Australian Air Force received an unexpected temporary
windfall in early 1942 when it collected crates
containing six Fairey Swordfish.
On the 17 March 1942 the Duty Officer at RAAF Pearce informed Group Captain Paddy Hefferman that a number of wooden aircraft cases had arrived at the nearby Bullsbrook railway siding from the Port of Fremantle. It was assumed at the time that these boxes contained Kittyhawk fighters intended to re-equip No 77 Squadron, RAAF as 19 P-40Es were being offloaded from the SS Robin Tuxworth (USA) at the time.
When it was discovered that the crates in fact contained Swordfish, Hefferman decided to have the aircraft assembled by SGT Wright, who had experience on Wapiti aircraft though no handbooks accompanied the crates.
14 Sqn RAAF, based at RAAF Pearce, had sent off four of their Hudsons to Northern command as reinforcements by Feb 42, leaving eight Hudsons (One to be lost at Broome, A16-119, 02/03/42), and had attached, in February 42, 6 US Navy Pilot Ratings and two Observer Ratings, along with a single Grumman JF2 Float Plane (Pilot Lt Collins USN) from the 20/02/42. With units short of aircraft at Pearce, the unexpected arrival of the Swordfish must have been seen as an opportunity too good to pass up.
GPCAPT Hefferman flew the first of the assembled aircraft and the aircraft are known to have been operated by 14 Squadron and No 25 Squadron as well as RAAF Pearce Station Headquarters
No 25 SQN operated at least three of the aircraft on anti-submarine patrols around Rottnest Island and Gage Roads off the Port of Fremantle. All squadron pilots converted to the Swordfish but it appears that Sergeant Coulter amassed the greatest number of hours while another Sergeant Dudley Irwin (Navigator) later became Minister of Air in the Australian Federal Government of John Gorton in 1969.
No 14 SQN was also allocated Swordfish for communications work and regularly flew between Pearce and Squadron detachments based at Busselton, Cunderdin and Carnarvon.
RAAF Pearce Station Headquarters also appears to have used a Swordfish as a flight to Cunderdin on the 27 March 1942 flown by GPCAPT Hefferman, FLTLT Kirkman and FLGOFF Kimpton was recorded.
Officialdom eventually caught up with the Station's unofficial fleet of Swordfish when RAAF Headquarters in Melbourne gave orders to have the aircraft disassembled and re-crated for forwarding to their appropriate recipients.
It apears that the aircraft were then sent to Royal Navy in Nairobi before being engaged in varied carrers as recorded below.
2 AD in Richmond also
overhauled a seventh Swordfish Mk.I airframe, K8849, from
HMS Warspite during Feb-Mar 1942 when the ship was ported
in Sydney. This was one
of six tranistiting from Cape Town, South Africa on route
to 151 MU Singapore for the RN FAA as reserve float
aircraft for HMS's P O Wales and Repulse, then repacked
redirected for HMS Warspite and others in theatre (which
were then Ceylon based, but temporarily ported
Australia), arriving 2nd March 1942 at Fremantle WA with
floats included in crates, but with landing gear
This page is managed and updated by Brendan Cowan.
Sources: "British Military Aircraft Serials 1911-1979" Bruce Robinson, "RAAF Pearce. Australia's Pilot Training Base." Leslie R Jubbs, RAAF Pearce ORB, "Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945" by Ray Sturtivant and Mick Burrow (Air Britain1995) and "The Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm" by Ray Sturtivant and Theo Ballance (Air Britain 1994), RAAF Rathmines Correspondence Register, http://www.fleetairarmarchive.net/aircraft/swordfish.htm ,
Emails: Phantom, Message Board Discussion , Joe Barr, Gordon Birkett, Michael Louey,
Updated 28 November 2013
our policy to only show historical events, no current
operational information will be displayed on this