6 BOMB DISPOSAL SQUAD RAAF
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

 

The first RAAF Bomb Disposal course was held in April 1942 with 3 officers and approximately 24 airmen on the course. A number of Bomb Disposal Squads were initially formed at Darwin, Port Moresby and Townsville.

Ric Havyatt or Rex Havyatt as he was also known, was the Officer Commanding 6 Bomb Disposal Squad which was located at 54 OBU at the RAAF Station in Darwin in the Northern Territory. The Japanese bombs used in Darwin raids were either 60kg or 250kg HE bombs with an occasional 60kg Incendiary bomb. The hexanitrodiphenylamine used in the HE bombs was yellow and would often stain the skin of the bomb disposal officers.

No. 6 BDS personnel during 1942 and 1943 were Ric Havyatt, Harry Percival, Gordon Alfred Germain (41248), Keith Monaghan, Jack Russell, Tom Reddy, Ray Jackson, Keith Campbell Pieper? (11211), 'Lofty' Merrick, ? Thompson, George Arthur Marvin (13252), John Sanders and Stan Edwards.

Ric Havyatt saw a Jap bomber shot down at night in the Darwin area. This would have occurred about June/July 1942 and the fighter pilot involved was Squadron Leader Dick Creswell. He joined RAAF in July 1938 as a pilot trainee at the same time as Ric's brother, and graduated in July 1939, just in time for the commencement of WW2. Ric's brother went to UK in November 1939 to fly Sunderlands.

6 Bomb Disposal Squad later moved to New Guinea. When they were there in 1945 they were simply referred to as 'Bomb Disposal Squad'. George Marvin received an MID award while he was on bomb disposal duties in New Guinea during 1945. No citation given.

Ric Havyatt  left Darwin in June 1943. He was posted to RAAF Pearce, Perth for 6 months before being sent to Air Armament & Gas School, at Nhill as an instructor on bomb disposal to the armament personnel in training there.


via Ric Havyatt

Ric Havyatt of 6 Bomb Disposal Unit defusing a
60 kg Japanese bomb about 13 feet below ground level

 


via Ric Havyatt

A 60 kg Japanese bomb. This is the first UXB that 6 Bomb Disposal Squad
uncovered in Darwin on 16 June 1942 and was found at a depth of 6 feet.

 


via Ric Havyatt

Ray Jackson & Harry Percival of 6 Bomb Disposal Squad. The photo
was taken at the site of a crashed Japanese bomber on the Darwin
peninsular and includes one of the late Japanese crew members.

 


AWM ID No. OG2685

Flight Lieutenant Alaric 'Rex' Havyatt (263659), Leading Aircraftman Joseph
Francis (Joe) Keenan (138461), and LAC Ronald Henry (Ron) Washington
(141827), of the No. 6 Bomb Disposal Unit RAAF, inspecting a Japanese bomb
dump on the But airfield in the Dagua area of north east New Guinea.

When the RAAF were short of bombs around Wewak area they resorted to using Jap bombs. It was not altogether a successful exercise because the Jap bombs were not easily adaptable to the Australian planes, and there were problems with the fuses not operating on impact in some cases.

Ric Havyatt contacted me again on 2 May 2009 to advise that he had recently been in contact with one of the Bomb Disposal course instructors, Flying Officer Leslie Charles Osborne (4842) who assisted F/O Clarence Peter William Northey (03447) for the three courses run by these two men. Les provided his recollection of the Bomb Disposal officers (1942-1946) as follows:-

George Roy Upward (252264)
Gil? Devine?
Alaric Havyatt (263659)
Morris Dunkley (263548)
William Allan Stewart Seymour (263335)
Ralph Taylor (263536)
Harry Belcher (262647)
Brett? Shepherd?
Frank Patrick Weaver (262672)


Photo:- Les Osborne collection

Flight Lieutenant Les Osborne (4842) on Goodenough Island January 1944

When Les Osborne was still a Flight Sergeant he went with Flying Officer Clarence Northey (03447) to Singapore in late December 1941 for some Bomb Disposal training with the RAF Bomb Disposal Squad.

