25 Squadron RAAF
A History of RAAF City of Perth No. 25 Squadron
Brief History of Perth’s Own Squadron
Written by Peter G Lilleyman RFD, FCPA, M.Bus, FLTLT (Ret’d) ACAF/RAAFAR, No. 25 City of Perth Squadron 1967-1988
Thanks are due and offered for the advice, assistance and helpful information, and where appropriate the approval to use photographs, provided by (in alpha order) Peter Colliver OAM, National Secretary Air Force Association, Hawthorn, VIC; Emily Constantine, Curator RAAF Museum, Point Cook, VIC; Loretta Davies, Cultural Heritage Collections Officer, City Culture, City of Perth, Perth, WA; Group Captain David Fredericks, Director History and Heritage Branch – Air Force, Air Force HQ, Fairbairn, ACT; Geoffrey Goodall, aviation historian, Melbourne, VIC; Sue Hegney, Librarian and other librarians and retrieval staff, State Library of Western Australia, Perth, WA; Trish McDonald, Alliance Manager, City Culture, City of Perth, Perth, WA; Jason Silsby, MECC Division, Department of Defence, Canberra, ACT; Shannon Sutton; Information Services/Research Centre, Australian War Museum, Canberra, ACT; Patrick Taylor, Brand Manager RAAF, Department of Defence, Canberra, ACT; and Imogen Telfer, Curator AFIA, Directorate of History and Heritage Services – Air Force, RAAF Base Point Cook, Point Cook, VIC.
Thanks are also expressed for the opportunity and privilege of having been a small part of the RAAF as an ACAF/RAAFAR member of No. 25 City of Perth Squadron serving for and with many fine part-time ‘civilian’ and ex-PAF reservists, and full-time PAF members, of all ranks and gender from 1967 until 1988; and for post-service membership and stints as the “Book Bloke” and “Boss Bloke” of the informal “Club 25” from its formation in 1996.
Acknowledgement is due to ex-members of No. 25 City of Perth Squadron and to their families (including the author’s), who bore the frequent weekend, Annual Camp and related absences of their kin serving with 25 Squadron.
References herein to deceased members of No. 25 City of Perth Squadron are made with the greatest respect for them and their RAAF and/or ACAF/RAAFAR service.
Errors or omissions in the text that follows are unintended and regretted.
Compiled from various sources what follows is an ex-reservist member’s ‘labour of love’ like attempt to offer a singularly focused, sequentially cohesive Brief History of No. 25 City of Perth Squadron. Compared to that of many contemporaries the ex-member’s service was far from ‘perfect’ nor without fault or blemish; a regretted reality that caused some disappointment and angst personally and for others. However, one departing PAF CO’s farewell words included: “Thanks, I know you always had the Squadron’s best interests at heart”. Whether his generous words were deserved or not it is hoped this Brief History does justice to the sentiment expressed while also properly reflecting an ex-member’s regard for 25 Squadron and its members, and belief in the Citizens/Reserve forces concept.
The Active Citizen Air Force (ACAF – aka the Citizens Air Force or CAF)
In 1920 LTCOL R Williams, one of two Army members on the new Air Board (Australia), (soon WGCDR, later Air Marshal Sir Richard Williams (1890-1980), aka the “Father” of the RAAF) compiled a plan for a seven squadron “air force” for air defence and army and naval cooperation supported by a flying training school, a stores depot, and an overarching headquarters. The plan’s approval saw the Australian Air Force (AAF)’s ‘birth’ on 31 March 1921, the date Williams selected to avoid the Royal Air Force (RAF)’s 1919 April Fool’s Day precedent – the “Royal” prefix came in August 1921. William’s plan also proposed a Citizen Air Force (CAF) squadron in each state. In 1921 it was decreed: “The Air Force shall be divided into two branches called the Permanent Air Force (PAF) and the Citizen Air Force (CAF)”; the latter “…shall consist of the Active Citizen Air Force (ACAF) and the Air Force Reserve.” On 20 April 1936 the first 2 CAF Squadrons, No. 21 City of Melbourne and No. 22 City of Sydney, were established at RAAF Bases Laverton and Richmond respectively. By the end of World War 11 five CAF City of… squadrons existed. (1) (2) (Until 1973 the CAF’s “winter” and “1A” uniforms bore a small red, white and blue triangular shoulder patch derived from the Australian Flying Corps’ (AFC) patch.)
In August 1936 The West Australian reported: “April next will see the establishment of the new City of Perth squadron …in accordance with the first three years’ plan for the development of Australia’s defences, and in accordance with English (RAF) practice …the new unit will be known as No. 23 (City of Perth) Squadron, and the coat of arms of the city will be incorporated in the badge of the unit. The construction of buildings and other work necessary (for the new RAAF Station Pearce is)…in hand.” (3)
On 3 May 1937 the CAF’s third squadron, No. 23 City of Perth Squadron, was formed at RAAF Laverton, Victoria with four officers and 68 other ranks on strength; (4) its original establishment provided for 14 PAF officers and 157 airmen, 13 CAF officers and 105 airmen, and 6 Hawker Demons, 6 Avro Ansons and 3 Avro Trainers. (5)
From RAAF Station Laverton (VIC) to RAAF Station Pearce (WA)
After the move west of a 7-man advance party (“Kelly’s mob” led by FLGOFF G Kelly) 6 months earlier (6), on the morning of 10 March 1938 two officers and 81 airmen of No. 23 City of Perth Squadron arrived by rail (usually a 3-4 day trip with 5 train changes) at Perth’s Central Station. Led by FLGOFF C T Hannah (later Air Marshall Sir Colin Hannah KCMG, KCVO, KBE, CB (1914-1978) who in the 1960’s ‘inspected’ his old Squadron as AOC OPCOM) the group formed up on the platform to be greeted by Perth’s Lord Mayor, Mr C. Harper, Senator and ex-Minister for Defence Sir George Pearce KCVO PC (1870-1952), and the new CO of 23 Squadron and of RAAF Station Pearce, WCDR R J Brownell (later AIRCDRE, CBE MC MM (1894-1974) and AOC Western Area 1943-1945). The group paraded through the city before being driven to the new but still un-completed (1936-1939) RAAF Station Pearce (named after Sir George) at Bullsbrook, 30 miles (48k) north of Perth – as L R Jubbs records: “Finally in September 1939 the officers’ Mess was opened, much to the delight of the Sergeants, whose Mess had been occupied by the Officers of the Squadron.” (The original Sergeant’s Mess was replaced in 1972 and became 25 Squadron’s HQ) (7)]
No. 23 Squadron’s 6 Hawker Demons (a single engine, 2 seat open cockpit bi-plane with a 140mph (224k) cruising speed) and an Avro Anson (a twin engine, 4+ crew, multi-role, enclosed cockpit, low wing monoplane with a 158mph (253k) cruising speed) arrived the same day. One Demon pilot, PLTOFF A D Garrison (later AIRCDRE), wrote to his mother: “We were due over Perth at 2 pm, and at exactly 2 pm we passed dead over the City in perfect formation after 2,000 miles (3200k) crossing Australia. We flew around the suburbs and the City for half an hour, and then dived in formation in salute over Pearce, broke formation and landed, after one of the most successful flights ever made by the RAAF”. (8)
(1) Air Board (Australia) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Board (Australia) and Richard Williams (RAAF officer) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Williams_
(2) Short, B (AVM); A brief history of the Royal Australian Air Force Reserves and the 2005 Reserves Restructure; ADF Health History Vol 8; April 2007, pages 44-45 Health: History https://www.academia.edu/9966402/A_brief_history_of_the_Royal_Australian_Air_Force_Reserves_and_the_2006_Reserve_restructure.
(4) RAAF Base Pearce: Australia’s Pilot Training Base; page 6; L R Jubbs, Kingsley, WA; 2002; published with the assistance of the Department of Veterans Affairs. https://webarchive.nla.gov.au/awa/20040915180134/http://Pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/31681/20021021-0000/Pearce_Book_compressed.pdf
(5) CITY OF PERTH: Deeds of R.A.A.F. Squadron; The West Australian, Perth, WA; page 4, 25 August 1945;
(6) L R Jubbs, page 5
(7) L R Jubbs, pages 11, 12, 144 and 157.
