CRASH OF AN A-20 HAVOC
APPROX. 5 KMS NORTH OF AMBERLEY AIRFIELD, QLD
ON 17 JULY 1943

 

USAAF A-20 Havoc, #42-33147 crashed near the intersection of the Gatton and Esk Highways approximately five kilometres north of the end of the Amberley Airfield runway during a flight between Amberley airfield and Eagle Farm airfield in Queensland on 17 July 1943. The A-20 Havoc belonged to the 81st Air Depot Group based at Eagle Farm airfield in Brisbane. The official crash report described the location as being "near the intersection of Gatton and Esk Highways".

Two of those on board were killed in the crash and a third died later from his injuries as follows:-

Major Donald A. Simpson (0-393319) (died two days later on 19 July1943)
Captain Paul C. May (0-412180) - pilot of the A-20 Havoc
Lt. James J. Handley (0-417955)

2nd Lt. Luther Wallace of the 44th Repair Squadron was the only survivor of this tragic crash. He suffered a broken leg, internal injuries and lacerations about the body.

Major Simpson, Lt Handley and Captain William O. Farrior had earlier taken off from Eagle Farm airfield to deliver three P-38 Lightnings to Amberley airfield for the purpose of bore sighting their guns. Luckily for Captain Farrior his P-38 had mechanical problems so he returned to Eagle Farm airfield for repairs. Captain May, the pilot of the A-20 Havoc, then picked up Simpson and Handley to take them back to Eagle Farm airfield in the A-20 Havoc.

The three men were given full military honours at their funeral at the US Military Cemetery at Ipswich in the presence of the 81st Air Depot Group, attached squadrons, officers and their many civilian friends. Traditionally draped with American flags, the caskets were lowered whilst a formation of P-38 Lightnings with three aircraft conspicuously missing from the formation flew over the cemetery. They dipped their wings in a final salute to three of America's finest officers.

Lt. James J. Handley was the birth father of famous Australian aviator Gaby Kennard.

 

 

 

Captain Paul May had been asked before his death to test fly a rebuilt "Hamp" Japanese fighter aircraft at Eagle Farm airfield. Captain May declined to fly the "Hamp" as he was concerned with its faulty brakes. The "Hamp" was in fact a "Zeke" or "Zero", a Mitsubishi A6M3 Type 32 "Zeke".  This version had clipped wings and it was initially thought it was a totally new aircraft which is the reason it was initially given the codename "Hamp". The "Hamp" had been rebuilt by the Allied Technical Air Intelligence Unit (ATAIU) from the wrecks of 5 aircraft recovered at Buna. Captain William O. Farrior went on to become the test pilot for the Japanese Zero and he was appointed the Commanding Officer of the 81st Repair Squadron on 24 October 1943.

REFERENCES

"81st Air Depot Group 1943 - 1944" book

Mike Stowe (Accident-Report.Com)

AAIR Aviation Archaeological Investigation & Research

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 I'd like to thank Edward Rogers, Craig Fuller, Noel Tunny, Gordon Birkett, Roger Marks, Stephen Szczurek and Mike Stowe for their assistance with this home page.

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

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This page first produced 31 October 2002

This page last updated 27 February 2020