The R.A.A.F. is inherently and peculiarly an attacking force. It has never yet been forced back on the defensive, but even in the darkest moments of the war, has gone out into the enemy strongholds to hit him.

As an example of this offensive spirit, it should be stated that immediately on the outbreak of war, and long before there was any move to send away a Second A.I.F., the Air Force had gained approval for the dispatch overseas of an air expeditionary force. Subsequently, Cabinet changed that decision, and adopted the Empire air train­ing scheme as an alternative to an individual R.A.A.F. overseas fighting force. Under that scheme, a strong flow of fully- or partly-trained Australian personnel has left these shores to reinforce the Empire’s air fighting forces; and the proportion of Australians serving in them is a remarkable indication of the earnestness of this country’s youth to “blacken the skies of Germany” with hostile aircraft.

Besides the flow of individuals to be attached to R.A.F. squadrons, Australia has supplied a number of full Australian units which are operating far from Australia, complete with Australian ground staff.

From the very beginning the offensive spirit has animated the R.A.A.F. which has always shown itself, and is still showing itself, eager to come to grips with the enemy. Even today, our squadrons are hitting the enemy to the north of Australia to the extreme limit of their range and ability, in continuation of the blows they struck when the Pacific first flared up under the Japanese torch of war.

Never at any time has the R.A.A.F. been forced back on the defensive. Even in the disastrous days of Malaya and Singapore, the R.A.A.F. squadrons sought action irre­spective of what odds were stacked against them.

All in the R.A.A.F. are volunteers for service overseas, and it is the desire of the Service to send overseas more and more squadrons to seek out the enemy and destroy him.

Few events can match the amazing growth of the Royal Australian Air Force in the last few years. From a bare nucleus in 1934 of 820 men and a score or so of first­ line aircraft, the R.A.A.F. has expanded, in this fourth year of war, to a powerful strik­ing force which has proved its virility in a dozen countries.

Australian airmen have flown and fought in many of the major battles of this war. Some of them who were in England at the outbreak of hostilities fought with the R.A.F. in France. They were among those who at Dunkirk so manhandled the Stukas that the epic withdrawal was possible. Some of them were among Mr Churchill’s few to whom so many owed so much in the Battle for Britain. They have taken part in air battles over France, Germany, Denmark, Holland and Norway. They have ranged the North Sea and the sea lanes about Britain, and have flown millions ot miles in the Battle of the Atlantic. They have fought in Russia, alongside the fliers of the Red Air Force, as members of the Hurricane wing which Britain sent to that beleaguered country. They have operated in the defence of Malta, in Greece and in Crete.

Story taken from

These Eagles: Story of the RAAF at War

Prepared by the RAAF Directorate of Public Relations and published by the Australian War Memorial in 1942.

In North Africa they are flying bombers, fighters, and army co-opera­tion aircraft against the panzer forces of Rommel and Mussolini. In Syria they shot the Vichy planes from the skies and helped to make quick victory there possible. They have been in air ac­tions in Abyssinia and French and British Somaliland.

When the war spread to the Pacific, Australian airmen were at action stations in Malaya and Singapore. Taking part in the first aerial action in the Far East against the Japanese, as they had been the first Dominion air force to strike at the enemy in Europe, they wrote in the Malayan cam­paign fair chapters in courage and sacrifice. From Malaya, they moved to Sumatra and from Sumatra to Java, and took part with the Dutch and British airmen in the aerial operations which were designed to halt the headlong rush of the invaders and reprieve the sorely-tried land forces.

Besides these squadrons, there were other men of the R.A.A.F. holding back the enemy in the islands to the north of Australia, notably at Ambon, New Ireland, New Britain, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands.

In these operations the R.A.A.F. has been tried and tested in all phases of aerial warfare, in all types of British aircraft, and in some types of American aircraft. Per­haps the only type they have not flown in action are dive bombers. But even the absence of dive bombers has not meant that men of the R.A.A.F. have not dive-bombed. Some of the most remarkable and hair-raising exploits of the whole war were performed in the Australian theatre by men dive-bombing in clumsy aircraft only built for sea recannaissance.

They have manned fighters, long-range fighters, and night fighters, light, medium, torpedo and heavy bombers, reconnaissance aircraft over land and sea, and army co­ operation aircraft. Australian airmen have been in battle in Gladiators and Gauntlets; in Wirraways, Hudsons, Catalinas, and Kittyhawks; in Hurricanes, Spitfires, and Bol­ton Paul Defiants; in Beaufighters, and Brewster Buffaloes; in Blenheims, Beauforts, Whitleys, Manchesters, Lancasters; and in Sunderlands and Stirlings. Indeed, it is doubtful whether there is any British aircraft which has been in operation in the British Isles which has not been flown by a member of the R.A.A.F., a member of the R.A.F. trained by the R.A.A.F., or an Australian pilot attached to, or a member of, the R.A.F. Already having proved themselves in at least three types of American aircraft, it is certain, as the war progresses and more aircraft come to Australia for the Allied Air Forces operating here, that they will be found flying against the enemy in the biggest and best that country can provide.

