Lyell Balfour GIFFIN DFC

GIFFIN, Lyell Balfour

Service Number: 411771
Enlisted: 25 May 1941
Last Rank: Flight Lieutenant
Last Unit: No. 82 Squadron (RAAF)
Born: Molong, Cabonne - New South Wales, Australia, 30 January 1920
Home Town: Sydney, City of Sydney, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Not yet discovered
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World War 2 Service

25 May 1941: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2 (WW2), Aircrew Training Units
8 Aug 1945: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Lieutenant, SN 411771, No. 82 Squadron (RAAF), Air War SW Pacific 1941-45
2 Oct 1945: Discharged Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Lieutenant, SN 411771, No. 82 Squadron (RAAF)

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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