76 SQUADRON - RAAF
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII
A Curtiss P-40E Kittyhawk of 76 Squadron RAAF near Townsville in May 1942. This looks like it may be at Mt. St. John in the background which is just to the north of Garbutt air base. This was the location for the Townsville Zoo which has now been closed many years.
Although 76 Squadron, Fighter Interceptor Squadron, was formed at Amberley on 14 March 1942, Records for RAAF Station Archerfield show that 76 Squadron Kittyhawks arrived at Archerfield on 14 March 1942. Squadron Leader R.E. Brooker, DFC too over command of 76 Squadron from Squadron Leader P. Jeffrey DSO, DFC in April 1942.
The Kittyhawks of 76 Squadron moved from Archerfield airfield in Brisbane on 15 April 1942 to the Townsville area where they were based at the Aitkenvale airfield which was adjacent to the Weir State School. Students were greatly distracted by the landings and take-offs of the aircraft. The squadron's flying activities for April comprised daily training. The Weir school was eventually commandeered to be used as an Orderly Room and a Medical Centre. The airstrip ran back towards the existing suburb of Cranbrook. It was located in the two existing suburbs of Kirwan and Cranbrook. The school was just south of the southern end of the strip.
The Aitkenvale strip was gravel and the Kittyhawks were usually dispersed amongst the trees on the northern side halfway along the length of the runway.
The Squadron continued to train during May 1942 and carried out recce patrols to seaward.
A Japanese Recce aircraft was spotted over Townsville at 1050 hours on 1 May 1942, Five Kittyhawks of 76 Squadron at Aitkenvale airfield took off but failed to make contact. A further 5 Kittyhawks took off at 1245 hours.
Two Air Raid Warnings were issued on 13 May 1942. 76 Squadron Kittyhawks took off but failed to see any enemy aircraft.
Crash of P-40E
15 miles NE of Weir Airfield on 21 May 1942
76 Squadron was the second RAAF squadron to be equipped with Kittyhawks. They received their full complement of aircraft in June 1942.
Squadron Leader Peter B. Turnbull, DFC took over as Commanding Officer from Squadron Leader "Ali" Brooker, RAF in May 1942 prior to their move to New Guinea. An Advance Party comprising F/Lt N. Newman, Medical Officer and F/Lt Meehan plus 13 Squadron personnel went to Milne Bay in early July 1942.
On 14 July 1942 76 Squadron struck camp at Aitkenvale at 1100 hours and embarked on the SS Swartenhurdt at 2200 hours later that day. Equipment spares and transport were loaded on to the SS Japara. 76 Squadron personnel arrived at Milne Bay on 18 July 1942. After 76 Squadron left Aitkenvale airfield it was used very little. In fact it was not used at all in 1943.
76 Squadron aircraft took off from Garbutt airfield enroute to Cairns on 19 July 1942. A29-105 piloted by Squadron Leader Truscott was damaged in an accident during take off. Flying Officer Whiting in A29-81 forced landed due to engine trouble and collided with A29-85 flown by Flying Officer Moody. The aircraft arrived at Seven Mile strip in Port Moresby on 20 July 1942 and were dispersed at the 30 Mile strip on 21 July 1942.
On 22 July 1942, Squadron Leader Turnbull and six other Kittyhawks took off from Port Moresby to dive bomb enemy anti-aircraft positions at Gona Mission. Tow flights of Japanese Hamps were encountered. These were believed to have been the first Hamps encountered and they were initially identified as Focke Wolfes. The Hamp was in fact a Mitsubishi A6M3 Zeke Type 32.
The 76 Squadron pilots jettisoned their bombs and Turnbull and Sergeant Carroll attacked the enemy aircraft. Turnbull, Flying Officer Bott and Sergeant Carroll landed at No. 1 Strip (Guerney Field) at Milne Bay at 1600K hours due to petrol shortage. The airstrip had only just been carved out of 426 acres of plantation in the previous 22 days. Two days later the rest of 76 Squadron arrived. More Kittyhawks from 75 Squadron arrived from Townsville via Horn Island on the same day.
All aircraft and equipment had moved to Milne Bay by 30 July 1942.
Crash of a Kittyhawk in
Exmouth Gulf in Western Australia
on 28 March 1943 killing S/L "Bluey" Truscott
Crash of Kittyhawk
A29-362 of 76 Squadron
at Portland Roads on 15 June 1943
On 21 September 1942, 76 Squadron was relieved by 35 Pursuit Squadron and 36 Pursuit Squadron of the 5th Air Force. 76 Squadron aircraft departed Milne Bay for Darwin on 22 September 1942. The movement of squadron personnel was complete on 24 September 1942 when personnel embarked from Milne Bay on board the MV Van Heutz headed for Darwin. They arrived in Darwin at 1600 hours on 5 October 1942. Personnel disembarked at 2000 hours and were taken to Strauss Field where they proceeded to build their camp.
