Squadron Leader Scarf wins VC in single handed attack

Squadron Leader Scarf flew the only Blenheim Bomber that survived the Japanese attack on the airfield at Butterworth, Malaya.

Japanese dominance in the air was to be a crucial factor during their invasion of Malaya and Singapore. Troops on the ground would curse the absence of the RAF. There was nothing lacking in the commitment of the RAF pilots, many of whom died facing overwhelming numbers of Japanese fighters. Many of their stories will never be known.

It was only by chance that enough people survived the war for the actions of Squadron Leader Arthur Scarf to be remembered and recognised. He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross only in June 1946. His citation states:

On 9th December, 1941, all available aircraft from the Royal Air Force Station, Butterworth, Malaya, were ordered to make a daylight attack on the advanced operational base of the Japanese Air Force at Singora, Thailand. From this base, the enemy fighter squadrons were supporting the landing operations.

The aircraft detailed for the sortie were on the point of taking off when the enemy made a combined dive-bombing and low level machine-gun attack on the airfield. All our aircraft were destroyed or damaged with the exception of the Blenheim piloted by Squadron Leader Scarf. This aircraft had become airborne a few seconds before the attack started. Squadron Leader Scarf circled the airfield and witnessed the disaster.

It would have been reasonable had he abandoned the projected operation which was intended to be a formation sortie. He decided, however, to press on to Singora in his single aircraft. Although he knew that this individual action could not inflict much material damage on the enemy, he, nevertheless, appreciated the moral effect which it would have on the remainder of the squadron, who were helplessly watching their aircraft burning on the ground.

Squadron Leader Scarf completed his attack successfully. The opposition over the target was severe and included attacks by a considerable number of enemy fighters. In the course of these encounters, Squadron Leader Scarf was mortally wounded.” The enemy continued to engage him in a running fight, which lasted until he had regained the Malayan border. Squadron Leader Scarf fought a brilliant evasive action in a valiant attempt to return to his base.

Although he displayed the utmost gallantry and determination, he was, owing to his wounds, unable to accomplish this.

He made a successful forced-landing at Alor Star without causing any injury to his crew. He was received into hospital as soon as possible, but died shortly after admission.

Squadron Leader Scarf displayed supreme heroism in the face of tremendous odds and his splendid example of self-sacrifice will long be remembered.

London Gazette 21 June 1946

More on Arthur Scarf and the stories about his reception in Alor Stor Hospital can be found at Far East Heroes.

Bristol Blenheim Mark Is of No. 62 Squadron RAF, flying in formation over Tengah, Singapore, on departing for their new base at Alor Star, Malaya. All but one of them were destroyed on the ground on the 9th December.

The Bristol Blenheim was the principal daylight bomber at the start of the war. Their crews had made extraordinary sacrifices during the Battle of Britain, when invasion threatened England.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Terence naidu February 13, 2016 at 6:40 pm

I was at the Taiping cemetary in Malaysia (Then Malaya) on my annual pilgrimage and i was impressed to take a picture of the memorial stone of sqn Leader ACK Scarf . And i have come across this site tonight. I will gladly share it with anyone interested. trn500@yahoo.com

John August 20, 2015 at 4:54 pm

Many thanks and condolences to Charlotte and the family – and thanks, Martin, for drawing my attention. I will email the family. On behalf of the Poole family and especially the late Cyril, air-gunner: RIP Bob Connell.

Charlotte August 11, 2015 at 4:56 am

Hi John,

You’re referring to my Grandad, Bob Connell, who was a bomber pilot during WW2. Despite being Australian he actually flew for the RAF. He flew Baltimores and Blenheims but his favourite plane was the Marauder Bomber. He passed away yesterday but was as sharp as tack and I wish I had seen this to tell him about the message. He would have remembered your dad, he remembered everyone and all the details. What is your dad’s name?

John June 11, 2015 at 7:05 pm

Long shot I know but did you know an Australian pilot of Blenheims and Baltimores trained at Nakuru 1942 and joined 223 Squadron. Name of BOB CONNELL. My dad’s pilot, much admired and I wondered if I can get some more info on the man.

John June 11, 2015 at 7:00 pm

Tony – long shot I know….. You didn’t know an Australian pilot – Blenheims and Baltimores – 223 Squadron – name of Bob Connell, my dad’s pilot. They trained at Nakuru 1942 before going up the desert Egypt Libya Tunisia and then Sicily, Italy. I would very much like to know more about Connell. My dad admired him greatly.

Tony T December 11, 2012 at 11:53 am

As an RAAF pilot seconded to the RAF in the Middle East in WW2,I flew Blenheims at 70 OTU at Nakuru,Kenya in 1941and at Habbaniya in Iraq and Sharjah in the Persian Gulf in 1942 with 244 Squadron.Then collected from Wadi Sharia in Palestine and flew to Sharjah the first of its Bisleys late in ’42.The Blenheims,found wanting over Europe were well worn,had had a hard life. Tony.

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