ON 27 MARCH 1943


C-47 Dakota A30-16


On Saturday 27th March 1943 at approximately 0512 hours Douglas DC3 (C-47) VH-CTB, A30-16 (A65-2) of 36 Squadron, Townsville, was involved in a fatal accident at Archerfield. The crew of four were killed as were all passengers consisting of 17 Australian and 2 American personnel. Thus a total of 23 personnel were killed.

The DC-2's had been allocated the series A30 by the RAAF and when the first DC-3's arrived on the scene they had initially been allocated the same RAAF Series No. This was due to be rectified at a later stage when the A65 Serial No. was allocated to them. Thus VH-CTB was scheduled to be renumbered to A65-2 after 17 April 1943.

Geoff Turnbull from 36 Squadron was also on board VH-CTB when it was about to take-off from Garbutt airfield in Townsville. At the very last moment the Commanding Officer stopped the aircraft taking off to allow him to load some essential equipment hta had to travel southwards. Geoff Turnbull was requested to leave the aircraft to make way for the equipment. Geoff recollected that event at a commemoration ceremony at Archerfield airfield on Tuesday 27 March 2001, when a memorial plaque was unveiled to remember the tragic loss of 23 lives.


The following 23 personnel were killed near Archerfield on 27 March 1943.


F/O Alexander Kenn Arnold (pilot) 36 Squadron RAAF 103
Sgt. Joseph Hammond (co-pilot) 36 Squadron RAAF 103
LAC Samuel Ivan Wiles (Fitter) 36 Squadron RAAF 103
Sgt. Lyle Carter Morgan (Wireless Operator) 36 Squadron RAAF 103
Sgt. John Atherton HQ North Eastern Area, Townsville 97
LAC Thomas William Beckley 20 Signals Unit, Townsville 114
P/O David Andrew Blackley 20 Signals Unit, Townsville 114
LAC John Edward Chinner 3 Fighter Sector, Townsville 112
Sgt. Robert William Tylden Chisholm 1 Reserve Personnel Pool, Garbutt 114
LAC Kevin Francis Flanagan 9 Mobile Fighter Sector HQ, Milne Bay 112
LAC Charles Paton Eric Fly 12 Signals, Townsville 114
Sgt. Max Irvenia Thomas Jarvis 28 Radar Finding, Fitzroy Island, Cairns 114
LAC Terrence Joseph Kelly 12 Signals, Townsville 114
LAC Kenneth Owen Paton 11 Squadron, RAAF 100
P/O Alfred Tatlock 20 Signals Unit, Townsville 114
LAC Geoffrey Frederick Waters 1 Transport and Mov't Office, Sydney 114
Cpl. Thomas Keith McDowell Watt 28 Radar Finding, Fitzroy Island, Cairns 114


Cpl. Violet May Gunning WAAAF Brisbane, W/T Station 117
Cpl. Ruth Ada Hills WAAAF Brisbane, W/T Station 117
ACW Florence May Jackson WAAAF Brisbane, W/T Station 117


Lieutenant Irwin Leo Smith A.C.M.F. 2 L. of C. Sub Area, Australian Headquarters  


Major Eugene H. Halliwell (0-393127)    
1st Lieutenant Francis M. Skinner (0-430024) Headquarters Section, 43rd Bombardment Group and was assigned to the S-2 (intelligence) shop. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery Section 12 site 5654.  


The two US Army personnel were buried at the USAF Military Cemetery Ipswich on 30 March 1943 with Colonel Gerhardt as the Officiating Clergyman and S/Sgt Miller as the Undertaker.


Rough sketch of Flight Path of RAAF C-47, A30-16
which crashed at Archerfield at 0512 hours on 27 March 1943
This sketch is based on an official sketch in an NAA file.


NOTE:- Bowhill Road and Sherbrook Road were un-named at the time of this accident.


Photo:- Peter Dunn 30 Sep 2007

This tree is in the middle of the photo is the approximate location where the original tree was
located which the aircraft hit. It is approximately 120 metres west of Jenny Hick's house.




