28 FEBRUARY 1943
CRASH OF CATALINA

IN THE SEA NEAR THE FRANKLAND ISLANDS
OFF GORDONVALE, QLD

 

catalina01.jpg (9850 bytes)
Catalina

 

UPDATE:- The RAAF announced on 21 September 2015 that
wreckage found in waters south of Cairns is that of Catalina A24-25

 

Video footage of the wreck

 

RAAF Catalina, A24-25 (RCAF 9708), of 11 Squadron RAAF, failed to return from an anti-submarine patrol off Cairns to protect a Convoy. A24-25 left the Convoy at dusk and was ordered to return to Cairns. The Catalina sent an incomplete message at 2251 hours E.A.S.T. which contained the words "Force land". This message was received at Townsville but not at Cairns. There was no further news from the Catalina.

This aircraft had been delivered to the RAAF in April 1942. The crew of A24-25, who were eventually all presumed dead, were as follows:-

Captain Wing Commander John "Jack" William Daniell (140)
2nd Pilot Sqn/Ldr Eric Hamilton Barkley (250281)
Navigator Flying Officer Lewis "Lou" Melvin Dunham (406672)
1st Engineer Sergeant Norman Notley Moore (408861)
2nd Engineer Corporal John Corbett Stain (2437)
1st W/T Sergeant Allen Richard Eather (402703)
2nd W/T Sergeant Alexander Eric John Elsbury (415378)
Rigger Sergeant John Daniel O'Grady (5778)
Armourer Corporal Douglas Douglas Giffen Shaw Russell (13970)
Supernumerary Sergeant Keith Arnold Watson (22692)
Supernumerary Flying Officer Stuart Patrick King (255266) (Intelligence Officer 20 Squadron)

RAAF Guards reported that an aircraft had been seen circling Fitzroy Island which is located about 23 kms ESE of Cairns. They reported that an aircraft rounded Cape Grafton and disappeared in a north easterly direction. This information led to an incorrect conclusion that the Catalina may have force landed in the sea north east of Green Island.

I was contacted by Judy Taylor in October 1999 and she advised that her father, John Gordon Beckenham (403709), served with 9 Squadron RAAF and had taken notes on several aircraft crashes. His entry for 3 March 1943 refers to a Catalina crash a few days earlier as follows:-

3 March 1943
Cat-25 been missing off Innisfail. Last message "forced landing". . . . .Cairns flight been searching for last two days. Lot of extra men on board too.

4 March 1943
No news Catalina. Not much hope now.

The Operations Record Book for 9 Squadron RAAF has the following entries:-

BOWEN    2 March 1943 - P/O Angove in X 2510, F/O Stacy in W2783 and F/O Clark in X9517 carried out a search to sea for Catalina A24-25, which was reported missing. No trace was found.

CAIRNS    3 March 1943 - P/O Angove in X9517 carried out a search for missing Catalina A24-25, with negative results.

CAIRNS    6 March 1943 - P/O Angove in X9510 carried out a search patrol along beaches and any protruding reefs for wreckage of missing Catalina A24-24 (this is probably a typo as A24-24 did not crash off Bowen until 17 August 1943). The aircraft alighted at Archer Point lighthouse and received a paddle picked up on 5 March 1943.

CAIRNS    7 March 1943 - P/O Angove in X9510 carried out a search around Hope Island and coast north to Cape Flattery for wreckage of missing Catalina A24-25, with negative results.

Archer Point Lighthouse is located about 14 kms SE of Cooktown. Hope Island is about 120 kms NNW of Cairns and Cape Flattery is about 220 kms NNW of Cairns.

The Operations Record Book for 11 Squadron RAAF has the following entry:-

        Catalina A24-17 S/L Burrage, F/O Ryan & F/O Potts - Search of Missing A/C - Time Up 2025/2Z Time Down 0840/3Z - Nil sightings throughout search for A24-25.

Wing Commander Keith Parsons and Squadron Leader Ralph Wiley in A9-145 from 7 Squadron RAAF also spent two days searching in the vicinity of the area from Cairns to Cooktown and up to 25 miles inland for the missing aircraft without result.

