3 Squadron EVENTS

3 Squadron RAAF HOME / Search

3 Squadron 93rd Birthday Parade - Williamtown

Address to 3SQN 93rd Anniversary Parade
by C.O. 3SQN, WGCDR Terry Van Haren

Welcome to:

         - Mr Peter Cuthbert – Honorary President of 3SQN Association

         - Mr Tom Russell – Retiring Honorary Treasurer of 3SQN Association

          - Veterans and Association members,

          - Families and friends of 3SQN members.

Today we take a day out of our busy routines to celebrate the 93rd birthday of 3SQN.  I think it is important that we do this to reflect on the history of this proud Squadron, so we can  understand the spirit and character of this Squadron, and to pay tribute to those 3 Squadron members who have gone before us; especially those who sacrificed their lives serving Australia.

3 Squadron was formed 93 year ago in Point Cook, on 19 September 1916, and within a year found itself in France operating two-seat reconnaissance fighters over the Western Front.  It was quick to establish a reputation of providing effective air support, initially to British troops, and then the Australian ANZAC Corps, led by General Monash, battling the Germans in the hellish conditions of the Western Front.

And like the ANZACs, 3 Squadron was one of the AFC Squadrons to first demonstrate the Australian fighting spirit in aviation:  the commitment to get the job done, despite the odds, despite the poor conditions, whilst thousands of miles from home.

During WWII, the Squadron continued in this spirit in the campaigns of the Middle East, North Africa and Southern Europe. Now as a Royal Australian Air Force unit, 3 Squadron fought for five long years - proving to be the highest scoring Commonwealth Squadron of the Desert Air Force whilst again fighting a determined enemy, whilst moving from makeshift airfield to makeshift airfield, again thousands of miles from home.  Here the Squadron developed its unique character which was based on commitment to the task, teamwork, improvisation and innovation – traits that have been passed down through the Squadron to this day.

Well, I'm happy to report that this spirit and character is enduring at 3 Squadron – the ability to get the job done, despite the challenges, especially when deployed away from home.

 We recently completed a very successful deployment to Exercise Talisman Saber, achieving the highest kill ratio of the Blue Air Squadrons.  We also achieved an impressive 97% launch rate on tasked sorties and high weapons effectiveness in the ranges of the Northern Territory.

3 Squadron has also conducted a number of ADF support tasks including two JTAC courses and Mission Rehearsal training for Army task units deploying to Afghanistan.  And we are supplying a constant stream of volunteers to operational deployments in the Middle East Area of Operations.  We also had a very successful showing at the Avalon Airshow, winning the prize for the best static display and the hearts of the crowd with the mighty Purple Cobras.

3 Squadron has also just completed its second trans-Pacific ferry of single FA18 in support of the electronic warfare and weapons testing being carried out in the US.  3 Squadron workshops have been getting the job done, despite ageing facilities and equipment and increasing requirements to maintain this aging aircraft.  Production levels of wheels, brakes, tanks, pylons, launchers, composites, components and other services have all been high, meeting the peeks of demand for 81WG activities.  The hydraulic section has been battling to maintain its test rigs, whilst the painters have been working around the closure of the CCF and now SQN paint shops.  The gunnies are introducing refined processes into servicing of bomb release units.  This is a new program aimed at releasing efficiencies in the way do business to make us a meaner leaner Air Force.

So it’s been a busy and successful year thus far carried out in the spirit and character of 3SQN.  Today the Squadron is preparing for its next deployment, next week in fact, back to Butterworth, Malaysia, for exercises Elangeroo and Bersama Lima.  It is pertinent that as we prepare for this deployment that we reflect on 3 Squadrons long association with Malaysia, which the Squadron called home for long periods of time over three decades.  And it also pertinent that we show the 3 Squadron Colour today, a colour with twelve battle honours from WWI and WWII,  to which we will soon be adding Governor General approved battle honours of: 

    - "MALAYA 1958 – 60" – for air support missions flown in the Malaya Emergency, and    

     - "MALAYSIA 1963 – 66" – for air support missions flown in the Indonesian Confrontation

Both of these operations mounted from Butterworth.

