Frank Ronald SCHAAF DFC and bar

SCHAAF, Frank Ronald

Service Numbers: 422777, O3382, O3382
Enlisted: 11 January 1932
Last Rank: Squadron Leader
Last Unit: No. 82 Squadron (RAAF)
Born: Tenterfield, New South Wales, Australia, 22 July 1915
Home Town: Katoomba, Blue Mountains Municipality, New South Wales
Schooling: Sydney Technical High School, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation: Accountant
Died: Myocardial infarction , Canberra Hospital, Australian Capital Territory, Australia, 18 April 1978, aged 62 years
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
Memorials:
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Non Warlike Service

11 Jan 1932: Enlisted Citizen Military Forces (CMF) / Militia - WW2, Warrant Officer Class 1, SN 422777, 2nd Division Artillery
1 Jul 1935: Promoted Citizen Military Forces (CMF) / Militia - WW2, Warrant Officer Class 1, 2nd Division Artillery

World War 2 Service

21 Mar 1938: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2 (WW2), SN O3382, Aircrew Training Units
1 Feb 1941: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Flying Officer, SN O3382, No. 450 Squadron (RAAF), Middle East / Mediterranean Theatre
23 Feb 1943: Honoured Distinguished Flying Cross
8 Aug 1945: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Squadron Leader, SN O3382, No. 82 Squadron (RAAF), Air War SW Pacific 1941-45
25 Jun 1946: Honoured Distinguished Flying Cross and bar

Non Warlike Service

9 Nov 1964: Discharged Royal Australian Air Force, SN O3382, Honorary Group Captain on discharge

The Kuching Raid - 8 August 1945

Recalled by Howard James-Martin - one of the pilots on the raid as related to his son Peter in 2012

We weren't at Labuan long when the Japanese surrendered. I think I only did about six or seven operations there. I was lucky enough to fly number two to the CO, Schaaf, when we did the longest trip for the war recorded in Kittyhawks, from Labuan to Kuching and back.

The aircraft were overloaded for the mission. We had outsize belly tanks fitted and a full bomb load as well. The Kittyhawk had a supercharged engine and when you take off you open the throttle with boost and set the prop to fine pitch. At about 50 feet altitude you pull the throttle back a bit to make it easier on the engine, a little less pressure going into the cylinder and then coarsen the pitch. The day we took off for Labuan, however, we took off at our cruising engine boost and revs to save fuel. I thought that we would never get off the runway. Soon after we were airborne a radio message came recalling us. There had been misgivings about the raid due the aircraft's range and at the last minute they ordered it be aborted.

We later said that we hadn't received the message. We ran as economically as we could all the way down there to save on fuel. The Japs must have thought that we were their own aircraft coming in, being single-engine aircraft, because they didn't make much effort to hide. They probably thought that they were out of range of our single-engine aircraft.

We got there in time to get three or four of their aircraft taxiing out to the airstrip. We also hit a number of their luggers and motor transports. As number two to the CO I had to fly right behind him and a little to one side and from this position I saw him hit a man with a burst of machine gun fire that lifted him about twenty feet into the air from where he fell, splat. By the time we got back we didn't have too much fuel left.

Odgers records this incident, in which he says,

"Four Kittyhawks of No. 82 Squadron, led by Squadron Leader Schaaf, attacked targets at Kuching on 8th August. They had a successful day on this mission when they attacked and destroyed three Oscars which were preparing to take off at the Northern end of the airfield. The first Oscar had its engine running, while the other two were stationary, as if to turn into the airfield. The raid to Kuching was undertaken in spite of the misgivings as to the range of the Kittyhawk. The target was 450 miles from the base at Labuan and the aircraft were in the air for four hours and forty minutes which was longer than the accepted duration of Kittyhawks."

After the raid on Kuching, the CO took the film from the synchronised camera which the aircraft carried, across to the Mosquito squadron located at our base. There wasn't a cordial feeling between the Mosquito squadron and ours, because the Mosquitoes had wiped out a number of our aircraft on the apron adjoining the runway, during take-off and landings.

