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Built by Taylorcraft as Auster Mark III. Constructors Number 459. Fuselage code TAY8228. Assigned Royal Air Force (RAF) serial number NX535. Disassembled and loaded as cargo aboard a ship and departed the United Kingdom bound for Australia. Arrived at Sydney on September 17, 1944.
During early October 1944, delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). On October 2, 1944 assigned serial number A11-16. On October 5, 1944 assigned to 2 Air Depot (2 AD). On October 25, 1944 assigned to No. 17 Air Observation Post Flight (17 AOP) and operated in Bougainville.
On December 26, 1944 at 6:50am took off from Piva South Airfield piloted by F/O James A. Russell on a mission to provide a medical evacuation (medivac) from Pusupa village (Persupia village?) on Bougainville to rescue FSgt Neville R. Gardiner, the injured sole survivor of RNZAF PV-1 Ventura NZ4634. On his approach to land, Russell noticed the runway had an upward grade and overflew it once before attempting to land. During his landing, the tail skid broke loose turning the plane to the left and caused it to get stuck in soft ground and gently nosed over, breaking the propeller.
Afterwards, a radio message was transmitted requesting a new propeller. That afternoon, CA-8 Wirraway A20-274 air dropped a storepedo with a replacement propeller inside. Afterwards, the storepedo was retrieved but it had broken when it impacted the ground and another radio message was sent to request another air drop.
On December 27, 1944 around 6:35am CA-8 Wirraway A20-274 returned and air dropped another storepedo with a replacement propeller inside. This propeller landed safely and was installed onto the Auster and pilot Russell ran up the engine to test it and walked the runway and deemed it to be dry and FSgt Neville R. Gardiner was loaded aboard. Meanwhile, CA-8 Wirraway A20-274 made another supply drop to this location, it is unclear if this was material to aid the Auster or for the ground troops.
While attempting to take off, the aircraft was unable to reach take off speed to get airborne due to the extra weight of the patient and soft ground. To prevent it from going over the edge of the runway into the valley below, Russel swung to the left between two stumps, one of them impacted the left wing strut damaging it and the landing gear and came to rest on its nose. During the crash, neither Russel or Gardiner were injured but the aircraft was written off. Officially, approval was given for conversion to components on February 9, 1945.
After radioing back to base, Russel was instructed to salvage any usable parts then burn the damaged plane. With the help of native police, Russell removed salvageable parts including the two wheels, tail skid, magnetos, fuel pumps, carburetor, instrument panel and compass. The native police were allowed to take two stainless steel pipes and the perspex. Afterwards, Russell cut the fuel and oil tanks, causing fuel to leak over the cockpit and engine then set the plane on fire to destroy it.
On December 28, 1944 Russel, Gardiner escorted by Sgt Wigley and Sgt McEvoy plus ten native police and 30-40 carriers began walking back to base. Gardiner was carried in a stretcher for four days to the coast where they were met by a barge and transported to Torokina.
RAAF Record Card A11-16
RAAF Accident Report Auster A11-16
ADF Serials - Auster A11-16
WW2 Nominal Roll - James Alfred Russell
Australian Military Austers - Auster Mk.III c/n 459 ex NX535 A11-16
Thanks to Daniel Leahy for additional information
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