21 APRIL 1944



beaufort.jpg (13398 bytes)
Bristol Beaufort


RAAF Bristol Beaufort, A9-436 of 32 Squadron collided in mid air with RAAF Bristol Beaufort, A9-476 of 32 Squadron 15 miles west of Bundaberg at 1120 hours EST on 21 April 1944. Both crews of four men were killed in this tragic accident.

Both aircraft had earlier taken off from Bundaberg airfield at approximately 1030K hours on a box formation flying exercise with two other aircraft flown by the Commanding Officer and F/O Plumridge. Beaufort A9-436 was flying at the No. 2 position in the formation and A9-476 in No. 4 position. At a location about 15 miles west of Bundaberg these two aircraft collided at a height of about 2,000 feet. Both aircraft crashed to the ground and burst into flames.

Both crew were all killed by either the impact with the ground or the ensuing fire.

CREW OF A9-436
F/Sgt John Bertram Steed (425371) pilot
F/Sgt Irwin Harold Smead (419228) Navigator B.
F/Sgt Richard McDougal Garland (412584) W.O.A.G.
P/O James Ian McKechnie (416312) W.O.A.G

CREW OF A9-476
F/Sgt Milton Charles Hardy (422177) pilot
F/Sgt Ignatius William Willcocks (419425) Navigator B.
F/O John Eric Gay (434085) W.O.A.G
F/Sgt Ian James Dixon (423672) W.O.A.G

The above eight men were all buried in the War Section of the Bundaberg General Cemetery by Service Funeral on 22 April 1944. Their Grave Numbers are as follows:-

Section A, Row D, No. 11    F/Sgt Hardy
                                 No. 12    F/Sgt Dixon
                                 No. 13    F/Sgt Steed
                                 No. 14    F/Sgt Smead
                                 No. 15    F/Sgt Garland
                                 No. 16    F/Sgt Willcocks

Section A, Row C, No. 1    F/O Gay
                                 No. 2    P/O McKechnie

Ross Eastgate's mother was a nursing sister at Bundaberg General Hospital and he believes she was involved in the identification of the remains of the crews of the two Beauforts which crashed. She was 20 years old at the time and it was a very traumatic experience for her, as she knew some of the crew involved.


Photo:- via Trina Kee

The crew of Beaufort A9-476.

Left to Right Rear:- F/Sgt Ian James Dixon, F/O John Eric Gay
Left to Right Front:- Sgt. Milton Charles Hardy, F/Sgt Ignatius William Willcocks

Note:- The only confirmed identifications above is for Sgt Milton Charles
Hardy and F/Sgt Willcocks. I have guessed the others based on rank and crew roles.


Via Vince Willcocks

Telegram received by Mr. William George Willcocks, father of F/Sgt. Ignatius Willcocks


Via Vince Willcocks

Funeral of Air Crew in Bundaberg


Via Vince Willcocks

Funeral procession at Bundaberg Cemetery


Via Vince Willcocks

Funeral in Bundaberg


Via Vince Willcocks

Parents of F/Sgt. Ignatius Willcocks, Mr. Willam Willcocks and
Mrs Frances Willcocks at their son's grave at Bundaberg Cemetery


Via Vince Willcocks

Message from the King


Via Vince Willcocks

F/Sgt. Ignatius Willcocks is 2nd from the right


Via Vince Willcocks

Pat Willcocks and his brother, F/Sgt. Ignatius Willcocks



I'd like to thank Ross Eastgate for his assistance with this home page.

I'd like to thank Vince Willcocks, nephew of F/Sgt. Ignatius Willcocks, for his assistance with this web page.

I'd also like to thank Trina Kee, granddaughter of Pilot Officer Milton Charles Hardy who was tragically killed in this accident.

I'd also like to thank Ross McNeill (RossMcN@aol.com) of Worcestershire, UK, who is a  researcher specialising in sea losses of Allied aircraft 1939-45.  His Beaufort data comes from the RAF 800 movement cards held at the RAF Museum, Hendon. Ross spent a few months transcribing the info in about 1997.



"Aircraft and Markings of the RAAF 1939 - 1945"
By Geoffrey Pentland

"Aircraft in Australian Service"
by Stewart Wilson.


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 Peter Dunn 2015


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This page first produced 23 May 1999

This page last updated 02 February 2020