(8) A D Garrison (PLTOFF, later AIRCDRE) quoted in L R Jubbs, page 14.
At the time The West Australian reported: “Within two hours of the arrival of the Great Western express yesterday, bearing 83 officers and airmen of the Royal Australian Air Force from the Eastern States to Perth, the Pearce Air Force Station at Bullsbrook, became an active unit in the defence system of Australia. At 2.30 p.m… seven aircraft of the City of Perth (No. 23) Squadron, roared overhead in perfect formation, broke away, circled and landed in turn… they had covered 1,900 (sic?) miles from Laverton (Victoria) to Pearce without a hitch. The station’s Commanding officer… expressed his admiration for the manner in which it had been accomplished.” (9)
Garrison’s letters home said the successful completion of the 4 day flight without even “so much as a puncture or a scratch of paint” was due to the “…professional approach… and… qualities of leadership” of the formation’s leader, FLTLT W Kyle (a RAF exchange officer (later Air Chief Marshall Sir Wallace Kyle GCB KCVO CBE DSO DFC KStJ (1910-1988) who as WA’s Governor (1975-1980) visited 25 Squadron as its Honary AIRCDRE). (10)
His letters home also described how the Demons’ flight across Australia entailed refuelling stops at Nhill (VIC); Adelaide (overnight stop), Ceduna and Cook (SA); and in WA at Forrest (overnight), Rawlinna, Kalgoorlie (overnight) “where practically the whole town turned out to welcome us. Next morning after takeoff, we dived in salute over the town” and Tammin (97 miles (155k) from Perth) where: “We had a rest and took on a little fuel, as we were to do a formation flight over Perth.” (11) (Note: The “welcome” and the Demon’s farewell “salute” at Kalgoorlie in part probably reflected the town being FLTLT Kyle’s birthplace 28 years earlier and perhaps also the fact the ground group’s leader, FLGOFF Hannah, was born in 1914 at Menzies, another WA goldfields town 80 miles (128k) north-east of Kalgoorlie.)
The Demon formation’s arrival in Perth was not unique. As acknowledged in Garrison’s letter; “a squadron of nine Wapitis” had visited Perth in 1929. The West Australian and Perth’s now defunct Daily News reported other RAAF Wapiti visits in 1932, 1933, 1934 and 1935, and RAAF Bulldog visits in 1932 and 1933, and again in 1935 accompanied by 4 Demons. (12) (Note: Forty-four Westland Wapitis were in RAAF service 1929-1944, 8 Bristol Bulldogs 1930-1940 and 64 Hawker Demons 1930-1940 – all were British built.)
No. 23 Squadron’s arrival in March 1938 was more significant than the earlier RAAF visits. It assured Australia’s largest, most remote State of the RAAF’s ability to move an operational squadron’s men and machines, albeit relatively few in number, across the continent in less than a week. More importantly, Perth and WA now had a fully manned RAAF base (still the only one) housing a flying squadron bearing the State capital’s name. L R Jubbs records that on transferring to Perth No. 23 Squadron’s “initial aircraft comprised of 6 Hawker Demons, 6 Avro Ansons, 4 Avro Trainers and a complement of 13 officers and 135 Airmen”. (13)
Nine months after arriving in Perth No. 23 Squadron was renumbered as No. 25 Squadron on 1 January 1939. (14) In 1940 No. 25 Squadron’s unit crest displaying Perth City’s Black Swan and the motto Defendo (“I defend”) was drawn up by the College of Arms, ratified by the Chester Herald and signed by King George VI. (15) (Note: As far distant, non-identical ‘twins’ No. 25 City of Perth and No. 23 City of Brisbane both commemorate Laverton, 3 May 1937 as their shared place and date of ‘birth.) (16)
(9) SCENE AT PEARCE. SETTLING-IN PROCESS. Long Journey Ended. The West Australian, page 23, 11 March 1938
(10) & (11) A D Garrison quoted in L R Jubbs, page 14
(12) A D Garrison quoted in L R Jubbs, page 14; The West Australian; untitled photo caption; 2 October 1935, page 22; and other reports in The West Australian and Daily News of the stated years.
(13) L R Jubbs, page 6.
(14) THE RESERVISTS: Squadron No 25 (A); RAAF News; page 2, 1 January 1982) and ROYAL HONOUR TO PERTH SQUADRON; RAAF News; page 7, 1 March 1975. (Note: L R Jubbs, pages 20, 29 and 71, says 25 Squadron “came into being” on 6 February 1939?)
(15) (CITY OF PERTH: Deeds of R.A.A.F. Squadron; The West Australian, page 4, 25 August 1945. (Note: L R Jubbs, page 29, says “On 1 August 1943, with approval by King George VI, the Squadron was granted the use of their new No 25 Squadron Crest.”)
(16) No. 25 Squadron (City of Perth) Squadron: 1937 – 1987: Golden Jubilee; RAAF booklet; RAAF Base Pearce WA; undated c May 1987; and Golden Jubilee for 23 (City of Brisbane) SQN: RAAF News page 11, 1 May 1987.
In 1940 No. 25 General Purpose (GP) Squadron used the first of the 23 Wirraway aircraft reportedly received (17) during WW11 for operational training, Army and Navy co-operation, aerial photography, anti-submarine patrols and shipping protection; the latter included Britain’s 2 pre-war ‘flagship’ liners, the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth, and other pre-war liners converted for transporting troops including 2nd AIF units to the Middle East. (18)
25 Squadron Wirraways took part in the unsuccessful search for survivors of Australia’s worst naval disaster, the German raider Kormoran’s sinking on 19 November 1941 of the RAN cruiser HMAS Sydney 130 miles (210k) off Shark Bay on WA’s mid-west coast with all of the Sydney’s 645 crew lost. (19)
After No. 77 Squadron (formed in WA in March 1942) and its’ Curtis P-40 Kittyhawks relocated from Perth to Darwin in August 1942, No. 25 Squadron was tasked with Perth’s air defence. (20) Ten US built Brewster Buffaloes were received to complement the Squadron’s Wirraways despite both types already being considered obsolete as front-line fighter aircraft. The Buffalos had originally been destined for the Netherlands East Indies Air Force (NEIAF) before the NEI (now Indonesia) fell to the Japanese. (21)
By late-1943 25 Squadron’s Wirraways and Buffalos had been replaced by US built Vultee Vengeance dive bombers carrying up to 2000lb (907kg) of 500lb (226kg) or 250lb (113kg) bombs for the Squadron’s revised Army-cooperation role. (22)
With invasion no longer considered a threat to WA, on 11 January 1945 No. 25 Squadron moved from Pearce to RAAF Base Cunderdin, 99 miles (159k) east of Perth, and began re-equipping with Consolidated B-24 Liberators (aka “banana boats”, “lumbering libs”, “flying coffins” or “boxcars”) as a Heavy Bomber (HB) unit; 12 Liberators were on strength by 31 January. (23) The B-24 Liberator was a WW11 ‘workhorse’. According to some who flew them, the Liberator “’was a truck,’ it looked like a truck, and it flew like a truck…but trucks were needed in WW2 and the B-24 was the most widely used bomber of the war. More than 18,000 were built, more than any other bomber aircraft and though it flew more missions and dropped more bombs, it also suffered proportionately heavier losses than all other Allied bombers.” (24) Modified versions of Liberators also flew as transports; Sir Winston Churchill’s personal long-distance transport from 1942 until 1944 was a modified B-24 named “Commando”. (25)
25 Squadron’s Liberators were part of over 250 Liberators operated by the RAAF during WW11; over 30 were lost in action along with the lives of more than 200 aircrew. (26) Except for No. 22 City of Sydney Squadron which operated lighter strike aircraft (initially 2 engine Douglas A-20 Bostons, later 2 engine Bristol Beaufighters) 4 of the RAAF’s five WW11 City of … squadrons flew 4 engine B-24 Liberator heavy bomber operations over enemy territory.
