ADF Serials Newsletter

For those interested in Australian Military Aircraft History and Serials



April 2004


In this Issue:


·        Editors Blurb.

·        Comments from the readers.

·        Books, from Col King and the AWM. (Jan Herivel)

·        ADF-NAVY Eamil group. (Dave Masterson)

·        P-40 Operations in Australia – Part VIII. (Gordon Birkett)

·        Fairey Gordon NZ629. (Charles Darby)

·        On this Day. (Jan Herivel)



Editor’s blurb 


First of all I must apologise for the late release of this issue, the good news is hopefully you will get two issues in a short period of time. <grin>


We have a fair bit in this issue, lots of regulars and a couple of new contributors which is always welcome. We cannot put this together without your support and input. Our thanks to Charles Darby for allowing us to use his Fairey Gordon article, I believe it is our first on an NZ aircraft?


I need to mention the work of Martin Edwards, he has been able to compile all our known information for the CAC Canberra website and produce the current page. Thanks Martin you have done a great job and I’m sure it will continue!




Comments/Questions from website visitors and newsletter readers.




Dave Masterson and Bob Geale have identified Darren Crick’s image of  a Sea Venom out the back of Australia’s Museum of Flight at Nowra, it is WZ935.


NOMAD A18-300


Likewise we have had some feedback that the image of the nomad in the March issue marked as A18-300 is A18-002 and VH-SUR. This information has come to us via Len Avery, Ron Cuskelly and Clive Lynch. We are not sure at this stage if it ever did wear A18-300.


SABRE A94-351


Bob Alford has provided the following for us;
I was interested in the article seeking information on the death of FlgOff Malcolm Chick in CA-27 A94-351 - I was an Armourer with 2(F) OCU at the time and it was a late afternoon air-to-air gunnery detail of four 'Swords' with Chick flying the banner tug aircraft. The element of four landed OK and we were at the end of the strip unplugging the Aden 30mm cannon when Chick flew over and dropped the banner. Apparently the wind changed and the tower altered the landing direction - for some reason Chick, instead of doing a complete circuit, decided to do a sharp turn back to the active runway - he sideslipped in and hit the ground across the base road and close to the Nelson Bay Road. I remember the element leader, FltLt Roger Phillips watching and beating his head (fortunately with helmet on) on the windscreen frame. Chick was dead when the rescue team got to the site and I was part of the Honour Guard at his funeral at I think Raymond Terrace. Malcolm Chick was a very tall man and we couldn't quite figure out how he got into an aircraft - he was able to put one foot on the Sabre wing and then he'd be standing on it! He was a popular part of the 2 (F)OCU team and was missed by all. That is one accident I won't forget of a number I saw.





And Jonathan Muir; We Received delivery 1 x 1200 HP Wright Cyclone engine complete with 3 bladed propeller recovered West coast of the North Island (New Zealand) 48 hours ago by Nelson based Fishing vessel "Seawyfe" owned by Guards Fisheries Ltd. Wigram Air Museum - Christchurch advised. Thanks to your website within two hours of receipt of wreckage, I was able to narrow the particular wreckage down to it possibly being part of a Hudson Bomber S/N: NZ2034 believed to have crashed at sea off the West Coast of the North Island in 1943. RNZAF & Airforce Museum Researcher Jane Proven are investigating. Initial news release will be made by Nelson Evening Mail 01.05.2004.


And from Bill McMahon of Adelaide SA;

Congratulations on a brilliant and complex site. I will add a link to your site on mine.



Got an idea or some feedback for us?


Then go to our Feedback page and fill out the form and send us your thoughts!






The Australian Bomber from the AWM;


Two original booklets “The Beaufort Bomber” and “List of War Fatalities in RAAF Beaufort Operational Squadrons and Support Units” (produced for the unveiling of the Beaufort last year in Canberra) are being combined into one title with this reprint.  Chris Goddard, Curator of Military History at the AWM, would like any memories of stories that you may wish to share regarding war time service, and is interested in hearing from Beaufort veterans in particular.


