77 SQUADRON RAAF
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII

 

77 Squadron RAAF was formed at Pearce Airfield in Western Australia on 16 March 1942 with Squadron Leader D.F. Forsyth as its acting Commanding Officer. Initially there were 3 Officers and 100 airmen in the Squadron initially. Personnel from No. 4 SFTS, No. 9 EFTS, 14 Squadron, 25 Squadron, and Headquarters Pearce were posted to establish 77 Squadron RAAF. Pilot Officer A. V. Largoulant (4586) was appointed Adjutant of 77 Squadron on 17 March 1942.

 

P-40E Kittyhawk A29-50 Maylands 19 Mar 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-49 Maylands 21 Mar 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-51 Maylands 22 Mar 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-62 Maylands 23 Mar 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-72 Laverton 26 Mar 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-52 Maylands 27 Mar 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-55 Maylands 30 Mar 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-56 Mayands 30 Mar 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-63 Maylands 8 Apr 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-53 Maylands 8 Apr 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-61 Maylands 9 Apr 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-62 Maylands 9 Apr 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-58 Cunderdin 10 Apr 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-59 Cunderdin 10 Apr 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-54 Cunderdin 12 Apr 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-65 Cunderdin 12 Apr 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-66 Cunderdin 12 Apr 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-67 Cunderdin 12 Apr 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-112 Laverton 31 May 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-113 Laverton 31 May 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-114 Laverton 31 May 1942
P-40E Kittyhawk A29-115 Laverton 31 May 1942

 

The P-40E Kittyhawks of 77 Squadron were the main air defence for Perth at that time.

Squadron Leader R. E. P. Brooker (RAF) took over as the Commanding Officer on 23 March 1942.

On 4 April 1942 P-40E Kittyhawk A29-56 piloted by Pilot Officer S. E. Armstrong was taxying back to the hangar after a training flight when it collided head on with a transport vehicle of the Department of Interior that was working on the runway.

"A" Flight of 77 Squadron dispersed to Dunreath Airfield in Western Australia on 14 April 1942.

P-40E Kittyhawk A29-58 piloted by Flight Lieutenant D. M. Sproule, on its initial run for take off at Dunreath Airfield on 16 April 1942, encountered heavy sand which caused the aircraft to tip forward on its air screw and engine and causing the undercarriage to collapse.

Squadron Leader Richard Cresswell (0383) took over as Commanding Officer on 20 April 1942. Squadron Leader R. E. P. Brooker (RAF) was posted to 76 Squadron RAAF in Townsville.

On 20 April 1942, the port landing wheel of P-40E Kittyhawk A29-60, piloted by Pilot Officer B. Wilson, folded back whilst landing at Pearce Airfield. The port flap was damaged, and the port wing tip was damaged extensively. The airscrew blades were bent.

On 20 April 1942, Sergeant A.C. McKenzie-King overshot the runway at Pearce Airfield in Western Australia, in P-40E Kittyhawk A29-62 "damaging starboard flap on obstructions."

On 24 April 1942, P-40E Kittyhawk, piloted by Sergeant M. Holdsworth burst a tyre on landing at Pearce Airfield causing the aircraft to tilt forward bending one blade of the airscrew.

"B" Flight commenced operating from Dunreath Airfield on 5 May 1942.

On 15 May 1942, P-40E Kittyhawk A29-64, piloted by Flight Lieutenant D. L. Daly, suffered an engine failure and the pilot forced landed the aircraft damaging it significantly. The aircraft caught fire and the pilot was severely burnt.

On 22 May 1942, P-40E Kittyhawk A29-55, piloted by Flying Officer R. C. Kimpton, struck a small tree guard whilst moving off the runway at Upper Swan Airfield in Western Australia.

"A" Flight started to operate from Upper Swan Airfield (11 Mile Strip) in Western Australia on 23 May 1942.

On 5 June 1942, P-40E Kittyhawk A29-115, piloted by Flight Lieutenant G. R. Shave, sank in soft ground whilst taxying to the dispersal point resulting in three bent blades on the airscrew and a small 1 1/2" long crack in the port lower part of the reduction gear.

The Operations Record Book for 77 Squadron RAAF seems to indicate that 77 Squadron was operating from Guildford Airfield on 1 June 1942.

On 8 July 1942, P-40E Kittyhawk A29-49, piloted by Sergeant L. R. Ballard, carried out a successful forced landing at Pearce Airfield after loss of oil pressure and high oil temperature.

On 10 July 1942, P-40E Kittyhawk A29-56 piloted by Sergeant T. P. Power (408700), carried out a successful forced landing at Pearce Airfield with wheels and flaps down after losing power.

On 11 July 1942, P-40E Kittyhawk A29-57, piloted by Pilot Officer J. A. Hodgkinson (411495) made a forced landing at Pearce Airfield after loss of oil pressure and temperature rise.

On 15 July 1942, P-40E Kittyhawk A29-50, piloted by Sergeant M. J. Baker (402903) lost formation with the other aircraft and entered a cloud. The pilot lost control of the aircraft at 7,000 feet and baled out at approximately 3,000 feet.

Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Creswell left Guildford Airfield in Kittyhawk A29-111 headed for Darwin, to investigate conditions there prior to the movement of the Squadron to the area. Flight Lieutenant G. R. Shave was appointed temporary Commanding Officer on 26 July 1942 at Guildford Airfield. Sqn. Ldr Creswell returned to Guildford Airfield on 1 August 1942.

Ground personnel entrained at Guildford Railway Station at 1630 hours on 1 August 1942 for North Western Area via Port Augusta. AStores, equipment and transport joined the train at Kalgoorlie which left for Port Augusta at approximately 1530 hours on 2 August 1942. The train arrived at Port Augusta at approximately 1100 hours on 4 August 1942. The train departed for Alice Springs at 1430 hours the same day. The train arrived at Alice Springs at 1800 hours local time on 6 August 1942.

Seven officers and approximately 156 other ranks departed on Army transport vehicles at 0745 hours on 7 August 1942 headed for Birdum with Flying Officer E. V. Walliker in charge. Three officers and approximately 40 other ranks remained at Alice Springs in order to load equipment from the train to squadron transport trucks.

Flying Officer Walliker's party arrived at Birdum at 1500 hours on 10 August 1942. They left Birdum by train the next afternoon at 1600 hours headed for Batchelor in the Northern Territory where they arrived at approximately 1600 hours on on 12 August 1942.

The other part which travelled via the Squadron transport arrived at Batchelor at approximately 1900 hours on 14 August 1942.

Twenty one P-40E Kittyhawks with Squadron Leader Cresswell in charge left Pearce Airfield in Western Australia on 17 August 1942 headed for Batchelor Airfield.

On 18 August 1942, P-40E Kittyhawk A29-?? piloted by Sergeant J. A. S. Allen (914547) crash landed at Alice Springs Airfield in the Northern Territory.

On 19 August 1942, P-40E Kittyhawk A29-??, piloted by Pilot Officer D. H. Kelly (416098) crashed at Alice Springs Airfield in the Northern Territory.

The remaining nineteen aircraft of 77 Squadron arrived at Batchelor Airfield on 19 August 1942.

On 23 August 1942, P-40E Kittyhawk A29-?? piloted by Sergeant R. K. Boyd (402992) crashed at Batchelor Airfield in the Northern Territory.

On 25 August 1942, P-40E Kittyhawk A29-?? piloted by Pilot Officer H. V. Shearn (402992) made a forced landing on a beach at Anson Bay in the Northern Territory.

P-40 Kittyhawk, A29-60 forced landed on Melville Island north of Darwin on 7 September 1942 after running out of fuel. The pilot was Pilot Officer John E. Gorton, the future Prime Minister of Australia.

On 10 September 1942, 77 Squadron was alloted to the Operational Control under No. 5 Fighter Sector Headquarters, N.W.A.

Kittyhawks of "A" and "B" flights practised morning landings on Livingstone Airfield and Strauss Airfield on 15 September 1942.

An intriguing entry in the Operations Record Book for 77 Squadron on 18 September 1942 read as follows:-

INFORMATION RECEIVED
"
Following discovery of two attaché cases containing electrically heated flying kit F/O Cox (Pilot) with F/O Knight (Observer) in Tiger Moth (A17-470) searched for possible crashed enemy aircraft."

On 22 September 1942, P40E-65 piloted by Pilot Officer D. H. Kelly, burst a port side tyre when taking off from Wilson Airfield (later named Venn Airfield located SE of Katherine).

Kittyhawks of 77 Squadron were scrambled at 0427 hours on 25 September 1942. At 0450 hours, 77 Squadron received an Alert of a possible Air Raid and Japanese aircraft were sighted overhead at 0455 hours. They were six Betty Bombers of the Takao Ku armed with 72 x 60kg bombs. They appeared to circuit the area then proceed north and bombed Darwin. The Kittyhawks of 77 Squadron sighted the Japanese aircraft at 0459 hours and Squadron Leader Cresswell in A29-113U fired a burst of rounds towards the enemy aircraft. Results unknown.

P-40E Kittyhawk A29-63 piloted by Flying Officer G. S. Gratton, whilst shadow shooting over Anson Bay, the starboard inner gun blew out the blast tube and cover plates, and the middle gun cover. The end blast tube loosened and formers were torn and the rivets lifted on stressing over the leading edge. The runners near the leading edge were torn, and the blast tube and cover plate were missing. The pilot was uninjured.

On 1 October 1942, Kittyhawk A29-104, # 41-25114, piloted by Sergeant J. B. O'Connor, was involved in a taxying accident at Batchelor airfield.

On 12 October 1942, P-40 Kittyhawk, A29-62, #41-5734, was on a test flight over Batchelor Airfield at 25,000ft. The pilot, P/O J.C. Griffith, was forced to bail out at 26,000 feet when the engine overheated and a fire started.

On 15 October 1942, at 1800 hours, the Administrative Echelon, ground personnel, stores, equipment, Headquarters and Messes completed a relocation of 77 Squadron from Batchelor Airfield to Livingstone Airfield. At 0900 hours on 16 October 1942, the Air Echelon completed the move to Livingstone Airfield.

