Page 1

                                         June 2004 Issue #68
                          BASIL BROWN CREW - A72-329

           No.12 SQUADRON - DARWIN - APRIL/MAY '45.                                                    DONATIONS TO
Back Row - L to R: Tom Offord - WOP; John Gilber - WOP; Ron Rowie -                                  B-24 RESTORATION
Mid Upper; Doug Miller - Bombardier; Rod Brown - Tail Gunner; Ross                                 A short Committee Meeting was held at
Farmer - RCM; Basil Brown - Skipper; Bob Hatch - Navigator; Brian Day -                            the B-24 Liberator Branch Function, held
F/Engineer; Hugh Barbour - Co-Pilot; Mick Ward - Nose Gunner. Front                                at the City RSL Cub, 565 George Street
Row: Ground crew, names not listed. Aircraft: Pelores Jack - B-24J-5-NT-                           Sydney, on 16th January 2004 and it was
                                                                                                   decided to donate $1,000 to the B-24
44-28100. Photo supplied by Brian Day.                                                             Liberator Memorial Restoration Fund
                                                                                                   Inc.. It is felt that this is appropriate as
                                                                                                   one of the Aims and Objectives of the
In This Issue:                                                                                     Newsletter is “To locate and obtain a B-
                                                                                                   24 for an Australian national museum”.
Basil Brown Crew                1   Remember Mendalan                                        3
                                                                                                   A cheque for $1,000 was forwarded to
Donations to B-24 Restoration   1   B-24 Liberator Restoration Letter                        4     the B-24 Restoration Group on 28th
                                                                                                   January 2004. Unfortunately on 27th
Folded Wings                    2   200 Flight                                               5
                                                                                                   January 2004 the roof of their store
Condolences                     2   Truscott — The Hump — Sabotage 7                               hangar collapsed so it is hoped that this
                                                                                                   donation has helped during this trying
Editor’s Note                   2   Operation Starfish                                       7     period.
Correspondence                  2   Branch Luncheon Photos                                   8     Unfortunately this information was not
                                                                                                   included in the March Newsletter as
B-24 Liberator Luncheon         2
                                                                                                   extenuating circumstances meant the
                                                                                                   Newsletter be finalised before this date.
                    PO BOX 1052 CANBERRA ACT 2601
                                     B-24 Liberator Squadrons of Australia Newsletter - Issue 68
                                                                        Page 2

