RAF in the Pacific War

British Flight Training School No. 1, Terrell, TX

After the fall of the Dutch East Indies, the British RAF contributed six squadrons to the Pacific Air War.

March 1941 allowed for the training of Allied pilots on U.S. soil and the formation of British Flying Training Schools.  These unique establishments were owned by American operators, staffed with civilian instructors, but supervised by British flight officers. Each school, and there were seven located throughout the southern and southwestern United States, utilized RAF’s own training syllabus.

The aircraft were supplied by the U.S. Army Air Corps.  Campuses were located in Terrell, Texas; Lancaster, California; Miami, Oklahoma; Mesa, Arizona; Clewiston, Florida; Ponca City, Oklahoma; and Sweetwater, Texas.

AT-6 2A RAF Texan (aka Harvard)

During the period of greatest threat to Australia in 1942, Winston Churchill agreed to release three squadrons of Spitfires from service in England.  This included No. 54 squadron plus two RAAF expeditionary squadrons serving in Britain, Nos. 452 and 457.  The Spitfire was at the time the premier Allied air defense fighter.

Pilots of RAF No. 54 Squadron

The squadrons arrived in Australia in October 1942 and were grouped as No. 1 Wing.  They were assigned the defense of the Darwin area in January of 1943.  The Wing remained in that role for the remainder of the war.  In late 1943 two additional RAF Squadrons were formed in Australia, Nos. 548 and 549.  These relieved the RAAF Spitfire squadrons for eventual duty with the 1st RAAF Tactical Air Force.

RAF C-47 Dakota over Burma

No. 618 Squadron, a Mosquito squadron armed with the Wallis bomb for anti-shipping missions was sent to the Pacific in late 1944 but never saw active service and was disbanded in June 1945.

In 1945 two Dakota squadrons, Nos. 238 and 243, were sent to the Pacific to provide support for the British Pacific Fleet.

The RAF’s No. 205 squadron, which was stationed in Ceylon, was responsible for air services between Ceylon and Australia during the war.

Raf ground crew & Singhalese lowering a Catalina of the 240th Squadron into the water, Red Hills Lake, Ceylon, 4 August 1945

Should the war have continued beyond VJ day, the RAF planned to send the “Tiger Force” to Okinawa to support operations against the Japanese home islands.  As of 10 July 1945, the “Tiger Force” was planned to be composed of No. 5 (RAF) Group and No. 6 (RCAF) Group with 9 British, 8 Canadian, 2 Australian, and 1 New Zealand heavy bomber squadrons.  The Force was to be supported by Pathfinder Squadron and a Photo/Weather Recon squadron from the RAF and 3 Transport and one air/sea rescue Squadrons from the RCAF.

Click on images to enlarge.

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British Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Eileen Brown – London, ENG; WRAF, WWII, ETO

Irving Fenster – Tulsa, OK; US Navy, WWII

Tedd Holeman – Sugar City, ID; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQS/127 Engineers/11th Airborne Division

Stanley Jones – Shrewsbury, ENG; RAF, Chaplain

Daniel Lynn Jr. – Krupp, WA; US Army, WWII, ETO / Korea

Stanley Mellot – Grand John, CAN; RAF, WWII, navigator

James Raymond – Katanning, AUS, RAF, WWII

Paul Seifert Sr. – Bethlehem, PA; US Army, Korea, 82nd Airborne Division

David ‘Ken’ Thomas – Brown’s Bay, NZ; RAF # 1669434, WWII

Arthur Wan – Milwaukee, WI; US Navy, WWII, PTO

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on March 14, 2019, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 115 Comments.

  1. Wow, I didn’t know that members of the RAF flew in the pacific. I just wrote one on the Polish members of the RAF, one of whom did become a Flying Tiger. Feel free to check it out: https://theholocaustandworldwarii.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    • I believe your statement is why people in the UK call the CBI their “Forgotten War”, (here in the US, the forgotten war is Korea). I’m very glad then that you read this.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad I kept the email of this post gp, interesting to read the release of the Spitfires for Darwin at that time of the war and the story behind it.
    The other comment I make on your posts gp, is the amount of information that is gleaned from the diverse followers of your site, that in itself is an adventure, in this case Stephen Bentley, virtually a story within a story.
    Well done mate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The comments have been a treat for me. Readers include their stories, contribute further information, ask questions and even correct my grammar and typos. I think it helps make it everyone’s blog – not just mine.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi GP! It’s about time I paid your wonderful blog a visit especially as you always read my musings about Philippines expat life.

