200 FLIGHT RAAF
AND "Z" SPECIAL OPERATIONS UNIT
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII

 


B-24 Liberator

 

In June 1944 it was decided that the Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB) and the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD) should have an RAAF unit allocated to it to assist it in delivering agents and supplies of the Australian Army's "Z Special Operations unit by parachute into enemy territory.

Consequently 200 Flight RAAF was formed as a Special Duties (SD) unit at Leyburn airfield, 37 kms from Toowoomba, on 20 February 1945. Leyburn is located between Toowoomba and Warwick. 200 Flight was equipped with Liberators to allow them to carry the planned cargoes and achieve the duration range into enemy territory.

The US 380th Bomb Group were also working with Special Operations.

 

betsy01.jpg (38073 bytes)

"Beautiful Betsy" of the 380th Bomb Group
drooped wooden paratroop dummies
from its rear hatch in secret trials

 

Experiments with wooden dummy paratroopers had been carried out at Adelaide River, Batchelor and Richmond in late December 1943 using a 380th Bomb Group Liberator piloted by USAAF Captain Craig and RAAF Flight Lieutenant F. Cook.

The trials eventually determined that the best exit point from the aircraft was from the crew hatch in the fuselage floor just behind the waist gunner's position. A 1.5 meter iron ramp resembling a slippery slide was fitted by 4 Repair and Salvage Unit. The ramp was hinged to allow the hatch to be closed. The waist guns, mounts, armour and ball turret were also removed. The trials were filmed from a Curtiss Falcon aircraft flying behind the Liberator.

Supplies for the secret agents were dropped in "storpedoes" which were six foot long tough cardboard cylinders reinforced with metal straps. They carried supplies, radio sets and weapons. The "storpedoes" were held in the bomb bay of the Liberator.

Two Liberators from 24 Squadron RAAF were initially assigned to 200 Flight to assist the Liberator from the 380th Bomb Group in training with "Z: Special Operations unit members at Leyburn airfield. A frame was built at Leyburn airfield for practice jumps and training flights commenced in late February 1944. By that time there were five Liberators involved in 200 Flight's secret operations.

Once 200 Flight was fully operational, it had six Liberators and 9 eleven-man crews with about 450 ground staff.

In the middle of March 1945, two Liberators (A72-159 and A72-192) Captained by the Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader H.G. "Graham" Pockley, DFC & Bar, and Flight Lieutenant Frank Ball, left Leyburn airfield for McGuire Field on the Mindoro Island in the Philippines for their first mission. Two days later they took off to drop some "Z" Special "Semut 1" agents into Borneo. The mission was aborted due to low cloud. A second attempt on 21 March also failed due to bad weather. Finally on 24 March 1945 they were able to drop eight "Z: Special Operations unit men into Borneo. The two aircraft on this final attempt were A72-159 and A72-191. The latter aircraft did not return from this mission. It is believed that it may have been shot down by a vessel that it was seen to be attacking. 200 Flight's Commanding Officer was the pilot of the missing A72-191. A US Navy patrol Liberator reported sighting A72-191 at position variously stated as 116 06' East, 6 10' North or 116 16' East, 6 10' North. The time of the sighting was 251015/I and the aircraft was then approximately 200 miles from the target. The US Navy Liberator and A72-191 rocked their wings in recognition and A72-191 proceeded on heading 20 at 5,000 feet. Air searches reported Nil sightings with the exception of 3 oil streaks at position 116 50' East, 7 19' North approximately 2 miles off the coast of Balambangan Island.

200 Flight RAAF disbanded at Leyburn airfield in December 1945, leaving the airfield deserted.

200 Flight RAAF lost 3 aircraft during its operations, along with 46 men which included "Z: Special Operations unit agents. (details below)

B-24 Liberator A72-191 of 200 Flight RAAF
Missing off British North Borneo on 25 March 1945 during operation "Semut 1" insertion. The aircraft was approximately 200 miles from the target area on its return journey to its base at Mindoro.

AIRCRAFT CREW
F/O C.I. Cox (415403) (2nd Pilot)
F/O R.R. Farmer (412503)
Sgt. R.R. Hale (444233)
Sgt. K.M. Low (435733)
Sgt. C.K. Ponting (434348)
Sgt. K.C. Wilmshurst (28787)
F/O L.F. Day (409672)
F/Lt. D.P. Gradwell (8960)
Sgt. E.M. Litchfield (439370)
Sqn/Ldr H.G. Pockley, DFC & Bar (26068) (Pilot)
Sgt. L.E. Tonkin (443698)
Major H.E. Ellis (Army)

 

B-24 Liberator A72-159 of 200 Flight RAAF
Crashed near Dili, Timor on 17 May 1945 on "Sunbaker" reconnaissance mission

AIRCRAFT CREW
F/O T.T. Biltoft
F/Lt. H.R. Campbell
F/O H.J. Clark
F/O H.A.J. Jones
F/Lt. J.W. Rice
F/O L.J. Brown
F/O A. McL. Clark, DFM (captain)
F/Sgt. C.A.R. Gamble
F/O G.M. Manning, DFM
Sgt. H. Riley
"Z" SPECIAL OPERATION MEMBERS
Lt. A.F. Wilkins
Sgt. K.H. Bell
Cpl A.L. Lilya
Cpl J.A. Nicol
Sgt. K.M. Marshall




 

B-24 Liberator A72-177 of 200 Flight RAAF
Crashed in British North Borneo on 21 May 1945, on "Agas 2" sortie

AIRCRAFT CREW
F/SGt. J.C.W. Anderson
F/SGt. O.W.J. Davern
F/Lt. J.O. Graham
WO E.T. Shorter
F/O R.L. Taylor
F/O R.N. Walker
WO P.H. Cormack
F/Lt. K.R.N. Emmett (captain
WO R. Proudlock
Sgt. L.J. Starr
F/O E.F. Theyer
"Z" SPECIAL OPERATION MEMBERS
Capt. T.I. Eltham
Lt. L.A. McLaren
Pte. K.L. Hardie







 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank James Oglethorpe from Sydney, for his assistance with this home page.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"Tocumwal to Tarakan"
"Australians and the Consolidated B-24 Liberator"
By Michael V. Nelmes

"Silent Feet - The History of "Z" Special Operations, 1942-1945"
by G.B. Courtney, MBE, MC

 

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This page first produced 12 September 1999

This page last updated 14 January 2017