Regarding the Japanese Air Force, which many people, he said, were inclined to discount as a second-rate body equipped with obsolete aircraft and lacking skillful and daring pilots, Air Vice-Marshal Pulford said that he certainly does not underrate its capacity. When it was suggested to him that it might be compared with the Italian Air Force, he pointed out how completely the R.A.F. gained the mastery of the skies of the Middle East even when the Italians possessed great numerical superiority. He thinks that what the R.A.F. has done in the Middle East it could certainly do in the Far East against the Japanese. One of the best Japanese fighters is the 'O' naval fighter, but the Brewster Buffaloes at present with the R.A.F. in Malaya and Burma would have no difficulty in dealing with them. The Japanese, he said, have two bombers of the Mitsuibishi type, one of which is used by the Navy and one by the Army — they are about equal in performance to the Whitley bomber in the R.A.F. He believes that Messerschmitt 109s are being produced in limited numbers in Japanese factories.
Source: The Times, 20 October 1941, p. 4 (via the WWII mailing list).
The Air Vice-Marshal was somewhat mistaken in his opinions of the relative merits of Zeroes and Buffaloes (but then public pessimism from high-ranking officers doesn't go down too well in wartime). Pulford was the Air Officer Commanding, RAF Far East, at the time of the Japanese attack in December 1941. According to Air of Authority he was in home air defence and seaplanes during the First World War; afterwards he won recognition for his experimental work with torpedo bombing and, in 1926, for leading a flight of Fairey IIIDs in a record-breaking flight from Cairo to Cape Town and back, and then on to Lee-on-Solent. Unfortunately, his story had an unhappy ending. He evacuated from Singapore two days before its surrender, along with many other small boats, but the one his party was on was hit and forced to beach on an inhospitable island, where they remained for two months before being picked up by Japanese forces. Pulford was in poor health and died before the rescue.
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