HEAVY BOMBER REPLACEMENT TRAINING UNIT (HBRTU) RAAF
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII

 

The Heavy Bomber Replacement Training Unit (HBRTU) RAAF, was formed at Strathpine Airfield on the northern outskirts of Brisbane, Queensland on 1 September 1944 with the arrival of its first postings. Wing Commander J.E. Handbury who arrived at Strathpine on 18 September 1944 was its Commanding Officer with Pilot Officer D.R. Cossins (30376) as its Adjutant. P/O Cossins had been the acting Commanding Officer until Handbury had arrived at Strathpine. Wing Commander Handbury departed for Nadzab on 20 September.

The unit's function was to liaise with the Far Eastern Air Force's Combat Replacement and Training Centre located at Nadzab, New Guinea. This entailed the training of up to 22 B-24 Liberator crews per month by instructors provided by the USAAF.

On 16 September 1945, an advance party comprising three cooks, four cook's assistants and two stewards left Strathpine by service aircraft to proceed to Nadzab, New Guinea. Their duty was to establish the domestic arrangements of the camp site in Nadzab in preparation for the arrival of the Unit. On 29 September 1944, the first batch of airmen were taken by tender to RAAF Sandgate (3 P.D.) to be tropically kitted out. The whole unit was expected to arrive at Nadzab by the end of October 1944 ready for the intake of No. 8 B-24 Course on 7 November 1944. The Unit strength at that time was 69 personnel.

The HBRTU was responsible for the training, on heavy bombers, of pilots (with and without experience on the B-24 Liberator), navigators, bombardiers, flight engineers, gunners and wireless operators.

In addition to their ground-based and air-oriented exercises, all crew were given the chance to hone their skills on actual bombing missions, which proved to be the most effective form of crew training. Formation flying was also practiced on these missions, which generally involved dropping 1,000 lb bombs on local targets, usually gun emplacements. The typical number of active missions flown by a course was 45.

The Operations Record Book for the Heavy Bomber Replacement Training Unit for October 1944 stated that the rear party was still located at Strathpine in October 1944 with equipment and transport though since the previous report several domestic personnel and some urgent equipment had been flown to Nadzab. The remaining members at Strathpine were not happy and keen to join up with the unit at Nadzab. To keep them busy, besides the ordinary routine work, they were familiarised with the Owen, Bren and Thompson sub machine guns. Target shoots had been carried out with Army personnel in the district.

The October 1944 ORB also mentioned that the health of all ranks had been good and the physical fitness was being maintained by sport and weekly visits to nearby beaches. Minor breaches of discipline had occurred. On the 31 October the total strength at Strathpine was as follows:-

1 Officer
3 Warrant Officers
4 Sergeants
8 Corporals
38 Aircraftsmen
Total 54 personnel

The Unit moved to Darwin on 5 January 1945 and was disbanded on 21 February 1945 because the job HBRTU had been doing had been taken over by the RAAF B-24 Squadrons, i.e. the 7OTU graduates went direct to an operational squadron and the final training/combat exposure was done in the squadron.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Daniel Leahy and Bob Livingstone for their assistance with this web page.

 

REFERENCES

RAAF Unit History Sheets (Form A50) Operations Record Book - Heavy Bomber Replacement Training Unit Sep 44 - Feb 45 - NAA File

"Units of the Royal Australian Air Force, A Concise History - Volume 8, Training Units", complied by the RAAF Historical Section

 

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This page first produced 12 March 2021

This page last updated 13 March 2021