At 1030 hours, on 5 September 1939, Wirraway A20-5 of 12 Squadron RAAF, crashed at the Civil airfield at Darwin. It was one of five Wirraways that had left Avalon Airfield in Victoria and arrived at Darwin civil airfield after 8 hops and three days of travel flight. They were some of the early operational military aircraft to arrive in Darwin. A number of Ansons from No. 12 Squadron, RAAF, moved to Darwin before them in August 1939 when the unit started moving north.

The Wirraway stalled in a glide turn preparatory to landing and spun into the ground from 100 feet. The aircraft was completely wrecked and the crew were both killed as follows:-

Flying Officer Arnold Victor Dolphin, Pilot of C & S Flight
Corporal Harold WIlliam Johnson (1727), Air Observer of 12 Squadron)


Photo:- Les Osborne via Geoff Osborne

The wreckage of Wirraway A20-5


Five Wirraways were received by "C" Flight of 12 Squadron RAAF on 1 September 1939, replacing Hawker Demons. These five Wirraways and one Anson then left Laverton on 2 September, flying to Narromine via Cootamundra. On 3 September the aircraft reached Winton via Bourke, Charleville, and Longreach. On 4 September they reached Daly Waters via Cloncurry, Camooweal, and Newcastle Waters. Then on 5 September the aircraft reached Darwin at approximately 1030 hours when the crash of A20-5 occurred.

The Court of Inquiry found "that the crash of Wirraway A20-5 was caused by an error of judgment by the pilot, Flying Officer DOLPHIN who stalled the aircraft in a steep gliding turn at approximately 100 feet above the ground." It was believed that he was attempting a forced landing at the time of this tragic accident.


Photo:- Les Osborne via Geoff Osborne

Recovered parts of the wreckage of Wirraway A20-5


Photo:- Les Osborne via Geoff Osborne

Remains of Wirraway A20-5 at Darwin


Photo:- Les Osborne via Geoff Osborne

Remains of Wirraway A20-5 at Darwin


Reginald Hackshall (03485) was an Air Observer in one of the other Wirraways piloted by Flying Officer J. Hawdon. Twenty six years later, Squadron Leader Hackshall made the same flight from Avalon Airfield to Darwin in one hop in six and a half hours as the pilot of a Sabre jet.



Manuscript History of 12 Squadron RAAF



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This page first produced 25 July 1999

This page last updated 21 February 2020