P-40E-1-CU Kittyhawk fighter aircraft A29-133 'Polly' : RAAF


The Curtiss P-40E fighter was a single-seat aircraft powered by a V-1710-39 Allison In-line liquid cooled engine. Note: the machine is currently fitted with an -81 model engine. The armament was six M2 0.50 inch calibre Browning machine guns, mounted in the wings. The airframe was manufactured primarily from aluminium although the control surfaces were fabric covered.

Nearly 850 P-40s were acquired for use by the RAAF and served with distinction during the Second World War. The first machines were operated from 1941 in North Africa by 3 and 450 Squadrons RAAF. The first P-40s for service in the Pacific theatre were received by the RAAF from March 1942. The first of these entered action with 75 Squadron at Port Moresby within two weeks. The Kittyhawks were the only effective RAAF fighters throughout the fighting art Port Moresby and Milne Bay in 1942, the critical period when the Japanese advance towards Australia was stopped. Kittyhawks continued to play a major role throughout the remainder of the war in the Pacific equipping numerous RAAF squadrons.

This example is a P-40E -I-CU and was constructed by the Curtiss Wright Corporation at their factory in Buffalo, New York, USA. The aircraft was allotted the US military serial 41-36084. It was shipped to Australia and was received by 2 Aircraft Depot in Richmond NSW 8 June 1942 and allotted the serial number A29-133. It was issued to 75 Squadron on 17th June 1942 and was subsequently flown mostly by 402342 Flight Lieutenant Bruce (Buster) Brown who named the aircraft 'Polly'

History / Summary

P-40E-1-CU arrived at Milne Bay in late July 1942, where the aircraft of 75 and 76 Squadron were being concentrated to oppose the Japanese advance in Papua New Guinea. Air combat against Mitsubishi Zero aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy commenced on 4 August and A29-133 is known to have been attacked by two Zeros and received damage on 11 August in an air battle with 12 Japanese fighters. Four RAAF pilots were killed and Brown flying A29-133 was credited with shooting down an enemy aircraft. As August progressed it became clear that Milne Bay would be an important objective for the Japanese who were expected to attempt a landing in force on the morning of 25 August. Reports were received of Japanese barges and naval vessels in the area, together with a report of a barge landing at Goodenough Island. Shortly after midday the aircraft form 75 Squadron attacked and destroyed seven barges at this location. Later the formation attacked a large Japanese convoy on route to Milne Bay. Brown's logbook records that he participated in both attacks flying 'Polly'.

The Japanese landed on 26 August 1942 and finally withdrew by 7 September. In the first five days of the operation the Kittyhawks of 75 Squadron were heavily involved in strafing the Japanese troops in support of the defending allied ground forces. A29-133 was heavily involved in all of these operations. In February 1943 75 Squadron was again based at Milne Bay and A29-133 rejoined the unit in early March. On 14 April the machine was flown by W.S. Arthur DFC in action against a large force of Japanese aircraft which were attacking the airfield. Arthur was decorated for this action. On 2 June the Kittyhawk was damaged when a tyre blew out on takeoff. It was repaired by 10 RSU (Repair and Salvage Unit) and returned for service until early September when it was transferred to 82 Squadron. It was again damaged on 17 October during a landing accident in Bankstown NSW and was later converted to an instructional airframe and was posted to 1 Engineering School in Victoria. The aircraft was disposed of by the Department of Aircraft Production, circa 1947, and changed ownership several times before the Australian War Memorial purchased it in 1992.