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Circa 2010

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...NAS Jax P-3s Join Pacific Live-Fire Exercise By LT(jg) Evita Salles CPRW-2 Public Affairs Officer - Thursday, August 5, 2010. Squadrons mentioned include RAAF, VP-4, VP-5, VP-40, VP-47 and VP-62..." WebSite: JaxAirNews http://www.jaxairnews.com/ [06AUG2010]

Aircrews from NAS Jacksonville, Florida-based VP-5 and VP-62, along with VP-4 and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), 11 Patrol Squadron from Edinburgh, Australia, participated in a live-fire exercise (SINKEX) July 10 as part of the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2010 exercise.

Flying from MCBH Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, each squadron fired AGM-84D Harpoon missiles at the decommissioned Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship ex-USS New Orleans (LPH-11) in the Hawaiian operating area.

The purpose of the SINKEX is to provide P-3C Orion aircrew valuable training in Harpoon missile proficiency. Aircrews train extensively on the simulated usage of the Harpoon missile but rarely get the chance to fire the live weapon.

"It was an outstanding opportunity for our junior officers and air crew to gain valuable experience shooting a forward-firing weapon," said Cmdr. Jason Jorgensen, commanding officer of VP-5 and deputy of Combined Task Group 172.2.

Each aircraft launched an on-target hit on the New Orleans. The SINKEX provided the first opportunity for most of the participating aircrew to fire a live weapon.

"Flying with a live weapon always heightens aircrew and maintenance awareness of tactics, techniques and procedures. The SINKEX serial provided 11 Squadron with a great opportunity to test our individual and collective warfighting skills in a complex coalition environment. It does not get too much better than that," said Wing Commander Phil Champion, commanding officer of 11 Squadron, RAAF.

It was the first time in eight years the RAAF shot a Harpoon missile. The AGM -84D Harpoon is an all-weather, over-the-horizon, anti-ship missile system. The Harpoon's active radar guidance, warhead design, low-level cruise trajectory and sea-skim or pop-up maneuvers assure high survivability and effectiveness. The missile is capable of being launched from surface ships, submarines, shore batteries or aircraft such as the P-3C Orion.

Commissioned in 1968, New Orleans was the third U.S. ship named for the War of 1812 Battle of New Orleans. Throughout its 30 years of service, the ship took part in various amphibious exercises and contingency operations during the Vietnam War, carrying Sailors and Marine ground forces, helicopters and landing craft. The ship was decommissioned in 1997.

VP-4 and VP-47 flew another SINKEX on the ex-USS Monticello (LSD 35) on July 14 using Harpoons and AGM-65 Mavericks to destroy the target. VP-5 and VP-40 conducted the last of the sinking exercises on July 17 using Harpoons and Mavericks against the ex-USS Anchorage (LSD-36). Each crew scored a direct hit, on time.

The AGM-65 Maverick is a tactical, air-to-surface guided missile designed for close air support, interdiction and defense suppression mission. It provides stand-off capability and high probability of strike against a wide range of tactical targets, including ships, air defenses, transportation equipment and fuel storage facilities.

RIMPAC is a biennial, multinational exercise designed to strengthen regional partnerships and improve interoperability. This marks the 22nd exercise in the series since the RIMPAC exercise began in 1971. P-3C Orion aircrews will conduct similar exercises throughout the course of RIMPAC.

Circa 1981

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...The large group was taken in August 1981 at Butterworth, Malaysia, where the Australian Maritime Patrol Group has a permanent deployment even today of two to three aircraft, thus providing surveillance 24 hours of the day in SE Asia and the South China Sea. The group photo was taken with my troops at RNZAF Base Whenuapai in October 1980 during LONGEX80. In the picture are LAC Andy Vogt, Cpl Herb Stiesch, myself (SGT Nick Cserny), LAC Mark Stafford, LAC Tim Callaghan and Cpl. Jim Hanson. The third photo was take at RIMPAC 80, with me doing checks on the AN/ASQ 10 MAD system..." Contributed by CSERNY, Nick skipper@pickup.hu

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Circa 1980

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...I have a bit of a story for you, that has happened back in the eighties while I was on board one of our P3Bs over the Indian Ocean. This was during the height of the Cold War. I have realized, just how professionally carried out their duties the US Navy pilots and our own RAAF aircrews..." Contributed by CSERNY, Nick skipper@pickup.hu [11DEC2004]

We had an exchange pilot at No11 Sqn, named L/COM. Chris Konczey. As it turned out he was my countryman having been a Hungarian like me. He was the aircraft captain on this flight, when we were doing the usual boring routine surveillance over the Indian Ocean, hoping to find something to photograph, even if it was just a trawler or a fishing boat.

