With a huge grin on his face and a rollicking good story to tell, Desmond rejoined 601 on the 8th November and became a member of the “Late Arrivals Club”. He soon returned to op.s chasing the enemy back west and as the Luftwaffe retreated they abandoned several aircraft. On the 12th of November, 601 acquired a Stuka, which was then hastily repainted in RAF colours and used to ferry personnel, mail and crates of beer to and from Alexandria. Desmond himself logged at least a dozen of hours flying it.
On the 5th of December flying from EI Hasseiate, Desmond closed on an ME109E to point
blank range resulting in another confirmed victory. On the afternoon of the 7th December
he engaged another ME109E (possibly flown by Unterofficier Alfred Kiefer of III/
JG27) and shot it down into the sea about six miles north east of Aghiela. However,
another 109 opened fire on Desmond’s Spitfire, blowing off his wingtip. As he tried
After a few weeks leave, Desmond resumed op.s on the 10th January 1943, from Hamraiet
in Southern Tunisia to fly a new Mk VC Spit-
On the 7th of April he returned to Gabes Main with a Spitfire Mk V which would effectively be his own personal aircraft. On the 28th of April he had his first dogfight with a Focke Wulf 190 and was lucky to escape when it nearly managed to turn inside him. The next day Desmond engaged and destroyed 2 MC202s just shy of his 200th op which he finally reached in the first week of May. Allied air operations ended on the 11th of May followed swiftly by the unconditional surrender of axis forces in North Africa on the 13th. Desmond concluded his first tour with eight enemy aircraft confirmed destroyed, four ‘probable's and seven damaged. In the eighteen months since he started operations he had earned a Distinguished Flying Cross, promotion to pilot officer and was now a renowned Spitfire ‘Ace’.
Above: Mid 1943 North Africa. Desmond in the cockpit of his Spitfire on receiving 1st DFC. Note the 7 swastikas on the panel just under the canopy.
23rd March 1943. Three Spitfire LF Mk VBs of No. 244 Wing based at Bou Grara Landing Ground, flying in close echelon starboard formation off the Tunisian coast after escorting light bombers on a sortie to Mareth. IWM (CNA821)