Col King;


Col King who is part of the Qld Beaufort Restoration Group is releasing a book on Beauforts in July this year.  Some info on it:


The narrative embraces the hazards in training aircrews, and the development of the Beaufort torpedo and general reconnaissance bomber, at a time when a Japanese invasion seemed imminent.


By using the participants own words to describe the events, the author vividly brings to life the bravery of the aviators and the dedication and skill of the ground crews in fighting a stubborn brutal enemy in the treacherous tropical conditions of the South West Pacific during the second World War.


Ten years of research has unearthed some amazing stories, photos and facts in this 320 page volume of historical record.


The foreward has been written by Chief of Air Force, AM Angus Houston, AO, AFC.


Cost of publication $25 plus $10 postage and handling within Australia.


For further information please contact Col King:


Colin King

102/998 Samford Rd

Keperra    Q  4054




ADF-NAVY Email Research Group


Our third email research group is under the control of Dave Masterson, here is a small introduction to the group.


I live on the South Coast of NSW.I have as far back as I can remember had an avid interest in Naval aircraft, particularly RAN aircraft. I have with the grateful assistance of LCDR Bob (Windy) Geale at Australia's Museum of Flight been able to update the Wessex, Gannet, Sycamore and Seaking page on the Adf-Serials site.


I am now  doing the role of co-ordinator of the navy email group. This site is for the discussion and exchange of information on modern Australian naval aircraft. For those of you that are interested in these aircraft can you E mail any information in relation to;


- Incidents-accidents-forced landings 

- Updates-mechanical-change to colour schemes etc

- Only information that can be confirmed/correlated will be submitted to the website.

- Please don't forward anything of operational significance to the site as it won't be published.





P40E/E-1 Operations in Australia Part VIII –76 & 75 (F) Sqns to war RAAF Ver4


With the momentum building up with the forming of 75 (F) Sqn to provide fighters for Port Moresby, the dire need to form a second squadron for the defence of Townsville was being frustrated by the accident attrition rate. Out of the original twenty-five Kittyhawks, four airframes had been either lost or badly damaged by the conclusion of the first week of RAAF operations.


Another 75 Sqn Kittyhawk, A29-13, was to be damaged on the 18th March 1942 when Sgt D.S. Brown had a landing accident at Townsville. The aircraft was badly damaged and sent to 5AD at Wagga for repairs, where it would re-emerge in late May 1942 and be re-issued to 75Sqn on its return to Australia.


76 (F) Sqn Formed

Due to the priorities of P-40E aircraft allocations to 75 Sqn, 76 Sqn rarely had more than 8 aircraft operational for the first month of operations, rising to twelve aircraft by the beginning of May. This was well below the standard strength of sixteen immediately available aircraft and eight immediate reserves, which was the RAAF fighter squadron establishment at that time.  Surprisingly, the squadron did not reach its full strength until June 1942, with twenty-four aircraft and thirty-eight pilots.


On their initial forming on 14 March 1942, 76 Sqn, under the temporary command of Sqn Ldr Hampshire, began operations from Archerfield, Brisbane. Hampshire was replaced on 25 March 1942 by Sqn Ldr Peter Turnbull who had been previously involved in the initial ferrying of 75 Sqn Kittyhawks to Townsville.


Due to the situation at Port Moresby by late March and early April 1942, several Kittyhawk allocations were cancelled and sent north to 75 Sqn as attrition replacements before they got to 76 Sqn. Nevertheless, aircraft were eventually allocated.


Sixteen aircraft were initially allocated, Kittyhawks A29-26*, 27*, 28*, 29*, 30*, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 39, 40, 42, and 44. * Ex-2EFTS of the Amberley based P-40E Training Unit.


Some of the initial pilots for 76Sqn were:


Sqr Ldr Hampshire,

F/Lt A.H. Boyd

P/O G.L. Cory Ser#404387

F/O E.J. Johnston Ser#754

F/O P. Scandrett Ser#A3403

P/O C.R. Shepherd Ser#411197

Sgt H.G. West Ser#411561

P/O W.A. Whetters


Prior to entering RAAF service, A29-39, then 41-5533 (V1710-39 Eng#41-36239) with the 13thPS(Prov) USAAF, was damaged on landing at Williamtown on 10 February 1942 whilst piloted by 2nd Lt Wade Holman. The aircraft was on its way to the USS Langley at Fremantle, Western Australia for loading. It suffered extensive wing, undercarriage and airscrew damage.