They all achieved the rank of Flight Lieutenant with the Bomb Disposal units. A number of members of the Bomb Disposal units received some awards as per the details below that Ric Havyatt passed on to me:-

'F/Lt R. Taylor (Tenterfield), NSW and F/O H Belcher (Campsie, NSW) who commanded RAAF Bomb Disposal parties in the Admiralty Is took an RAAF party comprising Cpl L F Reeves (St Kilda, Vic), LACs G A Germain (Alphington, Vic), T K Neal (Chatham via Taree, NSW), G A Marven (Albert Park, Vic) and H Messenger (Coolgardie, WA), into the invasion of Pityilu. The party went in with troops in their initial assault and although there was little opposition to the actual landing, the fighting later became severe.

The party dealt mainly with unexploded bombs which had been dropped prior to the landing. Earlier in the campaign these parties had moved ahead of the infantry and mechanised forces detecting mines with plate mine detectors. The parties were constantly under fire and two Americans working with them were killed and one RAAF airman, LAC H J Pares (Solomontown, SA) wounded by shrapnel. The Americans awarded a Silver Star to F/Lt Taylor and Bronze Stars to Cpl A F Nixon (Ascot Vale, Vic) and to LACs Pares, Moore and E Morrison (Punchbowl, NSW). F/O Belcher was seriously injured in May 1944, when an explosive missile, which he and two members of his party were examining, exploded. Sgt N Horn (Maroubra, NSW) was blinded by the explosion and LAC Messenger badly injured'.

LAC George Arthur Marven (13252) also received an award.


AWM ID NO. OG2425

Flight Lieutenant Ralph Taylor (263536) receiving the Silver Star from Flight
Lieutenant Air Officer Commanding, Air Commodore Arthur Henry Cobby
(0251334), CBE, DSO, DFC and 2 Bars GM at the Headquarters of the
First Tactical Air Force, RAAF, Morotai, Halmahera Islands, Netherlands
East Indies. The award for his gallantry in recovering mines which were
impeding the advance of US Tanks on the Admiralty Island in 1944.

 


AWM ID Number 089763

LAC Gordon Alfred Germain (41248) with a mine detector and
LAC C.R. Biddle with a bayonet in his hand, both of No. 3 Bomb Disposal
Unit RAAF looking for mines around an airfield at Tarakan, Borneo in 1945.

 


AWM ID Number OG1747

Flight Lieutenant Ralph Taylor (263536), the Commanding
Officer of No. 3 Bomb Disposal Unit RAAF defusing a
bomb on Noemfoor Island, Dutch New Guinea in 1944.

Ian Jenkins contacted me on 22 September 2009 and advised that he had noticed this web page on RAAF Bomb Disposal Units, and remembered that he had written a profile on the subject of Bomb Disposal Units based on Corporal Neville Young, an RAAF Armourer, who had embarked on the first RAAF Bomb Disposal Course at Point Cook (Vic) in April 1942, and served on RAAF Bomb Disposal duties at Darwin and Port Moresby.

Ian Jenkins told me that on 6 March 1942, Air Board Order N.197/42 called for applicants for training as "Armourer (Bomb Disposal)". Signed applications together with Commanding Officers' recommendations were to be forwarded to Air Force Headquarters no later than 27 March 1942. Following a short course, the successful applicants would be remustered to Armourer - Bomb Disposal, Group II, with effect from 18 April 1942.

On 1 May 1942, an Air Board Order announced the approval of a distinguishing arm badge for wear by qualified personnel employed on Bomb Disposal duties. The introduction of the badge coincided with the completion of the first RAAF Bomb Disposal course which had commenced at Point Cook on 18 April 1942. The badges for winter and summer dress which were issued to Corporal Young, are described as shown below and were to be worn on the right sleeve immediately above the badge of rank. It went on to say that officers who successfully complete the course of Qualified Bomb Disposal Officer, will when actually engaged on bomb disposal duties, wear the blue winter badge on a light blue armband.

A further call for applicants was made in Air Board Order N.641 of 29 September 1944 which closed on 27 October 1944.


Mrs Mollie Young collection via Ian Jenkins

Bomb Disposal Officer, Flying Officer George Upward

 


Mrs Mollie Young collection via Ian Jenkins

Corporal Neville Young's Bomb Disposal badges

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

I'd like to thank Ric Havyatt of Woolwich, NSW for his assistance with this home page.

I'd also like to thank Ian Jenkins for his assistance with this web page.

 

REFERENCES

Air Force News, 13 March 2003

Wings, Vol. 5, No. 5, 12 June 1945 (RAAF Publication)

 

 

 

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This page first produced 23 April 2003

This page last updated 24 March 2013