The Consolidated B-24 Liberator’s (CL) performance figures comparative to those of its main contemporaries, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress (FF) and the Avro Lancaster Mark 1 (AL), were: Max speed CL 302mph/483kph, FF 288mph/462kph, AL 276mph/442kph; cruising speed CL 239mph/382kph, FF 183mph/293kph, AL 200mph/321kph; max bomb load CL 8000lb/3628kg, FF 8000lb/3628kg, AL 18000lb/8165kg; typical range CL 1549m/2478k with 8000lb/3628kg bomb load, FF 2011m/3219km with 6000lb/2720kg bombload, AL 1740m/2785km with 12000lb/5443kg bombload); armament CL 10 x 0.5inch machine guns, FF 13 x 0.5inch, AL 8 x 0.303inch; crew CL 8-11, FF 10, AL 7. (Notes: (a) Performance figures vary depending on sources or individual “Marks” (versions) of each aircraft, altitudes and loads. (b) For several years volunteers from the B-24 Liberator Memorial Australia Inc. group in Werribee (VIC) have been restoring what is claimed to be the only remaining B-24 Liberator in the Southern Hemisphere and one of only 8 left in the world. The project, which is usually open to visitors, is a memorial to all Allied airmen who served in B-24’s in the defence of Australia during WW11 – refer https://www.b24australia.org.au/)
Just 18 days before the RAAF allotted 25 Squadron its first 12 Liberators at its new base in Cunderdin WA, the German submarine U-862 on patrol from Batavia (now Jakarta) sank the US Liberty ship Robert J Walker 40 miles (65k) off the NSW coast south of Jervis Bay on Xmas Day, 1944 (prior to the sinking U-862 had passed WA’s Cape Leeuwin on 28 November 1944). All but two survived of the 69 or 70 (sources vary) aboard the only Allied ship sunk in the Pacific by a German U-boat. (27) After the sinking Allied intelligence suspected U-862 had returned to the Indian Ocean but anti-submarine patrols, including by 25 Squadron Liberators in late January/early February 1945, failed to locate her.
On 10 February 1945 a merchant ship’s mid-ocean chance discovery of 15 survivors revealed U-862 had sunk another US Liberty ship, the Peter Silvester 800 Miles (1300k) off WA’s coast on 6 February 1945. At dawn next day 25 Squadron Liberators, fitted with 600 gallon (2270L) auxiliary fuel tanks for flights of up to 19 hours duration, began a successful 4 day search for survivors. 25 Squadron’s sightings on 11 and 13 February were instrumental in the eventual rescue of 143 survivors in 4 lifeboats and 6 rafts from the last Allied ship lost to enemy action in the Indian Ocean. (Note: There was either 174 or 175 (sources vary) crew and military personnel on board plus over 300 army mules; all of the latter perished.) (28)
The Squadron’s successful search effort was acknowledged by a congratulatory message from the CAS (1942-1952) AVM Sir George Jones KBE, CB, DFC (1896-1992) and letters of appreciation from the US Army representative in WA and from rescued survivors. However, success came at a tragic cost; around 0600 hrs on 14 February 1945, five of the 11 crew aboard Liberator A72-124 died when it crashed taking off from RAAF Cunderdin to participate in the search. (29)
Displaying huge Black Swan emblems on their twin tail fins, from 11 March until 5 August 1945 (the day before the Hiroshima atomic bomb) 25 Squadron Liberators flew a combined total of “86 sorties” against enemy targets in the NEI (mainly on Java with Denpasar (Bali) often a secondary target). (30) (Note: Some RAAF and RAAF-related sources report “85 missions” totalling 5,960 hrs.) The strikes, including diversionary raids over NEI targets prior to the Allied landings at Tarakan (on I May), Brunei Bay (10 June) and Balikpapan (I July), usually staged through RAAF airfields at Corunna Downs (a bitumen on compacted gravel and crushed stone strip), Truscott (then a perforated steel strip, now Truscott-Mungalalu Airport) and Learmonth (now a joint civil airport/RAAF ‘bare base’) in north-west WA. (31)
In addition to the bombing strikes, the Squadron’s Liberators are reported to have conducted a collective total of 9 sea-search flights. (32) [Note: Until recently the Australian War Memorial’s (AWM) No. 25 Squadron webpage stated: “In June (1945) the squadron moved to Tarakan for the remainder of the war”. In contrast another source said the Tarakan airfield was so badly damaged before its capture from the Japanese it was not used for Allied operations until the end of June 1945 and then only by the relatively light (in weight), single engine P-40 Kittyhawk fighters of No. 78 Wing RAAF, not heavy 4 engine bombers such as 25 Squadron’s B-24 Liberators. (33) Other sources covering B-24 Liberator WW11 operations, one being a detailed account by a 25 Squadron B-24 co-pilot from January 1945 to January 1946, made no mention of 25 Squadron being based at or flying from Tarakan airfield. (34) (35) After advice of the above information on 6 November 2022 the AWM deleted its reference to 25 Squadron moving “to Tarakan” in 1945 (AWM Research Centre email 1 December 2022.)]
One 25 Squadron B-24 was lost during operations against NEI targets. Due to a No. 2 port engine fire on a 26/27 April 1945 night raid Liberator A72-133 force-landed in the sea close to the Japanese held Soemba (now Sumba) Island. The 12 aboard (11 crew and 1 ‘observer’) swam ashore under fire but were soon captured. Unlike several other RAAF aircrew captured by the Japanese they were not beheaded. After enduring 5 months of brutal treatment including humiliating public bashings, isolation from other POW’s, periods of starvation, interrogations under torture and never carried out death sentences, all were liberated from a POW camp in Batavia (Jakarta) in late September 1945. (36)
At WW11’s end the Squadron’s strength was 14 B-24 Liberators, 1 de Havilland Tiger Moth (A17-159) and 718 men (121 Officers and 597 Other Ranks), including 18 crews for the B-24’s. (37) The Squadron was awarded the Battle Honour “Eastern Waters 1941-1945”. (38)
For its diversionary raids prior to the Brunei Bay landings, in June 1945 AVM W Bostock CB DSO OBE (1892-1968), AOC RAAF Command (1942-1945) forwarded to 25 Squadron a congratulatory signal sent by General D MacArthur (Supreme Commander Allied Forces South Pacific) which said: “The execution of the Brunei Bay Operation has been flawless. Please accept for yourself and convey to your Officers and Men the pride and gratification I feel in such a splendid performance.” AVM Bostock added “express my thanks and satisfaction to all concerned.”(39) (Note: Although successful, the Tarakan, Brunei Bay and Balikpapan landings were and are regarded by some as unnecessary ‘sideshows’ resulting in Allied losses of 600 killed and 1600 other casualties, most being Australian 2nd AIF troops. However, at the time of the landings it was not envisaged the war would suddenly end just weeks later, saving millions of military personnel and civilians on both sides, after the 2 atomic bomb attacks on Japan.)
On 16 August 1945 12 of 25 Squadron’s B-24’s flew a victory formation over Perth. Beginning in September 1945 the B-24’s carried out supply drops to Java from Truscott, Cocos Island and Guildford (now Perth Airport) airfields and evacuated POW’s, internees and service personnel from Borneo, Morotai and Darwin. Similar activities continued until flying was reduced to a minimum in early January 1946. In February and March 1946 25 Squadron Liberators participated in the unsuccessful searches off WA’s coast for the missing lugger “Peggy” with 4 crew aboard, and for the overdue Avro 691 Lancastrian G-AGLX (a converted former RAF Lancaster bomber) BOAC/Qantas flight from Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to Cocos Island with 10 aboard. (40)
From January 1945 until the Squadron ceased to function on 30 March 1946 four Liberators were lost. In addition to A72-124’s fatal crash at RAAF Cunderdin and A72-133’s force-landing off Soemba (now Sumba) Island, 2 Liberators were written-off after ground accidents; A72-134 at Cunderdin on 6 March 1945 and A72-137 at RAAF Darwin on 28 November 1945.
