ON 6 APRIL 1943


On 6 April 1943, Wirraways A20-183 and A20-207 of 23 Squadron RAAF carried out a bombing exercise 40 miles north east of Kingaroy. This involved engaging in an Army Co-operation exercise to practice dive bombing tanks. They were instructed to fly there in formation, bomb the targets individually and then return to base in formation. After the bombing exercise both aircraft reformed into a staggered formation with A20-183 leading.

At about 09:15 hours E.S.T., whilst 10 miles NE of Kingaroy, Sergeant Lawrence spotted two 5 Squadron aircraft at 500ft below to the east and decided to commence an opportunity practice attack in formation. The two 5 Squadron aircraft turned to engage, causing Sergeant Lawrence to tighten his turn into the sun to make the attack. A later Accident Enquiry resolved that his vision was then blinded by the sun.

The starboard wing tip of A20-183 struck the port wing tip of A20-207. A20-183 then pulled approximately 30 feet away but then immediately slipped back towards A20-207 with A20-207ís propeller contacting the leading edge of A20-183ís starboard wing. A20-183 then commenced a slow spin. The damage to A20-183 did not appear excessive with Sergeant Lawrence righting the spin but the aircraft then spun the opposite way crashing to the ground in a flat position and burst into flames 5 miles NE of Kingaroy Airfield at about 09:20 hours E.S.T. Wirraway A20-207 managed to return to Kingaroy. The two crew members in A20-183 were killed and are shown below:-

Sergeant John Campbell Lawrence (411150)
AC2 Kenneth James Barnwell (20161)

Both airmen were buried in the Taabinga Cemetery, Kingaroy, Plot A, Row A, Graves 7 & 8.


Note:- The "Preliminary Report (External) of Flying Accident or Forced Landing" shows Sgt Lawrence's Service No. as 43150 which is incorrect. He is listed as 411150 in the WWII Nominal Roll and this is confirmed as the correct service number on his headstone.



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This page first produced 6 April 2021

This page last updated 06 April 2021