No. 488 Squadron RNZAF

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No. 488 (NZ) Squadron RAF
Hurricane mk1 r4118 fairford arp.jpg
Active1 September 1941 – 26 April 1945
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Allegiance New Zealand
BranchAir Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Air Force
RoleFighter squadron
Motto(s)Māori: Ka ngarue ratau
(Translation: "We shake them")[1][2]
Anniversaries1 September 1941
Squadron BadgeIn front of a taiaha and tewhatewha in saltire, a morepork[1][2]
Squadron CodesNF (Oct 1941 – Jan 1942)[3][4]
ME (Jun 1942 – Apr 1945)[5][6]
Aircraft flown
FighterBrewster Buffalo
Hawker Hurricane
Bristol Beaufighter
de Havilland Mosquito

488 Squadron was the name given to two distinct Royal New Zealand Air Force squadrons during the Second World War. Both were formed under Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme and served under the operational command of the Royal Air Force.


Day fighter unit[edit]

Buffalo pilots of No. 488 Squadron RNZAF based at Kallang display the tail fin of a Japanese Ki-46 aircraft of 81st Sentai which they shot down over Johore, Malaya, January 1942.

488 (NZ) Squadron was formed on 1 September 1941[2] at Rongotai, New Zealand under Squadron Leader Wilfred Clouston, a veteran of the Battle of France and Battle of Britain with nine victories to his credit. The squadron was one of several Commonwealth squadrons equipped with Brewster Buffaloes, and arrived at Kallang Airfield Singapore in November 1941, where it took over the Brewsters of No. 67 Squadron RAF. Kallang was shared with a Brewster detachment of the 2-VLG-V of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Air Force, and No. 243 Squadron RAF, in which most of the aircrew were Kiwis.[7]

When the Japanese attacked, the squadron was still in training and sorting out difficulties with its machines, including dysfunctional oxygen which prevented high altitude flying, weight difficulties which resulted in armour and machine guns being deleted and high maintenance requirements resulting from Brewster's use of worn out ex-airline engines in manufacturing the aircraft (which had been supplied to No. 67 Squadron in March). There were also problems getting spares and with the peacetime red tape and restricted flying hours laid down by the British High Command in Singapore.

Frequent air battles over Singapore occurred from 12 January 1942, the Japanese pilots being better trained and outnumbering the defenders, but (despite widespread claims of Mitsubishi Zeros being present), with the exception of a few Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa "Oscars" most Japanese fighters and many bombers were in no better condition than those of the Royal Air Force's.[8] As the Buffalo squadrons (many manned by New Zealanders and Australians) lost men and machines, several were amalgamated into 488 Squadron. Clouston had presented a plan "Get Mobile" to provide daylight air cover off the coast to Admiral Phillip's Force Z, but this was rejected by the Navy.[9]

The squadron received nine Hawker Hurricanes at the end of January to partially replace the Buffaloes, but by 31 January, losses and the ground situation forced a withdrawal to Palembang, Sumatra and a few days later to Tjililitan airfield, near Batavia, Java, where Dutch East Indies Buffalo squadrons were facing a similarly unequal fight. Clouston handed over command to Squadron Leader MacKenzie and stayed with remaining staff to become a prisoner when Singapore fell.

On 23 February, the squadron evacuated Tjililitan, to Fremantle in Australia where it disbanded on 2 March, the New Zealand pilots returning home to form the nucleus of No. 14 Squadron RNZAF. Figures for the squadron's achievements in the Far East are difficult to determine, but one notable pilot, Pilot Officer Noel Sharp, who flew a Brewster Buffalo in Singapore, is credited with three victories.

Night fighter unit[edit]

488 Squadron reformed on 25 June 1942 at RAF Church Fenton, Yorkshire, as a night fighter 'intruder' unit equipped with Beaufighters. The squadron aircraft carried the code letters ME.

When it switched to a defensive role in August 1943 it re-equipped with de Havilland Mosquitoes. In November 1944 the squadron moved to France, and was based in Belgium and Holland in the closing stages of the war. It disbanded on 26 April 1945.

