CRASH OF A B-24 LIBERATOR
AT AMBERLEY AIRFIELD
ON 16 AUGUST 1945

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B-24 Liberator

 

B-24J-5-NT Liberator, A72-306, Code J-UX (#44-28087) of 99 Squadron RAAF crashed during take off from Amberley Airfield at approximately 3:40pm on 16 August 1945. Unfortunately the B-24 Liberator's brakes were applied too soon before the aircraft was safely in the air. As a consequence the nose of the aircraft dipped heavily into the runway causing the nose wheel assembly to collapse and also shearing the hydraulic lines for the engine controls. The aircraft subsequently skidded off the south east end of the runway into a 60 feet deep gulley and broke in half.

 


Photo:- Bob Livingstone Collection

B-24J-5-NT Liberator, A72-306 lays broken in half in the gully

 


Photo:- Bob Livingstone Collection

Close-up of B-24 Liberator A72-306 in the gully

 


Photo:- Bob Livingstone Collection

The tail end of the wrecked B-24

 

 

 


Photo:- Bob Livingstone Collection

The tail end of the wrecked B-24 from a different angle

 


Photo:- Bob Livingstone Collection

Another photo of the wrecked aircraft

 

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Wreckage of A72-306 near Amberley 16 August 1945
The aircraft broke in half near the bomb bay
as it careered into a ditch off the runway

 

The aircraft was one of nine B-24 Liberators scheduled to take part in a formation flight over Brisbane during the Victory Celebrations. Wing Commander Cross was to fly the lead aircraft. The crews were briefed at 10 am that morning with full instructions being given as to the method of take off, forming up and landing. During this briefing the captains were told that they could carry up to a maximum of 20 persons in the aircraft, including the crew.

At 2 pm they commenced to taxi their aircraft out from the dispersal points for take off. Wing Commander Cross was leading the Squadron around the northern perimeter track when he had to edge slightly off the taxy way to avoid an obstruction. His aircraft became bogged as a result of this.

After trying unsuccessfully for about one hour to extricate his aircraft from the bog he told Squadron Leader Milne that he would be dropping out of the formation and ordered him to take over the lead of the formation with the rest of the aircraft as previously briefed. The remaining aircraft were turned around by tractor on the perimeter strip and proceeded to the end of Runway No. 14 for a formation take off.

Wing Commander Cross proceeded to the up wind end of the runway to watch the take off. Whilst doing this he noticed the leading aircraft had commenced its take off run. The time was approximately 3:50 pm. He took his eyes off the aircraft for a few seconds, and when he looked back he noticed that the nose wheel had collapsed and that the aircraft was sliding along the runway on its nose. He was not unduly worried at this stage about the safety of the passengers as he considered the aircraft had more than ample room to pull up before reaching the end of the runway.

However, the aircraft kept on going, its speed diminishing very slowly. About 300 yards from the end of the runway the aircraft veered slightly to the right, but straightened up again and dived over the end of the runway, doing approximately 70 - 80 m.p.h. into a ravine which is about 60 feet deep.

In the company of Flight Lieutenant Eugene John Simmer, Engineer Officer for 99 Squadron and several others Wing Commander Cross immediately proceeded to the scene of the crash.

No. 3 engine had started to burn, and there was a lot of noise coming from what he thought to be either the auxiliary power unit or the electric hydraulic motor. The Flight Engineer informed him later that it was the electric hydraulic motor, which was still going.

By the time they had climbed down the bank the noise had stopped. On reaching the nose of the aircraft Wing Commander Cross noticed the captain, Squadron Leader Milne, put his head out through the broken Perspex over the flight deck. F/Lt Simmer by this time was on top of the flight deck and he pulled out Sdn/Ldr Milne. Wing Commander Cross climbed up to the top to assist F/Lt Simmer in extricating several of the other persons in the flight deck area.

During this period the Fire Tender arrived and succeeded in putting the fire out in No. 3 engine with foam.

Flight Sergeant Lane was jammed in the mid-upper gun turret and had to wait to be rescued.

The Findings of the Court of Inquiry stated:-

Pronounced main wheel skid marks on runway at approximately 1500 yards from the take off point. 100 yards further on there were indications of the nose of the aircraft striking the runway heavily, and did not lift again. Nose wheel, on being removed from the wreck, indicated no failure of tyre or tube. Indications are that the nose wheel assumed a position very close to normally retracted, as shown by the wearing away of the tubular structure at the attachment points of the airframe. The nose of the aircraft has been too badly wrecked to make a detailed inspection of the nose compartment, and nose wheel retracting mechanism."

