440. From the 2nd-5th February many sorties were carried out escorting shipping proceeding north and south through the Banka Straits On the 3rd February, nine aircraft of No. 258 Squadron left for Singapore to co-operate with a bomber force in a combined attack on Kluang aerodrome, returning the following day. They landed at Tengah, but owing to an error on the part of that Station, the squadron was not ready to take off at the appointed time, and the attack was a failure.
441. Meanwhile, Japanese reconnaissance was maintained daily over Palembang, and was quick to note our activity. Air attacks on P.I. aerodrome took place on 6th, 7th and 8th February by formations of bombers escorted by fighters.
442. On the 6th February warning was short, and the Hurricanes, caught at a tactical disadvantage, lost four and claimed one Navy " 0 ". No. 232 Squadron were away at Singapore on this day conducting operations from the Island.
443. On the 7th February warning was even shorter, and results were serious. The Japanese combined a high bombing attack with a low attack by fighters. Three Hurricanes were destroyed and in others damaged on the ground, whilst three were shot down in the air. In addition four unserviceable Blenheims on the ground, and one Hudson, which arrived as the attack was in progress, were destroyed. Only one Navy " 0 " fighter could be claimed.
444. On the 8th and 13th February fresh attacks on the aerodromes took place, but more warning was received: on the 8th an inconclusive interception took place, but on the 13th, three Navy " 0 " fighters and two Army 97 bombers were shot "down for the loss of one Hurricane.
445. On the 12th February the Group was reinforced by Wing Commander Maguire and eight aircraft. These were part of a reinforcing Wing, No. 226 (F) Wing which included 39 Hurricanes, a pool of 15 pilots, and the ground crews of Nos. 232, 258 and 605 Squadrons: it had arrived at Batavia by sea on the 4th February.
446. On the I3th February a further nine aircraft from Batavia arrived at P.I. Unfortunately they did so while the attack on the aerodrome was in progress. They were short of petrol, and in ensuing engagements six were either shot down or crashed.
447. It was quite evident that the Japanese already realised that we were endeavouring to establish our squadrons on P I. and that they were devoting a very considerable effort, particularly with strong forces of fighters, to prevent it.
It is opportune at this juncture to digress for a moment.
Control of Operations in Sumatra Assumed by Abdair.
448. It will be realised that A H.Q in Singapore had, by the end of January, much depleted its staff in forming the staffs of the two new Groups, Nos. 225 and 226, in Sumatra, which were themselves much under requirements. This depletion particularly affected the signals organisation. Firstly because its numbers were reduced at a time when signals traffic was on the increase consequent upon the splitting up of the Command between Singapore and Sumatra. Secondly because at was just as this time that the trained and experienced lady cypher staff had to be evacuated. The result was acute congestion of, and increasing delays in, signals traffic. This had reached such a pitch on 6th February as to constitute a breakdown between Palembang and A.H.Q. in Singapore. Abdair therefore assumed operational control of all R.A.F. units in Sumatra with effect from 7th February.
Formation of Westgroup H.Qs in the N.E.I.
449. Air Vice-Marshal P. C. Maltby and Air Commodore W. E Staton arrived in Palembang on the 10th February, and on the following day the former became A O.C. and the latter S.A.S.O. of Westgroup, which comprised all R.A F. and R.A.A.F. Units of the Far East Command now located in Sumatra and Java. Whilst in Palembang they picked up a nucleus staff and moved with it on 12th February to Java, having first reconnoitred South Sumatra and ascertained that no suitable site for a H Q. existed in that area. It was arranged that, pending the establishment of H.Q Westgroup in Java, Abdair would continue in direct control of all operations carried out by Westgroup Units.