Of all these tasks, perhaps that in which Australians have had most experience is in seaward reconnaissance. Immediately war was declared, the R.A.A.F. was mobilized and seaward reconnaissance began. It has gone on ceaselessly ever since and will con­tinue until the war is over. In this connection it must be mentioned that the first Aus­tralian squadron to go into action against the enemy in this war was the famous No. 10 Sunderland squadron of the British Coastal Command. Although the task of this squadron is one of the most tedious of all flying jobs, it is a striking commentary on the excellence of its work that it is one of the most glamourized and idolized of all squad­rons in Britain. Many of its members have become world famous and many have won decorations.

The honour of popularity must be shared between this squadron and No. 452 Spitfire squadron, which for three consecutive months topped the poll in Britain for the greatest number of kills for any British fighter squadron, and on the fourth month, tied with two R.A.F. squadrons for the lead. These two Australian squadrons–10 and 452–have overshadowed the other Australian squadrons in Britain, but as the new ones have grown older in combat, they have measured up well to the high standard set them.

Organization of the R.A.A.F. to its present strength, with fighting squadrons in battle in Britain, the Middle East and Australia, has been a stupendous task. The basis for its growth was the Salmond report of 1928. After initial delays, the first part of the scheme was realized in 1936-37, when the strength of the R.A.A.F. was raised from two and a half squadrons to eight. By June 1939 the R.A.A.F. had increased in strength fourfold; and at an early stage in the present conflict the Salmond plan of 19 squadrons was practically realized.

Since then, the exigencies of war have necessitated readjustments and expansions, and the R.A.A.F., at home and abroad, has steadily increased. For security reasons, it is impossible to state the number of R.A.A.F. squadrons in operations and training at home, but it is no secret that Australia provided:

In the United Kingdom–five squadrons, made up of three fighter squadrons (one a night fighter squadron), one bomber squadron, and one reconnaissance squadron.

In the Middle East-four squadrons–No. 3 fighter squadron, No. 450 fighter squadron, No. 451 army co-operation squadron, and No. 458 bomber squadron.

In Malaya, Australia had three squadrons–bomber, reconnaissance and fighter­ and in the hectic days of that disastrous campaign, they were converted to fighters or bombers as the necessity arose.

In this building up of air strength, of course, the Empire air training scheme played a major part. This colossal plan to harness the youth of an empire till the skies of the Axis were black with the planes they flew must rank as one of the finest federated achievements of the Empire.

At the outbreak of war there were 3500 men in the R.A.A.F. In August 1941 there were more than 6o,ooo, including reservists and there were nearly twice as many men serving overseas in August 1941 as there were in the R.A.A.F. at the outbreak of war. In the same interval, units and training establishments had increased fivefold.

Early rearmament plans made provision for two major types of aircraft–single­ engine Wirraway fighters and twin-engine general reconnaissance type–Bristol Blen­heims. In July 1939 the first acceptance flight of Wirraways was made at Fishermen’s Bend, but because of shipping difficulties, the Blenheims were not available, and Hud­sons were ordered from America. The Wirraway, when it eventually went into action, was no longer a first-line fighter, and suffered terrible punishment at the hands of the Japanese Zero type. The Hudsons have been used, as stated, for all purposes, from fighters and bombers to reconnaissance aircraft, and in this and other theatres of war have proved themselves to be an outstanding aircraft for bombing and reconnaissance. As the result of protracted negotiations with the British authorities, arrangements were also made to make Beaufort bombers in Australia, to be powered by twin-row Wasp engines, and the first Beaufort underwent its test flight in Australia on May 5, 1941. A number of these torpedo-carrying aircraft is now in service in Australia.

The Government had also selected the famous Short Sunderland flying boats as suitable for seaward reconnaissance in Australian waters, and had actually sent Australian airmen abroad to ferry the first section of three from England to Australia. The war interfered, and men and machines remained in England and formed the nucleus of No. 10 squadron. In place of the Sunderlands, the Government acquired a number of Catalina flying boats-made famous in Australia by the Guba, which under Captain P.G. Taylor made the successful survey flight of the Indian Ocean in 1939.

This type of aircraft, since it has been in service in and about Australia, has been called on to perform many tasks for which it was never designed, has made many of the long-distance reconnaissances and bomb raids on enemy territory, and has even been put into power dives by pilots wishing to get down to their targets for accurate bombing.

Coastal patrols began the day war was declared, and have continued tirelessly ever since. Daily, R.A.A.F. aircraft are flying over the sea lanes watching for shipping, sub­ marines, raiders, aircraft and any tell-tale sign which may presage enemy action. To indi­cate the immensity of the task these unsung members of the R.A.A.F. patrols are doing, the following figures are useful and safe–By April 1940, they had flown 750,000 miles, covering an area of 15,000,000 square miles. This had been quadrupled little more than a year later.

A vast area was scoured by R.A.A.F. aircraft in convoying the A.I.F. to the Middle and Far East, and it was estimated that about 3,000,000 square miles of ocean was made safe when part of the A.I.F. in the Middle East was recalled to Australia.

The mining of two merchant ships in Australian waters late in 1940 caused an intensification of seaward patrols, and another incident which brought the R.A.A.F.’s work prominently under public gaze was the shadowing and scuttling of the Italian motor ship Romolo in the Indian Ocean. In December 1940, flying boats figured in a dra­matic rescue. On receipt of a message from Kavieng that passengers and crews had been transferred from a German prison ship to Emirau Island, doctors were flown to the island and some of the captives were brought back to Australia by air.