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Tiger Moth


RAAF Tiger Moth, A17-479, of 6 Communications Flight, piloted by Frank Ellis, crash landed near Katherine on 22 November 1944. Warrant Officer Steene was the passenger in the Tiger Moth at the time of the accident.


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Frank Ellis recounted the details of this crash to me on 14 March 2000:-

The Tiger Moth, we used it for doing the mail run, there's a photograph of it there. We'd go from Batchelor and fly up to Darwin and we'd pick up Army dispatches there and then we'd set off and we'd fly down and land at just about every strip along the way. Where the Army camps were, they'd send out a DR rider. We'd land in a paddock. Half the time we could'nt. They'd run around to get the donkeys and bloody camels off the damn things. And there could be dispatches or there couldn't be. There was Army news and that sort've thing.


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"Doing the mail run from Darwin to Birdum - 194. On a buffalo plain outside of
Adelaide River - would be met there by Army Dispatch Rider - who took this photo."


So we just hopped along, all day long, all the way down the tube down to Gorrie. I used to like it actually. Because you could get me down there to see if I could get a fly in these bloody Spitfires. Or any other aircraft. I was crazy about flying. Coming back along there, along the stretch before Katherine, it was such a road, it was bitumen road and they used to have these convoys to take the troops up, and you'd get bored and you'd get right down on road and see how well the military chaps could stay on the road. They'd run off. Well this one, I flamin' got hooked, the road was turning, and the trees were coming and it came up and hit one of the elevators on the tree.

We landed at Katherine at the hospital there and another bloke with me, I was showing him the tracks, a pilot, and he was just new up there, and he was in the front seat of course, and, so we looked at it and we said "Oh, she'll be alright, we'll get up a bit of height". So we took off and we just got over the Roper River, went through there, just got across there and met a bridge, but always went close to the road. We followed roads. They were good navigation. We just got up, climbed to a bit of height, maybe 1,000 feet, next minute there was bang and a clatter. And I thought the tail had gone, I looked around, and as I turned to the other side, he's jumping up and down and pointing, and the bloody engine was hanging. And later the Engineering Officer said to me "Why was that".  And then he said "Probably someone's over, probably not using the right revs, running the bust out of it. And what happened was, the skirt of the piston had broken off and fallen down and got mixed up and chopped the whole bloody engine.

So I went down. I had no motor, had nothing at all and we pushed in and landed just off the road and finished up against some rocks on the right hand side. It sat on the wheels, but it's nose went down and crunched. But we just pulled it out beside the road. Well it hit a big rock. That's about it there. And the whole engine was buggered up completely. So I had to go back to the ... always, no matter what happens to you, soon as you bloody well have a prang or something, they take you and take you straight to a bloody hospital. There's nothing wrong with you at all. You rang up the ????? Society and can you send another plane down to pick us up.

That would have been in '44. That was when I was with 6 Comms Flight. Dr. Fenton. Dr. Fenton. 6 Comms. Communications. That's the Gorrie mail run (looking at photo album) I was in the basket ball team. They put me in the basket ball team. They put me in the basket ball, because they needed a pilot to go down to go to different places and every time I'd go out on the field and I'd have two hits or something like that "well you'd better come off, you might get hurt".

That Vultee Vengeance, it was just hanging over on one wheel. That's the 31 Oct 1944. The Serial No. was A27-421. I was bringing it back from Wyndham. To Fenton. Yes, it happened at Fenton.

That was Tiger Moth A17-479 and the date was the 22 November 1944. I was pilot and there was another in with me, in the front, a Warrant Officer Steene. And we did the mail run down to Gorrie, 4 hours getting down there and the next day on the 22nd we were on our way back and we got to the base at Katherine, for an hour and a half, and that's when the engine seized, force landed, north south road too narrow, smashed starboard mainplane on the cliff, yes no casualties, just embarrassing that's all.

When we clipped the trees earlier it shredded the elevator on the back, all underneath went, it was stripped off.


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 Peter Dunn OAM 2020


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This page first produced 21 March 2000

This page last updated 21 February 2020