The same afternoon unencumbered with bombers, Nos. 3 and 112 (RAF) met twenty Messerschmitts to the south-east of El Adem and a straightforward air battle for fighter superiority developed. The Germans again had the advantage of speed, climb and ceiling, so after some preliminary and wary manoeuvring, both formations fell into defensive circles, with the Germans above the Tomahawks. The circles flew round and round, individuals pulling out as opportunity offered to attack any of the opposing circle momentarily unprotected, but in effect a deadlock ensued as neither side could break the other. The evening closed in until it was hardly possible to see the enemy, and finally the Germans, who were farthest from their bases, flew off westwards, and the Tomahawks landed at adjacent landing grounds returning to their own base the next morning.

Extract from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939-1943, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1954 – Pages 200-1

In the morning combat, No. 3 Squadron lost Flying Officer Eric Hall Lane (406002), Flight Lieutenant John Henry William Saunders (461) and Flying Officer Malcolm Hector Watson (845). In the afternoon combat, the Squadron lost Flight Lieutenant Lindsay Eric Shaw Knowles (456) and Flying Officer Lawton Lees (400092).

References:

Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 163/56/86

Bibliography:

Brown, R. (Russell) Desert Warriors Australian P-40 Pilots at War in the Middle East and North Africa 1941-1943, Banner Books Maryborough QLD 4652, 2000