A camoufleur’s art

For more than a century official war artists have helped shape our understanding of Australian military history. Often selected on the basis of their pre-war reputations, the works produced by official war artists such as Sidney Nolan, Russell Drysdale, Arthur Streeton and Albert Tucker have become staple offerings for a nation now locked into a  permanent cycle of military commemoration. 

Far eclipsing the output of these official war artists however is the great body of work produced by Australia’s unofficial war artists. Despite its greater authenticity (much official war art having been produced by non-participants, after the event), this vast output remains largely undocumented, unstudied, and unappreciated.

These unofficial artists painted, sketched, and drew for their own pleasure, depicting what they liked as they liked without the thought that their works were destined for public collections. They drew and painted to hone their artistic skills, to record their experiences, to relieve the boredom and isolation, and in the case of many, as a means of therapy, helpful in unfamiliar situations disconnected from everyday life.

Unencumbered by military directives these unofficial artists could access and observe subjects that were not ordinarily available, the informality of their art contrasting with the oftentimes formal and heroic tone of official war art.

 

Frank Rowland, n.d. (State Library of Queensland)

 

Although Australian servicemen and women were never actively encouraged during the Second World War to sketch and paint (as they were in Canada), many uniformed personnel took pleasure in doing so. While some of these unofficial artists were self-taught, others had received formal training and were so employed – typically as commercial artists – prior to the war.

 

This June 1943 list of official camoufleurs reads like who’s who of the Australian art world (National Archives of Australia, NAA: A649, 224/600/374 page 102).

To this last category belonged many of Australia’s camoufleurs, members of a small but prestigious group of practicing artists, photographers, designers and architects (both men and women) tasked with assisting the Army, Navy and Air Force to camouflage its facilities and equipment, and with training military personnel in the science of camouflage.  

In early April 1941 the Australian War Cabinet had approved the establishment of a Defence Central Camouflage Unit and an experimental camouflage station at Sydney’s Middle Head, both operating under the auspices of the Home Security Department. National Security (Camouflage) Regulations were approved later the same year. Recruitment began almost immediately, no more than about sixty ‘officers’ having been appointed in all.

Arthur Francis (Frank) Rowland (1912 – 1976) received his camoufleur certificate number 19  around May 1943, being initially posted to the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) newly constructed satellite airfield at Brymaroo near Jondaryan on the Darling Downs (Queensland). Seldom used by aircraft, and with no hangars and just a handful of wooden structures to camouflage, there would have been little else for Rowland to do at Brymaroo  – other than paint. It was around this time that Rowland is also thought to have joined Brisbane’s influential Half Dozen Group of Artists.

 

In 1943 Rowland was billeted on the Brymaroo property of Ann and Lionel Mason, this watercolor typifying the landscape in that part of the Darling Downs. Frank Rowland, n.d. (State Library of Queensland).

 

In a mid 1943 war art exhibition review, Brisbane’s Telegraph newspaper counted Rowland ‘Amongst the painters who rise above the depressing level…though his drawing is not perfect, [he] has a sense of character in a portrait of a CCCworker, and has captured the movement and atmosphere of a man working at a gravel-crushing machine.’

The following year he was posted to Darwin and although employed as a civilian, he continued  working for the RAAF. Only camouflage officers working in forward areas were required to wear uniforms, being issued with Air Force officer uniforms adorned with Home Security Department badges, buttons and armlets (with the letters ‘A C’).

It was only after camoufleurs in Australia’s  North-West Area had begun ‘illegally’ wearing epaulettes with the words ‘Accredited Camoufleurs,’ that the Department – in April 1943 – had issued its first official insignia bearing the correct ‘Authorised Camoufleur’ insignia.

 

Frank Rowland, n.d. (State Library of Queensland).

 

The Japanese had long since ceased attacking northern Australia by the time Rowland arrived there, the allied advance having also moved far offshore to the north-western islands. No longer a front-line combat zone, much of his art from this period is concerned with the ordinary and the routine of everyday military life.

After the war he returned to Brisbane where he resumed his career as a commercial artist, while continuing to judge, exhibit and teach art (at the Queensland College of Art). He eventually retired in 1961 after a twelve year career with the Brisbane Telegraph newspaper.

The works shown here were exhibited at the Royal Queensland Art Society’s Petrie Terrace Gallery in 2016 and remain with Rowland’s family, another thirty-two of his works being with the State Library of Queensland.