The Squadron's aircraft which had initially been based at Batchelor Field since 30 September 1942 arrived at Strauss Field on 9 October 1942. Due to a shortage of maintenance personnel due to Malaria contracted in New Guinea, North West Area Headquarters advised the Squadron would be non-operational until replacements were found. Aircraft were grounded until 26 October 1942 when training commenced.
The Squadron received a letter of commendation in October 1942 from Major General George C. Kenney on the manner in which the Squadron had carried out it's work at Milne Bay.
The squadron continued training through November 1942. They did however carryout 48 hours of Operational flying as well during the month. They experienced two Japanese air raids at Strauss on 25th and 26th November 1942. 40 bombs were dropped between their camp site and the strip on 26 November 1942. The first bomb was only a few hundred yards from the camp. A few tents received some shrapnel hole damage.
76 Squadron completed 135 hours of operation convoy patrols during December 1942. Some of these flights were for five hours duration. A further 184 hours of flying training was also carried out with particular attention being paid to firing practice.
The Squadron had several Scrambles during January 1943. One one day they intercepted Japanese aircraft though with nil results.
Just after midnight on 21 January 1943 four Kittyhawks were scrambled to patrol lines over Darwin. At 0042K hours on 22 January 1943, Squadron Leader Truscott made a head on attack on three Betty bombers with only one gun firing followed by a beam attack when all his guns jammed. The Japanese gunners returned fire from their blister gun and disappeared into the cloud and the attack was broken off. F/Sgt Loudon sighted three Betty Bombers 300 feet below to starboard and behind. He made a diving attack to point blank range getting in a 1 1/2 second burst. He then lost sight of the enemy aircraft in clouds. On 23 January 1943 North West Area Headquarters advised that one Betty Bomber was confirmed to Squadron Leader Truscott.
The Squadron flew 61 hours and 15 minutes of protection for shipping during January 1943.
They had two Japanese air raids at Strauss Airfield on the mornings of 22 and 23 January 1943 both lasting about two hours. There were no casualties or damage.
On the evening of 29 January 1943 Flying Officer D. Grahame and 274 personnel from 76 Squadron boarded the MV Maetsuyker and set sail for Onslow in Western Australia in the early noon of 30 January 1943. No 452 Squadron moved in Strauss Airfield.
The MV Maetsuyker arrived at Onslow on the afternoon of 4 February 1943. 10 of the Squadron aircraft which had been providing escort duty for the ship arrived at Onslow at the same time. The aircraft had operated out of Drysdale River Mission on the second day after the departure of MV Maetsuyker from Darwin. The escort patrols on the 3rd and 4th days were carried out from Derby. Unloading of the MV Maetsuyker commenced early in the morning of 5 February 1943. As nothing had been prepared for their arrival all personnel were billeted on the ship until tents had been unloaded to set up a camp on the outskirts of Onslow. The ship was fully unloaded by the afternoon of 6 February 1943.
Wing Commander Forsythe from North West Area Headquarters visited Onlsow on on 7 February 1943. Due to a lack of sufficient water at Onslow the Squadron was ordered to relocate to Potshot airfield. MV Maetsuyker and its escorts were recalled and loading commenced on 9 February 1943. The ship sailed at 6am on 12 February 1943 and arrived at Potshot at 3 pm the same day. They started to onload on to barges but work stopped at 10pm as a cyclone was approaching. Personnel going ashore on the last barge that night lost all of their personal kit and had to eventually swim ashore. The impact of the cyclone lasted until 16 February 1943. They started unloading the ship again but this time they had to use the ship's lifeboats as the barges had all been beached during the cyclone. They finished unloading the ship on 17 February 1943.
At approximately 1735 hours on 28 March 1943, Squadron Leader K.W. Truscott (400213) DFC and Bar was flying Kittyhawk A29-150 when it struck the water at position Latitude 22 Degrees 11 Mins South, Longitude 114 Degrees 9 Mins East. Diving operations were being carried out until midnight to find the aircraft without any success.
The US Navy stationed at Potshot provided whatever equipment and personnel they had at the disposal of 76 Squadron during the search for the missing aircraft. Whale boats and divers from USS Childs were on the job of locating the aircraft before any members of 76 Squadron reached the scene of the tragic accident. They carried on dragging operations until midnight under impossible conditions. They were on the job again at daylight. The operations of USS Childs and USS Whipperwill carried out about 99% of the search and recovery effort. The shore based US Navy unit placed a refrigerator at 76 Squadron's disposal until teh body could be relocated to Perth.
