North Western Australia


 

 

6 February 1943 

 54 Squadron RAF,  Bathurst Island

 

54 Squadron flew its first patrol of the Darwin area on 5 February, and although uneventful, the day would end on a tragic note. Upon landing Sgt Cooper and Sgt Peter McCarthy collided. Cooper was unhurt but McCarthy received serious injuries and died on route to hospital. Peter Frederick McCarthy, from Gravesend, Kent, was 20 years old. It was the squadron's first casualty since arriving in Australia, after claiming over 100 aircraft destroyed in England.

At 12:05 the following day, F/L Foster, F/Sgt Mahoney, P/O Farries and Sgt Monger were scrambled to intercept an incoming 'plot'. However Monger and Farries returned ten minutes later (possibly with mechanical problems), leaving Foster (White 1) and Mahoney (white 2) to complete the sortie. The 'plot' was Lt Kurasuki Setaguti and Lt Fumio Morio, in a Mitsubishi Ki-46 "Dinah" of 70 Independent Chutai. Flying from Timor, it was the unit's first reconnaissance flight of Darwin.

The two Spitfires headed to the North West, climbing. Foster's radio was unserviceable but he could still hear communications from ground control. He was instructed to patrol over Bathurst Island at 25,000 ft. Told that the bandit was now at 8,000 ft, the Spitfires descended through a thin layer of cloud to 12.000 ft. After being vectored North of their position, the Dinah was observed flying towards them, before beginning to climb in a North Westerly direction.

Foster began closing on the "greyish blue" aircraft on its rear quarter. When at a range of 300 yards, slightly below and astern, he open fired with two short bursts, sighting hits on the port engine. Now down to 200 yards his second burst hit both engines and the fuselage. He had closed to 100 yards before firing another two bursts. This time flames began to lick from the port engine, which then spread quickly to the rest of the aircraft. The Dinah then dived and spiralled out of control, hitting the sea 70 miles North West of Bathurst Island. The crash was seen by both Foster and Mahoney and at no time did the two come under return fire.

Fosters claim was the first Spitfire victory in the Pacific but it was a bitter sweet return to the squadron's base at Darwin. While the squadron celebrated its first Australian victory, it had to deal simultaneously with the grief of Peter McCarthy's funeral.

 

Combat  Claims

F/LT R.W Foster

1 Ki-46 Destroyed

BS181

ORB

 

Other Known Participants

  F/Sgt Mahoney

 

RAAF Losses

  Nil

 

Japanese Forces

 1 Ki-46 "Dinah"                  70th Independant Chutai

 

 

Bob Foster stands beside "Yvonne", the MkV Spifire in which he shot down a Dinah on February 6th 1943. The aircraft was the usual mount of then Flying Officer, John Lenegan.