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  #1  
Old 09-06-13, 07:35
Danielle Burns Danielle Burns is offline
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Default Catalina Flying Boats - Pacific 1945

I've been researching my father in law's John (Jack) Burns service history with RAAF 47 OBU & 84 OBU. His records are filled with codes and he never stayed on one base for very long but on a recent visit to the AWM in Canberra discovered that may be because he followed these aircraft as maintenance crew in PNG, Singapore and Borneo during August - October 1945.

Just hoping to gather as much information as I can to document this for the family history and I've noticed that your blog sometimes refers these units as well as the Catalina aircraft.

I would appreciate any photos, links or information your members (ie Mike Cecil of Washington?) may be able to provide.

Thanks!
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  #2  
Old 09-06-13, 08:06
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Keith Webb Keith Webb is offline
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Default RAAF Aircrew

Hi Danielle

I've spent the past 10 years interviewing RAAF aircrew from WW2 and may be able to help.

Send me a PM
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  #3  
Old 09-06-13, 21:56
Mike Cecil Mike Cecil is offline
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Hi Danielle,

Keith is a mine of RAAF info, so the best person to make contact with regarding your project if you have not already done so. I assume you have looked up the Unit histories in the RAAF's concise history series? From what you have said, he was possibly one of those that was re-assigned to 84 OBU on Morotai Island from 47 OBU on the disbandment of the latter unit on Labuan Island in Nov 1945. Neither of these Base Units appear to have been specifically assigned to look after PBY5A Catalinas.

You refer to 'codes' in his service history, I assume you mean the usual abbreviations that such files are always full of. If you can provide me with his service number, I'd be able to look up his service dossier and possibly assist you with the meanings. Contact me either via a PM or this thread if you'd like some assistance.

Mike C
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Old 10-06-13, 12:09
Lang Lang is offline
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Danielle,

As Mike says the "codes" are more than likely to be abbreviations. All airfields had abreviation "codes" similar to today when you book a ticket to any destination in the world.

As well as that, the military is full of official and unofficial "codes" for anything from butter to battleships and, if you let us know of some which are stumping you, the ex-service members and non-serving enthusiasts will probably crack those codes for you.

Lang
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  #5  
Old 25-06-13, 07:58
motto motto is offline
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Default Flying boats / amphibians. Two different critters.

Unless I'm mistaken, most if not all PBYs operated by the RAAF were of the flying boat variety and had no landing gear.
This meant that they didn't operate from airfields as such but seaplane bases and sheltered waterways.

David
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  #6  
Old 25-06-13, 09:07
Mike Cecil Mike Cecil is offline
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Hi Dave,

According to Stewart Wilson's 'Catalina, Neptune and Orion in Aust Service', only 29 of the 168 PBY (and Canadian built PB2Bs) delivered to the RAAF were converted from amphibians to flying boats by removal of the undercarriage, etc, and that program not commencing until 1944. The conversion took about 1500 man hours to complete. Once converted, they were re-designated PBY-5A(M).

Mike C
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Old 25-06-13, 10:57
motto motto is offline
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Thanks for that Mike, I thought you or Keith would have the information at your finger tips. I was basing my impressions/understanding on conversations with a long time friend who had done a tour of duty with No 11 Squadron as flight engineer.

Although not clarified by direct questioning (he died some years ago) he never mentioned anything but flying boats and the bases they operated from such as Rathmines and Lake Boga. I seem to recall they operated out of Townsville, Darwin and Port Moresby but don't know which were bases or through ports.

What doesn't fit is that Lindsay's service with the Cats must have been before any of the conversions were carried out for he went on to do a tour of duty with No 24 Squadron on Liberators mostly operating out of Fenton.

I'm certain his time with No 11 Squadron predated that with No 24 because he had moved on when his old crew were involved in the loss of a Cat trying to deliver a part to a ship broken down in the Coral Sea. They crashed on take off and all got out except the skipper who was killed. His name was Coventry.

Are you sure Mike that the conversions were not carried out to make those aircraft conform with the rest of the fleet?
Cheers

Dave
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  #8  
Old 25-06-13, 18:52
Mike Cecil Mike Cecil is offline
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Can't verify what Stewart wrote, but I've always found him and his publications pretty reliable. There is no mention of the Cat fleet as a whole being 'water-bound' - only the conversion of a small number of the later production PBY5A to that configuration.

