Pat Pattle’s name is not something you would commonly encounter whenever we talk about World War II. What’s surprising about that fact is that based on the number of victories he has as a fighter pilot, he should be talked about more. This was because his diaries and logs were lost. So without official sources, his credit for his accomplishments as a pilot tend to go unnoticed by historians. Nonetheless, his story is still definitely worth telling.

South African of English Origins

Marmaduke Thomas St John Pattle was born in what today is known as the Eastern Cape, South Africa, on July 3, 1914. His parents were South Africans of English origins. His father was Sergeant-Major Cecil William John Pattle, and his grandfather was a Royal Horse Artillery veteran, Captain Thomas Marmaduke Pattle. So, it wasn’t a surprise that young Pattle also took the military path later on in his life. Marmaduke was both gifted in academics and sports. He excelled at school and, at the same time, was a good boxer and swimmer. He particularly developed an interest in mechanical things, specifically in combustion engines. By age 12, he was already building Meccano models of aircraft and other vehicles.

Squadron Leader Pattle of 33 Squadron RAF Greece IWM ME(RAF) 1260. (Royal Air Force Photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

As an early teen, he was usually the one to fix their family’s motor car. Although intelligent, he preferred to take and pass the Junior Certificate Exam with first-class honors. He was certain that he wanted a career in mining engineering, but he still sent an application to join the South African Air Force in 1932.

Soaring into the Military

His military career started when in 1933, he was invited for an interview for a commission in the Air Force in Pretoria. Thirty of them vyed for three places, and he was not selected. The reason was that he lacked flying experience. This started his new ambition, and he enrolled in Johannesburg for flying lessons. He also worked at a mining company called Sheba Gold Mine to fund his pursuits. He excelled and achieved exceptional results in his pilot training programs. In 1936, he saw that the RAF was offering a Short Service Commission, and he decided he wanted to join. By 1937, he was ready to fly.