A three day search for the aircraft was unsuccessful. No trace was found of the aircraft or its crew. It was initially believed that the Catalina may have crashed into the sea north east of Green Island.

In about early August 2013, a recreational diver from Cairns, Kevin Coombs, discovered the remains of a Catalina flying boat in about 40 metres of water near the Frankland Islands, near Gordonvale, about 43 kms south east of Cairns. The Frankland Islands are about 40 kms NNE of Innisfail, the rough location that John Gordon Beckenham (403709) had noted. The RAAF are investigating the discovery of the Catalina, which is believed to be Catalina A24-25. One of the wings has sheared off crushing the cockpit. The metalwork on the wreck is in poor condition.

 


Photo:- Aug 2013 Kevin Coombs ©

Engine and propeller of crashed Catalina

 


Photo:- Aug 2013 Kevin Coombs ©

Left wing, motor cradle in foreground, recess further back in the distance

 


Photo:- Aug 2013 Kevin Coombs ©

Float on the end of the wing

 


Photo:- Aug 2013 Kevin Coombs ©

Tail support, most of the tail is broken - some lying in the sand nearby

 


Photo:- Aug 2013 Kevin Coombs ©

Fuselage lying on its side, diver looking at top at some sort of hatch.
Can anyone advise what this is please? Is it for a searchlight?

 


Photo:- Aug 2013 Kevin Coombs ©

Fuselage lying on its side, diver looking at top at some sort of hatch.

 


Photo:- Aug 2013 Kevin Coombs ©

Fuselage further forward

 


Photo:- Aug 2013 Kevin Coombs ©

Under belly of the Catalina

 

Catalina at Caboolture Air Show 15 May 2004

 

Catalina at Caboolture Air Show 15 May 2004 

 

A Catalina at Mackay Airport - 1961

A Catalina at Mackay airport - 1961

 


AWM Photo ID No:- NEA0164

Flying Officers Harrold Peter Moschetti (left) and Stuart Patrick King (right) examine
aerial photographs of the Japanese-held Kahili airstrip on Bougainville Island

 

Flying Officer Stuart King (255266), who was the Intelligence Officer for 20 Squadron RAAF, has a Pavilion at Albert Park, in Melbourne named in his honour. Stuart King Pavilion is home of the Powerhouse Amateur Football Club.

 


Photo:- from a family member

Flying Officer Lewis Melvin Dunham standing on the
wing of a Catalina at Rathmines, NSW in 1942

 

Scroll for F/O L. M. Dunham

 

Certificate - Mentioned in a Despatch for Distinguished
Service for Flying Officer Lewis Melvin Dunham

 

 

The following information was found on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission home page:-

 

In Memory of

JOHN WILLIAM DANIELL

Wing Commander
140
Royal Australian Air Force
who died on
Sunday, 28th February 1943. Age 26.

Additional
Information:
Son of John James Daniell and Marguerette Gertrude Daniell, of
Mount Lawley, Western Australia.


Commemorative Information

Memorial:
PORT MORESBY MEMORIAL, Papua New Guinea
Grave Reference/
Panel Number:
Panel 9.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Greg Williams, Gordon Birkett, George Wood, Pete Illidge, Simon Uren, and Judy Taylor for their assistance with this web page.

I'd like to thank Kevin Coombs for providing photographs of the Catalina wreck that he has located.

I'd like to thank Jean Stallwood, niece of Lewis Melvin Dunham for her assistance with this web page. Jean told me that Lewis Dunham's brother Donald William Dunham was also killed during WWII in Germany.

 

SOURCE:-   Aircraft Crash Sites - Australia

Crash:         No. 245 

Position:     16.41 - 146.03

Department of Aviation Chart No:       3219

 

REFERENCE BOOK

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

"Aircraft of the RAAF 1921- 71"
By Geoffrey Pentland & Peter Malone

"Catalina Squadrons - First and Furthest"
"Recounting the Operations of RAAF Catalinas"
"May 1941 to March 1943"
By Jack Riddell

"We Never Disappoint"
A History of 7 Squadron RAAF 1940-1045
by Kevin Gogler

 

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 7 February 1999

This page last updated 24 September 2016