Desmond reported to 601 Sqn at Emergency Landing Ground 92. The airfield was in fact just another dusty desert airstrip set on a wide flat expanse of sand, lined by rows of tents, runway boundaries marked by upturned 50 gallon oil drums and fringed with sandbagged gun pits. Except for a couple of old mates, he arrived to find a different group of pilots and a new aircraft, the Spitfire Mk VC. His first operational sortie was on the 19th of October, when Desmond flew one of seven Spitfires escorting Kittyhawks bombing LG104.
The day after on his 100th op, Desmond downed a MC202 when he managed to get dead astern it. He wrote: Got on a MC202s tail. Fired. I then got thrown off by his slipstream. Later attacked by 2 MC202s.
At around ten o’clock on the 25th, over Daba, Desmond and his three colleagues in
the section saw two formations of 109s. Having attacked and seen this group off between
them, Desmond quickly proceeded to climb up to 28,000 ft whereupon he spotted three
more 109s below him at 25,000ft just south-
On the second sweep at 09:10am, on 2nd Nov , eight ME109Fs attacked the nine Spitfires. In the ensuing dogfight Desmond reckoned he got in close, very close, to about twenty yards (about 65 feet) directly behind the 109 and opened fire. Caught in a devastating hail of bullets and cannon fire from very close range, the Messerschmitt had no chance and caught fire immediately. Desmond flew over the next couple of days but no action of note took place. The Luftwaffe are very frightened! he wrote.
Then on the 7th of November, he and five friends took off on an early morning patrol which, with no obvious hint of danger to come, would leave an indelible mark on the rest of his career.