Following up But it doesn’t add up! has been productive. Unusually my target’s complete World War 2 history – all his official personnel file – can be read online. (I can’t do that with my father or any of my uncles; all you get is a summary.) It has confirmed a strong dose of imagination in some of what he said, though there was one part of the history of the RAAF in the latter stages of the war that he undoubtedly did experience.
I believe the man in the cockpit of the Kittyhawk on the left is my father in Port Moresby. See Temps perdu–Whitfield’s, not Proust’s–1 — 20th century.
That’s the air crew of an RAAF Beaufighter of 93 Squadron at Labuan, 1945.
93 Squadron, the last operational Beaufighter squadron, was formed at Kingaroy, Queensland, on 22 January 1945, under the command of Squadron Leader Donald Gulliver. Although it had no official motto, unofficially it was known as the “Green Ghost Squadron” and its unofficial badge proclaimed “Spookus Sneakinus”.
The squadron’s first aircraft arrived in January and for the next three months training concentrated on gunnery and rocket exercises. On 5 March three Beaufighters departed from Oakey, Queensland, to escort Spitfires of 79 Squadron to Morotai. April was a quiet month, with nine aircraft participating in a display over Brisbane in support of the Third Victory Loan.
On 11 May 1945 the advance ground party embarked on the United States Army transport vessel Sea Ray, for the voyage to Morotai, where they arrived 11 days later. Echelon “C” boarded the SS Simon Bamberger on 5 June, bound for Labuan, where it arrived eight days later. Due to the unserviceability of the landing ground at Tarakan, the aircraft were delayed and the first did not arrive at Labuan until July, with the first operational sortie being flown on 26 July.
The remaining 19 aircraft left Kingaroy on 31 July 1945 and arrived on 5 August at Labuan, where the squadron came under the command of 86 Wing. Two days later, eight aircraft were detailed to attack an oil tanker in the mouth of the Tabuan River, with rockets and strafe barracks at Tromboul and shipping in the South China Sea.
Flying in two lines of four, the aircraft made landfall at Cape Sipang and the target ship was sighted. Squadron Leader Gulliver attacked from a height of 600 feet and at a range of 600 yards. Eighteen hits and nine near misses were counted on the 800-ton ship, which was considered destroyed. Locals later advised that the target was not an oil tanker but the Mia Moanai, the private yacht of the Rajah of Sarawak.
The aircraft flown by Flight Lieutenant Vernon Sims and Flying Officer Reginald Farrant lost all communications with the rest of the flight and was reported missing. After firing his rockets, Sims, flying second to Gulliver, pulled out to the left to take position behind the leader. Sims attempted to maintain height but the starboard engine failed, due to loss of oil pressure, and the Beaufighter was forced into the jungle below. After walking through swamps, small rivers, and thick undergrowth, the crew were rowed to the coast by friendly locals. They arrived back at Labuan, after hospitalisation at Miri, on 21 August.
93 Squadron’s last operations occurred on 13 August 1945. Four Beaufighters made an armed reconnaissance of Kuching aerodrome and the other eight attacked Tromboul airfield with rockets. With the end of hostilities, the Squadron dropped leaflets over Japanese areas to inform them the war was over. On 19 October nine aircraft escorted 15 Spitfires to Oakey, Queensland, with the remaining aircraft detailed to escort Mustangs to Japan.
Gulliver was killed on 10 December 1945 when his aircraft collided with two Mustangs parked beside the airstrip at Labuan. Ten days later the squadron was reduced to an air echelon and nucleus party. Personnel and ground equipment were transported to Narromine, NSW, arriving on 23 December 1945.