The date will go largely unnoticed among the Battle of Britain anniversaries now raging almost as wildly as did the three- month battle. Veteran pilots will celebrate and commemorate the Battle’s beginning. Its end and its hardest day when the Luftwaffe onslaught was at its peak.
But August 15 was just another day. Except it was the day Midland Junction-born Pilot Officer Frank Cale. 25. plunged to earth in his crippled Spitfire and was killed. Some will remember:
his wife of just one month, now living in Victoria in the autumn of a second life: his two sisters in Perth: a handful of friends and comrades.
Another that has not forgotten is war artist and former RAF serviceman Ron Blackburn. 54. Now an Ansett aircraft painter living in North Perth. Mr. Blackburn. who watched the battle overhead as a six-year- old in England, is painting Frank Cale’s Mk II Spitfire and has researched his story.
He said there were two conflicting reports of Cale’s final battle, when he was shot down by a German Messerschmitt 109 fighter.
“They do not know whether his aircraft threw him out or whether he baled out,’ he said.
“His family got a letter saying he deliberately steered his aircraft away from houses.
“It said he was found in an apple tree still in his parachute, with not a mark on him, but surrounded by blossoms that were falling all around.
‘But the latest Published research says he was shot down near Teston and his body recovered the next day from the River Medlay.” Either version would have been cold comfort for his widow Joan Perry, a West Australian he had met in London and married only a month before.
Cale’s Spitfire was never recovered, so it probably crashed in the river and sank.
That lost plane is the subject of Mr. Blackburn’s painting. He had been urged by friends to paint Australian aircraft and fliers. Mr. Blackburn said: “Between August 12 and 16, 266 Squadron had 10 of its 12 aircraft destroyed, six pilots killed and two severely wounded with burns.
“The day after Caleb another five of them were gone — three dead. “Just imagine, you go to breakfast with all your mates but when you sit down for lunch two of them are missing
— and then by dinner three more.” In the week of Cale’s death the RAF lost 89 pilots killed and 36 severely wounded and had 144 aircraft destroyed or damaged against the Luftwaffe’s 300.
When researching his painting Mr. Blackburn interviewed Cale’s two sisters, Ruth Baxter and Jean Tepper, who still live in Perth.
They recalled their brother, an accomplished athlete and student at Guildford Grammar. as loving life and family — but especially as loving flying. He learned at the old Maylands Aerodrome w here the Police Academy now stands and would sometimes appear in his Tiger Moth over the Dunrees Golf Links and buzz his sisters as they played.
Last month Mr. Blackburn received a letter from one of Cale’s old comrades, former pilot officer Dennis Armitage, who also flew in 266 Squadron. “I remember Frank well, He was a much loved member of our little band,” he wrote. “It was terribly sad to lose him so early in the battle.”
On Friday, August 16, 1940, his father in Midland was told Frank Cale was missing. Next day the news came his son was dead. But on August 15 this year he will be remembered.
P/O F.W. Cale was an Australian No 266 Squadron flying Spitfires On the 15th of August 1940 Cale was shot down in his Spitfire I (N3168) near Maidstone, Kent at 18:50hrs. He was seen to bale out and his parachute opened. However all that can be located on the ground later is a parachute with burnt straps. Cale’s body was recovered from the River Medway on the 16th of August 1940. He was aged 25.
Extract from the West Australian Newspaper, MEMORY OF AN UNSUNG HERO
The Spitfire Association