Aviation of World War II

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S.19 Singapore. Combat Use.

Short S.19 Singapore at the anchorage

By the beginning of World War II, "Singapore" was already outdated and was being replaced by more modern technology everywhere.

When the intentions of the Japanese in relation to the Asian region and the Pacific Ocean were more or less determined, the Royal New Zealand Air Force command expressed their concerns about the current situation, and demanded that the British supply maritime patrol aircraft in order to be able to control the situation in the South Pacific Ocean . Since the Royal Air Force themselves were on a starvation diet, they could only offer the New Zealanders a few old "Singapores", which had just been withdrawn from the active composition of the 205th squadron. Although by the beginning of 1941 the aircraft had already been completely withdrawn from service, the proposal was accepted and four aircraft, serial numbers K6912, K6916, K6917, K6918, entered service with the RNZAF. Initially, all New Zealand "Singapores" were intended for service in the Fiji Islands. But for this they still had to be delivered there. Four pilots went to the town of Sentar in Singapore to ferry the aircraft to their future home base. These were squadron leaders E.M. Lewis and D.W. Baird (D.W.Baird), Flight Lieutenant R.H.M. Hickson (R.H.M. Hickson) and Flying Officer Jay. W. Winfield. (J. W. Winefield). Together with them, four more members of the Royal New Zealand Air Force were sent to Setar, and in mid-September 1941, they officially formed an air ferry squadron. Immediately after arriving in Setar, the New Zealand pilots began to study their new technology and, after a short time, had already taken off the first two "Singapore" transferred to them by the British. The second part of the unit joined the first at the end of September, and on 1 October 1941, Squadron Leader Baird took over the formation. Finally, on October 14, the official handover to New Zealand pilots of four "Singapores" took place. Two days later, Flying Officer Winfield was at the helm of K6916, the first to fly to a distant place of future duty. He was followed by Squadron Leader Lewis on K6917. The flight was long and required landing at intermediate airfields. The route passed through Batavia and Surubaya on the island of Java in the Dutch West Indies, through Bima on Sumbawa, Kopang, (Koepang) on ​​the island of Timor, from there to the Australian Port Darwin and on to Samarai to New Guinea. The route continued through Gizo and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands, Vanikoa in the Santa Cruz Islands, Vila in the New Hebrides, through Lautoka in western Fiji, and eventually to Suva, the capital of the archipelago. . However, the flight passed without incident. Winfield was the first to reach the new base on November 14th, and Lewis appeared four days later on his K6917. Formation of the 5th squadron.

The official creation date of the 5th Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force was November 18, 1941. Squadron Leader Lewis was given command of the unit. Three more pilots, Flt Lt. Hickson, Fl. Winfield, and Fl. W. Jay. Craig (W.J. Craig), a communications officer from the British Royal Air Force, led the rest of the crews. In addition to them, the squadron included 24 more people, led by an RAF technical specialist, pilot officer T.E.M. Hull. Armament and modern navigation equipment were installed on the aircraft. The squadron received the standard Allied Air Force identification letter "OT". For example, aircraft number K6916 received the designation "OT-B" and K6917 "OT-C"

By the end of 1941, the international situation in Southeast Asia continued to decline rapidly. In the face of growing tension, the Far Eastern High Command decided to attach to the 205th Patrol Squadron the second part of the New Zealand formation under the command of Squadron Leader Baird, who with his pilots did not have time to go to Fiji. The Japanese invaded Malaysia on December 7th, and throughout that day, New Zealand crews flew out on patrol several times. On the 10th December, they made several reconnaissance flights for the infamous Z Squadron, which included the battlecruiser HMS Repulse and the battleship HMS Prince of Wales, before being attacked and destroyed by Japanese aircraft. After that, Singapore did not perform any more tasks, until their departure to the Fiji Islands on December 13th.

In the meantime, aircraft based in Fiji have already started combat activities on December 15th. Squadron Leader Lewis aboard K6916 "OT-B" flew a patrol flight to determine the possible location of early warning radar stations. Two days later, the first accident occurred. During takeoff from Suva Air Force Base, the horizontal rudder compensator on K6916 jammed and Lewis was forced to abort his run. Unfortunately, almost no one was able to stop a heavy seaplane taking off, there are no brakes on the water ... The car eventually crashed into a sandbank at the end of Suva Bay. The impact damage was so severe that the aircraft could not be repaired by local workshops, and on July 19, 1942, K6916 was removed from the unit's registers as unrepairable. Luckily, none of the crew members were injured in the accident. Despite this incident, the 5th Squadron continued to strengthen, at least through the replenishment of personnel. By December 19th, the squadron's staff reached 90 people, and at Christmas the last two "Singapore" from among those transferred by the British arrived. Aircraft number K6912 received the identification tail code "OT-C" and K6918 "OT-D". On December 26, 1941, with the arrival of 14 additional people, the 5th squadron had already almost reached the number and material equipment necessary for conducting operational cycles in wartime states.

The tasks that were assigned to the 5th squadron were quite standard and mainly boiled down to air cover for Allied convoys, anti-submarine patrols and the search for Japanese raiders. Periodically, the squadron carried out courier flights between the atolls and islands of the region. The first sortie from Fiji took place on January 6, 1942, when the crew of Flight Lieutenant MacGregor went on anti-submarine patrols in K6912 "OT-A". After that, such patrols became daily. On January 12, Squadron Leader Craig became the new Squadron Leader. From January 30, patrol flights began to cover the poorly defended approaches to the Fiji archipelago. At first, during the patrol, the pilots could not detect anything, and the high command, clearly confident that the hordes of the Japanese could invade Fiji at any moment, changed squadron commanders one by one. These actions of the leadership had a distinct shade of hysteria, since neither the ordinary pilots nor their commanders were clearly to blame for the fact that the Japanese still had not reached Fiji. However, Craig was replaced on February 14th by Flt Lt. Hickson, who was in turn replaced by McGill on April 5th. (R. J. R. H. Mac Gill).

