Calliope Jane

Caliope Jane, a 40mm Bofors and her crew from 2926 LAA Squadron initially began operations in Palestine and journeyed with the Desert Air Force until the eventual defeat of the Axis Forces at Tunis.

Calliope Jane
"Calliope Jane" on display in the Heritage Centre.

Typical of the journeys made by Regiment squadrons in the Second World War is that of 2926 Light Anti-Aircraft (LAA) Squadron from its initial operations in Palestine through the Western Desert alongside the Desert Air Force to the eventual defeat of the Axis Forces at Tunis. Typical too was the story of one crew and one gun – Calliope Jane – a 40mm Bofors. Its crew underwent Commando training before – in the words of the commander Sergeant Norm Hatch – “one of their trips up the Desert”.

The Squadron had a number of to’ings and fro’ings in the desert before the final battles. From there it was sent into Italy after the invasion and landed at Taranto, progressing to Altamura and Biferno before being seconded to Bucket Force. This was an All-Arms group led by Lord Jellicoe and his Special Boat Service (SBS) that were tasked with liberating Greece. It was on this trip to Taranto that Norm Hatch’s gun became “Calliope Jane” after a kind English nurse they met on the troopship.

No sooner had Greece been liberated then a brutal and savage civil war broke out between the Communist partisans, ELAS and their Royalist former colleagues. Calliope Jane was heavily engaged at Araxos but with the help of the Iraqi Levies that Norm had previously served with, they defeated the attacking forces.They were then called to relieve the Air HQ in a suburb of Athens. 2923 LAA Squadron guarding Air HQ were being overrun by huge numbers of ELAS fighters. They fought until their ammunition was exhausted but surrendered on the orders of the AHQ commander. Marched off into the mountains, they lost a lot of men to the weather and partisan brutality.

Journey’s End

The Squadron’s travels around Greece took them from Araxos to the site of the overrun AHQ in Athens suburb of Kissifa and to Patros. It could be said that the RAF Regiment took part in the liberation of Greece and of putting down its brutal and bloody Civil War. As the war neared its end, the Squadron was given one last order – beat the Yugoslavs to Austria “because they will try and annex it”. As it is now, boots on the ground decided the issue. Norm and his crew had as their target the main hangar at Klagenfurt, the main Luftwaffe base in south Austria. To get there meant hauling the guns over the Alps on sometimes rough-hewn tracks and beat Tito’s partisans. The fact that Austria remained a Western nation is, in some small part, down to “Calliope Jane” and her crew.