27 FEBRUARY 1942
CRASH OF AN RAAF SHORT EMPIRE FLYING BOAT A18-12
IN CLEVELAND BAY, TOWNSVILLE, QLD
Short Empire A18-12, ex QANTAS aircraft
VH-ABC "Coogee", at Rose Bay, NSW in 1940
Short S23 C-Class S.849, Empire Flying Boat, A18-12 G-AEUG "Coogee" VH-ABC (see above photo) of 33 Squadron RAAF, was extensively damaged in a landing accident in Cleveland Bay near Townsville on Friday 27 February 1942 opposite the Queens Hotel. Eight RAAF personnel died as a result of this tragic accident.
The pilot, F/O Love was seriously injured but died of his injuries the same day:-
|Flying Officer Robert John Love (400004) - Pilot||27 years|
The following five RAAF personnel were initially all listed as missing and believed killed. Their bodies were eventually recovered and buried at the Townsville War Cemetery:-
|LAC Maurice Clayton (15065)||23 years|
|Cpl William James French (10429)||31 years|
|Pilot Officer Peter Satterswaite Devonshire (407942)||20 years|
|Pilot Officer Harold John Wagner (4215)||37 years|
The bodies of the following two RAAF personnel were never found and they are commemorated at the Sydney Memorial:-
|Sergeant John Gordon Nicholson (17708)||21 years|
|Corporal Ray Silvester Diggles (93900) WAAAF||28 years|
Cpl Short was seriously injured and died from his injuries on 3 March 1942 and buried at the Townsville War Cemetery:-
|Corporal R. Short (15928)||29 years|
The following RAAF Personnel were injured but survived this tragic crash:-
|LAC Kenneth MacLeay Poulton (34542)|
|P/O Leonard Charles Laurence (264288) ***|
|P/O Alan Filmer (274159) ***|
*** Some of the official records in the Court of Inquiry incorrectly show P/O Leonard Charles Laurence named as P/O Leonard Charles Lawrence. Alan Kilmer is also incorrectly shown as K. Filmer in the Court of Inquiry records on at least one page.
Map showing the location of the crash and other key locations
G-AEUG "Coogee" was registered as VH-ABC on 26 September 1938. It was impressed to RAAF service from QANTAS on 28 August 1940.
The Empire was previously VH-ABC "Coogee" which had been one of four Empire flying boats impressed into RAAF service from QANTAS.
Photo:- Shorts photo H.1064 via Phil Vabre
"Coogee" on the River Medway
outside the Shorts works shortly after launching, on
3 Jan 1938. Note that she was launched wearing her Australian registration, VH-ABC,
and Qantas titles though not actually registered in Australia until much later.
Photo:- Eldorado real photo postcard from the Phil Vabre collection
"Coogee" later in the first half
of 1938 on the Shatt-el-Arab river at Basra,
Iraq. Because Australia was not yet ready to join in the Empire Air Mail
Scheme, the Australian Empire boats were operated in the meantime
by Imperial Airways under British registrations, in this case G-AEUC.
The Court of Inquiry could not find sufficient evidence on which to base a conclusive finding but they were of the opinion that it was caused by one of the following:-
A. The aircraft when landing struck a floating or partly submerged object not revealed by the sweep carried out by the civil aviation launch.
It is desired to draw attention to the fact that the aircraft touched down some distance short of the proper alighting point, and the object concerned may have drifted into the area in the interval between the sweep and the touching down of the aircraft.
B. As suggested by the evidence of Flight Lieutenant GREY (Pages 9 and 10) the slightly fast nose down landing that the pilot evidently made may have thrown stress on the forward section of the hull not normally stressed during a landing or take off, causing this to collapse. This aircraft is known to have operated under overload conditions from the open sea prior to its inspection by QANTAS and may have had the forward section of the hull strained in a manner which would not be revealed by the QANTAS inspection.
owned Empire Flying boat "Coogee" at
Maurice Clayton was the son of Stanley and Florence Anne Clayton, of East Katoomba, New South Wales. He was buried at Townsville War Cemetery, Grave Reference/Panel Number: A.A.9.
William French was the son of William James French and Mary Jane French. His wife was Doris Ethel French, of Ulverstone, Tasmania. He was buried at the Townsville War Cemetery, Grave Reference/Panel Number: A.A.6.
Peter Devonshire was the son of of Lt.-Col. Guy Satterswaite Devonshire and Doris Devonshire, of Unley, South Australia. He was buried at the Townsville War Cemetery, Grave Reference/Panel Number: A.A. 10.
Robert Love was the husband of Patricia Christine Love, of Potts Point, New South Wales. He was buried in the Townsville War Cemetery, Grave Reference/Panel Number: A.A.11.
Harold Wagner was the son of John Henry and Catherine Wagner; husband of Vivien Beatrice Aileen Wagner, of Kingaroy. He was buried at the Townsville War Cemetery, Grave Reference/Panel Number: A.A. 14.
John Gordon was the son of Joseph and Maud Augusta Nicholson, of Fremantle, Western Australia. He was buried at the Sydney Memorial Cemetery, New South Wales, Australia, Grave Reference/Panel Number: Panel 6.
Short Empire Flying Boat "Carpentaria"
ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE
PRELIMINARY REPORT (EXTERNAL) ON FLYING ACCIDENT OR FORCED LANDING
Serial No. : 759
Period : 1941/42
Department of Air.
Herewith are preliminary details of a flying accident.
Copies for information to-
Minister for Air, C.A.S.
File (D.T.), D.T., D.S.D.
WINGS AROUND US
The squadron (33 Sqn) acquired two Empire Flying Boats from Nos. 11 and 20 Squadrons, and operated these from the bay between Townsville and Magnetic Island. One of the prettiest sights I ever witnessed was when I lived on the strand myself in about 1939/1940, and watched civil versions of these beautiful big silver boats approaching majestically from over Castle Hill way, to alight out in the bay. One of the 33rd Squadron's 'boats' crashed on take off from the bay on 27 February 1942, with much loss of life.
AIRCRAFT OF THE RAAF
By Sqn Ldr K. Isaacs, AFC
During 1939/40, the RAAF impressed four S23s as follows:-
A18-10 ex-G-ADUT "Centaurus"
A18-11 ex-G-AEUA "Calypso"
A18-12 ex-VH-ABC "Coogee"
A18-13 ex-VH-ABB "Coolangatta"
"Coogee" was written off in a landing accident at Townsville on February 27, 1942, and a few days later, on March 3, 1942, "Centaurus" was destroyed during a Japanese air-raid on Broome.
SOURCE:- Aircraft Crash Sites - Australia
Crash: No. 104
Position: 19.13 - 146.47
Department of Aviation Chart No: 3219
NOTE:- In September 2003, I was contacted by June Stones, the daughter of Cpl William French.
I'd like to thank Phil Vabre and Richard Gibbons for their assistance with this home page.
"Diary of WWII - North
Complied by Peter Nielsen
Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?
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© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 14 June 1998
This page last updated 02 June 2020