CRASH OF A VULTEE VENGEANCE
AT MANTON DAM, NT
2 MILES WEST OF HUGHES AIRFIELD
ON 16 FEBRUARY 1945
RAAF Vultee Vengeance, A27-422, of 12 Squadron RAAF (or was it No. 6 Communications Unit?) crash landed at about 1700 hours in the Manton Dam area, in the Northern Territory on 16 February 1945. The pilot, Frank Ellis, had just buzzed a military outpost during an artillery spotting exercise in the Hughes area when the engine cut out when he pulled up. He turned and headed for a small clearing but clipped the tops of some trees and crashed. Two Army Officers Lieutenant P. Hill and N. D. Shaw of the 12th Infantry Brigade A.M.F. were observers in the aircraft at the time of the crash.
The aircraft came to rest about 50 yards west of the railway line about 2 miles miles west of Hughes airfield. All the occupants of the aircraft were uninjured but the aircraft suffered extensive damage to the port and starboard mainplanes, tail plane and port elevator. The underside of the front portion of the fuselage and the rear of the engine bulkhead suffered medium damage. The engine was slightly damaged, and three airscrew blades were bent. The airframe was recommended for conversion.
Wreck of A27-422 at Manton Dam
I obtained the some of the above information when I spoke to Frank Ellis (lives at East Brisbane) on 14 March 2000.
"Anyhow on this particular day we'd go up and land up near the Army base, there was a strip there beside the road, near Manton Dam."
Manton Dam is about 60 miles south of Darwin on the main highway. There's a mountain, and upon top of the hill there's a dam and from that supply the water goes to Darwin or other places along the way.
Anyhow, and these two young fellows, and they'd never flown before and I said to them "If you like, both hop in the back". You'd go up and do an hour. This was unknown. You just didn't do those sort of things. Because there's only one seat at the back, to which they strap themselves in. And I said "If you sit down in the bottom down there and hang on you'll be right. And you can change about".
God, you know, crazy that sort of thing. So, we went up and we did the exercise and then we came back and as we went to lunch I said to the fellows, you know "fill her up".
We were way out in a sort've satellite place, and a thing took us away and we had to go to lunch and so when we came back, I said "How is she". They said "Yes, she's right". But what they did is they gave me American gallons and not Australian gallons. And I looked at it "Oh yeah, she'll be right" and away we went with the two blokes in the chute, went up there, finished once, swapped over.
The next one thought "Yeah that's right, we've had enough" and as we came back I went over the Army camp and buzzed them. This would let them know we were back to send a truck out to pick us up. And as I pulled up, straight up, and as I was just about up at the stall in this thing, the bloody noise stopped. Dead silence. Bang. Just like that.
Now the rules are when you're flying, you never turn when you lose your motor. Because you turn, you stall, you can wipe out one side of the wing and away you can go. But it was just straight heavy timber and out of the corner of my eye .... you do this thing instinctively when you're flying, you're looking for a clearing. You're looking for a spot. You're watching, watching all the time.
So I did a quick turn and I was down with no motor, and I just pulled out of the bloody thing on top of the trees and I was doing a couple of hundred at that stage, and I just eased it along, see, and in the trees. I just had time to yell out "Brace yourself" and the fellow who was sitting in the back, he had the earphones on, thank god, so he grabbed everything and braced himself, and the other fellow was strapped in, and I just, both feet off, as I'm going along and planted them straight into the instrument panel, you know, pressed back.
They were a wonderful aircraft. They had a big cockpit, lot of room. Threw the canopy open, so that you could get out of the bastard, and away we went. And she just started to sit down in those trees as she went along and "Crunch". And she landed on the top of the trees. And that aircraft, you see the bloody wings, that just took these bloody gum trees like nothing on earth. Bang, bang, clatter, bang. And right at the last minute, one hit at the root of the wings and spun me around a bit so that the trees came in and cut me around the head and about the shoulder and stuff like that, and bang, settled.
