Australian & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History

RAAF Acquisition of 12 Martin PBM-3S Mariners
(Wynnum B Graham January 2003)

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Mariner A70-8 
41 Squadron, 
via Mike Mirkovic.




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  In late 1943, the RAAF acquired 12 PBM-3S Martin Mariner flying boats, A70-1 through A70-12. The story behind the acquisition starts in early 1943.

Early 1943

Australian Prime Minister Curtin (and the Australian Government) wished to expand the RAAF from 32 squadrons to 45 squadrons during 1943, and later to 72 squadrons (also said as 71 and 73 squadrons in various places). To this end, Curtin sent a mission to USA and UK during April to July of 1943 to lobby for extra aircraft. The mission was headed by Dr H V Evatt, Australian Government External Affairs Minister.


Prime Minister Curtin gave final instructions to Dr Evatt covering the overseas mission. Shortly there-after, Evatt and his party flew to USA.


On or about 13Apr43, Dr Evatt had a conference with US President Roosevelt – Evatt reported nothing definite had been arranged, and that he would continue to lobby US and UK officials.


Dr Evatt had a long conversation with UK Prime Minister Churchill at the Whitehouse, and among other things, discussed RAAF expansion plans. Churchill had just arrived in Washington for discussions with President Roosevelt.


President Roosevelt advised Evatt he had approved allocation of 475 planes to RAAF for the purpose of expanding the RAAF during 1943 and 1944. This was in addition to previous regular allocations to the RAAF.

The next phase was for a Special Committee comprised of Rear Admiral J S McCain, Chief, Bureau of Aeronautics and General H H Arnold to begin implementation of the President’s supplementary allocation of 475 aircraft by way of recommending to Combined Chiefs of Staff and Combined Munitions Assignment Board (CMAB) that some planes be assigned in 1943 assignments and some planes be assigned in the 1944 assignments. The Special Committee report was considered at the Combined Chiefs of Staff meeting of 16Jul43. On broader matters, mainly concerning heavy bombers vs dive bombers a considerable "bun fight" ensued - - and that became matters for another day. However some progress was achieved for 1943 additional assignments.


With the special committee 1943 recommendation accepted, the CMAB sub-section Munitions Assignment Committee (Air) amended the MAC (Air) Case 200 covering assignments for 1943 to include for RAAF expansion purpose,

additional to previous 1943 assignment .............

Catalina 12

Vengeance 34

Kittyhawk 126

New types

Mariner 12

Norseman 14

Helldiver 150

What concerns here is the mention of 12 Mariner, subject of this monograph. As an aside, the Helldiver deliveries were interrupted – they fell into the afore-mentioned bomber bun fight.


RAAF Hq Melbourne signal to RAAF at Washington – the 12 Mariners are to be Identification A70, serial numbered from unity. (These numbers were painted on the aircraft in the US and they flew to Australia as such.)


Formal application was made to gain possession of the 12 Mariner flying boats by way of standard form " US Navy Department Requisition For Defence Aid Articles".

Requisition No BAC/N-950 was for 12 Martin "Mariner" aircraft, US Navy designation PBM-3C [sic].

Due to the standing policy of "single desk requisitions" British Air Commission (BAC) did the paperwork on behalf of Australia, hence BAC/N-950 requisition number.

Included on the form is the statement " This requisition follows 1943 assignments of aircraft of this type to the Commonwealth of Australia in accordance with MAC (Air) Case 200, as amended 21Jul43".

Washington based RAAF personnel

RAAF personnel at Washington now become involved in the acquisition of the 12 Martin Mariners.

F Lt Slessar Equipment Officer

W Cdr Hocking Staff Officer Equipment

W Cdr J W Black Staff Officer Technical.

Gp Capt A G Carr Staff Officer, Air.


F Lt Slessar advises W Cdr Hocking that " So far, there has been no definite indication of the exact type of Mariner the RAAF will receive except it is to be a transport type. The question however is to be clarified on Monday next and Lt E G Stoddard has promised to provide full technical details of the aircraft from the Design Section at the Bureau (USN Bureau of Aeronautics).


