CRASH OF A DH-82 TIGER MOTH
INTO HALIFAX BAY NEAR TOWNSVILLE, QLD
AFTER COLLISION WITH P-39 AIRACOBRA
ON 10 SEPTEMBER 1942

 


Profile:- Gordon Birkett

An RAAF Tiger Moth

 

A USAAF DH-82 Tiger Moth based at Ross River airfield near Townsville, crashed into Halifax Bay not far from Townsville on 10 September 1942 at co-ordinates 10 deg., 53 min south, 146 deg., 29 min east.  Another source gives the co-ordinates as 18 53' S, 146 29' E.

The Tiger Moth was piloted by Captain James J. "Hoot" Bevlock (Serial No. 0-420568) of the 36th Fighter Squadron of the 8th Fighter Group. Bevlock was giving S/Sgt Herman Weiss of Philadelphia a joy ride. The Tiger Moth went out of control and crashed into Halifax Bay. There was some evidence that an unauthorised aircraft was in the area and may have collided with Bevlock's aircraft. The S/Sgt Weiss was just able to parachute into the bay and survived. Captain Bevlock's body was not recovered. It would appear that a P-39 Airacobra piloted by Lt. Grover Gholson collided with Bevlock's aircraft.

 

P-39 Airacobra

 

In May 2009 I received some photos originally belonging to Lt Col. John R. Watts via his son Lt. Col. James Watts, USAF. One of these photos is the one below which had the following caption:-

"Bill Bennett standing. "Hoot" Bevlock in Gypsy Moth, Ross River, Townsville, Aust. August 1942. Hoot was killed in this plane same day picture was taken. Collided with a P-39 flown by Lt. Grover Gholson."

Note that the caption mentions the date as August 1942, which should probably have read September 1942. It also calls the aircraft a Gypsy Moth rather than a Tiger Moth.

 


Photo:- Lt Col. John R. Watts via his son James Watts

"Bill Bennett standing on the wing. "Hoot" Bevlock in the Tiger Moth, at Ross
River Airfield
, Townsville. "Hoot" was killed in this plane on the same day that
the picture was taken. It collided with a P-39 flown by Lt. Grover Gholson."

 


AWM ID No 012955

1st Lt J. J. "Hoot" Bevlock

 


Photo:- Lt Col. John R. Watts via his son James Watts

1st Lt J. J. "Hoot" Bevlock

 


Photo:- Lt Col. John R. Watts via his son James Watts

1st Lt J. J. "Hoot" Bevlock

 

Captain Bevlock of Scranton, PA., USA had earlier in his career claimed one Betty Bomber destroyed and another probable shot down as well as some unspecified damage to Zeros on 14 May 1942 during the May 1942 fighter battles in New Guinea. Captain James Bevlock had been involved in an earlier forced landing on a beach near Iokea, New Guinea in P-39F-1 Airacobra #41-7186 on 30 April 1942.

The official history of the 36th Fighter Squadron describes this crash as follows:-

Ross River was a quiet camp in a quiet sector, well removed from the combat zone, but it cost the squadron a leading pilot, for Captain Bevlock, the hard fighter, was killed on September 10th, when the Tiger Moth he was piloting plunged into the bay. S/Sgt. Herman Weiss, of Philadelphia, was in the bi-plane training ship with Bevlock, but could not account for the sudden crumpling of the right wings that caused the ship to go down, for it happened so swiftly and violently that he was thrown out as the ship failed. The Moth was at 4,000 feet when the wings tore off, and it immediately went into a spin. Weiss was thrown out of the plane, his parachute opening and tearing on the vertical stabilizer, and loosening  the clips of his parachute until only the clip holding the strap around his left leg remained closed. He went all the way down with one leg in the chute, holding on to the shrouds, and succeeding in releasing himself before striking the water. He was picked up by a speed boat that was bringing clearance papers to one of the transports laying at anchor in the harbor. They searched the bay for five hours, but found no trace of the Tiger Moth, or of Captain Bevlock.

