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On 27 December 1943, at 1115 hours, Fairey Battle L5789 of Air Gunnery School West Sale, piloted by Flight Sergeant Lindsay Pynor White (410771), was involved in some air to air gunnery drogue training. The aircraft was flying low along the Seaspray Beach section of Ninety Mile Beach with the target drogue attached when the drogue hit a fisherman's rod which was implanted in the sand. The drogue and lead weight became detached from the drogue cable. The Fairey Battle then proceeded along the beach some 400 yards with the cable snaking along the sand. The cable struck and injured a number of civilians on the beach at Seaspray. The Drogue operator on board the Fairey Battle was Sergeant Ronald Charles George Nicholas (437227).

Those civilians  injured on Seaspray Beach were as follows:-

Noreen Cullen and Hector Luxford were taken to Nicholls Cottage at Seaspray, waiting the completion of Blood Serum transfusion before their  transfer to the Gippsland District Hospital for further blood transfusions and admission.

Annette Plant and Doreen McFadyen were taken to Gippsland District Hospital and permitted to leave as outpatients. Percy Orchard and Mr. Rowland were treated at Seaspray and allowed to go home.

The Probable Cause of the accident was listed as "Disobedience of orders" on the "Preliminary Report (Internal) of Flying Accident or Forced Landing". The pilot approached to drop the drogue at a height of less than 500 feet, which was contrary to the Unit's Flying Orders.

Rex Vinicombe from South Australia contacted me on 11 March 2007. He was born in Sale in 1932 and witnessed some of the construction of BAGS at West Sale and OTU at East Sale. He told me that :-

"Fairey Battles from BAGS used to have gunnery practice along the 90 mile beach near Seaspray - and I remember how they often would 'straff' the beach before returning to base. The target was towed behind one plane and the other plane would shoot at it. One time the drogue plane, thinking the cable was wound in, straffed the beach and several people were injured by the cable whipping the sand behind the plane - a friend lost both legs and others were burnt by the cable. The pilot was court-martialed - and the town was in an uproar!"



Women Reflects on 74 years as a double amputee after accident involving RAAF plane took her legs, ABC News



I'd like to thank Arthur B. Palmer and Rex Vinicombe for their assistance with this web page.


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This page first produced 26 January 2018

This page last updated 04 February 2019