"RG-V "Grey Nurse",
flown by Wing Commander Robert H. M. "Bobby"
Gibbes, No. 80 Wing RAAF, Sattler Airfield/NT/Australia, December
Note that this is
one of the 130 profiles/captions included in my new Pacific Fighter
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.