On June 24, 1942, the 4th RNZAF Squadron was disbanded, and all Vickers "Vincent" aircraft that had previously been part of it were transferred to the 5th Squadron. Four aircraft were based at Nandi and five others at Nausori. The Vincents, in addition to their direct interaction with the army, were assigned the tasks of air cover for air bases. The squadron headquarters also moved to Nausori, closer to the place of possible events.

On July 10, Flight Lieutenant MacGregor's crew took off in their K6912 "OT-A" to escort the American transport SS "Thomas Jefferson" en route to Suva with cargo. Shortly after departure, MacGregor discovered a Japanese submarine sailing on the surface in the waters of Suwa harbor. The crew immediately attacked the insolent samurai, who, in turn, went on an urgent dive. Mac Gregor managed to drop a 225 kg bomb that exploded in the immediate vicinity of a submerged submarine. When the water column lifted by the explosion fell, the New Zealanders noted with pleasure that the boat went under water in an upright position, and considered it at least heavily damaged. To help the crew of MacGregor, the Vincent was raised from the base, but he managed to make a cap analysis.

The re-established routine of patrol flights after these events ended on June 25th, when Lockheed "Hudson" serial number N22208 of the 4th Squadron SHCH2AP flew from Fiji to Tonga and disappeared without a trace during the flight. All available crews and ships were thrown in search of the crew and passengers, including General O. X. Mead, commander-in-chief of the combined forces of Fiji and the Kingdom of Tonga, but no trace of the aircraft was ever found. After the search was stopped, the crew and passengers of the ill-fated Hudson were officially declared missing. Around this time, the ongoing Japanese offensive in the South Pacific began to pose a direct threat to the Fiji Islands. Because of this, patrolling was carried out almost continuously. To reinforce the small Allied air group, Catalinas of the 11th Patrol Squadron of the US Navy were sent to the islands. The VF 11 base was deployed at Suveni Bay on the west coast of Viti Levu, between Nandi and Lautokaon. Combat clashes with the enemy no longer occurred, and the pilots were again overwhelmed by the usual monotonous reality of patrol flights. In August, the commander of the 5th squadron was again replaced. Taking office as Flight Lieutenant Ai. R. Salmond brought at least some novelty to the stupefyingly hopeless routine of the daily life of pilots. As the missions progressed, the squadron had more and more problems related to the wear and tear of aircraft and equipment and the lack of spare parts. On September 13th, the entire squadron was transferred to a new airbase in Luthala Bay (Lauthala Wow), which was geographically very convenient, but did not solve the problem of material support. The issue arose so acutely that "Singapore" K6917-"OT-S" had to be withdrawn from the squadron and ruthlessly dismantled for spare parts. Such emergency measures allowed the two remaining "Singapore" to continue sorties. On the last patrol on November 27, 1942, on K6918 "OT-D", as always, MacGregor flew out with his crew. At the same time, all the Vincents were assembled at Nausori, and the command of the 5th Squadron was taken over by Flight Lieutenant J.K.D. Mac Kenzie (O.K.V. Mas Kenzie). Apparently, the hysteria of the command did not pass. The crews of these five antediluvian aircraft, numbers N2307, N2338, N2348, N2355 and N2358, also had to fully experience all the delights of the lack of spare parts and equipment. It became simply dangerous to lift the Vincents into the air, and the squadron was able to complete only seven sorties during December. The rest of the time, the staff was busy with fruitless attempts to bring at least one aircraft into working condition. Logically speaking, such a completely incompetent formation was subject to immediate disbandment, which was done on January 22, 1943.

Meanwhile, the allies could not agree on the transfer of the Catalina flying boats to the Royal New Zealand Air Force under the Lend-Lease program, and set specific deadlines for the delivery of new equipment. While heated debates were going on at the highest level and organizational issues were being resolved, the air command in the Fiji Islands suddenly realized that they were left without aerial reconnaissance. Something urgently needed to be done, and frantic attempts to solve the problem on their own followed. To everyone's immense surprise, the last two "Singapore", left out of work since November last year, suddenly resumed flights. At the end of February 1943, these two aircraft formed a formation with the proud name "Singapore Flying Boat Air Group" as a palliative measure until the arrival of new technology. No one doubted that MacGregor would have to lead the new air armada, without which, it seems, not a single undertaking of the Royal New Zealand Air Force in the Fiji Islands could do. The patrol began almost immediately. From March 2 to April 16, 1943, the pilots managed to make twenty-two patrol flights, and during these six weeks there was not a single accident due to equipment failure. Meanwhile, the wear and tear of the material part and the resulting technical problems gradually made themselves felt again and again, and, in the end, flights on Singapores turned into something very similar to Russian roulette. Since all the efforts of the pilots and technical personnel to maintain their machines in combat readiness remained in vain, in the end, the "last of the Mohicans" of patrol aircraft in Fiji ceased to exist due to complete wear and tear. Now the pilots had absolutely nothing to do: the Japanese never landed on Fiji, there was nothing to fly on, and the Catalinas promised by the command were supposed to arrive no earlier than the end of May. Ironically, just a week after the last Singapores were scrapped, a ship left the metropolis fully loaded with spare parts for them.


  • Aircraft of the Second World War. Seaplanes 1939-1945 /Vladimir Kotelnikov./
  • English warplanes of World War II. / Ed. J. March./