3 Squadron RAAF

3 Squadron was first formed in 1916 and served on the Western Front. During the Second World War it served in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, and in 1948 was reformed in Canberra, where it was equipped with P-51 Mustangs. In 1956 the squadron moved to Williamtown, near, Newcastle, where it received the new, Australian-built Sabre jet fighters.

In 1958 Australia’s air commitment to Malaya increased to include 2 Squadron, a bomber squadron, followed by 3 Squadrons in October and 77 Squadron in February 1959. 3 and 77 Squadrons were both fighter squadrons and flew Sabres.

Stationed at the RAAF Base Butterworth, in Province Wellesley, north Malaya, 2, 3, and 77 Squadrons trained for their roles in the Strategic Reserve, only occasionally participating in Emergency air operations, such as flying ground attack missions against jungle-covered targets. By 1959 the war had virtually ceased.

3 Squadron carried out its first operation on 13 August - a joint bombing raid with 77 Squadron, of six aircraft each, against three communist terrorist camps. The strike was perfectly coordinated, with aircraft arriving at the target area as scheduled and accurately hitting or dive bombing their target. Unfortunately, the raid was of little value, as the only visual results were, as one pilot described it, “several rubber trees severely damaged and thousands of monkeys scared fartless”. 3 and 77 Squadrons took part in two more strikes in June 1960.

Although the Emergency lasted until 1960, the tensions in south-east Asia kept the squadron in Malaysia until 1969. During the Indonesian Confrontation, in September 1964, Indonesian aircraft dropped paratroopers into Jahore, which increased tensions. Following riots in Singapore, a state of emergency was declared. On 3 September 77 Squadron had four aircraft on five-minute alert and the rest of the squadron on one-hour alert. All aircraft were armed with Sidewinder missiles and guns, and were fitted with drop tanks. On 7 September 3 Squadron moved six aircraft to RAF Base Changi, Singapore, and the rest of the squadron came under 77 Squadron’s command, before later also going on to Singapore. An extra 15 aircraft and 52 ground crew were ferried from Australia to help maintain the seven-day-a-week alert. By the end of the month tensions were easing, with only two aircraft on standby. In November, however, fears escalated again when 90 Indonesians attempted to land at Malacca and both squadrons were placed on high alert.

In early 1967 3 Squadron returned to Williamtown, to be re-equipped with French Mirage interceptor aircraft, before returning to Butterworth in 1969. The squadron remained in south-east Asia for the next 17 years and did not return to Australia until 1986.

Glossary

Equipment

Battle Honours

  • nil

Casualties

  • Nil killed

For more information please see the Roll of Honour database.

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • nil

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

References

  • Brown, Wayne; Cork, Andrew; Faggo, Colin; Donselaar, Annette, Swift to destroy : an illustrated history of 77 Squadron RAAF 1942-1986, (Newcastle, N.S.W : Norman Morris Pty Ltd, 1986)
  • Dennis, Peter, 1945-, Official History, Vietnam Vol.V: Emergency and confrontation : Australian military operations in Malaya & Borneo 1950-66, (St Leonards, N.S.W. : Allen & Unwin in association with the Australian War Memorial, 1996)
  • Royal Australian Air Force Historical Records Section, Units of the Royal Australian Air Force : a concise history: volume 2 Fighter units, (Canberra : AGPS Press, 1995)