We must have been flying at an altitude of about 5000 feet, with one engine out to increase our endurance. It was a lovely afternoon, everyone quite drowsy after a good lunch that was cooked by us "groundies" for the workers on board. Suddenly the ICS came alive and the radar operator reported a contact down bellow. The whole aircraft was like an ants nest stirred up, the flight station full of people with cameras ready for action. A few minutes later, with the help of our TACCO, we have located our bogey and surprise, surprise it was a Russian destroyer cruising merrily towards the African continent. We have descended to 500 feet, at the same time starting up our fourth engine. The captain has ordered everyone to their crew stations and started his maneuvers around this destroyer to get the best vantage points to capture him on all available cameras as well as the ones in the belly of our ship. After two or three passes, a white flare was fired up from the "enemy" bellow. I was standing behind Chris and asked him what did that flare mean. He turned around and replied in Hungarian to me with an American accent that "he wants us to p*** off". However we went around a couple of more times when on the second passing after the white flare, our friend fired up a red one. I have again inquired from my captain what did the Russian mean by this, when he replied casually, if we don't f*** off, they will fire at us. Well, after that warning and only after it, did leave the scene. The captain asked the radar op what was showing on his screen, while the guy in the back replied casually that all of the destroyer's guns were "locked" on us and were ready for action.

Looking back now, after all these years, the picture is still vivid in my mind, just how professional were all these guys carrying out their duties from both sides of the Pacific.

Circa 1952

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation News January 1952 "...P2V's Purchased By RAAF - Page 10 - Naval Aviation News - January 1952..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1950s/1952/jan52.pdf [25JUL2004]

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"...Number 492 Squadron was formed on 01 July 1977 as a centralised maintenance squadron for maritime support from the maintenance flights of Numbers 10 and 11 Squadrons. Today, with around 700 people, 492 Squadron is the largest maintenance squadron in the RAAF, maintaining 19 P3C aircraft to satisfy the operational requirements of 92 Wing. 492 Squadron is one of the most travelled squadrons, with deployments to bases around Australia, as well as to overseas locations. It also provides maintenance personnel to 92 Wing Detachment 'A' at Butterworth, Malaysia. Keeping the complex P3C weapons system maintained requires close co-operation between all trades at 492 Squadron; from operational maintenance, rectifications and support activities on the flight line, seven days a week, 24 hours a day; to deeper maintenance of avionics, airframe and associated equipment in the workshops; to the engineering, administrative, training, photographic and supply support. All these people help 492 Squadron achieve the mission requirements of the Maritime Patrol Group and live up to its motto of 'Support For The Lion'..."

History "...I'm an amateur historian, and my interests include various aspects of WW II history..." Contributed by Michael Moskow steelydanman@verizon.net [21NOV99]

I'm compiling information about the Allied aviator POWs held captive by the Japanese Army (6th Field Kempei Tai) and Navy (81st Naval Guard Unit) in and near Rabaul, New Britain, during WW II. This group of POWs comprised men from the USAAF, USMC, USN, RAAF, and RNZAF. Very few of these men survived their imprisonment. Of those held by the Kempei Tai, only seven…1 Lt. Jose L. Holquin, USAAF, ARM 2C John B. Kepchia, USN, 1 Lt. James A. McMurria, USAAF, Capt. John J. Murphy, Australian Army, Lt. JG Joseph G. Nason, USN, 2 Lt. Alphonse D. Quinones, USAAF, and S/Sgt. Escoe E. Palmer, USAAF…survived the war. Of those held captive by the 81st Naval Guard Unit, only those POWs transported away from New Britain, to POW camps in mainland Japan, survived the war.

Two other POWs who were held captive on New Britain were P/O Ronald C. Warren of No. 20 Squadron RNZAF, who was shot down and captured on June 21, 1945, and S/Sgt. William H. Brooks of the United States Army, who was captured in the Philippines in 1942 and sent to Rabaul to work with his captors as a radio operator.

Perhaps some day I'll publish what I've learned about this story in printed form. But, since I have no idea if or when that may happen, I'd like to make some of this material freely available to the general public. I've already posted information about two USN PBY crews who were imprisoned at Rabaul on Nevins Frankels' VP-Navy web-site, so I'm following suit with information about RAAF PBY crewmen who suffered a similar fate. (Thanks, Nevins. Your web-site has proven to be an excellent locale for this information.)

I've so far learned that airmen from two crews of No. 11 Squadron RAAF, and one crew from No. 20 Squadron RAAF, became POWs at Rabaul. Of the fifteen POWs captured from these three crews, only one man would survive the war. *** The first PBY from which RAAF servicemen were taken captive at Rabaul was an aircraft of No. 20 Squadron. The little information I currently have about the loss of this Catalina is from Jack Riddell's excellent “RAAF Catalina Squadrons: First and Furthest - Recounting the Operations of RAAF Catalinas, May 1941 to March 1943”.

