COLLISION BETWEEN SPITFIRE AND B-24 LIBERATOR
OVER CAPE VAN DIEMEN, MELVILLE ISLAND NT
ON 18 SEPTEMBER 1944

 

On 18 September 1944, Flying Officer Arthur Keith Kelly (401968) of 452 Squadron RAAF, piloting Spitfire A58-435, was taking part in an interception and attack exercise on B-24 Liberator #42-40935 of the 380th Bomb Group, 5th Air Force over Cape Van Diemen.

At 1015 hours whilst carrying out a head-on quarter attack, Red 3 saw some pieces fly off the B-24 Liberator after F/O Kelly's attack on the B-24. Red 3 then saw F/O Kelly's Spitfire spiralling downwards. Red 3 followed the damaged Spitfire down and noticed that the port wing of F/O Kelly's aircraft was jagged near the outboard gun.  Spitfire A58-435 spiralled into the sea about 1 mile east of Cape Van Diemen, on Melville Island and disappeared.

F/O Kelly was not able to exit his aircraft before it hit the water. An extensive search by Air-Sea-Rescue failed to find any sign of F/O Kelly. His body was never found. He was listed as "Missing Believed Killed".

The B-24 Liberator although damaged, was able to land safely at Darwin Airfield after this tragic accident.

One of the crew members of the B-24 Liberator was Everett D. Bever, the Bombardier. The following is an extract from his diary entry for 18 September 1944:-

"Our entire crew went up over Melville Island on a gunnery training mission. I experienced my greatest scare and narrowest escape from death when a Spitfire flew head on into our #1 engine. Aussie pilot killed. Everyone hurried into their chutes. Everyone was plenty scared. Threw everything overboard. Had our choice of bailing out or riding it in for a landing. All chose to stay with the plane. John and Paul (pilot/copilot) did a miraculous job of flying and landed safely. Doc gave us some sleeping tablets. Hester went to the hospital."

Gunner Hester from his side window watched the Spitfire crash into their #1 engine. He spent over two weeks in the hospital after witnessing the incident.

 


Photo:- via William D. Bever

Damage to the No. 1 engine of B-24 Liberator #42-40935

 


Photo:- via William D. Bever

Close-up of damage to the No. 1 engine

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Doug Tilley for his assistance with this web page.

I'd also like to thank William D. Bever, son of Everett D. Bever, the Bombardier on the B-24 Liberator involved in this accident.

 

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 20 May 2009

This page last updated 30 August 2015