The Flight Authorisation Book indicated that there were 18 people on board the aircraft, however there were in fact 19 personnel on board including the crew. During take off there were 10 personnel on the flight deck, one in the waist and the remainder on the command deck forward of the ball turret. Flight Sergeant Jack Grant Watson, Flight Engineer, indicated that during take off, besides the two pilots who were in their seats, he was kneeling on the floor between them. Flight Sergeant Annetts was standing immediately behind him in the flight deck looking through the doorway. Two members of the WAAAF were in the navigator's seat and one WAAAF member in the wireless operator's seat. Flight Sergeant Doolan was seated on a ledge behind the wireless operator's seat. Flight Sergeant Lane was in the mid-upper turret. Flight Sergeant Clausen was sitting on the flight deck facing aft, pressed against the partition between the flight deck and the bomb bay. Flight Sergeant Cochrane was at the port waist window.

The crew of B-24 Liberator A72-306 comprised:-

Squadron Leader William Lloyd Milne 616 (Pilot)
Warrant Officer Eric Ferdinand Carlson (424965) (2nd Pilot)
Flight Sergeant Jack Grant Watson (6571) Flight Engineer
Flight Sergeant Marcel Kingsley Doolan (439701) (WOA/E or 1st Radar Operator)
Flight Sergeant Warwick Manning Lane (445024) Air Gunner
Flight Sergeant Andrew Keith Cochrane (436739) (WO/AG)
Flight Sergeant Allan Charles Annetts (444988) (Nose Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Arthur Henry Clausen (439868) (Nav "B")

Passengers were as follows:-

Sgt John Raymond Slennett (6464)
Sgt. John Knyvett (22988)
Cpl. Jacqueline Ruth Row (98112) WAAAF
Cpl. Edith Tansley Sharpe (94089) WAAAF
ACW Ruth Beryl Burcher (109188) WAAAF
LAC Waterman James Albert (122122)
LAC Ludberg (145592) (possibly William Angus Ludbey, 145592)
AC1 Keith William Carlier (153605)
LAC Douglas Charles Mighell (157151)
LAC Leslie Arthur White (156673)
LAC Mervyn John Edward Thornberry (74989)

The wreckage was considered not repairable and was allotted to No. 3 Central Recovery Depot, Amberley for conversion. This aircraft had been delivered to the RAAF on 12 April 1945.

Three personnel died in this crash as follows:-

Cpl. Edith Tansley Sharpe (94089) WAAAF, 25 years old
Cpl. Jacqueline Ruth Row (98112) WAAAF, 25 years old
Flight Sergeant Arthur Henry Clausen (439868) (Nav "B"), 20 years old

One other person died of his injuries two days later in Greenslopes Hospital on 18 August 1945:-

Warrant Officer E.F. Carlson (424965) (2nd Pilot)

The more serious injuries comprised:-

- Squadron Leader Milne who received a fractured shaft left humerus, and a penetrating wound of the left knee joint. After 24 hours he was transferred to 112 B.M.H.

- Warrant Officer Carlson who had a comminuted fracture of the right scapula, a fractured left upper thigh and internal injuries. He was also transferred 24 hours later to 112 B.M.H. His condition worsened later and he subsequently died.

- ACW Burcher (WAAAF), fractured shaft left humerus, fracture-dislocation of left hip and fracture-dislocation of right ankle

Other personnel on board suffered injuries from lacerated scalps and arms to mild shock and multiple abrasions

- F/S Watson, lacerated scalp

- LAC White, lacerated scalp

- F/S Annetts, Laceration of arm

- F/S Doolan, lacerated scalp and laceration to finger

- F/S Lane, mild shock

- LAC Waterman, bruised ribs

- ACI Carlier, lacerated scalp

- Sgt Slennett, lacerated scalp

- LAC Thornbury, multiple abrasions

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Jenni Jensen for her assistance with this web page. Jenni is the daughter of Lindsay Francis, ex 99 Squadron RAAF member, who along with Eileen Richards, were both meant to be on the above ill fated flight.

I'd also like to thank Bob Livingstone and Gary Oschadlin for their assistance with this web page.

 

REFERENCE BOOK

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

"Tocumwal to Tarakan"
"Australians and the Consolidated B-24 Liberator"
by Michael V. Nelmes

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

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This page first produced 28 Jun 2008

This page last updated 29 January 2015