HMS Battler was an Attacker class escort carrier that served on convoy escort duty between Britain and Africa in 1943, took part in the Salerno landings, and spent 1944 operating with the Eastern Fleet then the East Indies Fleet, before becoming a deck landing training carrier in 1945. She was built by Ingalls Shipbuilding of Pescagoula (Mississippi) between April 1941 and November 1942.
After being completed the Battler sailed from Pescagoula to Miami. Nos.840, 890, 892 and 894 Squadrons briefly embarked on the Battler for a cruise from Miami to Quonset Point, lasting from 12-26 December.
The Battler reached the UK by 8 January 1943 when Nos.890, 892 and 894 Squadrons disembarked. The carrier then began a refit which was complete by the start of April. During this period her 4in guns were replaced by three 4in quick firing Mk V HA guns. Working up began on 4 April, and No.835 Squadron embarked with its Swordfish and Sea Hurricanes for convoy escort duty on 10 April 1943. The carrier was then allocated to the Commander-in-Chief Western Approaches.
In the period of May-July 1943 Biter, Archer and Battler escorted eight separate convoys. No merchant ships were lost, demonstrating the value of these escort carriers. Battler escorted convoys OS.49 (UK to West Africa), KMS.16 (North Africa to UK) and XK.9 (part of Operation Torch), and claimed on Fw 200 shot down by her Martlets.
On 16 July No.807 Squadron transferred to the Battler after the Indomitable was damaged, before transferring to the Hunter to return to the UK.
The Battler took part in Operation Avalanche, the naval part of the Salerno landings, forming part of Force V alongside the escort carriers Attacker, Hunter and Stalker and the support carrier Unicorn, while the fleet carriers Illustrious and Formidable formed Force H. The escort carriers reached Gibraltar from the Clyde on 9 August, where they picked up their fighters - in the case of the Battler the Seafires of Nos.807 and 808 Squadrons. The carriers left Gibraltar on 8 September, and spent four days of Salerno, from 9 to 12 September. During this period Force V provided close air support for the landings, suffering heavy losses from accidents to the fragile Seafires. The aircraft moved onshore for operations on 13-14 September, rejoining their carriers after these two days.
After the end of Avalanche the Battler sailed to Aden, before moving on to Bombay where she was the first carrier to be allocated to No.1 Aircraft Carrier Squadron of the East Indies Fleet, after a period with the Eastern Fleet. From November 1943 until March 1944 she served on convoy escort duties operating from Bombay, with the Seafires, Swordfish and Wildcats of No.834 Squadron onboard.
In March 1944 the Battler spotted the German tanker Brake, which was then sunk by destroyers. After this she went to Durban for a refit. This was followed by a working-up period, then some time spent escorting troop convoys. In June 1944 she escorted convoy CM.53, just carrying her anti-submarine Swordfish, then in July escorted KR.11. Anti-submarine patrols in the Colombo area followed until November 1944, when she became a ferry carrier for the East Indies Fleet. In December she was ordered to return to the UK, sailing via Australia and the United States.
The Battler reached the UK in March 1945, bringing No.831 Squadron with it. During this period the carrier was officially an aircraft transport, under the direct control off the Admiralty. In the spring of 1945 the Battler was replaced as a ferry carrier by the Archer, while Battler was used for deck landing training with Western Approaches Command. Working alongside the Ravager and Smiter 375 pupils qualified in deck landing during February-April 1945.
In the summer of 1945 Puncher, Ravager, Battler and Premier acted as deck landing carriers. During the period between May-July 1945 452 pupils qualified in deck landing on the four carriers, and 26 underwent refresher courses. This role lasted until January 1946.
The Battler was returned to the US Navy on 12 February 1946.
The Seafires of No.807 Squadron were onboard the Battler for Operation Avalanche in September 1943.
Four aircraft from 'A' Flight, No.808 Squadron, embarked on the Battler in May-June 1943 to cover a Gibraltar convoy, claiming one Fw 200 on the return trip. The entire squadron embarked in June 1943 to take part in Operation Avalanche in September 1943 before returning home on the Hunter.
The personnel of No.831 Squadron returned to the UK on the Battler at the end of 1944.
No.834 Squadron embarked on the Battler after Operation Avalanche of September 1943 with a mix of Seafires, Swordfish and Wildcats. The squadron remained onboard for several periods until October 1944.
No.835 Squadron embarked on the Battler with Swordfish and Sea Hurricanes on 10 April 1943. It remained on the carrier until late in1943, although the squadron was detached to Argus for a period in September 1943 and the fighter wing was detached to the Ravager at the end of September.
