WWII squadrons serve again as battle remembered

Commander Air Mobility Group Air Commodore Carl Newman salutes after laying a wreath during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea commemorative service at RAAF Base Richmond. Photo: Corporal David Said

WWII squadrons serve again as battle remembered

The commemoration of the Battle of the Bismarck Sea at RAAF Base Richmond on March 4 was significant as the Air Force squadrons that fought in the battle are in active service again after 76 years.

The World War II battle took place 78 years ago from March 2-4, 1943, and the Allies’ success was critical to liberating New Guinea.

Allied aircraft tracked and destroyed a Japanese naval convoy attempting to deliver troop reinforcements to the port of Lae.

RAAF Base Richmond was the founding base for the four RAAF squadrons that fought in the battle: Nos. 11, 22, 30, and 100 Squadrons.

Commanding Officer of No. 22 Squadron Wing Commander Shawn Bellas noted the significance of this year’s commemorative service.

“For the first time in 76 years, all four RAAF squadrons involved in the battle are in active service again following the recent re-establishment of No. 100 Squadron,” Wing Commander Bellas said.

“COVID-19 restrictions unfortunately prevented us from having representatives of all four squadrons at RAAF Base Richmond on March 4.

“The four squadrons serve in many different roles today, but their involvement with this battle shaped the present-day Air Force, and how we work with our Allied partners.”

Air Vice Marshal (retd) David Rogers addresses attendees at the Battle of the Bismarck Sea commemorative service held at RAAF Base Richmond. Photo: Corporal David Said

In recent years, unit associations for Nos. 22 and 30 Squadrons have returned to RAAF Base Richmond’s chapel on the anniversary of the battle and joined contemporary RAAF and United States Air Force personnel for a commemorative service.

Community engagement liaison officer for RAAF Base Richmond Wing Commander Michael Stuart-Watt said COVID-19 restrictions meant the service this year had to be held outdoors and was more modest than previous services.

“Although the New South Wales Government had eased restrictions, we were still limited in attendance for this event to 43 people,” Wing Commander Stuart-Watt said.

“This service typically involves veterans and relatives of those who served in New Guinea during the war, and eight decades later, the battle remains an important point in their lives.

“No. 22 Squadron is proud to have facilitated this year’s commemoration service, especially in the lead-up to our Air Force centenary on March 31.”

The Battle of the Bismarck Sea remains an important demonstration of air power cooperation.

Allied signal intelligence and reconnaissance aircraft were used to track the voyage of the Japanese troop convoy as it sailed through the Bismarck Sea. 

The Allied attack sunk all eight transport ships and four of the eight enemy destroyers.

Only 1200 Japanese troops made it ashore to New Guinea, ensuring the land campaign would remain in the Allies’ favour.

United States Air Force Commander 735 Air Mobility Squadron Detachment 1 Major Preston Webster recites the Prayer for the Fallen during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea commemorative service at RAAF Base Richmond. Photo: Corporal David Said

https://news.defence.gov.au/service/wwii-squadrons-serve-again-battle-remembered

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