ADF Serials Newsletter
For those interested in Australian Military Aircraft History and Serials

March 2003
in this issue
-- Searching for Black Magic - Gordon C
-- The Stringbag in the Far East - Gordon B
-- Researching the Rellies - Finding WW2 service records - Jan
-- Online ADAT Wartime Call Signs
-- Feedback on DC3 VH-ABR
-- Thank you to Neil Fitzclarence - A84 216 or 224
-- 2003 RAAF Heritage Awards - Jan
-- Your Feedback
-- Do you have something for us?

This month we have a range articles on Fairy Swordfish, a P-40 named "Black Magic", how to research the rellies and some feedback on DC3 VH- ABR's wartime service.

This week is Air Force Week which celebrates the 82nd birthday of the RAAF. Unfortunately, due to operational demands, the service commemorating the RAAF's birthday will not take place on Friday 28 March. However, the Australian War Memorial will still be unveiling A9-557 the only fully restored Beaufort in Australia at present. The restoration of this aircraft has been a large project and will fill a large void in Australian military history.

The circulation of the adf-serials newsletter is gaining strength and includes enthusiasts in Australia as well as overseas. If you have a pet topic and would like to contribute an article, please email jan@adf-serials.com

Until next month,

Searching for Black Magic - Gordon C
For those of you who are film buffs I've taken my title from an excellent film I saw many years ago called "Searching For Bobby Fischer". This film was looking for the next chess genius, I'm looking for a previous genius but in a different genre.

My first aquaintence with "Black Magic" was on the web. I came across a site (www.fortunecity.com/meltingpot/statuepark/620/black magic.htm)that had a short bio on 78 Sqn's F/Sgt Len Waters, the RAAF's one and only aboriginal fighter pilot who was well known as the pilot of "Black Magic". This site had a nice colour side profile of the P-40N and included these details: "Black Magic" A29-415 HU- L I duly noted the details and continued with the research on my book.

During my research I came across another web site run by one of Len Water's children Kim Orchard (www.teknet.net.au/~obtfr/obtfrindex/) who gave a very good but brief bio on her father and in it mentioned that Len was not the originator of the name "Black Magic", apparently it was someone called John Blackmore. At this stage I had a good list of 78 Sqn pilots but it was not by any means complete. I didn't have Blackmore so I noted him and kept looking for more information.

I had purchased some 1/72 scale models of the P-40N with the intention of building and camouflaging them in 78 Sqn livery. So I searched the web for any produced decals. This is when I came across a great site called Redroo which sold pretty much exclusively Australian decals. I purhased their 3 78 Sqn decals one of which included "Black Magic"! When it arrived the details for were:"Black Magic" A29-575 HU-L but it also included a second set of serials A29-563. Aparently these were included beause Gary at Redroos had received an email saying he got it wrong and the serial number should be the latter one! So now I had confirmation of the code but 3 serial numbers to choose from.

Prior to this acquistion I had obtained a microfilm copy of the Operations Record Book (ORB) and the combat reports for 78 Sqn. Each week I had been going to a library to use their microfilm reader and trolling through the documents. From this I knew that A29-563 was coded HU-L and A29-575 was HU-E. So this was beginning to not look good!

So during my research on the book I focused my attention on F/L Joe Black as he was the closest name so far to Blackmore and maybe Kim got the surname wrong on her site. But F/L Black was essentially there the same time as Len Waters so it was unlikely he would have named the P-40N then given it up for Len to fly on a regular basis. This was later confirmed when other pilots in 78 Sqn confirmed that "Black Magic" was around in August 1944 well before F/L Black and F/Sgt Waters had joined the Sqn.

So in between other research I decided to go back through my P-40 photos of 78 Sqn again. All the "Black Magic" photos didn't reveal the serial number or the code. So time to go back through all the aircraft books that had any resemblance of a P-40 photo. Unfortunately, there were very few photos of 78 Sqn a/c let alone of "Black Magic"! However going through my photos I noticed one of HU-E, which of course had been skipped before. It wasn't a great photo as it had been slightly water damaged but there in the right place on the cowl was "Black" with a barely discernable white smudge where "Magic" should be. Who flew HU-E? I had been trying to obtain the aircraft status cards for A29-415, -563 and -575 for sometime and finally from Darren they came through. When I checked -575 there in the upper right corner someone back in 1944 had written "Black Magic". Now the noose was tghtening and confirmation was coming from different quarters. Always a very good sign.