    What better time for me to comment when you post about us Brits.

    Allied Pacific air power in 1941, or rather lack of, is a subject close to my heart as you are aware. My grandfather was on HMS Price of Wales when she was sunk by the Japanese on 10 December 1941 off the Malayan coast.

    The Dutch East Indies Campaign lasted from 8 December 1941 – 9 March 1942.

    For those unaware, the sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse was a naval engagement in the Second World War, part of the war in the Pacific, that took place off the east coast of present-day Malaysia, which was then known as Malaya, near Kuantan, Pahang, where the Royal Navy battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battlecruiser HMS Repulse were both sunk by Japanese bombers flying out of French Indo-China, now known as Vietnam. These two capital ships had no air cover whatsoever.

    The air defence of the whole, immense Malayan peninsula had to be carried out with 43 Brewster Buffalo fighters. The defence against enemy shipping was put on the shoulders of two squadrons equipped with obsolete Vickers Vildebeest biplane torpedo bombers that could not even top 100 MPH Source https://thejavagoldblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/29/raafnzraf-squadrons-in-malaya-1941/

    The Buffalo, an American plane, was largely obsolete when the United States entered the war, being unstable and overweight, especially when compared to the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero.

    Before the fall of Singapore, the British Eastern Fleet’s naval base at Singapore (HM Naval Base) was part of the British Far East Command. British defence planning in the area was based on two assumptions.

    The first was that the United States would remain as an effective ally in the western Pacific Ocean, with a fleet based at Manila, which would be available as a forward base for British warships. Secondly, the technical capabilities and aggression of the Imperial Japanese Navy were underestimated.

    In these circumstances, with the Japanese fleet engaged by the United States Navy (USN), the Admiralty planned to send four obsolescent Revenge-class battleships to Singapore to provide defensive firepower and a British presence. The British assumptions were destroyed on 7 December 1941: the impact of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor denied substantial USN support to the British defence of the “Malay barrier” and made impossible the relief of American garrisons in the Philippines. Furthermore, Japanese capabilities exceeded expectations.

    After the fall of France in June 1940, Japanese pressure on the Vichy authorities in French Indochina resulted in the granting of base and transit rights, albeit with significant restrictions. Despite this, in September 1940, the Japanese launched an invasion of that country. The bases thus acquired in Indochina allowed extended Japanese air cover of the invasion forces bound for Malaya and for the Dutch East Indies. In these circumstances, Prince of Wales and Repulse, which were dispatched to intercept the invasion force, were vulnerable to concerted air attacks from the Japanese bases in Indochina and, without their own air cover, they were sunk in December 1941.

    After the sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse, Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton assumed command of the Eastern Fleet. The fleet withdrew first to Java and, following the Fall of Singapore, to Trincomalee, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). In March 1942, Admiral Sir James Somerville arrived in Ceylon and assumed command from Layton.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Far_East_Fleet_(United_Kingdom)

    I would also like to add this and it is taken from another blog source (attributed below):

    First of all, it should be emphasized that the British army did not “lose” Singapore. If General Percival had not surrendered, then thousands more would have died – including innocent civilians. The Japanese army had overrun most of the island, captured the water reservoirs and surrounded the main city itself. The British were very low on ammunition, food and other necessary supplies, so it would have been suicidal to have fought on as the Japanese would have killed all the soldiers and most likely many of the civilians too. The fault for the “loss” of Singapore lies squarely with Winston Churchill and the British government!

    The poorly equipped RAF had been ordered out of Malaya and Singapore, and without adequate air support, the navy’s only two ships that might have made any difference were easily sunk by the Japanese Navy Air Arm. The Japanese had complete mastery of the air and could bomb and strafe at will. The land forces could not hope to win any kind of battle as they had little equipment to fight with. They had no tanks, and much of the equipment that accompanied the ill-fated 18th Division was never unloaded but was returned to England or other theatres. Churchill and his advisors knew that Singapore could not be defended but ordered that the army ‘fight to the last man’. Of course, that way there would be no one left to tell of their betrayal. It was fortunate indeed that General Percival had the good sense to surrender!
    http://www.powtaiwan.org/archives_detail.php?THE-TRUTH-ABOUT-THE-NUMBERS-IN-SINGAPORE-3

    This is one of the reasons Force Z, as it was known on 10 December 1941, had no air cover from carriers:

    The new aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable was allocated to Force G (changed later to Force Z), but whilst working up off Jamaica, she had run aground in the entrance to Kingston harbour on 3 November 1941. Indomitable required 12 days of dry dock repairs in Norfolk, Virginia, and was not able to take part in the action. Indomitable carried one squadron each of Fairey Fulmars and Hawker Sea Hurricanes. Another aircraft carrier, HMS Hermes (which was with Prince of Wales at Cape Town), was on passage to Singapore to join Force Z, but was not deployed due to lack of speed.