This PBY, A24-18, piloted by Flight Officer Allan L. Norman, was lost during a reconnaissance mission covering the area between Tulagi and Shortland Island, on May 4, 1942. At 1217 hours on that day, a message was received from the Catalina stating that the plane was under attack by Japanese aircraft, while over the Solomon Sea, at a point west of New Georgia and south of Bouganville. No further messages were received from the plane.

According to “First and Furthest”, eight of the plane's nine crewmen were captured by the Japanese that same day. Cpl. Alfred H. Lanagan, the first engineer, of Old Burren, New South Wales, died the same day. The other eight crewmen survived until November 4, 1942, when they were murdered at Matupi Village, in New Britain.

This PBY's crew comprised the following: F/O Allan L. Norman, pilot, of Hawthorn, in Victoria; F/O Frederick A.D. Diercks, of Plympton, in South Australia, co-pilot; P/O Francis O. Anderson, of Cremone, New South Wales; Cpl. Alfred R. Hocking, flight engineer, of Prahran, Victoria; LAC Ernest J. McDonald, armourer, of East Malvern, Victoria; Cpl. William M. Parker, first radio operator, of West Ryde, New South Wales; Cpl. Vernon H. Hardwick, second radio operator, of Bencubbin, Western Australia; and Cpl. John J. Burns, rigger, of Preston, Victoria.

These men are all buried in section “H,C”, at the Bita Paka War Cemetery, which is near Kokopo, New Britain. *** The next RAAF PBY crewman who became a POW at Rabaul was Corporal Jack Fenwick, a rigger/air gunner in No. 11 Squadron. He was captured 51 days after his PBY-5, A24-43, crashed on the night of April 26, 1943, while performing a supply drop to Coastwatcher Jack Read, near Aita, in Bouganville. Of the other eight other men on his plane, three were killed in the crash, one was killed by the Japanese during the incident in which Fenwick himself was captured, two others died while POWs in August of 1943 (though not at Rabaul), and two evaded capture.

The following excerpt, from Walter Lord's book “Lonely Vigil”, describes the circumstances behind the crash of Fenwick's plane, and the eventual capture of Jack Fenwick, and Coastwatcher Lt. Douglas N. Bedkober…

Compared to the birth of a baby, a supply drop was a comparatively minor complication in the life of a Coastwatcher, and Jack Read was not unduly worried about the drop scheduled for northern Bouganville on the night of April 26.

After some wildly inaccurate drops in the early days, these affairs were now almost routine. Guided by signal fires, the plane - usually an RAAF Catalina of 11 or 20 Squadron - would circle down to about 500 feet and begin a series of runs over the drop site. Each time it passed, crew members would toss out some containers: fragile things like radio parts would float down by parachute; bulk items like rice and sugar would hurtle down to the ground double-packed in jute bags. Never too much on any one pass, so as to concentrate the drop in the area bounded by the fires. When the last container had been jettisoned, the plane would usually waggle its wings, sometimes flash “good luck” on its signal lamp, and disappear into the night.

On the ground the Coastwatchers would gather in the containers, smother the fires, and vanish as quickly as possible.

Back at camp the containers would be opened, and along with the supplies the Coastwatchers would almost invariably find little presents tucked in by the “delivery boys”: cigarettes, candy, sometimes a bottle of whiskey, and once for Slim Otton, who religiously followed the races, the latest Australian pink sheet giving the results of the Caulfield Cup.

Only occasionally was there a complication, like the time on the Abia River when Paul Mason scheduled a supply drop just a few hours after the local chief planned a funeral pyre. Worried that the plane would confuse the pyre with his signal fires, Mason asked rather indelicately, “Can you cook him down before the moon comes up?” The Chief assured him that this could be done, and it was.

There were no funeral pyres on the night of the 26th. The only problem was the shift to a new drop site. For months Read had used the abandoned coffee plantation called Rugen near the north coast, but in December mounting Japanese pressure forced him to move the site south to the Inus area. Now that was dangerous too, and tonight would be the first time for using Aita, a small village deep in the mountainous interior of the island. It would be unfamiliar ground, but the pilot had all the necessary bearings, and there shouldn't be any trouble.

By 11 P.M. everything was ready. Four stacks of branches soaked with kerosene marked off a rough rectangle in the clearing. Natives stood by, ready to light the stacks. A group of bearers hovered in the rear. Two of the Australian commandos working closely with Read - Sergeant Walter Radimey and Sergeant H.J. Broadfoot - cast a practiced eye over the scene, making doubly sure all was in order.

At 11:59 they heard the distant hum of the Catalina's engines. That was the signal to light the fires, and all four stacks were soon blazing. The hum grew louder, and soon in the glare of the flames the Coastwatchers could make out the plane itself, circling down to make the first run.

