No. 42 Squadron (RAAF)

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About This Unit

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No. 42 Squadron was formed at Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory on 1 June 1944.

It re-located to Melville Bay 11th of July.   Its PBY Catalina flying boats and further personnel arrived in August. The unit conducted its first operation on 27 August when three Catalinas flew patrols searching for shipping.

During 1944 the four RAAF Catalina Squadrons based in northern Australia conducted a highly successful minelaying campaign against Japanese shipping in the Dutch East Indies. 

In order to expand this campaign the Catalina squadrons ( No. 20, No. 42 and No. 43 Squadrons) were assigned solely to minelaying as 'Black Cats' painted matt black and operating primarily at night,  under the command of No. 76 Wing.

No. 42 Squadron commenced minelaying operations in September 1944.

During this month it laid mines off the Celebes islands.  The Squadron suffered its first loss on 23 September when a Catalina made a forced landing behind enemy lines.  Its crew were subsequently rescued by another Catalina.(2)

Just a month later another Catalina was lost in similar circumstances.  An accompanying photograph was taken from a USAAF B24 Liberator which assisted in the rescue.  Catalina serial number A24-100 and code number RK-L of 42 Squadron, RAAF, piloted by 401846 Pilot Officer (PO) (later Flying Officer (FO)) Clifford Dent Hull of Hawthorn, Vic. After completing a successful mine laying operation off Macassar (Celebes) Harbour on the night of 23 & 24 October 1944, the starboard engine of this aircraft was damaged by Japanese anti aircraft (AA) fire.

Unable to maintain height on his return and with the second engine failing, PO Hull made a forced landing in the open sea south of the South Western Celebes Peninsula. He and his crew spent the next twelve hours on the water uncomfortably close to four Japanese airfields based in Southern Celebes, before a second Catalina (left), OX-U of 43 Squadron, RAAF, arrived to rescue PO Hull and his crew. A rubber dingy is visible transferring the downed crew to the rescue aircraft. A United States B24 Liberator bomber located the downed Catalina and guided the rescue Catalina in. The B24 continued to circle overhead providing protection. After the disabled Catalina had been sunk by machine gun fire, the rescue Catalina took off and returned safely to Darwin. This operation was one of the epic sea rescues of the Second World War, entailing a round trip of 1800 miles mainly through Japanese held territory.

The rescue crew were: 415632 FO (later Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt, DFC)), Armand Andre Etienne (Captain), of West Perth, WA; 408409 FO (later Flt Lt), Ian McCallister Robson of Sandy Bay, Tas; 428809 Flight Sergeant (Flt Sgt) (later Warrant Officer (WO)), John Joseph Sweeney (Navigator), of Newcastle, NSW, (visible standing on the wing of the rescue aircraft); 428832 Flt Sgt (later WO), Raymond Victor Tumeth of Haberfield, NSW; 428360 Flt Sgt (later WO), Derek Fanshawe Robertson of Camberwell, Vic; 12912 Sergeant (Sgt) (later PO), Robert Richard Tingman of Brighton, Vic; 12223 Sgt (later Flt Sgt), Albert Leslie Warton of Sydney, NSW; A2398 Sgt, Thomas Roy Elphick of Bondi, NSW; 33642 Corporal, James Francis Burgess Oliver of Glen Innes of NSW.

The squadron focused on laying mines off Makassar and Pare Pare Bay in Celebes during October.  Two more aircraft were lost to enemy anti-aircraft fire.  In November a detachment of aircraft was deployed to Morotai in the Dutch East Indies, which had been captured by Allied forces in mid-September.  Flying boat minelaying operations commenced from Moratai  from where they operated against Brunei Bay, Tarakan, Sandakan and the Balabac Straits.  A detachment of No. 42 Squadron Catalinas deployed to Leyte in the Philippines.  They fley a mining operation to  Manila Bay on the night of 14/15 December.

No. 76 Wing focused on laying mines off Surabaya and the Laoet Straits In January and February 1945.  IN a repeat of an earlier incident,  a 42 Squadron Catalina had to make an emergency sea landing on 14 January after being damaged by Japanese anti-aircraft fire, and again a No. 43 Squadron Catalina came to the rescue.

Operations late in the war entailed 42 Squadron Catalinas from Jinamoc Island staged through a refueling stop at Brunei Bay to lay mines off Sumatra.  Others flew against  Surabaya.  Finally the squadron's aircraft were mainly used to conduct harassment raids on Japanese air bases in south-west Celebes,  the Flores Sea and Banda Sea.

After the Japanese surrender, No. 42 Squadron assisted in the repatriation of Australian prisoners of war from Manila and other Australian personnel from Labuan.  

No. 42 Squadron was disbanded at Melville Bay on 30 November 1945.

During its existence it conducted 396 operational sorties, during which its aircraft dropped 549 tons of mines and 17 tons of bombs. The squadron also flew 6,330 hours of transport and courier flights. 


Compiled by Steve Larkins Jan 2017


1. AWM

2. Wikipeadia

2. RAAF Museum