Australian Tribute Spitfire

Group Captain Clive Robertson Caldwell 

28th July 1910 – 5th August 1994.

Clive Robertson Caldwell was born in Sydney, NSW, in 1910. Educated at Sydney Grammar, he was a keen sportsman and developed an early enthusiasm for aircraft. During the 1930s, a pilot friend provided him with some instruction and experience in flying, when war was declared, he was determined, despite being over age, to join the RAAF as aircrew. After modifying his birth certificate to indicate that he was 26 years old, (28 being the cut-off date for pilot training) Caldwell was accepted. 

Discovering that his intake was destined to become flying instructors, he sought a discharge and re-enlisted with the first Australians selected for the Empire Air Training Scheme. Graduating from the course as a Pilot Officer in January 1941, he was posted to 250 Squadron, RAF, flying P-40 Tomahawk fighters in Syria, Palestine and North Africa. 

Although frustrated by the time it took to finally record his first victory, (on 26 June) Caldwell's score thereafter mounted rapidly.

 In January 1942 he was given command of 112 Squadron, RAF, whose 'sharkmouth' P-40 Kittyhawks were already famous, and by May he had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar, as well as the Polish Cross of Valour in recognition of his work with that nation's forces. 

He was also permitted, by special dispensation of General Sikorski, to wear the Polish pilot's badge. By the time he was posted away from the Middle East he had recorded 20.5 confirmed victories and earned the nickname 'Killer', which he disliked. Returning to Australia in October 1942, Caldwell was given command of No 1 Fighter Wing, whose three squadrons of Spitfire Mk Vs were operating in defence of Darwin. 

He added eight Japanese aircraft to his tally before relinquishing command of the wing in August 1943 to become chief flying instructor at 2 OTU. In April 1944 he was given command of No 80 Fighter Wing, equipped with Mk VIII Spitfires. After operations from Darwin, the wing moved to Morotai in December. By this stage, however, the war had moved on, and there was little productive work for it. 

A mounting sense of dissatisfaction amongst pilots with operations which were seen as pointless led to Caldwell's involvement in what became known as the 'Morotai Mutiny', in which eight senior airmen tendered their resignations. This action, and the disciplinary proceedings which followed, left him embittered about his service career, and he took his discharge from the RAAF in 1946. 

Australia's highest scoring ace of the Second World War, Clive Caldwell died in Sydney in August 1994, aged 84. 

The citation for Distinguished Service Order reads as follows: 'Wing Commander CALDWELL, on completion of his flying training in January 1941, was posted overseas, served with much distinction and was credited with the destruction in combat of 20 1/2 enemy planes. He returned to Australia in September 1942, and was subsequently posted to No.1 Fighter Wing where by his confidence, coolness, skill and determination in the air, he has set a most excellent example to all pilots in the wing. 

His skill and judgment as a leader are outstanding. On 2nd March, 1943, he led a formation of six fighters against a force of enemy fighters and bombers totalling twice that number, and was responsible personally for destroying two. On 2nd May, 1943, when leading the wing against a large number of enemy raiders, he again personally shot down and destroyed two enemy aircraft. On 20th June, 1943, during an attack by enemy raiders, through failure of his radio, he was obliged to hand over the lead of the wing, as he was unable to receive directions from Sector control. In spite of this however, he searched for and found a portion of the raiding force and succeeded in shooting down one of the enemy. 

Wing Commander CALDWELL has flown over 475 active operational flying hours and has carried out over 300 operational sorties. His personal score of enemy aircraft destroyed in combat has now passed twenty five, five of which are Japanese shot down since his return to Australia. His courage, determination, skill and his undoubtedly outstanding ability as a leader are an inspiration to his wing and worthy of the highest praise.'