Fighter Squadrons Branch

Fighter Squadrons' Branch - Mustangs Photos

Labuan Gallery


As the war with Japan was at an end, a period of demobilization began resulting in the fighter strength of the RAAF being reduced to one Wing of three Mustang squadrons. Eventually the RAAF would receive 299 American-assembled and 214 Australian-assembled aircraft. The Mustang was an outstanding fighter and light attack aircraft with vastly superior performance to the ever-reliable P40 Kittyhawk. The first Mustangs entered service in early 1945.

At the end of hostilities the Australian War Cabinet decided that all three Australian services would contribute units to the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF). Further, that the Prefecture of Hiroshima was to be the Australian area of operation.

The Air Force component of the BCOF was to be known as the British Commonwealth Air Forces (BCAIR) and was to consist of the following:

One Wing  -  Three RAAF Mustang Squadrons

One Wing  -  Two RAF Spitfire Squadrons 

     -  One RNZAF Corsair Squadron

     -  One RIAF Spitfire Squadron 

The Units allocated to 81 Wing  by RAAF HQ were Nos. 76, 77 and 82 Fighter Squadrons, 381 Base Squadron and 481 Maintenance Squadron. This resulted in a total establishment of 1,750 personnel as the RAAF contribution to the Occupational Force.

No. 5 Airfield Construction Squadron (5 ACS) was also allotted to BCOF with the task of repairing the Japanese airfields in order to make them serviceable for BCAIR use.

No. 81 Wing prepared to receive its first Mustangs at Labuan. 77 Squadron received its first two Mustangs (North American-built)  on 12 September 1945 from the then disbanding No. 84 Squadron.

Mustang conversion courses began the following day for pilots who had elected to go to Japan.

The conversion from Kittyhawks to Mustang was expected to take two months. However, it proved to be a much greater task than originally thought. 

By the end of October, all pilots had been converted to the Mustang and the majority of the ground crew had attended conversion courses at No. 22 Repair and Salvage Unit. On 30 October 1945 the Squadron had a strength of twenty one Mustangs and flew 220 hours for that month.

Throughout November the Squadron, under the command of Squadron Leader Russell Curtis, continued to work up flying hours on the new aircraft. Conversion flying continued with an emphasis on formation flying, aerobatics, engine/airframe tests and ground attack training.

In mid-January 1946 the order was issued to commence packing for the trip to Japan. The order came much to the relief, and delight, of Squadron personnel who had become weary of continual delays. On the 21st  all personnel attended lectures on the Japanese people and their customs.  

By early February the Squadron was packed ready to embark for the 1,775 mile journey to Japan. The SS River Murrumbidgee docked on the 8th  and the loading of 77 Squadron’s vehicles commenced. Two days later the majority of the Squadron’s personnel boarded HMS Glengyle, a converted cargo steamer. Glengyle set sail the following afternoon.


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