8 APRIL 1943



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RAAF PBY-5 Catalina, A24-41 (RB-U) of 20 Squadron RAAF went missing in the Gulf of Carpentaria on 8 April 1943 when it caught fire during a radar search mission. The pilot Clem Haydon and all his crew perished. The crew of A24-41 were as follows:-

Captain Flight Lieutenant Clement William Haydon (407237) 20 Sqn RAAF
2nd Pilot Sergeant Lawrence Neild "Leo" Oppy (412281) 20 Sqn RAAF
Navigator Flying Officer John Goulburn "Jack" Lancaster (401847) 20 Sqn RAAF
Extra Navigator Flying Officer James David "Jack" Fisk (408826) Air Force HQs
1st Engineer Corporal Noel Clifford Marshall (32072) 20 Sqn RAAF
2nd Engineer Corporal Malcolm James Mutton (28263) 20 Sqn RAAF
2nd W/T Flight Sergeant Leonard George "Len" Adamson (400549) 20 Sqn RAAF
Extra Pilot Flying Officer Leopold Albert "Leo" Elkington (411576) 20 Sqn RAAF
Rigger Leading Aircraftsman James Augustus Scott (22604) - 20 Sqn RAAF
1st W/T Sergeant Derek Alan "Dick" Wray (402714) 20 Sqn RAAF
Armourer Corporal William Ivan Myers (11814) 20 Sqn RAAF


Catalina A24-41 and another Catalina A24-42 flown by Sqn/Ldr David Vernon took off from Cairns at 0505Z hours on 7 April 1943 (GMT) to search an area covering the south east portion of the Gulf of Carpentaria during the hours of darkness on 7 April 1943 (GMT).

Michael Cane, the nephew of Squadron Leader Clement Haydon, told me the following information:-

This search was instigated by the sighting of a Japanese submarine by 311 Radar Station RAAF situated at Aurukun. The small body of men stationed at this site felt vulnerable as the enemy craft approached their beach frontage and effectively jammed Gordon King’s emergency radio signal. These men had no escape as their base was surrounded by crocodile infested marshes and the Archer River which held similar dangers. Relief swept over the primitive base when the enemy departed after being attacked from the shoreline by the Australians. This defence consisted of hand grenades, most falling well short of their mark.

The described incident did not result in a landing of the enemy craft at that time, but some two months later Japanese invasion money was found at a spot four miles north of Aurukun. This money at the time of my contact was still in Gordon Kings possession. From all accounts an unopposed landing at some stage must have taken place. Evidently W/T records of the incident were not kept, so at this stage we have Gordon's word to go on which as I have already mentioned seem's more than reliable.

Trust this has been of help,

Michael Cane

Their instructions were to refuel at Horn Island on completion of their patrol. There were no signals received from the aircraft until at 1616Z hours on 7 April 1943 (GMT), a signal was intercepted addressed to Port Moresby from 3Z6U "Am on fire, Aircraft on fire". No further signal was received. From 1620Z hours on 7 April 1943 (GMT) until 1706Z hours on 7 April 1943 (GMT) the aircraft was continually called by Port Moresby, Cairns and Garbutt without success.

An extensive search was carried out by three Catalinas and two Boomerangs from dawn on the 8 April 1943. An oil or fuel slick was seen in position 15 degrees and 5 minutes South, 140 degrees and 4 minutes east, by all three Catalinas. Sqn/Ldr Vernon and F/Lt Shields, the Captains of two aircraft were certain that it was the type of slick left by an aircraft having crashed at sea. As this was in the position near to where the aircraft would have been at the time it sent its signal, there seemed little doubt that the Catalina had crashed in that position. No wreckage of any description was seen. Visibility during the period of the search was excellent, weather conditions good, and the sea was smooth. As the area was completely covered, the search was abandoned at dusk on 8 April 1943.

As Squadron Leader Vernon and his crew were tying up Catalina A24-42 to the mooring buoys on returning to Cairns Harbour, the aircraft ran out of fuel.

Note these times above are in Z hours which is Greenwich Mean Time. The last signal that was sent from the Catalina at 1616Z hours on 7 April 1943 was actually after 2am local time on 8 April 1943. This accounts for some records showing that this crash occurred on 7 April 1943 (GMT).

Note the mention of possible Fifth Column activities in relation to a number of Catalina losses in the diary of John Beckenham in the e-mail from Judy Taylor shown below. I was contacted by Amanda Sutherland, nee Blohm on 5 March 2019 and she advised that her late mother Irma Blohm, whose brother Len Adamson was a crew member of this Catalina, was also told of possible Fifth Column activity at the time of this crash.


Photo:- via Michael Caine

Flight Lieutenant Clement William Haydon (407237) 20 Squadron RAAF


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. 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


SOURCE:-   Aircraft Crash Sites - Australia

Crash:         No. 156

Position:     15.05 - 140.04

Department of Aviation Chart No:       3110



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

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

"Catalina Squadrons - First and Furthest"
"Recounting the Operations of RAAF Catalinas"
"May 1941 to March 1943"
By Jack Riddell



I'd like to thank Michael Cane for his assistance with this web page. Michael is the nephew of Fl/Lt Clement Haydon.

I'd also like to thank Amanda Sutherland (nee Blohm) for her assistance with this web page. Her uncle Len Adamson was killed in this tragic accident.

I'd also like to thank Gary Barker for his assistance with this web page.


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