CRASH OF A BEAUFIGHTER
IN WIRE CREEK, 6 MILES NORTH OF PARLA STATION
ON 24 SEPTEMBER 1944

CRASH OF A BEAUFIGHTER
3 MILES DUE WEST OF NORTH BROCK'S CREEK
ON 24 SEPTEMBER 1944

 

RAAF Beaufighter, A19-208, of 31 Squadron RAAF, piloted by 23 year old Squadron Leader Wilbur Lawrence Wackett (588), crashed into Wire Creek, 6 miles north of Parla Station on 24 September 1944 after they became lost, the aircraft ran out of fuel and the crew baled out. (Map Reference 13.15 - 132.10). Pilot Officer Keith Eric William Noble (424052) was the Observer in Wackett's aircraft.

A19-208 was accompanied by A19-192 flown by P/O Lloyd Francis Ritchie (426287), with Warrant Officer L.W. Warner as his observer. A19-192 crashed 3 miles due west of North Brock's Creek for similar reasons. P/O Ritchie was killed and his Navigator Warner survived.

Squadron Leader Wilbur Lawrence Wackett, the son of the famous Sir Lawrence James Wackett, was posted to 31 Squadron RAAF (Beaufighters) at Coomalie Creek, in the Northern Territory, arriving there on 11 August 1944. Wackett had been a Kittyhawk pilot in New Guinea where he had been shot down.

Both aircraft were returning in the dark from escorting a Catalina in the Arafura Sea area. A19-192 was lying No. 2 to A19-208. The two aircraft crossed the coast at 1958 hours, 21 miles east of Cape Hotham. Because of the bushfire season, smoke haze masked Coomalie Creek airfield and both aircraft became lost. The last known position for the aircraft was 65 miles from Coomalie Creek.

They circled around the South Alligator area for about an hour. Ritchie homed in on Coomalie Creek airfield but his fuel ran out first near Brocks Creek. Warrant Officer Warner bailed out successfully, apparently followed by Ritchie. Warner later advised that as he floated down he believed his aircraft passed him about 200 yards away and out of control. The following morning, Warrant Officer Warner was located at 0820 hours on the railway line about one mile from Howley Station. Their aircraft was found 3 miles due west of North Brocks Creek the following day. Warner's parachute harness was found approximately 400 yards from the aircraft wreckage. No sign was found of Pilot Officer Ritchie.

Wackett's aircraft climbed to 16,000 ft on an easterly heading (its IFF distress signal was picked up by radar), then it disappeared. Wackett had told others that if he was ever lost he would climb upwards then bail out. An aerial search at first light failed to find any trace of Ritchie, Wackett, Noble or A19-208. An extensive ground search for Ritchie was also unsuccessful.

Thirteen months later a stockman on Goodparla Station found Wackett's aircraft in a creek bed, but there was no trace of the crew in it. Wackett's father, Sir Laurence Wackett (the then Manager of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation) asked for another search in 1945, but it had no success. In mid 1946, a parachute and emergency rations tins were found on a ridge top near the wreck of Wackett's aircraft. This indicated that someone had survived but had wandered off, probably in an easterly direction. No further trace was ever found.

 

COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES

24.9.44 588 Sqn Ldr Wilbur Lawrence Wackett, RAAF, 31Sqn, 23. Accidentally killed, Darwin. Son of Lawrence James Wackett and Letitia Wackett; husband of Peggie Wackett, of Bellevue Hill, NSW. Commemorated on the Northern Territories Memorial.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank the late Lindsay Peet for his assistance with this home page.

 

REFERENCES

Parnell, Neville, Whispering death: a history of the RAAF's Beaufighter Squadrons, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Sydney, NSW, 1980, pp. 52 (photo), 53, 89.*

Powell, Alan, The shadow's edge: Australia's northern war, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, Victoria, 1988, pp. 153-4, 299n.

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

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 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 12 September 2000

This page last updated 31 August 2015