                           Folded Wings                                                                       CORRESPONDENCE
                                                                                                              The following correspondence was received
                W.A.. (LEX) HUTTON:              years. Harry served on the Active Reserve                    from Michael Garnett, RMB 1175 Main
                Lex Hutton of 61 Caesar          RAAF.      His total RAAF and RAAF                           Road, Romsey 3434, Victoria following
                Road, Ferny Hills, Qld., a       Reserve service was 37 years. Harry retired                  the publishing of the WEG cartoon in
                former Corporal Fitter 2A        from his business because of ill health.                     Newsletter 67:
                of No 21 Squadron died on        Unfortunately no details of the date of his
                Wednesday 4th February,          passing was given. Newsletter regrets that                   Dear Fred,
                2004.     We thank Mick          we have lost a long time loyal supporter.
                Stenson of Minyama, Qld,                                                                      I   was   pleased   that   you
                                                                                                              included   the   WEG   cartoon
                for advising us of Lex’s
                                                                                                              which came out very well.
                passing and some memories
                                                                                                              You will be interested to
                of his association with Lex                                                                   know that I sent a copy of
                Hutton. Mick was advised
                of Lex’s passing by Mrs.             CONDOLENCES                                              the Newsletter to Weg (ie. W.
                                                                                                              E. Green OAM) and received a
                Marj Hutton, Lex’s wife.                                                                      response from him yesterday.
                                                 Newsletter offers our deepest sympathy to                    He said:-
Lex had been a member of the B-24                Ken Bielenbereg of 4/15 Dower Street,
Squadrons of Australia for many years and        Coorparoo, Qld., a former 12 Squadron co-                    “….it was great to see a
he had been Mick Stenson’s Crew Chief            pilot and post war ANA pilot for 36 years.                   c art oon   of   m ine   b ein g
when 21 Squadron was formed at Leyburn.          Ken recently had a stroke paralysing his                     republished after all these
His crew stayed together until they returned     right hand side and was hospitalised.                        years”.    Also, “I served in
to Tocumwal in November 1945 and they            Whilst he was in hospital his wife passed                    New Guinea in 1943-44 in the
were posted to their respective States for                                                                    15th      Brigade     58/59th
                                                 away. Ken has partially recovered but
discharge.                                                                                                    Battalion.    I drew a lot in
                                                 hopes to move to a nursing home in the
                                                                                                              New Guinea. My first cartoon
Their crew was attached to MJ-V,A72-60           near future.                                                 published was a cartoon on
until it was returned to Amberley for its 600                                                                 being on Shaggy Ridge.         I
hour overhaul. Their next care was MJ-O,                                                                      sent that back after the
A72-98 “Blondy Mac”, which was Alan                                                                           action we were in and it was
McFarlane’s aircraft. Mick Stenson said                                                                       published on the front cover
that Lex Hutton formed them into a very
good crew and they all worked very well               EDITORS NOTE                                            of ARMY Magazine.
                                                                                                              lot    of Liberators,
                                                                                                                                    I drew a
together. They helped each other in all                                                                       Bombers and Kitty Hawks when
respects. Lex was a master scrounger and         I thank those members who have provided                      I was in New Guinea so I had
would wander off and when he came back           suggestions on what should be done with                      no trouble in caricaturing
he would get Mick to get the truck and           monies remaining in the bank when                            and stretching these planes.
collect what he had scrounged from the           Newsletter has to call it a day. However, a                  I must have drawn this Lib.
Yanks. They ended up with more than                                                                           and the story of the action
                                                 much larger cross section of views is
enough spares.                                                                                                at that time.”
                                                 needed before the suggestions can be placed
                                                 before the Committee. Please give this                       Whether you would like to put
Lex had been a very sick man for the last
                                                 matter some thought and put pen to paper                     this in a future Newsletter,
few years.      Our sincere sympathy is
                                                 with your views or send an e mail.                           I leave to you Fred – but it
extended to his wife Mrs Marj Hutton.                                                                         was an interesting story.
                                                 The Newsletter membership has remained
                                                 reasonably stable with new members                           Yours sincerely,
                                                 balancing our departed members.         At                   (sgnd ) Michael
                                                 present 40 members have not subscribed for                   Michael Garnett.
                                                 the 2004 issues of Newsletter.                               2nd April 2004
from returned mail that we learnt of the         The B-24 Restoration Group at Werribee is
death of our longtime member Harry Peers         experiencing difficult times with the
(RAAF No 142966). Harry was born at              collapse of their storage hanger, theft of two               B-24 LIBERATOR NSW’s
Geelong, Vic., on 23rd June, 1925 and was
educated at Deniliquin Intermediate High
                                                 B-24 wing-tips and heavy rain arriving
                                                 when their spares were stored under canvas                    BRANCH LUNCHEON
School and was a member of the RAAF Air          covers in the open. Newsletter will publish
                                                                                                              A B-24 Liberator Branch Luncheon will be
Training Corps.                                  details when more information comes to
                                                                                                              held on Friday 30th July, 2004, at the City
                                                 hand.       In the meantime the B-24
Prior to enlisting in the RAAF on 29th June                                                                   RSL Club, 565 George Street, Sydney, 12
                                                 Restoration Fund would appreciate any
1943 Harry was employed at the Deniliquin                                                                     noon for lunch at 12.30pm. A gathering of
                                                 financial assistance that could help them
Council Power Station. He trained as a                                                                        20 people minimum is required. The cost is
                                                 over this trying period.
Flight Mechanic and served at 7.S.F.T.S.                                                                      $30.
Deniquilin servicing Wirraways. He also          The Committee has agreed to donate
                                                                                                              Please send your remittance payable to
served at Ascot Vale Engineering School,         another $2,000.00 to the Restoration Group
                                                                                                              “RAAFA Liberator Branch” to Frank
RAAF and Brunswick Technical School,             to help them weather this present set back.
                                                                                                              Barclay, RAAF Association, Level 9, 32
                                                 This cheque was forwarded on the 25th                        York Street, Sydney, 2000, no later than
He became a Flight Engineer with No.23           May, 2004.                                                   23rd July, 2004.
Squadron firstly at Leyburn, Qld and then at
                                                 Yours sincerely,                                             Make sure you come and bring your
Long, Darwin, Morotai and Balikpapan.
                                                                                                              associates. A good roll up ensures a
After the War he worked with Ansett and          J.F. DAWSON,                                                 successful and convivial luncheon.
TAA for 2 years. He then started his own         3 Bendigo Street,
radio, electrical and television business in     FISHER, A.C.T., 2611.
Deniliquin which he conducted for 30             Ph: 02-6288 1931.
                                                B-24 Liberator Squadrons of Australia Newsletter - Issue 68
                                                                         Page 3

