Tales of the Flying Tigers

Commonwealth Buffalo squadrons in Southeast Asia

When the war broke out, the British had four Buffalo squadrons at Singapore and in Northern Malaya. Another was stationed in Burma.

The pilots included only 15 who actually served in the Royal Air Force. The others were officers or (the majority) sergeant-pilots from Australia and New Zealand. Altogether, the Buffalo pilots numbered 118, of whom 28 were killed and another was captured--25 percent lost in less than two months. Several others were badly injured.

U.S. Army equivalent ranks: squadron leader = major, flight lieutenant = captain, flying officer = 1st Lt, pilot officer = 2nd Lt

RAAF 21 ("City of Melbourne") Squadron

The "City of Melbourne" squadron had 12 Buffaloes at Sungei Patani, Northern Malaya, on 8 Dec 1941. 8 destroyed on the ground that day, and the squadron withdrew to Butterworth. 2 more Buffs were shot down on 9 Dec in the first air-to-air combat for RAF fighters in the Pacific. The squadron was then withdrawn to Ipoh and merged with 453 Sq under S/L Harper (see below). Squadron embarked for Australia 27 Jan.

Sqn Ldr W F Allshorn RAAF
Flt Lt F H Williams RAAF
Flt Lt Max White RAAF (shot down 14 Dec; killed)
Flt Lt J R Kinninmont RAAF (crashed 15 Dec; claimed a scout and a Ki-43 19 Jan)
Flg Off G M Sheppard RAAF
Flg Off Bob Kirkman RAAF (claimed a Ki-51 19 Jan)
Flg Off C R McKenny RAAF (shot down 9 Dec; injured)
Flg Off H V Montefiore RAAF (shot down 9 Dec)
Flg Off D M Sproule RAAF
Flg Off J B Hooper RAAF (crashed 15 Dec)
Flg Off B Hood RAAF
Flg Off R H Wallace RAAF (crashed after midair collison 12 Jan; injured)
Sgt Henry Parsons RAAF (shot down 19 Jan; killed)
Sgt Norman Chapman RAAF (shot down 18 Jan; killed)
Sgt G Harrison RAAF (crashed after midair collison 12 Jan)

RAF 453 Squadron

18 Buffaloes and 1 Tiger Moth at Kallang, Singapore. 16 Buffs were sent north to Ipoh on 13 Dec, and the squadron earned the first solid air-to-air claim for a Buffalo that day, though the station commander and another pilot were killed when they crashed out of fuel. The newly appointed station commander, Wing Cdr L J Neale RAF, crashed 13 Dec and was injured. Got new a/c and withdrew to Kuala Lumpur, southern Malay, 19 Dec. First major air-to-air combat with the 64th Sentai on 22 Dec, 12 Buffs vs 18 Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusas. With 3 a/c remaining, withdrew to Singapore island and got more aircraft, with the merged 21/453 Sq having 16 Buffaloes on 25 Dec. The Japanese by this time were flying from British airfields in Northern Malaya. With 4 Buffs remaining on 24 Jan, this was the only Buffalo squadron still functioning at the end of that month. At least 7 Buffs were flown out to Dutch Indies first week of February, and another (evidently the last) on 11 Feb.

Sqn Ldr Harper W H Harper RAF
Flt Lt Tim Vigors RAF DFC (shot down 13 Dec; injured)
Flg Lt R D Vanderfield RAAF, flight leader (claimed 2 Ki-48s on 13 Dec; claimed a bomber 15 Jan; claimed a Ki-51 19 Jan)
Flt Lt B A Grace, RAAF flight leader
Flg Off F Leigh Bowes RAAF (claimed a bomber 15 Jan)
Plt Off G L Angus RAAF (crashed 13 Dec)
Plt Off D R L Brown RNZAF, on attachment from 243 Sq (crashed 13 Dec; killed)
Plt Off R W Drury RAAF (crashed 22 Dec; killed)
Plt Off T W Livesey RAAF (crashed 13 Dec; injured; crashed 22 Dec)
Sgt J Austrain KC
Sgt Harry Griffiths RAAF (crashed on patrol 3 Jan; injured)
Sgt M N Read RAAF (claimed a Ki-51 on 13 Dec; shot down 22 Dec; killed)
Sgt S G Scrimgeour RAAF (shot down 22 Dec)
Sgt V A Collyer RAAF (claimed a Ki-51 on 13 Dec)
Sgt W R Halliday RAAF
Sgt A W B Clare RAAF (claimed a Ki-43 17 Jan)
Sgt Keith Gorringe RAAF (claimed a Ki-51 19 Jan; crashed 29 Jan)
Sgt R R Oelrich RAAF (shot down 13 Dec; killed)
Sgt E A Peterson RAAF (shot down 22 Dec; killed)
Sgt G R Board RAAF (crashed 18 Dec; shot down 22 Dec)
Sgt J Summerton RAAF
Sgt K R Leys RAAF (shot down 21 Dec)
Sgt M B O'Mara RAAF
Sgt Geoff Seagoe RAAF (shot down 1 Feb)

