Remembering 1941 - 2001 History Conference

The Royal Australian Air Force in 1941

Dr Alan Stephens
Department of History
Australian Defence Force Academy

On 4th September 1939, one day after the declaration of war on Germany, Flight Lieutenant J.F.P. Brough, a Royal Australian Air Force pilot serving in England with the RAF, participated in Bomber Command's first mission, an attack against enemy shipping near Wilhemshaven. The raid was a disaster with seven of the twenty-nine aircraft lost, although Brough survived to fight another day.

Brough was one of some 450 Australian pilots serving with the RAF in the United Kingdom in 1939, more in fact than were serving with the RAAF at home.

Which leads me to the first RAAF campaign I wish to mention this afternoon, namely, the campaign to train vast numbers of Australians to fly and maintain aircraft in a world war. While this may not have been a campaign in the usual sense of the word, it was so important that it must serve as the start-point for this presentation on the RAAF in 1941.

The Empire Air Training Scheme

The day war was declared there were 310 officers and 3179 airmen in the RAAF, supplemented by 194 Citizen Force and Reserve officers. That extremely modest establishment operated 246 aircraft, everyone of which was obsolescent.

In order to address the desperate shortage of airmen, particularly aircrew, the United Kingdom and the Dominions entered into a plan known as the Empire Air Training Scheme. Visionary in concept and monumental in scope, the EATS applied the classic principle of unity of effort, as the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand agreed to work together to train 50 000 aircrew each year to fight for the common good in Europe. Australia's annual share was to be 10 478. The implications for an organisation which for two decades had graduated about fifty pilots annually were staggering. By March 1940, 68 000 men had volunteered to join the RAAF, 11 500 as aircrew. The first EATS course was inducted on 29 April.

Throughout 1940 the organisation needed to train those men was expanded, and by 1941 it was largely in place. Fully developed, the Australian component of the EATS production line consisted of five initial training schools, ten elementary flying training schools, five service flying training schools, two bombing and gunnery schools, four air observer schools, and two wireless operator/air gunner schools; and every month those flying training factories were turning out some 800 young men, most of whom twelve months previously had never flown, but who now were ready to fight the war in the air. The first Australian EATS graduates arrived in England on Christmas eve 1940. Regardless of anything else the RAAF accomplished in World War II, the fact that it met the demands of the EATS to a consistently high standard represented one of the service's most successful campaigns.

Technical Staff

Growing numbers of flying squadrons meant growing demands for ground staff. The range of skills needed was extensive, eventually incorporating 120 trades. For the first year of the war the RAAF was able to recruit most groundcrew ready-trained, but as that source dried-up it became necessary to take-on semi-skilled and unskilled people and train them either in-house or with civilian contractors. 1

The training task was enormously complex. As well as having to find educators and facilities, develop syllabuses, and ensure that the sequence of recruiting, training and despatching people to units remained coherent, the RAAF had to accommodate rapidly emerging technologies. For example, instrument makers who in 1939 had repaired primitive First World War systems by 1941 had to be taught the intricacies of computing gun-sights and fluxgate compasses; clerks needed lessons on accounting machines rather than in mental arithmetic; and armourers had to master a wide range of weapons which rolled-out from the laboratories at ever-faster rates. Every time a new technology appeared a new training course with all of its associated demands had to be introduced.

By the end of the war the RAAF had trained more than 18 000 technicians 'from the ground up', and another 35 000 had received basic training at civilian schools before entering the Air Force for further education.

The Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force

Vocational training was, however, only half the answer to staffing the Air Force. No matter how many and how good the courses, if sufficient numbers of suitable men were not available the RAAF could never reach its projected strength. Only months into the war it was clear that manpower was going to be a problem, especially for a technical service with stringent educational standards. The establishment in 1941 of the Air Training Corps as an avenue through which youths aged sixteen to eighteen could gain exposure to the RAAF helped in the longer term, and by 1945 more than 12 000 former ATC cadets were serving in all theatres.

But it was clear that, despite the opposition of conservative groups, the only short-term solution was to employ women. In the event, the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force which had its uncertain beginnings in February 1941 was to be one of the war's great success stories.

Wonderfully led by their first director, Group Officer Clare Stevenson, the WAAAF eventually constituted 31.5 per cent of RAAF ground staff and its members were employed in sixty-one trades ranging from accounting machine operators to anti-gas instructors; flight mechanics to flight riggers; mess stewards to meteorological assistants; and wireless mechanics to wireless telegraphists. In all about 27 000 women served in the WAAAF, everyone of them doing jobs previously performed by men.

