KITS 05/2023

Spitfire Vc Trop, BR387, P/O John W. Yarra, No. 185 Squadron, RAF Hal Far, Malta, June 1942

John William “Slim” Yarra was born in Stanthorpe

in Queensland on August 24, 1921 and before

joining RAAF in October 1940 he made living as

a printing apprentice. He completed his training

in Canada between May and August 1941 and then

he was dispatched to the Great Britain where he

was attached to the No. 55 OTU. In October he

was transferred to Gibraltar. Consequently, he

took part in two attempts to fly Spitfires to Malta.

On March 7, during the Operation Spotter, as

a replacement pilot, he had to return to his aircraft

carrier and back to Gibraltar. On March 21, during

the Operation Picket I he flew Spitfire AB333 and

after landing on Malta he was attached to the

No. 249 Squadron. After several successful combat

missions, he was ordered to the No. 185 Squadron

which was short of pilots. In its ranks, he became

one of the most successful pilots in the defense of

Malta. In the course of three months he shot down

12 enemy aircraft, out of which five while at the

controls of his personal Spitfire BR387. Yarra’s

personal Spitfire BR387 landed in Malta on June

9 during the Operation Salient. BR387 camouflage

complied with the recommended Malta scheme in

Dark Mediterranean Blue on the upper surfaces

and Sky Blue color on the lower surfaces. On July

14, Yarra logged his last flight over Malta and

after that flew back to the Great Britain. After

some rest he was assigned as a flight B leader

to the No. 453 Squadron RAAF. On December 10,

1942, he led his flight in the attack on the convoy

at the Dutch coast, north of Vlissingen, but his

Spitfire was hit by the enemy AA fire and crashed

into the sea. His brother became a fighter pilot

as well and same as brother “Slim” was killed in


Spitfire Vc, BR498, W/Cdr Peter P. Hanks, Luqa Wing, Malta, August 1942 – February 1943

Spitfire BR498 was delivered to Malta on August

17, 1942, during the Operation Baritone in the

new camouflage scheme required by AHQ Malta

dated June 1942. It resulted in the adoption of the

disruptive pattern of two shades for the upper

surfaces, Deep Sky and Dark Slate Grey and

Light Mediterranean Blue for the lower surfaces.

W/Cdr Peter Prosser Hanks, Luqa Wing

commanding officer chose this airplane as his

personal mount. At the controls of BR498, W/Cdr

Hanks scored four confirmed kills, two probables

and damaged four aircraft. Another pilot who was


INFO Eduard

successful in BR498 was the No. 126 Squadron

member, F/Lt William “Bill” Rolls who, during

the month of October 1942, shot down five Axis

airplanes (three Ju 88 and two MC.202). BR498

served from the middle of February 1943 at the

No. 185 Squadron carrying GL-K code letters and

was equipped with the Vokes desert air filter.

In this configuration it was most frequently flown

by the No. 185 Squadron commander, S/Ldr H. A.

Grafts. Peter Prosser Hanks was born on July 29,

1917 and in 1935 joined RAF. After he completed

his pilot training at No. 6 FTS, in September he

was assigned to the No. 1 Squadron. During the

Battle of France and Britain he shot down seven

aircraft. Consequently, he flew with the No. 257

and No. 56 Squadrons. From February to July

1942, he commanded a Spitfire Wing at Coltishall.

In August he was transferred to Malta where

he assumed command of a Spitfire Wing at the

airport Luqa. Until the end of war, and afterwards,

he held several service posts. In 1964 he retired

from RAF.

May 2023