Obituary: Clive Caldwell

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The Independent Online
I HAVE an outstanding memory of 'Killer' Caldwell during the Second World War, writes Donald Wayne (further to the obituary by Air Marshal Sir Peter Wykeham, 1 September). Only a month or two after Pearl Harbor, he turned up in New York as part of a delegation of British airmen who had seen combat in the North African desert.

We Americans had only a sketchy idea of how our fighter aircraft, provided until then under lend-lease, performed under battle conditions. I was delegated by the OWI (Office of War Information) to ask particularly about the P-40.

When I put the question, near the close of the session, a silence fell upon the room. The British visitors, including a boyish-looking crew of a Lancaster bomber, just looked at each other with an embarrassed air. At last, an Air Vice-Marshal spoke up. He looked something like Colonel Blimp, smoking a bent pipe.

'We must go by the record,' he said blandly. 'The answer is that we have shot down more German aircraft than the Germans have shot down ours.' The pipe went back in his mouth.

After the meeting broke up and there was socialising, I was sought out by Killer Caldwell, already famous for his exploits. .

'I'll tell you about your P-40,' he said. 'They're no damn good.' He then explained in detail their combat defects against the superior Messerschmitts. 'All we do with the P-40,' he said, 'is fit them with a 500-pound bomb and try to use them that way.'

I noticed, as he talked, his distinguishing mark, which was a neat line parting his hair, made by a German bullet.