                                        REMEMBER MENDALAN
The Grouper brought the aircraft around to
that heading as Stan scanned the darkness
ahead, no doubt hopefully looking for
landing lights at base as he continued - "As
close as I can work out we should be at base
in 15 minutes."
Three pairs of eyes scanned the pitch
darkness ahead, seeing nothing but the
occasionally illuminated heaving sea baring
its whitened teeth in disturbed anger. Then I
noticed the Grouper screw up the piece of
paper on which Stan had written the course,
throwing it to the floor. He switched off the
Auto Pilot and with both hands firmly on
the control column brought the Liberator
around a full 40 degrees to port, electing to
fly a gyro-compass indicated course of 110
degrees. As I switched to radio, hoping to
get a signal from the Truscott Control
Tower that may serve for a RDF (Radio
Direction Finding) bearing, I was aware
that Stan was arguing with Group Capt.
Kingwell, but the Grouper held firmly to his                  L to R: W/O Dick Phillips, Bombardier; F/Lt. Bill Kirkwood, Captain;
chosen course without wavering. Bob                              F/Lt. Alf Chandler, Navigator; and W/O Fred Shilcock, co-pilot.
Hogan edged Stan out of the limited entry                                       Photo supplied by Fred Shilcock.
area to the cockpit. Not receiving response
from the Control Tower, I lifted my               circuit procedure for very good reasons.                     Officers who were obviously keen to record
headphone to hear him say to the Grouper -        Those four motors continued their                            every facet of the mission; then it was on to
"All tanks showing empty sir." No sense in        uninterrupted steady drone, increasing now                   the Mess Hut and a welcome meal before
putting that news on the intercom; better to      to the usual whine as I decreased pitch to                   that much-needed rest.
let the steady drone of the motors assure the     build up revs for landing control. "Wheels
                                                  down; 20 degrees of flap; headlights on"                     "Thanks a lot chaps - wonderful effort, all
crew that all was well, at least for each                                                                      of you" said the Grouper as we off loaded at
succeeding moment they continued that             came my instructions from the Skipper over
                                                  intercom as he reduced power to bring us to                  the Mess "No hurry to get back to Fenton
sound without coughing or surging.                                                                             too early; we'll take off at midday" . Flight
                                                  the welcome end of the airstrip as the
Bob's face showed the stress of the               brilliant beams of our two landing lights                    Lt. Bill Kirkwood had sat in on the
situation; he couldn't transfer fuel that he      carved away a slice of the starless night to                 debriefing and accompanied us to the Mess.
didn't have, and he had sucked the                reveal the landing zone. I called the                        "How long have you been in Bill. Did you
auxilliary belly tanks and the wing tanks         airspeed to him as we descended those last                   cop that storm?" queried the Grouper as we
completely dry.                                   few hundred feet - "One hundred and thirty;                  sat down to eat a grilled steak with fries.
                                                  one hundred and twenty-five; one hundred
"O.K. Bob" replied the Grouper in                                                                              "Too right" was the reply as Bill answered
                                                  and twenty" as our B24 A72-81 settled to a
acknowledgment, his face or manner not                                                                         the second part of the question first "and I
                                                  three-point landing under the Grouper's
betraying any indication of the stress or                                                                      never want to fly in another one like it. We
                                                  firm control. By the time our lightened
concern that news must have caused.                                                                            tried to get around the north end of it but
                                                  aircraft braked barely half-way down the
It was ,moments later that I raised the first     length of the landing strip a yellow Jeep had                fuel worried me so we had to get under it.
response from the Control Tower and, was          pulled into position to guide us to the                      We had hell at wave-top level for thirty
it possible, did I dimly see dead ahead a line    allotted dispersal bay, where a transport                    minutes or so. We beat you in by about
of runway lights or was it an illusion? I         awaited our crew and gear. As I stopped our                  twenty minutes. I must say I was a bit
desperately hoped my vision was correct as        four motors at last, ground crew were                        worried about you when you took so long to
I called to the Tower - "Please fire a red        standing by ready to start servicing under                   show up. Boy, you must have been hellishly
Very light for identification". Before the        the eye and direction of the maintenance                     low in fuel!"
Duty Pilot could respond the Grouper's            Flight Sergeant as we filed out through the                  The Grouper nodded as he finished a
hand pressed 'transmit' - "Cancel that            bomb door opening.                                           mouthful of steak. "I decided we should try
request Truscott. This is Raider Leader;                                                                       to stay on course, but ended up with just
                                                  "Everything seems O.K., Flight" said Group
what is wind speed and direction? Over".                                                                       over an hour of the same hell trying to
                                                  Capt. Kingwell as the ground crew chief
The Grouper had seen the runway lights            came up to him with a smart salute. "By the                  weave our way out of it. But the main thing
and the flashing beacon of Truscott,              way, would you dipstick the tanks before                     is, we achieved all we set out to do. That
switched on in hopeful anticipation of the        you add fuel for the trip across to Fenton.                  week of bombing practice certainly paid
return of Raider Leader, and certainly didn't     You might let me know what you find                          off; it'll take them months to put that little
want to convey any impression of doubt as         before we take off again". That will be                      bunch of tricks together again."
to our situation. The Control Tower               interesting, I thought, having logged 14                     The general recap of the trip continued
response was heartening - "Truscott to            hours 05 minutes for the trip, recalling that                while we finished the meal and then retired
Raider Leader - welcome home sir. Cross           we must have spent over two hours of that                    to seek such rest as we could get in the
wind of less than ten knots. Conditions           time at low level with a fair bit of power on.               humid tropical night air under the essential
good. Over".                                                                                                   mosquito net.
                                                  It was coming up 0230 hours I noted as we
"Thanks base. I'll land straight in" was the      loaded our gear into the transport and
cryptic acknowledgment. The Grouper was           clambered up for the short run to the Ops
                                                                                                                                  Continued in Issue 69
electing to dispense with the customary           Room for debriefing with two Intelligence
                                                 B-24 Liberator Squadrons of Australia Newsletter - Issue 68
                                                    Page 4