I was out like a flash. And the two blokes, I yelled "Out, out, out, out" See, waiting for a fire or something. And we just hopped out, there was nothing at all, cause there couldn't be a fire cause we didn't have any bloody fuel. And we just solemnly shook hands all around "Great, good" and those two blokes, that was the first flight they had been on, they had taken off and they had never had a bloody landing!
So, after a while you could hear aircraft out looking for us, see. Because there's nothing worse than an aircraft in full roar and suddenly silence. So they must've found and sent a Tiger Moth out. He was going up and down, up and down. Found the Very pistol. There must've been half a dozen cartridges there, fired every one of them. There wasn't a good one amongst them. They all bloody fizzed.
And we sat there, and sat there and eventually they spotted us and the Army came down. The clearing I'd seen was a railway line with the Overland Telegraph line running through it and I took out the Telegraph line and the whole of Darwin is connected up to Adelaide with it. Old Fenton, back at the Squadron, Fenton was on the bloody loan, bang and he called the clerk in from the orderly room "You ever do that to me again lad, and you're in trouble. Nothing to do with the lad. Didn't switch him off at all".
So the Army came down, and they came down along the railway line, in a jeep. Plonked us aboard that, and then straddled, got the jeep over the line and then went roaring along, along the railway line. But they don't stop when they come to a bridge. They just keep going. Straight along, see. No gravel, nothing at all, just open, see. Bang, bang away they get. They took us straight to the hospital and they said "How are you?". I said "The crash was alright "But with the drive in the jeep, I lost about a yard and a half of dirt with the crash, yeah."
Anyhow, I got a court marshall over that one. It was rather funny, I went up ... I was a Warrant Officer then. I was sent up for an interview with the commissioner, I went up to the commissioner and the bloke said "What was it all about?" and I'm telling them a yarn about it all, that was it, nothing else about it, they just gave me a commission. And then, I've still got a letter somewhere, but they found me, ... ah, they gave me a severe reprimand.
After the war a letter came through the Squadron to me to Innisfail, and I've still got the bastard too, where the judge talked a lot about legal things and expunged it from the records. But it didn't affect me at all. It didn't eh. Yes it was my fault. I should have looked and saw that they were American. And they were bad bloody aircraft in that sense, there's a sort've a goose neck in the tank. Because that aircraft, you'd fly that upside down. My signature when I come home, I'd would just roll it over and fly it across the strip upside down. It kept a clean aircraft. All the dirt and dust went out, and all the crap went out. You were a mug lair at that bloody stage. You'd do all that sort've stuff. Yeah.
I'd hate to think how many blokes we actually killed in accidents and that type of thing. I rolled a Wirraway over on Forest Hill, coming in, the brakes had locked, and she came is as she touched down, she just went over the back.
There was a nasty one there when we were doing formation flying, in a Wirra. And the Wirra had, if you look at the Wirra you'll see its got a post up to hold the aerial, and we were in formation, and one fellow, we slipped underneath, got so close, slipped in like that, and it lifted up like that, took the aerial off, broke it, see, an insulator on the back flew forward and hit the pilot right in the back of the skull, killed him. He was a flying instructor, he was sitting in the back, see, and copped that into him, and the sprog pilot, he did a wheels up landing straight down, he sort've panicked a bit.
Gathercole or something like that other name, he was training with us. What they'd do in the Tiger Moths, was they'd hold off bank coming in to land, see, and they'd come in and they'd hold off like that, then they'd lose so much of it and then they'd bloody stall and they'd pull, and they'd go up like that and they'd roll over and land upside down, see. Just on the top wing. We went over to this boy, and he was swearing and cursing "Oh, I'll be bloody scrubbed for this and such and such". He pulled the pin, dropped straight down, about that far, parachute tied to his arse, broke his bloody neck. The number of people that did that.
Subject: Aircraft letter
Date: Wed, 27 Dec 2000 17:57:15 +1000
From: Chris Jamesson <email@example.com>
Found this letter when going through my photocopies... enjoy :)
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 14 March 2000
This page last updated 31 August 2015