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No. 4 Squadron RAAF
Boomerang 4sqn (AWM PO2531.013).jpg
A No. 4 Squadron Boomerang fighter and ground crew in 1943
Active 1916–1919
Country  Australia
Branch Royal Australian Air Force
Role Fighter
Army co-operation
Forward air control
Engagements World War I
World War II
Aircraft flown
Fighter Sopwith Camel
Sopwith Snipe
Hawker Demon
CAC Wirraway
CAC Boomerang
P-40 Kittyhawk
CAC Mustang
Reconnaissance Auster AOP III
Trainer de Havilland Moth Minor
Avro Anson
Pilatus PC-9

No. 4 Squadron is a Royal Australian Air Force squadron responsible for training forward air controllers. The squadron was previously a fighter and army co-operation unit active in both World War I and World War II. Originally formed in late 1917, the squadron served on the Western Front as part of the Australian Flying Corps until the armistice in November 1918. It was disbanded after the war in mid-1919, but was later re-raised twice in 1937 and 1940 before deploying to New Guinea in 1942 where it supported military forces by spotting for artillery and providing reconnaissance and close air support. As the war progressed, the squadron also took part in the Huon Peninsula, New Britain and Borneo campaigns. It was disbanded in early 1948, but was re-formed in 2009 to provide training to forward air controllers and to support Special Operations Command.


World War I

Serny, France, November 1918. A score board recording the claims for enemy aircraft destroyed by No. 80 Wing RAF from July–November 1918. The squadrons listed are: No. 4 Squadron AFC, No. 88 Squadron RAF, No. 2 Squadron AFC, No. 92 Squadron RAF, No. 103 Squadron RAF, No. 46 Squadron RAF, and No. 54 Squadron RAF. The other columns are headed "In Flames", "Crashed", "O.O.C." (Out of Control), "Driven Down" and "Balloons Destroyed"."

No. 4 Squadron was established as a unit of the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) at RAAF Point Cook on 16 October 1916. Shortly after its formation the squadron departed for Britain, arriving at Castle Bromwich for further training in March 1917.[1] The unit arrived in France on 18 December 1917. During its time on the Western Front, it was assigned to No. 80 Wing and operating Sopwith Camels and Snipes performed fighter sweeps, provided air support for the Army, and raided German airstrips. No. 4 Squadron claimed more "kills" than any other AFC unit: 199 enemy aircraft destroyed.[2] 11 of its pilots became aces.[3] Notable members of the unit included Captain Harry Cobby, the AFC's leading ace of the war, credited with destroying 29 aircraft and observation balloons, and Captain George Jones, who shot down 7 aircraft and later served as the RAAF's Chief of the Air Staff for 10 years.[2] Besides Cobby and Jones, aces Elwyn King, Edgar McCloughry, Herbert Watson, Thomas Baker, Leonard Taplin, Thomas Barkell, Norman Trescowthick, and Garnet Malley also served in the squadron.[4]

Following the Armistice, No. 4 Squadron remained in Europe and, as part of the British Army of Occupation, was based in Cologne. It returned home in March 1919 and was disbanded in Melbourne in June.[5]

World War II

No. 4 Squadron was re-formed as a general reconnaissance unit at RAAF Station Richmond, New South Wales, on 3 May 1937, flying Hawker Demons before taking delivery of its first Avro Anson the following month. Re-numbered No. 6 (General Reconnaissance) Squadron on 1 March 1939, No. 4 Squadron was re-formed again at Richmond on 17 June 1940, this time as an army co-operation unit. Originally equipped with Demons and De Havilland Moths, it converted to CAC Wirraways in September and relocated to Canberra later that month.[6] On 20 May 1942, No. 4 Squadron deployed to Camden Airfield, where it flew anti-submarine patrols as well as army co-operation training sorties until redeploying to Queensland and then in November to New Guinea.[5]

The squadron's initial task in New Guinea was to support the American and Australian forces in the Battle of Buna-Gona. Until the end of the war the squadron operated in the army co-operation role, providing ground forces with artillery observation, reconnaissance and close air support. On 26 December 1942, a No. 4 Squadron Wirraway piloted by Pilot Officer John Archer shot down an A6M Zero. This was the only kill achieved by a Wirraway during the war and earned Archer the US Silver Star.[7][8] On 31 January 1943, the squadron sent one of its flights to Wau, where it participated in the Battle of Wau.[9]

