The RAAF in Malaya

On 7 December 1941, Royal Air Force Command in Malaya had an operational strength of 164 first-line aircraft with 88 others in reserve. Included in RAF Command were four RAAF squadrons, two with Hudson bombers and two with Buffalo fighters, a group of three Dutch Catalinas, and a Royal New Zealand Air Force Buffalo squadron. In Malaya, No 1 Squadron with Hudsons was at Kota Bahru on the north-eastern coast, No 8 Squadron with Hudsons was at Kuantan further south, and No 21 Squadron with Buffaloes was at Sungei Patani, in north-west Malaya. No 453 Squadron with Buffaloes was back at Singapore. No 1 Squadron RAAF was the first squadron ordered into the air to mount sorties against the Japanese invasion fleet and other squadrons, including 8 Squadron RAAF, were ordered to launch an attack at first light on enemy shipping in the Kota Bahru area. After air raids on Sungei Patani, 21 Squadron withdrew to Ipoh, and pilots of 453 Squadron flew their Buffaloes north to reinforce them. By 11 December, the Japanese had captured all airfields in northern Malaya. The air war continued, with heavy losses at times, until the fall of Singapore.

The Diary and 'Line' book written by the pilots of 453 Squadron recorded the outbreak of the Pacific war:

Rudely awakened in the small hours of the morning by the screams of air raid sirens and the roar of ack ack guns and in the clear moonlit sky around a formation of Japanese bombers. Bombs were dropped but none fell in our area. So the war in the Far East started - all day we heard news bulletins telling of the wide spread treachery of the Japs - Well! They've asked for it - !!

On 10 December members of the squadron were ordered to scramble:

About 1100 hours both flights were ordered into the air ... (first flight) proceeded northwards past Mersing and shortly came upon the scene of a major naval disaster. Large patches of oil covered the water and two large warships were observed to be sinking - other naval vessels were standing off picking up survivors. ... Discovered on landing that the two ships were the Prince of Wales and the Repulse -!

Last updated: 1 February 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), The RAAF in Malaya, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 25 September 2023,
Was this page helpful?
We can't respond to comments or queries via this form. Please contact us with your query instead.