A painting celebrating the enduring relationship between the Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force has been gifted by Air Vice-Marshal Smith RAF to Air Marshal Chipman, Chief of Air Force of the Royal Australian Air Force.
The painting by Australian artist Steven Heyen depicts a Spitfire Vc and Typhoon FGR4 flying together in the skies over The Northern Territory.
After gifting in return a book marking the 100th anniversary of the Royal Australian Air Force, Air Marshal Chipman addressed RAF personnel deployed on Exercise Pitch Black 22 at Royal Australian Air Force Darwin.
It's great to see the RAF down here, a phenomenal demonstration of air power. Pitch Black is all about building relationships and demonstrating interoperability, and the exercise has been a great success in this regard.
Air Marshal Chipman
Chief of Air Force of the Royal Australian Air Force
During World War Two Northern Australia came under air attack by Japanese Forces, the only sustained and intensive assault on Australian mainland territory in the history of the country. Three Spitfire squadrons were transferred from RAF Fighter Command, two Australian day fighter squadrons, 452 and 457 Squadrons, and one British (54(Fighter) Squadron).
Under 1 Fighter Wing Royal Australian Air Force commanded by Wing Commander Clive Caldwell DSO DFC and bar, the leading Australian air ace of the war, the small group of Australian and British pilots fought an ongoing battle against a formidable opponent. The performance of the Spitfire Vc (Tropical) meant Japanese bombers, which flew 10,000ft higher than was normal for German and Italian bombers, could be engaged. Lack of combat experience saw heavy losses in some engagements, and a shortage of spare parts impacted serviceability, but the squadrons accounted for more enemy aircraft than they lost.
The Spitfire shown, BS165, was the mount of Squadron Leader Eric M. Gibbs DFC, the Commanding Officer of 54 Squadron and in which he accounted for five enemy aircraft with one probable, and five damaged aircraft. The Typhoon portrayed signifies the deployment by 6 Squadron to Royal Australian Air Force Darwin for Exercise Pitch Black 22 and carries the name Sir Roderic.
Following the death of three sons in flying incidents, including in action, Lady MacRobert donated funds to purchase a Stirling bomber for the RAF, and subsequently four Hurricanes which were named after each of her deceased sons and herself.
At the Adelaide River War Cemetery some 116 kms south of Darwin lie 435 service personnel and 64 civilians who died in and near north Australia during World War II. These include 14 members of the Royal Air Force from 54, 548 and 549 Squadrons.
Personnel deployed on Exercise Pitch Black visited the cemetery to pay their respects.
The cemetery is very peaceful and immaculately tended to. It was a humbling experience as I’m sure the families of many who lie here would not have been able to travel such a long distance to visit the final resting places of their loved ones.
Wing Commander Eklund