Fighter Squadrons' Branch - Kittyhawks Photos
Goodenough Island Gallery
Goodenough Island (Vivigani Airstrip)
The stay at Milne Bay was short due to the lack of Japanese air activity in the area. The Squadron was ordered east to Goodenough Island and on 14 May an advance party began the initial move to the island. The Squadron aircraft arrived at Vivigani Airstrip on 13-14 June, 1943. Before the Squadron left the Gurney field, the Governor-General of Australia, Lord Gowrie, paid a visit on 29 May and spoke with Squadron members.
After arriving at Goodenough Island 77 Squadron and 76 Squadron, operating Kittyhawks, and 79 Squadron, operating Spitfires, formed No. 73 Fighter Wing under the command of Group Captain Ian McLachlan. From Goodenough, aircraft could attack key Japanese bases on New Britain, including the giant naval base at Rabaul.
On 22 July, 77 Squadron Kittyhawks escorted a No. 30 Squadron Beaufighter on a reconnaissance of Gasmata airfield (New Britain). The reconnaissance preceded a major RAAF attack. In total 62 RAAF aircraft from seven different Squadrons took part in the attack. These included eight Beaufighters from 30 Squadron, twenty-four Kittyhawks from 75 Squadron and fourteen Kittyhawks from 77 Squadron. Each 77 Squadron aircraft carried six 40lb general purpose bombs with the intention of carrying out a low-level attack after the bombers had finished. Unfortunately, 77 Squadron was forced to abort the raid due to bad weather en-route to the target.
Four days later a second raid, led by Squadron Leader Cresswell, was a repeat of the first, however
this time the Squadron’s luck held. Although, eight Kittyhawks turned back due to bad weather the remaining twelve aircraft carried out an accurate attack. Each aircraft was armed with two 30lb incendiary bombs and four 40lb GP bombs. Several 77 Squadron aircraft were badly damaged by enemy flak in the raid.
From this point on it was decided to utilize the Kittyhawks in a fighter/bomber role and for offensive flying. In fact the Kittyhawk had shown itself to be far better suited to these roles. In addition, the original air defence commitment was not gainfully employing the Squadron due to the lack of Japanese fighter activity in the area.
On a lighter note on 24 July 1943 a concert was organized showcasing the many talents of Squadron personnel. The concert was called ‘Jungle Jitters’.
The decision in these new roles proved to be the correct one, as one week later, 77 Squadron was again involved in a major raid. On 2 August 1943 the Squadron was ordered to provide all available aircraft to escort an attacking force of six Bostons and six Beaufighters in a strike against Gasmata airfield.
Eighteen 77 Squadron P40K Kittyhawks were sent on the mission, all carrying six 40lb GP bombs. The attack was carried out at low level and with great success. After the attack the Squadron proceeded on a fighter sweep along the south coast of New Britain. During the sweep five barges were attacked three of which were claimed as sunk. During this action Flight Lieutenant Sproule (A29-201) was apparently hit by medium anti-aircraft fire and forced to crash land on the beach. Flight Lieutenant Sproule landed successfully. Later that day Bostons from 22 Squadron destroyed the aircraft to prevent it falling into enemy hands. Flight Lieutenant Sproule was captured by the Japanese and executed whilst a POW on 16 August.
For the remainder of August the Squadron was employed on escort duty for aircraft en-route to Kiriwina. On 20 August Squadron Leader Cresswell, who had been the Commanding Officer for the past 16 months, left the Squadron on posting to 2OTU. Squadron Leader Cresswell was replaced by Squadron Leader Bruce ‘Buster’ Brown who was to remain CO for the following four months
During these events, the Squadron was instructed by No. 9 (Operational) Group to prepare for a move to Kiriwina in the Trobiand Islands, and was installed there by 16 August. The Squadron came under the direction of No. 14 Fighter Sector. However the Squadron was ordered to Vivigani in mid-September, and then back to Goodenough Island.
During the first two weeks of October, the Japanese launched small scale attacks on Goodenough, Kiriwina, Lae and Finschafen. As a result of these attacks on 2 October, the Squadron was ordered to send a detachment of eight aircraft to Nadzab airfield, near Lae. From there the Squadron provided escorts for the Boomerangs and Wirraways of 4 Squadron who were flying tactical reconnaissance in support of 7 Division AIF. No Japanese air activity was encountered while the detachment was at Nadzab. The detachment returned to Goodenough Island on 19 October.
On 14 October, after borrowing a 75 Squadron P38-F4, Squadron Leader Brown flew a photographic reconnaissance mission over Talasea and Gasmata/ Lindenhafen. On 28 October eight aircraft were detached to Woodlark Island for duties with No. 15 Fighter Sector alongside No. 67 Squadron USAAF.
On 3 November Sergeant Ronald W. McDonald (A29-185) was killed during an attack on Pal Mal Mal Plantation, Jaquinot Bay, New Britain. Twelve Squadron Kittyhawks were operating with 22 Squadron Bostons and 30 Squadron Beaufighters when McDonald had to ditch twenty miles south east of Kawa Island after his aircraft was hit by light AA fire. A circling pilot saw McDonald floating in the water and dropped a rubber dinghy to him. Unfortunately, he was not sighted again. It is presumed that he was unconscious or already dead when spotted.
In November and December a detachment was sent to Kiriwina for strike operations on shipping in Gasmata and Montague Harbour. Also, under the direction of 73 Wing, in conjunction with 76, 78 and 79 Squadrons, 77 Squadron escorted Beauforts of 6, 8 and 100 Squadrons in attacks on Amgan River and dump sites at Gasmata, Cape Hoskins, Lindenhafen and Gavuvu.
Although 73 Wing was the controlling authority for these operations the Squadron was not officially transferred to 73 Wing until March 1944 after the move to Momote on Los Negros. When this occurred 77 Squadron came under the control of No. 10 (Operational) Group RAAF.
On 5 January 1944 Squadron Leader Cyril W. Stark took over command of the Squadron.
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