RAAF Ventura, A59-54, ex #Bu. 34652, c/n 5542, of 13 Squadron RAAF was damaged beyond repair at Archerfield Airfield in Brisbane, at 1245 hours on 22 November 1943 when it crash landed. It had earlier taken off in monsoonal conditions. It made a circuit of the field and landed, locking its brakes. It crashed into a revetment in the north east corner of the airfield and crashed through the eastern boundary fence along Beatty Road, crossed Beatty Road, hit a ditch, and spewed its bomb load all over a field near a farm house. The crew suffered only minor injuries. The aircraft suffered 40% damage. The Aircraft Accident Data card indicated that the pilot's experience was a contributing factor to the crash.

Crew details:-

F/O Ian D. Sinclair (pilot)
F/O E. O'Halloran (Navigator)
F/Sgt B. Trantor (W/T Operator)
F/Sgt R. Toner
F/Sgt T. Powling
LAC Toms
LAC Weir

This Ventura was originally received by the RAAF at 2AD on 25 August 1943. It was later received into 13 Squadron RAAF on 12 September 1943. On 28 December 1943 approval was given to convert the wreck into components.

One source has incorrectly indicated that Gough Whitlam had been a crew member in A59-54. This was not the case.


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Gough Whitlam

Crash of a Ventura
At Camden, NSW
on 28 Dec 1943

Gough Whitlam was a crew
member in this crash


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The following information is from Roger Mark's excellent book called "Queensland Airfields WW2 - 50 Years On"

Page 165

Walter (Maiersperger) well remembered being surprised by the short grass field at Archerfield but the CO of the 33 Squadron was the only one to over shoot. In his 1992 biographical note on Maiersperger, titled "The Americans arrive at Archerfield", Ted Wixted added -

'....33 Sqn CO 1st Lt. (William A) Garnett (and) Co-pilot Larsen... continued through the fence and across the (Beatty) road to make the famed intrusion into the local barber shop.'

Trevan Jackson, a welder with AOA/ANA, described the result in his unpublished memoirs -

'...A skidding Marauder shot through the fence across Beatty Road, spun around and put the nose through Butch Freeny's (actual spelling is Freney) kitchen and crushed his water tank with a wing leading edge....'

Freney's barber shop was on the corner of Beatty and Boundary Roads with the residence behind.  After this incident and another involving Lockheed Ventura A59-54, and 'several trailing aerial strikes on the roof', Trevan told me the house was relocated!


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Subject:     Re Comments on Ventura crash at Archifield
Date:              Fri, 16 Jul 1999 20:04:31 +1000
From:            "Ernest R. Simons" <>

I was there & can provide details if you are interested.

You will find some comments about 13 Squadron RAAF. Gough Whitlam was a navigator & a very good one.

E Simons

UPDATE:- It is with regret that I have to advise that Ernest Rupert Simons passed away on 31 May 2002


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Subject:    Re: Re Archifield Incident
Date:             Sun, 18 Jul 1999 17:33:54 +1000
From:           "Ernest R. Simons" <>


The sunken power/ pumping station was before you got to the large hangers when approaching by road. I don't remember the name of the road but a farm house was virtually opposite the first hanger. Sorry the memory will not allow a better description. I would only be guessing in regard to The serial number of his plane which crashed at Camden.



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I received the following file from Ernie on 17 July 1999:-


Re Archerfield Incident

My name is Ernest Simons No 422729 & I was a member of No 13 Squadron RAAF from 1943 to 1945 as a Wireless Operator Air Gunner in the crew of Bill Birdsall F/Lt.

We were equipped with PV1 (Vega Ventura) Aircraft after the squadron was destroyed in Timor where they had Lockheed Hudson aircraft.

