Guns of Muschu
 
 
 
Flying the Bristol Beaufort
 
Major Ronald Smith (Australian Army Aviation Corps ret) began his long flying career in 1943 as an Australian Air Force pilot. In operations in New Guinea he tallied over 700 hours on Beauforts and more than 500 hours on Beaufighters. The narrative in Chapter One of "The Guns of Muschu" is based on his experience.
 

Interview conducted in September 2005.

 
Author: The Beaufort seems to be one of those aircraft that's never received much credit for the role it played in the Pacific during WW2?
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R.F.S: Yes, it's tended to be overlooked in favor of other types such as the Spitfire or Hurricane. They of course didn't play much of a role in the Pacific. American aircraft like the Hellcat, Corsair and P38 Lightning grabbed a lot of attention. The Beaufort though, was an important aircraft - Australia manufactured over 700 during the war and I think we also got about another 100 from the British. So we used about 800 in the war - most of them in New Guinea.
 
Author: I didn't realise until I researched "The Guns of Muschu" just how active the RAAF was in supporting the Australian Army during the New Guinea campaign - most of it with Beauforts. The AWM archives and on line war diaries are filled with reports of their missions. It looks like they were flying just about every day?
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RFS: If the weather and serviceability allowed we flew sorties against the Japanese. Most of these were bombing missions against targets around Wewak or in the Torecelli Mountains where our troops were engaging the Japs. We also flew a lot of reconnaissance sorties along the coast.
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Author: Where were you based?
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RFS: My squadron - number 7 - was based at Tadji, about 100miles up the coast from Wewak. We mainly flew support missions into the Torecellis, although we also occassionaly hit targets in and around Wewak.
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Author: You've flown a lot of aircraft in your time, both in the RAAF and the Army. Exactly how many types have you flown?
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RFS: I've flown plenty - some of which I wasn't supposed to fly, but I guess you can start with the ones I was rated on first. I'll try and put them in order, starting about 1943. Tiger Moth - that was the RAAF's basic trainer, Airspeed Oxford - that was used as an introduction to twin engined aircraft . Then I converted to Beaufighters first and spent six months flying operations in New Guinea. I was sent back to Australia for medical reasons in late 43 - I caught malaria - then after recovering went back to New Guinea. I was supposed to be posted back to a Beaufighter squadron but somehow wound up at Tadji posted to 7 squadron on Beauforts.

I've also been rated on the C-47 Dakota and the B-24 Liberator, although I never flew operations on these. After the war I owned a Puss Moth. Later on I was rated on army aircraft as you know, including the Cessna 180 and Pilatus Porter. I've also had a go with a few mates who were instructors on helicopters - the Bell Sioux G2 and G3. Had a couple of drives of the Huey, Kiowa and the Hughes OH-6. I've flown most of the Cessna range at some time or other, including their twins. Lot of other types that escape me.

In the sixties and seventies as operations officer for 1 Army Aviation Regiment, I managed to get my hands on many types as we evaluated them for the army. We had some odd aircraft pass through the regiment during those years, like the Helio-Courier, Mooney MU2, DeHavilland Otter and Beaver. Most of these were put forward as contenders and we flew them for an hour or so, just to be polite to the manufacturer, but it was always interesting to make comparisons.

Oh of course there was always Charlie (M) He had a collection of aircraft including his own Bird Dog. So I got time on these as well, just so I could put them in my log book.

I also still had plenty of mates in the RAAF who'd whistle me up for a circuit or two, so I got to drive most of the aircraft in the military inventory - except the single seat fighters of course. But I was working on that.

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Author: So your introduction to combat flying in New Guinea was in Beaufighters not Beauforts?
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RFS: Yes. We flew sorties against shipping and land targets.
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Author: What was the Beaufighter like to fly?
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RFS: A bit of a handfull after the Oxford. But once you got used to it, it was a great aircraft. It had it's vices but it had plenty of power and you could throw it around the sky like a fighter.
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Author: The Japanese nicknamed it "Whispering Death"?
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RFS: I often wondered about that. Personally I think the name was cooked up by some of the public relations types types back in Australia as a propaganda thing. But it did have sleeve valve engines that made it relatively quiet - specially when it was approaching. So I guess the name suited it, although I never heard it used except in newsreels and newpapers.
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Author: It packed quite a punch?
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RFS: Oh yes. Four 20 mm cannon in the nose and six .303 machine guns in the wings. And we could carry rockets and bombs. We used to litteraly blow the shit out of Japanese ships on the first pass. Six aircraft coming in at wave top height in a long vic formation and opening up together tended to put them right off their stroke. I've seen Jap ships torn to pieces in a few minutes
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Author: After the Beaufighter the Beaufort must've seemed very different?
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Specifications

 

Type: Four seat medium bomber (originally designed as a torpedo bomber)
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Dimensions:
  • Wing span: 57 ft. 10 in. (17.63m)
  • Length: 44 ft. 2 in. (13.46m)
  • Height: 14 ft. 3 in. (4.34m)
Weights:
  • Empty: 13,107 lbs. (5945 kg)
  • Max. Take-Off: 21,230 lbs. (9629 kg)
Performance:
  • Maximum speed 270 mph
  • Cruise 180 mph
  • Ceiling 18,000ft
  • Range with 1500lb bombs 1200 miles.
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Armament varied according to squadrons but generally consisted of combinations of the following. Two wing mounted .50 calibre and two dorsal turret .30 calibre Browning machine guns, two Vickers .303 machine guns mounted on gimbals in the nose and two gimbal-mounted .303 Vickers side guns.
 
 
 
 
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