The next piece in the jigsaw came from one of the pilots and I can't remember now if it was Bob Crawford or Peter Finch or Eric Hart, whoever it was, I could at least now start to ask the right questions. Who flew A29-575 HU-E? Oh that was Denny Baker, came the reply. I tried to track him down, but I was too late he had passed away some 8 months before. However I managed to get in touch with one of his sons who was most helpful and sent me an assignment done by one of Denny Baker's nieces. In her assignment she confirmed many of the details so far mentioned and had a photocopy of some photos. One of which is "Black Magic" with the code clearly visibile HU-E. The jigsaw is almost complete.

I became a member of the Caboolture Warplanes Museum in Dec 2002. I had been through it before and while I was waiting for someone to be kitted up for a flight I had another look around and came across a new display. There in a glass case was a picture of Len Waters some other memoriabilia a painting of the P-40N he flew coded HU-L and a copy of his log book. It was opened at Jan 1945, at the time he had been in 78 Sqn for about 2 months. For those who have looked at log books you'll know that most of the pilots only record the serial numbers. But my man Len went one better, he also recorded the aircraft codes. In Jan 1945 he flew A29-575 many times and there against each was HU-E. It struck me at the time that in the almost 58 years since he first started flying "Black Magic" obviously no one checked with him or his log book! I can understand them not knowing with whom the plane or name originated, but....

So the search is over, the real "Black Magic" is a P-40N- 15 coded HU-E serialled A29-575. But the fortunecity web site was wrong, Kim Orchid's web site was wrong, the aerogram published by Australia Post was wrong, paintings of the P-40 "Black Magic" are wrong and so on.

The real "Black Magic" came to 78 Sqn in late May 1944 just after F/L Denis Baker joined the Sqn. It became his mount and consequently the mount of the 'A' Flight Leader. It was named by him because of the admiration for the Fijian people where he was born and the New Guineans (Fuzzy Wuzzys) who had been putting their lives on the line not only for the AIF but also the RAAF since March 1942. On the 3rd June it took part in the last major air battle by the RAAF in WW2 and shot down a Japanese fighter. A week later on the 10th June it was involved in the last RAAF kill of the New Guinea campaign when it shot down a D4Y Judy. It faithfully served F/L Denny Baker as flight leader and in October 1944 as temporary CO of 78 Sqn. On one occaision it was pranged by the then CO S/L Brydon. Then when F/L Baker finished his second SWPA tour it went on to serve F/Sgt Waters, who was still flying it in August 1945. It served at Hollandia, Noemfoor Is, Morotai Is and finally Tarakan Is. After such an illustrious career with 78 Sqn it suffered the ignominious fate of being stripped of essential equipment and burnt at Tarakan Is on 12th December 1945. Though I think the biggest indignity that it suffered was for 58 years we have lost its identity and the many firsts it achieved in its short service with 78 Sqn. We are no longer searching for "Black Magic".

The Stringbag in the Far East - Gordon B
I was doing some reading on the story ( no, not rumour) of Fairey Swordfish Aircraft being used by the RAAF in early 1942 over at Pearce, Western Australia. It seemed that some 6 to 12 aircraft originally supposedly destined for Singapore, were diverted to Fremantle around mid March 1942. They were assembled and used for some months, prior to officialdom catching up, whereupon they were re- crated and sent by sea to Freetown, South Africa in May 1942. Some ended up back to the UK, or used in Kenya.
Confirmed serials of these were: V4683 del.09/09/41 service unknown V4688 del.12/09/41(w/o10/04/43 815Sqn) V4689 del.13/09/41 (A&AEE marked V4689/G* for Pumpkin Searchlight Trials, T/O trials with various loads 29/10/43-05/12/43, latter with 735SqnFAA,6/44) V4692 del.15/09/41;810SqnFAA 2/43-3/43:HQ Dekheila, w/o19/08/44 V4693 del.16/09/41(w/o06/12/43 788Sqn Nairobi) V4694 del.16/09/41(768Sqn Nairobi.used for Barrier crash Vindex w/o30/06/44)
* suffix G on UK Military Serial, meant special equipment fitted, ie radar, ecm etc. Mosquitoes of 464Sqn RAAF carried such suffix, denoting the fittment of radar. More details of "Australian Service" can be read in Flightpath Vol7 #1 by an article written by Jim Eftos titled "To catch a Swordfish".

