Operation Pharos

Operation Pharos World War II
ISBN 1-873203-58-6
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by Ken Rosam
An illustrated account of the construction and operation of the Allied airbase on the Cocos Keeling Islands in the Indian Ocean during World War II.

Illustrated with many historic pictures, this eyewitness account of the construction of an airbase and staging post on a low-lying coral atoll in the Cocos Keeling islands miles from anywhere in the middle of the Indian ocean is an interesting piece of World War II history and an excellent source of information for historians, researchers and journalists looking for background information although there is plenty to be enjoyed by any reader in this lively narrative recording the author's own involvement in the construction and running of the base.

The hastily constructed temporary airstrip remained intact and an important staging and refuelling post  for RAF aircraft travelling to and from Australia and New Zealand  for a number of years after the war.

In this entertaining book, the author records the achievements of the men of the British and Commonwealth Armed Forces who, in great secrecy, constructed and operated a Royal Air Force bomber base and Air Staging Post during the latter months of World War II under the codename ‘Operation Pharos’.

It became the most advanced of all the Allied air bases in the South East Asia theatre of operations and was used to mount attacks on the Japanese forces in Sumatra and elsewhere and as a refuelling point for aircraft travelling to and from Australia.

The long flights across vast empty expanses of the Indian Ocean were highly perilous for aircraft of that era, as even minor mechanical faults could prove fatal for the aircrew if they were forced to ‘ditch’.

Despite the risks, thousands of sorties were flown, and when hostilities were finally over, the Liberator squadrons from the islands played an important role in dropping supplies to POW camps in Singapore, Burma and Thailand, where allied prisoners were in dire need of their assistance.

Brief histories of the 11 RAF Squadrons involved in ‘Operation Pharos’ – whose personnel included many Dutch, Australian and New Zealand aircrews – are included, and tribute is paid to the many who lost their lives during operations from the islands.

Ken Rosam also reveals the unusual history of the islands, from the time of their discovery in 1609 until they became fully integrated with Australia in 1984, including the history of the remarkable Clunies-Ross family, who became known as "the kings of the Cocos Islands".