No. 31 Squadron Association

No. 31 Squadron RAAF (1942 - 1946)
Reformed as No. 31 (City of Wagga Wagga) Squadron RAAF 2010

Battle Honours

Battle Honours

Battle Honours

No. 31 SQUADRON SUBMISSION FOR BATTLE HONOURS

The following submission has been successful. The Governor General has approved all of our Battle Honours.

BATTLE HONOURS – No 31 (CITY OF WAGGA WAGGA) SQUADRON

References:

DI (AF) ADMIN 10-13

31 Squadron Unit History Records supplied by Office of Air Force History

In accordance with reference A, No 31 (City of Wagga Wagga) Squadron (31SQN) requested the issue of battle honours. 31SQN was granted the battle honour PHILLIPPINES 1944 in 2009, but no other battle honours for its service during the World War II. This situation was a result of 31SQN disbanding on 06 Jul 1946 and most WWII battle honours being issued in the mid 1950s, only to units that were still operational at that time. As the squadron was reformed on 1 Jul 2010 this historical oversight has now been corrected.

 

No 31 Squadron was formed at RAAF Base Wagga, Forest Hill, New South Wales on 14 August 1942 and equipped with Bristol Beaufighter aircraft. On 3 November 1942, after a period of training, the squadron moved to Coomalie Creek in the Northern Territory.

On 17 November 1942, the squadron conducted its first operational sortie from its new base when six aircraft raided Japanese positions in Timor. The Squadron operated predominantly from Coomalie Creek Airfield for the next two years, from where it flew operations, attacking Japanese shipping, shore installations and airfields. On 26 November 1944, No 31 Squadron briefly relocated to Noemfoor Island before moving to Moratai in December, to join 22 and 30 Squadrons as part of 77 Wing, 1st Tactical Air Force. From Morotai the Squadron conducted strikes on Japanese troop concentrations, shipping, stores and airfields in the Halmaheras, Celebes and Borneo area of operations.

The Squadron moved to Tarakan in May 1945 from where it flew its final operation on 1 August 1945. When hostilities ceased on 15 August 1945, the Squadron had flown 2660 offensive sorties and claimed 20 enemy aircraft destroyed, two probably destroyed and 14 damaged in the air; 54 aircraft destroyed and 32 damaged on the ground; with nine ships destroyed and four damaged. On 6 July 1946, No 31 Squadron disbanded at RAAF Williamtown NSW.

In accordance with Ref A, the following five battle honours were requested:

Pacific  1942-1945
Darwin 1942-1944
Eastern Waters 1942-1945
Morotai
Borneo 1945

Research of Ref B provided the evidence to support this request. Criteria for these battle honours, and evidence supporting 31SQN’s application for them, are listed below.

Pacific 1942-1945

Battle Honour Criterion.

For operations against the Japanese in the Pacific theatre, throughout the war with Japan (08 Dec 1941 to 15 Aug 1945).

Evidence of 31SQN Meeting Criterion. The following evidence is offered:

31SQN was formed on 14 Aug 1942 at RAAF Wagga, NSW as a Beaufighter squadron. It deployed to Batchelor Airfield, NT on 27 Oct 42 after training and area familiarisation the unit moved to its operational base at Coomalie Creek NT on 12 Nov 1942 flying its first sortie on 17 Nov 1942 against ground targets in Timor (COO1). An Op later that day (COO2) also resulted in the SQN’s first combat loss when A19-46 crashed into the sea while evading an enemy fighter.

Ref B shows that operations from Coomalie Creek continued until 01 Dec 1944 when the unit moved north to Noemfoor. During its time in the NT, Ref B displays that 31SQN conducted numerous strikes against Japanese shipping and performed convoy protection in the Timor and Arafura Seas as well as strikes on targets located in Timor, Tanimbar and Aroe Island groups.

31SQN relocated to Noemfoor Island on 01 Dec 1944 and the Operational records Book (ORB) shows that two escort missions (NOM50 and NOM1) were conducted for Catalina Air-Sea Rescue OPS, before 31SQN redeployed to Morotai Island a week later.

On 7 Dec 44, 31SQN deployed to Morotai in the Halmahera Island group of Dutch East Indies. The SQN was assigned to 77WG, 1st Tactical Air Force. Ref b reveals that 31SQN made its first operational sortie (MOR43) from Morotai on 09 Dec 1944 with a strike against ground targets on Jolo Island in the Philippines. From Morotai the squadron flew sorties attacking maritime and ground targets as well as armed reconnaissance and escort missions through the Dutch East Indies, South West Philippines and Borneo until 01 May 1945.

While based at Morotai, 31SQN flew missions in support of the Tarakan landings and on 20 May 1945 the SQN HQ was established at Tarakan on Borneo. The SQNs aircraft operated out of Tawi Tawi Island in the Philippines in support of the landings at Labuan and Brunei. The Unit continued flying operations in and around Borneo and the Dutch East Indies until the cessation of hostilities on 15 Aug 1945.

