In 1938, Pattle's squadron, in which he had risen to flight commander, was posted to Egypt, basing itself at Sidi Barrani on the Libyan frontier once Italy declared war in June 1940 and prepared to invade Egypt. Against numerically superior and more modern Italian aircraft, British Squadrons Numbers 80 and 33, in which Pattle served temporarily in 1940, provided air cover to British forces. The squadrons inflicted disproportionately heavy losses on the Italians, many of them because of Pattle's personal kills. Shot down over the Libyan desert in August 1940, Pattle made his way safely back to British lines.
In November 1940, Italy invaded Greece, and Number 80 Squadron, under Pattle's command, moved to support the Greek army. Despite the arrival of some new Hurricane fighters in February 1941, from April, 200 British aircraft faced 1,200 German planes, including many formidable Messerschmitt Bf-109s. On 20 April 1941, Pattle's 15 remaining Hurricanes faced more than 100 German aircraft bound for Athens. Pattle shot down at least two German planes, but he fell victim to a Messerschmitt Me-110 and died when his Hurricane crashed in Eleusis Bay. Pattle's flight records were lost in the evacuation from Greece, leaving it undecided whether he was the RAF's top or second-highest scoring ace. His total is all the more impressive in that it was achieved over a relatively short period of time. Prattle personally shot down between 34 and 41 planes in combat, on several occasions 3 in one day, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross and bar and inspiring his fellows to equally heroic efforts.
Baker, E. C. R. The Fighter Aces of the R.A.F. London: W. Kimber, 1962.; Jackson, Robert. Fighter Pilots of World War II. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1976.