The date is 17 August, 1943, time 4.30pm and the crew of the Japanese Ki-46II “Dinah” had failed in their mission to photograph Darwin Harbour in Northern Australia. Flying the Spitfire Vc (Tropical) is Australia’s leading WWII fighter pilot Clive Caldwell, Wing Commander of No. 1 Fighter Wing RAAF, the defenders of Darwin during 1943.The “Dinah” is from the reconnaissance element of the 202 Kokutai “Zero” fighter unit of the Japanese Naval Air Force based on the island of Timor. Three “Dinahs” of the Japanese Army Air Force had failed to return from reconnaissance trip over Darwin that morning. All had been lost to 457 Squadron.
Born in 1910, Caldwell enlisted in the permanent RAAF at the outbreak of war. When he was called up for service in February, 1940, not only did he have to lower his age (he was “too old” for pilot training), he discovered he was destined to be an instructor! Caldwell, wishing only to be a fighter pilot, promptly resigned, and rejoined the Empire Training Scheme in Sydney on May 6.Becoming operational in the middle East in May, 1941 as a pilot officer with 250 Squadron RAF, Caldwell flew P-40 Tomahawks. He experienced a rapid rise in the hard and dangerous world of the fighter pilot, becoming the Squadron Leader of the famous 112 “Shark” Squadron RAF on 6 January, 1942.Caldwell was the first Empire Air training Scheme pilot to achieve squadron command. Soon after having done so, he became the most successful pilot of the Desert Air Force with a total of 20.5 victories. He was then rested from operations, but not for long.
Following a quick stint on operations with the Kenley Wing in England to gain experience on Spitfires, Caldwell returned to Australia via the Curtis factory in the USA. He was then attached to No. 2 O.T.U. where he flight tested the Australian Boomerang fighter. On 26 November, 1942, Caldwell was assigned to No. 1 Fighter Wing known as the “Churchill Wing” which comprised of 452 of 457 Squadrons RAAF and 54 Squadron RAF. No. 1 Fighter Wing arrived in Darwin on 15 January, 1943 and the unit was equipped with Spitfire Vc (Tropical) code named “Capstan”. The wing performed admirably under Caldwell’s leadership and on 2 March he claimed his first Japanese victories when leading a flight of six Spitfires on patrol. Just beyond landfall he spotted six “Kate” dive-bombers escorted by 12 “Zeros”, preparing to attack allied shipping in the Arafura Sea, north of Darwin.
The five Spitfires followed their leader and wreaked so much havoc amongst the enemy that the intruders turned and sped homewards, but not before one “Kate” and one “Zero” fell under Caldwell’s guns. His third tour got underway on 14 April, 1944; Caldwell, now a Group Captain was placed in command of No. 80 Fighter Wing, RAAF. This unit included 79, 452 and 457 Squadrons which were equipped with the Spitfire MkVIII.
Caldwell became one of only two Australians to achieve “Ace” status flying from Australia and is portrayed having just destroyed the last of his 28.5 confirmed aerial victories in the evocative painting by Norman Clifford.
Each superb print is personally signed by Gp. Capt. Clive Caldwell, this endorsement conferring great significance to the Edition, guaranteeing it an important place in this history of aviation art. In addition, each print is supplied with a copy of the Combat Report, log entry and gun camera photos from 17 August, 1943.
This unique Limited Edition is personally signed by the artist and Australia’s top scoring fighter Ace of WWII:
Group Captain CLIVE ROBERTSON CALDWELL DSO DFC* Polish Cross of Valour / 28 ½ victories