No.840 Squadron was briefly onboard with its Swordfish II for the cruise from Miami to Quonset Point on 12-26 December 1942
No.890 Squadron and its Martlets were onboard from 8 December in the US to 8 January 1943 in the UK
No.892 Squadron and its Martlets were onboard from 8 December in the US to 8 January 1943 in the UK
No.894 Squadron and its Martlets were onboard from 8 December in the US to 8 January 1943 in the UK
491ft 7in to 496ft 1in oa
4 April 1941
15 November 1942
Returned to US
What did your Battler ancestors do for a living?
In 1940, Farmer and Maid were the top reported jobs for men and women in the US named Battler. 32% of Battler men worked as a Farmer and 21% of Battler women worked as a Maid. Some less common occupations for Americans named Battler were Farm Laborer and Housekeeper .
*We display top occupations by gender to maintain their historical accuracy during times when men and women often performed different jobs.
Top Male Occupations in 1940
Top Female Occupations in 1940
A New Approach
A year after Cuniberti's article, Fisher convened an informal group to begin assessing these types of designs. The all-big gun approach was validated during Admiral Heihachiro Togo's victory at the Battle of Tsushima (1905) in which the main guns of Japanese battleships inflicted the bulk of the damage on the Russian Baltic Fleet. British observers aboard Japanese ships reported this to Fisher, now First Sea Lord, with the further observation that the Imperial Japanese Navy's 12" guns were particularly effective. Receiving this data, Fisher immediately pressed ahead with an all-big-gun design.
The lessons learned at Tsushima were also embraced by the United States which began work on an all-big-gun class (the South Carolina-class) and the Japanese who commenced building the battleship Satsuma. While planning and construction for the South Carolina-class and Satsuma began prior to British efforts, they soon fell behind for a variety of reason. In addition to the increased firepower of an all-big-gun ship, the elimination of the secondary battery made adjusting fire during battle easier as it allowed spotters to know which type of gun was making the splashes near an enemy vessel. The removal of the secondary battery also made the new type more efficient to operate as fewer types of shells were needed.
Maria Zijlstra: Here's the lexicographer Bruce Moore, to tell about two words that are central to our national psyche today: 'Aussie' and 'battler', both of which have great resonance - across this wide land - especially now:
Bruce Moore: 'Aussie'
For centuries northern hemisphere scholars had postulated the existence of a great land to the south, which they called terra australis incognita 'the unknown southern land'. When the Dutch discovered the western coast in the seventeenth century, they gave it the name Nova Hollandia or New Holland. When Captain Cook discovered the eastern coast in 1770 he called it New South Wales. Matthew Flinders, circumnavigating the continent in 1803, proved that New Holland and New South Wales were part of the same land, and recommended a return to a 'translated' version of the original Latin title terra australis incognita: 'Had I permitted myself any innovation upon the original term, it would have been to convert it into Australia as being more agreeable to the ear, and as an assimilation to the names of the other great portions of the earth.'
In 1817 Governor Macquarie argued that the continent should be known by the name 'Australia', and not by 'the very erroneous and misapplied name, hitherto given it, of "New Holland", which properly speaking applies only to a part of this immense Continent'. By the late 1820s, the new continent was generally known as Australia, although New Holland lingered on until the 1860s. The older term has not, however, been totally expunged from Australian English—it is remembered, for example, in the name of the New Holland honeyeater of eastern Australia.
The history of Dutch exploration and the word Holland are etched into Australian English in another way. Consider this 2006 passage from the Northern Territory News [in a section that allows text messaging abbreviations] it is from an Aboriginal woman protesting against a person, called Felix, who supported the rejection by a Northern Territory judge of a native title claim by the Larrakia people of the Darwin area: 'Felix, i suppose ur a balander just like the judge. We lost the case coz people like u took our culture and traditional laws away from us.' She calls the white person a balander, a word that is widely used in the Australian Aboriginal English of northern Australia. Balander is an alteration of Hollander, meaning first a Dutchman, in particular, and then a white man in general. It was originally used in Malay, and then moved into Macassarese, the language of an Indonesian people who traded with the Aboriginal people of northern Australia from the eighteenth century the word balander was taken into Australian Aboriginal languages from Macassarese, and from there it found its way into Aboriginal English.
