Realising I was now on my own, I looked behind and saw I was being chased by another red-nose Israeli Spitfire, clearly marked with Star of Israel roundels. Later I was to learn that Chalmers ‘Slick’ Goodlin, the Israeli’s Chief Test Pilot, flew this aircraft. He had joined the RCAF and flown Spitfires before being transferred to the US Navy.

To avoid being shot down like the other two, I applied full throttle to climb to use the superior performance of my Mark XVIII against the lesser-powered Israeli Mark IX, but it was obvious the ground fire had damaged my engine. At 15,000 feet, I rolled over to convert my height to speed but his more manoeuvrable aircraft had the edge on me and a burst of fire shattered the instrument panel and hit the engine leaving me with no option but to bale out. Wounded, I was picked up by an Egyptian frontiersman on a camel and reached the Egyptian Army HQ at El Arish after a three-hour ride.’

All four Spitfires crashed well inside Egyptian territory. Close and McElhaw were captured and spent three weeks in Israeli captivity. Sayers’ remains were eventually recovered for burial.

This episode was as disastrous as it was unexpected. At 15:00 hrs, fifteen Tempests from 324 Wing at Deversoir took off to give cover to six of 208 Squadron’s Spitfires, led by Squadron Leader Morgan, searching for the overdue aircraft. Israeli Spitfires attacked the formation and one Tempest was shot down and the pilot killed. Great confusion ensued, as the red airscrew spinners of the Israeli Spitfires were identical to those of 208 Squadron. The camouflage scheme was also the same so it was extremely difficult to identify friend from foe. Flying Officer Roy Bowie, flying one of the 208 Squadron Spitfires, commented:

‘In the melee we were not safe in our Spitfires since the Tempests treated us as hostile until they could positively identify us.’

After the engagement, the formation reformed but the search had proved fruitless.

This incident generated worldwide comment and it was remarkable how different the reports were carried in the world’s press. A ceasefire was called almost immediately and, by the end of January 1949, the hostilities between Israel and Egypt came to an end with a series of Egyptian defeats on the battlefield.

The Israeli Incident - 02

News Homepage

Back to
News Homepage

The Infamous Israeli Incident Page  1  2  

Spit / Hurr / Lys Articles (6)

Back to Spit/Hurr Articles

20190107 - Israeli Incident - 01

A more detailed account of the ‘Israeli Incident’ can be found on the Spyflight Website at this link:

The Israeli view can be found in Ehud Yonay’s book ‘No Margin for Error’, by clicking on the book cover on the right:

Roy Bowie’s own account of the Incident can be found on this Website at the following link:

Spit / Hurr / Lys 1947 - 1948 (4) NewsArticles Israeli Incident Excerpt from No Margin for Error by Ehud Yonay.pdf