ADF Serials Newsletter

For those interested in Australian Military Aircraft History and Serials



July 2004


In this Issue:

·        Republic P-43B/D Lancer: Limited Service in the RAAF Ver2 – Gordon B



Editor’s blurb 

Hi everyone, back again after a few months break!  I would like to give Darren a huge thank you for filling in so capably during this time.  The break gave me a chance to compile an index for the ADF Serials newsletter and it is interesting to look back at the range of topics covered.  What is reassuring to note is the increase in contributions from people outside the core ADF Serials team - a recent example was Peter Finlay’s article in last month’s newsletter about the Lincoln crash and his subsequent search for the place where his father died.  This month Dean examines the technical side of this story.


This month Peter has written an article about his father’s service in Dakota aircraft including time with the Governor General’s flight.  Peter has kindly supplied details from his father’s log book – well over 40 serials!


Gordon B presents the second article aircraft with Limited Service with the RAAF.  P40 enthusiasts don’t despair – the next instalment will be published next month.  Gordon’s articles are always well researched and a pleasure to read!


Till next month




Website Updates:


New Team Member - Andrew Prendergast


We would like to welcome Andrew Pendergast to the ADF Serials team.  Andrew has taken on the role of moderator for the ADF-AIRFORCE Email/Discussion group.



The ADF Serials Newsletter Index Nov 2002-Jun 2004


The ADF Serials Newsletter index is now online and can be accessed at:


I have tried to make the index simple to use and would appreciate feedback on its ease/difficulty of use.  Suggest away J  Jan



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Turana Drone for Sale:


Mick Bush has a Turana Drone for sale – any individual or museum who may be interested in acquiring the drone can use our feedback line and we will pass your details onto Mick



6 Sqn history in the pipeline:


Steve Eather is working on a history of 6 Sqn to be released in 2005…stay tuned for further information .



Tragic Loss of Lincoln During Mercy Flight – Dean Norman


Human factors, in combination with weather and equipment deficiencies led to loss of Lincoln A73-64 near Emu Vale, Queensland on 9th April 1955


At 0030 hrs on the 9th April 1955 a Lincoln with a crew of four, a civilian nursing sister, and a two day old baby, departed on a mercy flight from RAAF Garbutt (Townsville) for Eagle Farm, Brisbane.      


Position reports received from the aircraft's crew indicated that the aircraft was on track for the first half of the flight and to left of track for the second half. Height was altered from 5 500 ft to 6 000 ft in the vicinity of Rockhampton.


At 0405 hrs the crew advised Brisbane Control that they were estimating Brisbane in about ten minutes and, as they were in cloud at the time, requested clearance to descend to 5 000 ft.


Brisbane Control replied “Cleared to 5 000 ft or 4 000 ft if you wish”, which was acknowledged by the aircraft. This altitude option was later to prove significant.


Later, Brisbane Control called the Lincoln again and advised: “QNH now 1019, nil low cloud, weather fine. Report if sighting Caboolture”. The Lincoln captain replied “Roger, Roger will do”.


When a further message was transmitted to the aircraft enquiring whether the crew had a visual fix or sight on Brisbane, there was no reply. Further attempts to communicate with the aircraft and crew were also unsuccessful.


The aircraft was subsequently located on the northern slope of an arm of Mt. Superbus where it had crashed at 0414 hrs, killing all occupants on board instantly. The mountain is 4 200 ft high and the aircraft crashed approximately 200 ft from the summit.


Flight objective

The purpose of the flight was to convey a two day old infant to Brisbane. The child, after being born on the 7th April, rapidly became jaundiced and it was not possible to obtain compatible blood for transfusion at Townsville.


At 2230 hrs on the 8th April, the superintendent of the Townsville hospital requested that the child be conveyed to Brisbane for blood transfusions. These transfusions had to be given within the next twelve hours for the child to survive. The Air Officer Commanding North Eastern Area approved the flight and instructed that a civilian medical attendant was to accompany and accept responsibility for the baby during the flight.


The flight was correctly authorised by the Commanding Officer of No 10 Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron.



Forecast and actual weather conditions along the route Garbutt to Eagle Farm for the period of the flight were:



Aircraft details

The serviceability state of the No 10 Squadron had been adversely affected by intensive operations, causing a backlog of inspections and an unavailability of spares. Lincoln A73-64 was the only aircraft available to carry out this flight when the medivac request was made. It had flown only a total of 593 hrs since new and its engines had accumulated an average of approximately 700 hrs since new (and only six hours since fitment to the accident aircraft).


Aircrew and passenger details

The aircraft was not manned by a full maritime Lincoln crew but comprised:



All aircrew other than the copilot had experienced operational service during WWII.


The squadron Commanding Officer considered that a mercy flight of this nature could be carried out efficiently by a reduced complement.


The crew were all currently fit for full flying duties. Neither the captain or navigator were known to be experiencing any anxiety or domestic worries and were reported to have been in good spirits.


The aircrew were stationed in their correct positions. The nursing sister was located in the right observation seat and the baby in a crib in the aisle between the two observation seats.


