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A RAAF Battle Dress Jacket and Slouch Hat of Flying Officer Walter Warren Thomas 407465
F/O WW Thomas is shown standing in front of a Spitfire IX with the Squadron code BQ. It is parked on the rough air base in Corsica. Thomas' uniform is non-standard RAAF wear but very standard desert gear. He wears KD trousers with a KD shirt. He has an army issue brown US Ike jacket on which he wears his wings and has sewn his rank. His hat is the standard issue Australian slouch hat to which he has added the RAF flash and the Australian Forces badge. The side view shows the cut of the US pattern jacket with a strap for tightening the cuff versus a more British pattern tailored battle dress cuff with button and hole. The buttons are made of bakelite.
Born 28th February, 1920, in Adelaide, Australia, Walter Thomas was only 24 when he shot down an FW 190 over Rome. He was part of 451 Squadron RAAF flying Spitfires out of the island of Corsica, France. The squadron had just been re-deployed from the Middle East as of April 1944. It went on to the south of France and finished the war based in England.

Thomas flew with 451 RAAF squadron which got its start as an army co-operation unit. They were part of operation Crusader and fought at Tobruk. Originally equipped with Hurricanes, the squadron received Spitfire VCs in late 1943. These are depicted above in Frank Hardy's painting Desert Spits. The VCs had the unique 'chin' which was a modified air intake for the desert. The unit's crest is pictured at right.
A closer view of the front of F/O Thomas uniform showing the pleated pockets of the jacket and the single pointed flap. The bottom of the jacket has no center cross-over strap for cinching the waist.

F/O Thomas attached his RAAF wing to his army BD. This is a very common issue pattern. The ribbons are for the 1939 star and the North Africa star. There is no record of WW Thomas receiving any gallantry awards.
The back showing the two waist cinches at either side. With Battle Dress, RAF personnel adopted the practice of sewing sleeve rank lace directly to the epaulets. In Thomas case, he has one standard loop of lace for Flying Officer.

The interior of Thomas' jacket showing the 1944 tailor tag and his name, W W Thomas inked in. This jacket is a U.S. pattern Ike jacket made under contract in Australia. Like every soldier, there are times of utter boredom. Thomas chose to make use of this tag to elaborately doodle his name, the Australian Forces crest and RAAF underneath.

The Australian Forces slouch hat, worn by all ranks and unique to this country. It was a great sun beater and was worn by the Navy and Air Force with both sides down. Only the Army wore it with one side up. An Australian Forces army device has been hooked to the front. This was non-regulation but could have been a personal affectation. The side has an RAAF color 'flash'. An issue RAAF pugaree (the woven fabric around the hat) would have a blue fold in it. But these were not always available. The interior of the hat showing Thomas' name inked in.

Size and date stamping for the slouch hat. 1939 pattern RAF flight boots which were worn well in to the war. As is typical he wears two different styles based on what was available or replaced. The first version of the 1939 patter had the canvas strap and was superceded by the black leather strap.

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© Tod Rathbone