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No. 488 Squadron RNZAF: Wikis


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No. 488 (NZ) Squadron RAF
Active 1 September 1941 - 26 April 1945
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Allegiance  New Zealand
Branch Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Royal Air Force
Role Fighter
Motto Māori: Ka ngarue ratau
("We shake them")
Equipment Buffalo, Hurricane, Beaufighter, Mosquito
Battle honours
Squadron Badge In front of a taiaha and tewhatewha in saltire, a morepork
Squadron Codes NF (Oct 1941 - Jan 1942)
ME (Jun 1942 - Apr 1945)[1][2]
Model Brewster Buffalo of 488 Squadron operating in Singapore at the time of the Battle of Malaya. The dragon insignia is Noel Sharp's personal emblem.

488 Squadron was a squadron formed from New Zealanders trained under the Empire Air Training Scheme for service during the Second World War under the operational command of the Royal Air Force.




Day Fighter Unit

488 (NZ) Squadron was formed on 1 September 1941[3] at Rongotai, New Zealand under squadron leader W.G.(Wilf) Clouston, a veteran of the Battle of France and Battle of Britain with 9 victories to his credit. The squadron was one of several Commonwealth squadrons equipped with Buffaloes, and arrived at Kallang Airfield Singapore in November 1941, where it took over the Brewsters of No. 67 Squadron RAF. Kallang was shared with a Brewster detachment of the 2-VLG-V of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Air Force, and No. 243 Squadron RAF in which most of the aircrew were Kiwis [4].

When the Japanese attacked, the squadron was still in training and sorting out difficulties with its machines, including dysfunctional oxygen which prevented high altitude flying, weight difficulties which resulted in armour and machine guns being deleted and high maintenance requirements resulting from Brewster's use of worn out ex-airline engines in manufacturing the aircraft (which had been supplied to No. 67 Squadron in March). There were also problems getting spares and with the peacetime red tape and restricted flying hours laid down by the British High Command in Singapore.

Frequent air battles over Singapore occurred from 12 January 1942, the Japanese pilots being better trained and outnumbering the defenders, but (despite widespread claims of Mitsubishi Zeros being present), with the exception of a few Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa "Oscars" most Japanese fighters and many bombers were in no better condition than the Royal Air Force's.[5] As the Buffalo squadrons, (many manned by New Zealanders and Australians) lost men and machines, several were amalgamated into 488 Squadron. Clouston had presented a plan "Get Mobile" to provide daylight air cover off the coast to Admiral Phillip's Force Z, but this was rejected by the Navy [6].

The squadron received 9 Hurricanes at the end of January to partially replace the Buffalo, but by the 31 January, losses and the ground situation forced a withdrawal to Batavia, where Dutch East Indies Buffalo squadrons were facing a similarly unequal fight. Clouston handed over command to Squadron Leader MacKenzie and stayed with remaining staff to become a prisoner when Singapore fell.

On 23 February the squadron evacuated Batavia, to Fremantle in Australia where it disbanded on the 2 March, the New Zealand pilots returning home to form the nucleus of No. 14 Squadron RNZAF. Figures for the squadrons achievements in the Far East are difficult to determine, but one notable pilot, Pilot Officer Noel Sharp, who flew a Brewster Buffalo in Singapore, is credited with three victories.

Night Fighter Unit

488 Squadron reformed on 25 June 1942 at RAF Church Fenton, Yorkshire, as a night fighter 'intruder' unit equipped with Beaufighters. The squadron aircraft carried the code letters ME.

When it switched to a defensive role in August 1943 it reequipped with Mosquitoes. In November 1944 the squadron moved to France, and was based in Belgium and Holland in the closing stages of the war. It disbanded on 26 April 1945.

Possibly the top scoring 488 squadron Mosquito of the war was NF.Mk.XII MM466, ME-R, which shot down seven enemy aircraft between July 1944 and November 1944, after which the aircraft was passed on to 409 Sqn., with which it shot down another four.[7] In its night fighter incarnation, 488 Squadron flew 2899 sorties, shot down 67 aircraft and, in its intruder role, destroyed 40 trains. Pilots were awarded 5 DFCs, a DSO and an AFC.

488 Squadron was unique in that it was the only "Article XV" New Zealand unit to have two distinct and separate roles, in different theatres, during World War Two.

Aircraft Operated

From To Aircraft Version
October 1941 January 1942 Brewster Buffalo Mk.I
January 1942 February 1942 Hawker Hurricane Mk.IIb
June 1942 March 1943 Bristol Beaufighter Mk.IIf
March 1943 September 1943 Bristol Beaufighter Mk.VIf
August 1943 May 1944 de Havilland Mosquito Mk.XII
October 1943 September 1944 de Havilland Mosquito Mk.XIII
September 1944 April 1945 de Havilland Mosquito Mk.30


Commanding Officers

From To Name
September 1941 January 1942 S/Ldr. W.G. Clouston
January 1942 March 1942 S/Ldr. J.N. McKenzie
June 1942 February 1943 W/Cdr. R.M. Trousdale, DFC
February 1943 July 1943 W/Cdr. J. Nesbitt-Dufort, DSO
July 1943 September 1943 W/Cdr. A.R. Burton-Giles
September 1943 January 1944 W/Cdr. P.H. Hamley
January 1944 October 1944 W/Cdr. R.C. Haine, DFC
October 1944 April 1945 W/Cdr. R.G. Watts