Search and Rescue equipment was removed during the pre-flight inspection with the exception of two “storepedoes” - which were located in the rear of the bomb bay.


Wreckage examination

The aircraft was extensively broken up and the forward fuselage and left wing had been gutted by fire.

The manner in which the trees had been damaged indicated that the aircraft was flying straight and. level at impact on a course of approximately 135° T. The aircraft struck the slope in a manner suggesting a change of attitude to that of climbing after impact with the trees.


The crumpled fuselage had burnt, destroying the section forward of the pilots' positions beyond recognition. However, the control pedestal revealed:



Remains of the rudder trim control indicated that it had been in the neutral position.


The tailplane assembly was inverted and the tail gun turret had broken off. Trim tabs on both elevators and rudders were approximately in the neutral position.


The engines and propellers were severely damaged and scattered on either side of the fuselage. It was not possible to determine if they had been functioning normally at impact; however, the propellers were not feathered.


Search and recovery

At 0414 hrs, members of the Brisbane Bush Walking Club heard the aircraft pass overhead and crash into the mountain. A runner was despatched to the nearby township of Emu Vale to raise the alarm. The wreckage was eventually sighted from the air at 0920 hrs.


Eyewitness evidence

From eyewitness reports, the aircraft's track was plotted; from Baralba to the accident scene. One witness at Bell (near Mt Superbus), reported that the aircraft circled the town three times between 0330 and 0340 hrs.


Other witnesses a few miles from the accident site reported that the aircraft passed close to their position which confirmed the time of impact as 0414 hrs. At 0427 hrs two explosions in quick succession were heard.


The majority of eyewitnesses stated that the aircraft sounded normal but low. All witnesses confirmed that the weather from Bell southward was completely low overcast with light drizzle.


Probable causes examined

All available evidence from ground witnesses, crew reports from the aircraft and the examination of the wreckage indicated that no malfunctioning of the engines or airframe contributed to the accident.

The basic cause of the accident was assessed to have been faulty navigation which in turn was the result of several probable factors:


1. Ability. The ability of the crew to undertake the flight was of the highest order and it is difficult to reconcile the known movements of the aircraft with the professional capabilities of the captain and navigator. The captain was known to be “hill conscious” and the navigator was well aware of the limitations of his equipment.



The flight, however, was not an ordinary one but a mercy flight to save the life of a baby requiring an urgent blood transfusion. The desire to save others has been the underlying cause of many accidents in the past and this crew would have had the greatest incentive to carry on with the mission when normally they would have exercised more caution.


The responsibilities of the captain for the serviceability of the aircraft were laid down in AFO 10/B/7. As unserviceabilities did exist in the aircraft's equipment, it was considered that the captain's decision to accept the aircraft was influenced by the urgency of the mission.


2. Fatigue. The crew had had little if any sleep prior to the flight. However, they had not engaged in any tiring occupations during the day nor had they participated in social activities. The captain was reported to have been a little tired when in the Operations Room. The navigator was reported to have been fresh and alert. At the time of the accident, the crew would have been without adequate sleep for approximately 21 hours but as the effects of fatigue vary greatly with individuals, it was not possible to determine to what extent this influenced the crew's actions.


3. Compasses. There was an error of approximately seven degrees between the aircraft's position reports and the positions over which witnesses heard the aircraft. This suggests the possibility of variation not being set on the G3 master unit. This unit was situated above the navigator's table and, as comparisons were always made between the pilot and navigator of the P8 and G3 compasses, this error should have been apparent. Alteration to the variation setting would have been necessary during the flight and it is unlikely that this drill was not carried out but it cannot be entirely dismissed. (Reference to diagram removed).


The compasses had not been swung since August 1954. The aircraft had had a turret change at the Government Aircraft Factory, Fishermen's Bend, Victoria, and had recently completed a 600 hourly inspection at No 3 AD Amberley where the four engines were changed. The G3 compass had a 2.75° easterly error removed on the 28th May 1954. During the inspection at Amberley, the master indicator was changed and was not adjusted to compensate for this error. The compass system would have had a constant error of 2.75° east on all headings.


The P type compass was replaced during the 600 hourly inspection and would therefore have had indeterminate amounts of coefficients A, B and C. The aircraft compasses were not swung for the ferry flights from Laverton to Amberley or Amberley to Garbutt. Air Force instructions clearly detailed when aircraft compasses were to be swung and, as the compasses of this aircraft were overdue for adjustment, it is possible that the deviations applied to the compasses on this flight were incorrect.


There had been several reports of malfunctioning G3 compasses in the squadron. Precession, causing the pilot to veer to the right, had been experienced as well as complete toppling of the unit. This would have become apparent to the pilot in a short time, but would have made it necessary to use the P8 compass as the main reference.


A test was carried out to see if an oxygen bottle and trolley, similar to the items carried on the flight, would cause any deviation on the P8 compass. No deviation was apparent on the ground or in the air; however, the magnetic qualities of the bottle and trolley carried on the fatal flight were not known and the possibility did exist that the P8 com­pass was affected by these items.