Possibly the top scoring 488 Squadron Mosquito of the war was NF.Mk.XII MM466, ME-R, which shot down seven enemy aircraft between July 1944 and November 1944, after which the aircraft was passed on to 409 Sqn., with which it shot down another four.[10] In its night fighter incarnation, 488 Squadron flew 2899 sorties, shot down 67 aircraft and, in its intruder role, destroyed 40 trains. Pilots were awarded 5 DFCs, a DSO and an AFC.

488 Squadron was unique in that it was the only "Article XV" New Zealand unit to have two distinct and separate roles, in different theatres, during World War Two.

In December 2010, the new headquarters formed to command the RNZAF units stationed at RNZAF Base Ohakea was named No. 488 Wing RNZAF in honour of No. 488 Squadron.[11] This unit was disbanded in early 2015.[12]

Aircraft operated[edit]

Aircraft Operated by no. 488 Squadron RNZAF, data from[13][14][15]
From To Aircraft Version
October 1941 January 1942 Brewster Buffalo Mk.I
January 1942 February 1942 Hawker Hurricane Mk.IIb
June 1942 March 1943 Bristol Beaufighter Mk.IIf
March 1943 September 1943 Bristol Beaufighter Mk.VIf
August 1943 May 1944 de Havilland Mosquito Mk.XII
October 1943 September 1944 de Havilland Mosquito Mk.XIII
September 1944 April 1945 de Havilland Mosquito Mk.XXX

Squadron bases[edit]

Bases and airfields used by no. 488 Squadron RNZAF, data from[13][14][15]
From To Base Remark
1 September 1941 2 September 1941 Rongotai, New Zealand Formed here
2 September 1941 10 October 1941 en route to Singapore
10 October 1941 2 February 1942 RAF Kallang, Singapore Det. at Kluang, Malaysia
2 February 1942 9 February 1942 Palembang, Sumatra, Dutch East Indies
9 February 1942 23 February 1942 Tjililitan, Java, Dutch East Indies
23 February 1942 1 March 1942 en route to Australia
1 March 1942 2 March 1942 Fremantle, Australia Disbanded here
25 June 1942 1 September 1942 RAF Church Fenton, Yorkshire Reformed here
1 September 1942 3 August 1943 RAF Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland Dets at RAF Drem, East Lothian, Scotland and RAF Coltishall, Norfolk
3 August 1943 3 September 1943 RAF Drem, East Lothian, Scotland
3 September 1943 3 May 1944 RAF Bradwell Bay, Essex
3 May 1944 11 May 1944 RAF Colerne, Wiltshire
11 May 1944 28 July 1944 RAF Zeals, Wiltshire
28 July 1944 9 October 1944 RAF Colerne, Wiltshire
9 October 1944 15 November 1944 RAF Hunsdon, Hertfordshire
15 November 1944 5 April 1945 B.48/Amiens-Glisy, France
5 April 1945 26 April 1945 B.77/Gilze-Rijen, Netherlands Disbanded here

Commanding officers[edit]

Officers commanding no. 488 Squadron RNZAF, data from[16][17][18]
From To Name
September 1941 January 1942 S/Ldr. W.G. Clouston
January 1942 March 1942 S/Ldr. J.N. McKenzie
June 1942 February 1943 W/Cdr. R.M. Trousdale, DFC
February 1943 July 1943 W/Cdr. J. Nesbitt-Dufort, DSO
July 1943 September 1943 W/Cdr. A.R. Burton-Giles
September 1943 January 1944 W/Cdr. P.H. Hamley
January 1944 October 1944 W/Cdr. R.C. Haine, DFC
October 1944 April 1945 W/Cdr. R.G. Watts

