13 APRIL 1943



catalina01.jpg (9850 bytes)


RAAF PBY-5 Catalina, A24-36 ( USN 08190) of 11 Squadron RAAF, crashed into Cairns harbour on return from a night-time search patrol.  They had flown for 23 hours 23 minutes and ran out fuel. There were only two survivors, Sgt. Geoff Suckling (1st W/T) and LAC Murray Byham (armourer). The aircraft was damaged beyond repair.

The following crew members were buried in the military section of the Cairns Cemetery:-

Pilot Flt./Lt. Arnold Hinchcliffe, RAAF
2nd Pilot Sgt. Len Carr, RAAF
Navigator P/Off. Leslie L. Henstridge, RAAF
1st Engineer Sgt.. Harold McGillivary, RAAF
2nd Engineer

LAC Malcolm F. Merrett, RAAF

Rigger Sgt. James N.S. Lahey, RAAF


This aircraft was originally delivered to the RAAF in February 1943. 


Salvage of Catalina A24-36 from Cairns Harbour.
The serial No. A24-36 can be seen on the tail.


Salvage of Catalina A24-36 from Cairns Harbour.


Salvage of Catalina A24-36 from Cairns Harbour.


Salvage of Catalina A24-36 from Cairns Harbour.


Salvage of Catalina A24-36 from Cairns Harbour.


Catalina at Caboolture Air Show 15 May 2004


Catalina at Caboolture Air Show 15 May 2004

A Catalina at Mackay Airport - 1961

A Catalina at Mackay airport - 1961



Subject:     Plane crashes in Queensland in WW2
Date:              Tue, 19 Oct 1999 21:46:55 -0000
From:            "Judy Taylor" <STSJudy@bigpond.com>

I found your web site very interesting. My father (John Beckenham) was with 9 Squadron RAAF and his 1943 diary has notes on several crashes you mention. He flew in Catalinas. The dates are 8 Feb, March 2, April 1, April 8, April 13 and April 23. His notes are brief but may be of assistance to you.

8 February 1943
A2-9 into sea. Lt. McWhae, F/Lt Hookings and P/O Sellers killed on dive bombing practice. Bad weather. Heavy rains. Hull A2-9 located with grappling irons.

Thurs 11 February 1943
Violent rain all day. Confined to crew tent which almost flooded. Hull A2-9 raised and 3 bodies removed.

Fri 12 February 1943
Rain has continued unabated. Acted as pall bearer at funeral of 3 officers. Clark, Wearne, Briggs, Blakely and Foley others. Hole full water and coffins floated to within 3 ft surface. Bodies very smelly.  Sellers leaked out bottom and guts . . .my hand. Rained heavily all ceremony.

2 March 1943
Search missing naval vessel. Found in distress against island. Landed Townsville just in time to see P38 hit trees taking off. Damaged. . . .and after several circuits landed and immediately caught fire. Yank thrown 50 yds and landed in soft mud, only broken ankle.

3 March 1943
Cat-25 been missing off Innisfail. Last message "forced landing". . . . .Cairns flight been searching for last two days. Lot of extra men on board too.

4 March 1943
No news Catalina. Not much hope now.

20 March 1943
I am to go to Cairns soon to replace John Hick. Another Cat lost.

30 March 1943
No flying. Heard that DC3 crashed Amberley  - 23 killed. (This was actually at Archerfield). Also Bluey Truscott killed accidentally diving at cobber.

1 April 1943
A2/13 our kite crashed taking off Townsville - complete write-off - no one hurt. Both my kites A2-9 and A2-13 now gone.

10 April 1943
Another Cat (3rd) lost on 8th. Caught fire and no trace of it. They suspect dirty work somewhere as three now gone in five weeks.

12 April 1943
Another Cat had motors cut north N. Guinea. Landed and engines fixed - getting home okay. Definite signs 5th column activity.

13 April 1943
At 4.45 a.m. another Cat exploded in flames when returning to and just near Cairns lighting whole town. 4 bodies recovered, 3 alive - gunners - say pilot stalled her when engine slipped out juice.

23 April 1943 Good Friday
2 Kittyhawks crashed near Proserpine (crashed on 22 April 43). 1 pilot okay. Our kite sent out to search for other one. Will delay us more so won't be on time at Horn.

(note: he had volunteered for crew to go to Horn Is. for an indefinite period)

I hope these notes are of interest to you. My father's name was John Beckenham. He died on March 29, 1994.

I wondered if as you seem to be particularly interested in Queensland history, you might have any information about the early history of Bundaberg? My father's mother came from there and her grandparents had settled there after coming out from Scotland in 1855. Their names were Samuel Andrew Mackie Goodwin and Mary Anne Goodwin.

Judy Taylor



"Diary of WWII - North Queensland"
Complied by Peter Nielsen

"Aircraft of the RAAF 1921- 71"
By Geoffrey Pentland & Peter Malone


Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?


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This page first produced 7 February 1999

This page last updated 02 February 2020