 

Unplanned

A Mk.V Spitfire over northern Australia, similar to that which Flying Officer Morton force landed near Gundare Station in south-west Queensland (author’s collection).

In early June 1944 the RAAF’s No.457 Squadron, one of three Spitfire units recalled from Britain for homeland defence, began exchanging its near-obsolete Mk.V aircraft with more effective Mk.VIIIs. As deliveries of the latter began arriving in the Northen Territory, squadron pilots would ferry equal numbers of the former south for overhaul and re-assignment – typically to Operational Training Units or mainland fighter squadrons.

Originally from Emerald in Central Queensland, twenty-one year old Pilot Officer Alexander Henry Morton (405639) was one of ten 452 and 457 squadron pilots tasked mid-July 1944 with ferrying Mk.Vs south to No.6 Aircraft Deport at Oakie [sic] in south-east Queensland. Delayed by one day, and escorted by a Beaufort bomber, the ferry flight left Sattler (N.T.) at 0740 on July 12th on a 1,590 nautical mile route tracking via Tennant Creek, Cloncurry, and Charleville.

Only seven of the eight planes that departed Cloncurry the following morning however, made it to Charleville that day. A corresponding entry in the squadron’s Operational Record Book records…’A signal has been received that P/O A.H. MORTON, flying A58-208, is missing in the vicinity of AUGATHELLA (Q) and that a Beaufort is conducting a search. A further signal has been received stating that P/O A.H.MORTON had made a forced landing, wheels down, in a paddock near AUGATHELLA. The airplane is undamaged and the pilot is unhurt.’

NAA BP243-1, K1065 PART 1 Page 277

The senior seargent at Augathella police station takes up the story….

…at about midday on the 15th. Instant, seven fighter planes piloted by R.A.A.F. Pilots, flew over Augathella and circled the town on several occasions. All of the planes then left. Shortly afterwards two of the planes were seen to return. I then received a telephone call from R.A.A.F. Headquarters, Charleville, informing me that the two planes were off their course, and asking me to arrange for smoke signals to give them the wind direction at some suitable landing ground near the town, as it was thought that they were short of petrol.

I immediately with the assistance of other town people, hurried by Motor Truck to Holley Downs Station two miles from Augathella and had smoke signals ready. At that time the planes had gone out of view. I left men at the scene, ready to light smoke signals should the planes again come in view. I then went in the truck to Holley Downs Station Homestead close by, and contacted the R.A.A.F. Headquarters, Charleville, by telephone. They informed me that the two planes had landed safely at Charleville aerodrome, but they informed me that there was still one plane missing.

A plane was sent out from Charleville shortly after, and after circling about Augathella located the missing plane on the ground at Gundare Station, and the Pilot signalled them that he was all right. The plane had landed about 20 miles from Augathella, and about four miles from Gundare Station Homestead. Flying officer Gould, who was in the searching plane gave directions to Pilot Officer Morton, who had made the forced landing in the Spitfire Fighting Plane, of the direction to take to Gundare Homestead, and then flew back to Charleville.

Lieutenant Mines of Augathella, who is head of the V.D.C. at Augathella, was at Gandare Station at the time, and located Pilot Officer Morton on his way to the Gundare Homestead, and took him to the homestead. The pilot was none the worse for the experience, and was unhurt, and had landed the plane undamaged.

Pilot Morton contacted the R.A.A.F. Charleville and with Lieutenant Mines of the V.D.C. arrangements were immediately made for a V.D.C. guard to be placed on the plane. At 6.pm. members of the R.A.A.F. Charleville arrived at Augathella, Flight Officer Gould being in charge. I had a conversation with him on his arrival and he assured me that everything was all right, and that he was going out to Gundare to pick up pilot Officer Morton to take him to Charleville, also to make arrangements for petrol to be taken to the plane to have it refueled to have it flown to Charleville.

I accompanied the RAAF men to Gundare Station, where I saw Pilot officer Morton who was unhurt, and he informed me that he had sufficient petrol to get to Charleville had he known the direction, but he did not know his location, and seeing a suitable landing ground he decided to land which he did without mishap.

We attempted to get to the site of a plane, but owing to the recent rain we were unable owing to the boggy state of the ground to get to the Plane. As there was a V.D.C. guard on the plane we brought Pilot Officer back to Augathella.