The formal name Australia held sway for almost one hundred years before the informal 'Aussie' made its first appearance. The word Aussie is a typical example of the way Australians abbreviate words and then add the -ie (or -y or sometimes -o) suffix: the process produces informality, and it is often, as in this case of Aussie, a marker of affection. In this case, we have clear historical evidence of the events that generated the term Aussie and of the impulses that generated the affection. All the early evidence for Aussie is associated with troops who were serving overseas during the First World War, and Aussie appears especially in newspapers and diaries produced by serving soldiers and nurses. The earliest evidence is in 1915, when Aussie appears as a noun meaning 'Australia' in The Bulletin: 'A farewell dance for the boys going home to "Aussie" tomorrow.' In another publication in 1916, Aussie reappears as an adjective meaning Australian: 'One of our Aussie officers.' In 1918, the final year of the war, Aussie emerges as a noun to describe an Australian soldier who fought in the First Word War. By the following year, it was being used to describe any typical Australian, as in this example in which the writer: '. endeavoured to picture the Aussey as he really is—a lovable, humorous, if somewhat crude product of the great Commonwealth.'
Aussie then forged ahead. By 1920 Australia was called 'Aussieland', and by 1941 an Australian was an 'Aussielander'. Australian Rules Football became Aussie Rules in 1941. A new term, the Aussie, meaning 'the Australian dollar' appeared in 1984, just a few months after the dollar had been floated on the international money market. The Aussie pizza, the salient feature of which is a fried egg on the top, appeared in 1986 and the sporting cry 'Aussie Aussie Aussie, oi oi oi' appeared in 1995.
In the early records Aussie is occasionally spelt Ozzie, but Aussie dominates overwhelmingly both in the past and in the present. Where, then, did 'Oz' come from? It is, of course, understandable as a reproduction in writing of the pronunciation of an abbreviated form of Australia, Australian, or Aussie, but it is curious, given how common it is today, that the -z- or -zz- spelling did not appear until very late. As an abbreviation of 'Australia' Oz first appears in 1944 in a newspaper of a military troop: 'All the tribes of Oz did gather together'. It is just possible that this new spelling was influenced by the Wizard of Oz. L. Frank Baum published the original children's novel as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900, but it was the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz that gave it worldwide popularity. The title, and particularly the phrase the Land of Oz, may well have had some influence on Australian spellings of Aus(sie) as Oz(zie).
Aussie has been one of the most enduring of Australian words. It belongs in the cluster of core Australian words (such as Anzac and digger) that arose during the First World War, and continues in usage today.
Then there is 'battler', one of the most positive words in Australian English. It usually refers to a person who works hard to make a decent living in difficult circumstances. The battler refuses to admit defeat in the face of great difficulties, and although the referent is usually a person, it does not have to be, as in this newspaper reference to the Western Australian mallee fowl, which is a mound-building bird that is under great threat because of the destruction of its traditional habitat and predation from feral animals: 'Neither [the male or female mallee fowl] is melodious but both are battlers. As an endangered species, they need to be.'
It is a surprise to turn to the large Oxford English Dictionary and discover that for the rest of the world a battler is usually a very literal fighter: 'one who battles or fights a warrior, a fighter.' Recent evidence suggests that in international English a figurative transfer to sportspeople or sporting teams now commonly occurs, but the range of figurative meanings that exists in Australian English is not available to these other Englishes.
It is also a surprise to discover that in earlier Australian uses, 'battler' did not always have the heroic connotations that it usually has now. The earliest battler was the swagman, often described in the writings of Henry Lawson. Lawson's characters are often viewed through somewhat romantic modern eyes. But when we look more carefully, he is usually someone struggling to exist, not the cheerful or jolly swagman of popular tradition Lawson, in an 1893 article titled 'Some Popular Australian Mistakes', attacked the romanticising of the bush tradition: 'It's not glorious and grand and free to be on the track. Try it.' As described by The Bulletin in 1906: '[Swaggies] were old, white-bearded, travel-stained battlers of the track.'
It is instructive to look at other types who were called battlers in this early period. First, there was the person who frequented racecourses in search of a living. Cornelius Crowe in his Australian Slang Dictionary of 1895 defines such battlers as 'broken-down backers of horses still sticking to the game', where it is the punters rather than the expected horses that are 'broken-down'. A 1904 court report describes the activities of one such battler: 'Mr Kane, who appeared for the accused, said that his client was known as a "battler" on the racecourse. He hung about where betting men congregated, and picked up any odd work that they might give him.'
The second type of battler was the prostitute. This sense is first evidenced in 1898. In 1956 Ruth Park and Darcy Niland say that 'a battler is Sydneyese for prostitute', and Sidney Baker in his 1966 edition of The Australian Language suggests that the battler was a prostitute who worked alone without the protection of a pimp. To put it brutally, the battler was a person at the very lowest end of society, who struggled to eke out a very basic existence. A.G. Stephens (an editor of The Bulletin) and S.E. O'Brien (a journalist) put together an unpublished dictionary of Australian slang between 1897 and 1910, and in their entry for battling bring together the various aspects.
