NO. 1 AIR SUPPORT UNIT RAAF
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

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visits since 18 February 2004

 

On 1 April 1945, personnel of 77 Wing and 1st Tactical Air Force Air Support Sections operating as part of No. 1 Air Support Unit moved from Strathpine to Camp Ascot, the American Staging Camp at Ascot Racecourse. On 2 April 1945 they boarded the Liberty Ship "Morgan Robertson" and departed for Morotai. Their equipment had been placed on board several days earlier.

The "Morgan Robertson" left Brisbane on 2 April 1945. The journey to Morotai in the blacked out hold of the Liberty Ship was very unpleasant and their first night at sea was very rough.

The strength of the Unit as of 1 may 1945 was as follows:-

Officers               3
Senior NCO's      6
Airmen             39

In April 1945 Flight Lieutenant CA Firth was T/Commanding No. 1.A.S.U. RAAF Brisbane. The unit was disbanded on 12 July 1946. Squadron Leader A. Crudgington was in command at that time.

George A Nicholls, # 54651, a wireless telegraphist, was a member of No. 14 Fighter Sector (114 Fighter Sector later to be known as No. 114 Bomber & Fighter Control Unit) since its inception at Camden, New South Wales. George left Glebe Island Wharf on 6 June 1943 headed for Milne Bay. After a short time at Bola Bola (Goodenough Island) they moved to Kiriwina Island on 6 August 1943,  before moving to Los Negros Island in the Admiralty Group near to Manus Island in Seeadler Harbour.

Several of his unit were sent back to Australia on leave around May 1944 and after a very short leave they assembled at No. 3 Embarkation Unit at the Melbourne Cricket Ground before moving to Strathpine Queensland to form a new wireless unit to be known as No. 1 Air Support Unit.  After some embarkation leave at home they embarked from Hamilton Wharf in the Brisbane River in a Liberty Ship to Morotai on the 10 June 1945. They then left Morotai on LST-259 for Labuan Island off Borneo to provide Air Support duties to the 9th Division. The HMAS Shropshire and Australia we among our escort vessels.

George A. Nicholls updated me on No. 1 ASU on 20 February 2005 as follows:- 

# 1ASU did not go to Tarakan with the other units, we stayed back at Morotai at a staging camp and looked after ourselves while we got our gear ready for the job ahead which was to be in the front line amphibious landing on the Island Labuan. We had to seal everything that could be ruined if we got it wet in the landing including the carby’s and electrical parts of the jeeps (all 28 of them as we had two men to a jeep being a fully mobile unit), also the exhaust pipes had to be extended way up out of the water levels that we would endure. We arrived on the Liberty ship “Morgan Robertson” at Morotai on the 19 April 1945. The ones who were in the Tarakan operation embarked from Morotai on the 1st May 1945 and we stayed on at Morotai as I mentioned before. In a few days the adjutant did not like the idea of the men lazing about so he asked for volunteers for various jobs and when he asked for kitchen hands I stepped forward very smartly as I knew that that was the best place to get better things to eat. In a week the head cook and myself decided to split the cooking chores up day about and that allowed me to get some time to myself on the days off and also we both had plenty of help in the lesser jobs around the kitchen.

Around the 20th May we were ready to load all our gear aboard an LST (Landing Ship Tanks) and we embarked straight away with the landing convoy bound for Labuan which we landed there at 9am on the 10th June 1945 after four hours of shelling by the warships (two of which were the HMAS Shropshire and Australia) and there was a couple of USS Cruisers escorting too. They shelled the township of Victoria, and there was one shell that went straight down the township’s clock tower and left the clock still working even though the base of the tower was badly damaged. We camped at the hospital area for a few days before moving to the Electricity building area along McArthur Road ( not to be confused with General Douglas McArthur).

Our first jeep and its trailer went down the main door ramp of the LST into the water and sank as there was a bomb hole right there and the LST had to relocate further away on Brown Beach to to avoid that happening again. Our jeep and trailer was recovered at low tide and there was very little damage to the radio equipment as they had been very successfully sealed indeed. The crew of that jeep had no worries swimming up out of the way.

The Island of Labuan was being used as a Rest & Recreation base by the Japanese for their officers from Borneo proper and they were holed up in tunnels in a hilly position and it was this part that the warships were shelling for a period of 8 solid hours to ease up the place for the 9th Division to attack. They told us that when they captured the place in a valley ( this started out to be a hill) and went inside the long underground tunnels there was many many packs of silk stockings and drinks etc etc there for the benefit of the officers along with many Japanese hookers as well.

Myself and 2 other men were sent to ( 9th Divvy Headquarters) to do our job as Air Support Unit sending messages from Piper spotter aircraft to the navy and the army to supply air support to the spot that they found needing support. We stayed there with them right thru to the end of the war, and to celebrate the whole Island personnel had a sports meeting on the beach near to where we were at headquarters. Knowing that I was a swift runner, the headquarters grabbed me to represent them against all the other units of which I easily won the couple of running races for them. They were so pleased that they offered me a holiday there with the officers going out in a boat fishing etc until I was called on to return to my unit. Captain Urquhart & Lieutenant Mellor were given this job by Major General Wootten in appreciation, as it meant a lot to them to win against all the battalions of the division. After a week or two they were called to go home on the Aircraft Carrier "Glory", and they offered to take me with them, but I chose to take my chances through TMO and fly home on my own.. My unit CO signed the papers for me to do this as they were going to Japan with 81 Wing and seeing that I just wanted to get home as soon as possible, some of the other boys and myself went to the TMO staging camp and after stepping from Island to Island before reaching Darwin we were lucky that I knew a Dutch Captain of NEI airways who got us on two stages of flights to reach Essendon airport a week before Xmas.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank George A Nicholls, # 54651, a wireless telegraphist with No. 1 Air Support Unit for his assistance with this web page.

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This page first produced 18 February 2004

This page last updated 20 February 2005