Sergt. 2/C 2513
Augathella Station

(Queensland State Archives: ID 320040)


Morton completed the half hour flight from Augathella to Charleville on May 18th, departing from there at 10 am the following day for No.6 Aircraft Depot, Oakie [sic] where he landed one hour and fifty minutes later.

Having survived the out-landing at Gundare Station, Spitfire A58-208 made another forced-landing the following month (due to engine trouble) while being delivered from No.6 Aircraft Depot to 85 Squadron in West Australia.

Since he is referred to in these squadron and police records as ‘Pilot Officer’, Morton – and his commanding officers – might have been unaware that his promotion to Flying Officer had in fact been formally gazetted just a few weeks earlier (Government Gazette. 29 June 1944, Issue No.127, page 1326).

He returned to Central Queensland after the war and became a farmer at Sunny Hills, Ridgelands, north-west of Rockhampton.


Ipswich Railway Workshops

Mitsubishi A6M engine valve cover sent to the Ipswich Railway Workshops for metallurgical analysis during the Second World War (Workshops Rail Museum, Ipswich)

As a consequence of the 1939 British Air Mission to Australia, the state railways in Victorian, New South Wales, and South Australian each became involved in the production of military aircraft and aero engines.

Following a visit to Queensland in March 1939 by the Mission’s Technical Member L C Ord, serious consideration was also given to expanding the state rail workshops at Ipswich, west of Brisbane, so that aircraft and engine production could commence there.

Ord had ’empasized the necessity for spreading production of aircraft as widely as possible over industrial areas of the Commonwealth’, adding that …’It was preferable to use existing offices and buildings if a quick start were desired.’ (The Courier-Mail, 25 March 1939 Page 2)

Negotiations between the Queensland State and Commonwealth Governments commenced earnestly mid July 1939, points of difference appearing almost immediately. Ord had estimated a minimum floor space requirement of 30,000 square feet, only 10,000 of which was then available. Although the Commonwealth was prepared to fund the expansion, it insisted on being ‘reimbursed the salvage value of such provisions or alterations when the buildings are no longer required for the purpose.’ This proposition was rejected outright by the Queensland Premier in a letter to R G Casey (Minister for Supply & Development) dated 14 July 1939:

‘…the Queensland Government does not regard with favour the proposition that it should spend £30,000 on buildings that are not needed for the State’s own requirements and may never be used.’ (Queensland State Archives Item 267150)

The Commonwealth responded the following month by sending the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation’s General Manager (the unfortunately named – Mr Clapp) to Ipswich, the latter finding ‘that the facilities available in the Ipswich railway workshops, as well as in private engineering establishments in Queensland, were incompatible with the carrying out of the work which it was originally tentatively proposed should be allocated to Queensland.’

The Ipswich facilities which Ord had described in March 1939 as ‘impressive’ were, barely five months later, deemed by Clapp to be ‘incompatible’. The latter’s findings effectively put an end to the proposal, triggering an immediate recall of the four Queensland Railway employees who had been sent to England mid year for production aircraft training (a fifth trainee, Toolmaker Wood, remaining in England to complete his training).

Although during the war the Ipswich Workshops were mainly producing munitions they did, by virtue of their of their metallurgical expertise, occasionally have some limited involvement with military aviation.

Vince Preston, who worked in the Tool and Gauge Room at Ipswich during the war, recalled how these engines pieces – recovered from a Japanese Zero fighter aircraft – had been sent to Ipswich for metallurgical analysis (hence, the drill holes)….’we were under a lot of pressure to provide quick and accurate results.’

Gundaroo’s Ventura

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.


Squadron Diaries (Form A50s) need to be approached with some cicumspection, this 13 Squadron entry showing A59-55 departing for repairs a week after it had been destroyed at Gundaroo. The navigator on that occasion was E G Whitlam, who returned to Canberra years later as the Australian Prime Minister (NAA A9186,35).


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. 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.

RAAF Fairbairn Photographer, Kevin Ginnane.

Australian War Memorial Curator, Mark Clayton.
RAAF Fairbairn Photographer, Kevin Ginnane.
RAAF Fairbairn Photographer, Kevin Ginnane.

The code ’34’ was found in most part numbers, confirming that this was indeed the wreckage of a Lockheed Model 34 (a.k.a. Ventura).
Original dark blue paint was still evident on many exterior surfaces.