Battling: street walking or soliciting by prostitutes. . 'Battling for a living' . has come to mean struggling or fighting for a living in a general sense. An unfortunate of either sex out of employment and eking out an existence is said to be battling. . [And in> Bush slang: Battler is a hard up traveller or swagman who is 'battling for a crust'.
All these battlers belong to the working class, and this is certainly an important aspect of the history of the battler. As described by K.Smith in 1965: 'Everybody in Australia has his position. Roughly speaking, there are three kinds of people in this country: the rich, the middle class and the battlers.'
Of course the present-day exclusively positive connotations of the battler were often implicit in these early battlers, especially those battlers who were part of the bush tradition. This is evident in Henry Lawson, who, although he does not romanticise them, has a strong sympathy and admiration for these people of the bush, especially the swagman, who eke out their existence with resilience and courage. Gradually the term divested itself of the earlier associations of the mug punter and the prostitute, and emerged as a term of positive admiration. The battler is 'one who is always prepared to have a go, regardless of the odds', as put in the Melbourne Age.
It is this kind of battler who became the little Aussie battler, which has a wide range of figurative uses: the zebra finch is a little Aussie battler because of its will to survive environmental threats the Australian dollar is the little Aussie battler as it takes on overseas currencies ('It warms the heart to see the Australian dollar, the little Aussie battler, taking on the once-mighty greenback', from The Age). Any negative connotations previously associated with battler have now disappeared, and especially in the form little Aussie battler, the battler's virtues have become Australian virtues.
Maria Zijlstra: Bruce Moore is the director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra, and was reading from his latest book about language called, What's Their Story? A History of Australian Words, published by the Oxford University Press.
Ten Interesting Facts and Figures about HMS Victory
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The flagship of Admiral Horatio Nelson, the HMS Victory is one of the most famous ships to sail in the Royal Navy. Launched in 1765, it would see its name go down in the history books nearly forty years later at the Battle of Trafalgar. While Nelson would command the battle from the Victory’s quarterdeck, his death would forever tie the ship to him and the battle. Of course, Trafalgar is not where the HMS Victory’s story begins nor is this where it ends. Moored in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, you can visit the ship yourself to find out more, but we’re going to bring you ten interesting facts and figures to digest more immediately.
First, Some Numbers
For the nautical nerds amongst us, here are some fast facts about the ship itself. The Victor’s overall length from bowsprit to taffrail is 226 ft, 6 inches. Its breadth is 51 ft, 10 inches. The depth in the hold is 21 ft, 6 inches. As for the tonnage, the ship 2,196.6 metric tons and displaces 3,556 metric tons of water. During the Battle of Trafalgar, the ship was armed with 104 cannons and crewed by 821 sailors.
Don’t Drink the Water
As with most ships of the era, the crew didn’t drink water on board. The most common beverages amongst the men were wine and beer.
The HMS Victory was commissioned as part of twelve ships ordered by Pitt the Elder in 1758. Pitt wanted one to be a first-rate ship, which meant it would be one of the largest ships of the time. The ship was laid down and took six years and roughly 6,000 oaks and elms to build. The ship was launched on May 7, 1765, but shipwright Hartley Larkin immediately noticed a problem—the dock gates were 9 ½ inches too narrow for the ship to fit through. A crew of workmen had to chip away at the wooden gates enough so the ship could make it out of the dock.
Sails and Speed
The HMS Victory has three masts and had a total of thirty-seven sails. The fastest the ship was ever recorded as going was 11 knots, which is the equivalent of 12 miles per hour.
Hurry Up and Wait
Despite it being built to be a major part of the British fleet, the ship remained moored in the River Medway for thirteen years until France joined the American War of Independence in 1778. The ship was then activated in response to French attacks that helped keep the majority of the Royal Navy on that side of Atlantic.
In 1780, the bottom of the ship was covered with 3,923 sheets of copper. The purpose of this was to protect the ship below the waterline from shipworm, which are mollusks that have a habit of boring into the wood, weakening it over time.
As part of the conflicts with France taking place during the Revolutionary War, the HMS Victory was part of the British fleet in both the First and Second Battles of Ushant. It also participated in a battle against France and Spain as part of the Siege of Gibraltar in 1783 and later the Battle of Cape St. Vincent in 1797.
What’s in a Name?
The HMS Victory was named after Britain’s multiple victories against the French prior to the ship’s commissioning.
The HMS Victory is the only surviving ship to have participated in the American War of Independence, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars. Strange to think that for its pedigree, two years after Trafalgar, the Royal Navy deemed the ship too old and in disrepair to consider it a first-rate ship. It was then made a second-rate ship and thirty of its guns removed. By 1831, the Admiralty wanted to break up the Victory and use its timbers for other vessels, but a public outcry spared the historic vessel. It was then used as a training ship until it was moved to Portsmouth in 1922 and has existed as a museum ship ever since.