At 0448 hours on 25 October 1942 and Alert was given at Livingstone Airfield. Two sections (Shotai) of G4M1 Betty bombers passed overhead, veered west, and headed towards Darwin. They bombed Darwin at 0531 hours. The All Clear was given at 0602 hours.

On 31 October 1942, P-40 Kittyhawk, A29-116, #41-36097, piloted by P/O Thomas William Watson (RCAF J6206) blew a port tyre on takeoff from Adelaide River airfield.

On 20 November 1942, two Kittyhawks were engaged in I.F.F. tests during the afternoon.

On 21 November 1942, P-40 Kittyhawk, A29-115,  #41-36094, made a force landing at Livingstone airfield.

At 0327 hours on 23 November 1942 Rabbet Leader (Sqn Ldr Cresswell) and his flight of Kittyhawks were scrambled and orbited Batchelor Airfield at 5,000 feet. At 0344 hours they proceeded to patrol a pre-determined line running north and south, to the east of Darwin. At 0507 hours a "Tally Ho" signal was declared by Sqn. Ldr Cresswell, who then attacked a flight of three Japanese aircraft forcing one of them out of formation. Cresswell shot it down in flames. It exploded before it hit the ground. The Army News dated 30 November 1942 reported as follows:-

Army News 30th November 1942
"The twin engined Japanese bomber which was shot down in the Darwin area during the early hours of last Monday morning was found in the bush several miles from Darwin, reports just released for publication have been revealed. It was the first enemy aircraft definitely shot down in night combat in Australia, and was destroyed by S/L. R. Cresswell, of Sydney. Wreckage was strewn over a large area, the bomber apparently falling to pieces in mid-air. The nine bodies of the members of the crew were thrown clear. They were buried near the wreckage. No parachutes were found."

On 25 November 1942, P-40 Kittyhawk A29-51, #41-5738 piloted by Sgt Ronald Fredrick Piper (411823), force landed at Strauss airfield in the Northern Territory due to engine overheating and main bearing failure.

On 27 November 1942, P40E-65, piloted by Sergeant George Bellinge Rich, made a forced landing at Livingstone Airfield after a main bearing failure.

On 20 December 1942, Flight Lieutenant George Shave, bailed out of his P-40 Kittyhawk, A29-112 (#41-36098), between Batchelor airfield and Livingstone Airfield after the airscrew and bearing were damaged, resulting in an in-flight fire.

On 1 February 1943 the Air Echelon of 77 Squadron left Cloncurry headed for Amberley Airfield arriving there in the afternoon. On 2 February 77 Squadron equipment commenced loading and was completed by 1200 hours on 3 February 1943.

On 4 February 1943, 14 pilots left Archerfield by Lockheed Lodestar for Sydney. An Advance Party with F/O Griffith in Charge left Townsville for Milne Bay by aircraft. F/O Armstrong and a small party left Townsville by boat in charge of equipment.

On 9 February 1943, four pilots were sent from Amberley Airfield to Laverton Airfield to pick up new aircraft. At 0800 hours on 10 February 1943, the embarkation of personnel commenced from Garbutt Airfield in Townsville. Personnel embussed and were taken to the Townsville wharves. At 0930 hours all personnel were on board S.S. Vanderlijn which cast off at 1115 hours and joined a convoy of four other ships under escort.

On 13 February 1943, four P-40K Kittyhawks arrived at Richmond Airfield from Laverton Airfield. Fifteen P-40K Kittyhawks took off from Amberley Airfield. Two returned with engine trouble. Flight Lieutenant Schaeffer land at Evans Head airfield to refuel. Sergeant Holdsworth landed at Williamtown Airfield with an oil leak. Both aircraft arrived at Amberley Airfield later that day.

On 13 February 1943, personnel disembarked from S.S. Vanderlijn at Milne Bay in New Guinea. Unloading of equipment was completed by midnight on 14 February 1943.

Five P-40K Kittyhawks left Amberley Airfield for Townsville on 15 February 1943. Two aircraft were left at Richmond Airfield. 15 aircraft left Amberley for Townsville on 16 February 1943. Two aircraft had to return to Amberley. Thirteen aircraft arrived at Rockhampton Airfield that same day and stayed overnight due to bad weather conditions.

Twenty two P-40K Kittyhawks arrived a Gurney Strip under Squadron Leader Cresswell on 21 February 1943. 2 aircraft remained at Townsville to proceed later.

77 Squadron RAAF continued to fight the Japanese at a number of operational locations in the Southwest Pacific Area including Goodenough Island, Los Negros, Noemfoor, Morotai, Labuan, and Japan with the British Occupation Force. 77 Squadron RAAF also went on to fly missions in the Korean War.

REFERENCE BOOK

Units of the RAAF Volume 2 - Fighter Units

The Empire Strikes South - Japan's Air War against Northern Australia 1942-45
by Dr. Tom Lewis PAM, Illustrated by Michael Claringbould

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Gordon Birkett and John Cox for their assistance with this web page.

 

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This page first produced 17 February 2017

This page last updated 27 February 2017