CRASH OF A MOSQUITO
AT SALTASH RANGE NEAR WILLIAMTOWN, NSW
ON 31 JANUARY 1945

 

mosquito.jpg (9500 bytes)

Mosquito

 

RAAF Mosquito A52-29 (Mark FB.40) broke up in flight after the failure of of the mainplane on 31 January 1945 at Saltash Range near Williamtown Airfield in New South Wales. This structural failure was witnessed by many people. This aircraft was delivered to the RAAF in January 1945. The aircraft was engaged in an air to ground gunnery training exercise at the time of the accident. It had been in the air for 20 minutes during which time three passes had been made at the target. While attempting the fourth pass at the target the starboard mainplane disintegrated at about 200 feet in a 20 degree shallow dive. The de-lamination occurred at the point that where firing of the guns would have commenced and pull out of the dive would commence. The aircraft did not pull out of the 280 mph dive and crashed on to a property owned by the Hunter River District Water Board near the northern boundary fence of the Air to Ground Gunnery Range.

It is believed that the upper double skin failed in shear between ribs 7 and 11. The inboard portion to rib 1 then lifted vertically and the whole double skin broke away upwards and backwards. In failing, this portion started as failure in the top single skin and leading edge. The single skin carried away breaking the tip attachment. Failure of the tip then occurred followed by the lower skin and spars outboard from the engine.

A witness gave evidence that the aircraft, flown by a different pilot, had a severe pullout at zero altitude from a dive the previous day and vapour trails at the wing tips were observed during this maneuver.

 

Propeller from A52-29

 

Piece of Mosquito A52-29

 

Mosquito A52-29 was manufactured by De Havilland (Aust.) and delivered to the RAAF on 12 January 1945 and was alloted to 5 O.T.U. on 14 January 1945. The aircraft had flown 21 hours 45 minutes prior to the commencement of this exercise.

A search of the Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour database shows that the following two RAAF Personnel from No. 5 Operational Training Unit were killed on 31 January 1945. It is possible that they may have been the crew of Mosquito A52-29. Can anyone please confirm this?

Flying Officer Francis John White - Pilot
Pilot Officer Robert Neill Tucker - Navigator

Michael White, the son of Flying Officer Francis John White told me that his father is buried at Sandgate War Cemetery alongside Pilot Officer Tucker. and a number of other pilots lost during the introduction of the Australian-built Mosquitoes into service. John has his father's log book which has been completed for the flight in A52-29.

Michael White believes they were both instructor pilots undergoing their conversion at 5OTU before commencing duties as instructors on the Mosquitoes at Williamtown.

Michael White told me that details of the accident and the problems with the de-lamination of the mainplane on Australian built Mosquitoes is covered in "Mosquito Monograph - A history of Mosquitoes in Australian & RAAF Operational" by David Vincent.

David Gowland, the great, great, great grandson of Robert Braithwaite Tucker who is buried at the Coburg Cemetery in Melbourne, told me that besides commemorating Robert Braithwaite (died 1908) and his wife Mary Ann Tucker (died 1925) the headstone also states the following:-

Also their noble
And devoted grandson
P/O Robert Neil Tucker
Who’s brilliance was sacrificed
On the 31st of January 1945
Through Sabotage
And Faulty Aircraft
Aged 23 years
“Our Neil”
“One of Nature’s gentlemen”

Note the mention of sabotage in the above headstone words.

John Winterbotham told me that his father's best man was Francis John White.

 


Photo:- via John Winterbotham

L to R:-  QX48887 Capt H.J. Winterbotham;  QFX51561 Frances Margaret Anderson;
Marie Grenier and 413454 Francis John White.

 

Mervyn Williams told me that he lost his best friend when Neill Tucker was killed on the training flight at 5 OTU Williamtown, just prior to joining 1 Squadron, Fighter/ Bomber Intruders, equipped with Mk1V English Mosquito's, for posting to SE Asia. The training at 5 OTU was on Mk40 Australian Made Mosquito's.

Mervyn Williams believe the reason for the crash was a defective wing in which the glue joints were faulty, the top surface of one wing peeled away and was probably the only remaining component. The reason for the crash would therefore have been fairly easy to investigate. Geoffrey De'Haviland flew to Australia to investigate a series of accidents involving the Mk40.

Mervyn Williams told me that Neill Tucker transferred to the RAAF from the Australian Military Forces and trained as a specialist Navigator (Nav. W.) at 2 A.O.S. Mt. Gambier in 1944. Mervyn did not really know the pilot, Frank White, other than he remember him as a 'very nice guy' and a gentleman officer.

 


 

A search of the Commonwealth War Graves site then revealed the following:-

In Memory of

FRANCIS JOHN WHITE

Flying Officer
413454
Royal Australian Air Force
who died on
Wednesday, 31st January 1945. Age 21.

Son of Walter John and Cecilia Anna White; husband of Margaret Jean White, of Tamworth.

Cemetery: NEWCASTLE (SANDGATE) WAR CEMETERY, New South Wales, Australia
Grave Reference/Panel Number: Plot K. Row C. Grave 13.

 

In Memory of

ROBERT NEILL TUCKER

Pilot Officer
438666
Royal Australian Air Force
who died on
Wednesday, 31st January 1945. Age 23.

Son of Charles Herbert Leopold and Winifred Eileen Tucker; husband of Norma Lesley Tucker, of Mont Albert, Victoria.

Cemetery: NEWCASTLE (SANDGATE) WAR CEMETERY, New South Wales, Australia
Grave Reference/Panel Number: Plot K. Row C. Grave 14.

 

The following 3 files are held by the National Archives of Australia on this accident. I have not looked at these files. If anyone in Canberra would like to look at them and pass on any relevant information to me via e-mail, it would be much appreciated.

Title: Mosquito A52-29 Court of Inquiry re Accident at Saltash near Williamtown on 31.1.45
Series number:  A705
Control symbol: 32/32/511
Barcode no: 165896 
Title: Mosquito A52-29 - Court of Inquiry - re Accident at Saltash near Williamtown on 31/1/45
Series number: A705
Control symbol: 32/32/571
Barcode no: 3346765
Title: Technical investigation to accident Mosquito aircraft A52-29
Series number: A705
Control symbol: 9/52/145
Barcode no: 164657 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Michael White, David Gowland, John Winterbotham and Mervyn Williams for their assistance with this web page.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"Beaufort, Beaufighter and Mosquito - In Australian Service"
By Stewart Wilson

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

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