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  PBY Catalina Serial Number A24-43 Tail FJ-B
RAAF
11 Squadron

Pilot  F/Lt William James Clark, 403318 (KIA 4-26-43)
Co-Pilot  F/O John Nigel Elmhurst Potts, 408268 (KIA 4-26-43)
Engineer  Sgt Dudley James Ward, 32917 (KIA 4-26-43) Kingsford, NSW
Nav/Asst Engineer  F/O Clifton Stuart Dunn, 403985 (KIA 6-16-43)
W/AG  Cpl John Fenwick, 22532 (POW, executed 3-5-44) Hawthorne, QLD
Crew  F/O Colin J. Twist, 407655 (POW / MIA 8-7-43) Cammeray, NSW
Crew  Cpl Ronald Hugh Alexander Wettenhall, 11785 (Survived)
Crew  Sgt Frederick Gordon Thompson, 416629 (Survived)
Crew  Cpl Herbert Yates, 62031 (POW / MIA 8-7-43) Summer Hill, NSW

Crashed  April 26, 1943 at 2320

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated. Constructors Number 1096. US Navy Bureau Number 8202. Assigned to the RAAF, 11 Squadron on April 19, 1943 tail FJ-B.

Mission History
On April 26, 1943 took off from Cairns at 1500 hours to drop supplies to coastwatchers at two locations: Aita, Bougainville (for Coastwatcher Jack Read) and Bunbun, New Ireland.

Arriving at Aita at 2300, the drop zone was easily located with the Catalina flying at 10,000', with clear skies and no moon visible. They commenced the drop and made two left circuits, dropping two parachutes. Prior to the third drop, an impact was heard and engine revved to full power at 2320. The Catalina impacted trees and crashed on a ridge.

Three were killed in the crash: Clark, Potts and Ward. The others freed themselves from the wreckage, and remained at the crash site overnight. The next morning, Wettenhall and Twist smashed the waist blister windows, allowing the other crew members to exited. The noise made smashing the windows attracted the attention of the coastwatchers and natives who had been searching for them since hearing the crash.

F ates of the Crew
Six survived the crash (Wettenhall, Thompson, Dunn, Fenwick, Twist, Yates). Four were badly injured and unable to walk (Dunn, Fenwick, Twist, Yates). Using the bunks from the wrecked Catalina, they were carried to Australian commandos’ camp to recover from their wounds and await rescue. They remained there for a month and a half.

A U.S. submarine was due the next day, to pick up some personnel at Teopasina, 15 miles away. That operation was rescheduled for April 29, and the survivors hoped they could be evacuated then.

On the morning June 16, 1943, Lt. Bedkober, Sgt. Florence, L/Sgt. Martin and Spr. Cassidy of the A.I.F. and four members of this Catalina: Dunn (on crutches), Fenwick (unable to walk) Twist and Yates were at the camp. They were surprised by a force of about 80 Japanese and 40 natives. Bedkober fired his Owen gun until the magazine was empty. Dunn and Fenwick could not escape, and Bedkober refused to leave them, and threw down his gun and walked towards the Japanese. At that moment, Dunn was shot and killed.

Bedkober and Fenwick were both taken prisoner. Later, Fenwick was transported to Rabaul and was executed at the Tunnel Hill on March 4, 1944.

The others kept firing and escaped into the jungle. Without food, the survivors of the attack wandered eastward in search of other friendly forces. Near Numa Numa, natives betrayed them to the Japanese and Twist and Yates were captured. Both died in captivity during August 1944 (location unknown, possibly Rabaul).

Wettenhall and Thompson evaded capture and survived.

Wreckage
Ten months after the crash (roughly February 1944), Coastwatcher Robinson (with Jack Reed during the crash) and Corrigan trekked to the crash site, already partially concealed by regrowth. In the cockpit area, they discovered the two complete skeletons with dog tags of Clark and Potts, also the remains of Ward a few meters away. Their remains were buried at the crash site.

Memorials
Twist and Yates names appear on Panel 9 of Bomana War Cemetery
Fenwick is buried at Bita Paka War Cemetery collective grave E, C, 5-11

References
Royal Australian Air Force Histories references to A24-43 by Michael Moskow
NAA Catalina Accidents, Report of Aircraft (Catalina A24-43) and subsequent movements leading to evacuation from Bougainville
The Coast Watchers mentions this loss
Lonely Vigil mentions this loss
Thanks to Daniel Leahy for additional information

Contribute Information
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
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Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

Technical InfoPBY

POW
MIA / POW
3 Missing
3 Prisoner

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