                                    B-24 LIBERATOR MEMORIAL RESTORATION FUND Inc.
                                          Patron Air Commodore (Ret’d) Frank Burtt OBE, FAIM
                                           Project Development Manager Colin Grey O.A.M BA
                                                ABN 65 264 236 227, Inc No A0019983M
                                          PO Box 34 Cowes Vic 3922. Ph 0011-61-3-5956 7952
                                                      E.mail []

Mr. Fred Dawson
B-24 Squadrons of Australia
PO Box 1052

May 13, 2004

Dear Fred;

Further to our recent telephone conversation regarding the collapse of Hangar No3 at
Werribee. We are now in a position where we can determine the amount of damage done and
the cost of recovery. The total cost has run into several hundreds of thousands of dollars. The
removal of some 40 tonnes of Asbestos and the decontamination of several hundred thousand
aircraft parts have been considerably more than we imagined.

The hangar has been demolished and removed from the site. Our sponsors have been
wonderful in their support after the recovery. Our major sponsor Melbourne Water
Corporation has carried almost four fifths of the cost and a number of our smaller sponsors
carried a great proportion of the remainder. We have found sufficient storage for our parts for
the present; we are now faced with the preservation and repair of the many parts that were
damaged in the storms that followed the roof collapse. I will be able to give you a full list of
those sponsors when the program has run its course.

Although the actual cost to the Fund is quite small by comparison to the total cost we still
need to find sufficient funds to complete a preservation program on all of the parts that were
damaged by the weather. Or stores people had done a marvelous job over the last 12 months
cataloging and packaging the many thousands of parts we held in our store. Unfortunately the
materials we were using were not compatible with large amounts of water. Most of it was half
inch MDF, which is now one inch MDF after the rain.

Our need for this part of the program is in the order of $20,000.00. Again sponsors have come
to our aid loans of equipment, road transport and packaging material. Unfortunately we have
reached that point in the program where we have to start spending significant sums of money.
We had sufficient funds in reserve to keep the program running and raised more through the
disposal of some of our spares. However, we still need to raise $8,000 to obtain the necessary
preservation materials, construct some equipment, purchase storage materials and purchase
two 40-foot shipping containers for long-term storage of the delicate items.

It would be greatly appreciated Fred if your members could assist towards the completion of
the portion of the recovery program. We would be pleased to accept any monetary assistance
your members may like to offer.

Yours truly

Colin Grey O.A.M
Project Developme nt Manager

                            B-24 Liberator Squadrons of Australia Newsletter - Issue 68
                                                                          Page 5