Down on the Downs, twice.

In early February 1942 an American single-seater aeroplane – low on fuel – force landed in a paddock on the Darling Downs west of Brisbane whereafter, the hapless pilot presented at a nearby homestead asking to use the telephone.

Two days later, at about 8 p.m. on Tuesday, 10th February 1942 an American Sergeant of Guard with three other Guards called at Jondaryan Police station (171 kms west of Brisbane) and informed the duty officer, Constable C Coop (2790), that they were endeavouring to locate one of their planes which they stated had made a forced landing thereabouts. 

Assembling one of the 192 P-40Es diverted from Mindanao in the Phillipines, to Brisbane, Queensland in January 1942 (AWM P00264.015).

Having no knowledge of the incident, Coop immediately commenced inquiries and ascertained that an American plane had indeed force landed two days earlier in a paddock on Jondaryan Estates Station, just six miles from the Police Station.

After learning of this the Constable immediately telephoned Mr William Kent, Manager of Jondaryan Estates Station, who elaborated….

that an American [had] plane landed in the “Berry Bush Paddock”, on Jondaryan Station which is situated about six miles from Jondaryan at about 1pm on the 8th inst. and that an employee named John Coombs had been placed on guard at the plane in the night time, and that Pilot Holman, who was piloting the plane was guarding the plane during the day, and that the pilot was accommodated at Jondaryan Estates Homestead at night, and that the pilot was not injured and the plane was not damaged.

Since the plane was standing in about a foot of flood water in a black soil paddock it could be at least another week, Kent warned, before it could be towed out by tractor. He added that all traffic had been blocked from reaching the Station ‘owing [to] the Jondaryan Creek being in flood and water being 12 feet over the traffic bridge.’

The Sergeant of Guard also spoke with Pilot Holman at Jondaryan Station, the former satisfying himself ‘that everything was in order’. Since they could not get out to the plane, and as the pilot was uninjured, the Guard decided to return to their headquarters at RAAF Amberley, leaving pilot Holman in charge of the plane.

Kent, perhaps not unreasonably, had mistakenly assumed the Pilot had already reported the matter to Police when, on first reaching the Jondaryan Estate, he had immediately asked to use the station’s telephone. In the event it took another ten days for the paddock to dry out, Holman eventually departing for Amberley on 18th February 1942.

That, as far as Constable Cook was concerned, should have been the end of the matter – only its wasn’t. Although he had watched the plane disappear from view, its replacement pilot had barely flown 13 kilometers when he too was compelled –  this time by engine trouble – to make another forced landing in a paddock north-west of Oakey.

Constable 3096 (surname illegible) from that town’s police station subsequently reported that:

…at about 1 pm. on Friday the 20th. instant, a single seater aeroplane was seen to circle over Oakey, and land to the North West of the township. 

I later interviewed the pilot who informed me that his name is Lieutenant GIES, and that he was attached to the American Air Squadron at Amberley. He informed me that the aeroplane was the one that was down at Jondaryan through engine trouble, and that he had been there effecting repairs, and was intending to take same back to Amberley, when passing over Oakey the plane again developed engine trouble, whereby he had to make a forced landing. He requested that a guard be placed over the aeroplane, stating that he would go to Toowoomba, and thence to Amberley. He informed me that he had communicated with his head-quarters by phone and that a guard would probably arrive in Oakey at about 6 pm. that same evening. 

I immediately proceeded to the scene, where I remained guard over the aeroplane until about 7-30 p.m. when Sergeant 2/C A.J. Logan arrived on the scene, with a local resident named Roy DAWSON, who has remained on guard since.

The aeroplane landed in a lucerne paddock in the property of Mr Francis BACH at ‘Woodbine’, Oakey. On landing the one [sic] wing structure two fencing posts which caused damage to one wing and other damage was caused to the plane.

Up to this time [i.e. Two days after the second forced landing] no American staff, or telephone communication has been received from them as to this aeroplane, or what they desire to be done with same. 

Twenty-seven year old Lieutenant Carl Parker Gies had, only a few months prior to these events, been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for ‘his heroic action with the United State Air Corps in the Phillipines’.

