Forgotten Heroes of the 1941 Malayan campaign – 3

blenheims_62_sqnSquadron Leader Arthur Stewart King Scarf was the first RAF officer to win (posthumously) a Victoria Cross during the Malayan campaign. Arthur “Pongo” Scarf was a regular, Cranwell educated RAF officer who had joined the RAF in 1936. He served with No. 62 Squadron when it was detached to the Far-East in 1941. On December 6, 1941, all 62 Sqn’s serviceable Blenheim Mk.1 bombers were sent to their forward base at Alor Star (now Alor Setar), close to the Siam (Thai) border. On December 8, 62 Sqn carried out a bombing attack on the Japanese invaders landing at the Kota Bharu coast. The next day, the airfield of Alor Star came under heavy Japanese air attack and the remaining seven Blenheims of 62 Sqn withdrew to Butterworth to regroup. In the afternoon, the remaining Blenheims of 62 and 34 Sqn were ordered to attack Singora, a Thai airfield captured by the Japanese. It was during this raid that Arthur Scarf won his VC.
I cannot resist giving you the integral text of his VC citation as published in “The London Gazette” on June 21, 1946.

arthur_scarf_vc… 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…”

Helped by his navigator, Flight Sergeant “Paddy” Calder (later Squadron-Leader G. Calder DFC DFM) “Pongo” Scarf managed to keep the Blenheim in the air and crash-land in a rice paddy close to the Alor Star airfield and hospital. Badly wounded, with holes in his back and chest and a shattered left arm, he was taken into Alor Star hospital where his wife, a nurse with Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Corps, gave him a blood transfusion. Unfortunately, the damage to his body was too severe and he passed away whilst under anesthesia.

I am indebted to the site “Far Eastern Heroes” ( for the invaluable additional information on this remarkable man. A far Eastern Hero indeed!



About Kingsleyr

Thank you for visiting my blog! The posts you find here are a direct result of my research into aviation and military history. I use the information I gather as a foundation and background for my books. You may call the genre historical fiction, a story woven into a background of solid and verifiable historical facts. However, the period and region I have chosen to write about (late 1930's - 1950's in South-East Asia) are jam-packed with interesting information and anecdotes. If I'd used them all I would swamp the stories. So this blog is the next best thing. It is an "overflow area" in which I can publish whatever I think will interest you. And from the reactions I get, I deduce I am on the right track. A lot will be about aviation in the former Dutch East Indies. This, because my series of books ("The Java Gold") follows a young Dutch pilot in his struggle to survive the Pacific War and its aftermath. But there's more in the world and you'll find descriptions of cities, naval operations and what not published on this blog. Something about myself; I am a Dutch-Canadian author, living in, and working out of the magical city of Amsterdam. My lifelong interest in history and aviation, especially WW2, has led me to write articles and books on these subjects. I hope you'll enjoy them!
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