(17) ADF-SERIALS; Australian & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History RAAF A20 CAC Wirraway, www.adf-serials.com.au/2a20.htm
(18) Moore, R (GPCPT); RAAF News (Letters); AIRCRAFT OF THE RAAF; 1 December 1973, page 5; and Fremantle PORTS; Wartime; The Port of Fremantle has had a vital role in various wars, www.fremantleports.com.au/the-port/history-and-heritage/wartime
(19) RAAF’s squadron with a difference. RAAF News, 1 September 1991, page 6.
(20) L R Jubbs, page 58; and “NO. 77” AWARDED “THE STANDARD” Famous Squadron Be Back Home Soon; Queensland Times; page 3, 30 November 1954.
(21).ADF-SERIALS; Australian & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History RAAF A51 Brewster Buffalo; www.adf-serials.com.au/2a51.htm. (Note: L R Jubbs, pages 28 and 29, says “nine Buffaloes were added to the Squadron”?)
(22) ADF-SERIALS; Australian & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History RAAF A27 Vultee Vengeance, www.adf-serials.com.au/2a27.htm; L R Jubbs, page 31; and No. 25 Squadron (City of Perth) Squadron: 1937 – 1987: Golden Jubilee; page 7. (Note: ADF Serials records 15 Vultee Vengeances allotted to 25 Squadron whereas L R Jubbs, page 29, refers to 24?)
(23) Units of the Royal Australian Air Force: a concise history: bomber units; compiled by the RAAF Historical Section; AGPS, Canberra 1995; pages 82-85; and No. 25 City of Perth Squadron: An Account of this Squadron’s Activities whilst operating B-24 Aircraft from Western Area 1945-46; 1996; pages 4-5; self-published by Paul L Mallard (ex 25 SQN B-24 co-pilot Jan 1945-Jan 1946).
(24) Quoted from Liberator 50th Anniversary; Wings Summer 1989 Vol 41 No 4; page 5
(25) Churchill’s Flights, Part 2, https://simanaitissays.com/2015/05/25/churchills-flights-part-2/
(26) HONOURING THE RAAF WW2 B-24 LIBERATOR LEGACY, https://www.b24australia.org.au/b-24-liberator/our-living-b-24#; and https://military-history.fandom.com/wiki/B-24_Liberators_in_Australian_service
(27) Ships hit by U-boats: Robert J Walker, uboat.net/allies/merchants/ship/3400.html; and German U-boat Operations in Australian Waters https://www.navy.gov.au/history/feature-histories/german-u-boat-operations-australian-waters
(28) Mallard, P L; page 8, and The Canberra Times (ACT); THE WAR FILE 1939- 1945: The saving of 100 torpedoed Americans; page 13, 20 April 1995; and http://ss_peter_silvester.tripod.com/index.html. (Note: The Canberra Times and other sources say 174 were on board the Peter Silvester along with over 300 army mules.)
(29) Mallard, P L, page 8 and F Carter; Wings, Summer Edition 2002 Vol. 54 No. 4; Letters to the Editor, page 49; and P Dunn; CRASH OF A B-24 LIBERATOR AT CUNDERDIN, WA ON 14 FEBRUARY 1945; Australia @ War Research Products, 2015, www.ozatwar.com/ozcrashes/wa07.htm; and ADF-SERIALS Australian & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History; RAAF A72 Consolidated B-24D/J/L/M Liberator; http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a72.htm
(30) Mallard, P L pages 4-33, “sorties” quote from table on page 71 (Note: The AWM’s No.25 Squadron webpage (www.awm.gov.au/collection/U59388) and various RAAF and RAAF related publications say “85 missions”); and The Sunday Times (Perth); CUNDERDIN LIBERATOR SQUADRON GAVE JAPS A HAMMERING; 26 August 1945, page 12.
(31) Mallard, P L, pages 4-33 and Nelmes, M V, Tocumwal to Tarakan : Australians and the Consolidated B-24 Liberator; Banner Books, 1994; pages 128.
(32) Mallard, P L, table on page 71
(33) Battle of Tarakan (1945), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tarakan (1945)
(34) Mallard, P L. pages 4-33 and LR Jubbs, various pages.
(35) Nelmes, M V, pages 126-128; and Units of the Royal Australian Air Force: a concise history: bomber units; pages 82-85.
(36) Mallard, P L, pages 46 and 87-95; and; No, 1 Wireless Air Gunners School Ballarat 1940-1945; Featured Stories; RAAF PRISONERS OF WAR IN THE PACIFIC – WW2, www.1wags.org.au/information/featured-stories/raaf-prisoners-of-war-in-the- pacific-ww2/
(37) Mallard, P L, page 21.
(38) No. 25 Squadron (City of Perth) Squadron: 1937 – 1987: Golden Jubilee; page 7.
(39) Mallard, P L, page 16.
(40) Mallard, P L, pages 30-31; RAAF to Search For Missing Lugger; The Daily News, Perth; page 1, 28 February 1946; and https://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19460323-0;
Commencing offensive operations late in WW11 25 Squadron’s fatalities were the lowest of the RAAF’s five City of… squadrons. The AWM’s WWII Roll of Honour (42) for 25 Squadron lists 23 fatalities (some sources say 25) with 6 members dying as a result of ground incidents or illness (one after going AWOL and drinking weed poison in December 1945) and 17 due to the following flying incidents:
19 February 1941: FLGOFF’s R J Sykes (PLT) and C V Anderson (W/AG) killed when Wirraway A20-125 crashed into the sea 2 miles (3k) south of Fremantle harbour during a co-operation exercise with coastal defences at night. It was thought the pilot was blinded by a search light coming on when the aircraft was at the bottom of a dive. (43)
15 September 1942: SGT’s K P Properjohn (PLT) and K G Page (W/AG) killed when Wirraway A20-127 aircraft crashed into the sea 1 mile (2k) north-west of Fremantle. 58 years later a fellow 25 Squadron pilot, FLGOFF J “John” C Bailey, recalled: “It was a moonless night with high cloud (hence no stars visible) and I think Properjohn was trying to give them a ‘run for their money’ and toppled his gyro, losing control and going into the sea off Fremantle. A very sad loss.” (44)
21 July 1943: SGT K L HODGE (NAV/W) killed when both crew baled-out of Wirraway A20-110 at 3000ft (914m) after becoming lost in bad weather during a night cross-country flight. It is thought SGT Hodge died after striking the aircraft during exit; the aircraft crashed near York 60 miles (96k) east of Perth. (45)
19 September 1943: FLGOFF L C M Garling (PLT) and PLTOFF F C Smith (NAV/W) killed when Vultee Vengeance A27-246 dived into a low hill one mile (2k) east of RAAF Pearce during a meteorological flight. (46)
28 March 1944 SGT M Lee Berthelsen (PLT) and FSGT G O Crichton (NAV/W) killed when Vultee Vengeance A27-249 stalled and dived into a small hill near RAAF Pearce during a series of dives and stall turns after completing gunnery practice. (47)
25 April 1944: FSGT R F C Badman (PLT) and PLTOFF C A Rampant (NAV/W) killed when Vultee Vengeance A27-500 crashed whilst practicing dives near Yanchep, Western Australia. (48)
27 August 1944: FSGT C L King (NAV/W) missing presumed dead after baling-out of Vultee Vengeance A27-295 when the aircraft became lost and low on fuel due to bad weather during a cross-country flight. The pilot, WOFF A J Ingram baled-out a few minutes after FSGT King; 4 days later WOFF Ingram was found at a remote, deserted farm house after being alone in harsh country with no water and only a goanna to eat. The wreckage of the Vengeance was sighted and located from a searching Tiger Moth on 3 September 51 miles (82k) due east of Narembeen. Despite an extensive air and land search no trace of FSGT King was ever found; it is thought he became unconscious after striking the aircraft during exit. (Note: On 27 August 1988 a memorial erected by the Yilgarn Shire Council on Emu Fence Road, near Skeleton Rock, Marvel Loch was dedicated to the crash of the Vengeance and its crew. The memorial was re-dedicated on 6 August 2008.) (49)
14 February 1945: FSGT B J T Johnson (BA) and SGT’s R Higginbottom (AG), F J Naughton (AG), C R Taylor (W/E) and K W Uhr (W/AG) killed when Liberator A72-124 laden with extra fuel crashed on taking off from RAAF Cunderdin to participate in 25 Squadron’s successful search for survivors from the torpedoed SS Peter Silvester. (50) (Notes: (a) On 20 April 2003 a memorial jointly erected by the Cunderdin Historical Society, the OC and staff of RAAF Base Pearce, and RAAFA (WA) to the crash and the five 25 Squadron members killed was unveiled at Cunderdin airport during the 2003 Cunderdin Air Show by FLTLT (NAV) (Ret’d) C L Taylor DFC, one of the 6 survivors of the tragedy. Serving representatives from RAAF Base Pearce and 25 Squadron, and several ex-25 Squadron members attended the unveiling; the latter group gave the Cunderdin Shire Council Museum a large framed and captioned copy of the WW11 photo of 25 Squadron’s B-24 Liberator SJ-N flying ‘somewhere’ over the then NEI. (51) (b) As a consequence of compiling this history letters were sent to the City of Fremantle (6 NOV 2022) and to the City of Wanneroo (14 NOV 2022) suggesting modest plinth with plaque memorials could be erected to commemorate the losses off Fremantle of FLGOFF’s R J Sykes and C V Anderson on 19 FEB 1941, and SGT’s K P Properjohn and K G Page on 15 SEP 1942; and the loss “near Yanchep” of FSGT R C Badman (PLT) and PLTOFF C A Rampant (NAV/W) on 25 April 1944. The letters included the author’s photos below of a waterfront memorial commemorating those lost when a RAAF Catalina crashed off Townsville QLD in SEP 1943. In December 2022 both Cities advised they were considering the suggestions.)
