War History Page 3

Result of a Japanese bombing raid, Coomalie

The squadron’s base was not without attention from the enemy. On the 2nd March one solitary Japanese attacking aircraft strafed Coomalie airfield, destroying Beaufighter A19-31 and causing minor injuries to two airmen. Convoy work again absorbed most of the squadron’s flying activities.

On the 30th March when contact was made, H.M.A.S. “Inverell” reported:

“Made contact with definite submarine in position 11 0 37′ S, 139 39′ E at 1151Z, 28thMarch 1943, made three attacks, oil and bubbles seen. Results uncertain”.

On the 8th March, No. 31 Squadron returned to its hunting ground at Fuiloro. Four aircraft set out, but only two attacked. One grounded enemy aircraft was left smoking. On the 12th  Beaufighters and B25s joined forces for the first time, when six of each type of aircraft were directed to attack Fuiloro. Only three B25s and two Beaufighters got through the bad weather and after flying through a formidable front at 250 feet bombed the target with unobserved results. After this the aircraft set out for Lautem, where some fifty Japanese and motor transport were strafed near a wharf. A beached lugger was also strafed. One aircraft, damaged by ack-ack, reached base safely.

A further composite attack was staged on the 15th  the target this time being Dobo, where three vessels of small tonnage and crowded with personnel were strafed prior to the bombing run by the B25s. Two direct hits were scored, leaving one vessel on fire. One Beaufighter, hit by ack-ack, crashed into the sea, killing Flying Officer Longoni and Sergeant Dale. No. 31 Squadron launched a further attack next day, staging through Millingimbi, where a lugger was destroyed and various installations strafed.

A raid staged for the 17th with Penfoei as the target proved abortive. Two aircraft set out, but on account of extreme weather both became separated in the vicinity of the coast of Timor and turned back. One of the two force-landed in the Darwin area through lack of fuel, but the aircraft was undamaged.

Weather conditions were bad through March, but these conditions deteriorated further in April, thereby hampering No. 31 Squadron’s efforts. Only thirty-seven sorties resulted for March, but through a determined effort in spite of the weather forty-nine were recorded in April. Convoy patrols were the main preoccupation; however, several offensive reconnaissance flights were carried out, during which only one inconclusive attack was made on two enemy floatplanes over the Aroe Islands on the 25th April. Beaufighter A19-59, on the 26th failed to return from a reconnaissance in the same area, and Flight Lieutenant Greenwood and Sergeant Thompson were posted missing.