TWO P-400'S COLLIDE OVER REDCLIFFE
ON 2 JULY 1942
E-MAILS FROM VICTOR MISCAMPBELL

 

Two P-400's collide over Redcliffe on 2 July 1942

 

Subject:   P39's Collide over Redcliffe.
Date:           Sun, 2 Jan 2000 22:18:54 +1000
From:          "Victor Miscampbell" <pmhorwell@mpx.com.au>

Peter,

I was an eyewitness to this crash (2 July 1942) and can give you details but am not sure if the above is your correct Email. If so please confirm.

Victor

 

 

Subject:    Redcliffe crash P39
Date:             Sun, 2 Jan 2000 22:27:10 +1000
From:           "Victor Miscampbell" <pmhorwell@mpx.com.au>

Attached copy of email I tried to send by Netscape. Please advise if interested in full details.

Vic Miscampbell

 

Peter,

I have just read your report on this collision at Redcliffe and I was a very close eye witness to this. I was looking out the school window at the time and the fatal aircraft passed within about 150 yards of us. I could clearly see the pilot. He was out of his harness and thrown to the top of the cockpit. The P-39 struck the ground a second later. My grandfather lived only 100 yards from the crater and helped removed the remains. The door of the second P-39 was ejected & lodged in the roof of the school. I will write a detailed report if you want and give you details of our visit to the Yank runway at Strathpine (the grass one not the old car racetrack) where the Airacobras were stationed and of their firing range, now the Redcliffe aerodrome. Thanks for the great information and will contact you shortly and hope my recollections will be of use to future readers. I can also remember seeing the B-17 at Sandgate (18 April 1942) but can not give an more details than you have.

Regards,

Vic Miscampbell.

 

 

Subject:   Redcliffe crashP39
Date:           Mon, 3 Jan 2000 20:41:15 +1000
From:          "Victor Miscampbell" <pmhorwell@mpx.com.au>

Peter.

I was only 9 years old at the time and my brother, Don was 14 when we both witnessed this crash from different positions but both within 200 yards of impact. No, we have no photos as in those days few people did. Again I cannot confirm the date but both Don and I agree it was 2 or 3 months after the B-17 landing at Sandgate (18 Apr 42) which Don saw. We are at present uniting our views on the P-39 collision and I will email you full details in a day or two. I hope you find it of some interest.

Regards,

Vic Miscampbell.

 

 

Subject:   Redcliffe crashP39
Date:           Mon, 3 Jan 2000 23:30:18 +1000
From:          "Victor Miscampbell" <pmhorwell@mpx.com.au>

Peter,

Below is my details of P-39 crash at Redcliffe. HOPE IT MAY BE OF INTEREST.

Please send questions if you need more information. Please confirm receipt. Am sending on Outlook Express.

Regards,

Vic Miscampbell.

 

COLLISION OF TWO P-39 AIRACOBRAS AT REDCLIFFE 1942

My brother Don,14 years old, and myself, 9 years old in 1942, grew up at Redcliffe. Before, during and after World War 11 and because of the influx of US servicemen on the peninsular, we took extreme interest in their activities. The Yanks had taken over all the hotels for their Officers and every Friday night we went to the Scarborough Hotel which accommodated Air Force (or Army Air Force) Officers to look at movies and their collection of beautiful black aircraft ID models. Some of these models got into our possession and I only wish I still had some as they were of equal to the plastic scale models of today. I have no idea what they were made of, but did have an unusual odour.

Naturally we were all mad about aircraft and collected anything we could find about them. Ammunition was always a favourite and we had quite a collection of belts of .303" and .5" and even the cannon shell and bullet (less explosive) from the nose cannon of the P-39. Most of this was collected from the Air Force firing range which was on a mud flat situated between where the Redcliffe Aerodrome now is and Newport Waters to the west of Redcliffe. The Yanks had put a couple of 44 gal. drums in the centre and we would dig around for the bullets and collect the shells and clips. Once Don and his mate Billy Marsh got caught out there when the P-39’s came over and although they would have been seen, firing continued. Probably just to scare them away.