Because of the known irregularities and the other probable causes of error, faulty compasses were considered to have been a contributory factor to faulty navigation.


4. Map reading. The route over which the aircraft flew did not have many towns which could be reliably pinpointed. A later flight conducted over the same route between midnight and dawn, reported that no lights were seen until the last third of the route. On the night of the accident, this last third was cloud-covered and reliable pinpoints would have been difficult to obtain. It was apparent that if any pinpoints were obtained, they were misidentified because the aircraft was to right of track. It is possible that, when circling Bell, a feature was misidentified, incorrectly related to the planned track, and used as a basis for the descent.


The lack of reliable pinpoints was considered to have been a contributory factor in faulty navigation.


5. Drift. Navigators in the squadron adopted a standard procedure of finding winds by the drift method as often as possible. The lack of suitably lighted towns would make drift observations from the navigator's position difficult. Access to the drift meter in the bomb aimer's compartment was blocked by the infant's crib and it is unlikely that the navigator would have used this instrument due to interrupting the sister attending to the child. The drift meter also required light to sight on. Flame floats were available in the aircraft but were not used over land.


The difficulties in obtaining drift was considered to be a contributory factor in the faulty navigation.


6. Wind effect. The effects of the winds experienced by the crew did not differ greatly from those forecast, but would have “blown” the aircraft to right of the positions reported by the aircraft to Aeradio.


7. Astro navigation. The aircraft carried an astro compass but not a sextant. Astro was not normally used on flights of short duration but it was considered that, knowing the compasses had not been swung and that the “loop” had its limitations, some effort would have been made by the crew to check the aircraft's heading by this method. The accepted degree of accuracy for an astro compass heading was +/- 2° and this discrepancy could have contributed to the total error.


The crew selected an altitude of 5 500 ft for the flight, consistent with safety and the necessity for warmth and oxygen for the baby. At this height the cloud experienced over the route would have greatly hampered the navigator's efforts to reliably make astro compass checks. Turbulence also at that height was forecast as “light to moderate” and this would have further handicapped the navigator.


It was considered that difficulty in obtaining astro compass checks was a con­tributory factor in the total navigation error.


8. Loop. There was no record of when the loop was last swung. It was customary for this to be carried out at the same time as the compasses. The navigator was well aware of the limitations of the loop as a navigational aid and had recently told one of the squadron pilots that “the loop is at best only good enough for rough positions at night”. It was reasonable to assume, therefore, that if positions were obtained by means of the loop, the navigator would have treated them with reserve.


The position reports sent from the aircraft did not indicate the method used to obtain them eg, DR, loop, etc, but the Aeradio log indicated that the aircraft was trying to tune in to Bowen NDB and that atmospheric conditions were unfavourable.


An ex-RAAF wireless operator reported that he had observed many times that broadcasting station 4BC Brisbane faded out in the early morning and that 2UW Sydney came in strongly on the same frequency. (These two stations varied in frequency by only 10 Khz.) It was possible to tune in to 4BC and take a bearing, on 2UW, although the operator no doubt would not rely on the bearing. However, if a homing was being carried out and the indicator showed the station to be well to the right, a navigator, who had not accurately established a position, would have tended to believe that they were heading to the left of their destination. As this would have been the safest course in this particular situation, it was a possible explanation why the crew chose to let down when the aircraft's position was uncertain.


The unreliability of the loop was considered a probable factor contributing to faulty navigation.


9. The let down. When the captain requested permission to let down from 6000 ft to 5 000 ft, he stated that he was estimating Brisbane in about 10 minutes and that they were in cloud at that time. This suggested that:



The Approach controller gave permission for the aircraft to descend to 5 000 ft “or 4 000 ft if you wish”. (4000 ft was the safety height for aircraft approaching Eagle Farm from the north).


The fifty per cent error allowed in DR navigation was 8 nm per hour. Within a radius of 50 nm around the last position given by the aircraft, 4 000 ft was clear of terrain.


It was considered that the captain and navigator were influenced to let down by the following factors:




After an exhaustive investigation process, it was concluded that the accident resulted from faulty navigation and that the factors which contributed to the faulty navigation were:



The investigation found that other factors which contributed to the accident were:




The accident investigation report listed the following recommendations:



Quidquid agas, pruden­ ter agas,et respice fi­nem (Latin proverb):

Whatever you do, do cautiously, and look to the end.



Dakota C-47 A65-94 -  Peter Finlay.


It may be of interest for you to know that my father, Sqn. Ldr. Jack Finlay, navigated Dakota A65-94 on three occasions while serving in the RAAF in 1952 in Western Australia.


He was attached to 86 (T) Wing Detachment under the command of Flt. Lt. Donnelly based at Onslow WA  Jack navigated Flt. Lt. Donnelly on a flight which departed Richmond on 23rd August 1952 to Onslow via Mallala, Forrest and Pearce in A65-82. The detachment was operating in the Broome area as part of the British Atomic Tests at the Monte Bello Islands (Operation Hurricane).