He ranked among the cleanest and most effective of the fighting pilots of the 36th, and as one of the sincerely liked men. He had to his credit a probable Zero, in that first strafing raid over Lae and Salamaua, one Zero shot down during combat, one seriously damaged and another probable, and one bomber seriously damaged. For his action in engaging a flight of Zeros in combat, leading them away from a flight he was leading in attack on a formation of enemy ships, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He had been with the Squadron since the summer of 1941.

 

Accident Card on this crash

 


Photo:- Lt Col. John R. Watts via his son James Watts

Lt. Grover Gholson, 36th Fighter Squadron, 8th Fighter Group

 

Lt. Grover Gholson went on to claim 5 Japanese kills while he was with the 36th Fighter Squadron of the 8th Fighter Group and the 432nd Fighter Squadron, 475th Fighter Group.

 


 

There were 20 reverse Lend Lease DH82A Tiger Moths that were operated by the USAAF during WWII as follows:-

DHA917 A17-494 Issued by RAAF to USAAF, Fifth Air Force, and allotted to 46th Air Base Group Darwin from 2 AD Richmond on 10 May 1942.
DHA918 A17-495 Issued by RAAF to USAAF, Fifth Air Force, and allotted to 46th Air Base Group Darwin from 2 AD Richmond on 10 May 1942.
DHA902 A17-902  
DHA903 A17-903  
DHA904 A17-904  
DHA905 A17-905  
DHA906 A17-906  
DHA907 A17-907 To the RAAF and 5 CU 26 August 1945. Serial changed to A17-760?
DHA954 A17-954 From DHA to 2AD 30 May 1942. Issued ex-2AD to USAAF 14 July 1942.
DHA955 A17-955 From DHA to 2AD 30 May 1942. Issued ex-2AD to USAAF 14 July 1942.
DHA956 A17-956 From DHA to 2AD 30 May 1942. Issued ex-2AD to USAAF 14 July 1942.
DHA957 A17-957 From DHA to 2AD 30 May 1942. Issued ex-2AD to USAAF 14 July 1942.
DHA958 A17-958 From DHA to 2AD 30 May 1942. Issued ex-2AD to USAAF 18 July 1942.
DHA959 A17-959 From DHA to 2AD 30 May 1942. Issued ex-2AD to USAAF.
DHA960 A17-960 Issued ex-2AD to US Army Townsville 30/06/42. Crashed 20 January 1944.
DHA961 A17-961  
DHA962 A17-962  
DHA963 A17-963 Issued ex-2AD to US Army Townsville 30 June 1942.
DHA964 A17-964 Issued ex-2AD to 36 Airbase Group USAAF 13/07/42. loaned to RAAF 36 Sqn 07/08/43 to 03/03/44. Was issued from 2AD to 36 Airbase Group USAAF on 13 July 1942. It was left derelict by the USAAF and was loaned to RAAF 36 Squadron RAAF from 7 August 1943 to 3 March 194444.
DHA965 A17-965  

NOTE:- Tiger Moths A17-902 through to A17-965 above were all supplied direct to the USAAF in June 1942 from stocks of aircraft that were built originally for supply to South Africa or Southern Rhodesia under EATS program. They were not consigned there following Japan's entry into the war. They were subsequently held in storage in the Sydney area. While used by he USAAF they did not get allocated US Serials. They used the 3 digits of the deHavilland construction number on their tail.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Jim Watts son of the late Lt Col. John R. Watts, ex Armament Officer with the 36th Fighter Squadron, 8th Fighter Group.

I'd also like to thank Gordon Birkett for his assistance with this web page.

 

REFERENCES

I'd like to thank James J. Bevlock, nephew of Captain Bevlock who contacted me on 9 November 2000 seeking information on his uncle who he had listed as follows:- " Captain James Bevlock, serial #: AO00420568 served in the 36th Fighter Squadron out of Port Moresby, New Guinea, was listed as KIA on September 10, 1942."

SOURCE:-   Aircraft Crash Sites - Australia

Crash:         No. 25

Position:     18.53 - 146.29

Department of Aviation Chart No:       3219

 

REFERENCES

"Diary of WWII - North Queensland"
Complied by Peter Nielsen

"Attack & Conquer"
"The 8th Fighter Group in World War II"
by John C. Stanaway & Lawrence J. Hickey

ADF SERIALS Web Site

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

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This page first produced 14 June 1998

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