No. 488 Squadron RNZAF

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No. 488 (NZ) Squadron RAF
488 squadron RNZAF badge.jpg
Active1 September 1941 – 26 April 1945
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Allegiance New Zealand
BranchEnsign of the Royal Air Force.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

No. 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.


In the mid-1930s, the Royal Air Force (RAF) was in the process of expanding and required an increasing number of suitable flying personnel. A number of schemes were implemented for New Zealanders to obtain short-service commissions in the RAF with the intention of then transferring to the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) in the future. This led to over 500 New Zealanders serving in the RAF by the time of the outbreak of the Second World War.[7]

At around the same time there was discussion between the governments of Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand to facilitate the co-ordination of training of air crew in the event of hostilities. This led to the implementation of the Empire Air Training Scheme (ETAS) in December 1939. Under this agreement, New Zealand committed to initially supply 880 full trained pilots for the RAF, with another 520 pilots being trained to an elementary standard annually. As each of the Dominion governments desired its personnel to serve together, the ETAS had a clause, Article XV, that allowed for the establishment of squadrons with personnel from the respective countries. In theory, the Dominions would supply the ground crew as well as flying personnel. However, in New Zealand's case, there was a reluctance to maintain RNZAF squadrons in Britain so the decision was made to allow for the formation of squadrons within the RAF designated as being New Zealand. These squadrons, known as Article XV squadrons, were formed around a cadre of New Zealand flying personnel already serving in the RAF but supplemented by newly trained pilots from the RNZAF.[8][9]


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.

No. 488 (NZ) Squadron was formed on 1 September 1941[2] at Rongotai, New Zealand under the command of Squadron Leader Wilfred Clouston, a veteran of the Battle of France and Battle of Britain with nine aerial victories to his credit. The squadron was one of several Commonwealth squadrons equipped with Brewster Buffaloes, and arrived at Kallang Airfield Singapore in November, where it took over the Brewsters of No. 67 Squadron. Kallang was shared with a Brewster detachment of the 2-VLG-V of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Air Force, and No. 243 Squadron, in which most of the aircrew were New Zealanders.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12]

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 John 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]

Personnel of No. 488 Squadron, on the occasion of a visit from William Jordan, the New Zealand High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, 27 September 1942; Jordan is seated in the centre, wearing a suit while the squadron's commander, Wing Commander Richard Trousdale is seated fourth left.

No. 488 Squadron was reformed on 25 June 1942 at Church Fenton, in Yorkshire, as a night fighter 'intruder' unit equipped with the twin-engined Bristol Beaufighter.[13] The squadron aircraft carried the code letters ME. When it switched to a defensive role in August 1943 it was re-equipped with de Havilland Mosquitoes.

Following the invasion of Normandy the squadron began performing in an offensive role, operating from the permanent RAF station at Zeals, Wiltshire.[13] It patrolled over the landing beaches, protecting the land forces from night attacks mounted by German bombers, and also carried out intruder missions, seeking out targets of opportunity such as transport vehicles and enemy aircraft.[14] From early July, the squadron began operating from a temporary situation at Colerne, Wiltshire. The weather for most of the month was poor so there was little action until towards the end of July, at which time German air activity increased.[15] In November 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.[13]

Possibly the top scoring No. 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 No. 409 Squadron, with which it shot down another four.[16] In its night fighter incarnation, No. 488 Squadron flew 2899 sorties, shot down 67 aircraft and, in its intruder role, destroyed 40 trains.[17] In one notable sortie in July 1944, Flight Lieutenant George Jameson and his radar operator Norman Crookes shot down four enemy aircraft.[18] Pilots of the squadron were awarded 5 DFCs, a DSO and an AFC.[13]

No. 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.[19] This unit was disbanded in early 2015.[20]

Aircraft operated[edit]

Aircraft Operated by no. 488 Squadron RNZAF, data from[21][22][23]
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[21][22][23]
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]

The following served as commanding officers of No. 488 Squadron:[24][25]

  • Squadron Leader W. G. Clouston (October 1941–January 1942);
  • Squadron Leader J. N. McKenzie (January–March 1942);
  • Wing Commander R. M. Trousdale (June 1942–March 1943);
  • Wing Commander J. Nesbitt-Dufort (March–July 1943);
  • Wing Commander A. R. Burton-Giles (July–September 1943);
  • Wing Commander P. H. Hamley (September 1943–January 1944);
  • Wing Commander R. C. Haine (January–October 1944); and
  • Wing Commander R. G. Watts (October 1944–April 1945).


  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. ^ McGibbon 2000, p. 8.
  8. ^ McGibbon 2000, pp. 156–157.
  9. ^ Thompson 1953, pp. 209–211.
  10. ^ Clayton 2008, p. 52.
  11. ^ A kill ratio of 2:1 was claimed by the Buffalo squadrons
  12. ^ Clayton 2008, p. 83.
  13. ^ a b c d Thompson 1956, pp. 460–461.
  14. ^ Thompson 1956, p. 302.
  15. ^ Clayton 2019, pp. 206–207.
  16. ^ Sharp & Bowyer 1995, p. 449.
  17. ^ Thompson 1956, p. 461.
  18. ^ Thompson 1956, p. 320.
  19. ^ Blaikie, Bill (December 2010). "New Wing Established at Ohakea" (PDF). Air Force News. p. 26. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  20. ^ "Spitfire display marks Air Force changes". 3 March 2015. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  21. ^ a b Rawlings 1978, pp. 452–453.
  22. ^ a b Jefford 2001, p. 95.
  23. ^ a b Halley 1988, p. 532.
  24. ^ Ross 1955, p. 325.
  25. ^ Thompson 1956, p. 460.


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.
  • 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.

External links[edit]