At approximately 1000 hours on 29 March 1943, Kittyhawk A29-150 was located in 40 feet of water laying on its back with its mainplanes folded back and the cockpit on the seabed. At 1630 hours the aircraft was raised form the water and was lowered on to a barge at 1800 hours. At 1815 hours the body of Squadron Leader K.W. Truscott was removed from the cockpit. At 2230 hours the barge pulled alongside the jetty and his body was carried ashore by Officers of the Squadron.
At approximately 0600 hours on 31 March 194, an Avro Anson arrived from Perth to convey the body of Squadron Leader Truscott to Perth. At 0930 hours the cortege headed by the truck containing the casket covered with an Air Force Flag and Union Jack, proceeded slowly to the strip followed by Officers of 76 Squadron and the US Navy. All ranks of 76 Squadron were drawn up in two lines flanking the approach to teh Avro Anson and the casket was carried to and placed in the Anson. The aircraft then taxied slowly to the other end of the strip, and tuned. All ranks stood at the salute as the aircraft took off.
During the placement of his body in the Avro Anson, several 76 Squadron aircraft flew of the strip and disappeared over the horizon in "V" formation.
During April 1943 several Senior Staff Officers from North Western Area Headquarters visited 76 Squadron. More equipment had arrived and communications were much improved. They then had twenty four hour R/T Watch with the Cape and their Detachment at Onslow but signals still had to be flown to Onslow for despatch as there were no facilities at Potshot. Several prefabricated huts had been received and erected. They were a big improvement to living in tents as it got quite windy there.
On 2 April 1943 an Avro Anson with five members of 76 Squadron personnel travelling from Potshot to Onslow force landed on a salt pan approximately 60 miles from Onslow. The Anson was located by a 76 Squadron aircraft at dusk that same night. The next morning supplies were dropped by a Lockheed Hudson and a rescue party led by Flying Officer A.G. Porter set out from Onslow. The rescue party was directed by Squadron aircraft and arrived at the Avro Anson later in the afternoon after covering 86 miles of very rough country.
An unfortunate flying accident occurred on 20 April 1943 when two aircraft on Army Co-operation collided. Pilot Officer Peter T. Read was unfortunately killed in this tragic accident. He was buried in the Onslow War Cemetery. The service was led by Flight Lieutenant G. Nash, the Squadron Padre and was attended by members of the Squadron.
Onslow Detachment experienced difficulties with their water supply. They found an old engine on the local rubbish dump and was reconditioned by Squadron personnel and installed along with pipelines that were laid to three wells to solve their water supply issues.
Three boats arrived during April 1943 and were unloaded by Squadron personnel. On the 27 April 1943, Movement Order No. 3 from Western Area Headquarters was received for the Squadron to move to Bankstown to re-equip. Personnel were proceed by Douglas then to Perth by rail and on to Bankstown Aircraft were to proceed with Rear Party on arrival of the replacement flight from 85 Squadron RAAF. Squadron personnel were enroute to Bankstown by the end of the month.
The Squadron continued to move to Bankstown, near Sydney in early May 1943. Some personnel were at No. 5 Embarkation Depot in Perth awaiting transport and the remainder were on their way to Perth. On 2 May 1943, twelve aircraft proceeded to Perth via Geraldton. On 4 May 1943, one hundred and thirty personnel under the command of Flying Officer A.P. Stevens left Perth by train for Bankstown. On 5 May 1943, twelve aircraft and a transport aircraft left Perth for Bankstown via Kalgoorlie, Forrest, Ceduna, Port Pirie and Mildura arriving at Bankstown on 7 May 1943.
The remainder of personnel under the command of Flying Officer A.J. Hill left Perth on 7 May 1943. On 8 May 1943, twenty four new P-40M Kittyhawks were taken over by the Squadron. They were grounded for a period to allow each aircraft to be thoroughly checked as several adjustments had to be made. All aircraft were made up to date with regard to D.T.S. special instructions, including wireless and oxygen system changes.
Kittyhawk Order No. 1 had not been carried out due to the modified (adjustable) RAAF type I harness being required for this type of aircraft. Squadron Leader J.R. Perrin, DFC, was posted from Eastern Area Headquarters to be the new Commanding Officer.
The first party of personnel under the command of Flying Officer A.P. Stevens arrived at Bankstown on 11 May 1943. As there was insufficient accommodation on the base, tents were erected but owing to the heavy and continuous rain it was impossible for men to occupy them. The men were moved into the Gymnasium.
First flights in the new aircraft were carried out on 12 May 1943 and training began immediately but was limited by the rain. The remainder of the personnel arrived on 14 May 1943 from Perth under the command of Flying Officer Hill.
A signal was received form Eastern Area Headquarters on 14 May 1943 "RAAF HQRS. has ruled leave be given as man personnel as are due and can be spared. Leave to be completed by 24th May and Squadron ready to move 1st June in accordance RAAF Command requirements." Six days pre-embarkation leave was granted to personnel who could be spared, advance party and several others missed out owing to shortage of time and work involved for the Squadron to move at required date.
