RAAF No 31 Squadron

Motto: No Turning Around

No. 31 Squadron is a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) airbase support squadron re-raised in July 2010. The squadron was first formed in August 1942 and was disbanded in July 1946 after seeing action against the Japanese in the South West Pacific Theatre of World War II. During the war, the squadron operated the Bristol Beaufighter, which it flew in the long-range fighter and ground attack role.


Second World War

No. 31 Squadron was formed at RAAF Base Wagga on 14 August 1942 and was equipped with Bristol Beaufighter fighter and attack aircraft, the first of which was received on 23 August 1942. Under the command of Squadron Leader Charles Frederick Read, who later went on to serve as Chief of the Air Staff, the squadron undertook a period of training before deploying to Batchelor, Northern Territory, in October, the aircraft flying via Alice Springs. A period of more intense training followed and familiarisation flights were carried out before moving to its operational base at Coomalie Creek Airfield on 12 November and then began flying combat operations on 17 November, attacking targets in Portugese Timor.

During its first attack, the squadron lost one Beaufighter after being attacked by Japanese fighter aircraft. The following month, on 2 December, the squadron had was involved in more successful attack, striking a Japanese airfield at Penfoei, where they destroyed 18 aircraft without losing any of their own. Later that month, the squadron shot down its first Japanese aircraft, the honours going to Sergeant Eric Barnett who shot down a single-engined Nakajima Ki-27 "Nate" fighter over Fuilora.[1] From then the squadron flew ground-attack missions against Japanese forces in the Netherlands East Indies (NEI), concentrating on airfields and ships. It operated from Coomalie Creek in this role until December 1944 when the squadron moved to Noemfoor to bring them closer to targets in the region. From then until the end of the war the squadron continued in the ground attack role from bases in the NEI, including Morotai and Tarakan.

As the war progressed, the armament available to the squadron was developed; initially the Beaufighters employed 20 mm cannons and .50 calibre machine guns, but these were later supplemented with bombs and rockets, which were carried on hard points under the wings. With this configuration, the squadron's aircraft achieved several notable successes, including a number of air-to-air victories, as well as destroying many Japanese aircraft on the ground. In its first year of combat operations, the squadron was credited with 18 air-to-air victories and a further 49 aircraft destroyed on the ground; losses amongst the squadron's aircrew were significant, though, due to operating at low level.

There were some significant individual feats also. One of the squadron's most successful pilots was Squadron Leader Reginald Lloyd Gordon, who achieved the feat of shooting down two Japanese twin-engined Kawasaki Ki-45 "Nick" fighters in one operation.[5] In another incident, a flight of four Beaufighters from the squadron shot down three Japanese floatplanes in one sortie during an attack mission on a Japanese naval airbase in the Aru Islands, when they were attacked by nine Japanese aircraft.

After the war No. 31 Squadron conducted weather reconnaissance and escorted single-engined aircraft from the NEI to Australia. The squadron returned to Australia in December 1945, moving to Deniliquin, New South Wales, and was disbanded at RAAF Base Williamtown on 9 July 1946. During the war, 79 men from the squadron were killed in action or died on active service. Members from the squadron received the following decorations: 18 Distinguished Flying Crosses and two bars, one Distinguished Flying Medal, six Mentions in Despatches and one King's Commendation for Brave Conduct.

No. 31 Squadron was re-raised on 1 July 2010 as the unit responsible for providing airbase support services to RAAF Base Wagga. The squadron is designated No. 31 (City of Wagga Wagga) Squadron and forms part of Combat Support Group.

Casualties: 79 died.
Squadron Codes used: EH

Commanding Officers
Sqn Ldr Bruce Frederick Rose DFC (temp)
Wing Cdr Charles Frederick Read DFC
Wing Cdr Frederick William Ball Mann DFC
Sqn Ldr Reginald Lloyd Gordon DFC (temp)
Wing Cdr GeorgeD'Arcy Wentworth DFC
Sqn Ldr John A'Beckett Penleigh Boyd DFC & Bar
Sqn Ldr John Couper Black
Sqn Ldr Robert Ernest Bowman (temp)
Sqn Ldr John Robert Jones DFC (temp)

No. 30 Squadron has operated the following aircraft:
Bristol Beaufighter;
Bristol Beaufort;
Douglas C-47 Skytrain;
CAC Wirraway;
Avro Anson;
CAC Mustang; and
Bristol Bloodhound SAM.

31 Squadron RAAF

No. 31 Squadron was formed at the Forest Hill base near Wagga Wagga, NSW, on 14 August 1942. After equipping with the Bristol Beaufighter and being brought up to strength, it moved to Batchelor in the Northern Territory in October and then to its new home at Coomalie Creek, south of Darwin in November. The squadron's first combat operation took place on 17 November 1942.

Over the next two years, No. 31 Squadron flew ground attack sorties against the Japanese in Timor and the Netherlands East Indies, as well as anti-shipping patrols and convoy protection missions. One of its greatest successes was the raid on Penfoei on 2 December 1942, when the Beaufighters caught 40 Japanese aircraft on the ground. Without loss to themselves, they destroyed eighteen and damaged many more. In November 1944, the squadron deployed to Noemfoor, from where it flew two convoy protection missions before moving again, to Morotai, in late December to attack Japanese positions in the Celebes and Halmahera Islands.

Setting up on Tarakan in May 1945, No. 31 Squadron carried out strikes in support of the Australian landings in Borneo and Brunei in June and the operations that followed. After the Japanese surrendered on 15 August, the squadron dropped leaflets over the Halmaheras to inform the garrison of those islands that the war was over.

No. 31 Squadron returned to Australia in December 1945 and disbanded at RAAF base Williamtown on 9 July 1946.

Eather 1995, p. 66.
Stephens & Isaacs 1996, pp. 155-157.
Gillison 1962, pp. 646-649.
Eather 1995, p. 66-67.
Eather 1995, p. 67.
"31 Squadron RAAF". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
Lineham, Paul (24 June 2010). "Building up our cities". Air Force. Retrieved 26 June 2010.
"No 31 Squadron". RAAF Museum. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
The Australian War Memorial

Eather, Steve (1995). Flying Squadrons of the Australian Defence Force. Weston Creek, Australian Capital Territory: Aerospace Publications. ISBN 1-875671-15-3.
Gillison, Douglas (1962). Royal Australian Air Force 1939-1942. Australia in the War of 1939-1945: Series Three (Air), Volume I. Canberra, Australian Capital Territory: Australian War Memorial. OCLC 2000369.
Stephens, Alan; Isaacs, Jeff (1996). High Fliers: Leaders of the Royal Australian Air Force. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. ISBN 0644456825.
Dick, George, Navigators of No 30 Beaufighter Squadron : some personal recollections, (Glenbrook, N.S.W.: Adam Press, 1994)
Dick, George, Service in no. 30 Beaufighter Squadron : some individual recollections, (Glenbrook, N.S.W.: Adam Press, 1994)
Dick, George; Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Museum, Point Cook, Beaufighters over New Guinea : No. 30 Squadron RAAF 1942-1943, (Point Cook, Vic.: Royal Australian Air Force Museum, 1993)
Royal Australian Air Force Historical Records Section, Units of the Royal Australian Air Force : a concise history: volume 2 Fighter units, (Canberra : AGPS Press, 1995)

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This webpage was updated 30th June 2023