RAAF Black Cats
The secret history of the covert Catalina mine-laying operations to cripple Japan’s war machine
By Robert Cleworth and John Suter Linton
Published by Allen & Unwin https://www.allenandunwin.com
RRP $32.99 in paperback | ISBN 9781760633066
In March 1945 Reg Cleworth, a navigator on PBY Catalina seaplanes flying out of Darwin, went missing in action. No details were ever given about the incident that took his life, nor the reason his plane went down.
Forty years later Robert, Reg’s younger brother, decided to investigate what happened and in doing so he has brought the little-known story of the Catalina mine-laying operations to light.
Between 22 April 1943 and 1 July 1945, the crews of the RAAF’s Catalina 11, 20, 42 and 43 Squadrons conducted covert mine-laying operations in the south and south-west Pacific in an effort to thwart the Japanese advance, undertaking 1210 mine-laying sorties over 240 nights of which 1130 were successful.
As a joint US/RAAF undertaking, the Australian role was often overlooked or given little credit by US reports of the Pacific war.
So what started as a search for the truth about his brother’s death became a much bigger story, the story of the Catalina crews and their unheralded role in victory in the Pacific.
The photographs sourced from private collections included in the book are of great interest too in fleshing out this story.