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NETHERLANDS EAST INDIES AIR FORCE
          IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

 

The Japanese occupied the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) in early 1942. A number of Dutch airmen escaped to Australia after surviving the fierce fight with the Japanese. They mostly ended up at either Archerfield airfield in Brisbane or Melbourne. These airmen were formed into a number of operational groups under RAAF control. All of their stores and equipment were supplied by the United States of America.

The Netherlands East Indies Air Force (NEI-AF) had two combat squadrons and some Transport sections in Australia during World War 2.

18 (NEI) SQUADRON
The first NEI-AF Squadron was 18 (NEI) Squadron, which was formed as an RAAF Squadron at Fairbairn airfield in Canberra on 4 April 1942 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel B.J. Fiedeldij. The Squadron was formed from the two groups of Dutch airmen at Archerfield and Melbourne. They flew B-25 Mitchells. The Squadron's Dutch personnel (and a few Javanese) were complemented by a number RAAF personnel covering both aircrew and ground crew occupations.

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Photo:- Ted Brault

B-25 Mitchells of 18 Squadron NEI-AF at Fairbairn airfield
The aircraft in the foreground is N5-134, #41-12885
This aircraft later crashed at Port Keats, NT on 31 January 1943

18 (NEI) Squadron was scheduled to take delivery of eighteen B-25 Mitchell bombers when it was first formed, but these aircraft were re-assigned to the USAAF for combat duties in New Guinea. They eventually received five B-25 Mitchell in April 1942.

 

18 (NEI) Squadron flies under the Sydney Harbour Bridge

 

The following link describes an American version of how 24 B-25 Mitchells were acquired form the Dutch Air Force. Bas Kreuger, the Curator of the Military Aviation Museum RNlAF in Soesterberg, the Netherlands, advised me that the Mitchells mentioned below were actually handed over to the Americans rather than being "stolen". The other point with the story below is that it refers to a Batchelor airfield in Melbourne. Batchelor field was actually in the Northern Territory.

 

How the 3rd Bomb Group USAAF acquired (stole)
their B-25 Mitchells (24 off) from the Dutch Air Force

 

The original five B-25's were replaced by ten Douglas Bostons (a mixture of DB-7N's and A-20A's). Their early days in Canberra consisted of training and anti-submarine patrols. On 5 June 1942, during one of these anti-submarine patrols, the Squadron encountered a Japanese submarine off Sydney, which they reportedly sank. This later proved to be not the case.

On 6 July 1942, 18 Squadron was officially disbanded as an RAAF Squadron and became part of the Netherlands East Indies Air Force, but still under RAAF command.

The Bostons were then replaced between 23 August 1942 and 18 September 1942 with eighteen new B-25 Mitchells.

18 (NEI) Squadron was relocated to MacDonald airfield in the Northern Territory on 5 December 1942. MacDonald airfield required a lot of work. 18 (NEI) Squadron personnel built dispersal areas and taxiways between these areas and the short airfield. The granite gravel airfield would wash out badly in heavy rain and often required repairs. By mid January 943, the Squadron achieved operational status at MacDonald airfield.

 

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Photo:- from Ted Brault

Dutch Commander presenting
WW2 medals to a Dutch Crew

 

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Photo:- from Ted Brault

B-25 Mitchell at MacDonald airfield

 

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Photo:- from Ted Brault

B-25 Mitchell at MacDonald airfield

 

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Photo:- from Ted Brault

Maintenance work at MacDonald airfield

 

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Photo:- from Ted Brault

Dutch personnel at MacDonald airfield

 

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Photo:- from Ted Brault

MacDonald airfield

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Photo:- from Ted Brault

Sworn in at MacDonald, WA

 

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Photo:- from Ted Brault

A Crash at Exmouth

 

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Photo:- Ted Brault

On parade in Broome, WA

 

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Photo:- Ted Brault

On parade in Broome, WA, 1942

 

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Photo:- Ted Brault

On parade in Broome, WA, 1942

 

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Photo:- Ted Brault

Some Spitfires in Darwin
BS231 is in the foreground

 

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Photo:- Ted Brault

Ted Brault in a boxing match

 

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Photo:- Ted Brault

Ted Brault is third from the right

Their first operational flight was a reconnaissance patrol on 18 January 1943 to the Tanimbar Islands looking for reported enemy shipping. They flew their first operational attack on 19 January 1943 to Toeal in the Kai Islands and the next day they shot down two "Zeros" over Fuiloro and a "Dave" (Nakajima E8N1 floatplane) at Dobo during a raid on Timor.