A note on New Zealand Squadrons in the RAF

It is now largely accepted that the seven World War II squadrons of the Royal Air Force manned by New Zealanders are recorded by a formulation such as 486 (NZ) Squadron RAF. However some authors (e.g. Bill Gunston) have used a formulation like 486 squadron RNZAF. Some claim the latter is misleading. RNZAF units were a separate entity, formed and controlled entirely by the RNZAF; all RNZAF units operated in the Pacific Theatre. An anomaly exists in that the official badges of the six New Zealand units units reads (eg:) "486 Squadron Royal New Zealand Air Force".[12] However, as Gerard S Morris explains:

Interestingly, this carried over into the naming of the six New Zealand squadrons...It was impractical, for operational and administrative reasons to establish and maintain RNZAF squadrons in Britain. So, although the squadron badges carried the name Royal New Zealand Air Force, the squadrons were in fact receiving their pay cheques from the British government and official records such as the Operations Record Book acknowledged this. For example, 485 Squadron was referred to infomally as 485 (New Zealand) or 485 (NZ) and never as 485 Squadron, RNZAF.(italics added)[13]

On December 19 1939 Article XV was promulgated, creating the Empire Air Training Scheme. Under this article provision was made for the formation of Commonwealth squadrons within the RAF. On 17 April 1941 a further agreement was negotiated allowing for six New Zealand Squadrons to be formed: 485 Sqn., 486 Sqn., 487 Sqn., 488 Sqn., 489 Sqn. and 490 Sqn. These units were manned and (mostly) commanded by New Zealanders trained under the EATS. provisions, although this didn't preclude other nationalities from being members. Administratively the "Article XV squadrons" were an integral part of the RAF, with all command appointments being made by the RAF. Other Dominion or Commonwealth countries involved were Australia and Canada, along with Rhodesia and South Africa.

Many New Zealanders served with mainstream RAF squadrons and several were to become Wing Commanders and Group Captains. Two outstanding New Zealanders to play a vital role in the war, and two of the best commanders in aviation history were Sir Keith Park and Sir Arthur Coningham.



  1. ^ Flintham and Thomas 2003, pp. 89 + 91.
  2. ^ Bowyer and Rawlings 1979, pp. 71-72 + 76.
  3. ^ a b Halley 1988, pp. 531-532.
  4. ^ Clayton 2008, p. 52.
  5. ^ A kill ratio of 2:1 was claimed by the Buffalo squadrons
  6. ^ Clayton 2008, p. 83.
  7. ^ Sharp and Bower 1995, p. 449.
  8. ^ a b Rawlings 1978, pp. 452-453.
  9. ^ Jefford 2001, p. 95.
  10. ^ New Zealand Electronic Text Centre (Day Fighter period)
  11. ^ New Zealand Electronic Text Centre (Night Fighter period)
  12. ^ History of squadrons 485 till 490 on rafweb
  13. ^ Morris 2000, p.20.


  • Bowyer, Chaz. Mosquito Squadrons of the Royal AIr Force. Shepperton, Surrey, UK: Ian Allan Ltd., 1984. ISBN 0-7110-1425-6.
  • Bowyer, Michael J.F. and John D.R. Rawlings. Squadron Codes, 1937-56. Bar Hill, Cambridge, UK: Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1979. ISBN 0-85059-364-6.
  • Clayton, Graham. Last stand in Singapore: the story of 488 Squadron RNZAF. Auckland, New Zealand: Random House, 2008. ISBN 978-186979-033-2. (about his father Bert Clayton).
  • Cull, Brian with Paul Sortehaug and Mark Haselden. Buffaloes over Singapore: RAF, RAAF, RNZAF and Dutch Brewster Fighters in Action Over Malaya and the East Indies 1941-1942. London, UK: Grub Street, 2003. ISBN 1-90401-032-6.
  • Cull, Brian with Paul Sortehaug. Hurricanes over Singapore; RAF, RNZAF and NEI fighters in action over the Island and the Netherlands East Indies 1942. London, UK: Grub Street 2004. ISBN 1-90401-080-6.
  • Flintham, Vic and Andrew Thomas. Combat Codes: A Full Explanation and Listing of British, Commonwealth and Allied Air Force Unit Codes since 1938. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd., 2003. ISBN 1-84037-281-8.
  • Frances, Neil. Ketchil: A New Zealand pilot’s war in Asia and the Pacific. Wairarapa Archive, 2005. ISBN 0-95826-170-9. (about Vic Bargh).
  • Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth, 1918-1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Hunt, Leslie. Defence until Dawn: the Story of 488 N.Z. Squadron, Church Fenton 25 June 1942 - Gilze Rijen Holland 26 April 1945. Southend-on-Sea, UK: Washbourne & Sons, 1949. 104 p & maps, plates.
  • Jefford, Wing Commander C.G., MBE,BA,RAF (Retd). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury: Airlife Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • Morris, Gerard S. Spitfire, the New Zealand Story. Auckland, New Zealand: Reed Books, 2000. ISBN 0-7900-0696-0.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1969 (new edition 1976, reprinted 1978). ISBN 0-354-01028-X.
  • Sharp, Martin and Michael J.F. Bowyer. Mosquito. London: Faber & Faber, 1967.(2nd edition: Bristol, UK: Crécy Books Ltd., 1995. ISBN 0-947554-41-6).
  • Shores, Christopher with Brian Cull and Yasuho Izawa. Bloody Shambles, Vol 1: The Drift to War to the Fall of Singapore. London, UK: Grub Street 1992. ISBN 0-948817-50-X.
  • Shores, Christopher with Brian Cull and Yasuho Izawa. Bloody Shambles, Vol 2: The Defence of Sumatra to the Fall of Burma. London, UK: Grub Street 1993. ISBN 0-948817-67-4.
Official New Zealand History (available online)

External links


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