CRASH OF 2 AVRO ANSONS
INTO THE MURRAY RIVER NEAR MONTEITH, SA
ON 4 AUGUST 1942

 

Eight personnel from 6 Service Flying Training School RAAF based at Mallala were all killed on the 4 August 1942 when their Avro Ansons (R3542 and W2165) collided and crashed into the Murray River near Monteith in South Australia.

Scott McCulloch was the first person to get to the crash site of the plane which crashed into the willows about 1.5 kms from where Scott and the pump station operator were standing out in the front of Scott's dairy. They saw the two planes clip their wings and then crash. The second Avro Anson crashed into the river downstream, possibly 5 to 7 kms away.

Scott McCulloch, who passed away in 2003, told his son Geoff McCulloch that he went to the first crash scene as quickly as he could in a horse and cart. He made his way to the aircraft which was just under the water. He reached into the Avro Anson wreckage and lifted one of the crew by his red hair. The man was already dead and had a broken jaw and other injuries to his lower head.

Scott McCulloch always said he felt the crew where either killed on impact or drowned, before he got there. Scott said he was duck shooting a short time after the incident and by that time the water level in the river had dropped and he saw a piece of one of the wings some distance down stream in the willows. He went to have a look and he found a piece of bakelite, some sort of early plastic (black) which he believed was a landing light. Geoff McCulloch still has that light in his possession but plans to donate it to Bob Jarret at the Parafield Air Force Museum. The propeller from one of the two aircraft was salvaged by a scuba diver Peter Koch in Murray Bridge.

 


 

The following story by Eric Jamieson provides more detail on this tragic accident.

 

Anson's crash into River Murray
By Eric Jamieson

Following on from the considerable interest shown in my last article on the crash of the aircraft into Lake Albert on 3 June 1942, I turned my attention to another item which has puzzled me for some time. This was the supposed crash of two aircraft into the River Murray at Monteith on 4 August 1942. This crash was unique because it involved two aircraft not a common occurrence.

How the investigation was done.

After speaking with Mr D John Boundy, he initiated investigations by speaking to a person he knew at Monteith. Subsequently, John gave me the name of Garry Attrill of Monteith as a starting point. Garry said I should speak with his father George, aged 90 years. George said he was not at Monteith at the time and suggested I speak with Mr Scott McCulloch of Murray Bridge, whose original property at Monteith was adjacent to the crash site.

Mr McCulloch said: “Three aircraft were flying in formation and carrying out daytime training exer­cises. I remarked that there didn't seem much separation between them, in fact, they appeared to be dangerously close. Soon after there was a loud bang and debris rained down into the river when two aircraft collided, tearing half a wing from one and the tail section off another. The third aircraft had no choice but to continue on to its base at Mallala

“The one with half a wing immediately crashed into the water and the willows at the edge of the river, the other continuing on for a short distance (towards Westbrook) before crashing into the middle of the river in about 90 feet of water. I was the first on the scene and from the scattered wreckage of the former aircraft I was able to haul out two of the crew, but they had either been killed or drowned.

“Subsequently, the remaining two were found, but from the other aircraft, as far as I know, only two bodies were recovered when they were found closer to Westbrook than the crash site. Various pieces of the aircraft were dragged from the river including two engines.

“To observe two aircraft in a mid‑air collision gives you a sickening feeling, as you know people are involved and you cannot do anything to help them.”

The two Anson aircraft were numbered W2165 and R3542.

 A report of the crash appeared in The Murray Valley Standard on Friday 7 August 1942 and is quoted with permission:

Planes crash in river at Monteith.

Eight airmen killed.

Murray Bridge residents were shocked on Tuesday of this week when news reached the town of an aircraft collision in midair at Monteith Two training planes were involved in the accidents and eight RAAF members were killed. The aircraft were flying in formation when the crash occurred.

Immediate action was taken by the local police and a milk boat with engineer and personnel who may have been of service, were immediately dispatched to the scene of the fatality.

The names of the airmen killed are:-

 2366 Flying Officer Lawrence Vivian Wotzko, 31, married, West Footscray, Victoria

 413187 Sgt Gordon Cooper, 27, married, Mudgee, NSW.

 406625 Sgt Hugh Godfrey Phillips, 30, single, Jolimont, WA. [Correct age, 20.]

 413018 Sgt Mervyn John Nicholls, 24, single, Weston, NSW. [Correct surname is Nichols.]

 420056 LAC James Brignall Richardson, 28, sin­gle, Newcastle, NSW.

 409484 LAC Colin McCall Say, 25, married, Benalla, Victoria

 416929 LAC Leslie Cadd, 28, single, Port Vincent, SA

 416956 LAC Norman Dudley Haines, 25, married, Waikerie, SA.

 [Corrections and regimental numbers have been added to the original information by the author of this article.]