Visit the Victory
Those wishing to see the Victory in person can find it at No. 2 at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The ship opens at 10 AM every day (except holidays) and requires a ticket. You can purchase a Full Navy ticket that grants you access to several other ships in the dockyard as well as a Harbour Tour and entrance to the National Museum of Royal Navy Portsmouth.
About John Rabon
The Hitchhiker's Guide has this to say about John Rabon: When not pretending to travel in time and space, eating bananas, and claiming that things are "fantastic", John lives in North Carolina. There he works and writes, eagerly awaiting the next episodes of Doctor Who and Top Gear. He also enjoys good movies, good craft beer, and fighting dragons. Lots of dragons.
HMS 'Hood' Sunk by 'Bismarck'
On the evening of 21 May 1941, battle cruisers HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales were ordered to leave Scapa Flow immediately and head for Iceland, from where they could intercept the German battleships Bismarck and Prinz Eugen, which were attempting to break out into the Atlantic through the Denmark Straits.
The cruisers Norfolk and Suffolk were already in the area, but they opted to shadow the two German ships and call for assistance rather than engaging the German vessels directly.
The Hood, an unmodernised ship commanded by Vice Admiral Lancelot Holland, lead with the new and untried Prince of Wales following. Both groups of ships were steaming directly towards one another, although due to damage to the radar system on the Bismarck, the German commander Admiral Lutjens was unaware of the approaching enemy.
Just after midnight on 24 May, contact with the Bismarck was temporarily lost and only regained again at 3am, causing Holland to alter his course to meet the enemy. At around 6am, visual contact was made with the German ships, and Holland again changed course to meet the opposing battleships head-on, opening fire on the lead German ship which he erroneously believed to be the Bismarck.
The Prinz Eugen and Bismarck concentrated their fire on HMS Hood, which continued to steam towards them, at the same time attempting to turn sideways on to bring all her guns to bear and to absorb salvos on her thick side armour. In so doing, HMS Hood was hit first by an eight-inch shell from the Prinz Eugen which ignited ammunition stored on her deck, and then by a 15-inch shell from the Bismarck which hit her magazine amidships, causing a massive explosion and breaking the Hood in two.
The Hood sank almost instantly, taking with her 1,416 men, among them Vice Admiral Holland.
John Nichols: A Last Battler Against Joe McCarthy and His "Ism"
[John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure for Royalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use of the 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democratic leaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by the founders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"]
The arc of history is long, and those who bend it over particularly wide stretches to time sometimes outlive memories of the most dramatic turns.
Such is the case with Thomas Fairchild, the last man to mount a serious electoral challenge to Joe McCarthy and the "ism" he spawned, who has died this week at age 94.
Fairchild's rendevous with destiny played out a very long time ago? In deed, on the day of the vote in which Fairchild sought to prevent the reelection of the red-baiting Republican senator from Wisconsin in 1952, afternoon newspapers carried accounts of aged Civil War veterans casting ballots.
We have come so far from the distant days of McCarthy's "red scare" that it is easy to forget the courage that it took to challenge the senator at the height of his political power -- and his dominance of the national discourse.
No less a figure than Dwight Eisenhower, the man who would be elected president in the same 1952 election that saw the Fairchild-McCarthy contest play out, avoided taking McCarthy to task, for fear on the general's part that he too might face the wrath of the senator whose wild charges of communist conspiracies had targeted and terrorized the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Congress and the media.
Fairchild did not have to enter the firestorm.
As the election approached, he was the most successful Democratic political figure in the still very Republican state of Wisconsin. Fairchild was, in fact, the only member of his party to win statewide office since the Franklin Roosevelt landslide of 1932.
Having served a term as a civil-liberties defending and corporation-challenging attorney general in the late 194Os, he was by 1952 comfortably in position as the appointed U.S. Attorney for the western district of Wisconsin. Handsome and articulate, a member of one of Wisconsin's oldest families, the son of a state Supreme Court justice, he was a political "golden boy" who was tagged by just about everyone for a bright future in elective office or the judiciary.
Then, University of Wisconsin-Madison students, fearful that McCarthy would be reelected over weak opposition, formed a "Fairchild vs. McCarthy" club and delivered a petition to the U.S. Attorney that read: "We, the undersigned students of the Univerity of Wisconsin -- Republicans, Democrats and Independents -- oppose the re-election of Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy and urge you, Thomas E. Fairchild, to announce your candidacy for United States senator."
