9 SQUADRON HISTORY
WWI - 5SQN
No. 5 Squadron formation
No. 5 Squadron was formed at Shawbury in England on 15 June 1917, as a unit of the Australian Flying Corps, under the command of Captain Andrew Lang, and was initially known as “29 (Australian) (Training) Squadron” of the Royal Flying Corps.
Official Recognition of 5SQN
No. 5 (Training) Squadron, AFC, officially recognised.
Equipped with a variety of aircraft, including Maurice Farman Shorthorns, Airco DH.6, Avro 504s, Sopwith Pups, S.E.5as and Sopwith Camels, the squadron provided training to Australian pilots in Britain during World War I.
Piloting in WWI
During the war, the squadron graduated on average of eight pilots per month, who were trained by combat experienced pilots transferred from the operational squadrons. No. 5 Squadron was embarked to return to Australia in May 1919 and was for formally disbanded on reaching Australia the following month.
The First Era 1925 - 1944
101 Fleet Co-operations Squadron
101 Fleet Co-operations Squadron was the precursor to 9 Squadron operating six Seagull Mk IIIs amphibians. Formed at RAAF Point Cook, VIC (relocated to Richmond, NSW in October 1925)
101 Moves to Bowen
No. 101 FC FLT moved to Bowen, QLD (from Richmond)
HMAS ALBATROSS – a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) seaplane carrier – is launched and commissioned the following year on the 29th January 1929. Personnel from 101 FC Flight embarked upon the new ship on the 21st February 1929 at Port Philip Bay.
No. 5 Squadron (Fleet Co-operation) Formed
On 20th April at Richmond New South Wales, No. 5 Squadron (Fleet Co-operation) was formed from 101 Flight.
No. 9 Squadron, 1939
No. 9 Squadron was formed on 1 January 1939 at RAAF Base Richmond by renumbering No. 5 Squadron. On formation, the squadron’s first commanding officer was a Royal Air Force officer, Squadron Leader J.A.S. Brown. As Australia’s only fleet co-operation squadron No. 9 Squadron operated amphibious aircraft from the Royal Australian Navy’s heavy and light cruisers; each cruiser was assigned a single Seagull or Walrus amphibian.
During the Second World War aircraft from No. 9 Squadron saw action with their parent ships in most of the world’s oceans, ranging from the Arctic to the South Pacific on vessels such as HMA Ships Hobart, Sydney, Australia, Perth and Canberra. The amphibians were used to provide their parent ships with reconnaissance, anti-submarine protection, artillery spotting and general support. While the amphibians provided important support during the early years of the war, as the war progressed the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) enjoyed considerable support from land and carrier based aircraft and the amphibians were no longer necessary.
No. 5 Squadron, 1941
No. 5 Squadron was re-formed at RAAF Base Laverton as an army co-operation squadron equipped with Wirraways.
No. 5 Squadron relocated, 1942
No. 5 squadron was relocated to Toogoolawah for three months before redeploying to Kingaroy.
No. 9 Squadron Early 1943
The squadron was transferred to Bowen, Queensland, from where its aircraft flew patrol operations.
No. 5 Squadron 1943
No. 5 squadron was partially re-equipped with Boomerangs in late 1943 and was assigned to several different stations in Australia.
No. 5 Squadron 1944
No. 5 Squadron was deployed to Piva Airfield at Torokina on Bougainville under No. 84 (Army Co-operation) Wing, and operated with units of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, undertaking reconnaissance, artillery observation, ground attack, and aerial resupply missions in support of Australian ground troops fighting against the Japanese on the island. The squadron also operated detachments on New Britain and New Guinea.
No. 9 Squadron 1944
All remaining RAN cruisers had their catapults removed and No. 9 Squadron was disbanded at RAAF Base Rathmines on 31 December 1944. Casualties during the war amounted to 22 killed, many of whom were lost when the ships they were serving on were sunk.
Solomon Islands 1945
Bougainville Island, Solomon Islands – Airmen of No. 5 (Army Co-operation) SQN RAAF at Piva airfiled, Torokina, moving a Boomerang propeller to the workshop. Source: AWM
No. 5 Squadron 1945
Shortly after the end of the war, the squadron received three or four P-40 Kittyhawks, but retained Boomerangs and Wirraways.
No. 5 Squadron disbanded
No 5 Squadron was disbanded on 18 October 1946 at RAAF Base Pearce.
Second Era 1962 - 1971
Re-formed in 1962
No. 9 Squadron was re-formed at RAAF Base Williamtown on 11 June 1962 (under CO, SQNLDR Ray Scott). The squadron was re-equipped with UH-1 Iroquois helicopters and moving to RAAF Base Fairbairn. While originally formed to provide the RAAF with a search and rescue capability, the squadron’s main role rapidly became providing airlift to the Australian Army.
The squadron moved to RAAF Base Fairbairn, ACT, in late 1966 and on the 29th of October that year eight Bell Iroquois (UH-1B) arrived. Over the next 2 years more Iroquois were added to the squadron.
Advanced Party to Vietnam
A 9SQN advanced party arrived at Vung Tau airfield in Vietnam in preparation for the squadron’s arrival.