The great majority of WAAAFs found their wartime experiences positive and fulfilling as they tackled service life with 'zest, humour and determination to succeed'. The WAAAF's trademarks were its efficiency and high morale.


As I mentioned previously, RAAF aircrew already in the UK at the start of World War II were involved in the fighting from the outset, primarily with Bomber, Fighter and Coastal Commands. I want to start this review of operations in 1941 with the most significant campaign fought in the air during World War II, the bomber offensive against Germany and Italy.

Bomber Command

The majority of the 27 899 aircrew trained by the RAAF under the EATS to fight in Europe did so with the RAF's Bomber Command, taking part in the epic fight in the night skies over Europe.

The first EATS graduate to join a Bomber Command squadron was a pilot, Sergeant R.G. Danman, who was posted to the RAF's No. 9 Squadron to fly Wellingtons on 28 March 1941. Less than a month later Danman was shot down and became a prisoner-of-war.

Under the terms of the EATS agreement eighteen Australian squadrons were to be formed in the UK. 2 Bomber Command's first 'RAAF' squadron was No. 455, formed on 6 June 1941 without any Australians. But as the numbers of EATS graduates reaching England increased the quota grew, eventually reaching 78 per cent. No. 455 Squadron was equipped with Hampdens, a twin-engined medium bomber which had been briefly withdrawn from operations early in the war because of its deficiencies. The squadron flew its first mission on 29 August 1941 when its only available aircraft, flown by an Australian serving with the RAF, Squadron Leader D.J. French, bombed Frankfurt-on-Main. Later the squadron participated in the unsuccessful attempt to find and destroy the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisnau in the English Channel following their break-out from the French port of Brest.

Two more RAAF Bomber Command squadrons were formed during 1941: No. 458 in August; and No. 460 - the outstanding RAAF unit of World War II - in November. Under the leadership of one of the RAF's most experienced Australian officers, Wing Commander A.L.G. Hubbard, No. 460 Squadron took its twin-engined Wellingtons to war for the first time in a strike against Emden on 12/13 March 1942. Only two months later, on 30/31 May, the squadron contributed eighteen aircraft to the dramatic thousand-bomber attack on Cologne, an operation described by one participant, Flying Officer C.W.J. Falkinder as 'the father of all raids'. (Falkinder was to become the RAAF's most decorated navigator, with a DSO, DFC and Bar.)

Australian aircrew participated in almost every Bomber Command operation in 1941, as members either of RAAF squadrons or, more commonly, of RAF squadrons. In the event 1941 proved to be a difficult year for the command as both its technology - aircraft, navigation equipment, and bombing systems - and its prewar theories were found wanting. However, measures were being taken to redress those shortcomings, and within a year Bomber Command would be on the threshold of becoming a mighty force.

More to the point of this presentation, in 1941 the air offensive against Germany was the allies' sole means of taking the war directly to the enemy. It was the men of Bomber Command who alone opened a second front against the Nazis, in a campaign that ultimately was to inflict decisive damage on the German war economy.

Air Defence

Like their colleagues in Bomber Command, Australian fighter pilots in the UK in 1941 were more likely to be serving with the RAF than with the RAAF.

Three Australian fighter squadrons were raised for service in Europe during 1941, No. 452 in April and Nos. 456 and 457 in June. Nos. 452 and 457 Squadrons were armed with Spitfires; while No. 456 Squadron, a night-fighter unit, started with Defiants before soon changing to Beaufighters. Of the three, No. 452 was the most active during 1941, participating in 'Rhubarb' (mass fighter sweeps) and 'Circus' (mass fighter and bomber sweeps) operations over France, and contributing to the air defence of Great Britain. The squadron's profile was raised by the presence of one of Australia's most popular warriors and leading fighter pilots, Squadron Leader Keith 'Bluey' Truscott.

Coastal Command

The RAAF's No. 10 Squadron was the first dominion unit to see active service in World War II. Already in the UK in September 1939 to take delivery of new Sunderland flying boats, No. 10 Squadron remained on front-line operations throughout the war, conducting the full range of maritime roles, including anti-submarine patrols, convoy escort, anti-surface ship strikes, mining, and air-sea rescue. Other RAAF maritime patrol squadrons joined Coastal Command in 1942.

