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Wilfred Stanley (Wilf) Arthur DSO, DFC (7 December 1919 – 23 December 2000) was an Australian fighter ace of World War II. He is officially credited with shooting down ten enemy aircraft. Joining the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) the day after war was declared, Arthur first saw action with No. 3 Squadron in North Africa, where he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Posted to the South West Pacific, he commanded first No. 75 Squadron, and later Nos. 81 and 78 Wings, earning the Distinguished Service Order. At 24, Arthur was the youngest Group Captain in the history of the RAAF. He also played a leading part in—and gave name to—the "Morotai Mutiny" of 1945. He was commonly known as "Woof", and sometimes "Wolf" or "Wulf".

Early life

Arthur was born in Sydneymarker, the son of a stock inspector from Goondiwindi, Queenslandmarker, near the New South Walesmarker border. His early schooling was at Yelarbonmarker, to which he commuted on horseback. Later he attended The Scots Collegemarker in Warwickmarker.

World War II

North Africa

Arthur was 19 years old and still at The Scots College when he joined the RAAF on 4 September 1939, the day after Australia's entry into World War II. Training at RAAF Station Richmondmarker, he was commissioned a Pilot Officer and served initially with No. 22 Squadron.

In 1940 Flying Officer Arthur was posted to No. 3 Squadron, based in North Africa. Piloting a Gloster Gladiator biplane, he scored his first victory by shooting down an Italian Fiat CR.42 north-west of Sofali on 12 December 1940. The next day he himself was shot down by a CR.42 and had to bail out.

Promoted to Flight Lieutenant, Arthur was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for destroying four enemy aircraft in a single engagement near Bir El Gubi on 30 November 1941, the citation noting his "great skilland gallantry". Flying a P-40 Tomahawk, he claimed two Ju87 Stukas, one Fiat G.50 and one Macchi MC.200. Arthur met his future wife, Lucille, in Alexandriamarker. They married on 24 December 1941 and honeymooned in Palestine and Syriamarker.

South-West Pacific

Completing his tour with No. 3 Squadron, Arthur was posted to the South West Pacific, where he flew P-40 Kittyhawks with No. 76 Squadron in New Guineamarker from April 1942 to January 1943. He was then promoted Squadron Leader and appointed Commanding Officer of No. 75 Squadron.

P-40 Kittyhawk "Polly", in which Arthur won the DSO in 1943
Arthur was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his "gallantry, matchless leadership and devotion to duty" on 14 April 1943. Despite his guns having jammed, he led 34 Allied aircraft, including Kittyhawks of Nos. 75 and 77 Squadrons and P-38 Lightnings of the USAAF, to intercept 100 Japanese raiders over Milne Bay. The plane he flew, a Kittyhawk named "Polly", later went on display at the Australian War Memorialmarker, Canberramarker. Arthur described the situation of being in combat without armament as "sort of awkward. Fortunately nobody else would know except me." He was promoted acting Wing Commander in June and became Wing Leader of No. 71 Wing.

On 5 November 1943 Arthur was involved in a collision at Kiriwina Airfield with a Spitfire of No. 79 Squadron. The Spitfire pilot was killed, and Arthur received serious burns. He was repatriated to Sydney where he underwent plastic surgery at Yaralla Military Hospital (now Concord Hospitalmarker). After his recovery in April 1944, Arthur attended the RAAF Staff School for three months before taking over command of No. 2 Operational Training Unit. In August, at the age of 24, Arthur was promoted temporary Group Captain, the youngest in the RAAF. That December he became Officer Commanding No. 81 Wing of the Australian First Tactical Air Force (1TAF) in the Dutch East Indiesmarker.

In April 1945, having recently assumed command of 1TAF's No. 78 Wing, Arthur helped trigger the "Morotai Mutiny" (a phrase he coined himself in an aide memoire). He was one of eight senior pilots, including Australia's top-scoring ace, Group Captain Clive Caldwell, who attempted to resign their commissions in protest at the relegation of RAAF fighter squadrons to apparently worthless ground attack missions. Frustrated at the lack of attention paid by Headquarters 1TAF to a "balance sheet" he produced showing that operational losses outweighed results, Arthur later said that his object for the "mutiny" was to "make as big a fuss as I possibly could with the object of getting the position corrected." An inquiry cleared the pilots, finding their motives in tendering their resignations to be sincere. Arthur remained in command of No. 78 Wing, leading it during the Battle of Tarakanmarker in May 1945.

In addition to receiving the DFC and DSO, Arthur was twice Mentioned in Dispatches. His official final tally of victories was ten enemy aircraft destroyed.

Later life

Arthur discharged from the RAAF on 14 February 1946, and took up residence in Darwin, Northern Territorymarker. He worked with the Australian School of Pacific Administration, after which he travelled to Vietnammarker to establish dairy farms under the Colombo Plan. Returning to Australia, he was administration manager for Geopeko, the exploration unit responsible for discovering the Ranger uranium depositmarker at Jabirumarker. He died on 23 December 2000.



  • Commonwealth of Australia (1942). "Distinguished Flying Cross: Flight Lieutenant W S Arthur, 3 Squadron, RAAF". Australian War Memorial. REL27812.002.
  • Commonwealth of Australia (1943). "Distinguished Service Order: Squadron Leader W S Arthur, 75 Squadron, RAAF". Australian War Memorial. REL27812.001.
  • Commonwealth of Australia (1988). "Arthur Wilfred Stanley 565". RAAF Biographical Files, Australian War Memorial. AWM65.
  • Commonwealth of Australia (2002). "Arthur, Wilfred Stanley". World War 2 Nominal Roll.

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