I have a copy of a couple of images taken in 1944/1945 of RAAF Cats. The first is blazing away (so possibly A24-91, lost June 1945 on Moratai), and another being refueled from a Bowser. Both are on tarmac/Marsden Mat runways and on 'conventional' fold-up undercarriage (not beaching wheels).

Maybe Keith has some more precise info?

Mike C
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  #9  
Old 25-06-13, 23:49
Richard Coutts-Smith Richard Coutts-Smith is offline
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It's been a while since I read Cats at War (Coral Gaunt & Robert Cleworth), but from memory the flying boats were here first, amd converted to amphibians.
Will have look into this further when I am not running late for work...
Rich.
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  #10  
Old 26-06-13, 00:52
motto motto is offline
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This has got me intrigued now and I would quite like to know the PBY models the RAAF operated.

At this point in time I suspect that the preponderance of aircraft would have been the PBY-5. I remember Lindsay's preference for the flying boat over the amphibian due to the large loss of interior space taken up by the wheel wells.

Logically, there must also have been a performance penalty in regards to reduced payload and perhaps range. As the aircraft were commonly used for long range missions this would have been a decisive factor and may explain the conversion of PBY-5A to PBY-5A(M) by way of landing gear removal. Production of the PBY-5 ceased in 1943 and the RAAF had to take 5A (amphibians) which didn't suit their purpose.

That's the way I think it was and I will try to find out for sure but the inter web doesn't have all the answers. I was recently introduced to a fellow from Violet Town who was a member of No 11 Squadron. I'll be interested to put the question to him. Or, maybe Keith can clear the matter up.

Dave
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  #11  
Old 26-06-13, 02:02
Mike Cecil Mike Cecil is offline
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Wilson lists RAAF acquisitions as:
PBY4: 2 (acquired 1942)
PBY5: 64 (mainly delivered 1941-1943)
PBY5A: 46 (mainly delivered 1944-45)
PB2B-1: 7 (acquired 1944-45)
PB2B-2: 47 (acquired 1944-45)

With 29 of the 46 PBY5A's converted to PBY5A(M) flying boats.

Mike C
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  #12  
Old 26-06-13, 03:09
Col Tigwell Col Tigwell is offline
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Weight was the main factor, I believe the program reduced the weight by some 1500Lbs. which gives nearly 2 hrs endurance.

After the war however the last to go to disposal was the amphibs.

Regards

Col
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  #13  
Old 26-06-13, 03:34
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Keith Webb Keith Webb is offline
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Default Catalinas

Quote:
Originally Posted by Col Tigwell View Post
Weight was the main factor, I believe the program reduced the weight by some 1500Lbs. which gives nearly 2 hrs endurance.

After the war however the last to go to disposal was the amphibs.

Regards

Col
That makes a lot of sense Col. I would have chimed in earlier here but have had hardly any Catalina veterans to interview...
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  #14  
Old 26-06-13, 04:35
motto motto is offline
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Default Ah, so ! It all fits.

Thanks again fellows, you cracked it Mike, it all makes sense now. All that I postulated in my #10 post has been shown to be correct. As was my opening statement.

With the PBY-4 & -5 and the PB2B-1 & -2 being flying boats and 29 of the 46 PBY-5A being converted to -5a(M) only 17 of the 166 Catalina's operated by the RAAF were amphibians.

A little more to the story in memory of Lindsay McDonald F/E RAAF No11 Squadron.

One night whilst on patrol north of New Guinea they spotted a Japanese cargo carrying submarine which managed to submerge before they could turn around and attack. As they were still outward bound they made an estimate of where the sub may be on their return trip.
On the way home all keyed up and ready to go they saw the wake of a vessel on the moonlit sea and immediately lined up for a bombing run. It wasn't until they were committed to the attack that they realised what they were bearing down on was not a submarine but a Jap destroyer. As Lindsay said, "they were very good, you stayed away from them".
As luck would have it the lookout on their side hadn't seen the Black Cat in the down moon darkness and as they went over the skipper jettisoned all four depth charges and set about putting as much distance between themselves and the ship as rapidly as they could.
Lindsay saw the whole thing from one of the blister/waist gun positions and remembered vividly seeing the propellors on the destroyer flashing in the moonlight as the stern of the vessel was lifted out of the water by the detonations.
They didn't go back to have a look and all they ever knew was that an oil slick was seen in the area the following day.

David
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Last edited by motto; 26-06-13 at 15:56.
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