Convoy protection was also a vital role back home before the war in the Pacific started, as Australian servicemen sailed for distant theatres on troopships. The loss of one of those ships would have been traumatic.

That none was sunk was due in large part to those RAAF crews who tirelessly patrolled Australia's seas. Thoroughness and persistence were the key to their success. Sydney Harbour would be swept before a convoy's departure, after which the area ahead of the ships was constantly searched. A network of airfields was developed for the task and circled the coastline, from Coffs Harbour to Taree, Nowra, Moruya, Mallacoota, Bairnsdale, Laverton, Mount Gambier, Ceduna, Albany, Pearce and Geraldton.

The job was made more difficult than it should have been in the early years by the modest performance of the aircraft used, the Avro Anson. Flattered by its official title of 'general reconnaissance/bomber', the Anson was armed with only two machine guns and 160 kilograms of bombs, and was pressed into service simply because nothing else was available. So marginal was the 'Aggie's' performance that when in 1942 it was fitted with ASV (air-to-surface vessel) radar it was unable to carry a useful weapons load. The gradual introduction of more capable aircraft like the Hudson and Beaufort eased the task.

North Africa

RAAF airmen were also involved in the fighting in North Africa almost from the beginning, with No. 3 Squadron deploying to the Middle East in July 1940 to support the Australian Army's 6th Division. The squadron was integrated into the RAF and was equipped with Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters and Westland Lysander light observation aircraft.

Based initially on the Egyptian coast about 200 kilometres west of Alexandria, No. 3 Squadron' s first combat came on 19 November 1940 when four Gladiators led by Flight Lieutenant B.R. Pelly were attacked by eighteen Italian Air Force Fiat CR-42s. The ensuing dog-fight must have looked like a reprise of World War I as the opposing biplanes looped and turned around each other. No less than nine of the Fiats went after Pelly while the others circled his wingmen; and during the 25-minute engagement Pelly stoically fought-off nine separate attacks. One of the RAAF Gladiators was shot down and the pilot killed, but in turn the Australians destroyed at least three, possibly six, of the Italian fighters.

No. 3 Squadron contributed to the allies' morale-boosting victories at Sidi Barrani in December, at Bardia in January 1941, and, later that month, at Tobruk, where the 6th Division captured 27 000 soldiers and Italian resistance in North Africa effectively ended. Success was made even more enjoyable for the Australian airmen when their obsolescent biplanes were replaced by Hurricanes.

The Italian collapse forced Hitler to despatch General Erwin Rommel to the theatre. Helped by a strongly-reinforced Luftwaffe, Rommel's Afrika Korps quickly regained lost ground and, as the allies fell back, No. 3 Squadron regrouped in Palestine where it was again re-armed, this time with American-built Tomahawk fighters.

Two additional RAAF fighter/army cooperation units, Nos. 450 and 451 Squadrons, arrived in the Middle East in mid-1941 to supplement No. 3 Squadron.

In September the Australians deployed to Libya to join the Desert Air Force which, together with the Eighth Army, was leading the counter-offensive against Rommel. By late November the grim struggle once again centred on the port of Tobruk, where the allies were under siege. On the afternoon of the 25th, Squadron Leader Peter Jeffrey led pilots from No. 3 Squadron and the RAF's No. 112 Squadron (which included a number of Australians) on an offensive sweep, seeking to take the fight to the enemy. To the unrestrained enthusiasm of the onlooking allied army Jeffrey's formation scored an important victory, shooting down seven enemy aircraft and damaging another eight for the loss of one Tomahawk. Several days later another intense engagement saw twenty more Luftwaffe aircraft destroyed or damaged.
When the last Australian Army division was withdrawn from the Middle East at the end of 1942, the RAAF remained behind. For the next three years the Australian pilots and ground staff fought their way northwards through Tunisia, Sicily, Corsica, Italy, and central Europe, to the final victory over Germany.

Among the RAAF pilots serving in the desert was Pilot Officer Clive Caldwell, who was to become Australia's leading air ace in World War II. On 5 December 1941, in what has been described as the 'most brilliant air success of the Western Desert campaign', Caldwell shot down five Ju-87 Stukas in eighteen seconds. The combat report recorded his astonishing victory:

At 300 yards I opened fire with all my guns at the leader of one of the rear sections of three, allowing too little deflection, and hit No. 2 and No. 3, one of which burst into flames immediately, the other going down smoking and went into flames after losing about 1000 feet. I then attacked the leader of the rear section ... from below and behind, opening fire with all guns at very close range. The enemy aircraft turned over and dived steeply ... [I] opened fire [at another Ju-87] again at close range, the enemy caught fire ... and crashed in flames ... I was able to pull up under the belly of one of the rear, holding the burst until very close range. The enemy ... caught fire and dived into the ground'.