On 31 January 1943, while returning from a dawn raid on Dili, two Mitchells from 18 (NEI) Squadron made forced landings due to a shortage of fuel. There were no casualties.

 

B-25 Mitchell #133?, crashed 76 miles south of Cloncurry

 

Crash of a B-25D Mitchell on 21 October 1942 in Northern Territory

 

Forced landing of two B-25 Mitchells N5-139 (#41-12913)
and N5-134, #41-12885
on 31 January 1943

 

Crash of a B-25 Mitchell N5-132 near MacDonald airfield
on 5 February 1943 - all the crew were killed

 

On 18 February 1943, during a raid on Dili, Timor, six Mitchells of 18 (NEI) Squadron were intercepted by two Zeros. B-25 Mitchell Serial No. N5-144 was shot down by the Japanese and fell into the sea. One Zero was destroyed. The crew of the downed Mitchell were spotted in their rescue dinghy by the other Mitchells as they departed the area, low on fuel. Three Hudson later dropped supplies to the downed crew, who were subsequently rescued by HMAS Vendetta. It was then discovered that the pilot and bombardier had been shot dead and the co-pilot wounded by the strafing Zero. While in their rescue dinghy they had been attacked by a large shark which attempted to bite the back of the wounded co-pilot. They also had to ward off a large sea bird which attacked them in their dinghy.

18 (NEI) Squadron Mitchells suffered a number of forced landings short of their base at MacDonald airfield. Their long bombing missions, often meant they returned very low on fuel.

Later in February 1943, 18 (NEI) Squadron shot down another "Zero", claimed one probable and damaged three others.

 

Crash of a B25D Mitchell, N5-133
at Point Jahleel, Melville Island, NT on 30 March 1943

 

Edmond (Ted) Brault served in the 18th Squadron NEI-AF. He initially served at MacDonald airfield. He was then posted to Oakey airfield in 1944 and served as a security guard using guard dogs,.

Between the 13 April 1943 and 8 May 1943, 18 (NEI) Squadron relocated from MacDonald airfield further north to the better equipped Batchelor airfield. They then flew from Batchelor until the end of the war.

 

p920742.jpg (73554 bytes) No 18 Squadron, NEI, Batchelor, 1944. B-25 Mitchells N5-188, N5-218, N5-230 and N5-226.

Charles Eaton Photographic Collection via Mitch Williamson

p920743.jpg (87081 bytes) No 18 Squadron, NEI, Batchelor, 1944. B-25 Mitchells N5-188, N5-218, N5-230 and N5-226.

Charles Eaton Photographic Collection via Mitch Williamson

p920744.jpg (89601 bytes) No 18 Squadron, NEI, Batchelor, 1944. B-25 Mitchells N5-230 and N5-226. Note the painted out American markings.

Charles Eaton Photographic Collection via Mitch Williamson

p920747.jpg (159995 bytes) No 18 Squadron, NEI-AF, Batchelor, 1944. Four B-25 Mitchells.

Charles Eaton Photographic Collection via Mitch Williamson

p920705.jpg (141834 bytes) No 18 Squadron, NEI, Batchelor, May 1944. Capt Ajses and GpCapt Charles Eaton, OC No 79 Wing.

Charles Eaton Photographic Collection via Mitch Williamson

p920707.jpg (132439 bytes) No 18 Squadron, NEI, Batchelor, May 1944. Capt Ajses and GpCapt Charles Eaton, OC No 79 Wing. 

Charles Eaton Photographic Collection via Mitch Williamson

p920797.jpg (161789 bytes) No 18 Squadron, NEI. Disbandment parade with Mitchell N5-246. 

