CRASH OF A WIRRAWAY
IN THE JOSEPH BONAPARTE GULF AREA, NT
63 MILES NORTH EAST OF WYNDHAM
ON 20 MARCH 1942

 

RAAF Wirraway, of 12 Squadron RAAF, made a wheels up forced landing on mud flats after engine failure on 20 March 1942. The Wirraway, crewed by Sergeants Lex Dwyer and Warwick Carmody, left Batchelor accompanied by another Wirraway, piloted by the Commanding Officer "Blackjack" Walker. They were conducting a coastal patrol enroute to Wyndham. The aircraft was not recovered and the two crew were uninjured. "Blackjack" Walker has an Army officer in the back seat of his Wirraway who was on his way to Broome.

Sergeant Lex Dwyer recalls:-

"On course over Joseph Bonaparte Gulf when A20-62 lost power and blew oil back over the windscreen and glasshouse, so I turned south and headed for the coast. Oil was a problem on goggles, in eyes and on the bare chest but the propeller was still wind-milling when we got to the coast. I turned west and put her down on the mud, wheels up, at about 1020 hours."

"We inspected a clear area nearby but decided that it was unsafe and waved "Blackjack" off. We took an inspection cover off and scratched details of the aircraft on it and wedged it in a tea-tree a couple of hundred yards SE of the aircraft."

We took what little we had and started out for a water bore about 18 miles SSW. We camped one night on a bit of high ground in the salt marsh. The mosquitoes were bad so we made a smoke fire of swamp grass but were then invaded by every four-legged animal from miles around."

 

On 21 March 1942 their Commanding Officer, "Blackjack", located them and dropped them some food. Dwyer and Carmody eventually reached the water bore (wind mill) on the third day. It was located about 23 miles from their aircraft. They tended to their blistered feet and waited to be rescued. A horse back rescue party of four aboriginal stockmen led by Charlie Pretlove, the brother of the owner of Carlton Hill Station, reached them the next morning.

During the horse ride to Ningbing Station, Sergeant Dwyer fell off his horse when it bolted. Sergeant Warwick Carmody's mode of transport was a more placid donkey.

Warwick recalls the impact he had when the local aboriginal boys saw him arrive on the donkey:-

"My mother had sent me up a large silk handkerchief which I was wearing under the tin hat inner. Some of the local aboriginal boys were 'mission trained' and with the donkey, the silk hanky and a few days growth of beard, they reckoned that it was the second coming. They had a corroboree that night, then went 'walkabout'."

 

They finally reached Carlton Hill Station on about 24 March 1942. They were looked after at the homestead for a few more days and they were eventually picked up by three aircraft from 12 Squadron on 29 March 1942. The 3 aircraft landed on a paddock about 3 miles from the homestead. They flew to Wyndham where they stocked up with some beer and then flew to Batchelor. Lex Dwyer flew in the back seat with Flight Lieutenant Bert Hayes and Carmody flew in the back seat of Pilot Officer David Hopton's Wirraway.

Warwick Carmody was 86 years old on 14 March 2005. Warwick passed away on 9 April 2005.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

Manuscript History of 12 Squadron RAAF

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Lex Dwyer for his assistance with this web page. Lex rang me on 15 July 2005 for an interesting discussion about his time in the RAAF during WW2.

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

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Copyright

 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 25 July 1999

This page last updated 31 August 2015