Caldwell was simultaneously awarded the DFC and Bar, an achievement unique in RAAF history.

The Southwest Pacific Area

In a tacit admission that the Singapore strategy was flawed and that Britain's Royal Navy was unlikely to appear over the horizon to rescue Australia should war with Japan come, in mid-1940 the Australian government started to build-up its air power in Southeast Asia. 3 By August 1941, when Group Captain J.P.J. McCauley assumed command of the RAAF contingent at Sembawang in Singapore, there were four squadrons on the island: Nos. 21 and 453 armed with Buffalo fighters; and Nos. 1 and 8 armed with Hudson strike/reconnaissance bombers.

Believing that war with Japan was likely sooner rather than later and alarmed by the complacent atmosphere pervading Singapore, McCauley set about inculcating a more professional attitude within the RAAF. He placed operational training and planning on a formal basis, personally supervised the patrols Nos. 1 and 8 Squadrons were flying, and introduced passive defence measures such as camouflage and aircraft dispersion. 'Amazed' to hear the British commander-in-chief, Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brook-Popham (who had been brought out of retirement for the appointment), state that the existing fighter squadrons were adequate, McCauley also worked assiduously but unsuccessfully to convince his superiors of the urgent need to strengthen Singapore's air defences. 4

By December 1941 intelligence reports of Japanese shipping and troop movements were making ominous reading. The two RAAF reconnaissance squadrons were deployed to the east coast of Malaya to put them closer to the likely Japanese line of advance from Indochina, No. 1 Squadron to Kota Bharu on the Thai/Malay border and No. 8 Squadron to Kuantan, 260 kilometres further south. Nos. 21 and 453 Squadrons were based at Sungei Patani and Sembawang respectively.
On the evening of 7/8 December a Japanese invasion force appeared off Kota Bharu.

Because of time zone differences the enemy landing at Kota Bharu preceded the notorious raid on Pearl Harbor by more than an hour, making the RAAF Hudson crews who responded the first allied airmen to strike a blow against Japan. They fought magnificently, flying through intense anti-aircraft fire to attack with bombs and guns. Numerous direct hits were scored on the invasion fleet, which was believed to consist of two cruisers, four destroyers, three transports and one landing-craft carrier. At least one of the transports and more than twenty landing-craft were destroyed. Two Hudsons were lost and a third severely damaged, and most were badly shot-up.

During a brief lull, with their aircraft pushed into revetments on the edge of the jungle surrounding the airfield, the Australians were advised that the invasion seemed to have been repelled and there was not much to worry about.Shortly afterwards enemy fighters suddenly appeared and, diving at high speed down to tree-top level, strafed the base in a stunning display of combat power. Seven Hudsons were left burning from the raid, which was followed during the day by six more. Subsequently a revised intelligence assessment acknowledged with masterful understatement that the invasion had in fact been 'fairly successful'.

It was now known that there had been two other landings nearby and it was clear that the airfield at Kota Bharu was a major objective. It was also clear that it was only a matter of time before it was captured. Consequently, less than twenty-four hours after the first shots had been fired, Air Headquarters in Singapore ordered the squadrons to abandon Kota Bharu and fall back to Kuantan. Buildings and other facilities were hastily destroyed and three Hudsons which could not be flown were put to the torch. Only five serviceable aircraft remained. Heavily overloaded with men and supplies, they came under fire immediately they laboured into the air. Some were pursued down the coast by marauding Zeros.

Even though the war was still in its opening phase the Zero had already shown signs that it was dangerously better than the British fighters. It was also flown better, at least compared to the Australians. Many of the RAAF pilots at Nos. 21 and 453 Squadrons were inexperienced and inadequately trained, and some were simply not good enough to fly fighters. Their introduction to combat was no less traumatic than that of the Hudson crews.

By the end of the day only four of No. 21 Squadron's Buffaloes remained airworthy, most having been destroyed on the ground. Like their colleagues at Kota Bharu the squadron suffered the humiliation of having to retreat before the first day was over, in their case to Butterworth, sixty kilometres south.