Each weekend, the older boys and sometimes me, would ride our bikes to Petrie and visit the Australian P-39 field at Lawnton. This grass field lying east/west on the bank of the North Pine River is still vacant land and the outline, now crossed by fences can still be seen. There were no buildings except a dilapidated wooden farm house which was the Squadron Headquarters. The runway was only short and the pilots preferred taking off to the west as the ground fell away to the river flats at that end. I only saw Australian Airacobras there, a Tiger Moth and occasionally a Kittyhawk. The RAAF would let you roam all over the place but when the Yanks took over, we were not so welcome. They always carried revolvers and treated us like foreigners until, after a while they became very friendly. The P-39’s were the first aircraft we had ever seen with nose wheels and we would climb on the rear fuselage and jump up and down to get the nose wheel off the ground. This airstrip always appeared to be the main operational one and it was not for a year or so that the south/north runway at Strathpine was opened. This later became the Strathpine Motor Racing circuit. I never knew of the runaway behind Bald Hills but Don did and thinks it may have been an emergency strip only. Boomerangs, Spitfires and Kittyhawks were the only fighters I ever saw at Strathpine.

As to the collision of the P-39' over Redcliffe, I cannot recall the date but it occurred about 11 o'clock in the morning. I was at Scarborough State School and Don was at home "sick" in Shields St., Redcliffe at the time. As usual we could hear the aircraft at the firing range which was about 3 to 4 miles west of the school. This was almost a daily occurrence and every now and then we could see the aircraft on their run-in. We heard the sound of the collision and as we were on war alert at this time, our teacher, Miss Walker (a character to say the least) told us all to get under the desks. Of course we all rushed to the windows which in this room faced south. Seconds later I saw one P-39 flash pass about 200 yards out. 100 yards high and at a descending angle of about 30 degrees. The plane was rolling and a large hole was in the front port side where the engine would be on a conventional aircraft, about 3 ft, from the spinner where I knew the canon magazine and .5 ‘s were. Shells were falling out. The door (Airacobra’s had a door like a car instead of a sliding canopy, which could be jettisoned with explosive charge in emergency) was off and the pilot had been thrown to the top of the canopy by the forces. He was moving so may have been conscious. Seconds later the aircraft crossed Oxley Av. and crashed about 300 yards away in Rossiter's farm, missing all houses nearby.

The explosion, ball of fire and smoke we all over within minutes. I still remember how fast the fire burnt out. The doomed aircraft would have been travelling in an East/South East direction. At the same time we heard a loud clatter in the roof of the adjoining classroom and we later found out that the canopy door from one of the Airacobras, on being released, had fallen on the school roof and lodged in the ceiling. I have no idea which aircraft it came from. It could have been thrown from the rolling aircraft just before I saw it, but more likely from the aircraft which crashed into the sea. Both Australian and US servicemen were quickly on the scene and we were not let out off the room until late in the afternoon after the grounds had been searched and cleared of any debris and ammunition. All afternoon another US Airacobra came screaming over the crash site at house top height, from south to north. Why? no idea.

Don heard the collision from our home and he would have been about the same distance away but exactly on the other side. He rushed outside and saw the final seconds of the fatal plane, coming from a north west direction. Just before impact he believes he saw the pilot leave but whatever it may have been, it followed the same path as the aircraft. He did not go to the crash site that day but my grandfather, Joe Russell who lived closer still to the site, did and said the pilot’s remains were entangled in an overhead irrigation system on Rossiter's property. So he may have exited but much too late. I saw the crater the next day and souvenired some aluminium which I subsequently cut up. Charlie Rossiter late dug up the propeller and had it in his possession some time later. Maybe his sons, Eric or Charlie may know of its whereabouts.

Don saw the other aircraft diving to the north of the school in an easterly direction, climb a little and then go over the beach where the pilot parachuted out. He was very low and the chute was not fully opened when he lost sight of it behind houses and trees. The fisherman would pulled the pilot from the sea was Larry O’Keefe who owned the Jetty Newsagency at Redcliffe for many years. Later in the afternoon Larry found the nose wheel assembly floating near the Redcliffe pier. Where is it now?

This wreck was never recovered from the bay and over the years I saw pieces of it on the bottom. It lies about 300 to 500 yards directly out from Sylvester St. entry to the beach. The water would be less than 20 ft. deep. Prawners are operating further out and I have heard no reports of them snagging anything, so it must still be there, closer in than where they net.

It was so fascinating to finally get names to the pilots concerned in this crash and end a chapter in such a way.

 

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