120 SQUADRON NEI-AF
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII

 

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.

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

The squadron was formed within the framework of the RAAF and was supplied and maintained through the RAAF organisations, with the cost being met by the N.E.I. Government. The aircrew and a considerable proportion of the ground staff were Dutch nationals and there was a RAAF component in the Squadron. At a later date the N.E.I. Personnel and Equipment Pool (NEI-PEP) was established in Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory where reserve aircraft and equipment were held, and operational and other training was carried out. The RAAF supplied some of the personnel for this purpose. The Commonwealth Government decreed that the number of RAAF staff loaned to the N.E.I. units was not to exceed 700. In June 1945 the actual number of RAAF personnel was well below 700.

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 Fremantle. 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-40s 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 Squadron, 452 Squadron and 457 Squadron 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 Henk Levy with his P-40 Kittyhawk and pet dog "Wodan" 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 Netherlands East Indies Air Force as C3-539 in June 1944 and was Written Off on 4 July 1945.

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 John A. Deknatel, Sean Carwardine, Alby Anderson, 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.

 

Can anyone help me with more information?

 

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