At Sembawang, No. 453 Squadron's pilots had the galling experience of having to stand and watch as Japanese aircraft overflew their base on their way to bomb Singapore. And when the squadron was finally allowed to takeoff it was in the role of supporting cast for one of the greatest disasters of the war, the sinking on 10 December of the two mighty Royal Navy warships, HMS Repulse and Prince of Wales, in less than 2½ hours.

Scrambled too late to help, the pilots of No. 453 Squadron arrived on the scene only in time to see the last Japanese aircraft disappearing over the horizon and the Prince of Wales beneath the surface, taking with it 326 sailors to join the 513 who had already died on Repulse.

No other event exposed so absolutely the poverty of British (including Australian) thinking between the wars. Within the space of three days the despised Asians had shown themselves to be better prepared, better trained and better equipped than their European opponents. Hardened professionals were putting complacent amateurs to the sword. Unbelievably, not only Singapore, but also Australia, now seemed at risk.

Among the units which had scrambled back to Singapore by late December were Nos. 1 and 8 Squadrons, by then reduced to a total of seven airworthy Hudsons; and Nos. 21 and 453 Squadrons, which at one stage had only three serviceable Buffaloes between them.

Defensive plans were recast, units reorganised, and the few reinforcements which could be spared from Europe were rushed out. Among those reinforcements were fifty-one Hurricane fighters and twenty-four RAF pilots for, as Winston Churchill later commented, compared to the Zero the Buffalo was 'perfectly useless'. 6 But when the Hurricanes took to the air in mid-January to try to halt the raids on Singapore they too were outperformed by the wonderfully manoeuvrable Japanese fighter.

By then the campaign was reaching its conclusion, which came on 15 February 1942 when the 139 000-strong allied army under the command of Lieutenant-General A.E. Percival surrendered to the 60 000-strong Japanese army of General Tomoyuki Yamashita.

Group Captain McCauley's stoic leadership during the subsequent fighting retreat through the Dutch East Indies and eventually back to Australia provided one of the few saving graces in what was an otherwise profoundly depressing experience. When McCauley finally arrived in Australia exhausted from the catastrophe he was, in the words of his colleague Group Captain Valston Hancock, 'determined not to rest until he had analysed and learned from those dramatic events'.

At the same time as British forces were being routed in Malaya, a similar fiasco was being played out on a smaller scale closer to Australia, at Rabaul in New Britain.

Rabaul was one of a number of advanced garrisons which had been hurriedly established on the islands to Australia's north. In early-December 1941 RAAF Headquarters rushed No. 24 Squadron's Hudsons and Wirraways from Amberley to Rabaul, desperate to make a stand. Desperate or not, the deployment of Wirraways was an act of delinquency. If the Buffaloes of Nos. 21 and 453 Squadrons had been outclassed by the Zero, what chance would there be for an aircraft based on a trainer (the NA-33 Harvard), with a rear gunner sitting in an open cockpit? The Wirraway was a fighter only in the minds of the Air Board.

No. 24 Squadron did its best, mounting a series of courageous if largely futile raids with its Hudsons and scrambling its Wirraways whenever Rabaul was attacked. An incident on 4 January 1942 was typical of the one-sided nature of the fighting. Two Wirraways were scrambled to intercept twenty-two Mitsubishi Type-96 'Nell' heavy bombers; fortunately for the RAAF crews their pathetic 'fighters' were incapable of climbing quickly enough to engage the enemy.

Rabaul was evacuated three weeks later, with No. 24 Squadron's arrival back in Australia preceding by a fortnight the low point in Australia's military history, the bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942.


Before concluding with some comments on the RAAF's force structure in 1941, I should briefly mention operations in Burma, the occupation of which was a central plank of Japan's war strategy. Rangoon was the main port of entry for allied supplies en route to China, so by seizing the city the Japanese believed they would gradually choke Chinese resistance. Moreover, whoever held Burma controlled access to India, the jewel in Britain's colonial crown.

By December 1941 Japanese soldiers had crossed into Burma from Thailand and were surging towards Rangoon. RAAF fighter pilots serving with RAF squadrons were among the allied forces who tried unsuccessfully to stem the invasion, fighting alongside the Flying Tigers of the flamboyant American air commander, Colonel Claire Chennault.

