A Darwin Spitfire Defence Fail

The No 1 Fighter Wing Spitfires that defended Darwin comprised RAAF Squadrons 452 and 457 as well as British RAF Squadron 54. The Wing had their first engagement on the 2nd of March of 1943 however April was a quiet month. The enemy did not send one raider against them during that month, whereas in March there had been two heavy raids, one of them by 44 aircraft which were intercepted by Spitfire pilots who destroyed seven, but not before the enemy had done considerable damage to fuel storage tanks .

When Japanese aircraft appeared in strength at 1015 on the 2nd May 1943 to raid the RAAF airfield and floating dock at Darwin, the defence mounted by the Spitfires of No 1 Fighter Wing resulted in a fiasco.

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Japanese Raid on Darwin on the 2nd May 1943

The Wing claimed one of the enemy’s 21 ‘Betty’ bombers probably destroyed, along with nine of the 20 escorting fighters, and another seven fighters damaged.   In reality, it subsequently transpired that the Japanese suffered six aircraft destroyed.   This tally came, however, at the cost of 12 Spitfires destroyed and two damaged –– out of 49 engaged –– and the loss of two pilots.  

Only five Spitfires had been downed by enemy action, the other nine having been lost through engine failure or shortage of fuel, due largely to the inexperience of many pilots. The Wing lived with the embarrassment of this action for a considerable period.

This Plaque was dedicated on 1 April 2000 at a ceremony held at the Australian War Memorial. Note that the dedication ceremony for this plaque was rescheduled, and as such differs from the date as inscribed on the plaque.

Link to History Below:-

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