The students knew Fairchild as one of the few prominent figures with the courage to take on McCarthy. An able lawyer, who would go on to serve as chief judge of the U.S.Court Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Fairchild hit McCarthy where it hurt when, in 195O, he challenged the senator to relinquish his official immunity and publicly repeat libelous charges he had made against employees of the U.S. State Department. The challenge exposed McCarthy's recklessness and hypocrisy, at least to those Americans who were paying attention. But they also led to attacks on Fairchild's patriotism by McCarthy's allies.
Well aware of McCarthy's viciousness, and of the ugliness of the political moment, Fairchild did not leap at the "opportunity" to oppose the senator in 1952. But he finally decided that he had to make the race. And he did so without apology or caution. Condemning McCarthy and McCarthyism for causing a "deadening of the human spirit through ruthless insistence on total conformity," the Democratic candidate declared that, "The outcome of the election will go far toward determining whether we give the green light to a home-grown gestapo as the advance guard of a new totalitarianism, or whether we will stop this ugly threat to American freedom dead in its tracks."
Fairchild did not stop McCarthyism in its tracks. But he slowed the red-scare down by standing up to McCarthy when too few others would. On election day, McCarthy prevailed. Yet, he ran far behind other Republicans, and that vulberability was noticed by his fellow senators, by Eisenhower and by a growing number of journalists, who slowly began to find the courage to confront the senator and his "ism." Though McCarthy continued to hold his high-profile "red-hunting" hearings for several more years, the evidence of homestate opposition to the senator -- which would come into stark relief when a mass campaign by recall the senator from office -- made national news and was frequently cited by critics of the senator.
There is no question that Fairchild was right when he said that McCarthy and McCarthyism "brought shame on Wisconsin." But, if anyone restored the state's honor and offered a lesson in political courage that ought not be forgotten in this time of the Patriot Act and new assaults on civil liberties and dissent, it is Thomas Fairchild.
Australia’s First Homebuilt Fighter Holds the Line
A restored Commonwealth CA-13 Boomerang in the markings of No. 83 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, flies near the Temora Aviation Museum in New South Wales.
Designed by an Austrian around an American engine, the Commonwealth Boomerang was the first frontline combat aircraft built in Australia.
Barely two months after Pearl Harbor, Japanese bombers attacked Darwin, Australia’s Northern Territory capital, in the first of 97 raids.
With fears of a Japanese invasion growing, the island nation urgently needed fighter aircraft, but the Royal Australian Air Force fleet was small and largely obsolete. The RAF’s needs had preempted the supply of new airplanes and spares from Britain, and as the United States geared up for war, Australia could no longer be certain of promised aircraft from that ally either.
Australia had never before produced a frontline combat aircraft. The new plane had to use whatever components were already on hand: engines from a torpedo bomber, structural elements from a trainer. It was designed by Friedrich David, who was officially an enemy alien. Born with few advantages but succeeding through dogged persistence, the Commonwealth Aircraft Company CA-12 through CA-19 Boomerangs were true “Aussie battlers.”
An Austrian Jew, Fred David had been sent to Japan by Ernst Heinkel to save him from Nazi persecution. There he helped develop the Mitsubishi A5M “Claude” fighter and Aichi D3A “Val” dive bomber before the Kempeitai secret police began to show an unwelcome interest in him. Fleeing to Australia just as war broke out, David was interned as an enemy alien until CAC’s general manager, Wing Cmdr. Lawrence Wackett, arranged for his release and appointed him chief engineer. Even so, David had to report to the police every two weeks.
Australia was producing two military aircraft at the time: the obsolescent Bristol Beaufort torpedo bomber and the CAC Wirraway (Aboriginal for “challenge”), a trainer and general-purpose aircraft developed from the North American NA-16—known as the Harvard I to Commonwealth forces. David designed the Boomerang around the Beaufort’s 1,200-hp Twin Wasp engine, reusing the jigs used to build the Wirraway’s wing, center section, landing gear and tail assembly.
Ground crewmen work on a “Boomer” at Piva airfield on Bougainville in January 1945. (Australian War Memorial)
Armament was another challenge. British and Commonwealth aircraft in the Pacific still relied on .303-inch machine guns, but experience had shown that heavier guns were needed to deal with the new enemy fighters. The only aircraft cannon in the country was a 20mm British Hispano-Suiza brought back from the Middle East. The designers decided to reverse-engineer that gun and set up a manufacturing operation from scratch. Armed with two 20mm cannons and four .303-inch machine guns, the Boomerang packed a punch that was slightly superior to the Mitsubishi A6M2 Zeros’ at the time.
