CRASH OF A P-39 AIRACOBRA
OR WAS IT SOMETHING ELSE?
AT TARA, WANDOVALE STATION,
NEAR MARYVALE STATION, NORTH QUEENSLAND
ON AN UNKNOWN DATE
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII

 

My friend John Jewell told me about a P-39 Airacobra that crashed at Tara, which is on Wandovale Station about 110 miles from Charters Towers. Before his aircraft decided to pack it in, the pilot saw the Maryvale Station homestead. The pilot parachuted out safely and decided to walk to Maryvale Station. He came across a set of cattle yards and a hut. (the 4 Mile yards, John thinks). The yards are on Maryvale Station's part of Tara. They are only used probably once a year. The pilot found a newspaper in the hut. It was dated 1937. He thought he was a goner as he thought nobody had been there for about 5/6 years. He was not game to drink the clear water from Maryvale Creek as he had no purification tablets. He finally made it to Maryvale homestead where he was made welcome. Eventually a US vehicle came from Charters Towers and picked him up. John said that he never saw the crash site when he was working on Wandovale Station, but he knew where it was.

On one occasion John's brother Jim Jewell was riding a bad horse called "Acid" who could really buck at the least provocation. Anyhow "Acid" threw Jim who was a good horseman and it bolted off. The other ringers finally caught "Acid" near the P-39 crash site.

Robin Whelan, nephew of Edgar Clarke, the owner of Maryvale, (Rob was one of the last 25 Timor Commandos to be taken off Timor on USS Gudgeon), went to the crash site shortly after the war and he and Edgar salvaged as many nuts and bolts etc as possible as they were in short supply after the war. Rob told John Jewell me about the pilot's walk as his sisters, Bay and June were living at Maryvale at the time.

Robert Cooke worked at Wandovale Station from 1969 to 1971 and he told me that there were aircraft wheels in the tree and lots of small pieces of aluminum like tin foil on the ground.

The location of the crash site was at a water bore called Mt Louisa bore on Maryvale Station. Frank Burnham

Robert Cooke told me that Wandovale Station was cut up and sold to the owner of Junction Creek Station, Ted Clark in the 1980's. He took the engines and was going to use them to pump water. Robert said that from the crash site he believed that the crew would have followed Tara Gorge down to the Homestead. Robert's story suggests that this may not have been a P-39 as he refers to multiple engines and more than one crew.

Frank Burnham told me about an aircraft that crashed on "Wandovale Station" at Wild Horse bore, not Mt Louisa bore. He worked on Wandovale as a stockman in the eight mile bullock camp and mustered the country around the bore and once drove out to the site of the crash. His memory is dim but he can clearly remember wreckage and seeing ammunition in clips in what may have been aluminium casing. He told me that the old timers reckoned that the aircraft was returning from a mission and could not make it back to base. The crew were said to have bailed out and the aircraft flew on until it ran out of fuel. Frank's story suggests that this may not have been a P-39 as he refers to more than one crew.

USAAF pilot Lew Lockhart bailed out of his P-39 Airacobra north of Charters Towers on 28 January 1943. He walked on to a cattle station. This story sounds similar to the above crash however Wandovale Station is more north west of Charters Towers rather than north. It is possible they are both the same event.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank John Jewell, Robert Cooks, and Frank Burnham for their assistance with this web page.

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

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 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 16 March 2019

This page last updated 16 March 2019