In June 1942, Wirraway A20-112 [FLGOFF John Bailey (PLT), Jack West (NAV/W)] was engulfed in low-level bad weather while flying from Carnarvon to Onslow in north-west WA. Running low on fuel the pair decided to land near a sighted by chance small hut with a windmill and fenced garden. On landing the hut was found to be a deserted outcamp on Mardie Station; despite repeated efforts West was only able to make radio contact with someone in far-off Queensland who relayed to WA that the 2 were safe! An uncomfortable night followed on two bare wire stretchers with only their Mae Wests to lay on but in John’s words; “the vegetables in the garden were appreciated however”.
With clear weather next morning the pair took-off but with their fuel level soon critical they decided to land near a camp and old truck spotted by a billabong in a creek not far from the coast. By dodging tall ant hills they landed safely in the spinifex and began walking towards the camp when a rifle holding figure appeared from behind an ant hill. After Bailey quickly shouted “Good day” the figure, a 65 year old Wally Walters, a kangaroo shooter and deadly shot, walked forward saying “I thought you might be the Japs, and I was going to drop you!”
After managing to radio their newly established position (on Devils Den Creek) they were told an Army utility from Roebourne (about 50 miles (80k) north) would bring them a drum of fuel. John and Jack spent 2 days with Wally before the fuel arrived and by that time he wanted them to stay longer!
Pilot John Bailey also recounted how a fellow 25 Squadron pilot, “Bluey Thompson”, decided to ‘perform’ some spectacular aerobatics over the semi-rural Armadale hills home of a girl he had recently met. “Unfortunately, the Wirraway cockpit canopy parted company, and fell in a nearby chook yard, killing some hens. The owner very kindly returned the canopy to the Squadron, along with a bill for the dead poultry! This resulted in considerable trouble for Bluey – and a deal of merriment in the Squadron…”
Bailey further recalled flying Wirraway A20-29 one night in August 1942 to enable Jack West to get low-level close-up photographs from various angles of a ship in Fremantle harbour. After making several runs up the harbour at deck height they were challenged by an Aldis lamp. They quickly responded by firing a green flare which curved gracefully up and “…then landed on the wharf (amid heaps of cargo, which could have included bombs and ammo) where it bounced along, scattering personnel in all directions.” At Jack’s urgent suggestion “I think we should get out of here, real quick!” John pulled up sharply and returned to base. To John’s knowledge their flight brooked no repercussions; saying “…maybe total confusion reigned…” but he was very thankful “…the flare didn’t ignite any ammo or bombs.” (53) [Note: An ex-WW11 No. 25 and No. 75 Squadron fighter pilot John Bailey was reported to have celebrated his 100th Birthday on 8 December 2022 (RAAFA (WA) Air Mail newsletter February/March 2023, page 3).]
(42) AWM No. 25 Squadron; Roll of Honour; www.awm.gov.au/collection/U59388
(43) ADF Serials: Australia & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History: RAAF A20 CAC Wirraway.
(44) Bailey, J, quoted in Falconer-West, P; No. 25 Squadron — Tales from World War II; Air Force News; pages 36/37, 1 August 2001; and ADF Serials: Australia & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History: RAAF A20 CAC Wirraway.
(45) ADF Serials: Australia & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History: RAAF A20 CAC Wirraway; and https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/
(46) & (47) ADF Serials: Australia & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History: RAAF A27 Vultee Vengeance, http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a27.htm
(48) ADF Serials: Australia & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History: RAAF A27 Vultee Vengeance, http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a27.htm; and https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Gallery151/dist/JGalleryViewer.aspx?B=3045949&S=2&N=115&R=0#/SearchNRetrieve/NAAMedia/ShowImage.aspx?B=3045949&T=P&S=2
(49) ADF Serials: Australia & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History: RAAF A27 Vultee Vengeance; Wings Autumn/March 1987, Vol. 39 No. 1; Re Crash of Vultee Vengeance A27-195 (sic), (author not stated); March 1987; page 53; Air Force News; page 12, 2 October 2008; and Vultee Vengeance A27-295 Crash; monument australia.org.au.
(50) Frank Carter; Wings, Summer Edition 2002 Vol. 54 No. 4; untitled under Letters to the Editor; page 49; Peter Dunn; CRASH OF A B-24 LIBERATOR AT CUNDERDIN, WA ON 14 FEBRUARY 1945, Australia @ War Research Products; 2015, https://www.ozatwar.com/ozcrashes/wa07.htm; and ADF-SERIALS Australian & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History; RAAF A72 Consolidated B-24D/J/L/M Liberator; http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a72.htm
(51) Tribute to the fallen; Air Force News; page 6, 5 June 2003.
(52) L R Jubbs, page 38; David Wilson; “RAAF SWORDFISH”; “Wings” Winter 1986 Vol 38 No 2; page 11; GPCPT R. Moore, Letters: AIRCRAFT OF THE RAAF; RAAF News; page 5, 1 December 1973; and Tom Scotland; “Letters”; “Wings”; page 53, Autumn, March 1986 Vol 38 No 1.
(53) Bailey, J, quoted in Falconer-West, P; No. 25 Squadron — Tales from World War II; Air Force News; pages 36/37, 1 August 2001.
After being disbanded in July 1946 the Squadron was reformed on 1 April 1948 as the Active Citizen Air Force (ACAF) No. 25 City of Perth Fighter (F) Squadron with an initial allotment of 4 Mustangs, 2 Wirraways and 2 Tiger Moths. [Note: A total of 200 Mustangs and 755 Wirraways were built or assembled by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC), and 1070 Tiger Moths by de Havilland Australia (DHA).]
On 27 April 1948 the Squadron’s first Mustang (A68-71) was received from 78 Squadron. On 17 May 1948 the Squadron’s CO, WGCDR N Ford AFC, flew A68-71 on the re-formed Squadron’s first official flight.
25 Squadron’s role of training reservist pilots and ground crew began in earnest with its first weekend parade and recruit training on 16-17 October 1948 at RAAF Pearce. (55)
From September 1951 the Squadron’s CAC Mustangs (May 1948 – April 1956) were complemented by de Havilland Vampire jet fighters; one (A79-215) painted bright red reportedly for the CO’s use from 1957-1959, ended life as a Pearce fire training aid. (56)
Until the Squadron reverted to a non-flying role in 1960, part-time reservist CAF and full-time PAF pilots flying the Squadron’s Mustang and Vampire fighters represented WA’s sole air defence/air attack capability. (Note: 80 single-seat and 110 dual seat Vampires were built in Australia by DHA.)
