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  #1  
Old 15th January 2020, 20:13
drifter206 drifter206 is offline
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Spitfire VcT 04.05.1944. Doli (Croatia) W/O Stenning

Hello all
On 04.05.1944. Spitfire VcT MA338 (253 sq.) was hit by AA fire and crashed near village of Doli in Croatia. Pilot was W/O Stenning. He bailed out and was captured by German forces. I recently found Croatian report from that period and possibly crash site.

Now I have found that he published (Allen and Ruth) book

memories of a young Spitfire pilot WWII, 167 Squadron, 253 Squadron


https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/285953...ionId=34774530


Is there someone on this forum who has a copy of it. (In 2008 on this forum user Aussie 7 wrote that he has it)

I know it is shot in the dark but...
thanks in advance
Antun
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  #2  
Old 16th January 2020, 02:34
AUS_RAAF AUS_RAAF is offline
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Re: Spitfire VcT 04.05.1944. Doli (Croatia) W/O Stenning

Hello Antun,

I met Allen Stening’s widow Ruth many years ago who very kindly allowed me access to his logbook, diary and photographs. Ruth also commissioned me to paint a portrait of his 167 Sqn and 253 Sqn Spitfires in formation. I also have a copy of the book “Nab”.

What information are you after?

Regards, Drew
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  #3  
Old 16th January 2020, 09:13
drifter206 drifter206 is offline
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Re: Spitfire VcT 04.05.1944. Doli (Croatia) W/O Stenning

Amazing
thanks Drew, I've sent you PM
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  #4  
Old 16th January 2020, 18:41
Tom Semenza Tom Semenza is offline
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Re: Spitfire VcT 04.05.1944. Doli (Croatia) W/O Stenning

Hi Drew,

I am compiling claims details and biographical info on RAF and Commonwealth pilots during WW2. In a posting you made on RAF Commands Forum back in 2009

http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/sho...3-Sqn-RAF-1943

you said that according to Stening's Log Book, he noted claims as follows:

9 March 1944 - 1/5 SM.82 destroyed
17 March 1944 - 1/2 He 111K destroyed

According to the ORB (Form 541) for 253 Sqn., on 9 March Stening was flying Spitfire Vc (JK739) on a "Dawn Shipping Recce." (06.35-08.05) with 3 other pilots. However no claim is mentioned in either the Form 541 or 540. On 17 March Stening was flying Spit. Vb (LZ976), also with 3 other pilots, on a "Spitfire Bomber Escort" (14.50-16.25). Again no claim is mentioned in the Form 541. Unfortunately the Form 540 pages for March 15 to 17 are missing. Does Stening's Log Book give serial numbers and/or aircraft codes? If so do the serials agree with the ORB?

Also can you tell me the date when and place where Stening passed away?

Thanks,
Tom
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  #5  
Old 17th January 2020, 03:23
AUS_RAAF AUS_RAAF is offline
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Re: Spitfire VcT 04.05.1944. Doli (Croatia) W/O Stenning

Hi Tom,

Since that previous posting about the claims I have also obtained a copy of 253 Squadron’s ORB and cannot find any link or mention to the claims on 9th and 17th March.

The entries in Stening’s logbook were written in black ink, however the mention of claims had been filled in with blue ink (see Italics below). This could suggest these were additions written after the fact.

RAF aerial victories would have been rare around this period so it does seem strange that such events did not rate a mention in the records. Similarly, both victories were shared. Not sure if they were ground claims? Plenderleith and Pawsey shared a He111 on 3rd March 44 so perhaps this was confused with that on the 17th??

Stening’s diary for the 9th “Four of us did dawn shipping recco. Didn’t see anything much but a bit of flak. Flew to Cape Linarno & came home.” and the 17th “Flew escort to ‘Spit’ bombers again. Bombed Viareggio ‘F’ boat works. Some hits on the factory. No flak or enemy fighters. Jerry seems very quiet these days.” So no mention of claims here. I have checked some of the surrounding entries and these seem to correlate with events in the ORB so the diary dates seem otherwise accurate, eg Munro bailed out after attacking a boat on the 8th.

I will have another look through the diary to see whether the claims show up on other dates. Until then these are the logbook entries.