On 17 Nov 1943 we flew from Canberra to Archerfield Airfield. It rained heavily for the next three days then on 19 Nov (actually on 22 Nov 1943) the duty pilot authorised our take off even though we thought the ground too heavy. There were three aircraft on this detail, pilots being Bill Birdsall, Ian Sinclair, & from memory Jack Batho. We all started our engines & were doing our preflight checks when Ian Sinclair who was flying Ventura A59-54 asked permission to take off first. Bill Birdsall who was in charge of the detail okayed his departure. We watched him take off & he obviously was laboured by the wet ground (it was a grass surface) & he immediately notified us by radio not to take off as it was too dangerous we watched as he attempted to land. He applied his brakes & both wheels locked & he skated out of control into an embankment which surrounded a power sub station or pumping station which had been set into the ground. Hitting this embankment made him airborne again & he passed over the roadway spilling his bombs & depth charges from his damaged bomb bays onto the roadway & into the farmer’s paddock in which he came to rest. By the time we parked our aircraft & ran over to the crash scene the American MPs were holding the assembled aircraft workers & citizens about 20 yards back from the badly damaged bombs apparently to protect them should one explode? We had seen each head of the crew appear above the Pilot’s compartment look furtively round then seeing the bombs ran off in the opposite direction. We knew all were safe.


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Click on the picture

Based on information from Ernest Simons and Joe Jenkins, it would appear that the Ventura crashed in the paddock at the bottom right hand corner of this picture.


This crew crashed again when we were stationed at Gove in the Northern Territory & all were killed with the exception of Gordon Cathro who lives in Adelaide

There was no barber’s shop involved in this incident. Gough Whitlam was not on this detail. Gough was an outstanding navigator.

We landed at Rockhampton (on route to Cooktown) we landed on several occasions at Garbutt (Townsville) we were stationed at Cooktown. We went to Charters Towers on two occasions to collect spare parts. We landed at Cairns on several training flights. So far as I can remember these are the only Queensland Airports we used during the war.

Gough Whitlam was in a crash at Camden airport. He was in charge of the convoying of the American Fleet from the Coral Sea Battle & they were the aerial escort from there to Sydney & used Coffs Harbour & Camden aerodromes for this job.

It is interesting to note that the Ventura Aircraft in our squadron crashed in consecutive order of numbers from A59-49 to A 59-57. The plane which crashed at Archerfield was A 59-54 & our plane was A 59-55. We put our plane in for service shortly after our return from Archerfield on 1/12/43 & a new crew borrowed it for a training flight on 7 /12/43 & it crashed 7 minutes after take off at Gundaroo near Canberra.

E R Simons


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Subject:     Re Archerfield incident
Date:              Tue, 20 Jul 1999 08:02:37 +1000
From:            "Ernest R. Simons" <>

Re photograph of Archerfield Aerodrome I believe that house near the bottom right of picture is the house involved. If you place a cross below the house about 20mm below the front of the house you will be close enough to the location. On the drome side there is a parked vehicle & to the right of that is the embankment I believe shielded the building which was described at the time as an electricity substation. I thought it might be a pumping station of some kind. Joe Jenkins was with me at that time & lives in  Canberra. His memory is very good & could confirm my impression or otherwise.

Ernie Simons


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I spoke to Joe Jenkins, from Canberra on 21 July 1999, and he informed me that Ian Sinclair was the pilot of the Ventura, A59-54, that crashed. It was monsoonal weather at the time of the crash. Sinclair had taken off and just skimmed over the huts at the edge of the field and radioed back to the others not to take off due to the very poor conditions. He attempted to land and his brakes locked up and he skidded across Beatty road, hit a ditch, and spewed his bombs etc across the paddock near a farm house. Based on Joe's description it would appear that the Ventura ended up somewhere near the house in the bottom right hand side of the above photograph.

Joe made mention of a book on 13 Squadron RAAF written by a Sid Grantham.

UPDATE:- I received a letter from Joe Jenkins on 28 July 1999. He stated that the crash was on 22 November 1943. Joe would have based the 22 November on details in "Lockheed Ventura in Australia : Deliveries - Uses - Fates" Information compiled by Bert Cookson, Geoff Goodall and others and edited for Newsletter by John Hopton.

Joe went on to state "Looking at the plan of Archerfield, I would say that the plane tore its wheels off when it hit air raid trenches, skidded across the road and finished up in the direction of the old quarry."


Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?


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This page first produced 6 December 1998

This page last updated 02 February 2020