Another 76Sqn Kittyhawk, A29-33, had a USAAF history.  Marked as 41-5518 (V1710-39 Eng#41-36062) and piloted by Flying Officer Grant of 1AD, it had a forced landing at Laverton on the 20th March 1942, just two days before being transferred from the USAAF. Though no damaged was recorded, the cause was a broken control cable to the elevators. This was repaired and the aircraft was issued to 76 Sqn by 23 March 1942.


Some of these allocations stayed no longer than a week as seven were re-allocated to 75 Sqn to replace losses suffered at Port Moresby on 23 March 1942. These were A29-26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 and 32


On 27 March 1942, at around 5.15 PM, the first fatal training accident took place. Pilot Officer C.R. Shepherd in A29-42 (ex-41-5546 with V1710-39 Eng#41-36057) was performing aerial manoeuvres high above Ormeau, between Brisbane and the Gold Coast when he lost control and went into a dive. He did manage to extricate himself from the aircraft before it hit the ground, but was killed as his parachute failed to fully deploy.


More Kittyhawks, A29-68, 69, 70, 71, 74, 75, 77, 78 and 81, were added by the middle of April 1942.  A29-69’s (ex 41-5550 V1710-39 Eng#40-3040) stay with 76 Sqn was short lived as it too was sent north to 75 Sqn where it would be written off at Port Moresby on 5 May 1942.


There we’ll leave 76 Sqn, before their move to Weir Strip, Townsville, in May 1942.


75 Sqn move to Port Moresby


I could not do justice to the unit by writing an abbreviated operational story on 75 Sqn in PNG; therefore for this initial series of articles I will stick to the aircraft side only. Through this research, the long held belief that initially twenty-five P-40Es were sent to Port Moresby has been settled.  The fact is only seventeen arrived there on 21 March 1942, eight less than has been previously published.


With initial operational training completed 75 Sqn started its deployment to Port Moresby via Cooktown and Horn Island on 19 March 1942 with a flight of two Kittyhawks piloted by Sqn Ldr P.D.Jeffrey DSO DFC and F/O B.M.Cox. They were delayed at Cairns for the night due to weather and continued on to Cooktown the following morning.


At Cooktown the follow-on flight of fourteen, under command of Sqr Ldr John F. Jackson (appointed the day before to command 75 Sqn) landed and met up on 20 March 1942.  A 32 Sqn Hudson (for navigation and radio communication relay) was attached to the flight to escort them to Port Moresby from Townsville.


Two further Kittyhawks piloted by P/O R.K. O’Conner and Sgt V.J.Sims, delayed from taking off at Townsville due to mechanical trouble, joined the squadron later that day at Cooktown.

From there, all eighteen Kittyhawks and the Hudson flew on to Horn Island to refuel on 21 March 1942. One Kittyhawk, piloted by F/O K.W. Lloyd, had to return to Cooktown with engine trouble. The remaining seventeen landed safely at Horn Island. (This a/c eludes me, but percentage is high that it was A29-8)


From what records are available, the initial eighteen Kittyhawk serials of those deployed are identified as: A29-5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23 and 25.


From Horn Island an advance flight of four Kittyhawks left some two hours earlier than the main body to fly to Port Moresby under command of Sqn Ldr Jeffrey.


On arrival at Seven-Mile Strip, Port Moresby, these long awaited “Tomorrowhawks” came under fire from Army machine gunners; two Kittyhawks were damaged (A29-10 and A29-18). One of the bullets missed Sqn Ldr Jeffrey by a half an inch, passing between his head and headrest.

 After refuelling, a standing patrol was undertaken by the two undamaged Kittyhawks, piloted by F/O Cox and F/O F.L. Wackett (in A29-6), which resulted in aerial combat and the downing of the first 75 Sqn victory over Port Moresby, a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft.

