RAAF Seaplane Squadrons WW11….a summary
Aircraft - Seagull (Walrus) stationed on light / heavy RAN cruisers. Main duties - Aerial reconnaissance around the ship.
Formed in January 1939 at Point Cook, Victoria. Using the Seagull or Walrus amphibian light plane operating from the light and heavy cruisers of the RAN. They saw action with their parent ships in most of the world’s oceans, ranging from the Arctic to the South Pacific.
The aircraft were used to provide their parent ships with reconnaissance, anti submarine protection, artillery spotting and general support. By 1944 the RAN employed support from land and carrier based aircraft. All RAN Cruisers had their catapults removed during 1944 and 9 Squadron was disbanded at RAAF Base Rathmines on 31st December 1944.
Aircraft - Short Sunderlands. Main Duties - Escorting convoys, anti submarine patrols and air-sea rescues.
10 Squadron was permanently based in Britain during WW11, the only Squadron to serve continuously for the duration of the war in Europe. Formed at Point Cook, Victoria on 1st July 1939, as well as a variety of old seaplanes with the intention they be replaced by Short Sunderlands. In July 1939 a small group of Squadron personnel proceeded to the UK to train on the aircraft. WW11 was declared on 2nd October 1939 and the Australian Government ordered the Squadron to remain there to assist the British War effort.
The Squadron’s primary role was to locate and destroy German submarines and fly air sea rescue missions. In 1940 it predominately escorted Allied shipping convoys passing through the north Atlantic ocean. The most intensive period of operations was during 1943 and early 1944, in and around the Bay of Biscay hunting and destroying German submarines.
The Squadron’s two main bases were Pembroke Dock and Mount Batten, near Plymouth in Southern England. Some small detachments did operate from Gibraltar and Oban in Western Scotland.
10 Squadron ceased operations on 1st June 1945, having sunk six submarines since February 1940. The Squadron was disbanded on 25th October 1945.
Aircraft - Originally Empire Flying Boats and then Catalina Flying Boats.
Main duties - Long range patrols, often attacking Japanese island strongholds. Extensive mining operations, attacking Japanese shipping and submarines. Formed at RAAF Base Richmond NSW on 21st September 1939, relocating to Port Moresby New Guinea on 28th September 1939. The Squadron consisted of two Empire ‘C’ Class Flying Boats and two Seagull Mk 5 amphibians. By the end of June 1941 they had four Catalinas and four ex Qantas Airways and Imperial Airways S23 ‘Short’ Empire Flying Boats. The Catalinas taken over by 20 Squadron on 14th August 1941 were replaced in November 1941.
11 Squadron was moved to Bowen Qld. on 7th May 1942 due to Japanese attacks in New Guinea. The Squadron was then relocated to Cairns on 11th November 1942. A further relocation took place when the Squadron moved to RAAF Base Rathmines NSW on 10th July 1944. It was disbanded at Rathmines on 15th February 1946.
The Squadron was reformed several times between 1946 and 1968 and is based at RAAF Edinburgh, South Australia, operating a fleet of P-8A Poseidon aircraft in a variety of maritime roles.
Aircraft - Empire Flying Boats and then Catalinas. Main duties - Extensive defence reconnaissance, mine laying and secret missions behind enemy lines dropping agents, coast watchers and their supplies.
Formed at Port Moresby on 1st August 1941 and a few weeks later took over the Catalinas from 11 Squadron. On 28th April 1942 the Squadron was relocated to Bowen, due to recurring Japanese attacks around New Guinea. There was a short relocation to Cairns and then Darwin (East Arm) in 1944. From November 1945 the Squadron was based at RAAF Rathmines and was subsequently disbanded on 27th March 1946. This Squadron was reformed on April 1st 2015 and is based at RAAF Woomera, South Australia.
Aircraft - Sunderland Flying Boats and Mariner Flying Boats.
Main Duties - Flying regular transport service between Australia and New Guinea. Formed on 31st March 1944 in Queensland with six Sunderlands. In July 1944 the Squadron relocated to Port Moresby where it continued transport duties to Australia and other Island destinations.
Four Mariners were added to the Squadron in mid 1945 and the following year the Squadron moved to Rathmines NSW. Catalinas replaced the Mariners and then the Squadron was disbanded on 19th June 1946.
Aircraft - Empire Flying Boats, Dutch Dorniers and Martin Mariners. Main Duties - Transport duties including freight and passengers along the Australian East coast and to New Guinea. Search and Rescue missions were also part of their role.
