CRASH OF A SHORT EMPIRE FLYING BOAT
IN DARWIN HARBOUR, NT
ON 22 MARCH 1942
 

 

QANTAS Empire Airways Short Empire S.23 flying boat, G-AEUF "Corinthian"

 

QANTAS Empire Airways Short Empire S.23 flying boat, G-AEUF "Corinthian", crashed while alighting on Darwin Harbour at about 1am on the morning of 22 March 1942 during a night flight from Groote Eylandt where it had landed at 9:20pm the previous night. It was on a flight from Brisbane to Darwin carrying fifteen members of the 102nd Coastal Artillery Battalion.

The flying boat hit debris while landing and sunk about two nautical miles from Doctors Gully. Captain Lewis Ambrose spent 5 months in hospital after this crash.

Two U.S. Service personnel of the 102nd Coastal Artillery Battalion were killed in this crash.

Crew
Pilot Capt. Lewis R. Ambrose (wounded) Northbridge, NSW
First Officer Capt. R. Brooke Tapp

Passengers
1st/Lt Edward O. Hubbard, 102nd Coast Artillery
Pvt Woodrow W. Ravenscroft, 102nd Coast Artillery
Sgt Edward J. Endres (20283250 from NY (MIA), 102nd Coast Artillery
Private Jack C. Magee (36046441 from IL (MIA), 102nd Coast Artillery
11 other members of 102nd Coast Artillery
At least 1 Australian Army officer

Captain Tapp re-entered the hull after the crash searching for survivors. Two enlisted men of 102nd Coastal Artillery died in the crash. Two members of 102nd Coast Artillery, Lt. Edward Hubbard and Pvt. Woodrow Ravenscroft, were awarded the Soldier's Medal on 12 June 1942 for their efforts to rescue other members of their unit following the crash. Captain Tapp received a civilian award for his role in the crash.

Injuries were reported as follows:-

Crew
1 seriously injured
3 Superficial injuries only

Passengers
2 USA Army soldiers killed and missing
2 USA Army Officers seriously injured
6 USA Army soldiers slightly or superficially injured
1 Australian Military Forces Officer injured superficially

At low tide the wrecked aircraft was sitting in 30 feet of water with its tail sticking up clear of the water. RAN divers were secured to inspect the wreck of the aircraft in an attempt to salvage it. However due to the aircraft being embedded in the mud and silt, and due to the risks to divers should an air raid occur, salvage attempts were called off and the wreckage was destroyed to clear the waterway for shipping and other flying boats. This was achieved by HMAS Koala steaming over the position of the aircraft. HMAS Koala drew 16 feet of water.

Three possible causes for the accident were:-

  1. error in judgement
  2. wreckage or trees in the harbour
  3. Displacement of the heavy cargo of guns

On 13 March 1942, the 102nd Coastal Artillery Battalion commenced a major air movement from Brisbane to Darwin and by 8 April 1942, 31 officers, and 560 enlisted men and 49 only .50" calibre machine guns, four units of fire and required field kitchen and necessary equipment had been flown to Darwin. This was the first large scale American airborne operation of the war and the first time an anti-aircraft unit had flown into combat. The planes were piloted by American, Australian and Dutch pilot using every available transport aircraft. 

On 8 September 2004, Channel 9 in Darwin (NTD9) ran a news story regarding some Darwin High School students who have been diving in 30 metres of water on what they believe is the wreck of the "Corinthian". 

The students' instructor Sasha Muller, said the 20 metre wreck of the fuselage was covered in phenomenal coral growth and is the same shape as the Corinthian. They alerted the harbour master of the wreck on the 8 September 2004. They expect to carry out a full survey of the wreck over the next few weeks. They are hoping to locate the wings and engines.

Daniel Leahy advised that "Corinthian" was involved in the rescue of the American crew of a C-53-D-O #41-20066 that crashed near Truscott on 26 February 1942. Phil Vabre confirmed for me that Orm Denny, piloted "Corinthian" for that rescue on 1 March 1942.

There are two files in the National Archives of Australia on "Corinthian". Does anyone have access to a copy of the first file?

Title
Loss of flying boat CORINTHIAN at Darwin
Series number
MP151/1
Control symbol
415/201/1808
Contents date range
1942 - 1942
 
Access status
Open
Location
Melbourne
Barcode no
340010
 
Title
Movement of Empire Flying Boat, G-AEUF "Corinthian"
Series number
MP238/1
Control symbol
8/115/205
Contents date range
1942 - 1945
 
Access status
Open
Location
Melbourne
Barcode no
676903

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Silvano Jung for his assistance with this home page.

I'd also like to thank Jonathon Uptin of NTD9 in Darwin for his assistance with this home page.

I'd also like

 

Does anyone know the names of the 2 persons killed?

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

I need your help

Copyright

 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 5 February 2002

This page last updated 05 January 2016