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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 as a model G-40. Constructors Number 5499. Assigned to the U. S. Navy (USN) as TBF-1C Avenger bureau number 47733. Disassembled and loaded as cargo aboard USS Schenectedy and shipped across the Pacific as part of lend-lease to New Zealand.

Wartime History
Assigned to the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) as Avenger serial number NZ2518. 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.

Navy Serial Number Search Results - TBF-1C Avenger 47733
"47733 (MSN 5499) to New Zealand Dec 1943 as NZ2518. To 30 Squadron, named "Plonky". Hit by flak near Rapopo Airfield, New Britain Jun 5, 1944. The aircraft caught fire and dived into the ground"
RNZAF Serials - Avenger NZ2518
CWGC - Charles Gordon Gladstone Prior
CWGC - Sydney Ernest Clayton
CWGC - Theo Raymond Scarlett
3News "Last of body parts finally buried with WW2 airmen" March 17, 2009

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Last Updated
January 12, 2019


Tech Info

3 Missing
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