Deployed to Vietnam
Under CO WGCDR Ray Scott the squadron was deployed to Vietnam on HMAS Sydney with eight Bell UH-1B Iroquois. The squadron’s call sign was “Albatross”.
Arrival in Vung Tau, South Vietnam
The squadron deployed to South Vietnam in mid-1966 as part of the 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF). On 13th June 1966 4000 kg of ammunition was frown to Nui Dat in support of 1ATF unit, 5RAR. Deploymemt included 8 x Bell UH-1B Iroquois Helicopters and about 90 personnel.
Battle of Long Tan
During the Battle of Long Tan on 18 August 1966 two No. 9 Squadron Iroquois flown by Flight Lieutenants Cliff Dohle and Frank Riley completed a hazardous mission to resupply D Company, 6 RAR which was heavily outnumbered and running dangerously low on ammunition. The mission proved vital in ensuring the survival of the Australian infantry until a relief force could fight its way through from Nui Dat and was completed despite heavy rain and the risk of ground fire. Following the withdrawal of the Viet Cong a number of helicopters were used to evacuate the Australian casualties from the battlefield. RAAF-Army relations improved considerably following Long Tan. No. 9 Squadron subsequently developed new operational concepts and procedures, achieving consistently high rates of aircraft availability, mission success and a low loss rate. A close professional relationship was also developed with the Special Air Service which saw the squadron provide rapid and precise insertion and extraction of patrols into jungle landing zones at tree top height.
The squadron was re-equipped with updated versions of the Iroquois, and was also reinforced with personnel from the RAN and the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Operations in South Vietnam proved hazardous, with aircrews regularly exposed to ground fire, poor flying conditions, nighttime medevacs and dangerously small jungle landing zones that were sometimes booby trapped with land mines. The unit lost seven Iroquois and two crewmen in action during its deployment.
RAN & RNZAF Flying with 9SQN
8 RAN pilots were attached to 9SQN for 12 months and RNZAF pilots were posted to 9SQN from July 1967 to the squadron’s withdrawal in December 1971.
November 1967 – 9 Squadron Iroquois lands to pick up members of the 7th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (7RAR) during operation Santa Fe, a gruelling three week-long operation through inhospitable country some 23 kilometres from the Task Force Base at Nui Dat. [AWM COL/67/1127/VN source: anzacportal.dva.gov.au]
Iroquois gunships (call sign “Bushranger”) became operational in April 1969. This new firepower gave 9SQN the ability to support SAS recon patrols, and escort and provide fire support for 1ATF operations.
Vung Tau Rocket Attack
Vung Tau Airfield came under heavy enemy rocket attack and a US Caribou was destroyed. 9SQN equipment was damaged and personnel came under enemy ground fire as they recovered helicopters from the field.
Rex Robert Budd
Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt) Rex Robert Budd awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his services to the RAAF. Budd, an Iroquois helicopter pilot with No 9 Squadron, was stationed at Vung Tau. He is the first RAAF helicopter pilot to return to South Vietnam for a second tour and he is the first RAAF helicopter pilot to log 1,000 flying hours in the war zone.
Outstanding Operational Performance
US Army engineering were very interested in the exceptional aircraft serviceability rate of 9SQN, with a serviceability rate of 90.7% recorded in October 1971. 9SQN won The Duke of Gloucester Cup (for operational proficiency) for 1967-1968, 1968-1969, and 1969-1970.
After 5 and a half years of combat, No. 9 Squadron departed South Vietnam on 8 December 1971. Upon its return to Australia, No. 9 Squadron was based at RAAF Base Amberley, where it continued to provide airlift to the Australian Army and search and rescue for the civilian community.
Third Era 1972 - 1989
5 SQN 1970s-1980s
In the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, No. 5 squadron contributed Iroquois to peacekeeing missions in the Middle East Egypt, firstly to Ismailia with the United Nations Emergency Force and then later to the Sinai as part of the Multinational Force and Observers
9 SQN Sinai Peninsula
Between 1982 and 1986, No. 9 squadron contributed eight aircraft and aircrew to the Australian helicopter detachment which formed part of the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt.
5 SQN 1984
No. 5 squadron acquired AS350B Squirrel utility helicopters in early 1984, and along with the Iroquois UH1-Hs, the squadron continued the training role and Army support, in addition to providing aid to the civil community in times of natural disaster.
5 SQN 1989
In December 1989, No. 5 Squadron was disbanded and absorbed into the Australian Defence Force Helicopter School (ADFHS) in 1990.
Government Decision on 9 SQN
The Australian Government decided to transfer all of the RAAF’s battlefield helicopter capability to the Australian Army after a decision that all battlefield helicopters should be controlled directly by the Army
9 SQN Disbanded
During February 1988, No. 9 Squadron was re-equipped with S-70A Blackhawk helicopters. Upon converting to the new aircraft the squadron moved to Townsville where it was disbanded on 14 February 1989. The squadron’s aircrew and aircraft were then used to form ‘A’ Squadron of the Australian Army’s 5th Aviation Regiment. The squadron’s last commanding officer was Wing Commander (later Air Chief Marshal) Angus Houston.