CRASH OF A LOCKHEED HUDSON
IN HINCHINBROOK CHANNEL
NEAR CARDWELL, QLD
ON 5 MAY 1942
This Hudson bomber crash landed in Hinchinbrook Channel after performing a patrol during the Battle of the Coral Sea. Members of the 17th Field Engineers, who were training in the Cairns and Tablelands region at the time can be seen inspecting the damage.
RAAF Hudson A16-162 (#41-23606) of 32 Squadron RAAF, was one of four Hudsons sent out from Townsville at 0943 hrs on 5 May 1942 on a 2,500 mile low level patrol mission to search Area "H" during the Battle of the Coral Sea.
The crew of Hudson A16-162 was as follows:-
Alwyn Ruta "Sammy" Samuel (405113) - Pilot
James William "Jim" East (405301) - Co-Pilot
Sgt Geoffrey Eric Fletcher (416253) - Wireless Air Gunner
Sgt Graham Stanley "Jessie" James (416260) - Wireless Air Gunner
The patrol continued initially without incident in arduous conditions until a tropical storm was encountered, along with heavy turbulence, radio compass failure, loss of radio contact with Townsville, reliance on “dead reckoning” navigation, cloud rolling in and evening darkness and loss of visibility, “near miss” mountain landfall and rapid evasion, fuel issues and ultimately engine failure.
The aircraft crashed into the waters of the Hinchinbrook Channel at 1915 hrs in darkness, shortly after low tide and remained buoyant for a short time with empty fuel tanks and the benefit of shallow water.
Graham Stanley "Jessie" James was killed on impact. Pilot Alwyn Samuel and Co-Pilot James East were unconscious and trapped in the wreckage.
Sgt. Geoff Fletcher regained his senses, exited the aircraft via the rear hatch, and climbed along the outside of the aircraft to the cockpit finding the pilot and copilot immersed in water and in danger of drowning. He first pulled the unconscious Samuel from the wreckage and then swam towing him to nearby mangroves, returned to the aircraft and extricated the unconscious and mangled East and again swam and towed him to the mangroves to join Samuel.
Fletcher returned again to the wreckage diving multiple times to extricate his close friend James and then swam towing him to a small clearing in the mangroves. He then tried unsuccessfully to revive him. Turning his attention back to the survivors, Fletcher then tended to the bone fractures, open wounds, head injuries, shock and exposure suffered by Samuel and East. He again swam to the wreck, located a parachute and set up a hammock and pulled the remaining crew out of the water and dank mud of the mosquito infested swamp.
The aircraft was reported as missing. Three Wirraways were sent out from Townsville to locate Hudson A16-162. They found it half submerged at the end of the shipping channel on the north west side of Hinchinbrook Island near Cardwell.
During the night Fletcher tried to transit the mangroves in the dark without success, and eventually entered the water again hoping to swim to the mainland, and in the early dawn light he was spotted by the crew of a launch carrying a rescue party, who quickly pulled him out of the shark and crocodile infested waters of the area.
Fletcher directed the launch to the surviving crew Samuel and East, who were then transported to Cardwell and thereafter to Tully hospital. Fletcher returned to duty at 32 Squadron RAAF at Townsville.
Sgt. Graham Stanley James (416260) aged 24 years, was killed in this crash and was buried at the Tully Cemetery. Grave Reference/Panel Number: Sec. 1. Row E. Grave 77. Methodist Plot. Sec. 3. Sub. Sgt. Graham Stanley James was the son of Stanley Marden James and Elfreda Laura James, of Kersbrook, South Australia.
There is a plaque located in the Battle of The Coral Sea Park located in Cardwell, north Queensland that commemorates the event and was unveiled on 7 May 1997 on the 55th anniversary of the tragic crash. The ceremony was organised by 32 Squadron RAAF, and was attended by Alwyn Samuel and family, Muriel Fletcher (widow of Geoff) and family, Paul Padley (author) and a contingent of RAAF personnel from Townsville and 32 Squadron RAAF from Sale in Victoria.
NOTE:- David Connolly nephew of Graham James contacted me in August 2000 and told me that Graham James had three sisters (2 still living at that time) and a brother.
"Diary of WWII - North
Complied by Peter Nielsen
"Aircraft of the RAAF 1921- 71"
By Geoffrey Pentland & Peter Malone
Channel, A16-162 and the Royal Australian Air Force"
By Paul D. Padley
Freedom and Honour - Biography
of Peter Wilkinson Cavanagh"
By Paul D. Padley
“Moresby’s Few - The Story of No 32 Squadron RAAF
in New Guinea”
by Leslie Jillett. Publisher : North West Courier, Narrabri, NSW 1945
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© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 7 November 1998
This page last updated 15 January 2018