A final report prepared by Sergeant A J Logan (1421) of the Oakey Police Station notes that the plane ‘was dismantled by members of the American Air Force and removed to Amberley on the 4th inst.’. It goes on to point out that…

The civil guard of Roy DAWSON was placed over this aeroplane on the verbal instructions given by Lieutenant GIES, of the American Air Force. He remained on guard for eight days, when he had to leave for other employment, the guard was taken over for two days by Alfred Wm. PORTWAY of Oakey, who was on guard for two days. Members of the R.A.A.F. under the direction of Flight Lieutenant CHAMBERS arrived on [sic] Oakey on the morning of the 2nd. inst. when they commenced to dismantle the plane. 

I was verbally instructed that any expense incurred in connection with the care of this aeroplane, was to be charged to the American Air Corps.

Frustratingly, and unlike most other wartime Queensland police reports concerning plane crashes, neither the aircraft or its pilots are adequately identified in any of the several reports (Queensland State Archives Series16865 Item ID 2177680) concerning these incidents.

The subject aircraft was almost certainly one of the 192 P-40Es and 55 pilots diverted – from Mindanao in the Phillipines – to Brisbane in mid-January 1942.

Robert Kingsley’s seven-part blog, USAAF P-40s in Java, offers a much fuller account of these first Australian P-40s, noting that ‘The assembly of the P-40’s was in competent hands but the pilots, however, were a totally different story’ being ‘hardly out of flying training school and their flying time on P-40’s averaged  about 15 hours. On top of this came the fact that they were badly out of practice after their long, slow voyage across the Pacific. The results were inevitable.’

 

 

 

 

 

Alternative perspectives

The 1989 edition of Souter’s memoir featured an image of the famous B-17 Sally, first published in a 1943 issue of Life magazine.

Aviation literature is frustratingly uncommon, especially here in Australia where one hand is probably all you need to count the number of author’s who have produced significant works of artistic merit (e.g. Xavier Herbert, Ivan Southall, Don Charlwood, Gordon Taylor and Geoffrey Dutton).

While the writings of author and historian Gavin Souter have never attracted quite the same attention his autobiographical memoir, The Idle Hill of Summer, is notable nonethelss both for the quality of its prose and its rare evocation of wartime North Queensland – as viewed through the eyes of a schoolboy.

His recollection of the 1943 Baker’s Creek plane crash ( extract below) is especially revealing when read alongside the local constabulary’s official account of the same incident (QSA Series 16865 Item 2177743).

Literature, so it seems to me, is the finest form of history…..but you decide for yourself.



The closest I ever came to understanding the real nature of the war, which had been in progress for four years, was when I saw a crashed B-17 in the bush at Baker’s Creek. Most of the time in Mackay it was easy to forget the war, to ignore the few black-garbed refugees from Java who are living in the town, even to forget that the Americans among us were not tourists in uniform but military personnel who would soon be returning to the hardships and hazards of New Guinea. When something reminded us of these hazards, it came almost as a surprise…rumour had it that a Corsair fighter flipped over on its back while landing on a carrier in Mackay harbour, caught fire and incinerated the pilot. The rumour was passed around our school, but I put little credence in it because no one had been out to see the carrier. There was no such doubt, however, about the news that a Flying Fortress had crashed within minutes of taking off from Mackay killing thirty-nine of the forty Americans on board. This report made its way around school and around town with such speed and certainty that there was no questioning its accuracy. Nothing about the crash was published in the Mercury, but an editorial entitled ‘We Share Their Grief’ said next morning:

The war has brought sadness into many homes in this district in the loss of gallant sons who had gone forth in the grand tradition to defend their homeland from a ruthless enemy. It is for that very reason, the reason that fate has previously touched our own hearts, that we can extend in deepest feeling the sympathy of the community to our American allies in the loss of loved ones, news of whose passing, in the course of duty, circulated yesterday. No matter how we might grow accustomed to casualty lists, we can never grow hardened to them. Their poignancy is not in names or numbers, but in the meaning of memories. Young men who spent their recreation here, and were adopted into the homes in the hearts of our people, leave an aching void by their passing. It is our common destiny to take these blows, but it is our common faith, also, to share the grief of our neighbour, and this we do today.