Jack navigated Dakota A65-94 (call sign VH-RFK) on three occasions. The aircraft was piloted by P/O. Newson on 21st September 1952 on a patrol flight of 5 1/2 hours. On 27th September, Jack navigated Fl. Lt. Grace in A65-94 from Onslow to Pearce for a night medical evacuation flight, returning to Onslow the following day. Both flights took 4 hours 10 minutes.


Jack Finlay served with several Dakota-equipped squadrons and flew in many examples of the marque. His first recorded flight in a C47 was on 9th April 1945 in C-47A A65-56 as a W/T operator from Lae to Dobodura in New Guinea during WWII. The aircraft was flown by F/O Gambling. This was Jack’s first operational posting after enlisting in 1944. He was with 33 Sqn at the time.


Other C-47A aircraft flown in at the time were: CUO A65-47 , CUJ -36, CTO -15, CIJ -56, CUA -28, CTP -16, CTS -19, CUP -54, CUN – (appears not to have been issued but clearly marked in J. W .F’s log book), CIA -44 & CUH -38.  Many of these returned to civil use with Qantas, TAA and MMA.


After several other postings, including service at Rathmines in Catalinas, Jack went to CFS at Point Cook where he flew as W/T Op. in C-47A Dakotas: CTE A65-5, CUM -40, CUA-28, A65-108, -46, -120, -76, -68, -46, -80, and -73.


Other types flown to this date included Anson, Lincoln Liberator, Beaufighter, Oxford and Mosquito .He flew some aerobatic ops in an Auster at a later date.


Posted to 30 Sqn, Target Towing, at Richmond, Jack again flew in Dakotas as well as Beaufighters. Dakota, A65-106, was flown by Flt. Lt Graney on a CSIRO Radar calibration flight on 8th April 1948. A65-63 was flown on 11th June by Flt. Lt Gooch with Jack navigating on a rain-making flight. This was repeated on several occasions. A photograph of A65-63 is shown on page 45 of Stewart Wilson’s “Dakota, Hercules and Caribou in Australian Service”.


In 1949, Jack was posted to the School of Air Navigation, No 2. Advanced Nav. Course at East Sale where he flew in Dakota A65-122 with W. Cdr Dowling on 18th September from Schofields to East sale in 2 hours 40 minutes.


In 1950 Jack flew with the Governor General’s flight (36 Sqn) based in Canberra as the Navigator/W operator. The flight was commanded by Flt.Lt. Judd and the crew flew sorties from 4th October 1950 until 30th May 1951.


Dakotas flown in this period included: A65- 69, 76, 85, 87, 90, 91, 98,100, 108,111, 112, 114, 119, 120 and 123 (the RAAF’s penultimate C-47B, call sign VH-RGK, which was reserved for the exclusive use of the Governor General Sir William Slim).


On 16th July 1951, Jack joined 91 Composite Wing of 30 Communications Unit to fly to Korea and was based at Iwakuni in Japan until 13th July 1952. Dakotas flown during this posting included in order: A65-91, 88, 68, 75, 114, 97, 70, 88, 93, 121, 80, 103, 63, 109, 122,123, 112, 87, 82.


Then followed the time when Jack flew Dakotas in Western Australia as mentioned at the beginning of this item. Aircraft listed in Jack’s log book in order are:  A65-122,123, 112, 87, 82,119, 94, 76, 102 and 99.


In 1953, Jack was posted to England to undertake several Advanced Navigation courses at RAF. Manby, The School of M.R. Navigation based at St. Mawgan, RAF. Kinlos, and 228 Sqn at St. Eval where he flew in a wide variety of aircraft including Hastings, Lincoln, Canberra, Valetta, Fairchild C-119 (Flying Boxcar), C-47, Ashton (jet-powered version of the Avro Tudor), Lancaster, Shackleton, Neptune and Oxford. 


On his return in 1954 he was posted to 10 Sqn at Townsville to navigate the squadron’s Lincolns. He attained the rank of Squadron Leader and was the Navigation Officer and 2 I.C. He flew in Dakota A65-111 again on several occasions.


On 9th April 1955, Jack navigated Lincoln A73-64 on his final flight. The aircraft crashed at Mount Superbus in southern Queensland while on a mercy flight. All 6 occupants were killed.


A photograph from Jack Finlay’s collection of a Dakota at Onslow, WA, is featured on page 48 of Stewart Wilson’s book, “Dakota, Hercules & Caribou in Australian

Service”. It is possible that one of the two aircraft shown could be A65-94.



Dakota Aircraft flown in and navigated by Jack Finlay:







Fate/later history.






