War History Page 4

No. 31 Squadron opened its score for May with an attack on the 2nd directed against Penfoei.
Aircraft, personnel, and the barracks area were strafed for a bag of two bombers and two fighters caught on the ground. These renowned strafers increased their tally on the 6th May to the extent of another ten floatplanes, destroyed on the beach and on the water at Taberfane in the Aroe Islands, as well as strafing other targets in the neighbourhood. The price paid for this effort was the loss of one of the six attackers. From this operation Flying Officer Budd and Pilot Officer McQueen were missing.

A mixture of success and disaster was experienced by the squadron on the 10th May. Of the six Beaufighters briefed to strafeTaberfane, two were ‘unserviceable, and two returned owing to adverse weather conditions. The other two aircraft completed their mission, destroying two enemy motor boats on the Seratoe River, but, as they were landing at Millingimbi to refuel, were caught by ten Japanese fighters on the ground, one Beaufighter being destroyed and the other damaged. Revenge was prompt. Three Jakes, threatening a convoy off Wessel Island on the 11th May, were intercepted by an equal number of Beaufighters. One of the Jakes was destroyed.

There seemed to be no limit to the success of No. 31 Squadron, which accounted for three fighters on the ground at Langgoer on the 17th May. The activities of the Beaufighters were never without thrills, as was demonstrated again by an assault on grounded aircraft at Penfoei onthe 18th  Two bombers were destroyed and two other aircraft damaged. Of the seven participating aircraft, one returned to base through engine trouble, a second collided with a tree over the target, but reached base safely. Three others failed to return. One was seen to go into the sea, South-East of Koepang, another crashed four miles from the target, the fate of the third was unknown. In the action the squadron lost Flying Officer Frith, Pilot Officers McLennan and Taylor and Sergeants Cobern, Armstrong and Robertson.

Again on the 31st May, the squadron aircraft, five in number, damaged one and destroyed another aircraft on the ground at Langgoer. In the ensuing dogfights with six Zekes, the Beaufighters claimed one destroyed, while two of our aircraft sustained damage. The weather was still holding up operations early in June. This, however, failed to deter No. 31 Squadron, which made one of its now frequent visits to Taberfane on the 4th June. Warning of their arrival had apparently been received, as two enemy aircraft were airborne and several were trying to take off, when the Beaufighters approached. One Japanese plane was probably destroyed and two damaged on take-off.

The squadron increased its veritable cricket score at Taberfane on the 12th June with six float planes destroyed and two damaged at their moorings. One Pete was destroyed in the air. Machine gun and small arms fire, however, damaged three Beaufighters. On the way out, luggers were strafed south of Taberfane off Cape Ngomi. Frequent reconnaissance revealed considerable constructional activity by the enemy on the island of Selaroe. So much so that in June the squadron was directed to make every effort to deter the enemy from achieving his objective of constructing an airstrip there by constant heavy attacks. As a result six Beaufighters escorted No. 12 Squadron’s Vultee Vengeance dive-bombers to the target on the 18th June. This was the only offensive strike by No. 12 Squadron in North-Western Area.

When the dive-bombers completed their work, the Beaufighters carried out strafing attacks on the strip and shot up the villages of Lingat and Werain. On June 22nd ninety minutes after three B.24s had attacked, nine Beaufighters battered the now familiar scene of. Taberfane. They had to fight off as many as twelve fighters. The R.A.A.F. aircraft damaged two fighters in the air and two floatplanes on the beach. Two Beaufighters were damaged by ack-ack, but reached base safely. Again on the 24th  Selaroe was visited by six of the squadron aircraft, and two grounded twin-engined bombers were caught and destroyed. Before leaving the island, the ‘drome and the villages of Lingat and Weraii were strafed.

Beaufighter attacks on Selaroe and Taberfane during the first five days of July employed reasonably large dispositions of aircraft. In the first attack on Selaroe, while three acted as top cover, the other three attacked stores, motor transport and suspected areas. In the other attack against Taberfane, adverse weather interfered with the operation and resulted in strafing attack on a two-mast supply vessel about 100 feet long, which burst into flames giving off heavy black smoke. Again on the 15th, six aircraft set out for Taberfane, but only two reached the target due to the prevailing weather. The result was one “Pete” destroyed.