Following signal received on 15 May 1943 from Eastern Area Headquarters "Movement of No. 76 Squadron to Goodenough Island is to be completed by 15 June. Advance party of at least 20 personnel complete with tentage and equipment to proceed to Milne Bay by air transport and onward movement by ship. Departure by air from Mascot probably 18th May. Load not to exceed 5450 pounds."
The Squadron commenced packing and carting Squadron equipment to No. Wharf, Glebe Point in preparation for the move on 15 May 1943. The Advance Party of 19 personnel under the command of Flight Lieutenant F.T. Humphrey left Sydney by train for Brisbane arriving on 20 May 1943. They left Archerfield airfield by aircraft for Goodenough Island on 21 May 1943 arriving later the same day. When they arrived the only tools available were 6 picks and 6 shovels to use to erect a camp upon virgin soil.
On 3 June 1943 personnel from 76 Squadron commenced loading SS Cremer prior to departure from Sydney for Goodenough Island. SS Cremer sailed from Sydney on the morning of 7 June 1943 with the main body of the Squadron comprising 6 Officers and 234 Other Ranks. RAAF personnel from 79 Squadron, 14 Fighter Sector Headquarters (14 FSHQ) and No. 26 Repair and Salvage Unit (26 RSU) were also on board SS Cremer. The SS Cremer arrived in Townsville on 11 June 1943 and departed again on the same day. The SS Cremer arrived at Milne Bay on 14 June 1943 and all squadron personnel disembarked immediately. They proceed to teh camp of 100 Squadron RAAF where they were staged until the early morning of 16 June 1943when they again embarked on the SS Cremer and arrived at Goodenough Island later that afternoon. They left the ship immediately and were staged at No. 5 Mobile Works Squadron until 18 June 1943 when all moved to their allotted camp site.
The Squadron Advance Party which had arrived on 21 May 1943 had been working in conjunction with the advance party of 79 Squadron RAAF and had already finished erection of two cook houses and practically completed two mess huts.
On 10 June 1943, Squadron aircraft left Bankstown for Amberley Airfield on the first stage of their journey to Goodenough Island (Code Name "Ginger"). Two transport aircraft carrying rear party left Mascot airfield. On 11 June, twenty three aircraft and transports left Amberley Airfield for Townsville via Rockhampton. Pilot Officer Burvill fell ill so he and his aircraft were left at Amberley. On arrival at Rockhampton the last flight of five aircraft led by Squadron Leader Perrin, DFC, received an unfavourable route forecast to Townsville so together with the two transport stayed overnight in Rockhampton. On arrival at Townsville, oxygen modifications were carried out on all aircraft. On the morning of 14 June 1943, ten aircraft departed for Port Moresby via Horn Isalnd. and thence to Milne Bay arriving there on 16 June 1943.
Remaining aircraft departed from Townsville on 15 June 1943 for Port Moresby via Horn Island. At approximately 1030 hours Flying Officer Peter Randall in A29-362 attempted to force land on a beach approximately 20 miles from Iron Range due to engine failure but in doing so was killed.
On 17 June 1943 the remaining aircraft left Port Moresby for Milne Bay. From 17th to 27th June 1943 twenty two aircraft, pilots and forty service personnel were staged with 75 Squadron RAAF. During that period 76 Squadron maintained an average of twelve serviceable aircraft available daily. All aircraft and personnel had arrived at Goodenough Island ("Ginger") by 27 June 1943. A tent was erected on the side of the emergency strip for operations and crew room and the Squadron was immediately placed on readiness.
The Kittyhawks of 76 Squadron had moved to Goodenough Island at the same time as Spitfires from 79 Squadron. Kittyhawks of 77 Squadron had arrived the previous day. These 3 Squadrons formed No. 73 Fighter Wing.
A strenuous training program was carried out in July 1943, mainly in conjunction with other Squadrons in the Wing. Instructions were received from No 71 Wing that 76 Squadron was to occupy Kiriwina Island in the Tobriand Group by 15 August 1943.
An Advance Party of 30 personnel under the command of Flight Lieutenant A.G. Porter left Goodenough Island for Kiriwina Island (Code Name "By-product") on 10 August 1943. A further 160 personnel left on 15 August 1943 leaving approximately 40% of the Squadron at Goodenough Island to maintain 24 aircraft until the end of the month when it was anticipated that Kiriwina Island would be ready to receive the whole squadron.
Instructions were received in August 1943 that the tailplanes of all aircraft were to be painted white. Covers were made to cover the tailplanes while the aircraft were on the ground.
76 Squadron's Kittyhawks were later replaced by Mustangs.
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© Peter Dunn OAM 2020
This page first produced 11 July 1998
This page last updated 20 February 2020