Initial tests brought good news and bad. The Boomerang’s agility and high rate of climb meant it could hold its own in mock dogfights against a Bell P-39 Airacobra and a Curtiss Kittyhawk (the RAF name for the P-40D and later variants), but its comparatively underpowered engine was a concern, especially above 15,000 feet.
The RAAF ordered 105 CA-12 Boomerangs in February 1942, the same month as the initial raid on Darwin, receiving the first aircraft just five months later. An order for 145 more led to the CA-13, CA-14 and CA-19 versions, each with minor improvements. A single CA-14 was fitted with a General Electric supercharger to improve high-altitude performance, but it barely fit into the compact fuselage and its large intake resulted in buffeting problems. By this time, though, the Boomerang was being replaced by faster Supermarine Spitfire Mk. Vcs (the first 70 of which reached Australia in January 1943) and P-40D Kittyhawks from Britain and the U.S.
The first Boomerang squadron, No. 84, was based at Horn Island, in the Torres Strait between Australia and New Guinea. Early in 1943, a Japanese invasion of Australia was still considered possible, and the Allied base at Merauke, in southern New Guinea, had been attacked several times from both land and air. On May 16, Flying Officer Robert W. Johnstone and Sergeant M.F.J. Stammer intercepted three Mitsubishi G4M1 “Betty” bombers, which escaped into the clouds after a brief exchange of fire. The rest of the summer passed uneventfully, and the squadron was reequipped with Kittyhawks that October.
Based in Western Australia, No. 85 Squadron protected the U.S. Navy submarine base at Exmouth Gulf. On the night of May 20, 1943, two of the squadron’s Boomerangs intercepted a pair of Japanese Kawanishi H8K2s, but the big flying boats ditched their bombs and outran the fighters. The Boomerangs scrambled on two other occasions without making contact with the enemy. No. 85 began to receive the Spitfire Mark V in September 1944, and the squadron’s last Boomerangs were replaced on January 12, 1945.
The third RAAF Boomerang squadron, No. 83, flew patrols and convoy escort missions from the Northern Territory until mid-1944. Its Boomerangs never saw combat.
According to RAAF records, no Boomerang is credited with downing an enemy aircraft. Japanese army fighters shot down two Boomerangs over New Guinea, however, on September 6 and November 26, 1943.
After RAAF fighter squadrons reequipped with Spitfires and Kittyhawks, the Boomerang found its true calling as a close support and tactical reconnaissance aircraft with Nos. 4 and 5 squadrons in New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Borneo. The fighter’s armament, ruggedness and agility suited it for this new role. Operating in pairs, one at treetop height and one flying top cover, Boomerangs dealt with enemy positions ahead of advancing Allied forces. In addition to employing their guns, they could carry bombs weighing up to 500 pounds on a central hardpoint, as well as 20-pound smoke bombs to mark targets.
When No. 4 Squadron’s Wirraways were supplemented by Boomerangs in May 1943, the unit had been in New Guinea for six months, supporting U.S. and Australian ground forces. U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger expressed great admiration for the squadron’s work. One Boomerang pilot (whose name has unfortunately been lost to history) took off at dusk to direct artillery fire against an enemy gun position by observing the gun’s answering flashes against the deepening gloom. When the gun was destroyed, he made a risky landing at his tiny jungle airstrip by the headlights of two jeeps.
One of No. 4 Squadron’s Boomerangs suffered a unique fate when it returned from a mission on November 12, 1943, and was shot down by a P-38 Lightning. Pilot Officer Robert M. Stewart managed to crash-land his burning “Boomer” near Salamaua, and the American P-38 pilot, 1st Lt. Gerald Johnson, apologized profusely, saying he mistook the Boomerang for a Ki-43 “Oscar.” Johnson later added an Australian flag to the 20 Japanese flags that would eventually decorate the nacelle of his Lightning.
After mistakenly shooting down a Boomerang, whose pilot fortunately was uninjured, American Gerald Johnson added an Australian flag to the Japanese flags that decorated the nacelle of his P-38 Lightning. (P-38 National Association)
No. 5 Squadron also received Boomerangs in 1943, and was sent to Bougainville as part of No. 84 (Army Co-operation) Wing. On April 16, 1945, when two Australian brigades were held up by a Japanese force blocking a vital road, No. 5’s Boomerangs placed smoke bombs just 25 yards apart and 300 yards from the Australian front line, enabling Royal New Zealand Air Force F4U Corsairs to clear the way, with no Australian casualties. Group Captain G.N. Roberts, who commanded the New Zealand Air Task Force, said, “The excellent pinpointing by the Boomerangs has made the job a great deal easier and much more effective.”
