NZ pilots scramble for take off, Singapore

Pilots of No. 488 (NZ) Squadron scramble to their Brewster Buffalo fighter planes at Kallang airfield in Singapore, circa 1941.

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David Mccall

Posted: 30 Jan 2014

From Wikipedia:

488 (NZ) Squadron was formed on 1 September 1941 at Rongotai, New Zealand under squadron leader W.G.(Wilf) Clouston, a veteran of the Battle of France and Battle of Britain with 9 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.
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. 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.
The squadron received 9 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 squadrons 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.