On the Catalina, Flight Lieutenant W.J. Clark peered down at the signal fires mushrooming up below. Behind him the plane snapped to life. The monotony of the eight-hour flight from Australia was over now, and the crew took their posts for the drop. The navigator, Flying Officer C.S. Dunn, asked whether Clark wanted him in the bombardier's compartment; the skipper said no, he could see quite well. The moon wasn't up yet, but the sky was clear.

Corporal H. Yates removed the gun from the port blister, and Pilot Officer C.J. Twist crawled in with the headphones. They would be making the drops from here, and Corporal J. Fenwick squeezed into the blister compartment to help.

About 12:15 the drops began. Circling to the left, Clark swung low over the fires. The men in the blister pushed out the first container, watched the parachute open and float lazily down. Still circling to the left, Clark came by on his second run; another parachute floated down. Clark asked if the third chute was ready, and Pilot Officer Twist said not yet. Instead of continuing his left-hand circles, Clark now swung to the right, planning to fly a sort of “figure 8” to use up time.

Perhaps it was a downdraft…or a miscalculation…or the unfamiliar terrain - whatever the reason, the plane clipped some trees near the top of a ridge, sliced off its starboard wing, and ploughed on through the bush for 300 yards in a long, tearing crash.

Then silence, except for the trickle of gasoline as it leaked from the ruptured tanks. But men still lived in the wreckage and were soon calling to one another. Flying Officer Dunn and Sergeant F.G. Thompson managed to crawl free. Others were moving around, but trapped in the tangle of metal. No one could find a flashlight, and since it was obviously too dangerous to strike a match, they decided to stay as there were until dawn.

At the drop site Sergeants Broadfoot and Radimey didn't see the crash, but they heard it all too clearly. They immediately doused the signal fires and divided their men into two search parties. It was Broadfoot who finally located the wreckage at 6:00 A.M. and summoned the others by firing his pistol.

One by one they freed four survivors still trapped in the plane: Twist, Fenwick, and Yates, who had been handling the chutes; and Corporal R.H. Wettenhall, one of the helpers. Flight Lieutenant Clark, his co-pilot, and the engineer were all dead and left in the wreckage.

Most of the survivors were too badly injured to walk, so the plane's bunks were used as stretchers to carry them to the Australian commandos' camp at Aita. Here they were given first aid plus the good news that they might be evacuated almost at once. A U.S. submarine was due tomorrow to land an pick up some personnel at Teopasina, just 15 miles away. That operation would be rescheduled for April 29. With luck they could make it.

But luck was something they didn't have. After an early start on the 28th, a heavy rain set in, turning the trail to grease and at some points blocking it with flash floods. It was the 30th before the last of the party even got to Dariai - and that was only halfway to the coast. The sub had come and gone.

Jack Read decided the airmen should remain for the time being at Dariai. Here they were as safe as anywhere and could be treated by Sergeant Radimey, who had good medical training. Once they were mobile again, they could be taken out when the next opportunity came.

Meanwhile Read worried about his parties in the west…especially Lieutenant Bedkober, who was guarding the injured airmen at Sikoriapaia. When last seen, the Japanese raiders were headed that way. On the 19th he sent Keenan to check the situation and, if possible, use Sergeant McPhee's teleradio to arrange a supply drop.

Jack Read's worries were well-founded. A little after 9:30 on the morning of June 16, as Bedkober's men lazily watched a B-24 duel with several Zeros overhead, a blast of machine-gun fire ripped into their camp, catching everyone totally by surprise.

Fighting back with submachine guns, five of the party - three commandos and two flyers - managed to break out of the trap and escape into the bush. Doug Bedkober himself stayed behind. He could have gone with the others, but that would have meant leaving Flying Officer Dunn and Corporal Fenwick, two of the injured airmen.

Cut off from the rest, these three tried to escape into the hills, but it was of no use. Early in the afternoon Fenwick was captured and put into a leaf hut guarded by two sentries. Some hours later - just as the moon was rising - Bedkober was brought in too. Finally, at daylight next morning a party of Japanese soldiers appeared, dragging Dunn's body. He was shot through the chest, but it was never clear exactly when or where he was killed.

Along with Bedkober and Fenwick, one other prisoner was taken. The camp cook, a native named Savaan, had gone off on an errand shortly before the attack and walked right into the advancing Japanese.

The three prisoners were lined up during the morning of the 17th, and with troops both to the front and rear, the force marched to the west coast. On the 20th, as they slowly moved north, Savaan was sent to a stream to wash a saucepan of rice. That was all the opportunity he needed. He plunged into the bush and escaped.

Bedkober and Fenwick were not so lucky. They ended up at Rabaul, where they were eventually executed. Nor did the five who got away survive very long. With few arms and in some cases barefoot, they struggled east across the island, hoping to link up with one of Read's outposts. Near Numa Numa they were seized by local tribesmen and turned over to the Japanese. It was never clear what happened afterwards. Some natives said they were sent to Rabaul and executed; others that they were lined up and shot at Numa Numa.