F Lt Slessar has been advised (by Ensign Lahey of NASD, who handles all PBM airframe spares) , and so informs W Cdr Hocking - - that RAAF should "endeavor to get PBM-3R type as this is definitely the most suitable for transport work".


W Cdr Black, Staff Officer Technical, reports :--

1 I have been in touch with the VPB desk of the US Navy, and have obtained the following information from the Mariner Project Officer, Lt Ray, who has been actively associated with the PBM since its first conception. Briefly, the models produced to date are PBM-3, -3C, -3R and –3S. The next development will be the PBM-3D. [Note – Lt Ray said "briefly" and herein is talking of just the –3 sequence of Mariner.]

2 The PBM-3 was the original combat patrol bomber and was equipped only with single guns and no tail guns. The –3C model was developed from the –3 by substituting twin guns and a tail gun. The –3R and –3S were developed from the –3 and –3C respectively. The –3R was developed primarily for transport and the –3S primarily for anti-submarine patrol and, generally speaking, the modification was in each case similar, consisting mainly of the removal of equipment.

3 The original contract for PBM-3 aircraft was for 50, and all of these have been converted to PBM-3R aircraft. Of these 18 were modified at the Martin factory, while the remainder are being modified at Norfolk.

4 The essential differences between the –3R and –3S are as follows :--

    1. The PBM-3R has a cargo loading hatch in place of the upper waist gun.
    2. The PBM-3R carries no guns, while the PBM-3S has twin .50 in the bow, and single .50 at the waist and tail.
    3. The PBM-3S has two extra fuel tanks situated in the after bunk [area], completely filling it.
    4. The PBM-3R has plywood decking while the –3S has corrugated metal decking.



W Cdr Hocking, Staff Officer Equipment, reports :--

1 Following my return from Glen Martin Plant at Baltimore, SO Air and myself visited Commander Riley, USN Bureau of Aeronautics and requested that consideration be given to the early allocation of 5 PBM-3S from the Baltimore project. [as the ferry crews will complete training at Banana River, Florida, on 05Oct43.]

2 Then, following F Lt Slessar’s report which indicated PBM-3R might be a better proposition than –3S, I again communicated with Commander Riley to ascertain the possibility of obtaining allocations of the PBM-3R. He advised such would be impossible as only 50 PBM-3R [sic] were manufactured


Gp Capt Carr, Staff Officer Air, reports :--

On 08Oct43, Commander Riley advised it would be possible for RAAF to take delivery of two PBM [sic] at once, two or three by 15Oct43, and eight or seven by 15Nov43. He further advised that special arrangements had already been made for "our" PBM [sic] deliveries to be made six in November and six in December, and by sticking to this proposed delivery schedule we will get better aircraft since aircraft with low flying hours are to be picked out at Norfolk and sent to Baltimore for overhaul and modification. If we take aircraft on the faster delivery scale the will not be "hand-picked". I advised him that we would take the aircraft as originally set up. The aircraft will be "PBM-3S".


RAAF at Washington signal to RAAF HQ Melbourne – Indent 2226A Mariner PBM-3S aircraft.

[US] Navy have now confirmed that twelve type 3C aircraft part used will be supplied from Norfolk Depot. Aircraft will be modified at Martin Factory at Baltimore to type PBM-3S. All spares and equipment will be covered by requisition BAC/N-950.


W Cdr Hocking advises :--

1 Commander Riley was asked if the armament and radar could be left fitted in the RAAF aircraft. He indicated this would not be possible as the original bid had been made on the basis of need for sea transport aircraft. The only way to obtain the military and radar equipment would be to re-submit the bid to the Combined Chiefs of Staff, and this would delay matters considerably.

2 Action is now being taken to have the necessary directive issued for the ordering-out of spares, etc, on the basis of the aircraft being PBM-3S less military equipment.


RAAF at Washington signal to RAAF HQ Melbourne – Indent 2226A Mariner PBM-3S aircraft.

