Home' Air Force News : March 31st 2011 Contents 5
Sir Richard Kingsland's feats
in Catalinas and Sunderlands
repeatedly cheated death
YOUNG Air Force personnel look-
ing for a genuine hero and example
need look no further than Sir Rich-
He was one of relatively few
RAAF pilots in WWII who flew
both in the English and Pacific
theatres, in slow and vulnerable
Sunderland and Catalina flying
boats, yet he achieved extraordinary
things, even in the face of certain
Once, after a long patrol over
the Bay of Biscay in a 10SQN
Sunderland, he decided to bomb
the German-held port of Brest in
France. After emerging from the
clouds on his bombing approach he
was met by three Me-110 fighters.
By diving to the water's edge and
with spirited defence by his gunners
he made it back to safety.
Yet when he left school and was
looking for work in 1934, flying
was the last thing on his mind.
He applied for many jobs,
including for the RAAF.
"I was surprised when I was
accepted," Sir Richard said.
At Point Cook he had to over-
come a lot of adversity. He almost
failed to fly solo, which would have
ended his career. Later, he almost
crashed during an airshow. Yet he
prevailed and went on to command
11SQN and to become the youngest
GPCAPT in the RAAF at the age
of just 27.
During the war, his exploits
rivalled those of a hero in the
But it was almost by accident
that he began flying against the
Germans in Europe.
In June 1939, he was sent to join
10SQN to bring the RAAF's new
Sunderlands back to Australia. War
broke out and the squadron joined
Coastal Command in the fight
against the submarine threat.
"One evening, I hit an island off
Scotland while landing because of
errors on the ground in setting up
the landing path [on the water], and
the aircraft sank," Sir Richard said.
His most dramatic flight, for
which he was awarded the DFC,
occurred in 1940 when he took
two high-ranking British VIPs to
Their mission was to try to
encourage the French to fight on
after the German invasion. They
were too late and the Vichy French
tried to arrest them and the then
FLTLT Kingsland who went ashore
to warn them. He shot his way out
of the town with his service revolv-
er and, after taxying the Sunderland
though a maze of boats in a narrow
river with armed gendarmes in hot
pursuit, he escaped and brought the
two VIPs home.
In mid-1941, he was posted to
Port Moresby as the CO of 11SQN,
which flew the Catalina.
Before doing so, he ferried one
from the US and almost ran out
of fuel en route to Hawaii after he
encountered strong headwinds.
After the Japanese entered
the war, the squadron combined
reconnaissance mission with
the far more dangerous work of
mining and bombing as well as
evacuating as many Europeans
living in New Guinea and other
islands as they could; often with
the Japanese only a short distance
The Catalinas normally bombed
at a height of 6000 feet but once he
dive-bombed a wharf in the port of
"I was fed up with being a sit-
ting duck," he said.
Other postings followed and
he was destined to go far after the
war ended. However, in 1947 he
resigned, leaving in 1948.
That same wartime courage
and determination now paid off in
peace-time as he began an equally
meteoric rise within the ranks of the
Australian Public Service.
He retired in 1981 as Secretary
of the then Department of
Repatriation and Veterans' Affairs.
In the process, he was knighted in
September 1978 and later was made
an Officer of the Order of Australia.
CO 11SQN WGCDR Phillip
Champion recently paid tribute to
"Sir Richard Kingsland led
10SQN as an aircraft captain and
11SQN as an aircraft captain and
CO in desperate times," he said.
"Both 10 and 11SQNs carry
forward the enviable reputations
forged by our predecessors. I
believe it is vitally important that
all squadron members have an
understanding of where we have
"When you look at what was
achieved by both 10 and 11SQNs
during their wartime service, it
serves as an inspiration for the new
generation of squadron members to
put service before self and to suc-
ceed through adversity."
SIR Richard Kingsland's Catalina
exploits are featured prominently
on the walls of a place which holds
special meaning to 11SQN's main-
The Catalina Room at the
11SQN complex at RAAF Base
Edinburgh is an area where tech-
nical personnel can make use of
the facilities available, to improve
their technical mastery on
AP-3Cs, while also seeing the his-
tory and traditions of 11SQN and
its aircraft; seeing the similarity of
squadron roles from its inception
to our current role and drawing
on those past experiences.
Being separated from the noise
of the hangar, it is used by mem-
bers for study and includes many
training aids, including airframe,
engine and avionics text books
and Orion digests. There is also
a variety of training aids located
within it for new members into
the squadron, or members just
wishing to refresh their knowl-
edge, to gather a hands-on, visual
understanding of the maintenance
The Catalina Room also con-
tains a large amount of histori-
cal reference material, including
information about each type of
aircraft flown by 11SQN. Pride
of place goes to the framed pho-
tographs and stories of the 'Black
Cats', the squadron's Catalinas,
as well as its operators such as Sir
This display enables all mem-
bers of the squadron to see where
its origins and past exploits and
achievements have helped mould
Air Force's current traditions, val-
ues and ethos.
AC Ben Hopkins-Rhatigan
rated it highly. "As a member
of 11SQN, the Catalina Room
has provided me with a detailed
history and insight to where the
squadron has come from. It has
also enabled me to reflect on the
lives of people who have served the
squadron in the past, during war
and peace, and hopefully enabling
me to become a better airman,"
Aircraft technician LAC Josh
Downey said the room was a place
where he could reflect and take
pride in the accomplishments of
previous squadron members.
"It also provides an area
where I can complete my Trade
Competencies Aero Skills journal
and prepare for Trade Supervisors
Principles Course and technician
courses," he said.
Catalina Room is a window to
the past and guide for future
THEN AND NOW: Sir Richard Kingsland, with his autobiography, Into the midst of things and, inset, GPCAPT
Kingsland in October 1943. Above, a 10SQN Sunderland during WWII.
Main photo: LAC Vasilis Solomou
90TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL
March 31, 2011
Engines: Four Allison turb
Combat range: 5500km
Armament: Harpoon ASM
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