14 MARCH 1945
CRASH OF A C-47 DOUGLAS AIRCRAFT
AT BATHURST BAY, QLD
USAAF C-47A-25-DK Douglas Dakota aircraft, #42-93505, c/n 13424, of the 13th Air Force, crashed into Bathurst Bay approximately 2 miles south of Cape Melville on 14 March 1945 after it ran low on fuel and was forced to turn back during a flight from Rockhampton to Morotai.
There were 22 personnel on board the C-47. Sixteen of these passengers parachuted out of the aircraft. One of them was killed when his parachute failed to open. The remaining passengers and the crew of two were picked up safely after ditching with the aircraft. The accident card below indicates that the aircraft ditched 60 miles off the beach in the vicinity of Cooktown (14.15S, 145.20E). An RAAF Report by 41 Squadron RAAF indicated that they spotted the wrecked C-47 about 3 miles from Cape Melville and about 20 yards off shore. (Which version is correct?)
On 16 March 1945, Mariner Flying Boat A70-2 of 41 Squadron based in Cairns was ordered to proceed to Bathurst Bay and commence a search for the missing C-47. The 41 Squadron document suggest that the C-47 went missing on 15 March 1945 rather than 14 March 1945. A70-2 left Cairns at 1210K hours and arrived at Cape Melville at 1400K hours. The cloud base at the time was approximately 1,500 feet and there were showers. Visibility at 1,000 feet was about 10 miles. When A70-2 entered Bathurst Bay they could see the wrecked C-47 about 3 miles from Cape Melville about 20 yards off shore and partly submerged by the incoming tide. The C-47 appeared intact.
When the Mariner descended to 200 feet they could see about 20 personnel on the beach, which included some natives. They also spotted a small coastal vessel not far from the crashed C-47. As the landing conditions were favourable, the captain of the Mariner landed and anchored near the aircraft wreck. The Captain of the C-47 rowed out to the flying boat in a rubber dinghy. He informed his rescuers that of the 22 persons who had been onboard the C-47, 16 had bailed out. The crew and some passengers had remained on board during the forced landing. Of those who had bailed out two were still missing. A search party of natives and some crew members were out looking for them or any signs of their parachutes. The accident card below shows that 17 personnel had baled out whereas the 41 Squadron report indicates that the pilot of the C-47 reported to his rescuers that 16 had baled out.
Five personnel suffered minor injuries and were treated by the Squadron Medical Officer who was on board. The 5 injured personnel and 7 others boarded the Mariner to return to Cairns. The remainder were to continue the search and then eventually return by ship. An initial search of the surrounding rocky coastline by air for the two missing personnel was unsuccessful. Parachutes were sighted on the rocks and in swamps about 10 miles inland but belonged to the rescued survivors. One of the two missing personnel, was eventually found on 17 March 1945. The other missing person, Sgt Williams, had not been found by 27 March 1945. It is believed that his parachute did not open.
The C-47 was later found partly submerged in the water at Lat 14.12S, Long 144.33E. This places it not far from the crash site of a B-24 Liberator.
The crew of this aircraft were:-
1st Lt. Rueben A. Blackburn (0-696315)
Sgt. Henry P. Williams (37452080)
The following official report seems to indicate that there were two crew and 20 passengers on board. Sgt. Williams baled out in the vicinity of Bathurst Bay and was never found again. It is believed that his parachute may have failed to open.
I'd like to thank Gordon Birkett, and Norman Weeding for their assistance with this home page.
SOURCE:- Aircraft Crash Sites - Australia
Crash: No. 196
Position: 14.12 - 144.33 (This position appears to be incorrect)
Department of Aviation Chart No: 3112
"Diary of WWII - North
Complied by Peter Nielsen
Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 9 February 1999
This page last updated 31 August 2015