FO Wotzko who was a flying instructor, was the son of Mr and Mrs F Wotzko, of Howard Road, Beverley, South Australia. He leaves a widow, formerly Miss Mavis Hill and young daughter.

LAC Cadd, who was bom at Kensington Park, SA was a dental mechanic before joining the Air Force last November.

LAC Haines, who lived at Waikerie before his enlistment in November 1941, had been a farm hand.

All the airmen were based at No. 6 Service Flying Training School at Mallala. Due to various crashes, in all 20 airmen from Mallala lost their lives between 3 June and 4 August 1942.

 


 

The following file on this accident is held by the National Archives of Australia:-

Title:   Report on accident to Ansons R3542 and W2165 at Monteith (Murray River) on 4 February 1942
 Series number  A705
Control symbol  32/12/308
Contents date range 1942 - 1942
Access status:  Open
Location:  National Office
Barcode no:  1093884 
 

 

The following information is from the Commonwealth War Graves home page:-

In Memory of

LAWRENCE VIVIAN WOTZKO

Flying Officer
2366
Royal Australian Air Force
who died on
Tuesday, 4th August 1942. Age 31.

Son of Francis and Phoebe Ada Lillian Wotzko; husband of Mavis Rosevere Wotzko, of Unley, South Australia.

Memorial: SYDNEY MEMORIAL, New South Wales, Australia
Grave Reference/Panel Number: Panel 5.

 

In Memory of

NORMAN DUDLEY HAINES

Leading Aircraftman
416956
Royal Australian Air Force
who died on
Tuesday, 4th August 1942. Age 25.

Son of William Walter and Anna Maria Haines; husband of Jessie Mildred Haines, of Swan Reach, South Australia.

Memorial: SYDNEY MEMORIAL, New South Wales, Australia
Grave Reference/Panel Number: Panel 7.

 

In Memory of

LESLIE CADD

Leading Aircraftman
416929
Royal Australian Air Force
who died on
Tuesday, 4th August 1942. Age 18.

Son of Joseph Frederick and Kathleen Juliana Cadd, of Port Vincent. Main East Drive.


Cemetery:   MURRAY BRIDGE CEMETERY, South Australia, Australia
Grave Reference/Panel Number: Grave 350B.

 

In Memory of

GORDON COOPER

Sergeant
413187
Royal Australian Air Force
who died on
Tuesday, 4th August 1942. Age 27.

Son of Mark and Harriet Eliza Cooper; husband of Olive May Cooper, of Mudgee, New South Wales. Main East Drive.

Cemetery:  MURRAY BRIDGE CEMETERY, South Australia, Australia
Grave Reference/Panel Number: Grave 349.

 

In Memory of

MERVYN JOHN NICHOLS

Sergeant
413018
Royal Australian Air Force
who died on
Tuesday, 4th August 1942. Age 24.

Son of Samuel and Edith Florence Nichols, of Weston. C. of

Cemetery: SOUTH MAITLAND (KURRI KURRI) CEMETERY, New South Wales, Australia
Grave Reference/Panel Number: E. Plot. Sec. 59. Grave 25.

 

In Memory of

HUGH GODFREY PHILLIPS

Sergeant
406625
Royal Australian Air Force
who died on
Tuesday, 4th August 1942. Age 20.

Son of Horace and Nellie Dorothy Phillips, of Jolimont, Western Australia.
(Cremated, South Australian Government Crematorium.)

 

In Memory of

JAMES BRIGNALL RICHARDSON

Leading Aircraftman
420056
Royal Australian Air Force
who died on
Tuesday, 4th August 1942. Age 28.

Son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Richardson, of Glasgow, Scotland.

Cemetery: MALLALA WAR CEMETERY, South Australia, Australia
Grave Reference/Panel Number: Plot B. Row D. Grave 9.

 

In Memory of

COLIN MCCALL SAY

Leading Aircraftman
409484
Royal Australian Air Force
who died on
Tuesday, 4th August 1942. Age 23.

Son of William McCall Say and Irene Evelyn Say; husband of Barbara Haxton Say, of Rochester, Victoria.

Cemetery: MALLALA WAR CEMETERY, South Australia, Australia
Grave Reference/Panel Number: Plot B. Row D. Grave 10.

 


 

Greg Bond (Wotzko) is the nephew of Laurie Wotzko, a flight instructor, who was killed along with eight others during a training flight. He is interested in any more information on this tragic accident.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Darren Crick and Geoff McCulloch for their assistance with this web page.

 

REFERENCES

Murray Valley Standard Special Publication 1900 to 2000, page 20

 

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 26 July 2000

This page last updated 31 August 2015