Boston/Havoc in Service with Royal Australian Air Force

Last revised July 10, 2017

Another user of the Boston/Havoc was the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), which operated 69 DB-7/A-20 aircraft. They were all known as Bostons by the RAAF but had varied origins, some being ex-USAAF machines, some being acquired from the Netherlands Marine Luchtvaartdenst, and others being diverted from British contracts. These planes served with just one RAAF squadron, No. 22 Squadron which saw a lot of action in the East Indies theatre of action.

The first batch of 22 Bostons to enter RAAF service were planes that had actually been allocated to the Netherlands East Indies Air Force from RAF stocks. They were actually on their way via sea to the Netherlands East Indies, but were diverted to Australia when the Japanese overran that part of the world. These 22 aircraft were allocated the RAAF serial numbers A28-1 through A28-22, and bore the following RAF serials:

AL890 to RAAF as A28-1 3/42
AL347 to RAAF as A28-2 3/42
AL887 to RAAF as A28-3 3/42
AL893 to RAAF as A28-4 3/42
AL895 to RAAF as A28-5 3/42
AL897 to RAAF as A28-6 3/42
AL899 to RAAF as A28-7 3/42
AL907 to RAAF as A28-8 3/42
AL891 to RAAF as A28-9 3/42
AL358 to RAAF as A28-10 3/42
AL364 to RAAF as A28-11 3/42
AL365 to RAAF as A28-12 3/42
AL367 to RAAF as A28-13 3/42
AL892 to RAAF as A28-14 3/42
AL361 to RAAF as A28-15 3/42
AL362 to RAAF as A28-16 3/42
AL363 to RAAF as A28-17 3/42
AL366 to RAAF as A28-18 3/42
AL368 to RAAF as A28-19 3/42
AL369 to RAAF as A28-20 3/42
AL894 to RAAF as A28-21 3/42
AL898 to RAAF as A28-22 3/42

When these planes arrived in Australia in March/April of 1942, these planes were painted in RAF camouflage, but had their British markings overpainted with Kon Marine (Dutch Navy) insignia. They entered service with No. 22 Squadron RAAF and served in the East Indies theatre of combat beginning in September of 1942.

First action took place on November 15, 1942, when three aircraft carried out an armed reconnaissance. In action, the RAAF Bostons often had four fixed forward-firing 0.50-inch machine guns installed in the nose in place of the bombardier. The transparent areas of the nose were faired over with painted aluminum and the crew was reduced from four to three. Acting in combination with the standard pairs of 0.303-inch guns mounted in side blisters, the extra guns gave the Boston formidable fire- power when operating in the ground attack/strike role. RAAF Bostons took part in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea (March 2-4, 1943), and participated in attacks on a large Japanese convoy headed toward Lae.

A couple of RAAF Bostons had a fixed 0.30-inch machine gun installed in the extreme tail. This gun was fired electrically by the rear gunner and was intended to scare off enemy aircraft attacking from the rear.

Boston pilot Flt Lt W. E. Newton was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in action during an attack on Japanese targets on Salamaua on March 16, 1943. He was flying A28-7 in an attack on Japanese fuel dumps, stores, and buildings. Despite heavy damage from antiaircraft fire, he and his crew pressed home their attack. He was able to return safely to base on only one engine. He was the only RAAF winner of the Victoria Cross of the Pacific War. Unfortunately he was shot down two days later in A28-3 during another raid. He was captured by the enemy and executed.

Nine A-20Cs arrived in Australia from the USA in September of 1943. They were assigned the serials A28-23 through 31. They required substantial work to make them operational, and did not fly their first missions until mid-October. The serial numbers of these planes were as follows:

A28-23	Ex-USAAF A-20C-5-DO 42-33154
A28-24	Ex-USAAF A-20C-5-DO 42-33163
A28-25	Ex-USAAF A-20C-5-DO 42-33172
A28-26	Ex-USAAF A-20C-5-DO 42-33180
A28-27	Ex-USAAF A-20C-5-DO 42-33134
A28-28	Ex-USAAF A-20C-5-DO 42-33142
A28-29	Ex-USAAF A-20C-10-DO 42-33211
A28-30	Ex-USAAF A-20C-5-DO 42-33174
A28-31	Ex-USAAF A-20C-5-DO 42-33168

Nine ex-USAAF A-20As were taken on charge in November. Their serials were A28-32 through A28-40:

A28-32  Ex-USAAF A-20A 40-85
A28-33  Ex-USAAF A-20A 40-143
A28-34  Ex-USAAF A-20A 40-3160
A28-35  Ex-USAAF A-20A 40-162
A28-36  Ex-USAAF A-20A 40-77
A28-37  Ex-USAAF A-20A 40-118
A28-38  Ex-USAAF A-20A 40-139
A28-39  Ex-USAAF A-20A 40-144
A28-40  Ex-USAAF A-20A 40-3159

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).