The Mosquitoes had a lot of power which caused them to swerve a bit on take-off and landing on an airstrip that was narrow, with aircraft parked right on it. They couldn't get enough material to make a wider airstrip. Them wiping out our aircraft didn't make for a harmonious relationship between the squadrons. Anyway the CO took the film around to show them as the Mosquitoes had been to Kuching a number of times and never hit any targets. They still wouldn't believe it after seeing the film. The film was sent back to Australia for full processing, and while that was being done the Japanese surrendered.

extract from Howard James-Martin "A personal recall"
compiled by Peter James-Martin


Submitted 23 December 2015 by Peter James-Martin

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Labuan - raid on Kuching

We weren't at Labuan long when the Japanese surrendered. I think I only did about six or seven operations there. I was lucky enough to fly number two to the CO, Schaaf, when we did the longest trip for the war recorded in Kittyhawks, from Labuan to Kuching and back.

The aircraft were overloaded for the mission. We had outsize belly tanks fitted and a full bomb load as well. The Kittyhawk had a supercharged engine and when you take off you open the throttle with boost and set the prop to fine pitch. At about 50 feet altitude you pull the throttle back a bit to make it easier on the engine, a little less pressure going into the cylinder and then coarsen the pitch. The day we took off for Labuan, however, we took off at our cruising engine boost and revs to save fuel. I thought that we would never get off the runway. Soon after we were airborne a radio message came recalling us. There had been misgivings about the raid due the aircraft's range and at the last minute they ordered it be aborted.

We later said that we hadn't received the message. We ran as economically as we could all the way down there to save on fuel. The Japs must have thought that we were their own aircraft coming in, being single-engine aircraft, because they didn't make much effort to hide. They probably thought that they were out of range of our single-engine aircraft.

We got there in time to get three or four of their aircraft taxiing out to the airstrip. We also hit a number of their luggers and motor transports. As number two to the CO I had to fly right behind him and a little to one side and from this position I saw him hit a man with a burst of machine gun fire that lifted him about twenty feet into the air from where he fell, splat. By the time we got back we didn't have too much fuel left.

Odgers records this incident, in which he says,

"Four Kittyhawks of No. 82 Squadron, led by Squadron Leader Schaaf, attacked targets at Kuching on 8th August. They had a successful day on this mission when they attacked and destroyed three Oscars which were preparing to take off at the Northern end of the airfield. The first Oscar had its engine running, while the other two were stationary, as if to turn into the airfield. The raid to Kuching was undertaken in spite of the misgivings as to the range of the Kittyhawk. The target was 450 miles from the base at Labuan and the aircraft were in the air for four hours and forty minutes which was longer than the accepted duration of Kittyhawks."

After the raid on Kuching, the CO took the film from the synchronised camera which the aircraft carried, across to the Mosquito squadron located at our base. There wasn't a cordial feeling between the Mosquito squadron and ours, because the Mosquitoes had wiped out a number of our aircraft on the apron adjoining the runway, during take-off and landings.

The Mosquitoes had a lot of power which caused them to swerve a bit on take-off and landing on an airstrip that was narrow, with aircraft parked right on it. They couldn't get enough material to make a wider airstrip. Them wiping out our aircraft didn't make for a harmonious relationship between the squadrons. Anyway the CO took the film around to show them as the Mosquitoes had been to Kuching a number of times and never hit any targets. They still wouldn't believe it after seeing the film. The film was sent back to Australia for full processing, and while that was being done the Japanese surrendered.

extract from Howard James-Martin "A personal recall"
compiled by Peter James-Martin

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Showing 2 of 2 stories

Biography contributed by Graham Padget

Frank Ronald Schaaf (1915-1978), air force officer, was born on 22 July 1915 at Tenterfield, New South Wales, elder child of Frank Otto Schaaf, tram guard, and his wife Ivy Beatrice, née Hill, both born in New South Wales. Young Frank attended Clovelly Public and Sydney Technical High schools, and studied accountancy at the Metropolitan Business College. He passed the Federal Institute of Accountants' examinations and worked as a clerk with a number of Phillip Street barristers, with export firms and with a transport company. Having served in the cadets, he transferred to the Militia, became a gunner with the 18th Field Brigade, reached the rank of warrant officer, class 2, and was discharged from the army in 1936. At the district registrar's office, Chatswood, on 10 May 1937 he married May Rachel Donnelly; they were childless and divorced in March 1945.