                                                  200 FLIGHT R.A.A.F.

                                   Ground staff at Leyburn Camp with 200 Flt B-24 in background
Newsletter thanks Phil Dynes, 4452                 marginally, the pub has been given a                         organisation of the Sqdn were taken, ie,
Bucketts Way, Glouster, NSW, for sending           facelift along with the Police Station and                   parties were detailed to clear ground and
us a copy of the article he wrote for the          that’s about it. Kowitz Bros sawmill no                      erect essential temporary structures”.
Special Forces Club in London in support           longer has to compete with the drone of
                                                                                                                In October 1944, 23 Sqdn moved into
of 200 Flight. Phil gave us permission to          motors of B-24’s on the airstrip to the north
                                                                                                                Leyburn campsite from Menangle NSW to
shorten it but, it was felt that it should be      of the village, in order to break the still
                                                                                                                reform along with No 21 as Heavy Bomber
published in Newsletter in its entirety. Phil      silence that otherwise envelopes the town.
                                                                                                                Sqdns. Before these two squadrons had left
Dynes is the author of “Leyburns                   The farmers still farm their farms, the
                                                                                                                for the Darwin area, No 99 Sqdn began to
Liberators”.                                       shearers still go off each season to shear
                                                                                                                form on 1 February 1945 as an additional
                                                   their sheep. But Leyburn has seen progress
  LIBERATORS AND THE SPECIAL                                                                                    Liberator Sqdn attached to No 85 Heavy
                                                   in recent times, with the advent of a new
    FORCES OPERATING FROM                                                                                       Bomber Wing. Then with the sudden birth
                                                   school and better roads and amenities
           LEYBURN.                                                                                             of No 200 Flight on 15 February and its
                                                   provided by the Shire and this is borne out
                                                                                                                allocation to Leyburn, the camp was
By Phil Dynes – Historian 200 Flight.              by the provision of Liberator Park as a site
                                                                                                                virtually the home of upwards of 1300
                                                   spontaneously provided by the former
Leyburn in Queensland, was the location of                                                                      personnel, with the Airmen’s Mess catering
                                                   Rosenthall Shire Council for the placement
SRD’s newly formed 200 Special Duties                                                                           for two sittings each meal. This would
                                                   of a lasting monument to the memory of the
Flight, a RAAF Unit of Liberator aircraft                                                                       have been the period when Leyburn town
                                                   Liberators and their crews that departed
specially fitted out for the dropping behind                                                                    ship felt the real impact of the influx of
                                                   Leyburn never to return.
enemy lines of Z Special Unit personnel                                                                         servicemen. By the end of March when
and supplies. Leyburn was also the base for        Leyburn airstrip was constructed as part of                  only 200 Flight remained, the town ship
Z Special Unit’s paratroop training and was        the ‘Brisbane Line’ strategy formulated in                   was virtually ‘off-limits’ for security
the embarkation point for all parties to be        late 1942 and was one of the few airstrips                   reasons and it would have reverted to its
dropped into enemy territory.                      south of the Townsville area capable of                      rural atmosphere. The sight and sound of
                                                   accommoda t in g L ib erator a ircraf t.                     aircraft would become the only signs of the
My role in the unit’s intelligence area was        Interestingly, it was Wing-Commander Eric                    existence of an otherwise highly secret and
to be on hand at aircrew briefings before          Read, who early in the war had been given                    decidedly successful parachutist unit, which
they left on missions to arrange the               the task of locating sites within a given area               was to infiltrate into enemy territories in
encoding of all messages to forward bases          of Southeastern Queensland, which would                      Bornea, T imor, New Britain and
concerning their departure, together with          be suitable for the building of airstrips. It                Bougainville.
the incoming signal traffic resulting from         was he who had a look at this area at
their operations.                                                                                               The instructions for the formation of this
                                                   Leyburn and surveyed the site from the air,
                                                                                                                Special Duties Unit stressed the need for it
Whilst the operatives who were to be               of course not knowing at the time that he
                                                                                                                to be based and operated close to the
inserted by parachute had undergone a form         would later be posted as Commanding
                                                                                                                vicinity of Fraser Island which was the
of parachute training they were to have an         Officer of 200 Flight. The only suitable
                                                                                                                location of the AIB training ground for Z
added experience when they came to                 sites for Liberator aircraft were, in the
Leyburn. They went through a crash course          opinion of Wing Cmdr Read and his group,
in dropping in full kit in groups of four, all     at Cecil Plains, Leyburn and Jondaryan, and                  The first Commanding Officer of 200 Flight
exiting the Liberator on a slide, similar to       Leyburn was the airstrip chosen as a base                    was a distinguished airman, Squadron
child’s slippery dip, fitted in the rear of the    for these Special Operations Units.                          Leader Graham Pockley, DFC and Bar,
aircraft, with egress through an enlarged                                                                       who had returned to Australia in 1943 after
                                                   Leyburn got its first airmen in July 1944
camera hatch.                                                                                                   a most successful career with No 10
                                                   when 21 Sqdn moved from Camden NSW
                                                                                                                Squadron in Coastal Command, flying
A background history of the formation of           and set up the first camp site. Records
                                                                                                                Sunderlands. Major Everard Ellis, an SOE
200 Flight and of Leyburn airstrip is in           show that, “1 Officer and 29 other ranks
                                                                                                                (Special Operations Executive) Officer in
itself interesting. Leyburn has not greatly        equipped with 2 Chev trucks and 1 Dodge
                                                                                                                the British Army was in charge of Para
changed from what it was in 1944/45. The           weapon carrier, blankets, mess gear and 7
civilian population has increased perhaps          days rations arrived at Leyburn on 9th July
                                                   1944. The first steps towards the complete                   In its early days the unit’s morale was high,
                                                  B-24 Liberator Squadrons of Australia Newsletter - Issue 68
                                                                           Page 6