Two of the injured airmen were still relatively safe. Sergeant Thompson was back on his feet and helping Sergeant McPhee cover the west coast. Corporal Wettenhall, also recovering, had a closer call. Just 45 minutes before the Japanese struck, he had left the camp with three of the commandos to prepare a supply drop site. They heard the firing, guess what had happened, and went bush.

This party reached Read on June 19, and gave him his first indication that all might not be well at Sikoriapaia.
Ten months had passed since Flight Lieutenant Clark's Catalina had crashed on the ridge near Aita while delivering supplies to Jack Read. Six of the crew had gotten out alive, but Clark, Flying Officer J.N.E. Potts, and Sergeant D.J. Ward had been killed by the impact and left pinned in the tangle of twisted metal. Before anything could be done about this, the Coastwatchers were driven off the island.

But now they were back, and that shattered plane in the jungle, with its three imprisoned victims, preyed on the mind of Robinson, who had been with Read at the time. These flyers had given their lives to help him; he just couldn't leave them this way. He had no trouble persuading Corrigan to come along.

Up the winging, slippery trail they climbed, past the ravines and fallen logs that were familiar landmarks to Robinson, yet so different from those harrowing days last June. Then every shadow looked like a Japanese sniper. Now all was calm - only the occasional call of a bird, or the rush of some mountain stream.

At last they came to a stretch where the trees were scarred, and in some cases snapped in two. The jungle was fast healing these wounds, but there was no doubt they had reached the scene. Continuing a few yards, they came to the wreckage itself, now half-hidden by ferns and vines.

They hacked their way into the cockpit, and found two complete skeletons - the dog-tags identified them as Clark and Potts. A few yards away they found the remains of Sergeant Ward.

Clearing a small plot of ground, they dug three graves and carefully buried the fallen airmen. The crumpled plane itself became the “headstone”. What prayers were said - what thoughts ran through their minds - was a private matter. Their mission complete, their loyalty reaffirmed, the two Coastwatchers turned and headed back down the trail.

Eric Feldt also described this incident, in “The Coast Watchers”:

Two nights before the submarine was due, a Catalina, dropping supplies at the inland site, crashed into the hillside nearby. Three of the crew were killed instantly and every other member injured. The soldiers at the drop site soon found and cared for the injured men and an attempt was made to carry them to Teopasino for evacuation. Unfortunately, heavy rain fell and they were unable to arrive in time.
The parties retreated inland to reorganize and make provisions for the injured R.A.A.F. from the Catalina. Of the six survivors, four were unable to walk and were carried to an inland camp. It was hoped to evacuate them by submarine as soon as they were fit, but before they recovered, the Japanese occupied the whole east coast. The west coast was too far away and its beaches too exposed for the evacuation of any but fit men, so the survivors of the crash were placed in camp to recover.
But Read had not heard the worst. Bedkober's party had been attacked at Sikoriapaia village, towards the west coast. There were eleven in the party, of whom four R.A.A.F. members of the crashed Catalina crew had not recovered from their injuries. As his food was low, Bedkober, finding Read off the air after the attack on his camp, asked for supplies to be dropped. Sgt. Day, with three others, was sent out to prepare the drop site and it was arranged for McPhee to move in next day.

On the morning of 16th June 1843, Lieut. Bedkober, Sgt. Florence, L/Sgt. Martin and Spr. Cassidy of the A.I.F. and F/O Dunn, P/O Twist, Cpl. Yates and Cpl. Fenwick of the R.A.A.F. were in camp. Three-quarters of an hour after Day and his men departed, they heard firing and saw the village in flames. They hid and were shortly afterwards joined by some natives from the camp, who told the little they knew.

A force of about 80 Japs, accompanied by 40 natives, had opened fire on the camp, taking the occupants by surprise. Bedkober and his men returned the fire while Dunn, just able to hobble on two sticks, slowly and painfully tried to walk away. Fenwick, unable to walk, remained in a hut. The Japs rushed the position. Bedkober had fired the magazine from his Owen gun, and then stood with the empty gun in his hands. Dunn and Fenwick could not escape - Bedkober would not leave them, so threw down his gun and walked towards the Japs. At that moment, Dunn was shot dead. Bedkober and Fenwick were made prisoner, while the others, keeping up their fire, escaped to the jungle. Without food, they wandered eastward in search of the other parties and were reported to have been near Numa Numa, where natives betrayed them to the Japanese. It was rumored that they had been captured.

Thus, of A24-43's crew of nine, there were two survivors: Cpl. R.H.A. Wettenhall, and F/Sgt. F.G. Thompson. What of Sergeant Fenwick? Tragically, he was among the 31 Allied aviator POWs who were killed at Rabaul on March 4, 1944, in what has become known as the “Tunnel Hill Incident”. From Hawthorne, in Queensland, he is buried in Collective Grave E,C,5-11 at the Rabaul (Bita Paka) War Cemetery.