The remaining flight of thirteen fighters arrived safely two hours after the first. The Kittyhawk of Sgt Bailey however, suffered a loss of power, which wasn’t resolved till he was down to about 50ft. Thus at the end of the ferry flight, squadron strength was down to only sixteen serviceable aircraft.  Repairs were being effected to A29-10 to return it to service the next day when the squadron was scheduled for a ten-aircraft air strike on Lae.


P/O John Le Gay Brereton, on take-off on 22 March, was forced to swerve his Kittyhawk (A29-17) off the runway to miss another aircraft, which resulted in damage to his aircraft. The remaining nine Kittyhawks took off for Lae, with four providing top cover while five attacked the strip and dispersed aircraft situated there. The top cover flight engaged the standing patrol of three Zeros and managed to shoot down two of them.


After leaving Lae, they soon realised that two Kittyhawks were missing, F/O F.L.Wackett (in A29-6) who would eventually return having ditched his Kittyhawk about eight miles off shore, and Flt Lt Bruce Horace Anderson Ser#260770 (in A29-16) who had also been lost and captured.  The Japanese executed Anderson later in 1942 at Rabaul.

A lone Kittyhawk (A29-20) piloted by F/O John Piper was dispatched to search for the missing pilots. On take-off he clipped a fuel drum, but continued on a vain two-hour search. On landing he found that one wheel would not come down. He subsequently landed on one main and did considerable damage to the airscrew and wing.


Sgt S.C. Havard crashed on take-off for a security patrol after experiencing control problems in the slipstream of Sgt William David Cowe Ser#401769. The aircraft (A29- 23) was heavily damaged.


Thus by the evening of 22 March 1942, the squadron was reduced to twelve serviceable Kittyhawks. Worst was to happen on the following day when the Japanese came to repay the squadron’s previous day’s raid on Lae.


To offset the attrition, three pilots were dispatched south by air to obtain replacement fighters. F/O M.D.Ellerton, Sgt D.S. Brown and F/O Tucker were selected.


Around 1.25pm on 23 March 1942, all available aircraft were ordered airborne to intercept an incoming raid made up of a reported nineteen bombers in two flights. On take-off, A29-22 swerved to miss a Hudson on the strip. This resulted in airscrew, undercarriage, radiator and mainplane damage. This information is off the A29 Card thus could be doubtful as the A50 History sheet has no record of such an incident. If anyone could elaborate, it would be highly appreciated.


Whilst this raid was in progress, four Zeros came in low and strafed the airfield causing two grounded Kittyhawks to burn out (A29-10 and A29-25), and wrote-off A29-23. No enemy aircraft were recorded as being shot down by the squadron, however the Army machine gunners shot down a Zero which crashed on Morris Hill with another seen trailing white smoke out to sea. The squadron strength was now at ten Kittyhawks.

On the morning of 24 March, F/O Piper took off to intercept a lone bomber, which he forced to jettison its bombs. He eventually shot it down four or five miles out in Hood Bay.

A29-7 “A” of Flt Les Jackson
(Ex-41-5363 Box#176)


Later that day, two Kittyhawks piloted by F/Lt Les Jackson (A29-7) and Sgt Bailey intercepted eighteen enemy aircraft and engaged head-on three enemy Zeros. This resulted in one probable Zero kill and bullet holes through the mainplane and gun wiring/electrical box of Jackson’s aircraft.




The hurried first replacement flights to Port Moresby


At Townsville, a further five Kittyhawks (A29- 26, 27, 28, 29 & 30) ferried under command of Flt Lt Boyd, awaited 76 Sqn.  Pilot’s Cox, Sims and Havard departed south to collect them. Accompanying them was Sqn Ldr Peter Jeffrey who was being released from 75 Sqn to take up the command of 76 Sqn.


On 25 March the first three Kittyhawk replacements left Townsville at 10.30am, piloted by F/O Cox (A29-28), Sgt Sims (A29-26) and Sgt Havard (A29-31). As with the first move, a 32 Sqn Hudson escorted them.

