RAAF Buffalo A51-5 crashed on Mowanjum Mission near Derby in Western Australia on 25 September 1942. The wreckage of this aircraft was recovered by Stan Gajda in about 1980/81.

This aircraft was one of 17 Buffalos that were transferred to the RAAF in 1942. They had earlier been part of the Netherlands East Indies Air Force (NEIAF). With the fall of Singapore twenty Model 439D's and one 339D were sent to Australia in March 1942. They initially were transferred to the USAAC. They still had their Dutch serial numbers and their original US "NX" test numbers. Once they arrived in Australia, most of them were allocated temporary numbers.

Seventeen of these aircraft were transferred to the RAAF and became A51-1 through to A51-17. The first six were sent in crates to Essendon near Melbourne where they were assembled at the Ansett Airways hangar. Cameras were installed and the aircraft were allocated to the newly formed PRU at Laverton, in Victoria in June 1942. The rest of the Buffalos were moved to the PRU at Darwin where they became operational in August 1942.

Stan Gajda first found evidence of this crash site when he was on his way to Kalumburu in 1977 and stopped at the abandoned Mowanjum Mission on which the Buffalo crashed. He found the tail wreckage accidentally when they were doing a foot search of the bush near the mission.  The tail was found on a scrub-covered ridge which run out onto the flats like fingers. The tail wreckage was about 1/2 a mile away from where he later found the main wreckage. Stan Gajda later recovered the wreckage of Buffalo A51-5 in 1980/81.

In 1980 Stan Gajda flew to the area with John Hardie in a Cessna, They were looking for a B-24 Liberator crash site when the found the Buffalo's wing and the impact site. From there they drove out and found the wreckage. They camped near the wreck that night. Stan did not find out the airplane type until after he recovered the remains of the wreck. Geoff Goodall told him that the lettering found on the leading edge of the wing B3-174 was an Netherlands East Indies Air Force (NEI-AF) Buffalo number series.


Photo:- Stan Gajda 1977

Tail wreckage which was first found on a ridge in 1977 by Stan Gajda


Photo:- Stan Gajda 24 April 1980

On the mud flats from the air on 24 April 1980


Photo:- Stan Gajda 25 April 1980

The aircraft serial number B3-174 on the wing leading edge could
still be seen when the wreckage was still on the dry mud-flats


Photo:- Stan Gajda 25 April 1980

Wing tip that detached when recovering and the tail section and other bits and pieces.


Photo:- Stan Gajda 25 April 1980

Another view of the same wingtip


Photo:- Stan Gajda

John Hardie with the hat, with the pilot of the Cessna, name unknown


Photo:- Stan Gajda 1981

Right wing up against Stan Gajda's house


Photo:- Stan Gajda 1981

Close-up of the Dutch marking. Stan Gajda wet the wing to highlight the marking



I'd like to thank Stan Gajda for his assistance with this web page.


Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?


"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products

I need your help


 Peter Dunn 2015


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any information or photographs

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This page first produced 12 March 2000

This page last updated 03 February 2020