17 MARCH 1943

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On Wednesday 17 March 1943, two Beaufighters of 31 Squadron RAAF based at Coomalie Creek airfield in the Northern Territory took off for an early morning raid on Penfoei air base. The pilots were Ken Cohen and Cy Greenwood.

About 15 minutes from Timor, Cohen lost contact with Greenwood, and decided to return to base, arriving back at 10:30am.  Greenwood lost site of Cohen in a cloud but kept on going towards the target. The hills were covered in cloud, so he climbed to 1200 feet. As he was unable to re-establish contact with Cohen, he decided to turn back to base when he was within a few miles of the target. His port engine started to use an excessive amount of fuel, so he throttled back to save fuel. He had a 40 knot headwind. Low on fuel he approached the Australian coast. He was unable to establish radio contact with Darwin.

With only 10 gallons of fuel left, he made an emergency wheels-down landing in a clearing about 10 miles from Batchelor. He put out a radio message to advise of his forced landing. This radio message from Greenwood saying that he was "making a forced landing 15 miles south of Darwin", was received at Coomalie Creek airfield. Greenwood and his navigator, spent an uncomfortable night in the bush with 20 million mosquitoes.

The following day, Trapper Drysdale, the Engineering Officer of 31 Squadron, drove out in a truck to rescue Greenwood's crew. In the mean time, Kevin McDavitt flew over the downed aircraft, but could see no sign of life. Neither Greenwood's crew, nor the ground rescue party.

By 9:30 am the day after their forced landing, with no sign of any rescue party, Greenwood and his navigator had decided to walk east from their Beaufighter. After traversing swamps and swimming two rivers they came across a railway line at about 2:30pm. They hitched a ride on a rail trolley.

"Trapper" Drysdale's rescue party encountered the same swamps and river's, but were unable to locate the aircraft, so abandoned the search and returned to base on the Saturday at around midday.



"Coomalie Charlie's Commandos - 31 Squadron RAAF" (page 62)
"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 31 August 2015