CHAPTER VI


The Role of the

 Royal Air Force 

     The Royal Air Force responsibilities for this Operation are, like those of all the other arms taking part, many and varied. Not only are there the more specialized tasks of dropping the weapon itself, high and low level meteorological reconnaissance flights to assist the weather forecasters, cloud photography and sampling after the burst, but also the general and more humdrum, though just as vital, duties of communication and the ferrying of men, materials and mail between the various islands, together with such jobs as air/sea rescue and pest control. To undertake these commitments an equally wide variety of aircraft is required, and detachments of Valiants, Canberras, Shackletons, Hastings, etc., from Royal Air Force Commands in the United Kingdom have been allocated to form an Air Task Group at Christmas Island. Certain additional tasks will be undertaken by Sunderland aircraft of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
      This Air Task Group, designated No.160 Wing, started its existence as a small section of 10 officers, 94 N.C.O.'s and airmen at Royal Air Force Station Hornchurch in April, 1956, travelling to Christmas Island in June, 1956. Further R.A.F. parties were sent as and when required and will culminate with the final party arriving at the island early in March, 1957, bringing the total R.A.F. to some 1,260 officers, N.C.O.'s and airmen. To assist No.160 Wing in carrying out its tasks, a detachment is based at Hickham Field United States Air Force Base, Honolulu, to handle passengers and freight using the Honolulu/Christmas Hastings shuttle, and an Air Maintenance Wing, to undertake servicing of aircraft components, is based at Edinburgh Field, South Australia.
      The Commands providing the aircraft required selected the necessary Squadrons. Bomber Command provided No. 49 Squadron equipped with Valiants, No.76 with Canberra B.6's, and No.100 with Canberra P.R7's.
      No. 49 Squadron fought on the Western Front during 1917-18, was then disbanded, re-forming in Bomber Command in 1936. During the Second World War it had an excellent operational bombing record including attacks on such targets as the Tirpitz and Dortmund-Ems Canal; it also took part in several of the "1,000 bomber" raids. The Squadron was again disbanded in 1955 and has been re-formed to take part in this Operation.
      No. 76 Squadron was retained on Home Defence and so saw no active

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