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Royal New Zealand Air Force

bomber-reconnaissance operations, february—june

bomber-reconnaissance operations, february—june

Until the middle of 1944 New Zealand bomber-reconnaissance aircraft took little direct part in the attack on Rabaul, being still used mainly for over-sea patrols. No. 2 Squadron, commanded by Squadron Leader Greenaway,2 which relieved No. 1 Squadron in February, operated from Munda until late in April Working with a US Navy squadron, VB140, it was responsible for patrolling a sector between west and north-west of Munda to a distance of 350 miles from its base. Enemy submarines were still fairly numerous, particularly in the northern part of the search area. On the morning of 20 February an aircraft captained by Flying Officer Scott3 found one on the surface, midway between Green Island and the coast of New Ireland. Scott attacked and dropped a salvo of four depth-charges immediately ahead of the spot where the submarine had dived, but there was no evidence of any damage. On the afternoon of the same day an aircraft captained by Flying Officer Shuttleworth4 also attacked a submarine in the same area. On the first run the depth-charges failed to release, but the air-

2 Gp Capt A. B. Greenaway, OBE; RNZAF; born Toowoomba, Australia, 13 May 1911; joined RAF1936; permanent commission RNZAF1938; Director of Training, RNZAF, 1954—.

3 Flt Lt R. E. Scott; Masterton; born Auckland, 18 Nov 1918; clerk.

4 Fg Off R. L. Shuttleworth, Air Medal (US); Nelson; born Nelson, 24 Apr 1915; motor engineer.

page 254 gunners raked the deck and conning tower with machine-gun fire. On the second run the four depth-charges were dropped just ahead of the swirl left by the submarine as it crash-dived. Again there was no evidence of damage.

The squadron carried out six routine patrols daily, except when it was briefed for special operations and the number was reduced to three. At the end of February the squadron took part in two offensive operations against the Japanese in the Rabaul area. On the 28th four aircraft led by Greenaway flew to Piva and then made a sweep over the coasts of New Ireland and the Gazelle Peninsula, looking for enemy barges. It was their first operation over enemy-held territory and they failed to find any worthwhile targets. Six enemy aircraft, some of the few the Japanese still had in the area, were seen over the village of Mope on New Britain. One of them attacked Greenaway, but was damaged and driven off by his turret gunner.

The next day two aircraft, captained by Flight Lieutenants Oliver1 and Fountain,2 were ordered to search for a suspected radar station at Adler Bay, on the east coast of the Gazelle Peninsula, which had been giving the enemy warning of the approach of Allied planes and shipping. Fountain found it first, in a clearing in the bush on a low headland at the south end of the bay. Both aircraft made three runs over it in the face of light and medium anti-aircraft fire and dropped twelve bombs, ten of which landed in the target area, causing considerable damage. Two days later Oliver led a force of American TBFs and SBDs to the place and the station was bombed again. The next day he and Greenaway visited it once more and dropped another three tons of bombs on it, after which it was officially assessed as destroyed.

During March and April several sightings were made of submarines. On 5 March Flight Lieutenant Hamilton3 and his crew attacked one to the east of New Ireland, straddling it with a stick of depth-charges. Fifteen minutes after the attack a dark, greenish-brown stain 80 feet in diameter appeared on the surface of the water and the submarine was claimed as possibly damaged.

In the middle of March a new long-range search was introduced and added to the squadron's commitment. The route, which covered 1300 miles, was up the west coast of Bougainville, through St. George's Channel to Mussau Island, west of Emirau, then back

1 Flt Lt B. E. Oliver, m.i.d.; Cambridge; born Hamilton, 8 Feb 1912; farmer.

2 Flt Lt C. A. Fountain, DFC; Woodville; born Frankton Junction, 24 Nov 1918; farmer.

3 Sqn Ldr D. S. Hamilton, DFC; Waipukurau; born Christchurch, 4 Oct 1920; clerk.

page 255 down the north-east coast of New Ireland to Green Island, where the aircraft landed to refuel, and from there back down the coast of Bougainville to Munda. In April two other routine searches were instituted, consisting of strafing sorties round Bougainville and Buka against any worthwhile targets which could be found.

While the squadron was at Munda its aircraft were maintained by No. 10 Servicing Unit which was still at Guadalcanal. The machines were flown back there whenever they were due for periodical inspections. Daily servicing was done by a detachment of the servicing unit at Munda. On 24 April the servicing unit moved from Guadalcanal to Piva, arriving there on the 26th, and the squadron flew in from Munda on the 27th to spend the rest of its tour there. Early in May the squadron began two new duties. Two aircraft were detailed to follow the daily strikes against Rabaul and search for survivors of any aircraft which might have been shot down in the sea, and thereafter survivor patrols were flown regularly by RNZAF Venturas. In addition a daily count of shipping in Rabaul Harbour was instituted, one aircraft flying over early each morning to report on possible targets for strikes later in the day, and on the state of the weather.

In the fourth week in May the squadron returned to New Zealand for rest and refitting, having flown a total of 3758 hours on operations against the Japanese. Its sorties during the tour comprised:

  • 611 anti-submarine patrols and escorts

  • 132 special submarine searches

  • 109 bombing strikes and searches

  • 56 miscellaneous missions

Its place was taken by No. 9 Squadron, commanded by Wing Commander Allen,1 which was on its second overseas tour. It had returned to New Zealand in October 1943 and had spent several months at Whenuapai re-equipping with PV1s and carrying out shipping escorts over the approaches to Auckland. The squadron had left New Zealand for Santo in February and had taken over the duties of No. 2 Squadron when it moved up to Munda. On, arrival at Piva it again took on the commitments of No. 2 Squadron, including the daily shipping count and survivor searches, and the bombing and strafing of targets of opportunity on Bougainville and the Gazelle Peninsula. Towards the end of June it began to take an active part in strikes on Rabaul, a part which was to be taken by New Zealand Venturas throughout the rest of the war.

1 Wg Cdr A. C. Allen, AFC, m.i.d.; Morrinsville; born Auckland3 Feb 1911; grazier.