However fate would intervene with Sgt Sims delayed at Cooktown with a damaged rear tail wheel and with Sgt Havard (A29-31) performing an emergency landing on a beach eight miles north of Cooktown. F/O Cox took a boat to the site, flew the aircraft off and returned it to Cooktown. Sgt Havard returned to Cooktown by the boat.


Repairs to both damaged aircraft were proceeding by 26 March while F/O Cox returned to Townsville to re-organise the replacement flight to Port Moresby, pending the availability of the two stranded Kittyhawks at Cooktown.


Back at Moresby

On the same day at Port Moresby, F/O Wackett, missing following the Lae mission on 22 March, was reported safe at Bulolo by the PNGVR.


On the 26th  (though given in the A50 as the 27th), two Kittyhawks were patrolling over Seven-Mile Strip.  F/O J. (“Pop”) Woods (A29-15) and P/O R.K O’Conner (A29- 19) were intercepted by three Zeros at 20000ft.

In the melee that followed, O’Conner was last seen in a delayed parachute descent, some 3000ft below Woods, who was at 10000ft. Later Woods would recall seeing a fire that may have marked the impact site of O’Conner’s Kittyhawk.

Official records and Gordon Clarke’s research has shown, O’Conner is still listed as missing with his location of his aircraft being still a mystery to this day.


By the evening of this day the squadron was now down to nine serviceable aircraft.


A29-19 “J” of O’Conner 26/03/42.


On the 28th, all available Kittyhawks were scrambled to intercept Japanese bombers and their Zero escorts over Port Moresby. During the aerial battle, F/O Piper observed SGT Ronald S Bailey Ser#401770, flying A29-5, in a dive being pursued well astern by a Zero.

This last observation put Bailey some 20-30 miles north of Kekeni. When the remaining aircraft returned to Seven mile strip, Bailey was presumed missing.

 As events would prove, the severely wounded Sgt Bailey successfully evaded his pursuer and forced landed his Kittyhawk. Damaged from the combat and later forced landing would result in the aircraft being deemed as a write-off. The Form E/E 88 entry of the 5th April 1942 lists the damage, including the mention of holes in the portside sliding. Sgt Bailey had died and was still there. Approval to write-off was given on the 13th July 1942.

75Sqn Kittyhawk strength was now down to eight serviceable aircraft.




A29-5 “E” of SGT Ronald S Bailey, lost 28thMarch 1942.



On the way; the reinforcements


Back at Townsville, F/O Cox (A29-28) left with a formation of three Kittyhawks flown by P/O A.C.C. Davies (A29-27), Sqn Ldr Wright (A29-29) and Sgt D.B.Davies* (A29-30) and an escorting Hudson of 32 Sqn for Cairns and an overnight stay.

* Appears to have been borrowed back from 24Sqn for the ferry trip. Refer A29-4 crash


The following morning the flight took off for Cooktown (less A29-29 with minor trouble) where the pilots and their aircraft joined the other two stranded Kittyhawk pilots of the earlier stalled replacement flight.  On landing, Sgt Davies incurred damage to the tail wheel of his Kittyhawk (A29-30), which required the Hudson to return to Townsville to collect the necessary parts to effect repairs. It returned, accompanied by SqnLdr Wright from Cairns in A29-29, to Cooktown early in the afternoon.


On the 30th the flight of five Kittyhawks left for Horn Island. The missing aircraft, A29-31 with Sgt Havard, was left behind at Cooktown to be repaired and flown north in a few days.  At Horn Island the flight was held up for a short time to refuel and rectify engine problems of Sgt Sims’s Kittyhawk (A29-26) before proceeding.


Some hours later, F/O Cox led the five-aircraft flight into Seven-Mile Strip. Unfortunately, on landing, P/O Davies in A29-27 left the runway and encountered soft ground. This caused the aircraft to nose over completely and damage the airscrew, starboard wing and fuselage considerably.


It is on this date, that the A24-equipped 8th Bomb Squadron (Lt) USAAF had arrived at Port Moresby with fifteen A24 Banshees (Dauntless) to help 75 Sqn carry the fight to the enemy at Lae.


