9 MARCH 1945
CRASH OF TWO KITTYHAWKS

AT BOHLE RIVER AIR STRIP

 

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Kittyhawk

 

Three Kittyhawks from 86 Squadron RAAF based at the Bohle River airfield, took off from the Bohle at about 1340 hours on 9 March 1945 to carry out a line-astern-chase exercise at 10,000 feet. The three pilots were Flying Officer G. Strout, Warrant Officer L.B. Brown and Flight Sergeant P.M. Collier. This follow-the-leader sort of exercise involves the leader performing aerobatics and evasive manoeuvres as if attempting to escape an enemy fighter. The following aircraft attempt to stick on each others tails as a pursuing fighter. Each pilot needs to retain an acute awareness of the location of the other two aircraft.

This flight of three pilots was briefed by Flight Lieutenant D.G. Southwell, the Officer Commanding "A" Flight. He gave them instructions to rotate tthe lead role and the ored of the aircaft every 15 minutes. These changeovers were to be signalled by visual signals.

The exercise began in the order Strout, Collier then Brown. On the third change back to the starting order, Strout took the lead again and Brown dropped back, but Collier was unsighted by both aircraft. At about 7,000 feet directly above the Bohle River airfield, Collier climbed up underneath Brown and flew into Brown's propeller which ripped apart Collier's top fuselage, his windscreen, gun sight, canopy and severed his tail plane.

The propeller on P-40M Kittyhawk A29-335 (#43-5652) piloted by Warrant Officer L.B. Brown stopped and then smoke, closely followed by flames came from the port side of his engine. Then either glycol or petrol streamed out over the leading edge of his port wing root. Brown turned off all his switches and belly landed on the Bohle River air strip. The aircraft caught fire. W/O Brown escaped the wreckage.

 

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A29-335 (or is it A29-342?) burnt out after a forced landing by W/O L.B. Brown.

 

P-40M Kittyhawk A29-342 (#43-5422) lost its tail during the collision and spun into a creek bank killing the pilot Flight Sergeant P.M. Collier, who was later buried at the Townsville War Cemetery.

The Court of Enquiry found that Collier had misjudged the distance between the two aircraft while changing from No. 3 to No. 2 position.

A29-335 had been delivered to the RAAF in March 1943 while A29-342 had been delivered in April 1943.

 

In Memory of

PETER MARLOW COLLIER

Flight Sergeant
437396
Royal Australian Air Force
who died on
Friday, 9th March 1945. Age 21

TOWNSVILLE WAR CEMETERY, Queensland, Australia
Grave Reference/Panel Number:     C.D.7

Peter Collier was the son of George Laurence and Kate Marion Collier, of Goodwood Park, South Australia.

 

NOTE:-    There is some confusion as to which aircraft was which. Peter Neilsen's book has W/O Brown flying A29-335, while Peter Howard's book has Brown flying A29-342. Can anyone please confirm the correct story.

 

REFERENCE BOOK

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

"Aircraft of the RAAF 1921- 71"
By Geoffrey Pentland & Peter Malone

"86 Squadron 1943-45 - Men, Kittyhawks and Mustangs"
By Peter F. Howard

"The Spitfire, Mustang & Kittyhawk in Australian Service"
by Stewart Wilson

 

Can anyone help me with more information?

 

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 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 9 February 1999

This page last updated 06 February 2015