ANA 08/47 VH-INB







Crashed Milne Bay 06/44












TAA VH-TAH 09/46






ANA VH-INC 08/47












Crashed on landing 12/45






TAA 09/58 VH-TAW






Qantas VH-EAP






DCA 10/48 VH-JVF






TAA 08/46 VH-TAG






Crashed Rabaul  11/45






Crashed in sea near Milne Bay 09/45






To PNG DF 1981 P2-005 VH-PWN Dakota Nat Air BK






PNG P-004






Preserved Berlin-Gatow A/P as RAF ZD215






Stanair USA 08/68 N16892






Damaged Tvl 09/71, SOC 10/73






Crashed Daly Waters 10/56






Aeroquipment 04/60 VH-CDA






Cambodia 11/71






Indo AF 1970 P-504






Stanair N16130






Damaged 10/59 Sc ‘62






Cambodian AF 11/71






RAN 02/68 N2-90. Historic Flt






RAAF radio schl ‘79






Aeroquipment VHCDC






ARDU 1990/HARS Now VH-EAF. Sister A/C is A65-95, was RFL/HJV, now VH-EAE at HARS.












Instructional A/F 12/79






Crashed Garfield Vic 01/58 cvtd comp






PNG 08/75 P2-001






To Paradak 08/81 VH-PTS






Philippines A/F 05/73






Crashed Pearce 07/61






RAAF Museum Pt.Cook






MMA 06/58 VH-MMD






wfu 10/72, destroyed by fire






Crashed Duntroon 03/57












Stanair 06/88 N16896






Crashed off Japan 06/54






Indo A/F 08/73






PNG 12/80 g/i






GG VIP RAN 02/68 N2-123wfu 10/73




Log Book of Sqn. Ldr John (Jack) Watson Finlay.


Wilson.S. Dakota, Hercules and Caribou in Australian  Service. Aerospace Publications. Canberra. 1990.


Wilson.S. Aero Australia. Issue 1 Jan/Mar 2004. Chevron Publishing Group Pty Ltd. Pp 82-86: “Captain Jack Curtis.”





Republic P-43B/D Lancer: Limited Service in the RAAF Ver2


Stemming from a mid-1942 requirement to furnish the RAAF with an aircraft for conducting forward photographic reconnaissance north of Australia, consideration was given firstly to a suitably modified Brewster Buffalo.  Previously in Malaya a RAF Unit, 4 PRU, was formed around the establishment of 4 such modified aircraft for the same purposes as required by the RAAF. They differed from the standard fighter in having reduced weight (through the deletion of armour and guns), three K-24 cameras and their ranged increased by the provision of an additional fuselage fuel tank.


Other types considered - PR Spitfires and Mosquitoes as used in Europe - were unavailable, therefore with limited options, the Australian Advisory War Council (per Minutes of the 6th July 1942) authorized the use of nine previously consigned NEIAF Buffaloes for this purpose until a suitable replacement, preferably purpose built, became available.


However, on the 9th July 1942, the Chief of the Air Staff advised the AAWC that eight Republic Lancer aircraft were being made available by the United States Army Air Force for photographic reconnaissance in operational areas. He stated thereafter, that the Brewster Buffaloes would be used only to supplement the Lancers.


USAAF P-43A August 1941 in the USA (USAFM)


The Republic P-43 Lancer development


The Republic P-43 Lancer was a progressive development of the Seversky P-35 fighter, which by 1941 had already been made obsolescent by the rapid advances in air combat technology that had taken place in Europe. It suffered from poor manoeuvrability and climbing performance and lacked such modern innovations as armour protection for the pilot and self-sealing fuel tanks. The Army ordered fifty-four Lancers in late 1940.  Serial numbers, under Contract W535-AC15850 at US$63003.00 each, were 41-6668 to 6721 with an armament consisting of two 0.50-inch and two 0.30-inch machine guns.  The first P-43 was delivered on 16th May 1941, with the last example being delivered on 28th August 1941.


The P-43 was immediately followed by the P-43A, 80 examples of which were ordered. Serials were 40-2891 to 2970.  I am still at a loss to explain this example of FY41 serials being followed by FY40 serials; much the same example exists in the serial jump for P-40Cs in the 41-135** serial batch.


Deliveries began in September 1941. The P-43A was essentially the same as the earlier P-43 but differed in having the turbo-supercharged R-1830-49, which afforded its full 1200 hp at 25,000 feet. Armament was increased to four 0.50-in machine guns, two in the fuselage and two in the wings. Deliveries began in September 1941.

On 30th June 1941, 125 further examples were ordered with Lend-Lease funds for supply to the Chinese Air Force, although their primary purpose was to keep the Farmingdale production lines occupied until the Thunderbolt could be ready.


The Chinese Lend-Lease P-43s were designated P-43A-1. Serial numbers were 41-31448 to 31572.

The P-43A-1 differed from the P-43A by having a Pratt and Whitney R-1830-57 engine of the same power. The four 0.50-inch machine guns were all concentrated in the wings. Some attempt was made to make the design more combat-worthy by adding such modern features as armour and self-sealing fuel tanks. Production of the 125 P-43A-1s was completed in March 1942, and 108 of these aircraft were ultimately transferred to China.


None of the USAAF P-43s ever saw any action, being used strictly for advanced training in stateside units.  In May-June 1942, most of the surviving USAAF P-43 and P-43A Lancers were converted to specialised photographic reconnaissance aircraft and re-designated P-43B. These were fitted with two K-17 cameras in the rear fuselage.