                                          200 FLIGHT R.A.A.F. cont ...
but it was soon to be shattered, as its             inserted was becoming increasingly and                       preparing the necessary outwards messages
resources of aircraft and aircrews take a           critically desperate. However, the fighting                  to despatch yet another aircraft on its way
frightful battering. So heavy were the              spirit never flagged and the small and                       to seek out another secret rendezvous of
initial losses that it took an all out effort by    indomitable unit fought on through the                       comrades awaiting much needed arms and
every man, regardless of his particular             difficult period of six weeks till the end of                supplies. The unit historian mentions the
skills, to keep the aircraft, not only in the       June when the first of two further                           June/July period as being their finest hours.
air, but on vital operations. At one stage          replacement aircraft arrived. The second,                    The sheer sacrifice of human endeavour by
the allotted 6 Liberators were reduced to 3         following just ten days later.           Two                 ground staff and aircrews alike through that
and aircrews from 7 to 4. This was the              replacement aircrews arrived during the                      crisis stage helped ensure the successful
result of the loss of Sqdn/Ldr Pockley and          first week in June and so the beginning of                   landings by the AIF at Labuan and
his crew together with Maj Ellis on the first       July saw the unit fully recovered and                        Balikpapan.
of the unit’s operational sorties into Central      functioning at full strength both on the
Borneo, followed six weeks later by F/O             ground and in the air.                                       And so it became routine until the cessation
Clark and crew and the crash of F/Lt                                                                             of hostilities and on into September,
Emmett and crew with three Z operatives in          By the end of May, 200 Flight had                            because the parties previously dropped into
unfortunate circumstances in British North          completed 22 missions. In the next four                      the jungles of Borneo still had to be
Borneo.                                             weeks with just four aircraft, the unit was                  supplied until they could make their way to
                                                    called upon to perform a record further 25                   the coast or be rescued by other means. A
Besides operations, paratroopers had to be          missions, the majority of which were of a                    total of 116 missions were completed up to
trained at Leyburn in practice jumps as well        supply nature. The unit’s total resources                    26 September.
as aircrews put through rigorous low flying         during June 1945 were extended to the
procedures. Parachutes and storpedoes had           limits of human endurance. The situation                     But where success was being achieved it
to be carefully packed, aircraft continually        eased somewhat in July, although AIB                         did not go unnoticed.          The role the
maintained and re-armed. With the onset of          again called for a nominal 21 missions to be                 Liberators had played was shortly to be put
winter, maintenance crews were carrying             accomplished. By this time the addition of                   to other uses and as soon as the AIB
out double shifts using makeshift lighting          the two replacement aircraft and aircrews                    personnel were returned to Australia, the
and without shelter of any kind in order that       had relieved the pressures which till then,                  L ibe ra tor s of 200 Fligh t were
the aircraft would have maximum down-               had been placed on air and ground staff                      commissioned to bring back POW’s and
time at base before returning north once            alike.                                                       wounded from Borneo, New Guinea and
more to duty.                                                                                                    Bougainville and this role continued until
                                                    During June and July maintenance crews                       December. Demobilisation had started as
These were the early days of the Unit’s             worked double shifts. Each night under the                   early as October for those categories of
history. 200 Flight had only successfully           most deplorable wintery conditions, without                  airmen with five plus years of service and
completed 15 missions at the time of the            shelter of any kind, fitters and armourers                   had continued at an increasingly accelerated
loss of the third of its Liberators. These          toiled using makeshift lighting to service                   rate until the unit ceased to exist on 12
three operations were uneasy failures               the Libs so that they could return north to                  April, 1946, but only a token staff remained
resulting in the loss of aircraft and lives.        duty in the minimum of time. There was no                    after February. The last four aircraft left
This was not a particularly good success            electricity in Leyburn in those times and so                 Leyburn on 15 January, 1946, for 7AD
rate.                                               portable generators were used to light the                   Tocumwal, NSW, where they went into
                                                    camp area and the airstrip. Likewise in the                  storage prior to disposal action in 1952.
At Leyburn, morale was dangerously low
                                                    Briefing tents the Flight Commanders,
despite the hustle and bustle within the                                                                         On 2nd February, 1946, the Governor-
                                                    Intelligence, Operations, Signals Staff and
camp as frantic efforts were made to bring                                                                       General was pleased to approve the
                                                    their Army counterparts worked into the
the remaining three aircraft to operational                                                                      following honours and awards to members
                                                    night planning payloads, routes, fuel,
serviceability status. Fortunately the unit                                                                      of 200 Flight, RAAF.
                                                    weather, call signs, accommodation and
had received a replacement allocation for
Pockley’s missing aircraft in the first week
in May and at this crucial stage this aircraft
had just returned from the installation of
Rebecca radio equipment and modification
of the parachute slide at No 3 Aircraft
Depot, Amberley, and so was operational.