Charles Eaton Photographic Collection via Mitch Williamson

 

Crash of a B-25 Mitchell N5-152 "Tangerine"
at Batchelor airfield

on 23 May 1943

 

Crash of a B-25 Mitchell N5-153
at Batchelor airfield
on 9 September 1943

 

Crash of an NEI-AF B-25 Mitchell,
N5-145 "The Flying Dutchman"
on 18 October 1943 

 

In April 1943, 18 (NEI) Squadron, along with Beaufighters of 31 Squadron RAAF, and Liberators of the 319th Bomb Squadron,  flew almost daily raids on enemy bases and shipping. On 18 April 1943, 13 Hudsons of 2 Squadron RAAF, and 9 Mitchells of 18 (NEI) Squadron made a night raid on Penfui. 18 (NEI) Squadron were the first to attack. They met heavy AA fire.

On 2 May 1943, 18 (NEI) Squadron bombed Penfui by the light of flares. On 6 May 1943, they bombed Dili in Timor.

18 (NEI) Squadron's first mission out of Batchelor was on 11 May 1943. This was a reconnaissance of Somniloquy-Tanimbar Island and Laha-Ambon, plus operations over Penfoei, Koepang Harbour and Dili.

18 (NEI) Squadron carried out many mast-height attacks on Japanese shipping which proved to be very dangerous. On some occasions bombs exploded before they fully left the aircraft due to faulty delayed-action fuses.

On 11 June 1943, Lieutenant Colonel J.J. Zomer started as their new Commanding Officer.

In September 1943, new heavily armed and better equipped B-25's arrived complete with newly trained crews. These crews had been trained at a joint Dutch Army-Navy flying school that had been established at Jackson, Mississippi, in the States.

The Squadron acquired itself a Squadron badge which depicted a Dutch farmer's wife sweeping out dust with a large broom. It was affectionately known as the "Dutch Cleanser". This was in recognition of their success against the Japanese. From 17 November 1943 until 4 January 1944, 18 (NEI) Squadron was responsible for the destruction of six Japanese ships totalling 25,545 tons, plus numerous other small enemy vessels.

In December 1943, 18 (NEI) Squadron and 31 Squadron RAAF combined forces to attack Japanese shipping. On 15 December 1943, eight Beaufighters from 31 Squadron attacked Manatuto where they sank two barges and damaged six schooners. They then attacked a convoy. They sunk a 500 tonne ship. That afternoon, five Mitchells from 18 (NEI) Squadron attacked the same convoy. They sank the "Wakatsu Maru" of 5,123 tonnes. The Beaufighters continued the attack on the convoy the next day.

On 8 March 1944, a number of RAAF Squadrons were ordered to carry out prearranged emergency movements to counter a suspected Japanese naval attack on Freemantle in Western Australia. As part of this exercise 18 (NEI) Squadron and 31 Squadron RAAF were moved to Learmonth airfield in the Potshot area (Exmouth Gulf area) on 10 March 1944. 18 (NEI) Squadron moved to Potshot in sixteen B-25 Mitchells and eight C-47 Dakotas.

120 (NEI) Squadron was also moved from Canberra to Potshot. The suspected attack never eventuated and on 20 March 1944 all squadrons were ordered back to their normal bases. 18 (NEI) Squadron left Potshot for Batchelor on 23 March 1944. They resumed operations from Batchelor on 30 March 1944 when eight B-25 Mitchells bombed Penfoei. It was around this time that they received a new batch of B-25 Mitchells fitted with tail guns.

In April 1944, Koepang, Dili, Penfui and Lautem became daily targets for 2 Squadron's Beauforts and 18 (NEI) Squadron's Mitchells.

Lieutenant Colonel E.J.G. teRoller became the new Commanding Officer of 18 (NEI) Squadron in April 1944.

On 19 April 1944, eight Beaufighters and fifteen Beauforts of 1 Squadron RAAF and twelve Mitchells of 18 (NEI) Squadron struck Su Barracks and the town area.

During May 1944, various targets on Timor were constantly attacked by Nos. 1 and 31 Squadrons RAAF and 18 (NEI) Squadron. On 18 May 1944, Mitchell Serial No. N5-177, of 18 (NEI) Squadron was shot down by AA fire while it was strafing Saumlaki village. On 23 May 1944, another Mitchell, Serial No. N5-162 was lost due to AA fire during a raid on Timor.

