Profile no 82. Supermarine Spitfire MK VIII

"RG-V "Grey Nurse", flown by Wing Commander Robert H. M. "Bobby" Gibbes, No. 80 Wing RAAF, Sattler Airfield/NT/Australia, December 1944
Bobby Gibbes worked as a sheep farm apprentice, a "Jackaroo" and a salesman before joining the RAAF in February of 1940. After pilot training he was shipped off in April to the Middle East serving in No. 3 Squadron. During his tour of duty in the Middle East, Gibbes became the longest-serving wartime commanding officer in the unit and was officially credited with a total of 10_ victories in 274 combat missions. With his rank of Squadron Leader, Gibbes departed North Africa and was selected to fly Mosquito night-fighters. Before he was posted to No. 464 Squadron however, Gibbs was shipped back to Australia. Back in Australia he gave morale-building lectures on air combat to students at the Commonwealth military aircrew training program, telling in his own words: "you know, I went around and lied like hell. I said that it was all a piece of cake." In January of 1944, he joined the No. 3 OTU at Mildura, becoming chief flying instructor in March. Here he worked with Clive Caldwell to improve the success rate by personally selecting the most promising fighter pilots from local service flying training schools. In October of 1944 he was posted to Darwin, flying Spitfires as Wing Leader of No. 80 Wing. The role made him deputy to Group Captain Caldwell, the wing's commanding officer. After receiving severe burns in a crash following an engine failure, he ended up in hospital. Here he was lucky to meet his future wife, "a little dark-haired popsy" named Jeannine Ince, a Red Cross volunteer. Due to Gibbes injuries he was not back to his posting in Morotai until March 1945. In April, Gibbes was one of eight senior pilots, including Caldwell and fellow aces Wilfred Arthur and John Waddy to submit their resignations in protest of the deadly and worthless ground-attack missions the fighter pilots of No. 80 wing had to perform. Gibbes later declared that: "... after I myself had been operating for a week or so I could not see any point in carrying on. I certainly lost all keenness for remaining in the service." As a former jackaroo, he was especially upset about one sortie that involved attacking cattle: "I felt horrible about it". No action was taken against the "mutineers" for their attempted resignations, as a subsequent government inquiry found that their protest was justified. However, as he too had participated in the alcohol trafficking on Morota, he together with Commander Caldwell were court martialed, and he too was reduced in rank. The colorful Gibbes later admitted to being "in an absolute state of terror" before missions, only to "sort of become mechanical" once the shooting started. He described his post-combat feelings thus: "Man becomes animal when he thinks he is about to die. As you fly back to your base, now safe at last, a feeling of light-hearted exuberance comes over you. It is wonderful to still be alive and it is, I think, merely the after-effect of violent, terrible fear.". After the war Gibbes spent many years in New Guinea developing local industry and he continued to fly until the age of 85.

Note that this is one of the 130 profiles/captions included in my new Pacific Fighter Book.

© Claes Sundin 2020