CRASH OF A LIBERATOR
POSSIBLY AT FENTON, NT
ON 22 MARCH 1945
visits since 12 September 1999
On 22 March 1945, Group Captain Deryck Kingwell and his crew in B-24J Liberator, A72-59, (USAAF No. #44-41389), of 24 Squadron RAAF, were taking part in a bombing mission on two Sugar Dog vessels from 7,000 feet above Bima harbour on Sumbawa Island. They encountered a Japanese Oscar and a Zeke. The Zeke four unidentified cylinders less than a meter long and a few centimetres in diameter. Kingwell took evasive action and the cylinders missed the Liberator by about 15 metres. The Oscar then started to strafe the Liberator. The Liberator was hit which severed the aileron cable and another shell hit the nose compartment. This one cut the electrical lines and exploded near Kingwell's rudder pedals. Kingwell and his bombardier, Flying Officer A.G. Worley, were both wounded. The Liberator was also hit in the tailplane, rudder and two engines.
During the third attack by the Oscar, the B-24 was hit by a heavy four foot long chain which smashed the front turret perspex and hydraulic system disabling the turret. The chain also then damaged the port tailplane and fin. The ball turret gunner was unable to see because his turret Perspex was covered in hydraulic oil. The origin of the chain was quite a mystery. The Oscar and the Zeke continued to attack the Liberator. In all they made about 9 strafing attacks over a forty minute period.
The nose gunner, Flight Sergeant J.S. Thompson, was also wounded, but he continued to fire at the two Japanese aircraft until his turret ceased working.
As they returned to Australia they sighted another Japanese aircraft south west of Timor which did not attack them. It actually shadowed them at a parallel distance of 2,000 metres before departing. By then the Liberator had two turrets and its ailerons inoperable, along with three wounded crew members. A sitting duck!
The flight engineer Sergeant W.J. Wignal was able to repair the broken aileron cable using some wire rope. The hydraulic and electrical systems, including the autopilot remained inoperable.
When Kingwell arrived over Fenton airfield he found that the starboard undercarriage leg would not lock down. He circulated around the airfield for an hour and a half while unsuccessfully attempting to lock down the leg. Low on fuel, he was committed to make a forced landing. He bought the main wheel tyre down on the tarmac with a deliberate sideways jolting action in an attempt to lock in the undercarriage leg. It worked. Kingwell was awarded the DSO for getting his crew and aircraft back to base safely.
Liberator A72-59 had been delivered to the RAAF in September 1944. The B-24 was converted to components after this incident.
Photo: via Chris Stephens
Wing Commander W.B. Stephens
(left) with Deryck Kingwell. W/Cdr Stephens was one of
six survivors of the crash of a Catalina in Cleveland Bay at Townsville on 7 September 1943.
I'd like to thank Chris Stephens for his assistance with this web page. Chris is the son of W/Cdr Stephens.
"Tocumwal to Tarakan"
"Australians and the Consolidated B-24 Liberator"
By Michael V. Nelmes
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© Peter Dunn 2004
This page first produced 12 September 1999
This page last updated 30 December 2004