On 23 June 1944, the Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. teRoller was killed, when the Mitchell that he was co-piloting, was hit by anti-aircraft fire and exploded when it fell into the sea during a shipping raid near Tioor Island. Three Japanese vessels were destroyed or damaged during this raid.

On 1 July 1944, Lieutenant Colonel D.L. Asjes became the new Commanding Officer of 18 (NEI) Squadron.

In July 1944, 18 (NEI) Squadron combined with Nos. 2 and 31 Squadrons RAAF, to attack enemy barge movements between Timor Babar, Sermata and Leti Islands. On 29 July 1944, nine Mitchells from 2 Squadron RAAF and nine Mitchells from 18 (NEI) Squadron attacked Penfui at sunset.

It was around this time that the Squadron flew 14 hour daylight missions over internment camps on Java dropping leaflets.

 

Fire in a B-25 Mitchell (N5-170) at Batchelor on 18 August 1944

 

On 7 October 1944, Lieutenant Colonel M. Van Haselen became the new Commanding Officer.

In October 1944, 2 Squadron RAAF and 18 (NEI) Squadron, between them, sank or damaged 54 vessels. On 6 November 1944, the two Squadrons attacked Waimgapu, Sumba Island, and sank the Japanese Navy's "Special Submarine Chaser" No. 118. Later in November 1944, they sank two small merchant vessels off the coast of Timor.

 

Crash of a B-25 Mitchell (N5-211) at Batchelor airfield on 2 January 1945

 

Crash of a B-25 Mitchell (N5-217) at RSU at Gorrie airfield on 9 February 1945

 

On 6 April 1945, eleven Mitchells of 18 (NEI) Squadron and ten B-24's of 21 Squadron RAAF attacked a Japanese convoy, escorted by the light cruiser Isuzu, in the Flores Sea. They were evacuating Japanese troops from Timor. Two B-24's were shot down by Japanese aircraft protecting the convoy. 18 (NEI) Squadron's Mitchells scored two direct hits on the Isuzu. The badly damaged Isuzu was easy prey the next day, when it was sunk by submarines Char and Gabilan.

On 25 February 1945, 18 (NEI) Squadron had commenced its planned relocation to Jacquinot Bay in New Britain. Supplies had already been sent by ship but the move was abandoned when the Squadron was taken off operations. The Dutch had wanted to go to the East Indies and had pleaded with MacArthur for a change in plans. He relented and the Squadron was redirected to Morotai in the Halmaheras. Another late change, saw the Squadron relocating from Batchelor to Balikpapan on 15 July 1945. They arrived in Balikpapan on 17 July 1945. Their main activities in Balikpapan was leaflet and food and supply drops to prison camps in Borneo, the Celebes and Java.

In July 1945, the Mitchells of 2 Squadron RAAF and 18 (NEI) Squadron, which were part of 79 Wing, joined the First TAF.

On 8 September 1945, the Mitchells of 2 Squadron RAA and 18 (NEI) Squadron flew air cover for the surrender by the Japanese commanders on HMAS Burdekin.

On 21 September 1945, 18 (NEI) Squadron provided air cover for the 7th Australian Division as they landed on Makassar.

The RAAF components of 18 (NEI) Squadron were withdrawn on 25 November 1945 and operational control of the Squadron was passed back to the Dutch on 15 January 1946.

The veterans' organisation, "18 Squadron NEI-RAAF Forces Association" was dissolved in 1999. It published an excellent Newsletter with all sorts of information. Its final issue was No.63 dated October 1999.

120 (NEI) SQUADRON
120 (NEI) Squadron was formed in Canberra on 10 December 1943. They were equipped with P-40N Kittyhawks.

On 8 March 1944, a number of RAAF Squadrons were ordered to carry out prearranged emergency movements to counter a suspected Japanese naval attack on Freemantle. As part of this exercise 120 (NEI) Squadron was moved from Canberra to Potshot. Amongst the many other movements, 18 (NEI) Squadron and 31 Squadron RAAF were also moved to Potshot (Learmonth).