One other RAAF unit equipped with Boomerangs, No. 8 Communication Unit, operated around New Guinea from late 1943, assisting with air-sea rescue operations. Boomerangs were also used for supply dropping and anti-malarial spraying, but it was their tree-skimming attacks on the enemy front lines that most endeared them to Allied ground forces slogging through the jungle. On more than one occasion the planes flew so low that they returned to base carrying leaves and small branches.
The job was not without its risks. Rugged as it was, the Boomerang was vulnerable to enemy groundfire as well as fighters. It was easy for an inexperienced pilot to groundloop the fighter, and an overzealous kick of a rudder pedal while taxiing could send it veering into the jungle. Because of their rarity, Boomerangs were regularly challenged by friendly ground and air forces.
Of the 250 Boomerangs built between 1942 and 1945, only a handful survive. The three said to be airworthy are all based in Australia: CA-13 A46-122 Suzy-Q at the Temora Aviation Museum in New South Wales CA-19 A46-206 Milingimbi Ghost on static display at the Museum of Australian Army Flying at Oakey in Queensland and A46-63, a restored CA-12 from 1943 with an added passenger seat. A46-30 is on static display at the RAAF Museum at Point Cook, near Melbourne. A CA-13 replica with many original parts, numbered A46-139 and painted in RAAF colors, flew for years in the U.S., but is now based in the Netherlands. The Warbirds Research Group’s online warbird registry lists eight other Boomerangs as surviving in partial condition and either in storage or under restoration.
Two CA-12s serve as trainers after being retired from No. 83 Squadron. (Australian War Memorial)
Engine: CAC-built 1,200-hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S3C4-G Twin Wasp 14-cylinder radial engine driving three-bladed Hamilton 3T50 constant-speed propeller
Wingspan: 36 feet 3 inches
Weight: 5,373 lbs. (empty) 7,600 lbs. (max)
Max. speed: 305 mph at 15,500 feet
Climb: 2,940 feet per minute
Range: 930 miles (normal) 1,600 (with auxiliary tank)
Ceiling: 29,000 feet
Armament: Two 20mm cannons and four .303-inch Browning machine guns plus one 500-lb. bomb in place of auxiliary tank
An airline brat from the 1960s, Graeme Davis developed an early interest in aircraft of the interwar years and World War II. He discovered the CAC Boomerang thanks to the Airfix model kit. Suggested reading: The Commonwealth Boomerang, by Rene Francillon, and Commonwealth Boomerang Described, by Geoffrey Pentland.
Aussie Battler appeared in the September 2016 issue of Aviation History Magazine. Subscribe today!
Role in the Story
Willard was briefly alluded to in the TIPS for episode 5 as the leader of the SSVD and rumored to be more powerful than the Eiserne Jungfrau's current leader, Dlanor A. Knox.
Requiem of the Golden Witch
Will makes his first proper appearance, resolving a case taken and misunderstood by his old teammates of the SSVD. He saves the servant who was unfairly accused and then leaves immediately.
Will is then called by Bernkastel and goes to Rokkenjima to attend Beatrice's funeral. This Rokkenjima is a special world with many differences namely, Battler does not attend the conference and Lion Ushiromiya exists.
He is forced to accept the role of detective when Bern asks him to solve Beatrice's murder with Lion as his sidekick. The two start questioning the adults about the figure of Beatrice, later asking Kinzo himself about his version. They then interview the cousins, and Will gets closer and closer to Lion as the two start to know each other better.
Will then exposes his theory about the witch's death, giving his support to Lion when it is revealed that they are Beatrice II's child and not Natsuhi's. After that, he listens to Yasu's confession and frees Clair's soul to rest in peace after solving her riddles. With the end of the funeral, Will says goodbye to Lion and heads back home to his cat Diana.
In the Tea Party, he arrives just in the nick of time to save Lion from Bernkastel's revenge, who shows them the truth of Rokkenjima. Lion escapes after Will tells them that they are the last hope for Beatrice to have a happy ending. While fighting off Bern's army of cats, he loses an arm in the process and heads out with Lion to try and find a happy Kakera despite his injury.
It is suggested by the . scene that they are both killed by Bernkastel.
Twilight of the Golden Witch
It is revealed that he and Lion were saved by Lambdadelta and have become her pieces. They were brought with Lambda to the after-party that Battler held.
When the goats attack Rokkenjima, he and Dlanor fight against those who believe that the Rokkenjima Incident was caused by magic. After Rokkenjima is eaten by the goats, Will goes the Golden Land with the others and fights against more goats, dying when the Golden Land is destroyed. He is then revived alongside everyone else by ANGE-Beatrice's magic.
In the Magic Ending, it's stated in a letter Erika received that Will started taking badminton lessons under Lion. He reappears with the other characters in the .List of site sources >>>