CRASH OF A SPITFIRE
SW OF BATCHELOR AIRFIELD, NT
IN TODAY'S LITCHFIELD NATIONAL PARK
ON 30 JUNE 1943

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On 30 June 1943, Flight Sergeant Colin Ronald Duncan (401778) of 452 Squadron RAAF was at readiness at Strauss Airfield in Spitfire AR 523, A58-2. The Squadron was scrambled and was airborne at 1125 hours. F/Sgt. Duncan was flying Blue 4 to F/O Robert Harold Whillans (404693). The squadron renedzvoused with CANDY and SKEETER squadrons and proceeded to gain height. The Wing gained height westwards towards Perron Island to approximately 32,000 feet.

27 Japanese bombers and 21 fighters were sighted flying east almost over Perron Island with the highest enemy aircraft at approximately 28,000 feet. The Wing turned to port and shortly later attacked the Japanese aircraft. 452 Squadron was the last Squadron to attack and Blue Section was the last Section of the Squadron to attack.

F/Sgt Duncan became Blue 3 after F/Sgt. Turnbull dropped out. F/O Whillans reported that F/Sgt Duncan's aircraft was lagging badly and was not seen again. Duncan's engine was running rough and smoke suggesting an internal Glycol leak, prevented him from keeping up with the Blue Leader.

Blue 2, F/Sgt. Cross was also lagging and F/Sgt. Duncan started to attack the Japanese aircraft along with F/Sgt. Cross. F/Sgt. Duncan dived onto a bomber which was off to port away from the others. His attack started from rear quarters to astern and above. He opened fire at 350 yards closing to 150 yards. He fired a 4 second burst but after 2 seconds his cannon ceased firing. He did not observe any return fire. His engine broke down and Glycol started to pour out. He decided to bale out as his engine was then on fire and the fire had entered the cockpit and was licking at his legs. He had to force his canopy clear and baled out, sustaining burns to his right arm. The Spitfire crashed into the ground in a very remote location somewhere south west of Batchelor Airfield in what is today Litchfield National Park.

A number of his Squadron pilots noticed his parachute. Air and ground search parties were dispatched later that afternoon. A person was sighted from the air on 1 July 1943 in position 390308 on the DARWIN 4 Miles to the Inch Map (2nd Edition). F/O Gould flew over him and recognised that it was F/Sgt. Duncan. His fellow pilots dropped him some food and cigarettes along with a note which said:- "You owe me a beer for all of this."

The ground party made contact with F/Sgt Duncan on 4 July 1943 and he was admitted to No. 1 Medical Receiving Station on 5 July 1943 where he was treated for burns to his right arm.

On 30 September 2016, an article appeared in the Northern Territory News stating that F/Sgt. Duncan's crashed Spitfire had been re-found after 73 years. The wreckage had been sighted from the air by some pilots in the months leading up to September 2016. The Tourism and Culture Minister Lauren Moss signed off on the wreckage's legal protection in late September 2016. The newspaper article indicated that the Australian War Memorial was heavily interested in putting the wreckage on display.

 

REFERENCES

73 Year Old Spitfire Mystery Solved - NT News 30 September 2016

 

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İ  Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 5 October 2016

This page last updated 06 October 2016