ON 2 MARCH 1943



At approximately 2:34pm on 2 March 1943, six Japanese Zeros attacked Coomalie Creek airfield in the Northern Territory. Earlier in the day a report was received at Coomalie Creek of a Japanese recce aircraft being sighted off Cape Fourcroy on Bathurst Island. This often meant that an air raid may follow later.

At about 2:30 pm, a "yellow alert" was raised at Coomalie Creek airfield warning of a possible air raid. A short while later cannon fire and Ack Ack fire could be heard.

The six Zeroes made strafing runs along the strip. The air raid only lasted a few seconds. Beaufighter, A19-31, of 31 Squadron RAAF, was left at the end of the runway in the open and was totally destroyed. All the other aircraft were in their pens and only one was slightly damaged. Three men were wounded, but none seriously.

Beaufighter, A19-17, flown by "Bluey" Armstrong, was returning to Coomalie Creek airfield, from a cross country exercise at the time of the raid, and was attacked by three Zeros.  He opened his throttles wide and headed south.

Three of the Zeros were shot down by Spitfires over the sea. They also damaged three other Zeros.

Beaufighter, A19-31, was the pride and joy of pilot Ken McDonald. Ken and his navigator Frank Magee had taken delivery of A19-31 back in Wagga Wagga, when it was brand new. On 2 March 1943, the aircraft was lent to pilot Albert Longoni for a familiarisation flight. Unfortunately, Longoni parked the aircraft at the end of the strip instead of taxying to the dispersal bay where it would be protected against enemy action by sandbags and camouflage. When Ken McDonald heard the "yellow alert" he decided he would have just enough time to have a haircut with barber, Trevor Ley, before any possible "red alert". After his haircut he was walking into the mess building when he heard the cannon and AA fire. Ken flattened out behind a tree, as there were no trenches nearby.

His navigator Frank Magee, joined him after sounding the "red alert". As they lay watching the action, they saw six of the orderly room staff rush out of their building clutching their tin hats. They ran across the roadway and jumped into the nearest slit trench which happened to be full of water. There were six great splashes, then six tin hats could be seen, just bobbing above the top of the water.

The smiles were wiped from their faces when they investigated the smoke coming from the end of the strip. They jumped into a utility and drove towards the smoke. They saw the smouldering remains of their beloved A91-31, completely destroyed. After it cooled, McDonald took a a little pool of molten metal as a souvenir.



"Coomalie Charlie's Commandos - 31 Squadron RAAF"
"Beaufighters at Darwin 1942-43"
by Kenneth Neal McDonald, DFC


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This page first produced 24 October 1999

This page last updated 14 September 2018