The Squadron’s higher public profile activities included Mustang and Vampire (from 1951) flying displays on special occasions such as Australia Day, Empire Day, Anzac Day, Air Force Week or RAAF Pearce “Open Days”, and regular flypasts over Perth’s city and suburbs, and at regional centres such as Busselton, Kalgoorlie and Geraldton. The Australia Day displays were part of the then annual Regattas at Crawley Bay where reported crowds ranged up to 75,000 (Perth’s population in 1950 was just over 300,000); often the displays were in combination with Lincolns from RAAF Amberley’s 82 Wing or from RAAF Pearce’s 11 Squadron (November 1950 – May 1954) – one of 11 Squadron’s new Lockheed Neptunes joined the display in 1952. (57)
In October/November 1949 25 Squadron Mustangs searched unsuccessfully for the missing “Wanderer 11” fishing boat and its 2 crewmen. (58) For “maritime safety purposes” 25 Squadron Mustangs also sank by gunfire, rockets and 250lb (113kg) bombs two old coal hulks, the 600ton “Banksfield” 27miles (43k) west of Fremantle in June 1950 and the 1500ton “Colonna” (aka the “Sierra Colonna”) off Cape Vancouver, Albany on WA’s southern coast in October 1952. (59) (Note: It was reported opportunist private boat ‘operators’ hoped to take spectators to view both sinkings; whether they did is unknown.)
The Squadron’s aircraft also participated in RAAF exercises and competitions in WA and interstate. Staging through Geraldton, Port Hedland and Broome five Vampires and two Mustangs deployed to Darwin in May 1953, a feat repeated by 8 Vampires for Operation Comax Kestrel in October 1955. (60)
In December 1953 25 Squadron Vampire fighters won the Air Staff Cup in the Vampire section of Operation Deadeye, the RAAF’s annual air weapons contest for PAF and CAF units held in Canberra, ACT. The Air Armaments School, East Sale, VIC, won the Mustang section. Over 30 aircraft from 7 fighter and 3 bomber teams competed in the contest firing about 100 rockets and nearly 10,000 rounds of ammunition. (61)
In August 1954 No. 25 Squadron was joined at RAAF Pearce by sister CAF fighter squadrons, No. 22 City of Sydney and No. 23 City of Brisbane, to ‘defend’ Perth against attacks by Canberra bombers in Operation Swanlake. One low-level interception of Canberras by Vampires took place over the Causeway which at the time was Perth’s main and busiest ‘bridge’ over the Swan River! (62)
In September 1954 25 Squadron crossed to NSW to take part in a 15 day exercise testing the RAAF’s mobility, speed and striking power. It also repaid a ‘debt’ by helping 22 Squadron ‘defend’ Sydney against attacks by RAAF Lincolns, Canberras and Beaufighters. (63) [Note: 73 Lincolns, 364 Bristol Beaufighters and 48 English Electric Canberras were built at Australia’s Government Aircraft Factory (GAF).]
In November 1955 25 Squadron’s Vampires again won the RAAF’s annual air weapons competition for fighter squadrons (the McCauley Shield). For the first time it was an all-jet contest with not only air-to-air and air-to ground live gunnery, rocketry and air-to-air cine-gun filming being judged, but also ground maintenance. (64)
(54) CHAPTER 12: 25 ‘CITY OF PERTH’ (FIGHTER SQUADRON (CITIZEN AIR FORCE); copied page 63 of an as yet unidentifiable book; and Warbirds Online; CAC Mustang – ANAM Warbird Restoration Project cac-mustang-anam-warbird-restoration-project/
(56) The Daily News, Perth WA; Vampire Here Sunday; page 7, 5 September 1951 (nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/265572731?searchTerm=Vampire%20jet%20Pearce; ADF-SERIALS RAAF A78, A79 and RAN N6. de Havilland DH-100/DH-115 Vampire (http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a79.htm); and L R Jubbs, photo page 95 and “free use” statement on page iii.
(57) REGATTA AT CRAWLEY: Crowd of 40,000 In Holiday Mood; The West Australian (Perth); page 11, 27 January 1948; Lincoln Bombers DISPLAY OVER KALGOORLIE; Kalgoorlie Miner (WA) Page 3, 27 January 1949; BOMBERS LEAVE; The West Australian (Perth); page 7, 4 February 1949; Mustangs in Geraldton Noisy Flying at Low Altitude BY WHOSE AUTHORITY?; Geraldton Guardian (WA) page 5, 8 September 1949; CARNIVAL IN CRAWLEY BAY; Western Mail (Perth); page 11, 2 February 1950; REGATTA ATTRACTS RECORD CROWD: 75,000 Enjoy Air Feats And Aquatic Events; The West Australian (Perth); page 3, 30 January 1951; and Big Crowd Expected; The Daily News (Perth); page 7, 12 January 1952.
(59) The Sunday Times, Perth; R.A.A.F. STRAFE OF HULK ON MONDAY?; page 26, 4 June 1950; The Albany Advertiser (WA); “Sierra Colonna” Makes Last Journey: OLD CLIPPER SAYS GOODBYE—STUBBORNLY; page 1, 3 November 1952; and Shipwreck Data Bases: WA Museum – Colonna (ex-Sierra Colonna), https://museum.wa.gov.au/maritime-archaeology-db/wrecks/id-282
(61) City Of Perth Squadron Wins Air Staff Cup; The West Australian, Perth; page 3, 10 December 1953.
(64) Perth Squadron Wins Weapons Contest. The Southern Cross News; page 2, 17 November 1955
CPL R Power (ENGFITT) killed in an off-Base car accident during 25 Squadron’s deployment to RAAF Darwin in May 1953. (65)
Two 25 Squadron pilots were killed in air incidents; by tragic coincidence they shared the same surname but were not related:
2 June 1950: FLTLT C Williams killed when Mustang A68-13 dived into the ground at an estimated 400 miles per hour (650kph) during a routine dive-bombing exercise at the bombing range north-west of Bullsbrook. FLTLT Williams was a single, aged 27 PAF pilot from Bourke, NSW, who had re-joined the RAAF after WW11 experience as a Lancaster bomber pilot in RAF Bomber Command. (66) Seven months before his fatal crash FLTLT Williams had piloted one of the 25 Squadron Mustangs involved in the search off WA’s coast for the missing fishing boat Wanderer 11 and its 2 crew. (67)
18 September 1955: FLGOFF R J Williams killed when his Vampire A79-536 crashed during a low-level barrel roll manoeuvre just 300 metres from the watching crowd said to number 8000 (including Williams’ wife, and as some press speculated, also his 3 young children aged 4, 6 and 8 years) at a RAAF Pearce air display. Aged 31 FLGOFF Williams, was a full-time CBA Bank Officer as well as a part-time reservist CAF pilot. (68)
The ACAF‘s flying role ended in June 1960; each squadron became a reduced in size, “Auxiliary” squadron with most losing their operational status. No. 25 City of Perth Auxiliary (A) Squadron was assigned the role of providing ground support to No. 1 AFTS’ Vampire and later Macchi MB-326H flying training operations, and to RAAF Pearce’s Base Squadron sections. (Note: No. 1 AFTS was re-named as No. 2 FTS from 1 January 1969.) However, the Squadron was also officially affiliated with a fighter squadron at RAAF Williamtown; 75 Squadron prior to its transfer to Malaysia in 1967; 76 Squadron until its disbandment in 1973; and 77 Squadron. As such 25 Squadron was an Operational Command (OPCOM) unit and its Annual Camps provided ground support for its affiliated Squadron’s Sabre or Mirage operations at RAAF Williamtown or on exercises until shortly after 25 Squadron became a Support Command (SUPCOM) unit in July 1981.
While affiliated with an operational fighter squadron No. 25 Squadron was the only Operational Command (OPCOM) unit in WA. (70) During one visit in the 1970’s by a flight of Mirages from an affiliated squadron RAAF Base Pearce was ‘shaken’ when a rarely heard “sonic boom” shattered some flight-line windows!