First six aircraft will be ready for flight delivery from Norfolk on 10Nov43. Serial numbers of the first five are 6512, 6528, 6546, 6549, 6566.


J D Mitchell, British Representative, based Elizabeth City reported to Chief Inspector, British Air Commission, Washington, on his visit to Naval Air Station Norfolk. The report is paraphrased below : ---

1 On 05Nov43 a letter was forwarded [to avoid delay] to Lt Cdr Schwartz, Captain TTSA [Transition Training Squadron Atlantic] outlining the dimensions and positions of [RAAF] markings for these ships.

2 The twelve PBM-3C aircraft intended for the RAAF were all used in service, then returned to the Glenn L Martin Company for modification into PBM-3S. All the stripping has been done at the Martin plant in accordance with the USN strip programme. The aircraft are then delivered to TTSA for the servicing, fitting out, and are then delivered to the RAAF, who deliver them to their final destinations. At the time of the visit, six of the aircraft have already been delivered, and a seventh was departing on that day.

WBG special note – at the time of the J D Mitchell visit, BuNo 6505 was intended to be A70-10. This was found to have hull damage, and on 13Dec43 Bu 6505 was returned to USN Atlantic Fleet stocks, while same date, Bu 6622 was allocated, and become A70-10.

3 J D Mitchell noted, for the RAAF PBM-3S, inter alia :---

Bomb bay tanks were installed in both bomb bays (at rear of engine nacelle)

Navigator position was left on the flight deck.

No guns were being forwarded with the aircraft.

No radar fitted, radome removed.

Radio altimeter was fitted. AYD type.

Auxiliary hull fuel tanks were installed in the aft living compartment.

Galley is forward, under the flight deck.

The ships are camouflaged in accordance with the original USN scheme – non specular blue in the top plan view and side elevation, and matt white in the bottom plan view.

Identification markings have been applied in accordance with the instructions.

The aircraft are check flown by TTSA crews before handing over to the RAAF crews, who in turn carry out a second test flight.


Memo 1999.43 from Commander Air Force, US Atlantic Fleet, to Headquarters Squadron 5-2 (USN Fleet Air Wing 5) allocates PBM-3S [sic] Bu 6622 for transfer and delivery to RAAF ......... and cancels allocation to RAAF of PBM-3S [sic] Bu 6505.

Note - - this late change (of the aircraft to be A70-10) due to poor condition of Bu 6505 is reflected in the delivery of that plane – it was the last RAAF PBM-3S to reach Australia.


Acquisition Completed – Twelve RAAF PBM-3S aircraft delivered to Australia.

The table is a combine of data from a RAAF Washington report and 3 OTU Rathmines Operational Record Book. (dates are 1943 unless shown as /44) :----

RAAF Serial USN Bu.No. Martin Number At Martin Plant Departed Norfolk Depart Alameda Arrived Rathmines Captain
A70-1 6512 2965 25/10 06/11 13/11 20/11 S Ldr Wood
A70-2 6528 2981 25/10 06/11 18/11 24/11 S Ldr Thurston
A70-3 6546 2999 25/10 09/11 20/11 27/11 F Lt Kirk
A70-4 6549 3002 25/10 08/11 18/11 24/11 F Lt Townsend
A70-5 6566 3019 25/10 10/11 20/11 24/11 F Lt Robertson
A70-6 6526 2979 Not said 10/11 20/11 24/11 F Lt Tamblyn
A70-7 6506 2959 Not said 12/11 21/11 28/11 S Ldr Monkton
A70-8 6565 3018 17/11 16/12 23/12 28/12 F Lt Duigan
A70-9 6575 3028 17/11 17/12 23/12 6/1/44 F Lt Kirk
A70-10 6622 2975 18/12 24/12 2/1/44 15/1/44 S Ldr Monkton
A70-11 6664 3117 18/11 14/12 22/12 27/12 F Lt Tamblyn
A70-12 6538 2991 25/11 14/12 22/12 27/12 F Lt Robertson

(γ Wynnum B Graham January 2003)


The Author of this page is (the late) Wynnum B Graham (January 2003)

Updated 13 February 2014


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