ADF Serials Newsletter
For those interested in Australian Military Aircraft History and Serials
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 email@example.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
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
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
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
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
V4692 del.15/09/41;810SqnFAA 2/43-3/43:HQ
V4693 del.16/09/41(w/o06/12/43 788Sqn
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
The eight No4 Anti Aircraft Co-operation Unit
P4016 del. 19MU 23/2/39; 36MU
29/06/39;Spotter Unit RAF Seletar 01/10/39;
(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")
P4026 del.19MU 12/04/39;36MU
19/06/39;Spotter Unit Seletar (code ukn)
P4027 del.19MU 12/04/39;36MU
19/06/39;Spotter Unit Seletar (code ukn) 01/10/39,
P4028 del.19MU 12/04/39;36MU
Seletar (code ukn) 10/10/39, 4AACU
P4030 del.19MU 12/04/39;36MU
Seletar ("H") 10/10/39, 4AACU
P4068 del.19MU 26/04/39;36MU
Seletar ("F" ) 01/10/39, 4AACU
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
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
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
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
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
If so Darren would like to hear from you. Email
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-
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
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