The attrition aircraft added to the surviving Kittyhawks that raised the total of operational aircraft available to 75 Sqn to thirteen.

With no further losses until after 31 March 1942, we close here to leave the follow-on chapter of April 1942 for another story in P40E/E-1 Operations in Australia Part 10


Next Newsletter: Part 9, the forming of 77 F Sqn and the first few months of operations in Western Australia


I would like to express my sincere thanks to the P-40E “Mafia” (Buz, Shane, Bob, Peter and Gordon C) as always for their professional help. This particular Part 8 required extraordinary discipline in correlating Diaries, A50 History Sheets, A29 Series RAAF Forms E/E 88, recorded history and personal extracts/records to bring this mosaic of a true story together.


The research would not have been possible also without the Airforce Historical Research Association in the USA for aircraft data cards, the National Archives of Australia and to those people who added “important” bits, here and there, especially Log Book entries, to make this story possible. This is the story I’ve wanted to write for years.


Gordon R Birkett ©2004 Researcher & Co-ordinator for ADF-Serials Site (Specialising WW2)




Fairey Gordon Mk I NZ629


This aircraft is the last remaining Gordon and apparently also the last survivor anywhere of the large army-co-operation light bombers which served in the European and North American armed forces of the 1920s and 1930s.  The closest surviving aircraft that approaches the Gordon in terms of size and time-frame appears to be the Blackburn Ripon in the Finnish Air Force Museum.


Design of the Gordon stemmed from the mostly-wood Fairey IIIC and IIID which saw widespread service in World War I, with further developments in the 1920s leading to the mostly-metal Fairey IIIF for the Fleet Air Arm.  By 1930, further development of the IIIF relating mainly to replacement of the Napier Lion broad-arrow engine with a 14-cylinder two-row radial Armstrong Siddeley Panther IIA led to the Gordon, which entered RAF service in 1931.  By this time, the specification required that all wood be removed from the aircraft, great attention was to be paid to standardizing airframe parts such as ribs and spars, and also to making the big aircraft simple to construct, easy to maintain and repair and, with its simple wing-fold mechanism, economical of hangar space despite its 45’9” wing span and 14’2” height.


RAF Service of NZ629

Its Fairey constructor’s number is believed to be F.1813 and its RAF serial number is believed to be K2759. If correct, it was built at Hayes, Middlesex, (near the present London/Heathrow airport) under Contract #166235/32, and was delivered to RAF Station Henlow on 15 December 1932. 


The first recorded operational assignment for K2759 was to 2 Bomber Group in East Anglia where it joined A Flight of 35 Squadron at Bircham Newton, Norfolk, on 19 September 1935.  Presumably it was new equipment supplied just before the squadron was assigned to the Middle East Air Force at El Damer, Sudan, on the 23rd September.  The detachment did not last long, and on 1 December 1936 the squadron was reassigned back to the UK, this time to Worthy Down in Hampshire.


In mid-1937 the squadron re-equipped with Vickers Wellesleys, hence on 8 October K2759 went to 4 Aircraft Servicing Unit for overhaul and storage, emerging again on 25 June 1938 with re-assignment to 1 Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Unit.  This service did not last long either, and on 1 October it went to 24 Maintenance Unit for another period of servicing and storage. In 1939 it was allocated to the RNZAF, and on 6 September it went to 36 Maintenance Unit for and shipment.


RNZAF Service of NZ629

In New Zealand, the Gordon with serial number NZ629 was allocated to 1 Service Flying Training School at Wigram, Canterbury, along with most of the other RNZAF Gordons.  The standard RAF 1930s colour scheme of silver with black decking had by this time been changed to camouflage: light green/ light earth upper surfaces of the lower wings, dark green/ dark earth on all other upper surfaces, and yellow lower surfaces. 


On 12 April 1940 NZ629 was taken on a “war-load climb to 15,000 feet” exercise by two trainee pilots, LAC Walter G. Raphael (pilot) with LAC Wilfred T. Everist in the rear cockpit.  As described in a letter from Wally Raphael, they got disoriented in cloud (possibly as a result of anoxia), entered a spin, and attempted to bale out.  With interfering hands and feet removed from the controls the old Gordon recovered itself from the spin so they sat down again, but almost immediately saw the ground as they mushed into trees near the snowline on a ridge on Mt White.