    A veritable catalogue of disasters including Churchill’s belief the Royal Navy’s capital ships were nigh unsinkable. Luckily, my grandfather survived but thousands didn’t.

    Like

    • Thank you, Stephen. I appreciate you being honest about Churchill, I know I’ve probably made a few people teed-off by not thinking he walked on water. Sorry for the delayed response here, but only just found you in the Spam folder.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Perhaps the Spam folder is where I belong! Churchill was a great war-time leader in so many ways but he did have his faults. He was human, after all.

        Without rehearsing my family connection to the sinking of the Prince of Wales again, but suffice to say I researched those events thoroughly and still hope to write a book about it one day.

        It was obvious to many except Churchill that the POW and the Repulse, great ships that they were, required air cover.

        The point of my lengthy comment was that the state of the RAF in 1941 in Malaya and Singapore was nowhere near strong enough to (a) provide air cover and (b) to take the fight to the Emperor’s advancing forces.

        I can assure you that men who went down with those ships and survived were not at all complimentary about Churchill over this tragedy.

        The loss of those two capital ships in one single engagement shocked the British nation. Churchill did not “walk on water.”

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for your like of my post, “Alexander The Coppersmith;” you are very kind.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My husband was a boy in WWII and watched the German planes flying above him along the Dover to London road.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellent post, GP. In a little less than a month, I get to play for a banquet honoring those who were involved in one of the flying school locations in Texas. There is also a museum in Terrell with some artifacts from the era.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So much unknown information i had to read it two times

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sir, once again you have given me knowledge that I did not have, thank you. I am going to reblog this one for you Sir.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Dear GP Cox,
    like Gipsy Bev we read James Michener’s “Return to Paradise” and now we understand parts of the book much better. Thanks a lot.
    We have our problems with the British humour as well. We can’t see the funny side of it although living in England for more than 35 years now. Humour is close connected with the society you are born into. We know it from Swedish, Italian and French friends of ours as well that they can’t see the funny side of the British humour. Their reaction is usually “so what?”.
    With lots of love from the sunny sea but it’s rather windy still, and thanks a lot for all the information. As we said before, you provide the best history lessons we have ever had.
    Wishing you a wonderful week to come
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am overwhelmed and speechless by your comment, Klausbernd. Never did I ever think these tidbits of info (scattered and unconnected) might one day come in handy!
      Thank you very much for saying so.
      GP Cox

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Here’s an anecdotal bit of evidence for just how little we know about these “hidden” aspects of the way: I’ve been in five of the seven towns that served as training centers, and I’ve never heard of them. That’s amazing to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. My Dad fought in WWII and if he had been still alive today, would have been fascinated by this post, GP. Lots of information here that not many people know about. My Dad loved planes and in fact had his own flying simulator where he taught himself how to fly many different planes. Excellent post as per usual. It just happens that I have some “time” today to actually comment. (smile)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. A lot of new information to me here. My dad was a paratrooper and was on leave when the Japanese surrendered. He always said “Thank God” they did, because the war would have been even that much worse with that many more killed. Thank goodness the Spitfires did not need to be sent to Okinawa.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for a peek into your father’s story. What unit was he in? I’d be very interested in hearing anything your remember about your father’s service!

      Liked by 1 person

      • 101st Airborn. He trained in Georgia (his home was in NJ). Signed up as soon as he graduated from high school. Wanted to be in the Navy but was colorblind. I guess you don’t need to see the color of trees when you fly out of a plane. Most of his time was in France. He made it home unwounded and married his high school sweetheart (my mom) just a couple of months after he returned home (soon after VJ Day). He never spoke of the war to my brother and me until I took him to see the Tom Hanks movie Saving Private Ryan. He cried throughout it. I understood then that his back pain and back surgery when he was in his 60s was related to all the jumps he did as a paratrooper. He died when he was 82 (12 years ago), and how I wish now he’d talked more about his service to our nation.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Just finished reading a novel, “Return to Paradise”, by James Michener, where he used detailed history of those South Pacific islands in his stories. He spoke often of their part in WWII. Thanks to your postings, I had a better understanding of what he was writing about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I loved Michener! I started reading him as a child. I enjoyed his books thanks to his eidetic memory and insistence on very accurate research. He once held up on writing “Texas” for 3 weeks because he and his 2 researchers had trouble locating the payment amount of a cart-full of a certain crop. His Pacific novels are a result of his own experiences as a youngster!