On 21 March 1938 Schaaf had joined the Royal Australian Air Force as an aircraftman 1, clerk. He was posted to No.3 Squadron at Richmond, where he was promoted corporal in January 1940 and sergeant in July. Two months later he applied for aircrew training. Sent for flying instruction to Mascot in December and to Wagga Wagga in February 1941, he was commissioned on 3 June. He arrived in Britain in August and, after operational training, was posted in November to No.452 Squadron, R.A.A.F., based at Redhill, Surrey. The pilots in this Spitfire unit included Keith ('Bluey') Truscott and C. N. ('Bardie') Wawn.

In February 1942 Flying Officer Schaaf was sent to Egypt. There, on 6 June, he joined No.450 Squadron, an R.A.A.F. fighter-bomber unit which flew Kittyhawks. Within three weeks he claimed his first aerial victory, for damaging a Messerschmitt 109. On 22 January 1943 he shot down one Me-109, shared in shooting down another and damaged a third. During the advance to Tripoli, Libya, he held temporary command (January-February) of the squadron and led it 'with great distinction'. By the end of his period in the Western Desert he had destroyed three enemy aircraft in aerial combat and won the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Reaching Melbourne on 21 March 1943, Schaaf was employed as an instructor at No.2 Operational Training Unit, Mildura. He was promoted flight lieutenant in June. After training as a fighter controller at New Lambton, New South Wales, he served with No.104 Fighter Sector Headquarters at Port Moresby from October and with No.111 Mobile Fighter Control Unit at Aitape, New Guinea, from April 1944. He returned to Australia in August. In May 1945 he was posted to No.82 Squadron at Noemfoor, Netherlands East Indies; he commanded the unit at Labuan, Borneo, from July and was made acting squadron leader in October. He led a strike against Kuching on 8 August, which entailed a long return trip of 950 miles (1529 km) for the Kittyhawks. Three enemy aircraft were destroyed on the ground. For 'exceptional operational ability, leadership and courage' Schaaf was awarded a Bar to his D.F.C.

At the end of World War II No.82 Squadron was re-equipped with Mustang fighters in anticipation of its deployment to Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. On 18 October 1945 at Glenferrie, Melbourne, Schaaf married with Presbyterian forms Margaret Florence McKenzie, a hairdresser. In March 1946 he took his squadron to Bofu, Japan. He acted from time to time as temporary commander of No.81 (Fighter) Wing before returning to Australia in February 1947 to commence a series of instructional, test-flying and staff appointments, including postings to the Central Flying School, Point Cook, Victoria, No.78 Wing headquarters, Williamtown, New South Wales, and the Aircraft Research Unit, Laverton, Victoria. Promoted wing commander in July 1954, he served on the staff of the Australian air attaché, Washington, and on exchange with the United States Air Force in 1956-59. He was later employed at the Department of Air, Canberra, in the directorate of organization and the electronic data-processing centre. On his retirement on 10 November 1964, he was made honorary group captain.

After working for R. A. Irish & Michelmore, a firm of chartered accountants in Sydney, Schaaf moved to Canberra in 1970 and joined the Commonwealth Public Service. He died of myocardial infarction on 18 April 1978 in Canberra Hospital and was cremated with Anglican rites; his wife, and their daughter and son survived him.

Citation details
David Wilson, 'Schaaf, Frank Ronald (1915–1978)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/schaaf-frank-ronald-11626/text20763, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 26 April 2021.

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