The squadron was formed at Richmond RAAF Station in NSW on 9 March 1942 but it was several months before all personnel and aircraft were assembled at Richmond. Initially the ground crews began arriving in March followed by the aircraft in April with the aircrew being the last to arrive during May. A temporary CO S/L Charles Reid was in charge until W/C Brian Walker took command of the squadorn on 4 June 1942. The 24 aircraft were split into three flights those in 'A' Flight having been flying instructors, those in 'B' Flight having flown Beaufighters in England, while 'C' Flight was made up of pilots who had completed a local Beaufighter conversion course. Regardless how experienced they all were, it was still hazardous flying as the aircraft flew all over the north and south of Australia. During their time at Richmond one aircraft A19-12 was lost and the crew killed when they crashed at Whittlesea in Victoria on 5 August 1942.
On Tuesday 11 August 1942 around 300 squadron personnel in full tropical kit assembled on the parade ground at Richmond and following an inspection by the Station Commander they boarded a train for Bohle River in Queensland. On the morning of 17 August all 24 aircraft left Richmond and many flew direct to Bohle River arriving there that afternoon.
On 17 August 1942 the squadron set up tent camp at Bohle River in Queensland with trucks being used to transport those who had arrived in Townsville by train. During its time at Bohle River some squadron aircraft were deployed overnight to Townsville to intercept any approaching Japanese aircraft.
Sleeping quarters of a Sergeant Pilot at Bohle River, August 1942 (Photo G Carnegie)
On 6 September 1942 three Beaufighters from 'A' Flight were deployed to Milne Bay also known as Fall River but on the second day at Milne Bay A19-13 was written off. During take off the pilot Len Vial noticed an access panel was open so he landed and closed the panel however he was not lined up directly down the strip for takeoff and in attempting to correct this by applying power he slid sideways on the slippery metal surface and collided with a parked Hudson bomber (see A19-13 for photos).
The squadron aircraft departed Bohle River on 12 September and landed at various strips in the Port Moresby area, not being able to find Wards Strip using the unclear instructions they had been given. Late on the afternoon of 12 September 1942 other squadron personnel and equipment arrived at Port Moresby in New Guinea on board the SS 'Taroona' and were taken to a campsite at Wards Strip. However within a few days they moved to June Valley where they established their permanent camp which consisted of tents scattered around the valley.
June Valley campsite in 1942 with a DC3 flying overhead (Photo FG Cassidy)
On arrival in New Guinea squadron aircraft were identified by their A19 number however in November a single letter was painted on the side of each aircraft. The first operational flight from Wards took place on 17 September 1942 being an attack on Japanese barges at Sanananda Point and only a few days later the first aircraft and crew was lost with A19-1 being shot down over Lae on 22 September. A second loss followed soon after with A19-68 shot down over Kokoda on 13 October 1942.
Wards strip was narrow and short and a number of aircraft were damaged or written off during take off or landing accidents between September and December 1942. These included A19-4, A19-10, A19-35, A19-36 and A19-39 with perhaps the most spectacular being the unusual sight of seeing A19-36 standing on its nose after being damaged by AA over Lae on 15 November 1942.