Conversions to P-43B standards also included those P-43A-1s, which did not get sent to China. A total of 150 Lancers were eventually converted to P-43B standards.


Two other P-43As (serials 40-2894 and 40-2897) were modified as P-43C photographic reconnaissance aircraft, which were similar to the P-43B but with different photographic fixtures.

A further set of modifications to existing P-43s produced the final P-43D photographic version. USAAF Serials were 41-6685*, 41-6687, 41-6692*, 41-6695, 41-6707* and 41-6718*.  Four of these marked * served in the RAAF as A56-8, 1, 2, & 7 respectively.


The additional fixtures of the P-43B/D included two camera blisters housing two additional oblique mounted K25 cameras behind the cockpit on the fuselage. However, testing by Republic Aircraft Company found that these blisters not only severely disrupted airflow over the tail unit and caused flutter but also affected the centre of gravity on the aircraft. The latter was a concern as the design already suffered from tail heaviness, which resulted in dangerous stalls at low speed.


USAAF Technical order #01-6SB-38, dated 28th August 1942 ordered the removal of the blisters and cameras from the P-43D, with the resultant housings being sheeted over, flush with the surrounding fuselage.

However in RAAF Service, following examinations of several photographs, this modification doesn’t seemed to have been performed.


Pre-Loved and pre-bent


Several of the Lancers destined for RAAF service had an accident record in the USA.


41-6692 (A56-1)

Accepted 23/07/41. Damaged during a forced landing caused by fuel shortage at Crockett, Texas, on 13/09/41. Modified to P-43D 14/04/42 per Contract ASCT-4455MK, delivered back as P-43D 02/06/42. To SUMAC per Order ST42-654112 (09/07/42) SUMAC 09/07/42 to 15/08/42. Off LEFT, Ret USA 04/04/44. Surveyed 05/09/44 USA.

41-6707 (A56-2)

Accepted 12/08/41. Damaged Lake Charles, Los Angeles 25/09/41 when 2nd Lt John H McCluney overshot field on landing. Repaired. To P-43D 02/06/42.To SUMAC per Order ST42-654112 (09/07/42) SUMAC W09/07/42 to 15/08/42. Off SUMAC Condemned 04/08/44 in Australia.

41-6718 (A56-7)

Accepted 21/08/41. Damaged 22/08/41 at Mitchel Field when 2nd Lt P B McConnell experienced engine failure on takeoff. Repaired. Modified for camera 02/05/42 per Order ASCT-5832MK. To SUMAC 01/08/42 (per order ST43-327), Arrived SUMAC 26/08/42. Condemned in SUMAC 03/09/44 (Australia)






RP-43D 41-6708 in the USA Late 1942


The Lancer Arrivals in Australia


RAAF service for the Lancer started on the 31st August 1942 when a total of four P-43Bs and two P-43Ds were delivered to 1 Aircraft Depot at RAAF Laverton Victoria from the USA during the previous week, by sea. These had left the United States just over a month previously and had only just arrived in Australia, crated. Two further P-43Ds (41-6718 & 41-6685) were issued from USAAF stocks during the second week of November 1942 to become A56-7 and A56-8 respectively. These two had been shipped out with the previously mentioned six, but had in the interim been used by an un-identified 5th Air Force Unit for appraisal.


The first quartet of RAAF P-43Ds in Australia was modified at RAAF Base Laverton by removing the camera blisters. The second RAAF quartet, all P-43Bs, arrived with the standard two lower K-24 camera fittings. USAAF Serials 41-31494, 31495, 31497 & 31500 being allocated A56-5, 3, 4 & 6 respectively.


As the availability of Lockheed F-4 reconnaissance Lightnings increased by October 1942, the surviving USAAF P-43s in the USA were redesignated RP-43, the R standing for "restricted from combat use".  It must be noted that some of the USAAF Cards for RAAF P-43Ds were noted as such before they arrived.


No.1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit was formed at RAAF Laverton, Victoria, on the 8th June 1942. The unit was under command of Sqn Ldr L L Law Ser#144 and had, by the end of June 1942, six unmodified Buffaloes on strength.


In the following month, the unit suffered its first casualty when Flt Lt R H H Winter was killed in the crash of A51-2 on the 8th July 1942 at Tallabrook, Victoria. By the end of the month, no Buffaloes had been modified. The unit was now down to four Buffaloes (the fifth was away at 1AD being modified to PRU standard) and one Wirraway (A20-599).


 On the 12th August 1942, the unit was ordered to Hughes Strip in the Northern Territory where they arrived on the 19th August 1942. However on the 23rd August 1942 the Japanese bombed the strip, resulting in the loss of Buffalo A51-6 and their sole Wirraway.


The unit commenced their training in the NorthWestern Area and had their camera fit reduced from three to just one.  The unit at the end of August had on strength only three Buffaloes, A51-1, 3, and 5.

