Built by Bristol in the United Kingdom. RAF serial number JM135. Delivered to RAAF on July 2, 1943 to 1 AD. Assigned to 31 Squadron on September 11, 1943.
On October 3, 1943 crash landed wheels-up alongside
the runway at Drysdale Airfield
returning from a mission to Timor. Afterwards, repaired by 14 ARD and returned to 31 Squadron on December 4, 1943.
On December 16, 1943 took off piloted by S/L "Butch" Gordon on a mission to strafe barges next to a frighter off Lautem Timor, then engaged several Ki-45 Nicks shooting down one and claiming another damaged.
On January 3, 1944, this Beaufighter suffered a tail wheel collapse on landing and the pilot retracted the wheels to avoid hitting parked aircraft. Sent to 4 RSU for repair on January 14, 1944 but was instead converted to components and abandoned at Drysdale Airfield.
The center fuselage remained in good condition in situ until the
Stan Gajda adds:
"Both airframes had no corrosion,
all interiors were stripped but stringers, frames etc were looking
quite good and everything
was still heavily painted. The exteriors were white by the look of
it with the RAAF roundels having a thin yellow border all around. The airframes
both had the cockpit and tail assembly sections removed as well as
the outer wing panels. I found the wreckage trail of one of these planes
were undercart doors and one outer wing a bit crumpled up and a lot
of other parts."
During 1981, salvagers Robert Greinert and
Dennis Baxter recovered this airframe, plus Beaufighter
A19-148 and transported
them 6,000 mile round trip to their home in Sydney.
Robert Greinert adds:
"In the early 80’s a decision was made by a group within HARS to recover and return to Sydney a pair of very corroded and incomplete Bristol Beaufighters [A19-144 and A19-148] in Western Australia. The saga of this recovery would fill a book but needless to say we succeeded, despite the determined efforts of others, and today we have a Mk21 Beaufighter under rebuild for the HARS flying collection.
The recovery of the Beaufighters caused a national stir. The press ran articles of “stolen RAAF aircraft” and alike. We weathered the storm, created by people who suffered more from “tall poppy syndrome” and jealousy than pragmatism. They were the two best known aircraft wrecks in the country. Every one knew they were there and no one did anything about it.
The RAAF could have landed a Hercules on the airstrip where they sat and flown them out. They did nothing. The Aboriginal elders at Kalambaru were so impressed with our passion and our sense of history that they gave us the aircraft. Only after we removed the aircraft did those, who had done nothing, complain about our act of preservation."
Stan Gajda adds:
"In 1988, I saw the
best wing/center section set up in a jig at Bankstown
Airport a few years after the salvage. The construction
was a combination of steel box trusses and alloy sheeting
and sections. Although the rivets were still ok the Australian
FAA insisted on total replacement with aluminum alloy
Robert Greinert reports:
"In the early 1990s a package of Beaufighter parts was acquired by the Fighter
Collection It was a mixed bag of British and Australian built stuff. Some parts
from Drysdale were included and they hung an identity on this. The
majority of the recovered airframes went to RAAF
Museum Point Cook a couple of
years ago in a deal. Of the three and half Beaufighters
I have assembled into projects over the years the Drysdale stuff
was the worst. I still retain a Beaufighter
project and look forward to the day when we can get back into it."
Acquired by The Fighter Collection and is currently being restored. Parts of this fuselage plus Beaufighter A19-148 and pieces from the tail
section of Beaufighter
A19-36 are also being used.
ADF Serials - Beaufighter A19-144
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August 7, 2015