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RAAF Wirraway A20-125 of 25 Squadron crashed into the sea 2 miles south west of South Mole, Fremantle at 2035 hours on 19 February 1941 killing the pilot 19 year old Flying Officer Ronald James Sykes (908) and 24 year old Pilot Officer Charles Vernon Anderson (1875).

The Wirraway was taking part in a co-operation exercise with coastal defences at night. The Royal Australian Navy assisted with the search for the wreckage and the missing airmen. The wreckage was found in 20 feet of water by a fishing boat called "Sydney".

Charles Vernon Anderson from Narrogin, WA was buried at Perth (Karrakatta) General Cemetery, Presbyterian Plot, Row IA, Grave 438. Charles Anderson had been a member of St. George's College from 1936 to 1941.

Ronald James Sykes from Moonee Ponds, Victoria was buried at the Perth War Cemetery, O.B.4.


Charles Vernon Anderson



Transcript from The West Australian newspaper

Thursday 20 February 1941, page 7




 With a crash which was distinctly audible to a large crowd spending the hot night on South Beach, a Royal Australian Air Force plane crashed into the sea off Fremantle at 8.35 o’clock last night.  Naval launches quickly put out to begin a search, which was intensified by the arrival of an Air Force plane from which flares were dropped.  The search was still being continued at an early hour this morning.

 The plane as working in co-operation with an anti-aircraft searchlight unit in routine training.  It had made several circuits within the radius of the beam when it appeared to bank and then crashed into the sea.  A large crowd had been watching the work of the two units and they waited breathless as the plane dropped.  Then, out of the beam of the searchlight, they lost sight of it, but a few seconds later a muffled explosion reached their ears.

 There was a divergence of opinion among witnesses as to how the motor was running just prior to the crash.  One witness said that it was the sound of the motor missing which first made him watch it, but another stated that the motor was running perfectly.

 Within a few minutes of the crash naval cutters put out from Fremantle to begin searching for the wrecked machine, and they were assisted in their task by the searchlight which had been co-operating with it.  This light constantly swept the sea in a radius around where the plane was last seen and it was assisted by units mounted elsewhere in Fremantle.  Shortly afterward an aeroplane appeared and it dropped several flares over the water in a vain attempt to locate possible wreckage.



Partial transcript from The West Australian


Friday 21 February 1941, page 10

 Pilot Officer Anderson joined the citizen air force as a cadet in October 1938.  He obtained his commission in the Royal Australian Air Force in September 1939.  Before he was acceped as a cadet, Pilot-Officer Anderson was an engineering student at The University of Western Australia.  He was placed on the reserve in November 1939, in order to complete his studies.  He returned to the active list in December last and was posted to Pearce for flying duties.


(Article also mentions it was a Wirraway, it left Pearce at 8pm, wreckage was found in 20ft of water by a fishing boat called Sydney).



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This page first produced 23 November 2007

This page last updated 10 September 2018