25 APRIL 1942
DISAPPEARANCE OF A P-39 AIRACOBRA

NEAR CAPE GRENVILLE, QLD

 

USAAF P-39 Airacobra disappeared near Cape Grenville on 25 April 1942.  11 38' S, 143 15' E.

 

The "Aircraft Crash Sites - Australia" list suggests that this crash may be possibly linked to Crash No. 342.

SOURCE:-   Aircraft Crash Sites - Australia

Crash:         No. 34

Position:    

Department of Aviation Chart No:       3097

 

 

Subject:    Re: Kittyhawk crashes
Date:             Fri, 05 Mar 1999 16:54:00 +1100
From:           Ray Blackwood <seaquel@tpgi.com.au>

Thanks Peter,

However before you put the Proserpine crash on your web page please await further advices from me as just after I sent my email to you I received a letter which has led me to the pilot of that plane, Jack McGrath now aged 82. I also am corresponding with a member of an RAAF recovery unit which salvaged parts of the plane. He has photos of the crash which he is sending to me. I am more than happy to have you use these items for your page but will send you full details when I have gathered all the new information together. This should be in a week or so.

On another matter, I have looked at your page about the crash of a Kittyhawk on 27/4/1942 '50 km NW of Cooktown' and must question its correctness. This sounds to me more like a crash near Cape Grenville further up Cape York. (I'm not sure I'm convinced yet - could it be the Airacobra that disappeared on 25 April 1942?)

 

Aircraft at Cape Grenville
Photograph supplied by John and Bob Evetts
of Elizabeth E II Cruises

 

In 1991 I visited the site of this crash during a boat cruise from Cairns to Thursday Island and saw the remains in the water just off the beach. I wrote to the RAAF about it and their reply stated those facts you have on the page in question.

Nearby lie the remains, now covered in sand, of an Airacobra which ties in with the information. You no doubt are aware that a number of Airacobras had to crash land on Cape York after becoming separated from a mother plane in bad weather. I have seen the full story somewhere but do not have it on hand.

I gave the letter from the RAAF to the cruise boat operators for their information on future cruises and am in the process of retrieving it from them for your information. They also will give me precise Latitude and Longitude of the site which they know well.

I have not yet looked at your full site, having just returned from a visit to Mackay but thought it better to let you have the foregoing before you add anything to the site.

I will let you know progress,

Best wishes,

Ray Blackwood,
PO Box 81,
Airlie Beach, Q 4802, Australia.

07 49469437 - Fax ditto by arrangement.

 

 

Subject:    Re: Kittyhawk crashes
Date:             Fri, 05 Mar 1999 20:12:39 +1100
From:           Ray Blackwood <seaquel@tpgi.com.au

Dear Peter,

A bit more background to follow up my last email to you.

My wife and I retired to Shute Harbour in the Whitsundays in 1981 and since them I have spent most of my time writing a history of the Whitsunday Islands and the adjacent coastline. This culminated in the publishing by Central Queensland University Press of my 'The Whitsunday Islands - An Historical Dictionary' in November 1997.

While I have now retired from the intense research I carried out over the years, my interest remains and I am continuing a relaxed research program to supplement what I wrote in my book, mainly for the benefit of our local historical society.

I covered the Proserpine River crash-landing in my book but was nowhere near satisfied with the scant and sometimes conflicting detail I had been able to glean from those involved here at the time. I have therefore cast a pretty wide net to see what information I could obtain, thus my email to you after I came across some of your work on the Internet while searching under RAAF History.

However I also put an 'ad' in the Veteran Affairs Department periodical newsletter and received three responses, one leading me to the pilot, another to the member the salvage team and another from a woman whose parents were air observers in the area at the time (as many country people were) and saw a couple of planes, one of which disappeared and possibly was the subject plane.

Together I think I now have a very complete picture but unfortunately the date remains in doubt. Locals and the pilot think it was in April 1942 - it happened so long ago memories are dim. The salvage man maintains in was in 1943 but I am still awaiting his full report.

If I cannot resolve the year my next approach will be to the RAAF Historical Officer in Canberra (if he still exists). I tried this source years ago but the lack of detail I had at hand (knew only the pilot was a McGrath) frustrated the approach. I will go back with the new information to see whether the RAAF can help me.