  Semuti – Re Supply – 17th July 1945.
         A72-187 – W/C Read.
                                                                           A72-183 undergoing maintenance at Leyburn airstrip
AIB’s need to supply its troops already
                                                   B-24 Liberator Squadrons of Australia Newsletter - Issue 68
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  200 FLIGHT cont ...                                        TRUSCOTT                                                  OPERATION
Air Force Cross                                            – THE HUMP –                                                 STARFISH
Wing Cmdr Eric Read, Captain                                 SABOTAGE                                           An article on this operation was published
F/Lt Fank Ball, Captain
F/O Thomas Bridges, Captain                                                                                     in Newsletter #62 and included inputs by
                                                   The following article was prepared by Tom                    Rod McDonald, Lawrie Black and Ken
F/O Robert Carson, DFM, Captain                    Fitzgerald, a former member of S/Ldr
F/O Forbes Weir, Captain                                                                                        Bowman.        Recently, Ken Sadlier of
                                                   Nichol’s crew of 24 Squadron and now                         Tuncurry, a former member of F/Lt
Mention in Despatches                              residing in Dolores, East Somar in the                       Kilgariff’s 24 Squadron crew provided the
                                                   Philippines.                                                 following further details on this operation.
F/Lt Thomas Bails, Air Gunner
F/Lt Peter Edgar, Navigator                        Tom relates that during the reunion at                       Ken writes that: “This was their Secret
F/O Mervyn Woodgate, Wireless Operator             Truscott and Kununurra in 1994 there was                     Mission on 14th April 1945. Take off was
W/O Richard Horne, Navigator                       general talk of the “notorious hump” in the                  at 0130 hours and “Operation Starfish” was
W/O Noel Williams, Navigator                       strip and “sabotage”, the latter being the                   the code name for an operation between 14
F/Sgt James Banks, Air Bomber                      cause of the loss of two aircraft and                        April 1945 and 2 May 1945 in the south
F/Sgt Clem Flatman, Flight Engineer                possibly a third.                                            west area of Lombock Island to report
F/Sgt Charles Vernede, Navigator                   This talk has spread, resulting in a “modern                 generally on the defence guns installed by
                                                   day theorist” writing to one of the Squadron                 the Japanese overlooking the Lombock
And today 50 years later, again we
                                                   Secretaries in 2003 with the theory that the                 Straits near Cape Pandanan, the possible
remember them, those gallant crews and
                                                   “hump” with its following “dip” and                          damage done to them by direct bombing by
their passengers in those three aircraft,
                                                   coming out of the “dip” could cause the                      Liberators and generally on intelligence as
together with those who met their fate on
                                                   aircraft to become airborne prematurely.                     to any repairs carried out, plus the
the ground. Their colleagues and mates of
                                                                                                                possibility of other action to demobilise the
old, their relatives and friends, still cherish    There was no “sabotage” and no “notorious                    guns in that area.
their memory. They died not in combat, but         hump”. Approximately ¼ to 1/3 along the
by the misfortunes and perils of war. We           strip from the South East end a very slight                  The Kilgariff crew was to drop stores,
will remember them.                                downhill grade started. At this point a                      including a wireless and pedal generator on
                                                   heavily laden Liberator was slow and dead                    14 April 1945 to the A.I.F. “Z” Special Unit
We will remember them by the placing and
                                                   on the ground and impossible to become                       Army party in the area. This was a task that
dedication of a wall plaque in the Shrine of
                                                   airborne. From the North West end it was a                   Special Duties Flight 200 usually handled
Memories in Anzac Square, Brisbane, and a
                                                   normal take off.                                             but this unit was otherwise engaged and the
memorial cairn in Liberator Park, Leyburn,
                                                                                                                task was given to 24 Squadron to carry out.
where their names are recorded for                 There was no sabotage. The base personnel
posterity.                                         were proud of their security and secrecy.                    F/Lt Kilgariff, the Skipper of A72-84 and
                                                                                                                his crew of P/O’s Thomas and Evans, F/
The concluding remarks of the Queensland           The 12 Squadron loss of Frank Sismey’s                       Sgts Pearce, Houston, Stone, McDonald,
Governor, Sir Walter Campbell, in                  aircraft and crew was one of the incidents                   Rixon, Hale, Davy and Sadlier were given
unveiling the memorial at Leyburn are most         included in the sabotage talk. In heavily                    the task .
apt to end this narrative:                         loaded take offs experienced skippers kept
                                                   their aircraft on the deck until nearing the                 On 12 April 1945 F/Lt Kilgariff and his
“May we, and those who follow us, never
                                                   end of the strip. From the position of Frank                 crew had a practice supply drop of three
forget the unselfish and indomitable spirit
                                                   Sismey’s crash, he had to be airborne                        canisters from an altitude of 100 feet with
of those members of 200 Flight and those
                                                   approximately 2/3rds to ¾ of the runway                      an average error of 50 yards.
members of ‘Z’ Force who lost their lives in
the service of their country.             In       along the strip. It was an early morning,                    On 14 April 1945, A72-84 took off from
remembering them with admiration and               dark instrument take off. There is no                        Fenton, destination Lombock, flying low to
respect we must resolve to do our best to          known proof as to the cause of this loss but                 avoid Radar, the aircraft reached the area at
give reality to the vision which each of           speculation blaming the notorious hump                       first light. After signalling their presence
them would have had, of a world at peace.          and sabotage has to be discarded.                            by alternating power to the motors, the
May we never forget their unselfishness and        Over the Truscott PA system practically                      Skipper made a steep turn at 100 feet up the
their courage and may our nation be forever        every hour they played the song                              gorge to drop the canisters in the target
grateful”.                                         “Superman”. The writer had never heard                       area, which consisted of four smoke
                                                   the song before nor has he heard it since. It                canisters placed on a creek bed.
                                                   was light hearted and enjoyable. The writer                  The supplies were successfully retrieved,
                                                   and three crew mates during a break in ops                   undamaged. On their return the crew were
                                                   were given a lift possibly to part of West                   met by the Army in the operations room
                                                   Bay and enjoyed a swim when the tide went                    and the Army congratulated them on the
                                                   out, a beautiful feed of the large rock                      success and accuracy of the drop, the “Z”
                                                   oysters, otherwise Truscott was isolation at                 Special Unit Troop had made use of their
                                                   its worst.                                                   new wireless.
                                                   It was found that the Marston matting on                     The crew was told that their flight was a
                                                   the strip was not properly secured. The                      secret mission and to forget that it had
                                                   writer did not notice the alarming rattling                  occurred and that is what they did”.
                                                   on the landing as some aircrew reported,
                                                   but the loose matting acted as a shock                       It is probably more to the point that they
                                                   absorber and compared to all the other                       considered that they had not in any way
                                                   strips used, landing at Truscott was like                    performed anything more than was
                                                   landing on a feather bed .                                   expected of them and just left it at that.
                                                                                                                It is interesting to note that the entry for the
   Sir Walter Campbell unveiling the
                                                                                                                flight in Ken Sadlier’s Flying Log Book
                                                                                                                reads as follows:
                                                  B-24 Liberator Squadrons of Australia Newsletter - Issue 68
                                                                      Page 8