Photos:- via Lesley Bennetts

Photographs of Corporal Ruth Ada Hills


LAC Kevin Francis Flanagan who was killed on this flight had received news that his wife was seriously ill in hospital in Sydney after a miscarriage. He was based in Milne Bay with 9 Mobile Fighter Sector HQ and was given compassion leave to visit his wife. His nephew Kevin Flanagan believes he either came down from Townsville on the C-47 or was at Archerfield trying to hitch a ride to Sydney. The family story goes that another serviceman gave up his seat to Kevin on that flight. His name was not included in the press release after the accident as they had not advised his wife because of her serious condition.


Photo:- Peter Dunn 30 Sep 2007

Passenger Terminal at Archerfield Airfield





TWENTY-THREE service personnel including three members of the W.A.A.A.F., were killed when a Royal Australian Air Force transport aircraft crashed near Brisbane early on Saturday morning. There were no survivors.

The aircraft was on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney, and crashed into heavy timber soon after taking off in the dark. It was destroyed.

Of the 23 killed, 17 were members of the R.A.A.F., one was an Australian Army officer, and two were U.S. Army officers.

Names of four victims have not been released.

Those killed included:-

Flying-Officer A.K. Arnold
, 27, Malvern (V.)
Sgt. Joseph Hammond, 29, of Keats Street, Cannon Hill, Brisbane.
Sgt. L.C. Morgan, 24, Stanmore (NSW)
L.A./C. S.I. Wiles, 36, of Bruthen (V.)

Corporal Ruth A. Hills
, 19, Petersham (NSW)
Corporal Violet M. Gunning, 25, Heathcote, South Coast (NSW)
A./C.W. Florence M. Jackson, 25 Ryde (NSW)

Sgt. R.W.T. Chisholm
, 26, Warburton (V.)
L.A./C. T.J. Kelly, 36, Oakleigh (V.)
L.A./C. C.P.E. Fly, 41, East Malvern (V.)

Sgt. M.I.T. Jarvis, 23, Horsham (V.)
Cpl. T.K. McD. Watt, 26, Brunswick, (V.)
Pilot-Officer A. Tatlock, 36, Hamilton (V.)
Pilot-Officer D.A. Blackley, 31, Woodville (S.A.)
L.A./C. T.W. Beckley, 28, Richmond (V.)
L.A./C. J.E. Chinner, 20, Toorak Gardens (S.A.)
L.A./C. K.O. Paton, 34, Newton (T.)
L.A./C. G.F. Waters, 33, Elizabeth Bay (NSW)
Sgt. John Atherton, 34, Spiers Point (NSW)

Sergeant Hammond, the Queensland victim of the crash, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and came to Australia when aged 7 years. He was educated at the Buranda State and the Brisbane Boys Grammar schools. Before enlisting in the RAAF in February, 1941, he was a commercial traveller for W. Siemon and Sons Pty. Ltd. of Roma Street and lived with his parents in Keats Street, Cannon Hill.

Immediate Inquiry
An immediate inquiry is being held into the cause of the crash.

The Air Minister (Mr. Drakeford) said yesterday that the accident had come as a great shock to him as Air Minister and to the Federal Cabinet as a whole.

The accident was inexplicable on first information to hand, but he could assure the public that a full and searching inquiry would be held.

Infrequency with which such crashes occurred not only accentuated the tragic circumstances of this one, but also served to indicate the care and efficiency with which aviation was conducted in Australia.

Mr. Drakeford added that he wished to extend his deepest sympathy to all relatives and friends of those who had perished in the accident.


An hour after the 9th Division had marched along Adelaide Street to the accompaniment of cheers yesterday afternoon, crowds watched other members of a Service go by there - but this time in silence.

It was the funeral cortege of 20 of the victims of the R.A.A.F. transport aircraft crash among whom were three members of the W.A.A.F.

They were Corporal Ruth Hills, Corporal Violet Gunning, and A/CW Florence Jackson.

All worked at the same Queensland wireless telegraphy station and were travelling from Brisbane to see their families. Two of them were engaged to be married.

Corporal Hills, who would have been aged 20 next May, was described by the officer in charge of the W.T. station as one of he best N.C.O.'s. She joined the service in October, 1941, and got her stripes last November. Three weeks ago she became engaged to a sergeant-pilot whom she had met through her work in Queensland. She recently had dengue, and was going home on sick leave when she was killed. Her parents came to Brisbane for the funeral.

