Gordon Olive, second from the left.

The story we’ve told in the video was a recollection by Gordon to Dennis Newton, an aviation historian and author, about one of his adventures over Dunkirk. Below is a newspaper article that mentions the episode among other experiences. For the purposes of propaganda and public morale, the British allowed over-claiming of kills (and to conceal the fact that they were decoding Luftwaffe’s daily loss returns), so it is with a grain of salt that we should take these reports (and the newsreels of the day). Nevertheless, it’s still a great story!

Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 – 1954), Friday 20 December 1940, page 1 (scan of the newspaper article)


(Our Special Representative)

LONDON, Thursday.
The amazing destructiveness of the latest Spitfire fighting planes was described to-day by Flight-Lieutenant Gordon Olive, D.F.C., of Brisbane, who recently chased and brought down a Messerschmitt 111.

“A 14-second burst of about 2000 rounds from the Spitfire’s eight guns disintegrated the Messerschmitt. “I had been waiting months for an opportunity of fully testing the Spitfire’s terrific destructiveness,” said Olive, “because action is normally con-fined to three or four second bursts during dog-fights. “I was pursuing the Messerschmitt at about 450 miles an hour and I wasn’t heeding the tracer-bullets from the rear-gunner’s twin cannons, which were flashing toward me like whiskered tennis balls. Held His Fire “I withheld my fire until within 300 yards of the enemy which is the Spitfire’s perfect firing distance. “My first burst bagged the rear gunner and probably also put the pilot out of action because the Messerschmitt took no avoiding action. “This allowed me to test the Spitfire’s capacity for damage undistracted by the usual necessity for vigilance against other enemies. The result was fantastic. The second burst blew up the port engine and a third immediately set fire to the starboard engine. “Then I gave the fuselage a nine-second burst. The twin tail broke off and metal sheeting flew off like a pack of cards flung from the window of a train. “While the planes were diving at 500 m.p.h., I continued pumping in the bullets, exploding the Messerschmitt’s petrol tank, which blew off the rear half of the fuselage. “The remainder of the Messerschmitt heeled over and fell vertically to the sea from 12,000 feet, blazing like a comet.” Flight-Lieutenant Olive has twice escaped from desperate predicaments. On the first occasion he was patrolling at Dunkirk during the evacuation when he lost touch with his squadron in dense smoke from burning oil tanks. He decided to join a flight of fighters which he saw overhead, when he discovered that they were Germans. Three of them instantly attacked Olive who, after a tense ten minutes dog-fight set a German on fire. He was chasing it to earth when other Germans dived down on him, pouring in bullets. They wounded Olive in the leg, holed the petrol tank and put out of action the gun control and tail control, thereby preventing Olive from diving safely to the clouds. The Spitfire’s reduced speed enabled Olive to make a climbing turn without blacking out. Thus by an oblique spiral he broke away from his immediate pursuer and came down on a second opponent’s tail, causing the German to dive to the clouds.

A repetition of this manoeuvre brought him on the tail of another German, who also dived into the clouds. Neither stopped to discover why bullets were not coming from the Spitfire. Olive finally dodged the anti-aircraft guns at Calais and landed in England with his last drop of petrol. His second escape was last August. When Olive was turning on his oxygen bottle it caused spontaneous combustion, due to a careless merchanic not wiping grease from the bottle, which burnt like a magnesium flare above the petrol tank. Olive parachuted from his blazing plane 1200 feet. Homeguards, not recognising Olive’s dark blue Australian uni-form, ran up threatening him with shotguns. Land Army girls rescued him. Shot Down Six Flight-Lieutenant Olive went to England in 1937. Officially he is credited with having shot down six Germans and the destruction of an additional six is not officially confirmed. His squadron has bagged 100 planes for the loss of 10 members of the squadron. Flight-Lieutenant Olive, who recently married, is on leave in London with his English wife.

Gordon Olive