COL BENSON FROM MACKAY

 

Subject:     Military Aircraft
Date:             Thu Mar 04 17:14:25 1999
From:            Col Benson <col@sri.org.au>

G'Day Peter

A quick reply to say I have your e-mail. Rather busy on all fronts so may be  a few days before I get to answer you better.

The USAAF B-17C crashed near Mackay at Bakers Creek on 14 June 1943 with the loss of 40 American lives - as far as I can ascertain it was Australia's worst air disaster in terms of lives of which little was known outside of Mackay because of wartime censorship until I got a few minutes on "Australia All Over" about four years ago (before Macca cut me off because he only lets people talk about Aussie things!)

There is a Memorial about 1km from the crash site - nothing remains of the crashed aircraft. The Memorial lists 40 names of those killed plus a sole survivor.

There is another in the District of which little is known - a Wirraway that crashed to the south of Mackay while heading north circa 1941. Two aboard - the young pilot succumbed to burns in Mackay District Hospital several days later. I am not researching that one - our Mackay Sub Branch RSL President is.

I am after as much info as is available about Beautiful Betsy B-24 that crashed Feb 1945 near Biloela. For an ex-RAAF pilot friend who searched for  the plane for years, and has been interested in others in the NT, as well as the B-24 that crashed on Hinchinbrook Is. further north.

Talk to you later

Col Benson

 

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Subject:     Re: Military Aircraft
Date:              Fri Mar 05 16:35:16 1999
From:            Col Benson <col@sri.org.au>

Quickie

Incidentally, Ken Blanch's Sunday Mail story for Independence Day 1996 came about after he contacted me. Ken promised to send a copy of the police report on the crash to me but inadvertantly seems to have sent it to an American veteran in Brisbane instead. I got a copy via other means.

I'll e-mail you something about this later.

The B-17 model you have there is much later than the C model that crashed at Bakers Creek. The C and D models had thin fuselages to the tail.

There was a B-24 that made a forced landing here but it was undamaged.

Do you have the story of the crash on take-off at Iron Range? It makes interesting reading, as does the remarkable survival of a USAAF sergeant Grady Gaston in the gulf for more than 3 months at the end of 1943.

Col Benson

 

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Subject:     Re: Military Aircraft
Date:              Mon Mar 08 08:38:04 1999
From:            Col Benson <col@sri.org.au>

G'Day Peter

I have the story on Grady Gaston in my files, and maybe a bit about the Iron Range prang.

Both of these were B-24.

The Iron Range accident happened early one morning, cannot remember the date, but would probably be around late 1943. A B-24 wing clipped another plane very close to the strip and went cartwheeling don the strip in a ball of flame. Unknown number incinerated / killed, but a passenger on the B-24 was thrown clear and survived.

Grady Gastons saga was from a B-24 returning to Iron Range at about 2000 hours after a bombing trip to N.G., where it got lost in stormy weather.  They circled until about 0200 looking for the lights of Cairns, and the skipper told them to bail out when they ran out of fuel. Some bailed out, one pulled the ripcord too soon and caught on the tail, and, I think, two were caught inside. That happened circa December 1943. The skipper and another were found after two weeks, while two or three who joined with Gaston died of hunger or drowned. Gaston was rescued near the NT border after walking about 200 miles westward.

An interesting story of survival. I have been told Gaston died in a plane crash before the end of the war, but that is unconfirmed.

Gotta run

Col Benson

 

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Subject:    Merry Christmas from Down Under
Date:           Sun, 26 Dec 1999 11:57:04 +1000
From:          col@sri.org.au

G'day, Peter

Thanks for the reply ... hope you had an enjoyable Christmas.

Have had a busy year, somethings are on a fledgling web page, but have trouble finding the time to upgrade it. Hope to do some updates in the next two weeks that I have off from work.

Didn't have a blue Christmas ... overcast, warm and humid with a few light showers but pleasant.

You may be interested in another couple of crashes ... "Beautiful Betsy" (Liberator B-24) near Biloela, in Kroombit Tops National Forest. I am planning a trip to that site early in February with my boss, Garry Cooper and the owner of a 4WD vehicle here in Mackay. I was emailed some pix a few months ago by Neil Richardson from Rockhampton who went for a look. Garry has researched Betsy for a number of years and wants to see the site to relate to what was known about the kite when it went missing in Feb 1945. The pieces of wreckage make it interesting. My boss (Dr. Terry Dixon, research engineer) has an interest in these things, as well as two sons in the RAN ... another was in the RAAF and looks like re-enlisting.

Another ... a Wirraway that crashed late November 1940 (actually 19 Dec 1940) north of St. Lawrence. Most of the wreckage was taken to Townsville but there is supposed to be something still there. Cannot be much as they were fabric covered. A few weekends ago, myself and RSL President Adrian van Moolenbroek who has researched that incident, went with AIRTC cadets looking for it. Despite some sweeps of the area where we think it crashed ... from the crash report and newspaper reports ... we found nothing. More research to be done. A previous search of the area by an AIRTC contingent from Innisfail also found nothing but they met a stockman when they were leaving the area who told them he knew where it was. They were to come with us but never turned up so we don't know what they really learned. The local AIRTC flight commander was unable to ID the stockman by calling the cattle property owners where we searched. Also heard too late to check that a local council mobile library driver knows where it is ... According to the crash report, the plane crash landed on a salt pan and overshot the saltpan and crashed into trees and caught fire. The pilot later died in a Mackay hospital and the passenger was awarded a George Medal in 1945 (after much wrangling, it seems).

As a related issue to the Wirraway, it looks like a contingent of RAAF reservists from Adelaide will be in Mackay next ANZAC Day for a service at the pilot's grave, to march with us and possibly unveil a plaque at the crash site if we can locate it. It is about a 2 hour drive from Mackay.

Regards
Col, Mackay

 

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Subject:     Merry Christmas from Down Under
Date:              Tue, 28 Dec 1999 20:07:21 +1000
From:             col@sri.org.au

Peter,

The Wirraway crash is the same as you have. There isn't enough info from the crash report or newspaper clippings to fix the position. The RAAF doesn't seem to have much on it. The RAAF Museum asked Adrian to give him anything we find, but have'nt been able to recipocate with anything of value.

Based on Neil Richardson's pixs of "Beautiful Betsy" we are planning to go to the site.

Col

 

 

 

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