Alexander R. “Lex” Fullarton

THE BLACK CATS OF CRAWLEY BAY

A lot of people ask me ‘what’s this day about?’
And I say to them that it’s solemn, ‘there’s no reason to scream or rave or shout.’
‘Well there are a lot of stories, so brave and strong and true,
And if you want to listen here’s one I’ll tell to you:’

They were the Cats of Crawley Bay,
Which flew at night and dodged the day.
From Perth to Miri and beyond, they battled all the way;
To feed and arm the diggers, two thousand miles away:

It took them days to make the trip with stops along the way,
These slow old Catalinas, the Black Cats of Crawley Bay.
From Perth on up to Learmonth to refuel and on again;
Then they lumbered on to Truscot to arm up and refuel again:

Then on they carried northward into Tojo’s plot,
Too slow to climb the mountains, the flicked on at wave top.
Through the Sunda in the darkness and round along the back;
They plotted every onward to cross the Commandos’ track:

With the grace of a swan they’d drop in the lagoon,
To carry out their runs, away from the glare of the moon.
Sometimes they dropped of gear; sometimes they dropped off blokes;
But always ever onward they carried on with jokes:

They turned around, they dodged the Jap, and they took danger in their stride,
They took on Oscars and they took on Zeros, which they deftly stepped aside.
But death was ever present from flak, and shot and shell;
Each trip could be their last one, a fact they knew so well:

So up and down they travelled, from the East Indies down to Perth,
Just to take to a break and back again, years before our birth.
These deeds were done, not by ancient men, in clapped out old machines,
I know you take that view;
But these fighting men were very young, and their gear, it was brand new:

Inspecting US Catalinas at Crawley Bay: Painting by Frank Norton
Inspecting US Catalinas at Crawley Bay: Painting by Frank Norton. These US Catalina flying boats have been hauled out of the Swan River for maintenance at the American Catalina base at Crawley Bay. The RAAF also operated several squadrons of Catalinas on maritime reconnaissance and offensive missions against the Japanese.

Author’s Note: Dedicated to my two Uncles who flew in Catalinas during WWII. One was shot down in Sunda Strait and spent nine months as a guest of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan. The other had to pick his mate off the blister of his turret after they got hit with flak laying mines in Miri harbour in Sarawak

My Father was in ‘Z’ Force in Halmahera. His uncle was on the Cats supplying them. The missions were so secret the two did not know of the other’s existence until years after the war.