The names and home towns of the A24-34's other crewmen were: F/Lt. William J. Clark (pilot) from Windsor, Queensland; F/O Clifton S. Dunn, from Sydney, New South Wales; F/O John N. E. Potts, from Canberra, South Australia; P/O Colin J. Twist, from Cammeray, New South Wales; Sgt. Dudley J. Ward, from Kingsford, New South Wales; and Cpl. Herbert Yates, from Summer Hill, New South Wales. Twist and Yates died while POWs in early August of 1943, and their names appear on Panel 9 of the Port Moresby Memorial.

Walter Lord did make one error in his otherwise excellent account… Douglas Bedkober was not executed. Described by James McMurria as a “…thoroughly honorable guy with deep devotion to duty, as the circumstances of his capture reveal,” Bedkober died in the Kempei Tai prison on January 4, 1944, at the age of 23. The cause of his death was beri-beri (again, according to Japanese records). He was from Vaucluse, New South Wales, and is buried at grave E,D,15 in the Bita Paka War Cemetery.
Grave E,C,5-11 marks the resting place of eight other RAAF POWs, also killed on March 4, 1944. Three of these men are F/Sgt. Colin E. Wein of Gayndah, Queensland, F/Sgt. Donald C. Kirkwood of Smithfield, New South Wales, and F/Sgt. Gordon R. Thomas of West Croydon, South Australia. Wein and Kirkwood were the pilot and navigator of Beaufighter A19-141 of No. 30 Squadron RAAF, which was shot down on Dec. 24, 1943. Thomas was the radio operator of A-20 A28-15 of No. 22 Squadron RAAF, which was shot down on Sept. 15, 1943. Thomas' pilot, F/Lt. Harry B. Dawkins of Gawler, South Australia, died in the Kempei Tai prison on July 22, 1944, of “malnutrition” (according to Japanese records). His resting place is grave D,B,2 in the Bita Paka War Cemetery.
The other No. 11 Squadron PBY-5 from which crewmen were captured was aircraft A24-34, piloted by Squadron Leader John E. Todd. This Catalina was lost on the night of Feb. 7, 1944. The cause of this PBY's loss was remarkably similar to that of Lieutenant John M. Arbuckle's PBY on November 23, 1943: The (highly) unintended ignition of parachute flares stored in the rear of the aircraft. The flares in Lieutenant Arbuckle's plane were ignited by anti-aircraft fire, while a flare in S/L Todd's plane ignited prematurely when its altitude setting ring was being adjusted. In order to prevent the premature detonation of other ordnance or mid-air structural failure from fire, both pilots were forced to land their burning PBYs as rapidly as possible. Sadly, both planes landed in Japanese held territory.

Of the ten men in Squadron Leader Todd's crew, five would die as POWs at Rabaul, one would survive as a POW in Japan, and four others would have the good fortune to evade capture.

A vivid description of the loss of this PBY was found in the Casualty File for one of the plane's surviving crewmen. This document was obtained from the National Archives of Australia, and pertinent sections of it are presented below:




Group 816,
Cairns, Qld.
15th February, 1944


In accordance with A.F.O. 18/2/2/, para 5 (b), the following Confirmatory Memorandum is submitted: -

(1)At 0136/L 8th February, signal received. S.O.S. L.F.I.A. in flames 010 180 miles heading west. (This message was received from Catalina aircraft A24-34 on Operation C.F.B. 9 on 8th February, 1944.) Further message received on 0150/L.S.O.S. L.F.I.A. 340 130 miles. (This position is near Gasmata.) This was last message received from aircraft. No further word has been received from aircraft or bases at which it might have alighted. Signal from No. 9 Operational Group A.O.R. 812 stated 1 Beaufort, 4 Beaufighters on reconnaissance, sweeping area. Additional 6 Beaufighters searching area to endurance. No. 73 Wing also instructed to carry out additional search. One Catalina on returning from Kavieng mission searched area on following night flashing TODD with reconnaissance lights. The above searches were without success.


Extract and analysis from report by members of S/Ldr. Todd' crew now safe in Australia, regarding other members of crew.