Corporal Gunning was engaged to a member of an armoured division. She joined the W.A.A.F. in March last year, and was promoted to the rank of corporal last February.

A.C.W. Jackson was going to Sydney to see her parents for the first time since joining the W.A.A.F. six months ago. Her father, who is in the Army, had obtained special leave to see his daughter.

Colleagues of the girls from the W.A.A.F. were in the guard of honour formed outside the undertakers' premises as the flower covered coffins of the 20 victims of the accident were carried out by R.A.A.F. men. The coffins were placed side by side on four R.A.A.F. vehicles and covered with the Union Jack and the Australian flag.

At Lutwyche cemetery, R.A.A.F. embers again acted as bearers. The service there was conducted by three Air Force padres - Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Methodist. At its close, members of the W.A.A.F. placed wreaths on each of the 20 graves.

Relatives of seven of the victims were present, in addition to 100 members of the W.A.A.F. and 150 of the R.A.A.F. The Chief of the Air Staff (Air Vice-Marshal G. Jones) attended and the Government Whip (Mr. W.P. Conelan) represented the Commonwealth Government and the Air Minister (Mr. Drakeford).



The Joseph Hammond of 36 Squadron RAAF, who was killed in this tragic crash was engaged to be married to Frances Margaret Anderson. Frances later went on to marry Captain Harold John (aka Pat) Winterbotham, a Medical Officer with 5 Camp Hospital, Cairns and later 2/2 Field Ambulance serving in Aitape, New Guinea (1944-45). I met her son, John WInterbotham on 3 July 2000. At the time, I was unaware of the connection. John mentioned that his mother had been engaged to someone who had been killed in a plane crash in Queensland. I mentioned my home pages on aircraft crashes to John Winterbotham, and the next evening he rang me to advise that he had found the details on this home page.



Memorial Plaque Unveiled at Archerfield on 27 March 2001

A memorial plaque was unveiled at Archerfield airfield on 27 March 2001 to commemorate the tragic loss of life that occurred in this crash on 27 March 1943. George Redding, ex 36 Squadron RAAF member (WW2), was a driving force in organising this fitting ceremony. George is the historian for 36 Squadron's WW2 activities.


Plaque at Archerfield airfield


qld64b.jpg (22325 bytes) Mrs. Moore, wife of Wal Moore (Queensland Branch President of 36 Squadron Association)
qld64c.jpg (33802 bytes) Squadron Leader Wayne Bradley of today's 36 Squadron RAAF and George Redding, of 36 Squadron Association (WW2)
qld64d.jpg (22765 bytes) George Redding
qld64e.jpg (24167 bytes) Hal (Mick) Sutton and Geoff Turnbull, both of 36 Squadron Association
qld64f.jpg (20323 bytes) Gavin Bird - Managing Director, Archerfield Airport Corporation unveiled the plaque on 27 March 2001
qld64g.jpg (19260 bytes) Joe Pointing, 36 Squadron Association - Scripture Reading



On Sunday 30 September 2007, I had the pleasure of meeting Audrey Crowe (nee Hills) and her family at Archerfield Airfield. Audrey is the sister of Corporal Ruth Ada Hills who was tragically killed in this accident.

Audrey was turning 90 years old the following day. Her daughters, Lesley Bennetts and Diane Payne brought their mother up to Brisbane from New South Wales to give their mother a surprise for her birthday. Audrey thought that she was going to Gladstone to see her son Phillip Crowe. In fact Phillip and his family had also travelled to Brisbane so that they could all take their mother to Archerfield Airfield to see the airfield where Ruth Hills had taken off from on that tragic day, to see the plaque inside the Passenger Terminal and then to travel a short distance to the property where the crash had occurred.

We were all scheduled to meet up at the Passenger Terminal at Archerfield at 9:30am but unfortunately the day got off to a bad start when their two cars were involved in a three car nose-to-tail accident in the city. After a 90 minute unexpected delay, they arrived safely at Archerfield in their modified cars!!