Another mystery is that McGrath was accompanied by another Kittyhawk which, according to him, disappeared without trace - we still have a lot of work to do. (Can anyone shed any light on the disappearance of this other Kittyhawk?)

That's about it for the moment Peter. As I said earlier I will keep you informed and probably we both will learn a lot more.

Ray Blackwood,
PO Box 81,
Airlie Beach, Q 4802, Australia.

07 49469437 - Fax ditto by arrangement.

 

 

Subject:     Kittyhawk A29-69 Ellerton
Date:               Mon, 08 Mar 1999 15:49:18 +1000
From:             Ray Blackwood <seaquel@tpgi.com.au>

Dear Peter,

I attach copy of the letter I received from the RAAF in June 1991 in reply to my letter asking details of the plane wreck at Cape Grenville, precise location 11.58.7 S 143.14.2E as today advised to me by the tour people I spoke of.

I must admit that as I proceed further with this exercise I get the impression one perhaps cannot rely too much on the locations given in official reports and maybe the officer replying to me was taking a bit of a stab at it.

Nevertheless it is interesting that an Airacobra was reported missing in the same area on 25 April 1942 - could there be a connection?

It's getting too complex for me so I leave it to you to sort out but would be interested if you get a positive outcome.

Regards,

Ray Blackwood,
PO Box 81,
Airlie Beach, Q 4802, Australia.

07 49469437 - Fax ditto by arrangement.

 

 

 

Subject:     Re: Kittyhawks
Date:              Fri, 12 Mar 1999 07:44:43 +1000
From:            Ray Blackwood <seaquel@tpgi.com.au>

Dear Peter,

I have received an email from a John Sheehan relating his experience while serving with the RAAF Test and Ferry Flight at Bankstown. He says

'Now here's a funny thing. There was another one in, I think, mid-1944.

At this time I was a pilot in an RAAF Test & Ferry Flight based at Bankstown, Sydney, 'resting' after completing an operational tour. A Sgt. Pilot  named Jack Guy and myself were delivering a couple of P40-N25 Kittyhawks to squadrons in New Guinea.

About 20 minutes out of Townsville Jack rang me up to tell me his oil temp was going off the clock. He said he would bail out if it got any worse but I told him to hang on as he had all the liquor for trading with the Yanks in Moresby stowed in his aircraft. (1 bottle COR-IO whiskey @ 7/6d = 20 cartons Chesterfields worth a couple of quid a carton back in Sydney)

He did hang on but didn't make it to an airfield but force landed on a beach somewhere near Cardwell.

Dunno what happened to the grog. I had to continue to Moresby alone, after re-fuelling at Cairns and Iron Range, which I didn't like one little bit.

Two hours over the shark-infested Coral Sea in a single-engine aircraft before Valium was invented wasn't much fun.

I know this is no bloody use to you, but I have enjoyed telling it.

JS'

----------

He now has come again:

'Ray

Thanks for your reply.

Yes. Jack Guy survived but I lost touch with him when I went to England to live for a few years in the early 50's.

I think that he died a couple of years ago having moved from Sydney to live at, I think, Ballina in northern NSW.

An ex-Squadron friend of mine in Brisbane researched this aircraft misadventure recently and has all the gen. if you are interested.

Name: Jim Purdon
21 Spilsby Place
The Gap, Qld, 4061

Happy hunting

JS'

-------------------

Peter, This address may be of interest to you.

 

Aircraft at Cape Grenville

 

I also am attaching a copy of the Cape Grenville crash site. This is by courtesy of John and Bob Evetts of Mackay and their cruise boat 'Elizabeth E II'. Actually Bob Evetts reckons it is an Airacobra as the motor was behind the cockpit!!

Also attaching photos of the Proserpine River crash. If you use these please acknowledge Col Hyde of Toowoomba who sent them to me.

Best wishes, Ray Blackwood

 

REFERENCE BOOK

"Diary of WWII - North Queensland"
Complied by Peter Nielsen

 

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This page first produced 7 February 1999

This page last updated 14 January 2017