I just remember the biting cold thinking, all the while, that perhaps we shouldn’t have been traipsing – in winter – through bush-land in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, especially while it was sleeting. Thoughts of all that wasted organisational effort might have dissuaded me from postponing, along with the knowledge that any future date – that winter – could have been just as bleak. We were young, and the prospect of visiting a Lockheed Ventura crash site, so close to Canberra where we all lived, must have been incentive enough.
It was the early 1980s although I cannot recall when exactly (this was long before image date stamps and metadata). Although he doesn’t appear in any of these images, it was the late Bob Piper (RAAF Historical Section) who most likely led us to the site near Gundaroo.
The RAAF’s No.13 Squadron had reformed at Canberra in August 1943 and immediately began transitioning from the locally-made Beaufort bomber, to the U.S. made Lockheed PV-1 Ventura. A59-55 was among the first Venturas delivered to the squadron, arriving at Canberra on 16th September 1943. Three months later, while on a daylight training flight north-east of the capital, it was observed diving into the ground at a steep angle – killing all five crew members. By 1220 on the day of the crash, personnel from the VOAC’s (Volunteers Air Observer Corps) Eastern Command had reported a crashed and burning plane in the N9 zone (Gundaroo) zone.1“RAAF Unit History sheets [Operations Record Book] Voluntary Air Observation Corps 1 to 4, Nov 42 – Jan 45,” National Archives of Australia: Series A9186, Control symbol 509 A, Item ID 1360258, page 317. No cause for the accident was ever determined, although the Aircraft Accident Data Card (NAA A9845, 114) records that the pilot had only logged 13.25 hours on the type.
Entrepreneur Dick Smith has since built a private residence and airstrip just a short distance west of the crash site.