The RAAF’s New Guinea Boston Tea Party

The Royal Australian Air Force No.22 Squadron Douglas Bostons

Taken on strength in April 1942, A28-9 suffered a landing accident only days into its operational life at Laverton. Allocated to 22 Sqn on 29 May 1942 and assigned the same codes it would were for the remainder of its service, DU-K. A28-9 was normally flown by F/L (later W/C) Charles Cuthbertson Learmonth DFC and was named ‘She’s Apples’ with a dog motif. A28-9 was one of the original twenty-two Bostons diverted to the RAAF and one of ten of those which were initially issued to 18 NEI Sqn.

The RAAF’s Douglas Bostons

A28-30, coded DU-W was one of the second batch of Bostons taken on charge in Sept, 1943

The RAAF’s use of the Douglas Boston was accidental and at least initially, unwanted. All told, the RAAF operated sixty-nine DB-7/A-20 Bostons of which all were either intended for or donated from other nation’s air forces. In fact, the RAAF would have very much preferred the Vultee Vengeance they had originally ordered, or failing that even the home produced Wirraway. It was the Japanese who saw to it that 22 Squadron RAAF would be equipped with the arguably far superior Boston, and it was they who would suffer as a result.

The first twenty-two DB-7’s to land in Australia arrived as the survivors of an order of eighty Bostons placed by the Kon Marine (Dutch Navy) for the defence of the Netherlands East Indies (NEI). Of those, thirty-two were diverted from aircraft produced for the RAF and the remainder were to be built to KM spec. Only six of the initial thirty-two aircraft were landed at Java and of these just one was made airworthy before the islands were overrun by the Japanese in February/March 1942. Four remained on board their transport ships and were subsequently returned to the US on them. The remaining twenty-two were sent to Australia and equipped the newly formed No.22 Squadron, RAAF.

The AWM caption identifies this as a possibly a 22 Sqdn Boston prior to its issue. Note the RAF roundels still applied and the absence of Serial Number

When they landed in Sydney, Australia in March 1942 the twenty-two Bostons were still painted in their RAF colours. The RAAF elected to leave them painted that way, simply painting over the KM markings they bore with new RAAF roundels. They were assembled in Richmond and Laverton and from April were issued to No.22 Sqn. Incidentally, ten of the Bostons were initially issued to No.18 Squadron (NEI) RAAF but they were soon returned in favour of B-25’s.

The squadron worked up through the winter but not without incident; four aircraft were lost in as many months to accidents before deployment to PNG in November the same year. Losses continued though; two more Bostons and their crews killed were destroyed when 20lb bombs came loose while taking off. Action however commenced anyway with an armed reconnaissance on the 15th.

Action was mostly focused on interdiction and ground attack against Japanese shipping and land facilities. On March 2-4 the following year the Squadron used their Bostons in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea and also participated in attacks on a large Japanese convoy headed toward Lae.

NO. 22 Sqdn. Boston’s in New Guinea. It’s widely accepted that the Boston Closest to the camera was flown by Fl/Lt W.E. Newton who was posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions during a raid on Japanese land installations in March, 1943

That same month Flt Lt W. E. Newton won the only RAAF Victoria Cross of the pacific war during an attack on Japanese targets on Salamaua. Despite sustaining heavy damage from antiaircraft fire he and his crew pressed home their attack and were able to return to base on one engine. Tragically, only two days later he was shot down during another raid, was captured by the enemy and summarily executed.

The Boston could deliver devastating ground attacks with up to eight machine guns mounted forward and light bombs. This picture shows the ferocity to good effect as two 22 Sqdn. Bostons attack Salamaua in New Guinea in March 1943

Action, accident and maintenance were meanwhile reducing the number of airframes available for operations. By September the squadron was in dire need of aircraft, less than fifteen being on strength. Nine A-20Cs arrived in Australia from the USA that month and were assigned serials A28-23 through 31 (the original twenty-two were assigned A28-1 to 22). Another nine more A-20As were taken on charge in November. In June of 1944, the squadron received the first of 28 A-20Gs, plus one A-20J. Their serials were A28-50 through 78 (A28-41 through A28-49 were not allocated).

December 1943, ground crew work on a No. 22 (Boston) Squadron RAAF at Kiriwina

By November of 1944, the war in the southern pacific had progressed such that No.22 Squadron was raiding targets in the Philippines, among other targets hitting Bunawan Harbor on Mindanao Island. Throughout the campaign they had delivered their “Boston Tea Parties” as the crews called their missions, with exceptional effect attacking shipping and ground-based targets. While theirs wasn’t a glamorous war, it was absolutely necessary and highly effective in the same manner as the ground interdiction delivered by the 8th Army Air Force fighters in Europe.

On November 23 though, after two year’s service with the Squadron their Bostons’ career with the RAAF came to a sudden and somewhat ironic end. Having wreaked havoc on the Japanese through effective ground attack, the Squadron lost thirteen of their Bostons on the ground during a Japanese “nuisance” raid on Morotai. The Squadron strength was so decimated by those losses that it had to be withdrawn to Noemfoor where it was subsequently re-equipped with Beaufighters before returning to action.