After the integration of the WRAAF into the RAAF in 1977 (71) the Squadron’s diversity, skills and capability was enhanced by the enlistment of female reservists into the RAAFAR.
In 1981 the term “Auxiliary” was removed from 25 Squadron’s and its sister CAF squadrons’ titles. As part of the newly created and named RAAF Active Reserve (RAAFAR) No. 25 Squadron’s primary role was to support PAF units at RAAF Base Pearce. Of the 1981 reorganisation GRPCPT (Ret’d) D Hurst wrote in 1999: “…a few hundred (CAF) Part-Timers (had) served a largely indifferent RAAF through affiliations with operational squadrons and general support for host bases. Skills were kept alive and good work done, but the great potential of the CAF was largely ignored for two decades. Fortunately, champions eventually emerged, and in 1981, their worth re-appraised, the CAF became the RAAF Active Reserve with more squadrons and more people. ….The valuable contribution made by Part-Timers over the years is confirmed. A glimpse of what might have been if their great potential had been more fully developed is also provided.”(72)
(65) Northern Standard, Darwin; IN AND AROUND TOWN: Fatal Accident; 28 May 1953, page 7.
(66) PILOT KILLED IN PEARCE CRASH Dive Into Ground At 400 m.p.h. The West Australian, Perth; page 1, 3 June 1950; Mustang Plane Crash: Dive in Pearce Bombing Area: Bourke Flyer’s Death; Geraldton Guardian (WA ); page 3, 3 June 1950; and ADF-SERIALS Australian & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History RAAF A68 Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-17/CA-18 Mustang A68-1 to A68-200 (http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a68a.htm)
(68) TWO MINUTES WHICH COST A PILOT’S LIFE; The Daily News Perth; page 1, 23 November 1955; Wife sees pilot die; The Argus, Melbourne, Vic; page 1, 19 September 1955; Jet Pilot Killed In Crash; The Central Queensland Herald, Rockhampton, Qld; page 29, 22 September 1955; and ADF-SERIALS RAAF A78, A79 and RAN N6. de Havilland DH-100/DH-115 Vampire (http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a79.htm).
(69) VERSATILE CAF SQUADRON: RAAF News Page 3, 1 July 1967
(70) THE RESERVISTS: Squadron No 25 (A); RAAF News; page 2, 1 January 1982
(71) L R Jubbs, page 89.
(72) Units of the Royal Australian Air Force: a concise history: bomber units; page 80; Short, B (AVM); pages 44-45; THE RESERVISTS; RAAF NEWS; page 2, 1 January 1982; and L R Jubbs, page 81, quotation from The Part-Timers: A History of the RAAF Reserves 1948-1998; D Hurst (GRPCPT Ret’d), Australian Defence Force Publication, Department of Defence, Canberra, ACT, 1999.
In October 1989 No. 25 Squadron resumed flying operations with Macchi MB-326H aircraft supplemented by Pilatus PC-9’s from January 1990. (73) The Squadron’s roles were initial jet training for pilots graduated from 2FTS, ground attack and fleet support for the Royal Australian Navy. (Note: Ninety-seven Macchis and 65 PC-9s were assembled or built in Australia, the former by the CAC, the latter by Hawker de Havilland.)
Supported by a greatly increased PAF personnel component, No. 25 Squadron was the first and only of the 5 original CAF squadrons to return to flying operations. The Squadron’s Black Swan tail emblem remained airborne until 1 July 1998 when all of the Squadron’s aircraft and most of its PAF personnel were transferred to the re-formed No. 79 Squadron.
After nine years as a flying squadron, No. 25 City of Perth Squadron’s role became to recruit, train and sustain skilled and professional personnel to support Australian Defence Force and Air Force missions through a readily available pool of personnel comprising the proven mix of ‘civilian’ and ex-PAF reservists. (Note: For more c.2002 detail see L R Jubbs, pages 83-87.)
With other City of… squadrons it forms part of 96 Wing in the RAAF’s Combat Support Group with an equal focus on individual reservists or small groups of 25 Squadron’s members, or the Squadron as a unit, meeting RAAF needs as and when they arise. (75)
In June 1967 while supporting No. 76 Squadron in Exercise High Venus at Darwin some 25 Squadron personnel were deployed to RAAF Tindal to assist in the newly reconstructed base’s first operational use since WW11 – probably the first CAF personnel to do so. (76)
On 31 October 1975 at RAAF Pearce, in recognition of its longevity and its flying and non-flying activities the Squadron, led by PAF CO SQNLDR K R Page (NAV), was presented with the No. 25 Squadron Standard inscribed with the Squadron’s World War II Battle Honour, Eastern Waters 1941–1945. (77)
On 2 March 1976 No. 25 Squadron led by PAF CO SQNLDR K R Page (NAV) was granted the “Freedom of Entry to the City of Perth” by the City of Perth’s Lord Mayor and Council. At the time SQNLDR Page believed 25 Squadron was the first RAAF Squadron as distinct from a RAAF Base, to receive the freedom of a city, at least in Australia. (78) (Note: As CO from 1973 until his RAAF retirement in 1978 SQNLDR Page was, and may still be, the Squadron’s longest serving PAF CO. His leadership formed part of a Page family connection with 25 Squadron; his 2nd cousin SGT K G Page died when 25 Squadron’s Wirraway A20-127 crashed off Fremantle on 15 September 1942 and in 2010 Air Force News reported “a possibly unprecedented event” in ACAF/RAAFAR history when SQNLDR Page’s son, WGCDR R Page (NAV), was appointed the Squadron’s CO.) (79)
In 2002 No. 25 Squadron became the first RAAFAR Squadron and Air Command unit to be awarded Quality Endorsed Training Organisation (QETO) status – the highest level of registration a training provider could achieve within the National Training Framework. (80)
In 2008 No. 25 Squadron was awarded its 9th annual Air Force Association (AFA) Trophy for “the most proficient Air Force Reserve Squadron”. After the “Father” of the RAAF, Air Marshall Sir Richard Williams KBE CB DSO (1890-1980) presented the inaugural 1961 Trophy to 25 Squadron at a parade at RAAF Pearce, further awards followed for the 1963, 1964, 1969, 1976, 1999, 2005 and 2006 years. The Squadron’s record of 9 AFA trophies may never be equalled or broken by a RAAFAR squadron. The Award was suspended from 2010 – 2017 before being re-introduced as an award for RAAF wings and groups. (81)
In 2015 Air Force News reported No. 25 City of Perth Squadron was awarded the 2014 Hawker Siddeley trophy as “the most proficient RAAF unit with primary whole of base support functions”. The Award recognised the Squadron’s effort in RAAF Bases Pearce and Learmonth providing from 18 March 2014, base and support for the multi-national air search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 [Operation Southern Indian Ocean (SIO)]. (82)
(73) Units of the Royal Australian Air Force: a concise history: bomber units; page 84.
(74) Photo also shown in L R Jubbs, page 72.
(76) VERSATILE CAF SQUADRON: RAAF News Page 3, 1 July 1967; and D Wilson; Always First: The RAAF Airfield Construction Squadrons 1942-1974; page 142).
(77) THE RESERVISTS: Squadron No 25 (A); RAAF News; page 2, 1 January
1982) and ROYAL HONOUR TO PERTH SQUADRON; RAAF News; page 7, 1 March 1975.
(78) Letters – You Have Your Say: 25 Squadron; RAAF News, page 7, 1 June 1976.
(79) Following in father’s footsteps at 25SQN; Air Force News; page 6, 5 August 2010.
(80) Certification: a first; Air Force News; page 9, 29 August 2002.
(81) AFA Trophy Award list; AFA National Secretary, 2 December 2021: email@example.com via usa.net.
(82) D. Cusworth (FLTLT); Thanks for the MH370 support; Air Force News; page 8, 23 April 2015.
In 1966 RAAF News reported the cumulative service of three No. 25 City of Perth Squadron reservist members as a possible CAF “record”. The Squadron’s reservist DCO, SQNLDR R S Choate (ENGO), WOFF D T Joyce (ENGFITT) and CPL T A Newbury (ENGFITT) had a total of 63 years’ combined PAF and CAF active service.
