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  TBF-1C "Plonky" Serial Number NZ2518  
30 Squadron

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RNZAF 1944

Pilot  F/L Charles Gordon Gladstone Prior, 39935 (MIA / KIA / BR)
Crew  F/O Sydney Ernest Clayton, 426214 (MIA / KIA / BR) Taradale, Hawkes Bay
Crew  W.O. Theo Raymond Scarlett, 411234 (MIA / KIA / BR) Stockton Mine, Nelson

Crashed  June 5, 1944 at 10:45am

Aircraft History
Built by Grumman. Constructors Number 5499. Assigned U. S. Navy (USN) Bureau Number 47733. Disassembled and shipped overseas aboard the USS Schenectedy as part of lend-lease to New Zealand.

Wartime History
Delivered to the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF). On December 15, 1943 reassembled by No. 1 Aircraft Depot at Hobsonville Airfield with Unit 36. Assigned to 30 Squadron at Gisborne Airfield. Nicknamed "Plonky" with nose art of a flying beer keg. On January 24, 1944 departed Gisborne Airfield on ferry flight to Espiritu Santo. Next via Guadalcanal to operate from Piva North Airfield on Bougainville.

Mission History
On June 5, 1944 took off from Piva North Airfield on Bougainville on a mission against Rabaul. Over Rapopo Airfield, this aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire causing the it to catch fire and dive into the ground. The entire crew was killed in the crash.

In 1947, the wreckage was investigated by a RAAF Searcher Team and some remains were recovered and buried locally. Later these remains were exhumed and buried at Bourail Cemetery.

During 2001 US Army CILHI visited this crash site and incorrectly believed it was an American aircraft. A few body parts were found at the crash site and recovered for inspection and DNA testing, confirming they remains of this crew.

The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. After the recovery of remains, Scarlett was buried at Bourail Cemetery at grave 6, site 27. After the American recovery of remains in 2001, the remains were flown to New Zealand and turned over to the RNZAF during late 2008 families informed of the mistake. The proved to be Clayton and Prior who were buried in group burial at Bourail Cemetery at section 8 graves 34-35.

During 1992-1998, TBM Avenger 91110 was painted in the markings of this aircraft.

Last of body parts finally buried with WW2 airmen March 17, 2009
RNZAF Serials - Avenger NZ2518
CWGC - T. R. Scarlett
CWGC - S. E. Clayton
CWGC - C. G. G. Prior

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Last Updated
May 22, 2017


Tech Info

3 Missing

Remains Returned

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  Pacific Wrecks Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to bringing home those Missing In Action (MIA) and leveraging new technologies in the study of World War II Pacific and the Korean War.  
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