Dudley was born in Wagga Wagga on the 9th January 1922 and when growing up as one of seven children, he knew well the privations and hardships of the Great Depression. A bright student, he was dux of his intermediate school and early on showed that narrow horizons were not in his view. When war was declared in 1939, Dudley joined the RAAF on the 16th August 1941 and trained as a fighter pilot in the Empire Air Training Scheme. He was seconded to the RAF, and travelled to the UK where he went on to fight in the fighter pilot’s dream, the Spitfire.
He flew missions in North Africa, Malta, Sicily, Syria, Cyprus, Corsica and Italy. His log books make for fascinating reading. For his 160 combat missions and his “exceptional” skill and courage, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. An abbreviated article by Dudley, “Into the Drink,” is reproduced below:
In June 1944, having been seconded from the RAAF I was serving in 154 RAF Squadron based on the East Coast of Corsica flying Spitfires IXs. From our base we could easily cover North and Central Italy and the south of France. At that time, there was little enemy air opposition.
We concentrated on road straffing, with considerable effect and frustration for the enemy. On the 14th of June 1944, I was flying number three in a section of four aircraft. We were briefed to strafe anything that moved on the roads in the Cecina area of Italy. We shot up a few trucks and staff cars. On the way home, I spotted a dust plume blown by a very heavy vehicle. I still had ammunition left so I attacked. I could see strikes on the target, but then all hell broke loose. I was caught in a barrage of very dense and accurate flak.
I was hit in the port aileron, but was able to pull away with both hands on the stick and with my left elbow to work the throttle. I didn’t like the idea of being taken prisoner so I made for the coast. The old Merlin was vibrating madly with the radiator temperature off the clock and oil pressure approaching zero. I managed to get four miles out to sea, just north of Elba, which was still occupied by the Germans, when she started smoking and seizing up completely. “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, transmitting for a fix” was my call before being flung out of the cockpit when I stood up and let the stick go.
Everything worked perfectly, the parachute opened, I splashed in and swam away from the parachute towing the packed K type dinghy, which was attached to my “Mae West” by a dog-lead. I opened the pack and released the CO2 bottle and, voila, a beautiful little dinghy and mine.
One of my section climbed up to 8,000 feet and transmitted for an accurate fix. They covered me against any possible nasties until low fuel forced them home. A couple of French Spitfires took over my cover. I settled back to eat my little packet of rations and worried. It was close to last light when a Beaufighter arrived, shortly followed by an old Walrus waddling out of the West. The pilot of the Walrus gallantly attempted to alight close to me, despite a heavy two metre swell.
Unfortunately, he misjudged a bit and struck his port lower wing into a wave. I paddled over to him and climbed aboard. The wing was badly damaged and there was no hope of taking off. The best option was to attempt to taxi 50 odd miles back to Bastia Harbour, Corsica.
It was now dark and I needed a cigarette (mine were a soggy mess) so I asked the Walrus pilot for one. “No Smoking,” he replied, “we invade Elba tomorrow and the German E-boats are out.” I looked up and beheld our bright orange exhaust flare. I tapped him on the shoulder and pointed. He shrugged and passed his Players to me. The sea abated a bit as we staggered westwards. At about 1:00 a.m., we got a hail and were picked up in a strong light, we feared it might be from an E-Boat, but happily is was an RAF HSL (High Speed Launch) sent out to intercept us. (Web Master: The E-Boat (German: Schnellboot, or S-Boot, meaning “fast boat”) was the Allies designation for a fast German attack craft. It is commonly held that the British used the term “E” for Enemy. The E-boat carried torpedoes and was able to cruise at 40 or 50 knots. Courtesey Wikipedia. It was also known in German as an “Eilboot” and was similar to the American PT boat, as used in the TV Series, McHale’s Navy, only the E-Boat is larger.)
She took the Walrus in tow and I leapt on board our saviour and into some dry gear and a couple of ravishing rums. We then proceeded with the slow tow of that wilting Walrus. We finally arrived in Bastia Harbour about 09:30 hrs on a beautiful sunny 15th of June. The battered Walrus was dropped at a mooring and we tied up at the jetty.
Shortly after we were taking breakfast, powdered eggs of course, on the deck of the HSL, when we saw that gallant old Walrus gently sinking at her mooring. We toasted her with tea as she slowly disappeared.
I silently said a prayer of thanks for the stout hearts and the stout aircraft and boats of that magnificent RAF Air Sea Rescue Service – “The sea shall not have them”.
The photo of Dudley was taken in Corsica, France in about 1944 to 1945 when he was a Flying Officer, courtesy AWM.
Dudley was discharged on the 10th January 1946 from No.22 PTC. He then joined Qantas flying all over regional Australia, flying for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Dudley held many senior managerial positions in Qantas and helped establish Qantas international air travel. On leaving Qantas in about 1960, Dudley pioneered aviation services in airport catering, the duty-free industry and serviced the needs of travellers in the flourishing airline travel industry. He then turned his attention to investment in the land and made great contributions to grazing and cropping, establishing the first privately-owned cotton gin.
The September, 2006 Spitfire News carried Dudley Dunn’s short story, “Into the Drink.” This edition carries the sad news of the Dudley’s passing on the 3rd January 2007. The eulogy delivered by his son, Alexander Dunn, was a tour de force and testament to the towering individual who was his father.
Alexander Dunn, Paul Carter and David Hamilton
Updated by Vince Conant
The Spitfire Association