9 September 1942

Bundaberg in south-eastern Queensland was a center for flying training during the Second World War. As a consequence, the surrounding Burnett Region is peppered with wartime crash sites.

Drury’s Anson being dismantled in Lutz’s cane field. Official records indicate it was never repaired, being struck off charge the following year. Military activities at that time were commonly photographed by civilian and military personnel (Bundaberg Library bun06577, Clifford Potter Collection).

A brick maker prior to enlisting, Flight Sergeant Thomas Peel Drury was one of many pilots who came to grief while undergoing advanced training at the RAAF’s No.8 Secondary Flying Training School (SFTS) in Bundaberg. Shortly after midday on September 9th, 1942 his twin engine Avro Anson trainer suffered engine failure causing him to crash (wheels retracted) in Albert Lutz’s cane farm near Clayton (south-east of the airfield). Also on board at the time was Leading Aircraftmen R. J. Langdon.

(National Archives of Australia: Series A9186, Control symbol 476, Item ID 1360155).

Barely two months earlier Drury, then twenty-five years old, had survived another crash landing in South Australia, his Avro Anson (A4-21) having also been forced down by mechanical failure on that occasion.

Aged 25 Drury was older than most other student pilots on his course. His wife and one year old son were also living in Bundaberg at that time (NAA: A9300, DRURY T P
Item ID 5375845).

Flying training accidents were commonplace then, another Anson (DJ188) having also crashed into a cane field that same month at Meadowvale north-west of Bundaberg. On that occasion it wasn’t mechanical failure that caused the crash – the pilot having struck a wireless pole while dive-bombing a farmhouse. Another two Ansons sustained extensive damage after colliding that same month. Such incidents were never reported by the local press, possibly because they were so commonplace.

Granted a commission the following year, Drury served initially as a flying instructor before receiving his first operational posting – with No.33 Squadron – in 1944. By war’s end he had logged more than 1,660 flying hours, almost half that time in Avro Ansons (the balance in C-47s, Catalinas, Walruses, Beauforts, Oxfords, as well as DH and CAC trainers).

Drury remained in the Air Force Reserve after the war until September 1960 when, having reached retirement age, he was compelled to resign.

This collection of unofficial images (below) from the Bundaberg Library collection, remarkable for their comprehensiveness and candour, reveal both the resourcefulness and challenges confronting air force salvage crews even when, as with Drury’s Anson seen here, they were barely a few miles from a major regional center.