Fighter Squadrons' Branch - Meteor Photos
The Royal Australian Navy’s aircraft carrier, HMAS Vengeance was used to move personnel, aircraft and equipment to Australia from Japan. HMAS Vengeance had been re-commissioned on 13 November, 1952 from the Royal Navy for use in the Korean conflict as the HMAS Melbourne was delayed in completion.
The loading of forty one Meteors, 162 personnel and 12,000 tons of equipment was completed on 14 November, 1954. The ship departed Japan en-route to Manus Island at 1100 hours five days later.
When HMAS Vengeance arrived at Manus Island on 26 November the Squadron was back in familiar territory. On the following day the ship passed Kiriwina Island. Again Squadron personnel once more found time to reflect on the past although only a handful of its members could claim to have served there with the Squadron.
On 1 December the aircraft carrier anchored off Caloundra to take on Customs officers. At 0700 hours two days later she entered Sydney Heads. As the carrier made its way up Sydney Harbour a formation of twelve Vampires from 2OTU at Williamtown flew overhead in a double seven formation. The formation was led by Wing Commander Cresswell.
The carrier berthed at Garden Island at 0730 hours with the Minister for Air, Mr A.G. Townley, on hand to welcomed the Squadron home.
As soon as the Squadron’s personnel disembarked they were transported to the Sydney Domain to join past members in a march through the streets of Sydney.
The city gave the 500 officers and men a warm reception showering them with confetti and paper.
So ended a trek that kept 77 Squadron away from home soil for over eleven years.
The Squadron’s new home was at Williamtown, NSW. As the Meteor fighters were unloaded they were sent to 2 Aircraft Depot (AD) at Richmond for reassembly. The Squadron initially received two Meteor Mk 7 trainers and sixteen Mk 8 fighters and began operations on 5 January 1955.
The first major operation launched at Williamtown was ‘Operation Welcome Home’. Starting on 21 January the Squadron proceeded on a tour around the nation flying ‘Double Seven’ formation fly pasts over each capital city. The tour started in Canberra then on to Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and Brisbane ending in Sydney.
At each city the public turned out in their thousands to inspect the Meteors and greet the air and ground crews. In Hobart alone a crowd of 10,000 people came to the airport. On the return flight from Hobart to the mainland the towns along Tasmania’s north coast were treated to a low level fly past with each Meteor flying over a different town. The operation finally came to an end on 18 February when the Squadron flew a formation of sixteen Meteors over Sydney.
During April the Squadron became part of a re-organised 78 Fighter Wing with 478 Squadron (Maintenance) assuming responsibility for Meteor maintenance. The other fighter squadron in the Wing was 75 Squadron. Over the next few months routine training was carried out. In addition a Meteor conversion course was run for some newly posted in pilots.
During September, under the leadership of Squadron Leader Royce Royston, the Squadron formed an informal three ship formation aerobatic team. On 22 September the team gave its first public performance over the RAAF seaplane base at Rathmines. During the next six months the team performed at Camden, Newcastle and at the Hobart Regatta.
The writing was on the wall for the Meteors early in 1956 the Squadron began preparations to convert onto the Avon Sabre. 77 Squadron flew its last Meteor mission during August. All pilots not undertaking Sabre conversion were absorbed into 75 Squadron.
Many of the Squadron Meteors went to Weapons Research Establishment at Woomera to be converted into U21A target drones. The other Meteors went to the Citizens Air Force Squadrons, No. 22 City of Sydney, No. 23 City of Brisbane and to No. 75 Squadron at Williamtown.
No story of the 77 Squadron involvement in the Korean War would be complete without mention of the wonderful support given by 36 Transport Squadron based in Iwakuni.
When the Korean War began 36 Transport Squadron had only one aircraft, a Douglas C47 Dakota, which began operational flying on 2 July 1950. It soon became obvious that such a small unit could not cope with the increasing workload and it was not long before more personnel and aircraft were provided.
One of their major tasks was to fly supplies and crews between Japan and Korea and many a 77 Squadron pilot appreciated his trip back to Japan on R & R on one of the Gooney Birds.
Their reputation for reliability in face of, at times, great extremes of weather was well earned and their story has already been told elsewhere.
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