No.4 Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron (RNZAF): Second World War

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No.4 Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron, RNZAF, spent most of the Pacific war based on Fiji, from where it flew anti-submarine patrols. Late in 1944 it moved to Emirau where it spent two tours flying a mix of maritime patrols and bombing raids on the Japanese base at Rabaul.

One of the roles allocated to the RNZAF was the defence of Fiji. Work on an airfield began in 1939, and a detachment from the RNZAF moved to the island in November 1940. The detachment was equipped with four de Havilland D.H.89 Dragon Rapides and one D.H.60 Moth. The D.H.89s were modified for military service. They had to be shipped to Fiji and then reassembled, before the first of them made its first flight on Fiji on 17 November. The detachment had two main duties - to patrol outlying islands looking for German raiders and to escort ships approaching the Fiji Islands.

The detachment struggled to cope with very few aircraft. Two of the four Dragon Rapides were destroyed in a hurricane on 20 February 1941 and a third was damaged a few days later. Two replacements were shipped over, but the detachment still only had three operational aircraft.

In mid-August a flight of six single-engine Vickers Vincents was sent to Fiji, for short-range work. They were for short-range use only as they weren't considered suitable for long range missions over water.

On 8 October 1941 the Fiji detachment was officially renamed as No.4 (General Reconnaissance) Squadron.


The squadron received six Lockheed Hudsons in response to the Japanese entry into the war in December 1941. A Japanese invasion of Fiji was thought likely, and a detachment of No.2 Squadron moved to Fiji to help No.4. The six aircraft arrived on 11 February. Two days later No.4 Squadron was ordered to prepare to attack a Japanese task force built around three aircraft carriers that coastwatchers had reported to be heading for Fiji. The American carriers Lexington and Saratoga were ordered to head toward Fiji, and Allied aircraft attempted to find the Japanese fleet. No sign of them was found on 14 February, and when No.4 Squadron got into the air it also found nothing. The invasion force never appeared, and a few days later the detachment from No.2 Squadron returned to New Zealand, although two aircraft and their crews transferred to No.4 and remained on Fiji.

On 20 February 1942 the squadron had six Hudsons in the front line and three in reserve.

In the summer of 1942 Rear Admiral McCain, US Commander Air, South Pacific, asked New Zealand to provide six Vickers Vincents to provide anti-submarine cover around New Caledonia. The RNZAF decided to send Lockheed Hudsons instead, as they were felt to be more suitable for operations over water. No.4 Squadron, RNZAF, sent two aircraft, which went operational on 19 July 1942. Nos.1 and 2 Squadrons RNZAF also sent aircraft, and the combined detachments formed a new No.9 Squadron. The rest of the squadron remained at Fiji, where it had a fairly uneventful time as the war moved away to the north-west.


The squadrons main role was to fly anti-submarine patrols. During 1943 Japanese submarines were still operating around Fiji. Three American ships were attacked by them during May. The Williams was hit early in May. She stayed afloat and No.4 Squadron provided a anti-submarine patrol over her while she was towed to safety in Fiji. Later in the month the Hearst was sunk and the squadron helped find some of the survivors.

In June six submarines were spotted in the Fiji area. On 25 June a Hudson from No.4 Squadron carried out an attack on a submarine near an American convoy. Oil slicks were seen after the attack and the Japanese recorded losing a submarine in the correct area in late June, so No.4 Squadron may have achieved a rare anti-submarine victory.

After these scares the squadron provided anti-submarine cover for every ship traveling through Fiji. Another submarine was attacked on 7 September and possibly damaged.


By 1944 the Japanese were no longer able to spare Submarines for such distance waters.

In November 1944 No.4 Squadron replaced No.3 Squadron, RNZAF, at Emirau in the Bismarck Islands. This was a new base and a new responsibility for the RNZAF. No.4 Squadron now had several roles - to watch for Japanese shipping attempting to get from Truk to Rabaul or other isolated bases, to watch for any Japanese coastal shipping and to attack any suitable ground targets they found on New Ireland. The squadron was only at Emirau for three months but during that time it dropped 351 tons of bombs and fired a quarter of a million rounds of ammunition! In February 1945 No.4 Squadron was relieved by No.8 Squadron.


In May 1945 No.4 Squadron relieved No.1 Squadron on Guadalcanal. The squadron flew dawn and dusk anti-submarine patrols and shipping escort missions without making any contact with the enemy.

In June 1945 No.4 Squadron relieved No.1 Squadron at Emirau, just to the north-west of the Japanese base at Kavieng on New Ireland. The squadron had several duties. It was to search for Japanese shipping to the north of Emirau, fly patrols around the coast of New Ireland and take part in attacks on suitable targets. In July 1945 No.4 Squadron was withdrawn from Emirau, but wasn't replaced.

The squadron's new base was at Los Negros, the most westerly base to be used by the RNZAF. The squadron was only expected to spend a few weeks on Los Negros before moving further west to Borneo. The squadron's service unit was delayed, and No.4 wasn't able to begin operations from Los Negros before the war ended. Soon afterwards the squadron was disbanded.

1940-41: de Havilland D.H.89 Dragon Rapide
August 1941-: Vickers Vincent
1941: Vickers Vincent and civil types
December 1941-43: Lockheed Hudson
1943-45: Lockheed Ventura

October 1940-November 1944: Fiji
  July 1942: Detachment to New Caledonia
November 1944-February 1945: Emirau, Bismarck Islands

May-June 1945: Guadalcanal
June-July 1945: Emirau
July-September 1945: Los Negros



How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 May 2013), No.4 Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron (RNZAF): Second World War,

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