Formed at Townsville in August 1942. June 1943 saw the first of six ex Dutch Dorniers allocated to the Squadron. Although impressive in appearance, these three engined aircraft could only carry 900 kilograms of freight and they were in poor condition. Despite tireless efforts of ground crew, the Dorniers were plagued with mechanical problems. By February 1944, Martin Mariners arrived to supplement the Dorniers and with their greater payload and performance they quickly became the preferred aircraft, especially on the longer flights to Noumea and Vanuatu. Apart from their transport role, numerous search and rescue missions were undertaken. By the end of the war, 41 Squadron had rescued over one hundred and fifty personnel from the waters of the Pacific Ocean.
After briefly operating a daily service between Cairns and Port Moresby, the Squadron was disbanded on 27th September 1945.
Aircraft - Catalina Flying Boats. Main duties - Reconnaissance, escort missions and mine laying operations. Following the cessation of hostilities, the Squadron was involved in extensive repatriation flights for POWs and Service personnel.
Formed in the Northern Territory in June 1944, the initial deployment was around New Guinea. Later they operated from Melville Bay in Arnhem Land, just east of Darwin. By the end of the year the missions were concentrated on mine-laying operations. The Squadron’s highly successful mine-laying work soon sealed off the Celebes from coast hugging Japanese vessels. In October 1944, a Squadron Catalina was damaged by anti-aircraft fire, a forced landing was made south of Japanese occupied Celebes. Flying through enemy territory a 41 Squadron Catalina, accompanied by a B-24 Liberator, rescued the crew before destroying the aircraft to prevent its capture. A journey of nearly 2500 kilometres through enemy airspace, this mission ranks as one of the epic sea rescues of the Pacific theatre.
Mine-laying continued to the end of hostilities. Following the war, the Catalinas assisted in the repatriation of POWs and personnel until November 1945 when the Squadron was disbanded.
Aircraft - Catalinas. Main Duties - Extensive mining and bombing tasks, air sea rescue and also submarine and convoy protection.
Formed at Bowen QLD on 1st May 1943. Moved to Karumba on 19th August 1943, whilst maintaining a detachment at Bowen. Relocated to Darwin airfield and then Doctors Gully on 9th April 1944. The last mining mission was on the night of 29th July 1945 when mines were laid at Bangka Strait.
As the war ended, the Squadron continued to fly patrols over the Dutch East Indies and the approaches to Darwin, until they were transferred to RAAF Rathmines on 3rd December 1945.
Aircraft - Kingfisher Float Planes. Main Duties - Anti submarine patrols and escort duties along the east coast of NSW.
Formed at Rathmines in May 1943. The Squadron operated its patrols and escort duties from Rathmines, until a relocation to St Georges Basin in mid 1944. To improve the Kingfisher’s capabilities, the crew removed armour plating, as well as modifying the bomb racks to enable the carriage of 250lb depth charges.
The Squadron was disbanded in October 1945.
Seaplane Training Flight:
Aircraft - Supermarine Seagulls, Kingfishers and Catalinas.
Main duties - Providing seaplane conversion training to RAAF air and ground crew. Established on 1st March 1940 with two Seagull aircraft. The Flight received Consolidated Catalinas in the second half of 1940 and a small number of Kingfishers in early 1942.
As an expansion of the RAAF’s seaplane training units the Flight was expanded to form No 3 Operational Training Unit on 28th December 1942.
No 3 Operational Training Unit RAAF:
Aircraft - Kingfishers and Catalinas.
Main duties - Formed from the Seaplane Training Flight, No 3 OTU was the RAAF’s main seaplane training unit during WW11. Located at RAAF Rathmines NSW the Unit was responsible for converting aircrew to fly the Catalina and Kingfisher aircraft.
In addition the unit flew anti submarine patrols off the coast of NSW, finally disbanded on 31st October 1845, without seeing combat.
Aircraft - Short Sunderlands. Main Duties - Anti Submarine Patrols
461 was formed at RAF Mount Batten UK on 25th April 1942. Crews were mostly Australian with a mix of other nationalities from across the British Empire. Initial patrols were carried out in daylight over the Atlantic. During 1942 several encounters with enemy submarined occurred but without success. During 1943 the Squadron relocated to Pembroke Dock, near Plymouth. Patrols now commenced around the Bay of Biscay and later in 1943 the Squadron was equipped with the Sunderland Mark111.
The Mk111 version was radar equipped and this allowed night anti submarine patrols. During this year the squadron claimed 3 submarines as sunk. Patrols continued over the Bay and the Atlantic and there was convoy escort work supporting the planned Allied landing in Normandy.
A further 3 submarines were sunk during 1944. Ground crew made numerous modifications to the 461 aircraft and they became a formidable force, such that the German pilots called the Sunderland the ‘flying hedgehog’, due to it’s armament and numerous accounts are recorded of 461 aircraft fighting off multiple fighter attacks.