Fighter Squadrons' Branch - Kittyhawks Photos
Northern Territory Gallery
Northern Territory 1942
On 24 July 1942, WAHQ signalled the Squadron to prepare for a move to Batchelor, Northern Territory and to come under the command of North Western Area Headquarters from 1 August.
Squadron strength was now twenty seven officers, 218 airmen and twenty four aircraft. The main party commenced moving on 1 August arriving on the 12th after travelling by rail to Alice Springs and then by road via Birdum to Batchelor, 80 km south of Darwin.
The first aircraft departed Pearce on 17 August, arriving in Alice Springs that evening. The first aircraft arrived at Batchelor airfield on the following day and immediately began operational training. The Squadron effectively now became the first Australian fighter squadron in the Darwin area.
77 Squadron’s first ‘Red Alert’ occurred at 1155 hours on 23 August, when enemy aircraft came within thirty miles of the Batchelor airfield. This was the first of seven alerts called at Batchelor. Darwin itself was bombed during most of these occasions.
On 7 September during a tactical exercise off the Northern Territory coast Pilot Officer John G. Gorton (who 26 years later was to become Prime Minister of Australia) ran out of fuel and was forced to land A29-60 on Melville Island. He was marooned on the island for several days before being rescued. A 12 Squadron Wirraway dropped food and water supplies to him. His aircraft was later repaired and after considerable effort, under very hot and trying conditions, was recovered by a salvage team and flown off the beach.
On 10 September, the Squadron came under operational direction of No. 5 Fighter Sector, and on 25 September Squadron aircraft were scrambled to attack enemy bombers that had dropped small bombs near Livingstone airfield and were approaching Batchelor. The CO, Squadron Leader Cresswell, fired on an enemy aircraft without visible result.
The camp at Batchelor was only temporary because the base was operated by 46th Air Base Group United States Army Air Force (USAAF) and a number of USAAF Squadrons were based there.
Consequently, on 15 October, the main ground elements of 77 Squadron moved to Livingstone, south of Darwin. The aircraft flew in on 15-16 October. This proved to be an eventful time for the Squadron with constant training for the strenuous tasks that lay ahead.
During November, the Squadron’s three flights, ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ were reorganised into two-aircraft sections. Despite these arrangements, the many night interceptions undertaken did not yield results until the early hours of 23 November, during Japanese raid No. 47 on Darwin, when the Squadron scored its first confirmed kill.
Despite problems with guns playing up, the CO, Squadron Leader Cresswell, shot down a G4MI ‘Betty’ bomber. This was the first confirmed night kill over the Australian mainland, although the CO had fired two bursts into an enemy aircraft without success on 27-28 October. Another night interception took place over Darwin on 27 January 1943 when Flying Officer James Cox fired at a ‘Betty’ bomber without success. These were the only recorded engagements by the Squadron at Darwin during the Second World War.
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