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R.A,A.F. Wing Takes Over A New Important Job
DROPPING SUPPLIES TO FORCES IN MALAYAN JUNGLE
by an AIR FORCE CORRESPONDENT This month marks the end of a phase of the R.A.A.F.'s part in the fighting in Malaya and the beginning of a new and responsible commit ment. A few days ago Austra lian Dakotas took over the major part of the supply dropping operations to military forces in the jun gle, relieving an R.A.F. squadron. The Australians have become a key unit in the anti-bandit operations. Early last year, 18 months after the state of emergency ,-,as declared in the Federated States, Australia offered the loan of aircraft and personnel for operations with the R.A.F. The R.A.A.F. formed No. 90 Composite Wing as its task force. No. 1 Lincoln Bomber Squadron was withdrawn from Amberley (82 wing) and No. 38 Dakota Transport Squadron was de lached from Richmond (86 Wing) to form the new Composite Wing. The Dakotas were the first to arrive in Malaya. Their ad vance party arrived on June 19, followed soon afterwards by the rest of the squadron, which be came fully operational on June 29. On July 16 the first R.A.A.F. Lincoln touched down on Singa pore Island for the bandit war, and 10 days later the squadron was operational. It made two air strikes that day. Role of the Lincolns in the air has been a very unreward ing one from the aircrews' point of view. Targets are jungle areas, in which military or police intelligence has located a bandit camp or a gang. The Lincolns go in and pattern-bomb the area, following up the strike with a low-level .machine-gun attack. The jungle is like the sea, however, and its 200ft. high trees simply absorb the bomb ing. RARELY is anything as spectacular as a bomb-burst seen; a harmless seeming puff of smoke above the treetops is all that usually marks the explosion. R.A.F. fighters and light and medium bombers join in this work, which has proved to be extremely effective Not many bandit dead result from the air strikes, but the attacks harry the gangs and often drive them into carefully prepared security force ambushes Captured bandits have testi fied to the dread with which the machine-gun attacks are regard ed. The bullets comb out the thick jungle undergrowth, and
even foxholes are little protec tion against their ricochetting flight among the rocks and trees. PROM July 26 to the end of last month No. 1 Squadron made 155 at tacks of this nature, 37 of them by night. The squadron dropped 1236 5001b. bombs, 3195 10001b. bombs, and used' nearly a quarter of a million rounds of ammunition in strafing attacks. A total of 1254 hours was flown. The squadron has sustained no casualties, but Flight Lieutenant K. I. Foster, of Queensland, gained a D.F.C. for action in ex tinguishing a hung-up flare which might well have cost an aircraft and crew. NO. 1' SQUADRON is undergoing big changes. A limit of six to nine months has been set as the tour of opera tional duty by its aircrews. The crews are now being replaced by fresh postings from Australia. Ground crews, too, are begin ning to look forward to getting home. The tour is 9 to 12 months duty and the first postings home are in progress. In common with the Dakotas, the Lincolns have had an amaz ingly high rate of serviceability, thanks to the keenness of their ground crews. For the Lincolns -four-engined and complex air craft-the figure has been an average of about 85 per cent. For the Dakotas it has been even higher, The Dakotas have been used to run the internal and external "airline" of the air forces in Malaya. Internal flights cover the whole of the federation while the external trips have taken aircraft as far afield as Hong Kong, Rangoon and Ceylon as a matter of course, with rather less frequent flights to Japan, Thailand, French Indo-China, In.. donesia and so forth. THE aircraft have car ried men and mater al for all the services and heavy equipment for Athe security forces. They have operated as flying ambulances, for men sick or wounded in the Federation and for the wounded of several na tions from the Korean war. These men have been airlifted
from base hospitals in Japan and Hong Kong and flown into Singapore to join up with the R.A.F. long-range flying am bulance service to the U.K. Turks, French, Dutch and Bel gians have been carried in addi tion to Commonwealth casual ties. rTE R.A.A. F. Dakotas have also had some experience of a job they will see much of in the months to come supply dropping. The Malayan jungle war de pends on air supply-area and ammunition, medicines and food, equipment and even daily news papers are dropped, day by day, to patrols deep in the jungle. Without aircraft to ferry the goods, the patrols would have to be much larger and move much more slowly, for they would have to carry all their requirements with them. In Malaya, too, there are many isolated police posts and similar garrisons which are kept going entirely by air-dropped supplies. A little of this work has been carried out by the R.A.A.F. al ready. Now the Dakotas are to shoulder the main burden for several months. They will operate from Kuala Lumpur airfield, in the Federa tion itself. Previously, they have been based at Changi airfield, on Singapore Island. EACH day the Dakotas will be loaded up with packs of supplies, "ordered" by radio the night before by the army and police patrols. They will then fly off, to find tennis court size clearings amid miles of featureless jungle. The last stages of their search will be aided by short-wave radio from the patrols, and by smoke signals, but the task is a navigator's nightmare for all that. Flying low over the tree tops, the transports will parachute their supply packs to the forces on the ground, braving bad wea ther and turbulence to keep the security forces mobile in their unceasing war on the bandits gangs. During their spell of communi cations work, the Dakota Squad ron has flown a total of 4000 hours, and for two consecutive months they broke the Far East Air Comman's squadron flying record-with 623 hours in Sep tember and 644 in October.
BOTH the R.A.A:.F squadrons are operat ing almost as independent units, for their personnel includes ground staff of a comprehensive selection of trades. They have their own technical and clerical staffs, motor trans port drivers, cooks, medical and chaplaincy services and so on. They are dependent upon the R.A.F. only for rations, accom modation and motor transport vehicles. First line servicing is carried out in the field. Major overhauls are carried out in Australia, and the Lin-. coins and Dakotas which fly home for this purpose are used to ferry replacement men and stores. ON the whole, the air men are happy and contented. They have two minor moans, which they recognise as an inevitable part of the war- firstly, the "no families" rule and secondly the scale of rations. Particularly meat. The "no families" rule has come to be accepted and much of the edge of its unpleasantness has been removed by the limita tion on overseas duty. The R.A.F. ration scale for meat remains a bugbear to the R.A.A.F., however, but is be ginning to be accepted with re signation. The R.A.A.F. ration at home is 16oz. of meat a day. In the R.A.F., the ration is only about one-third of this. Conse quently a fair amount of pay is spent on food. THE health and vigour of the contingent are at their peak. The sickness rate is almost zero and the sporting record is outstandingly good. Serious crime is completely ab sent and minor military "crimes' are few and far between. No. 90 Wing has been reduced in strengtha little by the detach ment of some of its Dakotas and personnel to augment thi R.A.A.F. Composite wing in Korea This took place in December. and January and has meant a little more work all round - work gladly accepted and efficiently performed. The war against the bandits in Malaya is being waged with in creasing success and military officials claim that the end is in sight, even though it may not come this year.