Phil Agnew - A Mobile Fighter Sector
Initially, the group of us from where I was working, at City Electric Light Co, we were all electrician apprentices. We went down to the training school, air force training school in Melbourne. We were camped at the Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne and we used to attend classes at the Melbourne Tech College.
When we finished training there, I was supposed to do a flying training school outside Bundaberg initially. I was working on the planes that they were using in the flying training school. From there, I was sent down to Sydney to join ... They were just forming a new unit. When the Spitfires first came out here, they formed a mobile fighter sector. I don't know if you know what that is? You've seen Battle of Britain, pictures where they have a big table, moving things about. Well that's a mobile fighter sector, was a smaller model of those mobiles. They had formed one of those to accompany the three Spitfire squadrons that went to Darwin. And I was doing maintenance, electrical work on the batteries that charged the radios that accompanied the fighter sectors, as they accompanied the Spitfires…
Well, after a couple of weeks in Darwin itself, they set up the fighter sector at a place called Coomalie Creek, which is about 100 miles south of Darwin. That's where the Beaufighter squadron, 31 Squadron was stationed. The fighter sector was alongside the 31 Squadron. Incidentally, my brother was a navigator in 31 Squadron, so I used to see him fairly often…I didn't have a lot of association directly with the aircraft. I was mainly just doing the work on the ... It was fairly tedious work, just charging batteries for the radio stations. We used to do it 24 hours a day in shifts…We had six-man tents. Everything was under canvas. I think the mess building might have been a solid building but the rest, all the accommodation was under canvas, yeah.
Mobile generators fitted in the back of trucks. I think it was 15kva alternators they were. They used to provide all the power. The fighter sector was in touch with radio stations at several different locations where they had the small radar sets. They were in radio communication with the fighter sector. We used to get their batteries too and charge them.
Most of the scrambling was done with the Spitfire fighters and they weren't out at Coomalie, they were in Darwin. They did most of the defensive work. The Beaufighters were mostly used on ground attack missions, so they were more suited to that sort of work. They were very, very heavily armed. I think they had six machine guns and four 20 mil canons and very well suited to doing ground attack work and that's what they did. They did a lot of work against shipping.