Flying Tigers
revised and updated

RAF 243 Squadron

15 Buffaloes at Kallang, Singapore; 2 at Kota Bharu, Northern Malaya. On 12 Dec, 4 Buffs were flown up to Ipoh and attached to 21 Sq. On 25 Dec the squadron had 15 Buffs on strength. After a long convoy escort flight over water on 2 Jan, Sgt Weber wrote in his diary: "My word, when one is so far away from land it is gratifying to recall the reliability record of the Buff's engine." The squadron lost 7 Buffs to accidents in the first week of January. Only 2 Buffs remaining on 23 Jan. Squadron disbanded 27 Jan, with planes and pilots going to 453 Sq.

Sqn Ldr Frank Howell RAF, DFC (claimed a Ki-27 16 Jan)
Flt Lt Mowbray Garden RAF (claimed a Ki-43 13 Jan; shared a Zero 16 Jan)
Flt Lt Ron Bows RAF, flight leader
Flg Off M H Holder RAF
Plt Off E A Pevreal RAAF
Plt Off Gordon Bonham RNZAF (crashed on patrol 2 Jan; wounded 18 Jan)
Plt Off T B Marra RNZAF (claimed a Ki-27 16 Jan)
Plt Off J M Cranstone RNZAF
Plt Off R S Shield RNZAF (killed in takeoff collision 5 Jan)
Sgt Rex Weber RNZAF (shared a Zero 16 Jan; crashed 4 Feb from battle damage)
Sgt Bert Wipiti RNZAF (shared claim on a Ki-46 10 Jan; claimed a Ki-43 21 Jan; claimed a bomber 22 Jan)
Sgt Max Greenslade RNZAF (shot down 23 Jan)
Sgt Charlie Kronk RNZAF (shared claim on a Ki-46 10 Jan; claimed a Ki-48 20 Jan; crashed 1 Feb after damage by a Hurricane)
Sgt Reg Newman RNZAF (shot down 12 Jan; killed)
Sgt Russell Reynolds RNZAF (shot down 13 Jan)
Sgt C F Powell RAAF (crashed on patrol 2 Jan; injured)
Sgt Geoffry Fisken RNZAF (claimed a Ki-27 Nate, two G3M Nells, and three Zeros, Jan-Feb; leading Commonwealth fighter pilot against the Japanese)
Sgt Vic Arthur RNZAF (shot down 22 Jan; killed)
Sgt Noel Rankin RNZAF (shot down 12 Jan; killed)
Sgt P L Elliott RNZAF (killed in landing collision 5 Jan)
Sgt John Oliver RNZAF (missing in action 15 Jan)
Sgt Ginger Baldwin RAF (shot down 22 Jan; killed)

RAF 488 Squadron

17 Buffaloes at Kallang, Singapore; 16 remaining on 25 Dec. This was the least-trained Buffalo squadron. The diarist wrote on 4 Jan: "The Squadron, thought not fully operational, has reached a high standard.... 90% of the pilots are quite at home in Buffaloes as far as throwing the machines around is concerned, but have had very little altitude flying [because] the Buffalo engine will not stand up to full-throttle climbs. We have had cases of engine loss of power through drop of oil pressure and excess oil temperature. The maximum height that can be reached is 25,000 feet." The squadron's first combat was on 12 Jan, with two Buffs lost and five damaged with no claims by the Kiwis. With only 2 Buffs remaining on 23 Jan, it handed them over to 243 Sq and was requipped with Hurricanes, and MacKenzie replaced Clouston as sqn ldr.