Were there more than these six? So curiosity got the cat and the search was on, and did we find more? Well, this story has to start a few years earlier, when the RAF was requesting a suitable aircraft for use in Singapore for Army Co-operation duties.They required a stable platform for spotting, along with endurance, radio communications, able to carry a crew of three including a Army liaison Officer and have a limited offensive ability. The choice was limited to an established type. This choice fell on the Fairey Swordfish, with a total of 8 being allocated and shipped to the Far East in 1939 prior to the actual break out of WW2.

The eight No4 Anti Aircraft Co-operation Unit Swordfish: P4016 del. 19MU 23/2/39; 36MU 29/06/39;Spotter Unit RAF Seletar 01/10/39; 4AACU Seletar (code ukn) 12/39-2/42 P4019 del. 19MU 12/4/39; 36MU 31/08/39;4AACU Seletar ("J")2/40-2/42 P4021 del 19MU 12/04/39; 36MU 19/06/39;Spotter Unit Seletar 01/10/39; 4AACU ("B") 11/39-3/42 P4026 del.19MU 12/04/39;36MU 19/06/39;Spotter Unit Seletar (code ukn) 01/10/39,4AACU 11/39-3/42 P4027 del.19MU 12/04/39;36MU 19/06/39;Spotter Unit Seletar (code ukn) 01/10/39, 4AACU Seletar 11/39-2/42 P4028 del.19MU 12/04/39;36MU 31/08/39;Spotter Unit Seletar (code ukn) 10/10/39, 4AACU Seletar 11/39-2/42 P4030 del.19MU 12/04/39;36MU 19/06/39;Spotter Unit Seletar ("H") 10/10/39, 4AACU Seletar 11/39-2/42 P4068 del.19MU 26/04/39;36MU 19/06/39;Spotter Unit Seletar ("F" ) 01/10/39, 4AACU Seletar 11/39-2/42

Up to the Japanese invasion, the Swordfish of "C" Flight 4AACU were under control of the Army, and were used for daylight artillery spotting and communication. Following the Japanese invasion of Malaya, they were used mainly for patrolling in and around Singapore.

The Army was reluctant to release them for any other purpose, given the overwhelming superiority of Japanese airpower at this point. But this was to change due to the disastrous sequence of events that bedevilled the RAF Far East Command up to February 1942.Losses through bombing had whittled this force down to only four surviving Swordfish.

On Monday, 2nd February, 1942, on dusk, the four remaining four Swordfish of "C" flight 4AACU set out from Tengah to bomb Kluang airfield, their first and last sortie in the Malaya campaign.

Flown by SqnLdr T. Carter, FLt S Black(P4027),F/O H. Leach and Flt/Sgt Hunt used the cover of darkness to fly to Kluang airfield, which at that time empty and did not appeared to have been damaged by allied bombing. Having dropped their bombs on the facilities and nearby railway tracks, they returned back to Tengah. Apart from their own Army AAA fire on the return leg, they met with no enemy resistance, either in the air or ground. This ended the one and only 4AACU combat flight in the Malaya Campaign.

The 4 Swordfish were destroyed when Japanese Land forces (numbering some 10,000) forced back the Australian defenders (8th Div)in positions near Tengah Airfield on the dawn of the 9th February, 1942. One of the Swordfish was being prepared for a Photographic mission to Johore, using a 35 mm camera lent by Air Commodore Staton, but Japanese Zeros swept over the field and strafed the remaining Swordfish. By 0700 hours, they were no more.

There were other Swordfish in the Far East, including those fitted with floats and launch by catapult off the HMS Repulse. Still searching for those serials,......one day they'll surface. [Gordon, like most other researchers is a eternal optomist - Ed]

There were also those that went down the Hermes (was to become HMAS) off Ceylon in April 1942. But that's another story!!!

Researching the Rellies - Finding WW2 service records - Jan
In a previous article, I examined the WW2 Nominal Roll which allows you to obtain brief details of a person's military service. This month I will look at where you can obtain these records.

Service records are usually held by the National Archives of Australia (NAA) and are normally stored in an offsite repository in Canberra. The NAA holdings are available on their website and can be accessed by selecting Record Search on their homepage (follow link below). When you select Record Search you have the option to log in as a guest or to register (which is free). If you are going to use this search function regularly, it is probably worthwhile registering as search queries are stored for about 6 months.