Darwin 1942-1944

Battle Honour Criteria. For operations in defence of Darwin and offensive operations from bases in North-West Australia from 08 Dec 1941 until the capture of Morotai on 04 Oct 1944.

Evidence of 31SQN Meeting Criterion. The following evidence is offered.

31SQN was formed on 14 Aug 1942 at RAAF Wagga, NSW as a Beaufighter squadron. It deployed to Batchelor Airfield, NT on 27 Oct 42 after training and area familiarisation the unit moved to its operational base at Coomalie Creek NT on 12 Nov 1942 flying its first sortie on 17 Nov 1942 against ground targets in Timor (COO1). An Op later that day (COO2) also resulted in the SQN’s first combat loss when A19-46 crashed into the sea while evading an enemy fighter.

Ref B shows that on the 23 Dec 1942 31SQN scored its first air to air kill when A19-19 piloted by SGT Barnett shot down a single engine fighter over Fuiloro in Timor (COO35).

On 2 Mar 1943 a lone Japanese intruder strafed Coomalie Airfield destroying a 31SQN Beaufighter and wounding two personnel.

The Operations Record Book (ORB) shows that 31SQN conducted numerous sweeps and strikes against enemy installations, shipping, airfields and troops in the Dutch East Indies and Portuguese Timor. The Beaufighters with supporting elements deployed to RAAF Darwin 14 Oct 1943 to 14 Nov 1943 from where they continued to fly missions against targets in the north (COO11 to COO31). The units aircraft with supporting elements, also deployed to Pot Shot (now Learmonth) in Western Australia from 09 – 23 Mar 1944 (COO1).

Eastern Waters 1942-1945

Battle Honour Criteria. For operations over waters east of the Mediterranean and Red Sea, including the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal, the Java Sea, and South China Sea, throughout the war with Japan.

Evidence of 31SQN Meeting Criterion. The following evidence is offered

REF B shows that from Coomalie Creek on 30 Nov 1942 a patrol of six 31SQN Beaufighters provided air cover to the corvettes HMAS ARMIDALE and HMAS CASTLEMAINE operating in the Timor Sea (COO10). This patrol contacted and drove away several enemy aircraft that were attempting to attack the convoy, all aircraft returned. A later patrol of three Beaufighters providing air cover to the same convoy also contacted enemy aircraft, again driving them away from the convoy. Unfortunately Beaufighter A19-69 and its crew were reported missing (COO12).

Throughout Dec 1942 the 31SQN ORB lists numerous convoy/warship escorts in the Timor Sea for Australian and Dutch naval and merchant vessels (COO13 to 15, COO18 to 23, COO25 to 27, COO29 to 30, COO32 and COO34). An armed reconnaissance over the Timor Sea searching for enemy warships was conducted by six aircraft on 02 Dec 1942 (COO17). All aircraft returned to Coomalie Creek with nil enemy sighted.

Ref B establishes that the first shipping strike for 31SQN occurred on 18 Dec 1942 (COO28) when two aircraft from Coomalie Creek attacked a sailing vessel suspected of carrying spies, east of the Kissar Islands in the Timor Sea. Both aircraft returned and reported the vessel was burning and sinking after the attack. Ref B shows that during 1943 convoy escorts for RAN and merchant shipping in the Timor Sea continued to be a common task for 31SQN. On 15 Mar 1943 four Beaufighters operating from Coomalie Creek (COO4) strafed three Japanese Troop Transports in waters near Dobo in the Aroe Islands in the Arafura Sea. Heavy AA fire was encountered and A19-79 was shot down and crashed into the sea, remaining aircraft returned.

On 5 Nov 1943, eight aircraft carried out harassing attacks around the Tanimbar Islands in the Timor/Banda Seas (COO26) sinking one large sailing canoe, two sailing boats as well as damaging a 40’ barge and a ketch. All aircraft returned to base. The ORB shows that on 15 Dec 1943, flying from Coomalie Creek, Eight Beaufighters were tasked to carry out harassing attacks on enemy shipping near Timor (COO7). Two 5,000 tons vessels attacked and damaged. One 500 ton vessel sunk. A number of schooners and barges were also damaged. All aircraft returned.

The ORB records that following day (16 Dec 1943) saw eight aircraft conduct a strike on two merchant ships and a destroyer at Lautem, Timor (COO8). Destroying one merchant ship and sinking a number of barges. All aircraft returned.

Ref B shows that convoy protection and shipping reconnaissance in the Timor Sea continued to be a common task until the units departure for Noemfoor Island on 01 Dec 1944. Offensive sweeps on enemy held islands continued and the ORB shows that during a sweep on Timor by eight Beaufighters on 14 Jan 1944, the aircraft strafed one 300 ton and one 1200 ton cargo vessels in the Savu Sea off Atapoeoe, in Dutch West Timor (CML27). The 300 ton vessel was left smoking and the other was seen burning. After striking other targets inland, all aircraft returned to Coomalie Creek.