During the following month, training continued while the unit waited for its Lancers to be modified. On the 25th September 1942, another Buffalo (A51-5) and pilot were lost in an accident. Sgt J Austin Ser#404699 was killed at Derby, Western Australia, when the aircraft crashed and burned. This left the Unit with only one serviceable Buffalo (A51-1) and another waiting for spares (A51-3). This serviceability level was to continue till to the end of October 1942.


 On the 30th October 1942, the first two Lockheed F-4 Lightnings (A55-1 and 2) arrived at Hughes Strip while four Officers had been sent back to Laverton to complete their training on Lancers. The P-43B/Ds were still being modified at RAAF Laverton.


Modifying the P-43B/D for RAAF Service


When the aircraft were assembled and test flown at Laverton, further tests were then started to determine the endurance and performance of the Lancers. The F-4 had an endurance of five and half-hours, whereas the P-43 had only two and half-hours, therefore a request to the Air Board was sent requesting action to remedy this problem as this would impact on the range they would need to operate in the forward area.


Information and technical data was sourced from the USAAF and Republic Aircraft Company in the USA. Data provided indicated that suitable power settings would result in the range being increased to nearly 3.17 hours or 1100 miles range.


The RAAF was not convinced, therefore the Special Duties and Performance Flight at RAAF Laverton was given the task to accurately measure the performance. CAC were asked to strip a wing for inspection and to provide possible input on wing pylon design. Numerous technical hurdles had to be successfully challenged, from sourcing technical drawings for the manufacture of wing pylons (used for bombs) from the USA to wing fuel line installations and flight testing of Australian designed and manufactured droppable fuel tanks.


The design was settled on modifying existing Republic Aircraft Company drawings on the conversion of making the P-43 into a fighter-bomber. Depending on the Serial of the aircraft, production aircraft had been reinforced at T139 rib and spar to incorporate these wing attachments.


By nature of their production line number, the only four RAAF P-43s to be modified for the carrying of long range drop tanks were A56-1, 2, 7 and 8.  All were infact P-43D models.


The design was engineered to carry either a 250lb bomb or a 40-gallon drop tank, however that size tank when tested in the USA was found to cause too much buffeting, so Republic considered the production of a smaller 25-gallon tank. Since these tanks had never been manufactured, the RAAF set about designing and manufacturing their own 30-gallon tanks instead, which they calculated would give them the desirable range.


By the 9th October 1942 the pylon drawings had arrived by special courier to the engineering staff at 1AD. It was early 4th November1942 before the first aircraft, A56-7, was completed with wing pylon attachments sans fuel lines.


The first flight trials of 250lb bombs on the 9th November 1942 were unsatisfactory due to the bombs fouling the underwing surface. More tests followed, and by the 20th November 1942, tests with wing tanks and bombs were carried out with rectification modifications.


P-43B Profile of A56-4 (Ex-41-31497) depicted in Olive Drab camouflage late 1942


On the 26th November 1942, three P-43Bs (A56-3, 4 and 5) were sent on to the forward echelon of 1 PRU at Hughes Strip. This was to be the first deployment of the type.

 F/O Bond was delayed at Oodnadatta, South Australia, with brake problems.

This would be the bane of the type throughout the service of these aircraft. Another, A56-6, being used for bomb carriage trials, was damaged severely on landing at Laverton on the 9th December 1942, injuring the pilot, P/O J D McLeod of 1 PRU. The pilot unlocked his tail wheel and on application of brakes, the aircraft ground-looped to starboard.


Another P-43B, A56-5, was damaged at Coomalie Creek, Northern Territory on the 14th December 1942, when the brakes went spongy resulting in the aircraft making a right turn off the strip and mounting the drainage ditch parallel to the strip. The pilot was Flt Lt H M Angwin.


Due to the reduced availability of Buffaloes at 1 PRU, all three remaining P-43Ds were modified by the 18th December 1942 in an emergency action for the carriage of 250lb bombs or long-range tanks. All four P-43Ds had fuel pump/fuel line modifications and additional oil reservoir and auxiliary pump required by the longer airborne engine running time.


 It was not until the 21st January 1943 that the first successful flight of the first prototype sets of long range fuel tanks (24 LR tanks were ordered from Peerless Metal Company of Melbourne) was made by A56-7, following the successful modification of the wing pylon fairing. However on the 31st January the prototype tanks were written off and the aircraft (A56-7 piloted by Flt D R Cummings) was damaged on landing at Laverton when the left-hand gear collapsed, resulting in a serious ground loop.

The first allocation of the longer-ranging P-43D to 1 PRU was A56-1 on the 4th February 1943, but by the 9th February 1943, the project was faltering as the production fuel tanks were not sealing properly.


Additional wing fittings, fuel lines and auxiliary pumps were ordered as field kits for the installation to the other three surviving P-43Bs (A56-3, 4 and 5) situated at Hughes Strip. On the 23rd March 1943, A56-3’ piloted by Flt Lt S Jones, landed and skidded resulting in the aircraft resting on its nose at Coomalie Creek.


