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PART 2 of Neil Smith's 3 Squadron History
After WW I and before WW II
In the days following the Armistice in 1918, 3 Squadron was kept busy carrying out reconnaissance flights to assist the Army command in ascertaining the placement and disposition of the still-advancing troops as well as picking out possible new aerodrome sites for the forthcoming move into Germany. They were also given the responsibility of carrying out air-postal deliveries between Headquarters and Divisional locations. By the wintry Christmas of 1918, the Squadron was settled in Tarcienne and flying was kept to a minimum.
A Royal Aircraft Factory RE.8 aircraft, Serial C2326 of No 3 Squadron, AFC, at Bickendorf aerodrome near Cologne, Germany.
The word 'Digger' is written under the rear cockpit. [AWM A03950 and A03957]
On the 3rd of January, 1919, an officer who had already given exemplary service and who later that year flew the first two-man aircraft across Australia, Captain (later to become Air Vice Marshal) Henry N. Wrigley, DFC, took over command from Major Anderson and had the responsibility of making arrangements for the Squadron to phase out its operations in Europe. - Although not before final photographic missions had been completed to obtain historical pictures of such places as Amiens, Hamel, Peronne and Mont St. Quentin.
The last of the RE8s was phased out by the end of January, to be replaced by a full complement of Bristol Fighters. As well, a lot of RAF officers were posted to the Squadron when their own Squadrons were demobilised. On the 20th of February 1919, all aircraft were handed over to the RAF at St. Omer and, at 9.00am the next day, all personnel left Tarcienna for Charlero in Belgium where they stayed until the 28th, after which they left for Le Harve to embark on a cross channel ferry on which 2 Squadron were also travelling, bound for Weymouth.
On the 5th of March, they proceeded to Hurdcott Camp, where new uniforms were issued to the remaining 29 officers and 216 other ranks before they were given a well deserved 14 days leave. On the 6th of May, they embarked with 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 Squadrons, AFC, on the "Kaisar-i-Hind" to return to Australia.
On the 9th of June, 1919, the ship entered Fremantle and after dropping off all the Western Australians, then proceeded to Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane taking home the men who'd fought so valiantly in 3 Squadron; described by Major-General Sir J. M. Salmon, the Commander of the Air Forces in France, as being, "a great Squadron … the best Corps Squadron in France."
Thus 3 Squadron was officially stood-down and the Squadron’s personnel dispersed into a new post-war Australian way of life.
Military matters were all but forgotten for the five years following 1919. People spent their time and money re-organising their lives and the last thing most wanted to think about was war and any military force that Australia may have to finance through taxes. As a consequence, the Government had cut Defence budgets to a minimum and only the dedicated remained in the services … trying hard to seek appropriations of finance to build a Defence Force.
But, in 1924 Australians in every state were overwhelmed as they saw for themselves the sheer might of the Royal Navy's visiting H.M.S. Hood, Britain’s newly built 44,600-ton battle-cruiser, measuring 860 feet in length and carrying a crew of almost 1,200 seamen. The Hood and her accompanying fleet of five light cruisers and another smaller battle-cruiser, the H.M.S. Repulse, by their very presence, created, through heavy media coverage of their world-wide ‘flag waving’ mission, great excitement and a definite awareness of responsibility that Australia as a nation had to plan for her defence, as a part of the British Empire, in the event of another war.
This dramatic goodwill mission, executed by Great Britain’s Senior Service, widely affected the Empire-loyal Australian people's imagination and influenced, it seems, strong encouragement for the ruling Government to open the Australian purse-strings for Defence expenditure. The visit clearly had the effect of providing a critical turning point that swayed public acceptance that more of their taxes could well be spent on defence for the benefit of the nation. This helped the revival of the disbanded 3 Squadron.
The following enlightening extract explains reactions in Australia at the time that Hood visited:
As a consequence of all this positive mother-country flag-waving, Government funding for Defence was increased and within 12 months, the Air Board had decided to form an Army Co-operation Squadron. They named it 3 Squadron to perpetuate the excellent tradition already a part of Australia's proud war history but, since the Australian Flying Corps had been disbanded when the Royal Australian Air Force was formed on the 31st of March, 1921, the new name became "3 Squadron, RAAF".
At Point Cook, on the 1st of July, 1925, Flight Lieutenant Frank W. Lukis took command of this newly formed "composite squadron" made up of three flights ... one for Army co-op. equipped with DH9 aircraft, a second with SE5A fighters and the third with DH9A bombers. The Squadron moved to Richmond, NSW. In those days the Richmond town-common doubled as the landing ground once the sheep and cows had been chased off. Many famous early aviators including Amy Johnson, Jean Batten, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm were guests of 3 Squadron at some stage or other of their flying careers.
The Squadron flew general operations for the next 10 years flying Wapiti and Hawker Demon aircraft. The various C.O.s placed in command during those years included a World War I ace from 4 Squadron, Squadron Leader A. H. Cobby, D.S.O., D.F.C.
By 1935, the Squadron was engaged in providing senior army officers with air experience and perfecting army co-operation exercises and during March that year, the Governor of NSW presented a medal for the "Most Efficient Air Cadet" to a young Peter Jeffrey, who was later destined to lead 3 Squadron during World War 2 in the Western Desert.
A line-up of Waputis. These aircraft performed airshow displays in many parts of Australia.
In the years between 1935 and 1939, the Squadron’s routine duties included meteorological flights for the Weather Bureau, which involved ascents to 10,000 feet, measuring temperatures and gathering other information on clouds, haze, wind and rain every 1000 feet.
Photographic patrols and liaison exercises with Army units still continued to play an important part of the Squadron’s activities, until everything changed dramatically on the 3rd of September, 1939, when a black storm cloud burst with a vengeance over Europe.
Click here to proceed to Part 3: WORLD WAR 2