31 Squadron

31 Squadron, which had joined 30 Squadron at Darton Field in December 1943,   went straight from training in New Zealand to replace 30 Squadron at Piva on the 25th of May, 1944.

On their first mission, on the 28th of May against Vunakanua strip,  they lost NZ2530 and it's crew of pilot F/Lt. M.R. Greenslade,  navigator Lt. J.C.Morrison RNZNVR and gunner F/Sgt. W.G. McLeod.  Many of the other aircraft on this strike sustained both major and minor damage with several crew receiving wounds.

On the 31st of May,  NZ2521 was lost with it's crew of pilot Sgt. W.A. Trolove,  navigator F/Sgt. F.H. Brown and  gunner F/Sgt. M.A. Harsant. 




NZ2521 was lost with her three crew on 31st May 1944 over Tahili bay, Rabaul.



"Plonky", NZ2518,  was the next casualty,  being shot down with her crew of pilot F/Lt. G.G. Prior,  navigator F/O. Clayton and gunner W/O. T.R. Scarlett on the 5th of June.  After all the damage she had sustained when flying with 30 Squadron, and always getting her crew home, her time had run out.  This aircraft had even been mentioned during 30 Squadrons' tour in one of "Tokyo Roses" broadcasts, claiming that "Plocky" would soon be shot down.

During this period, one target was the Japanese vegetable gardens around Rabaul, which were sprayed with diesel and then set on fire by bombing or gunfire in an effort to further reduce Japanese food supplies.  To this end, internal tanks were fitted in the aircraft's bomb bays. 

Initially this duty had been carried out by a U.S.Navy Squadron, VT305, but on their departure, the task was handed over to 31 Squadron.  These missions were denoted by the addition of a watering can symbol to the bomb tally  painted on the TBF's cowlings.

31 squadron lost their 4th aircraft, NZ2512, on the 1st of July when it was shot down near Rabaul.  Only the pilot, F/Sgt. M.S. Aitchison was to survive. After bailing out and landing on dry ground, he took to the sea in his rubber dinghy, and after several days was picked up by a U.S Navy gunboat.  The navigator, F/Sgt. A.F. Walker and the gunner, F/Sgt. R.T. Mathison unfortunately went in with the aircraft.



Some of 31 Squadron's personnel photographed on Bougainville, May/June 1944. Aircraft is TBF-1C NZ2542..  The Jeep has been 'Borrowed' from VMTB233.



31 Squadron carried out the last mission of their tour on the 23rd of July, luckily with no further casualties.  Over the next few days,  30 Servicing Unit checked over the aircraft to prepare them for the ferry flight back to New Zealand as it had been decided that due to the F4U Corsairs of the RNZAF fighter squadrons being able to carry out most of the same tasks, the risks to the slower TBF's were now too high.

On the 27th of July,  31 Squadron began the long flight back to New Zealand, and the RNZAF's operations using the Avenger had come to a close.

On the 29th, the bulk of 30 Servicing Unit flew to Guadalcanal on C47's to prepare for a new role servicing F4U Corsairs.





No 30 Squadron's tour can be divided into two categories,

operations in the Bougainville, Buka area and operations in the New Britain area.

In the first category strikes were made on Kahili Supply Areas and support for the Army, bombing, strafing and destroying enemy gun positions, supply and bivouac areas, barge hide-outs, bridges, and the heavy naval coast guns at Buka.

A considerable amount of spotting over enemy territory for artillery and destroyer fire was flown and an occasional anti- submarine and minespotting search was carried out, Strikes were also made on Ehili supply areas and Bonis Airstrip.

Night work during the Japanese attack on the Perimeter was again ground supported for the Army and nuisance raids in which gun positions, motor convoys and barge hide-outs were bombed and strafed.

Operations in the New Britain Area were the bombing and the strafing of Rakunai, Vanakanau, Tobera and Ropopa Airstrips. One strike was made on Kavieng strip, New Ireland. Bomb loads were one 20001b or four 5001b H.E. fitted with delay and instantaneous fuses. Supply areas on Matupi Island, Simpson Harbour, at Tahili Bay, Vunapope, Rataval, Kabana Bay and Toboi Wharf areas Rabaul were bombed and strafed. 500 and 1001b bombs and incendiaries were used.

Strikes were also made on heavy and automatic gun positions on Hospital Ridge Rabaul, on Matupi Island, Tahili Bay and on the Naval 4.7 guns at Vunakanau.

During all these missions, anti-aircraft fire of varying intensity and accuracy was always encountered.

An operational total of 1361.50 day and 71.00 night hours was flown during the tour and 573 sorties were made. Non- operational time was 73.30 hours.

The total bombs dropped and rounds fired is set out here under:


1001b G.P. 843 2501b G.P. 4 5001b G.P. 910

20001b G.P. 28 Total: 329.82 long ton.

Rounds Fired

.5 Wing Guns 15,257 .5 Turret 18,470

.3 Sting Guns 29,340 Total: 83,067

Extracted summary from 30 Squadrons'  operational log.




TBF-1C NZ 2523 being re-armed at Piva.  Belts are for the .50 calibre wing guns. 
Note: The mission markers on this aircraft are on the port upper cowl. 



 30 Servicing Unit personnel working on a TBF at Piva on Bougainville. 
Note mission symbols on fuselage.  These were normally Yellow.  Those forward are bombs, and those
aft are watering cans denoting diesel spraying missions.