Photo:- Peter Dunn 30 Sep 2007

Arriving at Archerfield. Left to Right:- Phillip Crowe, Diane Payne, Audrey Crowe and Lesley Bennetts


Photo:- Peter Dunn 30 Sep 2007

Shaylee Bennetts (Lesley's daughter), Lesley Bennetts, Phillip Crowe,
Audrey Crowe, and Diane Payne inside the Archerfield Passenger Terminal


Photo:- Peter Dunn 30 Sep 2007

Audrey Crowe outside the Passenger Lounge at Archerfield Airfield


Photo:- Peter Dunn 30 Sep 2007

Audrey Crowe outside the Passenger Lounge at Archerfield Airfield


Photo:- Peter Dunn 30 Sep 2007

Morning tea at Jenny Hick's house. The aircraft hit a large tree approximately 120 metres in the
distance from where this photo was taken. Left to right:- Auriel Woolley (Jenny's neighbour), Diane Payne,
Jenny Hicks, Audrey Crowe, Shaylee Bennetts and Lesley Bennetts


Photo:- Peter Dunn 30 Sep 2007

Audrey Crowe inspecting the flowers that Jenny Hicks had placed on the morning tea table


Photo:- Peter Dunn 30 Sep 2007

Audrey and her daughters Diane and Lesley, looking at a book that Lesley
 had put together on the Ruth Ada Hills and this tragic accident


Photo:- Peter Dunn 30 Sep 2007

Audrey enjoying the hospitality at Jenny Hick's house


Photo:- Peter Dunn 30 Sep 2007

Jenny Hicks, Diane Payne, Audrey Crowe and Lesley Bennetts



The following entries were found in the National Archives of Australia Angam Database:-

Accident to Douglas Aircraft C47 near Archerfield on 27.3.1943 - Court of Inquiry. - Proceedings - 3 copies1943 to 1943A705/132/18/154 ATTACHMENT 1

Title  Accident to Douglas Aircraft C47 near Archerfield on 27.3.1943 - Court of Inquiry. - Proceedings - 3 copies

Series Number A705/1

Item Number 32/18/154 ATTACHMENT 1

Date Range 1943 to 1943


Location ACT


Accident to Douglas Aircraft C47 near Archerfield on 27.3.1943 - Court of Inquiry.1943 to 1943A705/132/18/154

Title Accident to Douglas Aircraft C47 near Archerfield on 27.3.1943 - Court of Inquiry.

Series Number A705/1

Item Number 32/18/154

Date Range 1943 to 1943

Access Status OPEN

Location ACT



Subject:   Crash at Archerfield
Date:           Sat, 18 Dec 1999 17:43:01 -0800
From:          "Peter Freney" <>

I would like to comment on the discussion of the crash of the RAAF Ventura at Archerfield in November 1943.

My name is Peter Freney and my uncle is the person mentioned in your original story. ( You mispelt his surname). At the time of the crash,I was seven years old and lived on Beatty Road ( now Bowhill Road) approximately one mile south of the my uncle's home which is correctly shown on the photograph. I can confirm that the plane did come to rest against that house because my parents took me to see it and I can still see it clearly in my memory. The plane had skidded across Beatty Road, as you described, and came to rest facing the house with it's nose resting against the west wall, ie. the wall nearest the aerodrome.

For information, the photograph is taken from the south looking north. The place marked on the photograph as the crash site is definitely not correct.

I was brought up in the area and I held a special pass (even as a child) which allowed me to walk that part of Beatty Road which passed through the airbase.

I can confirm that my uncle was a barber as I had my hair cut many times by him at that house, although his main business was carried out in a small shop on Beaudesert Road nearby.

Incidentally a C47, approaching Archerfield from the south, hit a tree on our land and crashed into one of our paddocks killing all 18 persons ( from memory) on board. This was, to the best of my memory, in late 1942 or early 1943. I think the aircraft in question was USAAF, not RAAF. We were told at the time that the accident was the worst in Australia's history to that time. Perhaps you have heard of it as well.

I hope that this is of interest to you


Peter Freney



Subject:   Crash at Archerfield
Date:             Sun, 19 Dec 1999 09:12:42 -0800
From:          "Peter Freney" <>

Hello Peter

Thanks for getting back to me so soon.