I am not sure whether this colour will have these honours added, or a new colour commissioned with these honours – but I expect that this will occur in the coming year.

We have a number of medals and awards to present today, but before I do so it is also my honour to pay tribute to these two gentlemen who have been instrumental is maintaining our strong relationship with the 3SQN Association - Mr Peter Cuthbert and Mr Tom Russell.

Peter was a SNCO wireless/electrical mechanic (AVTECH) in 3 Squadron during WWII.  For the past thirty years he has also been the Secretary of the 3 Squadron Association, working hard to keep the 3 Squadron family together – recently being designated the Honorary President.

Tom was one of the pilots that deployed with the SQN during WWII who went onto flying Kittyhawks with the SQN during the North African campaign.  He also has been the long-serving Treasurer of the Association, working with Peter for the last 35 years.

Both have been recognised for their leadership in the 3 Squadron Association by a CAF commendation, but recently Peter has decided to semi-retire as the Honorary President and Tom has eased aside to act as committee member. Collectively they have made sure that the 3SQN association has remained a ‘family’, as Peter would say, and maintained the unity between the SQN and association.

So on behalf of 3SQN it is our honour for us to have you here today to review our parade on our birthday and we are looking forward to having you and the other veterans and association members as our guests at the 3SQN all ranks Dining In tonight in the Airmen’s Mess.

So as I conclude I will restate that I think that this day is important for 3 Squadron to reflect on its history, so we can understand from where we come from and understand the enduring spirit and character of this Squadron and maintain its tradition of being the most effective and professional fighter Squadron in the Royal Australian Air Force.


Tom’s Reply:

Wing Commander van Haren, Distinguished guests,  Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of Peter, myself, and the members of Three Squadron Association who are here today, I want to thank you, Wing Commander, for inviting us to be part of the Squadron’s 93rd birthday celebrations.       

Three Squadron Desert Air Force Association was formed in 1947, and since 1951 we have been coming to Nelson Bay for a re-union, every 5th year, with members coming from all over Australia.   During the week that we were here, the CO of the Squadron at that time, would invite us to the base, to meet the men and women of the Squadron, and we were shown how the Squadron operated on a daily basis.  During those visits, we were, and still are, being treated with the utmost respect, courtesy, and been offered a genuine and warm friendship.   Often we have been told how proud you all were of what we did in WW2.

Wing Commander van Haren, speaking for every member of our Association, I want to tell you and every member of your squadron, how proud we are, of the excellence with which the Squadron has performed in the post WW2 years.  Particularly, on behalf of the Association members here today, I want to compliment the men and women who have just shown us, what discipline and pride in performance, can accomplish on the Parade ground.




3 Squadron's 1st Combat Casualty in World War Two
- 19 November 1940

On the 19th November 1940, 3 Squadron had their first combat.     Four Gladiators were reconnoitring East of Rabia, Egypt, when they were attacked by six Italian CR42s. 

Squadron Leader Peter Heath was shot down and killed, and after a lengthy and swirling dogfight Alan Boyd claimed three CR42s destroyed and one more probably destroyed, Blake Pelly claimed one destroyed and one damaged and Alan Rawlinson another one damaged.  (But in fact Italian records show no losses and only four CR42s damaged.)

The Italians claimed they had destroyed: "Six Gladiators shot down in flames, and two more probably destroyed"!   (They thought they had attacked eight Gladiators, not four...)


3 Squadron's Last Aircraft Lost in World War Two
- 30 April 1945

Mustangs of 3 Squadron took off on 30th April 1945 to attack enemy transport in the Trento-Bolzano region, and despite his rapidly crumbling resistance, it was found that the enemy still had a sting in his tail. 

On this operation, W/O Williamson’s aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and he made a belly landing on a beach at Porto di Lido near Venice.   Williamson was unhurt in the crash, eluded German troops who came to search for him, and was taken back to a friendly area by Partisans, returning to the unit on the 2nd of May.  

At 1830 hours that day, a signal advised that a long line of transport was heading north from Verona.  All Squadrons of 239 Wing took off immediately, with or without bombs.  After they returned, they reported that little was left of the convoy.

3 Squadron EVENTS

3 Squadron RAAF HOME / Search