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Rawlings 1978, p. 452.
  2. ^ a b c Halley 1988, p. 531.
  3. ^ Flintham & Thomas 2003, p. 91.
  4. ^ Bowyer & Rawlings 1979, p. 76.
  5. ^ Flintham & Thomas 2003, p. 89.
  6. ^ Bowyer & Rawlings 1979, pp. 71–72.
  7. ^ Clayton 2008, p. 52.
  8. ^ A kill ratio of 2:1 was claimed by the Buffalo squadrons
  9. ^ Clayton 2008, p. 83.
  10. ^ Sharp & Bowyer 1995, p. 449.
  11. ^ Blaikie, Bill (December 2010). "New Wing Established at Ohakea" (PDF). Air Force News. p. 26. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  12. ^ "Spitfire display marks Air Force changes". 3 March 2015. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  13. ^ a b Rawlings 1978, pp. 452–453.
  14. ^ a b Jefford 2001, p. 95.
  15. ^ a b Halley 1988, p. 532.
  16. ^ Rawlings 1978, p. 453.
  17. ^ Ross 1955, p. 325.
  18. ^ Thompson 1956, p. 461.


  • Bowyer, Michael J.F.; Rawlings, John D.R. (1979). Squadron Codes, 1937–56. Bar Hill, Cambridge, UK: Patrick Stephens. ISBN 0-85059-364-6.
  • Clayton, Graham (2008). Last Stand in Singapore: The Story of 488 Squadron RNZAF. Auckland, New Zealand: Random House. ISBN 978-1-86979-033-2.
  • Flintham, Vic; Thomas, Andrew (2003). Combat Codes: A Full Explanation and Listing of British, Commonwealth and Allied Air Force Unit Codes Since 1938. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing. ISBN 1-84037-281-8.
  • Halley, James J. (1988). The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth, 1918–1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians). ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Jefford, C.G. (2001). RAF Squadrons: A Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents Since 1912. Shrewsbury: Airlife Publishing. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. (1978) [1969]. Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft (Reprinted ed.). London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers). ISBN 0-354-01028-X.
  • Ross, John (1955). Royal New Zealand Air Force. The Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–1945. Wellington, New Zealand: Historical Publications Branch.
  • Sharp, Martin; Bowyer, Michael J.F. (1995) [1967]. Mosquito. Bristol, UK: Crécy Books. ISBN 0-947554-41-6.
  • Thompson, H.L. (1956). New Zealanders with the Royal Air Force (Vol II): European Theatre January 1943 – December 1945. Wellington, New Zealand: War History Branch, Department of Internal Affairs.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bowyer, Chaz (1984). Mosquito Squadrons of the Royal Air Force. Shepperton, Surrey, UK: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-1425-6.
  • Cull, Brian; Sortehaug, Paul; Haselden, Mark (2003). Buffaloes Over Singapore: RAF, RAAF, RNZAF and Dutch Brewster Fighters in Action Over Malaya and the East Indies 1941–1942. London, UK: Grub Street. ISBN 1-904010-32-6.
  • Cull, Brian; Sortehaug, Paul (2004). Hurricanes Over Singapore: RAF, RNZAF and NEI Fighters in Action Over the Island and the Netherlands East Indies 1942. London, UK: Grub Street. ISBN 1-904010-80-6.
  • Frances, Neil (2005). Ketchil: A New Zealand Pilot’s War in Asia and the Pacific. Wairarapa Archive. ISBN 0-9582617-0-9.
  • Hunt, Leslie (1949). Defence until Dawn: The Story of 488 N.Z. Squadron, Church Fenton 25 June 1942 – Gilze Rijen Holland 26 April 1945. Southend-on-Sea, UK: Washbourne & Sons.
  • Morris, Gerard S. (2000). Spitfire: The New Zealand Story. Auckland, New Zealand: Reed Books. ISBN 0-7900-0696-0.
  • Shores, Christopher; Cull, Brian; Izawa, Yasuho (1992). Bloody Shambles, Vol 1: The Drift to War to the Fall of Singapore. London, UK: Grub Street. ISBN 0-948817-50-X.
  • Shores, Christopher; Cull, Brian; Izawa, Yasuho (1993). Bloody Shambles, Vol 2: The Defence of Sumatra to the Fall of Burma. London, UK: Grub Street. ISBN 0-948817-67-4.
  • Thompson, H.L. (1953). New Zealanders with the Royal Air Force (Vol I): European Theatre September 1939 – December 1942. Wellington, New Zealand: War History Branch, Department of Internal Affairs.

External links[edit]