Saved by a pilot who didn't press the trigger

Name: Eric  Watts
Date: 1941
Unit: 2/12th Australian Field Unit
Location: Middle East

When World War II broke out there was just not enough equipment to go round so it was hardly surprising that a great deal was recycled from former campaigns.

In particular, gunners of the 2/12th Australian Field Regiment were manning 60 pounders from World War I during the desert campaigns in 1941.

The guns were continually breaking down and needing repair due to recuperator and recoil problems. Eric Watts was a sergeant in the regiment and was on detail taking his gun into Tobruk township for repair at the workshop unit.

"The vehicle and gun presented a huge target on the road," Eric Watts recalled. "Imagine the panic we experienced when a German Messerschmitt plane approached us, its frightening black crosses clearly visible."

Eric said the plane was only about 40 feet above the road, yet it failed to fire a single shot, let alone strafe them.

"We wondered if the enemy plane had exhausted its ammunition or was trying to fly so low to avoid our anti-aircraft guns," he said.

"Had the pilot pressed the trigger it would have been disastrous for us. There's a true saying 'If your name's on it, you'll get it'," he added.

"On nearing the township we passed through a crossroad and when I asked the military police on duty why he was controlling our move, he told me the Stukas had dropped a bomb there.

"He then told us Ron Barassi had been killed there that morning. He was the father of Ron Barassi, the famous Australian Rules footballer of the 50s and 60s. The date was 31 July 1941."

The material for this article was supplied by Eric E Watts of Western Australia

Last updated: 3 June 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), Saved by a pilot who didn't press the trigger, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 29 September 2021,
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