Sorry Saga of the Brewster Buffalo


Bingham-Wallis defends the Buffalo

[The following letter appeared in the August 1984 issue of Aircraft Modelworld, a British magazine. Peter Bingham-Wallis was one of a handful of British officers in RAF 67 Squadron at Rangoon in the opening months of the Pacific War; most of the squadron were sergeant-pilots from New Zealand. A tip of the virtual hat to Tom Cervo for sending it along. -- Daniel Ford]

I bought a copy of your May [1984?] issue recently. On pages 79 and 80 there is a description by Mr Bruce Robertson of the Brewster Buffalo in service in the Far East. As a former "A" flight (67 Sqn) Commander in the period that he covers, I feel that I must make some comments over his descriptions of the Buffalo in service. I was also fortunate in the summer of 1942 to have some four former members of the 243 Sqn [Buffalo] posted to the 67 Sqn when we were at Alipore, Calcutta. Of these four, two were the famous Bert Sam Wipiti and Charlie Kronk.

Over the past 30 years I have suffered from reading articles condemning this particular aircraft out-of-hand. However, I realise that there will be shortly published a book, very thoroughly researched by Chris Shores covering the air war in the Far East from December 1941 to June 1942 in which it will be seen that the facts are very different as to what has been stated to date. [ Bloody Shambles, published in two volumes in 1992 and 1993]

In the meantime, as some help to Mr Robertson in the future, 67 Sqn arrived in Burma in October 1941. Six [Brewster] aircraft had already been assembled and flown by 60 Sqn which left that month with their Blenheim bombers for Malaya, leaving two aircraft with one crew. Twenty-four further Buffalo arrived and were assembled with the exception of three which were still in crates when the hanger they were in was destroyed. Only eight Buffalo were actually shot down during the campaign in Burma, killing the following pilots - Sgts Cutfield, Hewitt, Finn, McPherson; F/Offs Brewer, Lambert, Wiggiesworth; Flt Lt Pinckney, DFC.

Six returned to India (one of which was damaged in a landing accident at Dum Dum and used for spares). (Two went for a short time to 146 Sqn. The other three then remained with 67 Sqn - two of which were flown to Risalpur (NWFP) where they were flown by ex-67 Sqn pilots on rest at the gunnery flight.) Two were destroyed on the evacuation at Zayatkwin by our own staff. They were at the time being serviced, but the evacuation did not allow time for them to be put in an air-worthy condition.

Two newly assembled awaiting air test were destroyed on the ground. One crashed into a lake at Zaigon with engine failure and another crashed north of Pegu with engine failure, due to enemy action. Yet another with undercarriage failure crashed at Mergui and was used for spares. Five were destroyed in blast pens in Mingaladon during Jap air raids. One was destroyed during servicing by stupidly trying to weld bullet damage in the tank without first ensuring that the inflammable vapour had been expelled.

This gives a total of 30 aircraft. The Sqn over these few weeks of the Burma Campaign were awarded - 2 x DFC to Flt Lt Pinckney and Sqn Ldr J. Brandt, 1 x DFM to Sgt G. A. Williams. The Sqn had destroyed during this period 27 Japanese aircraft.

The official documents from both the Japanese and British sources show that both air forces in that first Burma Campaign each lost approx. 185 aircraft (our losses were coupled with those of the AVG).

P. M. BINGHAM-WALLIS, Frinton-on-Sea, Essex.

Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

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