Polly

'Polly' was one of the American-built Curtiss P-40E Kittyhawk fighter aircraft which were instrumental in the defence of Milne Bay. 'Polly' was named, and usually flown, by Pilot Officer Bruce 'Buster' Brown, 75 Squadron RAAF. Years after the war, Bruce Brown described the characteristics of his aircraft.

Well, it was not as manoeuvrable as a Zero or any of the Japanese aircraft. It was not as manoeuvrable as a Spitfire either. It was a much heavier aircraft than a Spitfire; it was a much heavier aircraft than a Zero. It was really slightly underpowered in my opinion for its weight, so the power-weight ratio was not in line with, in my opinion, where the designers could have been more successful with the aircraft. But its one attribute was being so heavy and being so strongly constructed that provided you had height and, say, as an example, 15,000 feet and enemy Zeros got onto your tail, if you pushed everything onto one corner as we used to say, rudder and control column, and headed straight for the deck, you would get away from them because being heavier than they were and going down hill, you'd pick up speed much quicker and consequently you could get away. So, the other attribute was its firepower. It was a beautiful firepower both from the point of view of combat – aerial combat – and also ground support work where you were operating against the enemy with the army

[Bruce Brown, 75 Squadron RAAF, interview, June 1989, Keith Murdoch Sound Archive, AWM]

Bruce Brown also described the first airstrip at Milne Bay as:

probably the worst airstrip I've ever operated off in my life and ever likely to.

He described the conditions at Milne Bay as very difficult during the wet season, when the interlocking steel matting of the strip started to sink into the mud. The surface became greasy and so muddy that they eventually had to land their aircraft without the assistance of flaps.

The ribs at the back of the flaps were broken due to the mud hitting the flaps and forcing it back.

[Bruce Brown, 75 Squadron RAAF, interview, June 1989, Keith Murdoch Sound Archive, AWM]

Squadron Leader Wilfred 'Wilf' Arthur also flew 'Polly' during the last major Japanese air attack on Milne Bay. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Order for his leadership and courage during this action, making several passes on enemy aircraft even though his guns had jammed.

'Polly' was damaged several times during action against Japanese Zeros and while strafing ground targets. The aircraft was retired from active service in 1943 and after the war was sold by the RAAF to a farmer. 'Polly' is now in the Aircraft Hall at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.


Last updated: 11 February 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), Polly, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 21 January 2021, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/world-war-ii-1939-1945/events/coral-sea-kokoda-and-milne-bay-may-september-1942/milne-bay/polly
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