Sqn Ldr Wilf Clouston RAF, DFC
Flt Lt (later sqn ldr) J N MacKenzie RAF, DFC
Flt Lt J R Hutcheson RNZAF (shot down 13 Jan; shot down 17 Jan)
Plt Off Frank Oakden RNZAF (shot down 13 Jan)
Plt Off P D Gifford RNZAF
Plt Off J C Godstiff RNZAF (crashed 4 Jan; injured)
Plt Off Keith McAneny RNZAF (crashed 12 Jan; shot down 19 Jan; killed)
Plt Off H S Petit RNZAF
Plt Off G P White RNZAF
Plt Off Greville Hesketh RNZAF (shot down 15 Jan; killed)
Plt Off Bill Greenhalgh RNZAF
Plt Off Noel Sharp RNZAF (claimed a Ki-43 13 Jan; claimed a Zero 17 Jan; crashed 17 Jan)
Plt Off Frank Johnstone RNZAF (crashed 17 Jan)
Plt Off Ernie Cox RNZAF (shot down 17 Jan; killed)
Plt Off L R Farr RNZAF
Sgt W J N MacIntosh RNZAF
Sgt Ed Kuhn RNZAF (crashed 13 Jan; claimed a Ki-27 15 Jan)
Sgt Terry Honan RNZAF (shot down 12 Jan; injured)
Sgt Bob MacMillan RNZAF (shot down 12 Jan)
Sgt W R De Maus RNZAF
Sgt H J Meharry RNZAF
Sgt Don Clow RNZAF (crashed out of fuel 13 Jan)
Sgt Vic Meaclem RNZAF (crashed 12 Jan)
Sgt P E E Killick RNZAF (claimed a Zero 17 Jan)
Sgt J Burton RNZAF
Sgt C D Charters RNZAF (shot down 19 Jan; captured)
Sgt Alex Craig RNZAF (crashed 18 Dec; killed)

RAF 67 Squadron

16 Buffaloes at Mingaladon, Burma, with occasional dispersals to advanced fields at Moulmein and along the Tenasserim peninsula. First actions were strafing across the border in Malaya; heavily engaged defending Rangoon from Japanese bombers on 23 and 25 Dec, and again on 24 Jan. Withdrawn to Magwe on xx Feb and with 4 remaining aircraft to India on 10 Mar.

Sqn Ldr R A Milward RAF, DFC (wounded by shrapnel 23 Dec)
Flt Lt Jack Brandt RAF (took command 15 Jan)
Flt Lt Colin Pinckney RAF (claimed a bomber on the ground 13 Jan; shot down 23 Jan; killed)
Flg Off P M Bingham-Wallis RAF
Flg Off J S Wigglesworth RAF (crashed 29 Jan; killed)
Flg Off John Lambert RAF (claimed a Ki-21 23 Dec; shot down 25 Dec; killed)
Plt Off G S Sharp RNZAF
Plt Off H Christensen RNZAF
Plt Off C McG Simpson RNZAF
Plt Off Paul Brewer RNZAF (shot down 20 Jan; killed)
Plt Off A A Cooper RNZAF
Plt Off P Parsonson RNZAF
Sgt Vic Bargh RNZAF (claimed a Ki-21 23 Dec)
Sgt John Macpherson RNZAF (shot down 25 Dec; killed)
Sgt E E Pedersen RNZAF
Sgt Ken Rutherford RNZAF
Sgt E L Sadler RNZAF
Sgt Gordon Williams RNZAF
Sgt G Norton RAAF
Sgt E H Beable RNZAF
Sgt W J Christiansen RNZAF
Sgt P T Cutfield RNZAF
Sgt John Finn RNZAF (shot down 20 Jan; killed)
Sgt Ted Hewitt RNZAF (shot down 25 Dec; killed)
Sgt Ron McNabb RNZAF (shot down 25 Dec; killed)

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