In May 1943, No. 4 Squadron was re-equipped with CAC Boomerang fighter aircraft,[9] to be operated in a tactical reconnaissance role. Operating with both these new aircraft and also some Wirraways retained, the squadron supported the Australian 7th and 9th Divisions during the Huon Peninsula campaign.[10] It also operated six Piper Cubs as liaison aircraft during these campaigns.[11] The squadron continued to support Australian, US Army and US Marine Corps units in New Guinea and New Britain until March 1945 when it deployed to Morotai and then to the island of Labuan to support Australian ground forces in the Borneo campaign. It supported the 9th Division's campaign in North Borneo and the 7th Division's landing at Balikpapan.[12] Casualties during the war amounted to 37 personnel killed.[13]

Post-war years

After the war, No. 4 Squadron returned to Australia on 14 November 1945 and was again based at Canberra. It re-equipped with late-model P-40 Kittyhawks, having received a few of these aircraft while in Borneo, and this was followed by CAC Mustangss and Austers in early 1947.[12] After completing training on its new aircraft, the squadron provided a firepower demonstration for Royal Military College, Duntroon cadets during an exercise at Braidwood in September 1947.[14] On 7 March 1948, No. 4 Squadron ceased to exist, having been re-numbered No. 3 Squadron.[3][15]

No. 4 Squadron was re-formed on 3 July 2009 at RAAF Base Williamtown to train forward air controllers.[16] The Forward Air Control Development Unit (FACDU), which operated Pilatus PC-9s, was merged into the new unit, along with the RAAF's special tactics project team.[17] This continued the FAC presence at Williamtown that had been maintained by FACDU and No. 4 Flight, which operated Winjeels out of Williamtown from 1970 to 1989.[18]

The squadron provides Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTACs) to support Special Operations Command. Personnel trained by No. 4 Squadron will accompany special forces patrols in order to accurately direct air strikes.[19]

Aircraft operated

No. 4 Squadron has operated the following aircraft:[3][20]


  1. Barnes, The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons, p. 26
  2. 2.0 2.1 Stephens, The Royal Australian Air Force, pp. 16–21
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "No 4 Squadron". RAAF Museum. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  4. "71 Squadron". The Aerodrome. Retrieved 18 February 2010. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Barnes, The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons, p. 27
  6. Roylance, Air Base Richmond, pp. 41–42, 124
  7. Barnes, The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons, p. 28
  8. "Beachhead Battles". Australia's War 1939–1945. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Barnes, The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons, p. 29
  10. Barnes, The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons, p. 30
  11. Cowan, Brendan. "Piper L-4 Grasshopper/Cub". Australian & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History RAAF. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Barnes, The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons, p. 31
  13. "4 Squadron RAAF". Second World War, 1939–1945 units. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  14. Barnes, The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons, p. 32
  15. Barnes, The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons, p. 23
  16. "New Air Force Capability at Williamtown". Department of Defence. 3 July 2009. Retrieved 3 July 2009. 
  17. "Special Tactics people wanted". Air Force News. Retrieved 20 March 2008. 
  18. "FAC flight formed". Royal Australian Air Force Air Power Development Centre. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  19. Allard, Tom (17 March 2008). "New squadron will aim to cut civilian deaths". Retrieved 19 September 2008. 
  20. Barnes, The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons, pp. 26–32


  • Barnes, Norman (2000). The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons. St Leonards, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-130-2. 
  • RAAF Historical Section (1995). Units of the Royal Australian Air Force. A Concise History. Volume 2: Fighter Units. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. ISBN 9780644427944. 
  • Roylance, Derek (1991). Air Base Richmond. RAAF Base Richmond: Royal Australian Air Force. ISBN 0-646-05212-8. 
  • Stephens, Alan (2006) [2001]. The Royal Australian Air Force: A History. London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-555541-4. 
  • McLaughlin, Andrew (2009). "4SQN. A new era for JTAC training". Canberra: Phantom Media. ISSN 0813-0876. 

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