27 APRIL 1942
CRASH OF A KITTYHAWK
50KMS NORTH WEST OF COOKTOWN, QLD
Flying Officer Montague David Ellerton (568), aged 23 years, was killed on 27th April 1942, when the wheels of his Kittyhawk, A29-69, bogged in soft sand and his Kittyhawk flipped over while attempting to land on a beach about 50 miles north west of Cooktown. It ended up on a beach south of Murdoch Point, near some rocky ledges.
Ellerton was attempting to give assistance to the pilot of a USAAF P-39 Airacobra #41-7210 flown by Lt. William McGovern of the 35th Fighter Squadron of the 8th Fighter Group, USAAF. This Airacobra was one of the eleven P-39 Airacobras which crashed on 26 April 1942. The wreck of Ellerton's Kittyhawk ended up about 400 yards from the crashed Airacobra.
Flying Officer Montague David Ellerton was on his way to Port Moresby in New Guinea and then Milne Bay to join 75 Squadron RAAF.
F/O Ellerton was subsequently buried at the Townsville War Cemetery (Grave Reference/Panel No. B.C.5). He was the son of Montague and Mabel Eliza Ellerton. Prior to the war he lived with his wife Judith Jean Ellerton at Burwood in New South Wales.
Subject: Kittyhawk A29-69 Ellerton
Date: Mon, 08 Mar 1999 15:49:18 +1000
From: Ray Blackwood <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I attach copy of the letter I received from the RAAF in June 1991 in reply to my letter asking details of the plane wreck at Cape Grenville, precise location 11.58.7 S 143.14.2E as today advised to me by the tour people I spoke of.
I must admit that as I proceed further with this exercise I get the impression one perhaps cannot rely too much on the locations given in official reports and maybe the officer replying to me was taking a bit of a stab at it.
Nevertheless it is interesting that an Airacobra was reported missing in the same area on 25 April 1942 - could there be a connection?
It's getting too complex for me so I leave it to you to sort out but would be interested if you get a positive outcome.
PO Box 81,
Airlie Beach, Q 4802, Australia.
07 49469437 - Fax ditto by arrangement.
Subject: P40 crash site, North of Cooktown
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 2000 19:25:42 +1000
From: ELLERTON Tim <email@example.com>
Hi. I'm the nephew of Flying Officer Montague (David) Ellerton, the subject of one of your web pages.
I stumbled upon your website this afternoon whist looking for photos of Kittyhawk aircraft. Needless to say I was stunned to find something out there in hyperspace concerning a family member who perished 58 years ago. I have been occupied in recent times with this very same crash.
By total coincidence I went on a 4WD/ camping/ fishing trip to that same North Queensland beach with mates in mid '98, not realising it's significance. One of our party knew the area well, and took us to the wreck of a WW2 Airacobra in the sand dunes. He also pointed out the remnants of another aircraft down at the waterline. There was some vague story of a flight of yankees getting lost / running out of fuel back in WW2. The place was known locally as "Dead Man's Gully".
All very interesting but all pretty anonymous I thought....until I got home again and my other uncle said "oh David died somewhere up there". So I contacted the local Cooktown historian, Don Sinclair, and he confirmed that the aircraft at the waterline was in fact RAAF A29-69, my uncle's plane. For some reason I had always been under the mistaken impression that uncle David had crashed on a beach somewhere out in the Coral Sea, so this was an amazing (and somewhat spooky) revelation to me.
Sadly I also learnt that he did not die immediately in the crash, but was trapped in the upturned cockpit. The US pilot of the fuel-starved USAAF Airacobra #41-7210, William McGovern, had to watch helplessly as David succumbed to the incoming tide.
Since then now have gathered quite a bit of information concerning the incident. My late father had kept an article from a 1943 edition of the Sydney Herald newspaper in which McGovern paid tribute to his Aussie fellow flyer (David was Dad's elder brother). I have photographic portraits of the 22 y.o recruit in full RAAF uniform, his cloth wings and some RAAF records, plus copies of wartime records forwarded by the National Archives. Steve Fowler from Cairns provided some interesting material, as he too has been on the trail of this crash for some time. There are photos of the wreck taken in '42, showing the near-complete upside-down aircraft, and photos of the party that recovered my uncle's remains, his burial, etc.
I also have diary extracts of a sapper who was part of a team sent to recover serviceable parts from the aircraft in '42. It also appears that there was a third aircraft involved - the story is that the Airacobra in the dunes is not McGovern's #41-7210, but is that of a second American, named 2nd Lt. Richard Nowlin, who buzzed McGovern a number of days after my uncle's crash, clipped a tree, and crashed and died too! This is borne out by the molten aluminium evident at the site (more damage than a natural bushfire would inflict) and molten sections on the engine, which is under the custody of Don Sinclair.
One tale is that McGovern's Airacobra was eventually recovered, complete, by barge but that there were heavy seas enroute to Cooktown, and the plane was lost in 20 fathoms of water.
I have spoken by phone to McGovern's widow in the US too. She was moved, all these years later, in recalling the tragic events on that beach. She did not however mention whether a double tragedy occurred ie that Nowlin also perished whilst attempting to rescue her husband. In another twist, it transpires that the person who originally lead the recovery team and took the photos back in '42, a Mr Claude LeRoy, was only recently deceased - he was murdered in Cairns in late 1997 !!
I returned to the beach last October. Very little remained of the Kittyhawk - only the upside-down wing root and the LH undercarriage extension struts, and some copper and brass hydraulic plumbing. (The Allison V12 engine was taken back to Cooktown some years ago).
I recovered the struts and ram (before someone souvenired them) and have now successfully removed 58 years' worth of barnacles, lime and rust encrustation. Amazingly, some of the larger mild steel nuts unscrewed readily, knuckle joints now articulate freely and the ram even yielded a couple of cups full of hydraulic fluid! I have stabilised the deterioration and will now get the parts sandblasted and epoxy painted so as to hold a permanent family reminder of that sad episode in '42.
Following my taking up this interest in this crash site, Don Sinclair and the Cook Shire Council are moving to have that particular stretch of beach named Ellerton Beach, in honour of F/O Montague David Ellerton. When approval comes through we will most likely erect some sort of cairn with a plaque.
If you would like to see the material I now have, I can forward copies.
(Incidentally, I was christened Timothy David Ellerton, and 10 years ago I chose to name my son David too, in my uncle's honor)
I'd like to thank Tim Ellerton and Stephen Szczurek for their assistance with this home page.
SOURCE:- Aircraft Crash Sites - Australia
Crash: No. 217
Department of Aviation Chart No: 3112
"Diary of WWII - North
Complied by Peter Nielsen
"North Queensland WWII, 1942-1945"
By P.D. Wilson
"Aircraft of the RAAF 1921- 71"
By Geoffrey Pentland & Peter Malone
NOTE:- Peter Nielsen identifies #41-7210 as McGovern's aircraft, while another source indicates that #41-7210 was Lt. Harvey's aircraft which crashed on 1 May 1942. Can someone please help me with this confusion. It is more likely to be McGovern's as Harvey's crash site was 13 - 16 kms inland.
Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?
"Australia @ War" Research Products
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 7 February 1999
This page last updated 10 September 2018