Once you have logged in, there are a number of ways that you can search. If you have the person's details from another source such as the WW2 Nominal Roll, the easiest way to search is to use their service number. Service numbers for WW2 personnel are supposed to be unique. However, I recently discovered that the RAAF Service No: 420130 was issued to 2 people during the war. If you don't have these details, try to give as much information as possible in the keyword search box. It is sometimes helpful to include a time period eg if you are looking for a WW2 soldier, sailor or airman with a common name, try using the date field as well eg limit to 1939-1948. For RAAF personnel killed in action, there are usually two files: the service record and a casualty record although recently I noticed that one of my Beaufort crew, who was a pilot officer, had three files.

Click on the display button to see the results of your search. When you find the record that you are looking for, click on the Control Symbol. The next screen will give you more information about the record. Important things to note:View Digital Record means the record has been digitised. Click on the logo and you can view the record page by page. Be warned: some of the pages are faint and barely legible and some files contain 70-80 pages. If the record has not been digitised, you then need to check its Access status.

Access Status Open The whole item is available for public access. If it has not yet been digitised, you can request the record to be digitised at no cost. Simply click on the Request Digital Copy button . You will need to fill in the online application form and then submit it. Digitisation takes about 6-8 weeks and the NAA do not notify you that it has been digitised so make a note of the date that you submitted the request and check the Record Search homepage to see what date they are currently working on. You can request 5 records per year. You can also request a print copy which costs $16.20 at present.
Open with Exception Only part of the item is available for public access eg if material in the file is less than 30 years old, it will not be released. You can still request a copy though.
Closed The whole item is not available for public access.
Not yet examined the item has not yet been examined and no decision has been made about its access status. Most WW2 records are still in this category. However, you can still request a copy. At present, I have been waiting 12 months for a WW2 army record (and the fellow died in 1953!).

This is a basic guide to researching WW2 records at the NAA. There are a lot more search options that you can use when you become familiar with the site. If you would like to see an example of WW2 RAAF records, check out the following crew: Flying Officer John Clifton Davis 416834, Flight Sergeant Geoffrey Raymond Emmett 401932, Sgt William Thomas Brain 420130 or Sgt George Collins 420447.
Good luck with your research

Online ADAT Wartime Call Signs
Does anyone know of a website that contains ADAT wartime callsigns? A printed version was released several years ago - has someone released this in an electronic format?
If so Darren would like to hear from you. Email darren@adf-serials.com

Feedback on DC3 VH-ABR
Ray Miller of Spokane Washington, USA provided the following info:
According to the Air Britain DC-3 book, VH-ABR went to RAAF 8 Sqn on 11 September 1939 as A30-3. She was restored to ANA as VH-ABR "Kanana" on 17 May 1940.

Ivan Princeadded the following:
According to "The DC3 and it's Predecessors" by J.M Gradidge this is it's history.
2029* - DC-3-202A VHABR ANA "Kanana" Delivered 17 October 1938 - A30-3 RAAF 8 Squadron 11 September 1939 - VH-ABR ANA "Kanana" 17 May 1940 - Ansett/ANA October 1957 - Airlines of South Australia 14 December 1961 - Ansett 05 October 1971 - wfu - stored Melbourne since 13 October 1975 - canc - moved to Tullamarine for display 30 August 1981.

Bob Livingston provided these details:
VH-ABR (c/n 2029) DC-3-202A VH-ABR Kanana DEL ANA 17OCT38; to A30-3 8SQN 11SEP39; RET to ANA as VH- ABR 17MAY40.
Thanks to all.

Thank you to Neil Fitzclarence - A84 216 or 224
Neil Fitzclarence has recently provided images of a large number of Australian military aircraft for use by the adf-serials group. On behalf of the administrators, I would like to thank him for his substantial contribution to the website. Another example of how researchers and enthusiasts can assist one another.

One of the images that Neil has provided is of a Canberra A-84 216 or 224. If you can provide any additional information on this aircraft, please contact darren@adf-serials.com

Check out A-84 216 or 224

2003 RAAF Heritage Awards - Jan
the 2003 annual RAAF Heritage Awards are open for submissions. Those creative souls amongst us might like to submit a painting, drawing or sketch, a photograph or a piece on their favourite RAAF topic. Entries close 29 April 2003. For further info contact (02) 6287 6256 or email aerospacecentre@defence.gov.au

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