Interview with Ronald Ashton

Australia
Australia


Name & Surname: Ronald Ashton
City of Birth & Country: London, England
Rank in RAAF in 1942: Sergeant, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)


[This interview with Mr. Ronald Ashton was done via e-mail in March 2000 and is posted here by his kind permission.]


Mr. Ashton, please tell us about your background.

I was born in 1921 and came to Australia with my parents in 1927. My mother died in 1930 and I spent the next three years in an orphanage. Then I lived with my father for a year before going to boarding school for two years. In 1937 I started work as a Civil Servant in the Taxation Department and was working there when I enlisted in 1940.


When did you join Royal Australian Air Force ?

In November 1940.


A Wireless Air Gunner- how many weeks of training does that take ? What does a Wireless Air Gunner specifically do ?

Six months for Wireless (Radio) Operator and one month for Air Gunner. Operates the radio equipment in the aircraft and mans a gun or turret as necessary during an air operation.


Which two Australian based squadrons did you serve before being posted to No.1 RAAF Squadron in Singapore ?

No. 2 and No. 6 RAAF Squadrons.


"Endless Chain Search" is one type of mission flown by the Hudsons. Were there any other special names for certain tasks in sweeping the approaches to Malaya ?

I am not aware of any.


Did you have any dogfights with Japanese aircraft ? Did you score any hits on enemy aircraft ?

No.


Did you happen to see the re-inforcements of Hurricanes when they came to Singapore, and did hopes rise with these new arrivals ?

No.


Since you were in Hudsons, what did you think of them ? Sturdy ? Well liked ? Had their faults ?

They were adequate for the job for which they were originally designed i.e General reconnaissance work not involving contact with enemy aircraft. They were not suitable for situations where enemy fighters were likely to be encountered as they were much too slow. Their cruising speed was 140 knots and absolute top speed was 250 knots. They were good sturdy aircraft but not well-armed and could carry only a small bombload. Although they were designed to carry 4 x 250lb bombs and 6 x 100 bombs, the practical load was 4 x 250 lb bombs. They also had a limited flying range.


I have read that Hudsons had forward firing guns. How were these used by the pilot ?

The Hudsons had two forward-firing .303 Browning guns and two .303 Browning guns mounted in a power-operated turret at the rear of the fuselage. The forward guns were controlled by the pilot by means of a firing button on the control column. The turret was operated by an Air Gunner or Wireless Air Gunner. Because of the twin tails of the Hudsons, there were two blind spots which could not be covered by the turret guns. In an effort to cover these two areas the Hudsons in which I flew had two Lewis guns mounted, one on each side of the fuselage amidships. These were operated when necessary by an Air Gunner or the Navigator (Second Pilot). The total crew was four.


Were you at Palembang instructed in hand to hand combat ? Were you given a weapon to defend the airfield, or were you safely billeted somewhere until evacuation ?

We flew out of Palembang (P2) as Japanese paratroops were landing at P1.


You served also at Semplak and Kalidjati airfields in northwest Java, doing what duties? Ground or flying ?

Flying duties when serviceable aircraft were available. We lost about six aircraft on the ground at Semplak as a result of Japanese air raids and a similar number at Kalidjati.


Have you seen many American warplanes over Java Island ?

A few.


When you flew to Andir (Bandoeng), does this mean the squadron you were eventually posted with on Java Island had some surviving aircraft ?

When we left Kalidjati to fly to Andir we had two (or possibly three) Hudsons left.


How hard were the Japanese troops hit while landing on Java ? Some sources say badly while others don't mention their casualties (your opinion about this).

I cannot really comment on this as I do not know. I took part in some raids which would have resulted in casualties amongst the Japanese troops landing on North-West Java but have no way of estimating the extent of such casualties.


Were you on Java Island throughout the war or did you get taken to Japan or to Thailand and Burma ?

I spent seven months in Java, three months in Singapore, fourteen months in Burma and seventeen in Thailand.


Any well read student on World War II knows how brutul the Korean and Japanese POW guards were. What is your memory of them ?

They were both brutal with some exceptions but the Koreans were by far the worst.


How long did you wait until you were repatriated, shipped and sent home ?

The war ended on 15th August 1945 and I was flown home two months later (in October 1945).



Veterans of the Dutch East Indies Index . Bibliography . Article List
Copyright Ronald Ashton 2000
Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942

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