A56-5 at Coomalie Creek, Northern Territory on the 14th December 1942 following its landing


A56-1, still unmodified at 1 AD Laverton on the 25th March 1943, taxied into Avro Anson AW963 of 67 Sqn RAAF and was damaged. The aircraft, piloted by P/O A W Green Ser#406393 was taxying out for take-off.


In what was to be deemed as an aviation mystery for some fifteen years, A56-7 of 1PRU disappeared on 29th April 1943. It was not discovered until 1958, crashed in thick forest on the side of Gordon Gully near Healesville in Victoria. The pilot was again P/O A W Green Ser#406393 of 1 PRU Rear Echelon based at Laverton. (The author would like to know whether this wreck is still extant or recovered; if the latter, where is it?)


As with the number of aircraft available for operations now dwindling, all remaining project work ceased and the aircraft were withdrawn from 1 PRU operations early May 1943.


A56-4 was allocated for storage at 1 AD on the 12th May 1943 and flown out by Flt Lt A S Jones on the 22nd May 1943 to Laverton. A56-3, which had been languishing at 14 ARD since its accident on the 23rd March 1943, was sent to 1AD by Land/Sea transportation. 


There ended the operational career in the RAAF for the P-43.  Within months the survivors were handed back to the USAAF where some returned to the United States only to be scrapped.


Surprisingly, the aircraft that they were to replace continued in service for another month until the last serviceable Buffalo, A51-3, was issued to 24 Sqn RAAF where it arrived on the 13th June 1943.


This is the second of several Limited Service articles with the alternating P-40E Series and future Spitfire V Articles in our ADF-Serials Newsletters of the future. Special thanks to Bob Livingstone for his help and editing.


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



USAF AHRA Aircraft Cards and Records for FY41 aircraft

ADF-Serial Site for Fates

Joe Baugher’s Web Page for P-43 History back ground


RAAF Command Headquarters - Lancer aircraft - A56 Item barcode 3081561

RAAF Unit History sheets (Form A50) for No 1 Aircraft Depot and 1 PRU/87Sqn



Can you help?


Darren Wedes is seeking info on Lancaster LL799 ULN/N2 which took off from

Elshem Worlds on 29/7/1944 & went down in Stuttgart .. His uncle, ALLAN STEPHEN SMITH ,(Rear Gunner) McCSTAY & BARNS Survived.  If you can help Darren please use our feedback link:



On this day


2 July 1950 –  77 Squadron flies first combat mission in Korea (First Australian unit committed to the Korean War)



3 July 70         Iroquois           A2-768 serving 9 Sqn lost control at low level near Nui Dat, Vietnam.  The crew: FLTLT C. Ellis, FLTLT Marman,  FLTLT Scheer and LAC D. McNair survived the crash.


4 July 1941     Wing commander H I Edwards awarded Victoria Cross for raid on Bremen.


7 July 1956     Last RAAF Transports return from Korea via Japan


12 July 1943 – Loss of 100 Sqn Beaufort A9-225 shot down by a US Navy Liberator near Rabaul.  Crew Pilot Officer John Clifton Davis (pilot), Flight Sergeant Geoffrey Raymond Emmett (observer) and WAGS Sergeant George Collins and Sergeant William Thomas Brain killed.


22 July 69       Macchi A7-007from CFS suffered an in-flight fire and control failure during a base circuit of East Sale,  SQNLDR B. Newman (Pilot) was able to eject approximately 100-200 feet from the ground.  The aircraft crashed into the ground before FLGOFF H. Holsken who had initiated his ejection seat, could escape.


24 July 43       Beaufighter A19-118 serving with 31SQN went missing on operation over Taberfane, Aru Island.  Crew: FLGOFF B.W. Gillespie 406842 (Pilot) and FLGOFF A.J. Cameron 1424, 7169 (Nav).

27 July 44       Spitfire LF.IXB MK421 serving with 453SQN crashed after being shot down by flak near Liseux, France.  Pilot: WOFF A.H.J. Harris 412513.



Thank you to Dean and his aircrew losses research, the Australian War Memorial’s “This Month” and the RSL Diary for dates for this month’s On this Day segment- Jan






Hudson   A16—68

K J Coward submitted the following information about A16-68 via the feedback page:

I do not know how much your organisation knows of this fatality  but what I Now know for what it is worth.. The death roll in this crash was eight though some of the personnel were not crew members and were as follows:

F/O JJ Broderick  409022

F/lt R W Shaw     411199

LAC J M Gleeson 62705

Cpl J McAllen   36531

LAC N A Chamberlain 15786

Cpl R H McIlroy  35228

LAC FF Smith    64697

ACW  N M Ralph 109913


The story goes that it was a joy flight (pre-Xmas) as the crew and

craft were on leave from tour of  duty in the islands.  All personnel are buried at Richmond Air base cemetery and a memorial service was held on 18-12-1994 where a stone was laid to their memory..


And more on Hudson’s

Paul Padley has researched the loss of Hudson A16-162 and published an account of this accident in 1997.  Paul is currently developing a home page which includes the book.  You can view this information at

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