Marmaduke Pattle, the son of English parents, was born in Butterworth, South Africa, on 3rd July, 1914. After leaving school he joined the South African Air Force (SAAF) as a cadet.
Flight Commander Pattle first saw action in the Second World War on 4th August 1940 over Libya when he shot down two Italian aircraft. He was also downed and it took him two days to walk back to the Egyptian border. Over the next few months Pattle obtained twenty victories during the Desert War.
In November 1940 Pattle was sent to Greece where he took command of 33 Squadron. On 6th April, 1941, the German Army invaded Greece. Pattle and his pilots now had the problem of dealing with the Luftwaffe.
On Sunday 20th April, Pattle led his men against a large formation of Messerschmitt 110 over Eleusis Bay, near Athens. Heavily outnumbered, Pattle was killed while going to the aid of a colleague in difficulties. By the time of his death Marmaduke Pattle had fifty victories making him the RAF's top-scoring pilots of the war.
Pattle's natural reticence, modesty, and avoidance of the limelight, are probably the main reasons why so little has been heard of his exploits; and yet this man was a superb pilot, a deadly accurate marksman, and in the opinion of many, the most successful Royal Air Force fighter pilot during the whole of the war.
That he has never officially been acknowledged as the top scoring fighter pilot is due to the fact that the Air Ministry were never in a position to confirm his victories in aerial combat. The last official score ever credited to Squadron Leader Pattle was for 'twenty-three victories announced in the citation to the awards of a Bar to his Distinguished Flying Cross early in March 1941. No official records of his activities during those last few weeks of intensive operations in Greece exist today, because all official records were destroyed when Greece was evacuated by the British forces towards the end of April 1941.
Pattle was a phenomenally good shot. Most of the trainees were very indifferent performers and the airmen stationed on the range had very little to do in the way of patching holes in the air-to-ground front-gun targets; but Pattle was the exception and the airmen used to pretend to curse whenever he was on a detail, because he used to cut the target to shreds as he got such a high percentage of hits with the bursts he fired. Quite apart from his skill as a marksman, he was also a well above average pilot.