Force Structure

Early RAAF wartime planning had envisaged a Home Defence Air Force - that is, an air force based in the Australian region, and whose units would be additional to those formed in England under the Empire Air Training Scheme - of nineteen squadrons. The most notable feature of the nineteen-squadron plan was its emphasis on flexibility, with general purpose aircraft favoured over specialised types because of their ability to perform several roles, especially reconnaissance, convoy escort and bombing. In June 1940 the plan was expanded to thirty-two squadrons, with priority again going to general purpose aircraft.

Key factors in the proposed structure were timing and the strategic outlook. The Battle of Britain, which was to convince even the most reactionary generals and admirals of the importance of air defence, had yet to be fought. Furthermore, while developments in the Pacific were ominous war did not seem imminent; and even if it did occur the expectation was that the Royal Navy would materialise at Singapore and save the day. An air force which would conduct support operations within that framework seemed reasonable. Should it become necessary for the RAAF to establish control of the air it would do so by destroying the enemy's air power on the ground, using its general purpose bombers.

The realities of war in Australia's backyard shattered that complacent mindset. On 12 December 1941, only four days after the Japanese landing at Kota Bharu, the Australian War Cabinet approved the expansion of the RAAF to sixty squadrons, a figure which shortly afterwards was again revised upwards, this time to seventy-three.7 The second increase was based on the belief that Japan's advance southwards would continue and would culminate in an attempt to invade Australia.

The seventy-three squadron plan differed significantly from its predecessors for the compelling reason that it had become essential to transform the RAAF into an anti-invasion force. Three operational concepts underpinned the plan. First, the RAAF had to be capable of establishing a reconnaissance screen in the air/sea gap to Australia's north. Second, that screen had to be backed-up by strike forces, a proportion of which would be deployed forward in the islands and the remainder held back in reserve. Finally, each of the RAAF's mainland area commands had to have its own balanced force which would be capable of delaying any attempted invasion until reinforcements arrived.

Priority was given to rapid mobility, air defence and strike. Rapid mobility was especially noteworthy, as prior to the war the RAAF had never had any specialist airlifters. The seventy-three squadron plan established nine transport squadrons, most of which were eventually equipped with the Douglas C-47.

Also on the new order of battle were twenty-four fighter squadrons, whose appearance represented a marked turn-around from the pre-war belief that control of the air would be won by bombers, and showed that the lessons from the Battle of Britain, Malaya and Singapore had been learnt. The proposed twenty-seven squadrons of bombers consisted primarily of light and medium general purpose aircraft but also included four heavy squadrons which, it was envisaged, would assume an increasingly prominent role as the allies moved onto the offensive.


Three aspects of the RAAF's experience in 1941 stand out. First, in Europe, the Empire Air Training Scheme began to make itself felt as Australian pilots, navigators, wireless operators and gunners started to arrive in substantial numbers. The stage had been set for the RAAF to make a significant contribution to victory in the critical theatre of the war. Second, the start of the war in the Pacific found the RAAF, like the Army and Navy, shamefully unprepared. Yet while the fighting in Malaya, Singapore and New Britain was an unmitigated disaster, the fact that a vast and robust training system had been established offered hope for the future. By the end of 1941 there were 61 100 men and women in the Air Force, a twenty-fold increase in only two years. And finally, the endorsement of the seventy-three squadron plan showed that the government had learnt from those disasters, and that if the threatened invasion of Australia were to be defeated it would be the air power of the RAAF which would constitute the first line of defence.


[1] C.D. Coultard-Clark, From the Ground Up (Air Power Studies Centre, Fairbairn, 1997), PP6-11

[2] In the event only seventeen RAAF squadrons were formed. For more detail on the composition of those units see Stephens, The Royal Australian Air Force, pp. 64-66, 99.

[3] The Singapore strategy which dominated Australian defence planning during the inter-war years was based on the assumption that, should war with Japan eventuate, a powerful Royal Navy fleet would deploy to the region and operate from the allegedly impregnable naval fortress of Singapore.

[4] Air Commodore J.P.J. McCauley, Diary, November 1941-February 1942, RAAF Richmond.

[5] J.D. Balfe, War Without Glory (Macmillan, South Melbourne, 1984), pp. 44-5.

[6] Churchill to Portal, 3-2-1942, Portal Papers, Folder 3, Christ Church College, Oxford.

[7] War Cabinet Minutes 1579, 12-12-1941; 1900, 18-2-1942, RAAF Historical Records Section, Canberra.