My own response was less elevated than this. I shared no grief with anyone, but with some friends I did share an intense curiosity about the wreckage which still lay in the bush at Baker’s Creek, six miles from town. The Fortress had caught fire in the air, and as it dived into the trees one of its wings came away leaving a great opening in the fuselage through which most of the passengers were emptied into the bush before the final impact. On the afternoon at the second day after the crash, I rode out to Baker’s Creek with my brother and Bill Hoffman. We could see nothing from the road except some American and Australian military policeman who were still on guard near the crash site. Riding further along, we came to a railway bridge that crossed Baker’s Creek at a point not far through the bush from where we guessed the wreckage to be. We started to cross the bridge, but were observed by some local children who are alerted one of the provosts. He came down the road road, blew his whistle and waved us back off the bridge. The others started to ride home, but I remained sitting in some tall grass until everybody, including the treacherous locals, had disappeared. I then walked quickly across the bridge and dropped into more tall grass on the other side.

With visions of Richard Hannay glowing in my mind, I began crawling in the direction of the crash – through grass at first, under barbed wire fence, and then into eucalyptus scrub. Once a month among the trees I was able to move more quickly and comfortably. Any doubts about the direction in which I should move were soon dispelled when I noticed that the tops of all the trees around me had been lopped, at first only a few feet from the top, and then progressively lower as I moved cautiously ahead. I must have been walking in the B-17’s flight path. The trees had been cut down to a height of twenty feet, fifteen feet, ten feet and then suddenly there were no trees at all – just an open swathe of bare ground about the width of a Flying Fortress and about a hundred yards long.


All over this ground were pieces of aeroplane, first the tail fin standing alone and lopsided like a big khaki sail; then the main part of the fuselage, torn and burnt; here and there four big engine nacelles with their propeller blades twisted out of shape; and everywhere a litter of aluminium panels and tubing, men’s shoes, scorched rubber hose, broken dials and wiring, and pools of melted perspex. Keeping just inside the trees, I worked my way around the perimeter of the crash, pausing now and then to look at pieces of clothing in the branches overhead, or to pocket small bits of aluminium tubing.


Eventually my progress was blocked by an arm of mangrove swamp extending from Baker’s Creek to the edge of the crash. Although the swamp was almost dry, I did not fancy walking any further through the little air roots that sprouted among the mangrove trees like those upright blades in the arena of Ming the Merciless. Looking down at one of the patches of dry mud from which these spear-like roots protruded, I saw a wristwatch.
Half it’s leather-strap was missing, and the glass was shattered, but when I picked it up I found that the sweep hand was still moving and the hour and minute hands told the right time. It was a stainless steel black faced self-winding watch made by the Bulova Watch Company of New York. That it was still ticking after presumably having been torn from someone’s wrist and hurled a great distance through the air seemed almost as remarkable to me as the survival of a solitary passenger from a complement of forty men. I wrapped the watch carefully in my handkerchief and put it in a pocket with the bits of aluminium I had collected.


An Australian provost had now appeared at the far side of the crash. I picked up some larger bits of aluminium and moved quickly back through the trees towards the railway line. No one was in sight at the bridge, and I walked unchallenged back to my bike. Tucking the longer pieces of tubing under the seat and along the bar, I pedalled back up the road ready to clap on speed as soon as I came near the provosts. There was no need for this. the provosts had gone, and Rod and Bill were sitting by the side of the road waiting for me to come back. They had asked one of the provosts if they could see the wreckage, and he had taken them on a guided tour before I reached the edge of the site. I was glad to see, however, that they had no souvenirs.


I said nothing about the wristwatch until I got home; it seemed too extravagant to pass for a souvenir. As there was no name inscribed on the back, what was the point of handing it in to the American authorities? My parents compromised by letting me keep the watch but not wear it. some weeks later one of my father’s colleagues at the bank offered £10 for it. I kept £1 of this, and invested the rest in War Savings Certificates. (pp. 85 – 88).

Araluen

Official records reference ‘Merricumbene’, but for me it will always be the ‘Araluan Valley’

Bordered by the Monga and Deua National Parks, the Araluen Valley south of Braidwood (N.S.W.) is breathtakingly beautiful – as it was that day in November 1984 when I found myself lurching along one of its ridge-top tracks in a 4WD. I’d been invited by Bob Piper (RAAF Historical Section) to visit the crash site of Wirraway A20-116, which had failed to return from a coastal photographic survey of Batemans Bay on 16 September 1943.

School of Army Co-operation (NAA: A9186, 357 Page 41 of 118)

I don’t recall the route we took or, indeed, the wreck’s approximate location. However, I do remember that it was a relatively short and easy walk from the track to the crash site.

These images can speak for themselves.