                         B-24 LIBERATOR BRANCH LUNCHEON
The B-24 Liberator NSW’s Branch             Right Top (L to R): Vince Ryan
Luncheon was held at the City RSL           (102 Sqdn); Mal Sparrow (25
Sydney on 16th January, 2004. Rod           Sqdn); Vic Miller (21 Sqdn) and
McDonald of 94 Melwood Ave.,                Toni Ryan.
Killarney Heights, described the lunch as
                                            Right Middle (L to R): Phil
a remarkable turnout. They started with
                                            Harrison (Captain, 24 Sqdn); Eric
a possible 27, then to their surprise and
                                            Pridley (Flt.Engineer, 120 Sqdn
the caterer, who handled the increased
                                            RAF) and Mrs Gladys Pridley.
numbers very well, a total of 37 arrived.
There was plenty of good food with          Right Bottom (L to R): Joan
repeats if required and the bar service     Ford; Frank Ford (120 Sqdn
was excellent. The Club President, who      RAF); Dave Johnson (24 Sqdn)
was an old Army friend of Rods, shouted     and Bob Staib (son of F/O Sam
them a nice Port.                           Staib DFM – 24 Sqdn).
Frank Barclay was unable to attend as he    Left Top (L to R): Laurie Collier,
was attending his sister’s funeral in       Nev Eastlake – 23 Sqdn, Mary
Tamworth.                                   Eastlake, Monty Yeomans 23
Frank Ford, who flew on Liberators from
Iceland and Eric Priddy RAF who lives       Left Middle (L to R): Ted
nearby did the same thing chasing subs.     Willison (25 Sqdn); Don Gilham
Frank Ford found his local doctor, who      (24 Sqdn); George Thompson (25
also flew in Libs in attendance.            Sqdn); Ken Dorman (25 Sqdn)
Naturally they enjoyed their re-union       and John Hamon (25 Sqdn).
together.     Two sons of deceased
comrades, Peter Court and Bob Staib,        Left Bottom (L to R): Ossie Fry;
also attended.     Peter Court gave a       Ray Arthur & John Clark – Ray
presentation on the restoration work        Kelly’s crew. They had not seen
being carried out at Werribee.              Ray Arthur since 1945.

Neville Eastlake, our President, and his    The photographs were provided
wife Mary attended this most successful     by Neville Eastlake, Don Gilham
luncheon.                                   and John Hamon.

                                                                         OPERATION STARFISH cont ...
                                                                     “Date – 14.4.45: Hour – 0130; Aircraft – A72-84: Pilot – F/L Kilgariff;
                                                                     Duty – Special Mission; Remarks – Mission successfully completed.
                                                                     Details Secret; Flying Hours Day – 7.00 - Night – 6.00”.
                                                                     The Defence Department released the detail of “Operation Starfish” in 1982.
                                                                     It appears that a crew member had chalked “From Kilgariff’s Killers” on
                                                                     one of the canisters and to this day it is not known who the member was. It
                                                                     also appears that this chalked message was the only clue Lawrie Black had
                                                                     about who dropped the supplies to him. Many years later an intriguing
                                                                     chain of events occurred whereby Lawrie was put in touch with Kevin
                                                                     Kilgariff through Ed Crabtree, Bob Butler and Bob Houston.
                                                                     “The morning of 14/4/45 will be remembered by Alex Hoffie and myself.
                                                                     We had an area of about 50 yds long for the dropping area in the bed of a
                                                                     creek running SSE to NNE. When we heard the plane we lit the smoke
                                                                     signals then sighted it about 1000 yds to the east. You saw us at the same
                                                                     time and the plane made a “Spitfire” turn of .90 degrees to the west; the
                                                                     storepedoes dropped right between the signals. A remarkable piece of B-24
                                                                     flying. All the contents were in tact, including – most importantly – the
                                                                     wireless set which was urgently needed”.
                                                                     The drop, however, was not without some considerable consternation, the
                                                                     hill at the back of the drop site was higher – in fact 300 ft higher than that
                                                                     recorded on the chart. While Bruce Thomas, the co-pilot pushed the
                                                                     throttles through the “gate” the Skipper pulled hard back on the control
                                                                     column. The aircraft only just cleared the terrain.
                                                                     Lieutenant Lawrie Black first became acquainted with B-24’s in January
                                                                     1944 in Darwin with the 380th B.G. doing experimental jumping. One of
                                                                     the aircraft used was “Beautiful Betsy”. By January 1945 Lawrie Black was
                                                                     attached to 200 Special Duties Flight at Leyburn, Qld.
                                              B-24 Liberator Squadrons of Australia Newsletter - Issue 68

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