1. Re the crash site for the aircraft that nosed up to my Uncle Bill's house. I am unable to say exactly where that plane hit the ground. However it hit first on the airfield itself, then skidded through the boundary fence before crossing Beatty Road and ending up against the house. I'd say, at a guess, that the first impact point would have been west, north-west or south-west of the house - but definitely on the airfield itself. The crash site shown on the photograph (site of a Ventura crash) was not part of the airfield at that time.

2. Concerning the aircraft that crashed on our property.

My sister and I are probably the only two who can recall anything on this one. You will need a map.

I've always believed that the aircraft was a C47 Dakota but I could be wrong there. Anyway it had the capability of carrying at least eighteen people and possibly up to twenty-three. After further thought, I'm certain that it was a US military aircraft and, because of the large loss of life, the crash was probably "hushed up".

Our property was directly south of the aerodrome and was bordered by Oxley Creek on the north and Bowhill Road on the south and extended for about a half mile from the southern end of Beatty Road towards the Blunder Creek.

I was six at the time so the crash must have been in late 1942 or early 1943.

The plane struck a large gum tree which was situated about ten metres inside our fence line (on Bowhill Road) and about 100 metres west of the junction of Bowhill Road and Sherbrook Road. The crash site was in dense bushland about 200 metres to the west of that point and about 100m from the road (ie. between Oxley Creek and Bowhill Road). I can remember visiting the site a couple of days after the crash (it was under guard until then) and I can still remember the distinctive smell of the burnt out aircraft.

There were rumours later that the death toll was as high as twenty-three but I think the correct figure is closer to eighteen.

The tree was still there a few years ago but I haven't been back to look for it for quite some time. I live in Canberra now.

My sister ( Mrs Jennifer Hicks ) still lives on part of the property but the actual crash site has been sold for many years and is now a sand pit and junk yard.

I hope this helps,


Peter Freney



Subject:    Sattler Airfield
Date:             Fri, 31 Dec 1999 09:22:46 -0800
From:           "Peter Freney" <>

Dear Peter,

I'm fairly certain that Sattler was the emergency field for Darwin. It was situated next to the Stuart Highway some miles south of Darwin and north of Batchelor airfield.

I arrived back from Casino, where my eldest son lives, yesterday and I've read with interest the info you have been able to find on the Archerfield crash. I'll try to get on to the archives documents next week. I think you are right about the 20th victim. He was probably one of the crew members. As you would be aware the Dakota usually carried three crew members - two pilots and a navigator - so the three 36 Squadron (sergeants/officers) would have been the crew.

I'm going through your various sites and I'm finding them quite interesting. I see you live at Runcorn. Originally I trained as a teacher and my first appointment was to Runcorn Primary - way back in 1955.


Peter Freney



Subject:   Crash at Archerfield
Date:           Fri, 14 Jan 2000 15:02:46 -0800
From:          "Peter Freney"

Dear Peter,

I've only been back a couple of days and I've just received this e-mail from you.

I'm sorry that we didn't get a chance to meet during my day in Brisbane. I'll make a point of doing so when I get up there next. I hope your finger is healing. dangerous things those Stanley knives.

Today I visited the National Archives and read the files on the Archerfield crash. The story is as follows:

From the Accident Report:

"On Saturday 27th March 1943 at approximately 0512 hours Douglas DC3 (C47) No A30-16 of 36 Squadron, Townsville, (your uncle's squadron ) was involved in a fatal accident at Archerield. The crew of four were killed as were all passengers consisting of 19 Australian and American personnel.

The aircraft had overnighted at Archerfield and had just taken off enroute to Mascot to pick up urgently needed supplies for radar equipment in the Townsville area.

The aircraft crashed in thickly wooded country about 1 mile south of the southern boundary of the airdrome. The aircraft struck some trees about 100 yards north of the actual crash site.

At the time it struck the trees it was flying on its side - port wing down - slightly over the vertical position and nose down at a fairly steep angle, apparently the result of a stall at low altitude.

The aircraft exploded on impact and spread itself over an area of 200 X 100 yards.

All on board were killed on impact and most of the bodies were incinerated beyond recognition.

The pilot was Flying Officer A D K Arnold."

There was considerable speculation as to the cause of the accident. Some accounts say it was caused by the loss of an engine shortly after takeoff. Takeoff time is shown as 0511 (the flight only lasted a couple of minutes)

Another account blames pilot error due to a rising fog at the time.

