The First Spitfire Defence over Darwin

When 15 Japanese ‘Kate’ bombers appeared with fighter escorts over Coomalie airfield, south of Darwin, at 1430 on the 2nd of March 1943, the attackers had the unexpected experience of encountering Mk Vc Spitfires of the RAAF’s No 1 Fighter Wing.

Spitfire Mk Vc at a Darwin airfield

The three squadrons of the Wing (Nos 54 (RAF), and Nos 452 and 457 RAAF) had arrived in Australia in August 1942 but without most of their aircraft. After training at Richmond, NSW, the units began transferring to the Darwin area throughout January 1943.

Darwin Airfields

In their first eight-minute clash, the Spitfires accounted for two Zeros and a bomber destroyed, and one bomber claimed as damaged, for no losses of their own. The Australian Prime Minister publicly broke the news of the Spitfires’ appearance in the South-West Pacific theatre two days later, but unfortunately he gave the Japanese losses as six aircraft downed –– thereby exaggerating the Wing’s initial impact in combat.

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