The surviving Bostons suffered the ignominy of noncombatant duties such as mail delivery and communications. As the war in the southern pacific was essentially already won by early 1945, the need for ground attack waned away. The surviving Boston A-20G’s were returned to the USAAF, whereas the survivors of the three other marks, including A28-9 were all scrapped.

End of the line; DU-H as a A-20G awaits its return to the US on Halmahera Island or Morotai Island in the Netherlands East Indies in November 1945 while the surviving A’s, C’s, and J’s were all scrapped

AMT 1/48 Scale Douglas Boston A-20B/C

This model began as a commission build (back when I used to do those) sometime around 2008. The original commission was for a super-detailed model, complete with opened panels, tons of PE and resin. If I remember correctly it was going to be an RAF Boston in the European theater.

In the end, despite a good attempt it beat me; the level of detail and self-imposed pressure for perfection took all the joy out of the project and I abandoned it. It languished as a half-constructed shelf queen for over a decade. For some reason I kept it though and when I was back in Canada earlier this year I decided to bring it back to Australia and finally finish it.

I’d done most of the assembly grunt work in the first attempt at it so there wasn’t much to do in getting it ready for paint. I made sure there was enough weight in the nose to avoid it being a tail-heavy and I worked on the engine cowls and exhausts to properly represent the RAAF Mk Bostons. I did decide to try something a bit different though in leaving the wings off for painting thinking that would make the process somewhat easier.

I chose an A-20C s/n A28-9, of No.22 Squadron, RAAF Boston based in New Guinea as my subject which meant a fairly standard RAF paint scheme of dark green and earth over Sky Type S (see above as to why an RAAF Boston in New Guinea is painted in RAF European colours).

I used Vallejo Model Air paints for most of the base layer work. After several experiments I’ve finally settled on Windex as my thinner of choice for these paints; application is very smooth, no retarding agent is required to stop the tip drying and the finish is quite hard, withstanding subsequent masking extremely well.

I used blue tack for masking as contemporary images indicate a soft edges to the camo and after a couple of evenings’ work the basic paint work was done. I had one slight miscalculation on the camo on the port wing join but that would be easy to fix later. I used Montex Masks for the clear parts masking, the major markings and a decal sheet for the stencils as the kit decals being very badly degraded from their time on the shelf.

Basic camouflage scheme completeness; the wings are not yet glued, I’ve offered them up to the fuselage to check the camouflage match – as can be seen, there was a small miscalculation on the port wing
Now with the markings painted, and clear coat applied the model is ready for final assembly and decals

After attaching the wings and fixing the camo – all of which required only about 30min to complete – I began applied the few decals required. These included the serial number, nose art as well as the mission markers and the “She’s Apples” below the rear gunner station.

Wing Commander J.G. Emerson climbs out of A28-9’s cockpit after returning from a sortie in December 1943 in Kiriwina, Trobriand Islands, Papua

Contemporary pictures show the aircraft to be relatively clean and well maintained despite the harsh environment.

I kept the weathering fairly restrained with some fading, staining and chipping but by no means was this an aircraft showing a lot of wear. Looking at pictures of the model now I think I was a bit too restrained – I think it needs a bit more fading and grime. As usual I used ground up artist’s pastels applied with a stiff brush for the staining and a silver pencil for the chipping.

Before and after weathering the underside with ground pastels

With paint and weathering now sealed with a flat coat I flipped the Boston on it’s back and completed the underside to complete the undercarriage and other minor assemblies prior to turning it over again for the final assembly and completion.

The underside is complete

With the model now on its wheels, I worked on the forward guns, drilling out the ports in the painted-over nose glass and installed aftermarket resin gun barrels purchased specifically for this project.

Almost complete, paint chipping and pastels still to apply, as well as removing the masking

Unusually for me I decided to pose the canopy open, though aside from the resin life raft painted yellow there’s not much to see.

Paint chipping, pastels, dirt and grime applied

So, this is my second AMT Boston – Chet Popplewell’s A-20 Boston was the first – and I feel this one is certainly much better than the first; it only took about twelve years to get it there!

References and Credits

Copyright:  I claim original work and Copyright 2019 for the text in this article and the photos of the model.  As usual though, I am indebted for the material used in research listed above in the References and Credits section. Except where noted otherwise, I sourced all other images and photos from the internet and are used under fair-use.  Any copyrighted images will be removed or credited forthwith upon request by its rightful owner.

9 thoughts

  1. Very nicely done. I have one still in his box since the 1980s. It now seems more interesting to build some day. Very interesting story also about that part of the Pacific war.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The AMT Havoc I have is the nightfighter version. I could not get my hands on your version with the glass nose.


  2. The Boston doesn’t get its due, does it? I read a long time ago about an RCAF Boston doing night operations in Europe. Something about having a machine gun pack in its belly and loitering around German air bases looking for airplanes landing.

    You did an excellent job with that model. Well done! I’m on the hunt for a P-70 but they are hard to come by.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. Yes, the more I read about the Boston the more I found to like, and stories there were to tell. I almost made this one a night fighter, or one of 88 Squadron’s smoke laying Bostons at Dieppe but in the end settled on an RAAF aeroplane because I found the pic of it under maintenance at the AWM site.


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