Built by Taylorcraft as Auster Mark III. Constructors Number 459. Fuselage code TAY8228. Assigned Royal Air Force (RAF) serial number NX535. Disassembled and loaded as cargo aboard a ship and departed the United Kingdom bound for Australia. Arrived at Sydney on September 17, 1944.
During early October 1944, delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). On October 2, 1944 assigned serial number A11-16. On October 5, 1944 assigned to 2 Air Depot (2 AD). On October 25, 1944 assigned to No. 17 Air Observation Post Flight (17 AOP) and operated in Bougainville.
On December 26, 1944 took off from Piva South Airfield at 6:50am piloted by F/O James A. Russell, 434270 on a mission to provide medivac from Pusupa village on Bougainville to rescue FSgt Gardiner, the injured sole survivor of RNZAF PV-1 Ventura NZ4634. On his approach to land, Russell noticed the runway had an upward grade and overflew it once before attempting to land. During the landing the tail skid broke loose turning the plane to the left and caused it to get stuck in soft ground and gently nosed over, breaking the propeller. Afterwards, a radio message was transmitted requesting a replacement. That afternoon, a new propeller was air dropped storpedo but when retrieved was broken when it impacted the ground and another radio message was sent requesting another.
On December 27, 1944 another propeller was air dropped and fitted by Russell who ran up the engine and walked the runway and found it to be dry. FSgt Gardiner was loaded aboard.
During the take off, the aircraft was unable to reach take off speed due to the extra weight of the patient and soft ground. To prevent it from going over the edge into the valley below, pilot Russel swung to the left between two stumps, one of them impacted the left wing strut damaging it and the landing gear and putting the aircraft onto its nose. Neither Russel or Gardiner was injured in the crash but the aircraft was deemed to be written off. Officially, on February 9, 1945 approval was given for conversion to components.
After radioing back to base, Russel was instructed to salvage any usable parts then burn the damaged plane. With the help of native police, Russell removed salvageable parts including the two wheels, tail skid, magnetos, fuel pumps, carburetor, instrument panel and compass. The native police were allowed to take two stainless steel pipes and the perspex. Afterwards, Russell cut the fuel and oil tanks, causing fuel to leak over the cockpit and engine then set the plane on fire to destroy it.
On December 28, 1944 Russel, Gardiner escorted by Sgt Wigley and Sgt McEvoy plus ten native police and 30-40 carriers began walking back to base. Gardiner was carried in a stretcher for four days to the coast where they were met by a barge and transported to Torokina.
RAAF Accident Report Auster A11-16
WW2 Nominal Roll - James Alfred Russell
ADF Serials - Auster A11-16
Thanks to Daniel Leahy for additional information
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January 9, 2018