On 30 Mar 1944, eight Beaufighters flying from Coomalie Creek, carried out a mast head attack on shipping at Tenau (COO34). Various ships, oil barges and cargo barges were damaged or sunk. All aircraft returned. The ORB shows that the second last operation from Coomalie Creek (COO37) was a watercraft sweep around Tanibar Island by four aircraft on 20 Nov 1944. All aircraft returned.

From Morotai during Dec 1944 and up to May 1945 the ORB shows that 31SQN conducted a number of watercraft sweeps, armed shipping reconnaissance tasks and naval cooperation missions with the RAN in the Celebes and Molucca Seas (1944 MOR15,16 and 39. 1945 MOR10, 11, 22, 24, 26, 32, 66, 68, 69, 49, 50, 1, 7, 58, 39 and45). These missions accounted for a number of small ships and barges but with total allied domination of the sea and air, targets were scarce.

Following the invasion of Borneo and the units move to Tarakan and Tawi Tawi, the majority of ops were in support of the Army but the ORB shows convoy escorts conducted by two aircraft on 24 Jun (PIT), 9 Jul (PIT45) and 18 Jul (PIT29) 1945, as well as two aircraft tasked to provide air cover to the heavy cruiser HMAS Shropshire on 13 Jun 1945 (SAN98). The final mission shown in Ref B is a naval escort mission, flown by two aircraft from Tarakan on 29 Aug 1945; the mission was cancelled after take off.

Morotai

Battle Honour Criterion. For squadrons directly participating in the capture of Morotai and in subsequent operations from Morotai against the Japanese until the landing at Tarakan on 01 May 45.

Evidence of 31SQN Meeting Criterion. The following evidence is offered.

On 07 Dec 1944, 31SQN deployed to Morotai in the Halmahera Island group of Dutch East Indies from Noemfoor Island in Dutch New Guinea. On arrival on Mortai 31SQN was assigned to 77 (Attack) Wing, joining 22 and 30 SQN’s The Squadron flew its first mission on 09 Dec 1944 when 14 Beaufighters attacked Japanese facilities on Jolo island in the Philippines (MOR43). All aircraft returned.

The ORB shows operations from flown from Morotai to targets in the Celebes, Ceram-Ambon, Halmahera islands and surrounding waters. The most significant mission flown by 31SQN at this time was on 19 Apr 1945 when six Beaufighters flying from Morotai suppressed anti-aircraft fire for a B-25 conducting a low level photo-recon of the Tarakan waterfront (MOR2). All aircraft returned to Morotai after staging overnight in Zamboanga.

Borneo 1945

Battle Honour Criterion For operations in direct support of the capture of Labuan, Balikpapan and Tarakan, and for subsequent operations over Borneo from 16 April 1945 until 15 August 1945.

Evidence of 31SQN Meeting Criterion. The following evidence is offered.

Ref B shows that 31SQN conducted its first mission on Borneo on 19 Apr 1945, when six Beaufighters flying from Morotai suppressed anti-aircraft fire for a USAAF B-25 conducting a low level photo-recon of the Tarakan waterfront (MOR2). All aircraft returned to Morotai after staging overnight in Zamboanga.

The ORB shows that a 31SQN detachment was established at Tarakan on 01 Jun 1945 but due to the unsuitability of the airfield the aircraft operated from Tawi Tawi. The unit was heavily involved in operations in Borneo with strikes conducted on Brunei on 5, 6 Jun (SAN90, 94 and 52) and Beaufort on 4, 6 Jun (SAN99 and 95) 1945 in preparation for the Australian OBOE 6 landings at Labuan and Brunei on 10 Jun. The SQN also provided Air Alert over Tarakan on seven occasions.

Following the Oboe 6 landings on 10 Jun 1945, Ref B shows 31SQN was flew 8 close air support missions in the Brunei/Labuan area (SAN57, 70, 73, 74, 83, 84, 93 and 94). Each mission consisted of six aircraft and were conducted over three days. Two aircraft were lost in a collision on take off from Tawi Tawi and another crash landed on return.

The SQN ceased support for Oboe 6 and the Tawi Tawi DET returned to Morotai on 16 Jun 1945. The ORB shows further missions in Borneo when six aircraft staging through Tarakan (TKN16) provided air support to the Australian Army at Niri on 8 July with one Beaufighter crashing on landing. On 31 Jul 1945 two Beuafighters conducted an armed reconnaissance of Kuching (TAF80), with two aircraft returning the next day from Labuan to make a rocket attack on a Japanese W/T station (TAF81). All aircraft returned.

From 14 Aug 42 to the end of WWII in Aug 45, 31SQN lost 80 personnel KIA and non battle causes, as well as over 37 Beaufighters lost to all causes. 31SQN conducted operations in defence of Northern Australia and took the fight to the enemy in the South West Pacific. This distinguished combat record is a source of pride for past, current and future members of 31SQN and is worthy of recognition.