It was lucky they hit where they did.  A few feet higher and they would have cleared the ridge, but would almost surely have flown into a cliff-faced mountainside which extended to a higher altitude on the other side of the valley.  Both survived the crash with minor injuries even though they were not strapped-in because the aircraft “tripped-up” on trees on top of the ridge and flipped backwards down the far side, with the deceleration load forcing them back into their seats rather than forward into hard structures!  They climbed out and made their way down through the very steep, snowy beech forest to a shearer’s hut from which they were rescued several days later by an RNZAF search party.


Recovery - 1976

Little historical information on the RNZAF Gordons remains --- official records were removed before the mid-1950s by someone who cut the relevant pages out of the RNZAF’s master record book.  I set out to find the aircraft after noticing entries in the logbooks of trainee pilots from 1 Service Flying Training School recording time spent on “Search for missing aircraft NZ629”.  Eventually I contacted John Claydon who, as a Leading Aircraftsman in 1940, had been detailed to take two helpers and go camp in the snow at the crash site, recover the instruments and guns, dismantle the engine, and carry it out on their backs for use as spare parts!  John, who reached the rank of Wing Commander and retired in the late 1960s, confirmed that the rest of the aircraft would still be at the crash site as it was in a remote part of the Southern Alps.


After obtaining rights from the NZ Government to retain the Gordon if I could salvage it, and with the support of the landowner who, although he had never been to the crash site, allowed us to access his property and use a musterer’s hut as our base, I went off with a couple of friends to search for the aircraft.  We spent three days searching the very steep slopes of Mt White, and were surprised that we could not find the aircraft as the beech forest is very “open” and it is easy to see long distances.   Eventually we ran out of time, but returned a few weeks later for another look.  Still no luck after a couple of days, so we decided to walk up a ridge-top deer track to have lunch and enjoy the view from the alpine grasslands.  Just before we left the tree line I noticed a tiny piece of alloy on the track, looked up and recognised the crash track the aircraft had carved through the treetops, and there at the end of the track was the Gordon, still mostly hanging up in the trees.  We had got to within 50 metres of the aircraft on our first pass on the first day, but assumed that since the aircraft was flying west to east it would be on the western side of the ridge so did not search the eastern slopes where it had actually come to rest.


A few months later a friendly helicopter company, Helicopters NZ Ltd, agreed to drop us off on the mountain to prepare the crash site for lifting out the Gordon, which they had graciously undertaken to do free of charge with their heavy-lift Lama helicopter in return for a favour of some years earlier.  However, we were astonished to see that the site was already cleared of trees and that the Gordon appeared ready to lift out!  Pilot Russell Gutschlag, almost as enthusiastic as us about the challenge presented by recovering the old bomber, dropped us on a rock protruding from the trees about half a mile from the site, told us to get things ready while he waited down in the valley, and said he would come back up in a couple of hours and try a lift! 


In the course of  “bundling-up” the Gordon we discovered that it has a built-in 4-point lifting cable assembly in the wing upper centre section . . . perfect for lift-out.  The Lama duly returned and hooked onto this cable, but a large tree stump was caught in the remains of the engine mount tubes and added so much weight that the load started dragging down into the trees and taking the helicopter with it.  (There was no ground effect to help the lift, as the rotor downwash simply flowed away down the very steep slope).  Back to square one, but when the chopper came back an hour later everything worked well and the Gordon was carried off to a paddock beside the nearest vehicle track.  One more trip to pack-out small parts, then back for us and the initial recovery was complete.  Our planned multi-trip mission had been completed in one day. 


Shifting the large aircraft on a trailer first to Blenheim using a rental Holden car was relatively easy.  The trip across Cook Strait to the North Island and up to Auckland behind my 1970 Fairlane was another story, not least because of tyre blowouts on the trailer caused, as we discovered after the fifth blowout, because the trailer had broken chassis rails that dug into and destroyed tyres at random depending on the angle assumed by the trailer as it negotiated the sharp and thus steeply-cambered bends in the road.  We also got stopped and weighed by a traffic cop who said he wished to check if the rig was overweight.  He weighed the load on each wheel independently, added up the numbers --- and got the addition wrong by over a ton in our favour.  A deliberate error, we feel sure, as he agreed that the load was safe, secure, and well-lit --- and very interesting. 



