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Royal New Zealand Air Force

no. 1 squadron

no. 1 squadron

No. 1 (Bomber-Reconnaissance) Squadron flew in to Green Island from Guadalcanal on 29 October, to be based on No. 15 Servicing Unit. It did not become fully operational until a month later, as most of the servicing unit's equipment and tools were in transit on a ship which did not reach Green Island until late in November.

The first few weeks were spent in flying training, using such aircraft as could be kept serviceable; in improving the camp, which at first was uncomfortably primitive; in hiking expeditions and swimming to promote physical fitness; and in learning jungle lore from New Guinea police boys.

Operations began on 21 November when No. 1 Squadron took over from one of the American PBJ squadrons on the island the daily weather flight and shipping count over Rabaul, which meant an aircraft taking off each morning at six o'clock and returning with reports of meteorological conditions in the area and news of prospective targets for strikes later in the day.

Early in December the squadron began to take part in ‘night heckles’ over Rabaul, which had previously been done exclusively by American PBJs, assisted sometimes by ‘Black Cats’.1 It was part of the Allied Commander's policy to make the life of the Japanese as uncomfortable as possible by keeping one or more aircraft constantly over Rabaul during the night, each carrying bombs which could be dropped anywhere at any time during the patrol. As Venturas were then not fitted with bomb-sights, bombing was done more or less by guesswork, or sometimes experimentally by radar. It was not possible accurately to assess results, but some good drops were reported.

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During its stay at Green Island, which lasted until 5 January, the squadron carried out a variety of other tasks, including air-sea rescue sweeps, shipping escorts, and photographic and supply-dropping missions. Its chief occupation, however, from early December onwards was bombing the Japanese.

Bombing strikes were of two types: medium altitude and low-level. Medium bombing attacks, which were mostly directed against Rabaul targets, accounted for about half of the total sorties flown. At first, six Venturas at a time were attached to a PBJ squadron; but when their results proved satisfactory they were used as a separate squadron, eight Venturas, led by a PBJ as bomber-leader, constituting a formation. Under this arrangement, they took part in co-ordinated strikes with American squadrons from Green and Emirau. Bombing was done from between 9500 and 13,000 feet, all planes in the formation dropping their loads when the leader let his go.

Low-level attacks were all made on New Ireland. The targets most frequently attacked were Borpop and Namatanai, where the main concentrations of Japanese were to be found. Whenever possible the formations approached their objectives from the land side and retired over the sea. By running in low over the hills they achieved maximum surprise and had a chance of getting clear away before the anti-aircraft batteries opened up, and by continuing out over the water they ensured that any aircraft shot down would land in the sea. Survivors of a ditched aircraft had a much better chance of being rescued than those who crashed on land.

During December a section of the Australian Intelligence Bureau was established on New Ireland, and on the basis of the information it provided new and profitable targets were found and attacked. At the same time it was able to describe the damage done to the enemy, which it was impossible to gauge from the air, and the authoritative reports that they were achieving good results gave considerable satisfaction to the aircrews.

1 American Catalians used on night operations; so called because of their colour.