All 3 members served with the RAAF during WW11. SQNLDR Choate enlisted in August, 1941 as a radar officer and by war’s end was a senior RAAF radar and signals officer in the South West Pacific theatre; he was demobilised in 1947. WOFF Joyce enlisted in February, 1941 and saw extensive service in New Guinea, Morotai and Borneo. Discharged in January, 1946 he enlisted in the CAF in 1954. CPL Newbury enlisted in November, 1939 as the 93rd RAAF enlistee in WA. He served 5 years in England, France, Belgium and Germany, He enlisted in the CAF in 1952. (83)
WOFF “Danny” Joyce and CPL “Tom” Newbury were indicative of the several ex-WW11 RAAF air and ground crew members who served as reservists with 25 Squadron until reaching the then mandatory retirement age of 55 years. As “old warriors” who had seen it all the group were the on and off-duty rank and file ‘backbone’ of the Squadron.
Retiring in December 1969 after two 12 month “extensions of service” SQNLDR Choate OBE was possibly the unit’s longest ‘reigning’ DCO (Deputy Commanding Officer – the reservist 2IC to the Squadron’s PAF CO). During SQNLDR Choate’s time as DCO the Squadron received 4 of the first 9 annual AFA Trophies awarded to “the most proficient Air Force Reserve Squadron”. He was a charismatic and proud leader of a unit which in many practical respects he regarded and loved as his ‘own’. By personal example he demonstrated a 100% commitment to 25 Squadron, the Active CAF and the RAAF; usually in that order.
In 2005 a CAS’ Gold Commendation was received by 25 Squadron’s reservist member WOFF R Pease (enlisted 24 July 1965) for “dedicated service” as the first known reservist to have completed 40 years’ service. Eight years later WOFF Pease retired in 2013 as the Squadron’s longest serving member – possibly also the ACAF/RAAFAR’s? (Note: In 2022 the RAAFA (WA)’s Aviation Heritage Museum publicly acknowledged the efforts over many years of 25 Squadron’s Surface Finishers (led by “Ron” Pease) painting and refurbishing aircraft displayed at the RAAFA’s Aviation Heritage Museum, including the Museum’s 2 Spitfires and its Lancaster.) (84)
In marked contrast to WOFF Pease’s long service, for various reasons (including tragic) wartime service in 25 Squadron could be brief to the extreme!
On 22 January 1942 SGT T G Wood and 4 other newly graduated pilots (PLTOFF D Ritchie and 3 SGT’s) from No 1. OTU Nhill were posted to No. 25 Squadron at RAAF Pearce. The 5 left Sydney by train for Perth via Albury, Melbourne, Adelaide, Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie, changing trains at each. PLTOFF Ritchie travelled first class, the 4 SGT’s second class. Arriving in Perth late on 24 January 1942 PLTOFF Ritchie phoned 25 Squadron seeking permission to join the Squadron the next day. “That’s quite all right”, said the Adjutant. “You needn’t come back at all – you have (all) been posted back to No. 2 ED in Sydney.”
After 2 “quiet” nights at the Palace Hotel (where Wood had his first taste of oysters) the 5 returned to Perth’s railway station on 26 January for their return trip to Sydney; due to PLTOFF Ritchie’s insistence this time the 4 SGT’s were also in first class. With their kit loaded and the train about to depart they were ‘informed’ by a RAAF Corporal they were not going to Sydney after all and had to disembark from the train. They responded by telling him where their kit went they went and it was too late to get off the train! Staying aboard they soon reached Midland Junction where the Station Master handed PLTOFF Ritchie a RAAF signal which read: “Pilot Officer Ritchie and party are to proceed”. As SGT Wood recalled the signal really mean nothing “because we were proceeding regardless!”
On reaching Port Pirie they received new orders to report to “No. 1 ED in Melbourne” where they arrived “…about 30 January” (before being posted to the Middle East). The only real ‘product’ of their double crossing of the continent by rail was 2 cancelled postings! (85)
25 Squadron members known to have died during or very soon after service in the Squadron include: PAF SQNLDR R M Hayes (PLT) on 17 July 1969 aged 37, 7 months after becoming CO of the Squadron following completion of a distinguished helicopter pilot tour in Vietnam; CAF/RAAFAR reservist FLGOFF A “Arnie” C Willox (OPSO) on 26 February 1982 aged 41; CAF/RAAFAR reservist FIREMAN CPL E K “Kim” Petterson on 16 April 1991 aged 44; ex-PAF RAAFAR reservist COOK2 WOFF D C Jeffery on 21 August 1995 aged 54; and ex-PAF RAAFAR reservist SQNLDR G “Geoff” P Roberts ADMINO on 30 December 2010 aged 61.
Like other ADF units, No. 25 (City of Perth) Squadron has seen skill, initiative, humour and resourcefulness survive periods of war and peace, tragedies and adversities, generational and societal attitudinal changes, and government and RAAF policy changes.
It was once, and may still be, customary for the Squadron’s Official Social Club to present departing long serving members with a pewter mug inscribed “When into this mug you dive, think of the thugs of twenty-five”; or alternatively in later times; “When into this mug you dive, think of the Fighting 25”. An informal tribute to those who served in the Squadron.
Service in the ACAF/RAAFAR afforded many positives. Not least for one who was at best just a rather ordinary member was the motivation to later pursue and ‘experience’ flights in civilian owned and operated aircraft of the types once flown by 25 Squadron or other RAAF units; including a Tiger Moth at Jandakot airport; a Harvard (the Wirraway’s UK ‘twin’), a Spitfire and a P-40 Kittyhawk at Auckland, New Zealand; the late Bill Wyllie’s US built P-51 Mustang at 25 Squadron’s old (1945) Cunderdin base; B-24 Liberator Diamond Lil at Midland Airport, Texas and B-24 Liberator Witchcraft along with a B-17 Flying Fortress and a B-25 Mitchell at Concord Airport, California.
Fortunately, similar opportunities still exist (as of 2022), albeit to a greater extent in NZ, the USA and the UK than in Australia, and at greater personal expense as each year passes. The Commemorative Air Force in the USA flys Diamond Lil, the 25th B-24 Liberator built of over 18,000 flown in WW11. Known as Liberator AM927 it remained in the USA from 1941 until WW11’s end in 1945 for use as an unarmed transport and for flight testing Liberator design modifications – refer to https://commemorativeairforce.org/aircraft/3.
The magnificently restored, fully ‘armed’ B-24 Liberator Witchcraft forms part of the Collins Foundation’s “Wings of Freedom” tours around the USA. Except for its US Army Air Corp “war paint” it is the same as the armed B-24’s operated by 25 Squadron in 1945-1946. Built in August 1944 with the serial number 44-44052 the aircraft served with the RAF in WW11’s Pacific Theatre with roles ranging from anti-shipping and land bombing missions to re-supplying resistance forces – https://www.collingsfoundation.org/aircrafts/consolidated-b-24-liberator/.
Although peacetime “joyrides” in restored trainers, fighters and bombers do not and cannot replicate wartime service, they do afford humbling insights into and greater respect for the efforts of the 25 Squadron and thousands of other airmen who manned and maintained such aircraft types in the various ‘unfriendly’ theatres and climes of WW11. More sobering reminders of the dangers they faced was the shock and dismay of seeing a P-51 Mustang crash (the pilot parachuted safely) after a collided with an A-1 Skyraider at Duxford in 2011, and the news film of the tragic mid-air collision (with 6 fatalities) of a B-17 Flying Fortress and a P-63 Kingcobra at Dallas in 2022.
Lest we forget.
(83) A Record? RAAF News; page 8, 1 August 1966
(84) Reservist reaches 40-year milestone; Air Force News; Page 4, 22 September 2005; and War + Showcasing Aircraft of Peace: Wings Winter 2022 Vol 74 No 2; page 51. (72)
(85) Extracts from the Wartime Memoir of Thomas Goddard WOOD, RAAF 411423. Transcription by Kristen Alexander, pages 13-15; –