F/O I.D.V. Ralfe    2nd Pilot
F/O B. Liedl    WAG
Sgt. Howard, M.R.    Fitter 2A
Sgt. Jones, H.F.    Armourer


S/Ldr. J.E. Todd    Captain (party of three)
F/Lt. B.P. Stacey    Pilot (extra) ran off alone
F/O F.R. Pocknee    Navigator (party of three)
F/Sgt. Murphy, H.L.    WAG Posted as guard, believed P.O.W.
Sgt. Wooley, F.    F/Eng.“
Sgt. Kraehe, E.H.    F.Eng.“

“All members of the crew were able to leave aircraft with nothing more serious than a few burns and scratches” … “Aircraft landed in Jacquinot Bay” … made shore in vicinity of Malakua. (8 Feb. 0215 hrs)

“Sgt. Wooley and F/Sgt. Murphy posted as guards. … We suddenly heard sounds of Jap. commands from direction of beach. Some of us were certain that the commands were in English and were “Halt - one - two.” From this we gathered that our two guards had been jumped by the Japs and taken prisoners. We heard no shots fired.”

The remaining members of the crew immediately gathered the equipment which was lying on the ground and dashed into the bush in approximately a north westerly direction, with the exception of F/Lt. Stacey who ran approximately North East. He was entirely without equipment and was never seen or heard by any of us thereafter, nor was any news ever learned from the natives concerning his fate.”
The loss of this plane is also summarized in David Vincent's “Catalina Chronicle: A History of RAAF Operations”:

Catalina A24-34, under the command of F/L John Todd, left Cairns at 1040 hours on 7th February 1944 as a single flight on a bombing and nuisance raid on Kavieng in New Ireland. They approached the target about 2300 in bright moonlight at 9000 feet and overflew Panapai air strip without dropping any bombs, and against only light anti-aircraft fire. On the second run, photographs were taken and two 250 pound bombs and numerous incendiaries were unloaded with heavy but inaccurate fire, particularly from the ships in the harbor. A third run was made over the Kavieng air strip to drop two 500 pound bombs, during which the anti-aircraft fire was intense and accurate, requiring violent evasive action. A fourth run was made over Kavieng Strip when the remainder of the 4300 pound bomb load was dropped. Heavy anti-aircraft fire was visible in the moonlight and the tail plane and fin were hit. A fifth run was made at 6000 feet over Kavieng strip for photography purposes but the barrage of fire was too intense and the run was abandoned. They left the target after about an hour for the return flight.

When flying at 8500 feet over New Britain, the Captain, possibly with the thought of photographing Gasmata, or some other target, instructed the armourer to change the settings, from 5000 to 4000 feet, on one of the three remaining reconnaissance flares. A he turned the setting ring, a stream of sparks flew out of the flare, followed by the flare, full of magnesium, exploding. The force of the explosion and the heat generated by the 175,000 candle-power [flare] forced the armourer and three other members of the crew into the blister compartment. Everything in the bunk compartment caught fire including the other two flares.

The Captain was informed and members of the crew forward of the fire took all possible measures to extinguish it, but the fire extinguishers made no impression. In fact, the extinguisher in the blister seemed to aggravate the blaze. Black smoke from the burning rubber dinghy, stored in the bunk compartment, passed throughout the aircraft and the pilots had difficulty continuing. The situation for the four in the blister was serious. The radio operator, under instructions, sent out an emergency signal stating that the aircraft was going down in flames and giving the position. Thereafter he had to vacate his position and no further signals were sent. When notified that the fire could not be extinguished, Jack immediately descended and reached the south coast of New Britain at 20 feet, hoping to reach Allied lines at Arawe.

The fire by this time had spread to the engineer's compartment and the aircraft was in danger of breaking in half in the air. From the cockpit flames could be seen through the side of the fuselage. The Captain immediately crash-landed the aircraft 50 yards from the shore and drifted into a reef. All of the crew were able to leave the aircraft with only a few burns. However, five of the crew did not survive Japanese ambushes or as prisoners of war where they, including Jack, suffered from Japanese atrocities.

As can be seen from these excerpts, F/Lt. Brian P. Stacey was the sole surviving POW from this crew. He was transported to mainland Japan with several other POWs, via a “stop-off” at Truk, on Feb. 17, 1944. (This incident is described by Gregory Boyington in his well-known book “Baa Baa Black Sheep”.) Besides Major Boyington of VMF-214 (shot down Jan. 3, 1944), Stacey's other POW travelling companions were Lieutenant John M. Arbuckle, USN (VP-52, shot down Nov. 20, 1943), Major Donald W. Boyle, USMC (VMF-212, shot down Jan. 23, 1944), F/O Allen M. Brown (No. 8 Squadron RAAF, shot down Oct. 21, 1943), and Capt. Charles K. Taylor, Jr., USAAF (8th PRS, 6th PRG, 5th AF, shot down Oct. 23, 1943). Initially captives of the 81st Naval Guard Unit, these men all survived the war in Japan. At the time they left New Britain, several other aviator POWs were still held captive by the 81st Naval Guard Unit. None of those men were ever seen again.