9th March Spitfire V, SW-B – Shipping Recco 1.30 hrs. Some Flak. Claim 1/5 SM.82 destroyed.

17th March Spitfire Mk.V, SW-P – Escort to Spit bombers to Viareggio 1.35 hrs. Hits on factory. Claim ½ Heinkel IIIK Des.

Stening piloted SW-P/LZ976 on 30 Oct 43, 7 Jan 44, 10 Jan 44, 21 Jan 44, 28 Feb 44 and 17 Mar 44 – SW-B/JK739 on 2 Nov 43, 3 Nov 43 (5th in ORB), 16 Jan 44 and 9 Mar 44

Both aircraft were flown by fellow Australians Kenneth Dear, Bernard Gerke, Bowman Morris and Norman Delaney.

Stening was from Cowell, a small town north west of South Australia’s capital city Adelaide. He passed away 17th Sept 1995.

Hope this helps.

regards, Drew
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  #6  
Old 17th January 2020, 21:17
Tom Semenza Tom Semenza is offline
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Re: Spitfire VcT 04.05.1944. Doli (Croatia) W/O Stenning

Drew,

Many thanks for the updated info, particularly the a/c codes to match with serial numbers. While ORBs and pilot log books are not universally in agreement, I have to think that those claims noted are incorrect, especially since Stening's diary agrees with the ORB, making no mention of them.

We've been paying a lot of attention to Australia lately with those devastating wild fires. Fingers crossed that the situation will soon get under control and the environmental damage won't be permanent.

Regards,
Tom
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  #7  
Old 18th January 2020, 03:02
AUS_RAAF AUS_RAAF is offline
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Re: Spitfire VcT 04.05.1944. Doli (Croatia) W/O Stenning

Hi Tom,

Yes the bushfires have been devastating this year. I am in South Australia where Kangaroo Island was hit the worst, although just prior to Christmas two of my relatives almost lost properties around the local foothills. On that day winds were gusting, storms were approaching and it was 46C. Dry lightning struck a power line and the fire burnt out of control. Following day temperature dropped to 18C! However, the Australian east coast has really been hit the worst, and I read today there is now flash flooding in some of those regions!

Anyway back to topic. I have had another look through Stening’s diary and nothing regarding tangible claims are mentioned – a few cases of 109 encounters.

In the book “Nab” Spitfire Pilot, page 84 is the following account (no date).
“Six of us on a coastal patrol encountered an Italian bomber, a SM82, a copy of the German JU52. We attacked one after the other. I was third and by this time the gunner had stopped firing and one engine was on fire. As I fired, I saw pieces fly off the aircraft and another engine was on fire. After the 5th Spitfire attacked the aircraft hit the sea with a great splash and the 6th Spitfire didn’t get a shot at it.

A fairly vivid description and the fact it was noted as a shared claim instead of a sole victory seems to contradict any falsification?

A couple of theories and speculation.

1. Perhaps it was a friendly fire incident? Might explain no mention in the official records and omission from diary, but also does not explain the second He111 victory.

2. Around this time 253 Sqn RAF were closely associated with the 52nd FG USAAF. Stening’s LB reveals several flights in American Spitfires VF-U (5th FS), QP-A (4th FS) etc during Mar/Apr 44. I wonder if the SM82 victory was possibly while flying or attached with the 52nd. Might be worth checking the American records? Additionally it would be interesting to find any matching German/Italian losses for those days.

So once again, a bit of a mystery, nothing concrete and probably more questions than answers!

Regards, Drew
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  #8  
Old 18th January 2020, 18:16
Tom Semenza Tom Semenza is offline
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Re: Spitfire VcT 04.05.1944. Doli (Croatia) W/O Stenning

Hi Drew,

Interesting and vivid description of the SM.82 encounter. In the the RAF Commands Forum thread I previously sited, Ian (Adelaide) noted the following claim:

"7 Apr 44 F/O JJL Houle & F/O HJ Wilks & F/O WV Whittaker & P/O DC Goudie & W/O A Stening (RAAF) 1 SM82 conf"

This would certainly fit the account, but once again no such claim is mentioned in the ORB for these pilots. All five pilots mentioned were part of a mid afternoon bomber escort. Stening was flying EF750 on 7 April. Does his log book give a/c codes?