      Liked by 2 people

  14. We hardly ever hear about the British involvement in the Pacific war. Thank you Sir.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I’m thinking those RAF trainees in the US must have had some culture shock when they went into town, especially in Texas… the English and Texans must have seemed so alien to each other back then

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Very interesting – I had no idea it was as few as 6 squadrons, though I guess I understand the reasons. I’ve read some heart-warming, and often amusing, accounts of RAF training (which applied both ways) in the USA – including when one RAF air-ace got completely lost and had to put down on some remote desert road before he ran out of fuel.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Very interesting – people get very excited about the RAF & Spitfire planes in the UK. I am fascinated that some British pilots trained in the US before Pearl Harbor (Dec 1941), yet another example of how FDR was sympathetic to the plight of the UK although not technically an ally.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. The training of Allied pilots was a huge enterprise taking place mostly in Canada and also in the USA, Australia, Bermuda, New Zealand, South Africa and Southern Rhodesia.
    The British government were mainly interested in protecting the Empire in Asia (Singapore, Malaya and India) so they didn’t get very involved in the Pacific until something had to be done about Japanese bombing raids on Darwin in northern Australia.
    My Dad would have been in Tiger Force if the Japs hadn’t surrendered. After six years of war from 1939-1945, the idea of flying to Japan to start another campaign was about as unpopular as a great many messy diseases that I won’t mention. My Dad missed all his inoculations for Tiger Force because he was away on a course, so the doctor, a gentle, caring man, gave them to him all at once. He survived, just!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Ever grateful for the men and women you write about and you list in the Farewell Salutes. We had a friend die recently (he was in his 90’s) and he was a veteran.
    (((HUGS))) Hope you have a wonderful whee-kend, GP! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I’ve always been a big fan of the RAF. Had no idea they played such an important role in the Pacific! Great post! Keep up the excellent work, GP.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Nice to see the British contribution being recognised. Thank you GP!

    Liked by 2 people

  22. I didn’t know Spitfires were used outside of the home island.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Spitfire in the Pacific Theatre, met its match in the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero. Lt. Gen. Claire Chennault noted: “The RAF pilots were trained in methods that were excellent against German and Italian equipment, but suicide against the acrobatic Japs.” Although not as fast as the Spitfire, the Zero could out-turn the Spitfire with ease, could sustain a climb at a very steep angle, and could stay in the air for three times as long. To counter the Zero, Spitfire pilots had to adopt a “slash and run” policy and use their faster speed and diving superiority to fight, while avoiding classic dogfights.
      I appreciate your interest, Dan. I really must thank Rosalinda Morgan again for giving me that extra little push to do this one.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I believe Spitfires were engaged in every theatre – and were used by many different air forces, too – including the USAAF (and, I think, the Soviet Union).

      Liked by 2 people

  23. My first thought on seeing the Catalina photo, G, was that the guys were taking a break and playing tug-of-war. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Good story as usual. I confess to missing some of the Brit humor. That is the proof why I always recommend students beware of humor online. It doesn’t always cross geopolitical boundaries well!

    Liked by 3 people

  25. As always, a bit of an education. I knew the RAF was there, just didn’t know what they were doing. Now I do. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. There were 2 British Flying Training Schools in my hometown of Arcadia, FL during WW !! at Dorr and Carlstrom Fields.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Mesa, AZ is a couple hours away. Hey! There is my dog, Bear, in the group shot. Interesting post. I never knew RAF defended Australia from the mts. of AZ.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. At frist i was shocked, GP! With the name “RAF” here in Germany we do not remember the British Air Force, we remember the 1970th radical left winged terror group “RAF”. 😉 Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  29. We had some family members and friends who served in the RAF during WW2, but none made it to the Pacific War. One of my Mum’s cousins was shot down early in the war, and was captured as a POW. He died of pneumonia, whilst in captivity. Another relative survived the whole war without a scratch, as a gunner in Bomber Command. But the son of a next-door neighbour was in a bomber shot down over Germany, and his body was never recovered. Compared to the numbers involved, the casualty rate was very high.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Very interesting interesting report on the existence of RAF training centres in the US during WW2!

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Glad to see the RAF contributions to the Pacific War. They were excellent flyers.

    Liked by 3 people

  32. Awesome brave men and women.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Pierre Lagacé

    238 Squadron? That rings a bell…

    Liked by 1 person

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