31 Squadron RAAF was formed at Forest Hill base near Wagga in August 1942. In October 1942, the Squadron was ordered to move to a new airfield at Coomalie Creek, about 50 miles south of Darwin.

On 4 November 1942, three Beaufighters of 31 Squadron RAAF left Cloncurry in western Queensland at 2 pm and  travelled across the wilds of the vast Northern Territory headed for Batchelor airfield. They were on their way to their new posting at Coomalie Creek. One of these Beaufighters (possibly A19-31) was piloted by Kenneth Neal McDonald, DFC. His navigator was Frank Magee. They had an extra passenger on board for this flight who was a ground staff service fitter.

At Cloncurry, the Corporal in charge of the refuelling crew told them "You won't have any trouble finding your way to Darwin. Just follow the trail of crashed Kittyhawks, you can't go wrong."

The three Beaufighters  were maintaining radio silence. Ken and Frank were of the opinion that they were lost and heading in the wrong direction. Their flight leader's aircraft was heading west and they believed they were already west of Batchelor airfield, thus they were heading away from Batchelor airfield. They talked about breaking radio silence. They then saw the coastline appear in the distance and decided that it must be Anson's Bay.

Their flight leader, Ken Cohen, then wiggled his wings and turned left, which pointed them towards Alice Springs. Kevin McDavitt was the pilot of the third Beaufighter. The flight leader then turned again, this time heading in what was believed to be the correct direction towards Batchelor airfield. By this time all three aircraft were extremely low on fuel.

Ken McDavitt's aircraft suddenly broke formation and headed for a small clearing in the bush below. He did a wheels down landing and signalled with his Aldis lamp that it was okay for the others to land. The flight leader, Ken Cohen then landed his Beaufighter safely, followed by McDonald.

They camped out under their aircraft that night. When they woke up the next morning they could hear aircraft in the distance, warming up on the ground and taking off. They figured they were only about 10 miles from Batchelor airfield. Ken Cohen's aircraft seemd to have some fuel left, so he took off to look for the distant airfield. He returned early that same afternoon with fuel. They took off and headed for Coomalie Creek rather than Batchelor airfield. Coomalie was only about 10 miles from Batchelor airfield.


Can anyone tell me the Serial Nos. of these three aircraft?



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


"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products

I need your help


 Peter Dunn OAM 2020


Please e-mail me
any information or photographs

"Australia @ War"
8GB USB Memory Stick

This page first produced 11 October 1999

This page last updated 21 February 2020