Enemy aircraft shot down on Australian soil at night

23 Nov 1942

Wing Commander Richard (‘Dick’) Cresswell, the 22-year-old Commanding Officer of No 77 Squadron, was scrambled from the unit’s base at Livingstone, Northern Territory, at 3.27am to mount patrol over Darwin against incoming Japanese raiders. Shortly after 5.00 am he saw clearly silhouetted against the moon, three Mitsubishi G4M ‘Betty’ bombers in formation heading south at 23 500 feet, and moved to engage them. On his first attacking pass he raked all three aircraft with a four-second burst from his P40E Kittyhawk’s six guns. The bombers immediately turned to port, except the outside Betty which fell behind. Singling out this aircraft, Cresswell made two more passes which left it blazing fiercely and losing height. Shortly afterwards the Betty exploded and fell to earth in two parts. Cresswell’s ‘kill’ was the first time that an enemy aircraft had been shot down over Australian soil at night.

Related aircraft

  • Betty Bomber
  • P-40 Kittyhawk