Also there is conflicting evidence as to how many were on board. 17 passengers were manifested and two WAAAF girls (Jackson and Gunning) hitched a ride from Archerfield but this was against the direction of the Archerfield Air Movements people. Apparently they talked the pilot into taking them along.

Twenty-one Australian bodies were given Death Certificates. The Americans, who were first on the scene claimed two other bodies as American Servicemen. The total is probably 23 as you thought. However the Court of Inquiry could not determine the exact number due to the state of the corpses. Only one person could be properly identified.





Subject:   More on C47 Crash at Archerfield
Date:           Sat, 15 Jan 2000 18:24:22 -0800
From:           "Peter Freney" <>

Hi Peter,

Following are extracts from the letter written by the Secretary, Department of Air ( I assume that was the department's name at that time ) to the Minister for Air re the crash. He summarized the findings of the Court of Inquiry as follows:

1. The aircraft crashed a few minutes after take-off.

2. The cause of the accident was error of judgement and poor technique on the part of the pilot.

3. Twenty-one RAAF lives were lost- identification of the occupants ( except in one case ) was impossible.

4. All occupants had authorised passages, the two WAAAFs (Corporal Gunning and ACW Jackson) being authorised by the pilot (Flg Off Arnold ) to undertake the trip.

5. The aircraft was not overloaded, its load being under the maximum permissible take-off weight.

6. Aircraft and engines are a complete write-off.

7. Aircraft, engines and instruments were all serviceable at time of take-off.

8. The pilot had met reports.

9. Flg Off Arnold had completed 107 hours dual as 2nd pilot in C47 aircraft and 14 hours as 1st pilot and captain.

Air Commodore J.H. Summers CBE (who was president of the Court of Inquiry) gave the following account which was included in the letter to the Minister:

The aircraft took off at 0511 hours with headlights on, this indicating that the pilot was flying visually - not on instruments. Shortly after take-off the aircraft entered fog before the pilot had time to trim the machine and set his engines. After entering the fog the machine got its left wing down or the pilot initiated a left hand turn. In either case the turn developed and the bank increased to such an extent that the aircraft began to lose height. No action was taken by him to correct the turn or bank. The bank increased whilst losing height until the port wing struck a tree. Evidence and examination of the area where the crash occurred show that the aircraft crashed through timber with the wings perpendicular to the ground and struck the ground in that position.

This was dated 24 Apr 43

The RAAF members killed were as shown on your earlier e-mail and included the one extra person you mentioned as appearing separately. Also on board were a J.C.Smith AMF, and J. Hammond RAAF. Two American servicemen were on board too but their names were not mentioned in the Court of Enquiry documents.

Casualties were 21 Australian servicemen/women and two Americans servicemen - totalling 23.

I will fax you a sketch of the path of the flight, from take-off to crash, which I took from the documents.





Subject:   C-47 Crash near Archerfield
Date:           Sun, 21 May 2000 08:55:44 +1000
From:          "Peter Freney" <>

Hi Peter,

I read your new entry on the crash with interest. So I was wrong when I thought that the crash was "hushed-up". We had heard no more about it but, on reflection, we didn't receive a newspaper very often and we had no radio in the house at that time. ( So much for the "good old days" ).

Keep up the good work. I'm now a regular reader of your research articles.





I'd like to thank Lesley Bennetts whose aunty, Cpl Ruth Ada Hills, was killed in this tragic accident. Lesley, and her mother Audrey and Lesley's other aunty Lorraine are hoping to visit the memorial at Archerfield. They were unaware of its existence until they found this web page. They also intend to visit Ada's grave at the Lutwyche Cemetery. Audrey and the rest of the family had never been told by the Authorities the cause of of her sister's death.  The family never received any medals, or certificates after her death.  It was always as if noone ever wanted to discuss the crash.

I'd also like to thank Gordon Birkett for his assistance with this web page.

I'd also like to thanks Kevin Flanagan, nephew of LAC Kevin Francis Flanagan, for his assistance with this web page.

I'd also like to thank Michael La Vean, Historian with the 43rd Bomb Group Association, for his 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 19 December 1999

This page last updated 02 February 2020