Front line airline
Despite having several aircraft transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force, Qantas continued to operate air services to Singapore and within Australia after war was declared in September 1939. Services to Singapore continued under wartime restrictions and passenger flights to New Zealand began in April 1940 with Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL), part-owned by Qantas.
Qantas crews ferried 19 Catalina flying boats from the USA to Australia in 1941. The first of these flights was just the second east to west aerial crossing of the Pacific Ocean.
Singapore services ceased in February 1942 as Japanese forces occupy most of South East Asia. Qantas Empire flying boats evacuated servicemen and civilians from the Dutch East Indies to Australia. Two Qantas Empire flying boats were shot down by Japanese aircraft in early 1942.
The Qantas hangar and flying boat servicing facilities were destroyed in the first Japanese air raid on Darwin on 19 February 1942. A Qantas Empire flying boat narrowly escapes destruction during the raid.
Qantas DH86 aircraft evacuated 78 people from Mt Hagen in New Guinea in May 1942.
During the New Guinea campaign, Qantas completes urgent supply flights from Port Moresby to the front-line at Buna in late 1942 and operates transport aircraft carrying troops and supplies under the control of the Allied Directorate of Air Transport.
From June 1943, Qantas operated the only wartime civilian air service carrying up to three passengers and mail to Australia flying across the Indian Ocean between Ceylon and Perth. Qantas Catalina flying boats crossed 5,600 kilometres non-stop with flying times of between 28 and 33 hours. Passengers were awarded a certificate of membership to ‘The Rare and Secret Order of the Double Sunrise’ with over 24 hours in the air. Liberator aircraft joined the service in 1944 and passengers received ‘The Elevated Order of the Longest Hop.’ Qantas Liberators were also the first to carry the kangaroo symbol as they operated the ‘Kangaroo Service’.