No. 4 Squadron RNZAF
|No. 4 Squadron RNZAF|
|Allegiance||King George VI|
|Branch||Royal New Zealand Air Force|
Due to activity by German surface raiders, the squadron was hurriedly formed in Fiji in October 1940. The squadron was initially equipped with a range of hurriedly converted civilian airliners, the twin engined de Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide, and four engined de Havilland DH86 Express from Union Airways of New Zealand and de Havilland DH.60 Moth single engined machines from aero clubs – New Zealand's modern Vickers Wellington bombers having been offered to the RAF for the war in Europe, two years previously.
Squadron Leader G R White was the first commanding officer and stayed with the squadron until October 1942. He was replaced by Wing Commander B M Lewis who served with the squadron until May 1943. Squadron Leader Ernest W Tacon replaced him and was in command until December 1943. He in turn was replaced by Squadron Leader E Brooke-Taylor until April 1944, Squadron Leader N R Lecher until January 1945, Wing Commander F R Dix until February, Squadron Leader A F A Tye until June, and Squadron Leader L H Parry until August. The final commanding officer was Squadron Leader G S A Stevenson until the unit was disbanded in September 1945 at Los Neros.
Tours of duty and aircraft
The squadron was initially based in Fiji assisting No. 5 Squadron RNZAF,. It took over obsolescent Vickers Vincent biplane torpedo bombers and later re-equipped with modern Lockheed Hudsons. When war with Japan broke out in December 1941 the Squadron remained in Fiji operating as a reconnaissance unit, and also for training crews to reinforce units in the forward area.
The squadron re-equipped with Lockheed Venturas in 1944. In November it shifted base to Emirau, remaining there until February 1945 when it moved to Guadalcanal from May 1945 to June 1945 and Emirau again in June and July of that year before moving to Los Negros where it remained when the war ended, disbanding in September 1945.
In May 1943 three American liberty ships, the William Williams, Hearst and Vanderbilt, were torpedoed by Japanese submarines. Hudsons of No. 4 Squadron found the survivors of the Hurst and dropped supplies, as well as maintaining an anti-submarine patrol over the crippled William Williams as she was towed 120 miles north to Suva.
On 25 May a squadron machine sighted a surfaced submarine while escorting an American convoy and dropped four depth-charges. An oil slick appeared – after the war it emerged a Japanese submarine was lost at this time in the area.
On 7 September a squadron Hudson damaged a second submarine while escorting the American ship Saugatuck. 5 other sightings and attacks were made by the squadron without result.
On 20 August 1944 seven of the Lockheed Hudson's, which had just been replaced by Lockheed Ventura's, were flown back to New Zealand from Nausori, Fiji. During the flight heavy weather was encountered and in accordance with normal practice the flight broke up. Two of the planes disappeared and were never seen again. An extensive search was carried out over the next few days by 12 long range aircraft from Whenuapai Air Base near Auckland, but no sightings were made in the area where they were presumed to have gone missing. No distress signals were received either.
There were 14 men on board the two aircraft. They were Flight Lieutenant Wilbur Lange, Pilot Officer Kenneth Alexander Ross (a former Wellington table tennis champion), Flying Officer Sydney Philip Aldridge, Flying Officer Jack Andrew Olsen, Pilot Officer Kenneth Brian Marshall, Flying Officer David Oliphant Stewart, Sergeant George Arthur Bryant, Flying Officer Norman Kitchener Baird, Sergeant Robert Bruce Gillespie, Warrant Officer Arthur Francis Dunstan, Sergeant Thomas Bryan Carey, Pilot Officer Ivan Russell Johnson, Flight Sergeant Thomas' Hartley Ward, and Flying Officer John Thomson Waugh.
Flying Officer Waugh was the former Private Secretary for the Hon Bob Semple. He was employed in a Minister's office when he was still in his teens having joined the Public Service as a cadet. After working in the office of the Public Service Commissioner he joined Sir James Allen, Minister of Defence's staff. After World War One he became private secretary for Sir Maui Pomare. His appointments included several Ministers of the Crown, including the Prime Minister Peter Fraser.
A Lockheed Hudson that served with the squadron is preserved in squadron colours at the Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum, after being bought from a farmer who had been using it as a chicken coop.
- "Wartime RNZAF Squadrons". www.cambridgeairforce.org.nz. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
- "War Against Japan". www.teara.govt.nz. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
- "Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation". www.rafweb.org. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
- Francillon, Rene J. "The Royal Australian Air Force & Royal New Zealand Air Force in the Pacific". www.airpages.ru. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
- Missing plane, Evening Post, 5 September 1944, page 4
- "NZ2013". www.airforcemuseum.co.nz. Retrieved 27 September 2012.