CRASH OF A US NAVY R4D-5 (DC-3),
AT GOOSEBERRY HILL, KALAMUNDA NEAR PERTH, WA
ON 19 APRIL 1945
A twin-engined US Navy R4D-5 transport aircraft (DC-3), Serial #3?9067, took off from Guildford airport on 19 April 1945 on the way to the eastern States of Australia. On board were ten US servicemen and three US Red Cross women. It was 5.35 am and the pilot could not see the high ground in the breaking dawn because of the fog. The aircraft flew straight into the rocky ground on Gooseberry Hill between Gooseberry Hill Road and Lansdown Road in Perth killing all of the occupants.
The aircraft just missed an occupied house. Apparently, it was the largest loss of life in an aircraft accident in Western Australia up until that time and caused a major shock within the population of Perth.
Details from the Crash Report read as follows:-
Plane took off from Guildford Airport in darkness 0530 H on April 19, and crashed into the side of a hill in a dense fog approximately two minutes later. Plane burned and was completely destroyed. All occupants killed. Point of crash is four and one third miles from end of take-off runway, and traveled in an almost straight course out from runway to point of impact. Plane carried full load including gas load of eight hundred gallons, but was not overloaded. Was airborne after run of approximately eight hundred yards and was about fifteen feet in the air at one thousand yards. Was observed making normal take-off and adjusted to climbing setting. Shortly after take-off entered dense fog, although it was clear at the field. It is believed pilots were confused, or failed to realize close proximity of hills in this direction and did not make left hand circle or turn immediately after clearing field. There was no evidence of material failure after carefully examining remains of the propellers, engines, and from observation of propeller cuts in the hillside. Reliable witnesses further assert was that plane sounded normal - except low and close to the hills. Plane test flown the day previous and reported normal.
Take-offs from this field in darkness or poor visibility with little or no wind will be made in opposite direction and away from hills. Likewise landings will be directed on runways that will keep ....."
There had apparently been quite a "serious party" the night before, which the crew, amongst others had attended. A WAAAF aircraft plotter, working at 6 Fighter Sector Headquarters (6FSHQ) at Belmont, WA was speaking to the "Blue Goose" Radio Operator who was unusually chatty that morning when communications ceased in mid sentence.
The DC-3 was blue in colour and was affectionately known as the "Blue Goose". It was stationed at Guildford airfield which has now become the Perth Airport.
The "Blue Goose" had been delivered new to the US Navy in 1943 and arrived in Australia a year later. The aircraft was on general duties and classified as a utility training unit, under the operational control of the Commander Submarine Force (Seventh Fleet).
The pilot William Armstrong was an experienced aviator who had accumulated a total of 2,173 flying hours, while his co-pilot had logged 2,152 hours.
Engineering tests on remaining components of the aircraft showed that it was operating normally and was not overloaded.
The names of the 13 victims were:-
William Conway Armstrong, Lieutenant, US Navy Reserve (Pilot)
Victor Francis, Padelsky, Ensign, US Navy (Co-pilot)
Stanley Andrew Gober, AMM 2c, US Navy Reserve
Robert Vincent Daly, CRE, US Navy
Robert Alfred Dunleavy, AMM 1c, US Navy
James Aydelotte Glenn, ARM 1c, US Navy Reserve
Clarence Leonard Nelson, Technician, BuShips
Sidney Spafford Cook, Lieutenant (jg.), US Navy Reserve
Montrose Graeme McCormick, Lt. Commander, US Navy
R.R. Helbert, Commander, Royal Navy
Anne Woodward, American Red Cross
Geraldine Crow, American Red Cross
Cecil Nichols, American Red Cross
They were initially buried in Karrakatta Cemetery Perth but later exhumed and buried in Rookwood Cemetery in New South Wales. After the war it is assumed that they may have been exhumed again and relocated to cemeteries in the United States.
Montrose "Monty" McCormick was a well known submarine commander. The US War Memorial record for Clarence Leonard Nelson has him registered as a civilian. He was a technician with BuShips.
The following information for two of those killed is from the American War Dead Database on the American Battle Monuments Commission home page.
Jenny Lewis remembers her mother talking about the crash. Her mother's parents were living in Kalamunda at the time and Jenny's mother said they all went to see the site of the crash. She recalled being distressed at the sight of all the personal belongings strewn all over the bush - even a compact with the mirror unbroken.
Jenny lives in Kalamunda and is a member of the local history group. In 1988 there was an article in the local paper, "The Kalamunda Reporter", about the crash. The source for the article was an aviation historian called Phil McCulloch of Bayswater, WA.
Grahame Higgs is hoping to organise a memorial plaque for the crash location.
: a home in the forest : a history of Kalamunda"
by John Slee, [Bill Shaw]. Shire of Kalamunda, 1979.
The West Australian April 20, 1945 p 6.
I'd like to thank Graham Higgs, Jack Rosagro, Greg Shea, Jenny Lewis and Stewart Regan for their assistance with this home page.
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© Peter Dunn 2007
This page first produced 2 January 2002
This page last updated 30 March 2013