There is virtually no corrosion on the aircraft except in areas of impact damage which have to be replaced anyhow. The wing, tail and control surface spars and ribs, interplane struts and landing gear legs are all damaged, but most of the innumerable fittings throughout the aircraft appear to be recoverable.  Some of the steel tubes in the front two bays of the fuselage require replacement but most of the stainless steel spool joints should be serviceable or repairable.  From the front cockpit back to the stern-post the basic structure is intact except for one tube, and most of the equipment in both cockpits is still fitted and functional.  Even some of the black leather covering the pilot’s seat and the padded front cockpit rim can be used again! 


The philosophy of restoration is “original parts wherever they can be used safely; original patterns and original material specifications where replacement is necessary”.  The objective is to rebuild a damaged Gordon not to create a look-alike replica of modern materials.  Acquisition of systems components is fairly well advanced, with most of the instruments, gunnery and bombing equipment, and the old R.1082/T.1083 radios ready for servicing. 


The major remaining “unknown” is the engine.


Historical support

After the aircraft was recovered, several people connected with its early history were located and have proven most supportive and interested in the lengthy process of returning it to airworthy condition.  Among those most closely involved with ‘629’s early life is the pilot Wally Raphael who, although the official records show he “did damage government property” back in 1940, was ultimately proven to be responsible for the survival of an extremely historic and now-unique piece of history.  The rear cockpit crewman, Wilf Everist, was shot down flying a fighter over France and did not survive the war.


Other key people include Peter Gardiner, K2759’s own Engine Fitter on 35 Squadron, and Fred Adkin, the engineer officer of A Flight (both of whom resided near Liverpool at the time of the aircraft’s recovery); 35’s gunnery officer Sqn Ldr R. J. N. MacLachlan, who sadly died of cancer just after his old aircraft was recovered, and Eric Hamerston who flew the aircraft in the Sudan although he was not its regular assigned pilot.





On This Day


3 Apr 73                        Mirage IIIO, A3-79 from 77SQN piloted by FLGOFF Stanley James Groom crashed on a training exercise when his engine stalled and he attempted a forced landing at Gloucester NSW. Radioing a distress call thewreckage of the aircraft was approximately 10 minutes later.


10 Apr 1951                  77 Sqn RAAF begins training on Meteors at Iwakuni

14 Apr 1943                   77 and 75 Sqns RAAF in conjunction with a US squadron shot

down 21 Japanese for the loss of 2

14 Apr 43                      Beaufort A9-268 and A9-27 involved in mid air collision while taking part in formation flypast for war correspondents at Jervis Bay  The eight crew were killed: (A9-268)FLTLT David George Dey 280627 (Pilot), PLTOFF Jack Norman 407561, PLTOFF Rex Lindsay Solomon 408149,SGT Hugh Sydney George Richardson 410093 (A9-27)        FLGOFF Raymond Sydney Green 408110 (Pilot), FLGOFF Maurice Francis Hoban 409118,FSGT Eric William Sweetnam 408077, SGT A.J. Bailey 409976

20 Apr 1915                  First use of Australian aircraft and aircrew in war when First half-flight, Australian Flying Corps, sailed for the Baghdad expedition. 

22 Apr 1944                  Lancaster, LM525 from 460SQN crewed by FSGT R. Allen, D. Lord,K.P. Collett, W.R. Orr, S.M. Swinton, J.S.R. Stewart, J.C. Bond, crashed on sixth mission. Allen and Stewart were killed and the survivors were taken as POW’s.

29 Apr 1957                  Meteor F.8, A77-706, with crew FLTLT T. Withington and SQNLDR W. Downey were killed when their aircraft rolled and dived into the ground on approach during an asymetric go-around at Williamtown, NSW.




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