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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]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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