The Squadron relocated to Potshot (Learmonth) in Western Australia on 9 March 1944  They flew through Adelaide and Ceduna, and across the Nullabor Plains via Kalgoorlie, and then Potshot (Exmouth Gulf). The suspected attack never eventuated and on 20 March 1944 all squadrons were ordered back to their normal bases. On 23 March 1944 they left Potshot headed back to Canberra. Two Kittyhawks became lost and crashed near Mildura (see below)

 

Crash of two Kittyhawks near Mildura, NSW
on 5/6 April 1944

 

On 10 April 1944, most of the groundcrew was shipped to Merauke in New Guinea by sea, and on 10 and 11 April 1944, the Kittyhawks left for Merauke in two flights. Maintenance of these P-40´s was carried out by 86 Squadron RAAF until their own ground personnel and material had arrived. They stayed in New Guinea until June-July 1945 by which time they were stationed at Biak.

In about June/July 1945, all units on Morotai came under a new command known as No. 11 Group, which consisted of the Spitfires of 79, 452 and 457 Squadrons and the Kittyhawks of 120 (NEI) Squadron.

120 (NEI) Squadron flew no other operations over Australia, except for rotations of crew and aircraft. In one of these rotations, a C-47 was was lost near Mossman (see below) killing 7 pilots from 120 (NEI) Squadron. The C-47 left Merauke on 6 September 1944.

 

Crash of a NEI-AF C-47 Dakota near Mossman on 7 September 1944

 

Stewart Wilson's book "The Spitfire, Mustang, & Kittyhawk, In Australian Service" shows twenty P-40N-20 Kittyhawks were transferred to the Far East Air Force in July 1944:-

A29-637, A29-640, A29-643, A29-672, A29-673, A29-674, A29-678, A29-682, A29-685, A29-686, A29-687, A29-689, A29-692, A29-693, A29-694, A29-695, A29-696, A29-697, A29-699, A29-703.

Another book by Geoff Pentland "The P-40 Kittyhawk in Service", shows that 67 Kittyhawks were delivered to No. 120 (NEI) Squadron. This "Dutch" Squadron served under RAAF operational command.


Photo:- Des Alexander

Des Alexander and Dutch pilot with his P-40 Kittyhawk and pet dog "Woden" in Merauke

Zanette Crowden contacted me on 26 August 2007 and sent me the above photograph of her father Des Alexander and a Dutch pilot and his dog "Woden". Des Alexander told his daughter that the Dutch pilot had left Merauke after this photo was taken and he thought that the pilot and his dog may have been killed in the crash of a C-47 near Mossman in far north Queensland on 7 September 1944.

Zanette would like to trace the family of this Dutch pilot and send them a copy of the above photograph. Can anyone please help?

"Eagle Eyes" David Hursthouse spotted the serial No. C3-539 on the fuselage in the above photograph between the pilot and Des Alexander. By doing a few Google searches I located the following information:-

C3-539     J-339     #43-24537     01-07-1944     medio 1945     Datum uit dienst tussen 6-1945 en 11-1945

Based on this information it would appear that this P-40 crashed on 1 July 1944.

P-40 Kittyhawk #43-24537 (c/n 32476) was assigned to the Netherland East Indies Air Force as C3-539 in June 1944 and was Written Off on 4 July 1945.

 

TRANSPORT SQUADRONS
There were no formal Dutch Transport Squadrons until September 1944. There were initially two transport sections:-

NEI-Transport Section, Brisbane (NEI-TSB)
NEI-TSB was equipped with three Lockheed Lodestars and five B-25 Mitchell´s. They were based at Archerfield.

NEI-Transport Section, Melbourne (NEI-TSM)
NEI-TSM was equipped with a number of de-armed B-25 Mitchell´s and nine Lockheed Lodestars

Both of these Transport Sections were used to ferry men and material to 120 (NEI) Squadron in Merauke (later Biak) and 18 (NEI) Squadron at Batchelor.

In November 1944, both the above Transport Sections were combined into No. 1 NEI-Transport Squadron. The aircraft pool was expanded with four C-47´s and five Lockheed 12a light transports.