A28-50		Ex-USAAF A-20G-40-DO 43-21296
A28-51		Ex-USAAF A-20G-40-DO 43-21306
A28-52		Ex-USAAF A-20G-40-DO 43-21308
A28-53		Ex-USAAF A-20G-40-DO 43-21311
A28-54		Ex-USAAF A-20G-40-DO 43-21540
A28-55		Ex-USAAF A-20G-40-DO 43-21303
A28-56		Ex-USAAF A-20G-40-DO 43-21314
A28-57		Ex-USAAF A-20G-40-DO 43-21301
A28-58		Ex-USAAF A-20G-40-DO 43-21294
A28-59		Ex-USAAF A-20G-40-DO 43-21542
A28-60  	Ex-USAAF A-20G-40-DO 43-21545
A28-61  	Ex-USAAF A-20G-40-DO 43-21380
A28-62  	Ex-USAAF A-20G-40-DO 43-21381
A28-63  	Ex-USAAF A-20G-40-DO 43-21384
A28-64  	Ex-USAAF A-20G-40-DO 43-21387
A28-65  	Ex-USAAF A-20G-45-DO 43-21953
A28-66  	Ex-USAAF A-20G-45-DO 43-21976
A28-67  	Ex-USAAF A-20G-45-DO 43-21977
A28-68  	Ex-USAAF A-20G-45-DO 43-21985
A28-69  	Ex-USAAF A-20G-10-DO 42-54069
A28-70  	Ex-USAAF A-20G-10-DO 42-54091
A28-71  	Ex-USAAF A-20G-10-DO 42-54073
A28-72  	Ex-USAAF A-20G-10-DO 42-54092
A28-73  	Ex-USAAF A-20G-10-DO 42-54098
A28-74  	Ex-USAAF A-20G-10-DO 42-54120
A28-75  	Ex-USAAF A-20G-45-DO 43-21970
A28-76  	Ex-USAAF A-20G-45-DO 43-21978
A28-77  	Ex-USAAF A-20G-45-DO 43-22250
A28-78  	Ex-USAAF A-20G-45-DO 43-22148

By November of 1944, No 22 Squadron was close enough to reach the Philippines, hitting Bunawan Harbor on Mindanao Island. However, shortly thereafter the operational service of the Boston with the RAAF came to a rather ignomious end. On November 23, 1944, 13 Bostons of No 22 Squadron were destroyed on the ground during a Japanese "nuisance" raid on Morotai. This raid so decimated the strength of the squadron that it had to be withdrawn to Noemfoor, where it was re-equipped with Beaufighters before it was returned to action.

The surviving Bostons were relegated to noncombatant duties such as mail delivery and communications. The surviving A-20Gs were returned to the USAAF in early 1945, whereas the the survivors of the three other marks were all scrapped during the first few months of 1945.

One of the RAAF Bostons has managed to survive, nevertheless. This was A28-8, which was damaged in a crash landing at its base on Goodenough Island and had to be abandoned. It remained derelict there for many years, until it was recovered as a wreck in 1987 and was shipped back to Australia, where it is now undergoing restoration.


  1. American Combat Planes, Third Enlarged Edition, Ray Wagner, Doubleday, 1982.

  2. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Since 1920, Vol 1, Rene J. Francillon, Naval Institute Press, 1988

  3. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

  4. A-20 Havoc in Action, Aircraft Number 144, Squadron/Signal Publications, Jim Mesko, 1994.

  5. Famous Bombers of the Second World War, William Green, Doubleday, 1960

  6. Boston, Mitchell and Liberator In Australian Service, Stewart Wilson, Aerospace Publications, 1992.

  7. E-mail from Darren on 43-22148