5 JULY 1943



vult01.jpg (12286 bytes)

Vultee Vengeance


RAAF Vultee Vengeance, A27-217, of 12 Squadron RAAF, made a wheels-up forced landing on a beach at low tide near Port Douglas on 5 July 1943.

Its pilot Flight Sergeant Colin Cagnacci, and navigator Sergeant Harry Hawking, had taken off from Cooktown at 1509 hours to take part in an anti-submarine patrol over Force KL. They had patrolled above the convoy until 1615 hours and headed back to the mainland. They started to hit bad weather. As they approached the coast, poor visibility and their unfamiliarity with the coastline meant they were lost. 12 Squadron RAAF had only arrived at Cooktown three days earlier.

F/Sgt. Cagnacci gave orders to obtain a D/F bearing but, despite repeated calls by Sgt. Hawking, no replies were received. Light started to fade, so, running low on fuel, they continued to follow the coastline looking for any lights on shore. Just after dark, they spotted the lights of a small town. F/Sgt. Cagnacci carried out a wheels up landing on a very wide beach not far from the town lights. They had forced landed on the beach at Port Douglas at 1835 hours.

The aircraft went under water when the tide came in. It was eventually recovered and sent to Cairns, where it was repaired.

Jim Purdon of the Gap, in Brisbane was most helpful in providing me with information on this crash and a number of others. Jim made an inspection of this aircraft after the accident. Jim told me that he bogged his vehicle as he was driving off the beach from the crash site. Jack Crees, a local cane farmer, had helped Jim recover his vehicle from the bog. Jim returned to Mossman (1949/52) to work and Jack Crees would often remind Jim of how he got bogged. Jim Purdon's name was on a plaque in the Mossman RSL in connection with the clubhouse being built.

Tony Cagnacci told me that his father Colin Cagnacci, passed away in June 1999 in Cairns Hospital. He was on his way to Cooktown to relive those days of old and friendships only war could bring. He was able to obtain a copy of "Cooktown at War" and was reading it on his way there.



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



I'd like to thank Tony Cagnacci for his assistance with this web page.


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This page first produced 4 July 1999

This page last updated 29 October 2018