Fighter Squadrons' Branch - Kittyhawks Photos
The Squadron ground staff embarked in Landing Craft Infantry (LCI) 753 on 2 June 1945. The pilots and a rear party remained at Morotai. The night before departure was spent at the AIF embarkation area known locally as the swamp. No one had told the army that the Squadron was arriving which meant sleeping in the open. Next morning everyone was soaked and covered in mosquito bites.
After a brief trip the LCI arrived in Brunei Bay, Labuan, on the 11 June to disembark at Victoria Harbour on the following afternoon. The enemy still held part of the island. On 20 June 1945 in the early hours of the morning an AIF patrol engaged a Japanese unit situated on the southern side of the 77 Squadron camp site. Numerous bullets passed through the Squadron’s tent lines and although causing considerable anxiety no real damage was done.
The first of the Squadron’s Kittyhawks arrived on 30 June. The Squadron then set about making the very wet site more habitable. A vegetable garden was set up, and for ten days all members worked on reconstruction of the road between the strip and camp area.
The first operation, an attack on Keningau and Sapong (North Borneo) was mounted on 3 July 1945. On the afternoon of 15 July the Squadron suffered its first casualty since beginning operations at Labuan. The fatality followed a strafing run at an enemy held position at Ravau, North Borneo when Flight Lieutenant Harold Cooper (A29-827) crashed after hitting treetops. The rest of July was spent flying armed reconnaissance missions from Langkon to Mattinggong and attacking Japanese targets in North Borneo.
On 3 August Squadron personnel were in a great state of excitement when it was announced that the Japanese government had made peace overtures. Personnel were kept well informed of what was going on in this regard over the next five days.
On 6 August the USAAF dropped a single atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later a similar attack was made on Nagasaki. The end appeared in sight for the Japanese Imperial Forces. The first official announcement of the cessation of hostilities received by the Squadron was broadcast from London by the British Prime Minister, Mr Attlee. Mr Attlee’s speech was relayed over the public address system on 16 August 1945.
On the following night, a victory party was held in the Airmen’s Mess, with the cost being borne by the Officer’s Mess. The general mood around the Squadron became far more relaxed and special activities were organized. For example as part of the First Tactical Air Forces victory celebrations, a series of Brunie Bay island cruises were organized on the 27th with quite a few of the Squadron’s personnel taking the chance to do some sightseeing.
On 29 August it was announced that 81 Wing Units, including 77 Squadron, would go to Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF). Volunteers were called for, but out of the200 personnel in 77 Squadron, only 36 people came forward. It was clear that after 30 months away from Australia, on five remote locations in South East Asia, the men wanted to go home.
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