A LONG-TIME local navy aviator and reservist with 40 years’ experience, who has researched a number of aircraft crashes in the region, has answered some of the mysteries surrounding a World War II bomber that crashed near Foxground 69 years ago.
Two weeks ago, the Register published the story of the twin-engine Beaufort which crashed into rainforest on the escarpment at 5.15am on November 18, 1943.
Cris George of Falls Creek responded to questions raised by Canberra-based Julian Ginnane, who has been researching the incident.
Mr Ginnane said it was the only World War II aircraft crash that remains classified to this date, with a section of the file marked not to be opened until 2015 and that there were a number of other mysteries surrounding the crash.
“An A9 Beaufort bomber only has a crew of four, so why were there five crew members onboard and the crashed aircraft was witnessed at the time as being ‘perforated with many bullet holes’,” he said.
“There is no official RAAF document [allowed to be viewed] that lists the scheduled flight of this particular A9 Beaufort bomber.”
Mr George said the site of the crash was one of about 150 in the region over the years.
“The number of the aircraft was A9-350 from a RAAF 32 Squadron detachment based at Camden and it was on a night cross-country training exercise,” Mr George said.
“There is a file on the crash in the National Archives (barcode 7127580) which is only a quick assessment of the crash which would have been completed prior to the formal Board of Inquiry (BOI) that probably occurred.
“Unfortunately the BOI report is not available in the National Archives.
“Some time ago I sought the file but according to staff the record is lost or misplaced. Sadly, that is not an uncommon occurrence with paper files of that time.
“After all this time we are not able to know the finer points without the BOI report and as difficult as it may be to accept, the file has been lost or misplaced.
“I have no record or knowledge of any confidential ‘Not to be opened by 2015’ coverage of the crash as mentioned in the article.
“There are also National Archive files on each of the people killed in the crash with all the sad details of disposal of personal effects and final arrangement in consultation with next of kin.
“From correspondence there is also a memorial to the crew in Gerringong.”
Mr George said the question about the extra passenger was also covered in the National Archives files.
“There is no mystery why a passenger was carried. Pilot Officer Terrill was a mate of the pilot, Flight Sergeant Christie, and the navigator, Sergeant James,” he said.
“He was flying with this crew – he was from RAAF 73 Squadron – to gain more experience in his flying duties and that practice was not unusual and is still quite routine in military flying to better utilise precious flying hours.
“In all probability, the aircraft flew into the side of the Saddleback Mountain in bad weather.
“Flying in bad weather was and remains an essential part of training for operational flying.
“There is unlikely to be any riddle or mystery with the accident notwithstanding the bullet holes that are likely to result from post crash ‘cook-offs’ of the aircraft’s ammunition in the ensuing fire and perhaps other local causes well after the crash.
“The site of the crash was just above the site of the wartime radar station that was located on Saddleback Mountain.
“All five men were younger than 25 years of age and they are buried at Camden War Cemetery.”