On 15 August 1945, the unofficial transports used by the Netherlands East Indies KLM (KNILM) was renamed 19 (NEI) Transport Squadron and officially taken on the strength of the RAAF. It had 13 Dakota´s.

 

Dutch Lockheed Lodestar damaged at Archerfield
on 18 February 1942

 

Dutch DC-3 shot down by Japanese off the coast from Broome,
plus loss of 5 Dornier Flying Boats, 4 Catalinas, a Lockheed Lodestar
and another DC-3 on 3 March 1942 during a Japanese air raid on Broome

 

Captain Smirnoff - Pilot of the above DC-3
Russia's 2nd highest ace in WWI

A naturalised Dutch citizen

 

Crash of a NEI-AF C-47 Dakota near Mossman on 7 September 1944
(7 pilots from 120 (NEI) Squadron were killed)

 

E-mails from Eddie Coates regarding
Lockheed Lodestars of the NEI-AF

 

SOME BUFFALOS THAT CAME TO AUSTRALIA
Seventeen Buffalos were transferred to the RAAF in 1942. They had earlier been part of the Netherlands East Indies Air Force. With the fall of Singapore twenty Model 439D's and one 339D were sent to Australia in March 1942. They initially were transferred to the USAAC. They still had their Dutch serial numbers and their original US "NX" test numbers. Once they arrived in Australia, most of them were allocated temporary numbers.

Seventeen of these aircraft were transferred to the RAAF and became A51-1 through to A51-17. The first six were sent in crates to Essendon where they were assembled at the Ansett Airways hangar. Cameras were installed and the aircraft were allocated to the newly formed PRU at Laverton in June 1942. The rest of the Buffalos were moved to the PRU at Darwin where they became operational in August 1942.

 

E-mails from Brian Coleman
of 18 (NEI) Squadron

 

E-mail from Els van de Coevering
regarding Sgt. W.F. van de Coevering

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
I would like to thank Bas Kreuger, the Curator of the Military Aviation Museum RNlAF, in Soesterberg, the Netherlands, for his assistance with information on the role of the Netherlands East Indies Air Force in Australia during World War 2.

I would also like to thank the late Lindsay Peet from Western Australia with his help, particularly with the list of Reference Books below.

I'd also like to thank Coert Munk, Zanette Crowden and David Hursthouse for their assistance with this home page.

I'd also like to thank Randell Summerville and his cousin Rod Brault (son of Ted Brault) for their assistance with this home page.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

Alford, Bob (1992), "Darwin's air war 1942-1945: an illustrated history", Aviation Historical Society of the Northern Territory & Coleman's Printing, Darwin, NT.

Barnes, Norman (2000), "The RAAF and the flying squadrons", Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, NSW.

Eather, Steve (1995), "Flying squadrons of the Australian Defence Force", Aerospace Publications, Weston Creek, ACT.

Hurst, Doug , "The Fourth Ally - The Dutch forces in Australia in WWII" 

Odgers, George (1957), "Air war against Japan 1943-45", Australia in the War of 1939-1945, Series 3 (Air), Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Parnell, N.M. & Lynch, C.A., "Australian Air Force since 1911"

Pentland, Geoffrey (1974), "The P-40 Kittyhawk in service", Kookaburra Technical Publications, Melbourne.

Powell, Alan (1988), "The shadow's edge: Australia's northern war", Melbourne University Press, Carlton, Victoria.

RAAF Historical (1995), "Fighter units", Units of the RAAF, vol. 2, AGPS, Canberra. [120 NEI Sqn)

RAAF Historical (1995), "Bomber units", Units of the RAAF, vol. 3, AGPS, Canberra. [18 NEI Sqn]

Wallace, Gordon (1983), "Are you there Don R?", The Author, Surrey Hills, Victoria. [later reprinted under the title "Up in Darwin with the Dutch"]

Wallace, Gordon (1986), "Those air force days", The Author, Surrey Hills, Victoria.

Wilson, Stewart (1988), " The Spitfire, Mustang and Kittyhawk in Australian service", Aerospace Publications, n.p. [?Weston Creek, ACT].

Wilson, Stewart (1992), "Boston, Mitchell & Liberator in Australian service", Aerospace Publications, Weston Creek, ACT.

 

 

 

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