240 Curtin to Bruce

Cablegram 102 CANBERRA, 9 July 1943

IMMEDIATE SECRET

Australian Air Staff have raised question of supply and replenishment of Spitfire aircraft for squadrons operating in Darwin and New Guinea.

2. As you know wastage replacement at the rate of fifteen aircraft per month, plus spare engines and maintenance spares in those proportions, have been made available to maintain the three squadrons allotted to us.

3. The Spitfire squadrons have been located in the Darwin area since January 1943, and up to the end of April incurred very small losses and received few opportunities for combat. In the New Guinea sector operations were more extensive and, at the request of the Commander, Allied Air Forces, an additional Spitfire squadron was raised from accumulated wastage reserves, and was despatched to New Guinea. This action was concurred in by the Air Ministry.

4. The current situation relating to Spitfire aircraft is as follows-

(1) Receipts- (a) Received into depots in Australia 178 (b) Shipments now offloading 24

Total 202

(2) Disposal- (a) In squadrons and O.T.U. 80 (b) En route to squadrons 13 (c) Under erection 8 (d) Under repair 18 (e) Offloading 24

Sub-Total 143

(f) Lost by enemy action 35 (g) Lost by accident 24

Total 202

5. Aircraft required to meet establishments are- (a) Four squadrons at 24 per squadron 96 (b) Operational training unit 14 (c) Workshop and transit reserves 70

Total 180

6. We now have 143 aircraft against a requirement of 180. Wastage during May, June and the first week of July has been heavy, and in excess of the is aircraft per month supplied by the Air Ministry.

7. Whilst the Air Staff consider that the wastage provision of 15 aircraft per month for 3 squadrons is reasonable they point out that the fourth squadron is now in the field, and under existing conditions, it is desirable that this unit should be maintained at full strength. Fortunately, that unit's loss to date has been very small.

8. In view of this and in order to guard against the possibility of high wastage such as has occurred recently, they recommend that the wastage allowance during the next three months be increased to 25 aircraft per month, plus spares and spare engines in that ratio. Provision of the additional 30 aircraft sought will enable us to maintain the fourth Spitfire squadron in New Guinea which was formed at request of Commander, Allied Air Forces, South-West Pacific Area.

9. As United Kingdom have regularly supplied wastage of 15 aircraft monthly for the three squadrons, in accordance with their undertaking, and as formation of fourth squadron was arranged through service channels and not on Governmental level, I am reluctant to make an official request to United Kingdom Government for additional 30 Spitfires. Would prefer that you ascertain informally their reactions and, in the light of this, decide whether you should make request on behalf of Government.

Glad to have advice of action taken. I have repeated this cablegram to Dr. Evatt, Washington [1], and have asked him to send direct to you any observations in light of his talks in London.

CURTIN

1 As no. L68.

[FA:A3196, 1943, 0.18699-700, 0.18729-30]