While the possibility of the SM.82 being a Co-belligerent cannot be dismissed, the following is interesting. On an earlier mission the same day F/L A.W. Watson of 253 claimed a SM.82 on an "armed recce" from 07:10 to 08:30. This claim is mentioned in the ORB although it does not specifically say that it was credited to Watson alone. In the narrative for 7 April found in A History of the Mediterranean Air War, Vol. 4 is the following:

"Flt Lt Watson of 253 Squadron claimed to have shot down an S.82 west of Marina di Pisa. LKS records show the loss of two S.81s on this date."

The SM.81 and 82, both being tri-motors, were often misidentified. So there were two verified losses but no indication as to cause.

Regards,
Tom
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  #9  
Old 19th January 2020, 03:02
Russell Russell is offline
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Re: Spitfire VcT 04.05.1944. Doli (Croatia) W/O Stenning

Hi All.

I just dropped a reply just as I finished it, so here goes again. On 7 April 1944 the form 540 notes Flt Lt Watson leading a section of six Spitfires destroyed an SM 82 2m West of Maina di Pisa. The next sentence details ten Spits were on a bomber escort to B-26s with four being IX's and six being V's from 1515 to 1645. The form 540 does not mention an early armed recce to Leghorn of six Spitfires from 0710 to 0830. Watson led both missions. The morning mission was by Spit Vs only. The five names,listed as sharing the claim in the previous posts including Stenning, are all on the bomber mission and only Watson and Wilkes were on both missions. The deduction I am coming to is the shooting down of the SM 82 (it was 6./TG 1 #60321 1Z+LP, the crew being killed) was by six Spitfires on the afternoon mission. The problem is Watson was leading three Spit IXs, the fourth having as noted above crash landed. The six Spitfire Vs were the five named above plus Flt Sgt Tufnell. I would thus have expected the six Spit Vs to do the shooting, leaving the IXs as top cover. However what is the basis for either six or five sharing in the claim? The form 540 implies it by stating Watson was leading six Spitfires, when there were nine on the patrol! Why the previous posts mentions five and not Watson I do not know. The claim could well be any combination of Watson by himself, up to six sharing, all possible even all nine! I have no idea where the names came from as to who shared in the claim. I assume it was from Stenning's records. Any thoughts, welcome as I would like to fix up this matter as a probably correction is needed to the cited entry in MAW Vol 4, where I now am of the view we at least have the wrong times shown.

Russell
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  #10  
Old 19th January 2020, 03:39
AUS_RAAF AUS_RAAF is offline
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Re: Spitfire VcT 04.05.1944. Doli (Croatia) W/O Stenning

Tom and Russell,

Stening makes no mention of other claimants to the SM.82 in any of his documents. To me, it is looking likely the SM.82 claim was 7th April instead of 9th March and possibly the He111K claim was not Stenings’ and that of Plenderleith and Pawsey on the 3rd March instead of 17th March! It still does not explain the mysterious lack of detail in the logbook and diary. As mentioned previously, both the listing of claims were marked in blue ink in his logbook, so too his last mission when shot down and becoming a POW. The latter must have been added either by another member of 253 or by Stening after the war, so maybe the claims as well?

For what it is worth these are the details for 7th April 1944

Diary:
“Not much doing in the morning. Flew “Leith”* in the afternoon as escort to 24 Marauders bombing bridges at Incisa. Very good bombing but no excitement. Made quite a good landing.”

Logbook:
Spitfire V, SW-L – Escort to 24 B26s to Incisa – 1.30 hrs – Bombed Bridges

So another enigma. The date and times align with the afternoon mission but there is absolutely no reference to encountering an enemy aircraft!

*Stening referred to aircraft coded ‘R’ as Ruth and ‘L’ as Leith. These were in reference to his wife and son. I do not think the aircraft had artwork applied. He first flew SW-L/EF750 on 2nd April as noted in the diary - “Flew ‘Leith’ today for the first time.”

It would be interesting to access the logbooks of other supposed 253 Squadron pilots involved, but this may be a hard task!

Regards, Drew

PS: Russell – am looking forward to MAW Vol 4! Let me know if any assistance needed from the Australian side of things.
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