As mentioned above, John Fenwick, seven other RAAF POWs, and 23 Americans were killed on March 4, 1944. The other four RAAF PBY crewmen killed on this date were members of S/L Todd's crew. They were F/O Frank R. Pocknee, navigator, from Buramine South, Victoria; Sgt. Fred Woolley, flight engineer, from Chermside, Queensland; F/Sgt. Ernest H. Kraehe, flight engineer, from Laverton, Victoria; and F/Sgt. Henry L. Murphy, gunner, from Murrumburrah, New South Wales. Like John Fenwick and the other Australian aviator POWs, these four aviators are memorialized at Collective Grave E,C,5-11, in the Bita Paka Cemetery.

Squadron Leader Todd, from Toronto, New South Wales, survived until July 22, 1944, when he died in the Kempei Tai prison. Todd died from what John Murphy described as “catarrh of the kidneys”, or what Japanese records describe as “malnutrition”. According to Joseph Nason's “Horio, You Next Die”, one of Todd's last requests was that his RAAF wings be hidden from his captors after his death. His resting place is grave D,B,1 in the Bita Paka War Cemetery.

The four evadees from Todd's crew were F/O Ian D.V. Ralfe (third pilot), of Yeppoon, Queensland; P/O Allan B. Liedl (gunner), of Lismore, New South Wales; LAC Richard M. Howard (fitter), of Gambier, New South Wales; and LAC Harold F. Jones (armorer), of Scone, New South Wales.


Feldt, Eric A., The Coast Watchers, 1946, Oxford University Press, New York, N.Y.

Francillon, Rene J., The Royal Australian Air Force & Royal New Zealand Air Force in the Pacific, 1970, Aero Publishers, Inc., Fallbrook, Ca.

Lord, Walter, Lonely Vigil: Coastwatchers of the Solomons, 1977, The Viking Press, New York, N.Y.

McMurria, James A. Trial and Triumph, 1992, James A. McMurria, Columbus, Ga.

Nason, Joseph G. and Robert Holt, Horio, You Next Die, 1987, Pacific Rim Press, Inc., Carlsbad, Ca.

Nelson, Hank, The Return to Rabaul, Journal of Pacific History, Vol. 30, No. 2, December, 1995.

Riddell, Jack, RAAF Catalina Squadrons, First and Furthest: Recounting the Operations of RAAF Catalinas, 1995, Jack Riddell, Murwillumbah, NSW, Australia.

Sakaida, Henry, The Siege of Rabaul, 1996, Phalanx Publishing Company, Ltd., St. Paul, Mn.

Stone, Peter, Hostages to Freedom: The Fall of Rabaul, 1994, Oceans Enterprises, Yarram, Victoria, Australia.

Vincent, David, Catalina Chronicle: A History of RAAF Operations, 1978, David Vincent, Paradise, South Australia.

Casualty File A705/15, Item 166/38/834, from the Australian Archives.

History "...I reside close to a disused RAAF base which was a major, if not the largest flying boat base In Australia during the Second World War. It was mainly used as a repair and maintenance/training facility and operated PBY's for several years post war. At it's peak in 1944 the base housed up to 75 catalinas and 3,000 personnel..." Contributed by Richard Butler http://www.pby.com/ [10MAR99]

History RAAF Pix "...RAAF 10 Sqn with SP2H visited Hawaii for exercise "Hawaiian Grampus" in 1967, from Townsville, Australia. 10 Sqn CO Wing Cdr Rodd is greeted by Capt J Chapel of Fleet Air Wing Two, Capt W Matton Commander Fleet Air Wing Two, and Cdr E Lebiedz CO VP-28..." Contributed by Wynnum B. Graham wbg@bigpond.com [18OC98]

History "...I am contacting you to inform you that the Royal Australia Air Force's P3 Refurbishment Project has established two sites on the Internet to provide an information resource for anyone wishing to keep abreast of what is happening with the RAAF AP-3C Aircraft and Mission Simulator development. The AP-3C Aircraft site at http://www.cyberramp.net/~raafp3c and the AP-3C Mission Simulator Website address is http://www.cyberramp.net/~raafp3c/oms. Please take this opportunity to promulgate the addresses to whomever you feel may be interested in reading about the RAAF AP-3C development and I encourage you to establish a link from your sites to these AP-3C pages. Please contact me for any further details..." Contributed by Greg Trott oms@air5276.gvl.esys.com [14MAY98]

History BUNO: 152760 HISTORY: "22JUN95...Ex USN BuNo 152760. Built NOV66...Served with VP-46, VP-30, VP-93 & VP-67...Upgraded in JUL86 and retired 1992 with 14,255 hours on the airframe. On arrival RAAF Edinburgh ex NAS Jacksonville, Florida, the aircraft was converted to components...Cockpit section used as Project Air 5276 (AP-3C)Trainer. Fuselage used for Battle Damage Repair Training..." http://www.adastron.com/lockheed/orion/orion.htm [URL Updated 17MAY2001 | 29MAR98]

"Royal Australian Air Force Summary Page"