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  B-24L-5-CO Liberator Serial Number A72-133 Code SJ-B
25 Squadron

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Claude Bernard 200?

Pilot  S/L Jack Aubrey Wawn, 261720 (POW, survived) Charing Cross, NSW
Co-Pilot  F/Lt David William James Buchanan, 420132 (POW, survived)
Bombardier   F/O Colin Cairns Allen Robertson, 412704 (POW, survived)
W/AG  F/O Peter Stuart Sykes, 424228 (POW, survived)
 F/Lt Lyndon Lloyd McKenzie, 416284 (POW, survived)
W/AG   F/O Ronald Thomas Robertson, 418680 (POW, survived)
Gunner  F/Sgt Bernard William McInerney, 438399 (POW, survived)
Gunner   F/Sgt Norman William Haywood, 115806 (POW, survived)
Gunner  Sgt Desmond Joseph Moloney, 432724 (POW, survived)
Wireless Operator  W/O Thomas Bonnice, 401737 (POW, survived)
Engineer  Sgt Lloyd Francis Medwin, 29811 (POW, survived)
Observer  F/Lt Ernest Radcliffe Oldfield, DFM, 406221 (POW, survived)

Ditched  April 27, 1945

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24L-5-CO Liberator serial number 44-41509. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as Liberator A72-133. Assigned to 25 Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On April 26, 1945 one of eight Liberators that took off from Cunderdin Airfield at 8:55pm on a night bombing mission against Malang Airfield on Java, with an alternate target of Denpasar on Bail. The Liberator radioed "Making for R.65A aircraft vibrating badly" and Truscott Airfield reported their position to the bomber before they radioed "ditching" and ditched after midnight on April 27, 1945 at approximate position of 1° 15' S, 12° 36' E.

A Catalina from Truscott Airfield and a Liberator from Fenton Airfield were sent to search for the downed bomber, and sighted the aircraft on the reef 20 yards off shore, near a beach on the tip of Cape Nangeh, Soemba Island. No trace of the crew was observed. Additional searches were made, without result.

Fates of the Crew
In fact, the entire crew were captured by the Japanese and became Prisoners Of War (POW).

Daniel Leahy adds:
"A quick search of NAA returns a heap of Casualty items (none online), which also mention "Repatriation", suggesting that the crew either were POWs or were not located for some time. There is also another document simply titled "Fate of Crew" which would be interesting (again, not online). All but F/Lt Buchanan, F/O R T Robertson and W/O Bonnice are listed on the WW2 Nominal Roll as being POWs at one time or another. This really doesn't mean anything though (ie, chances are WW2 NR is wrong not listing them as POW) as I have had to request numerous records be updated with this fact (particularly for aircrew in the Pacific)."

The wreckage of this B-24 was destroyed by RAAF aircraft on May 16, 1945. Later, locals sold the aluminum to scrap dealers going to Surabaya. Today, some wreckage remains on Samba Island, including the landing gear leg.

Claude Bernard adds:
"I spent two years looking for this aircraft and his crew  and twice I went to Indonesia. I had a chance to meet an old man  in Bali  he was 7 or 10 years old  the morning the Liberator crashed in Samba  in from of his house. So I wrote days after days all his souvenirs and the next year I came to Samba to meet all his friends. We had a meeting on the spot, and I spent four days with them. I was fascinated by the precision of the testimonies like one of the crew used many times  in front of the Japanese officer his comb and put back in his back  pocket. The  all crew refused to hands up  like prisoners and  the commandant refused to talk to the Japanese officer sited  on a chair in front of them unless he had  also a chair  for himself. The A72-133 was to destroyed by  bombs but a month later by the local they sold the aluminum to scrap dealers going to  Surabaya. I would like to write the journey of all prisoners going to Jakarta. Unfortunately I can not find any information from the Japanese Army. I know the crew returned safely to Australia but they were prisoners for one year. I like to know from the time they were made prisoners to the liberation in Jakarta camp. Can you help me?"

John adds:
"The entire crew were POWs and all survived the war. (I interviewed two of them, Wawn and Oldfield, a few years back."

David Oldfield (son of Ernest Oldfield)
"The whole crew of the B-24 were captured after failing to launch their rafts over the reef in the dark while the Japanese fired at them from the beach - I have a number of details regarding this particular story and their ensuing captivity - the whole crew survived the war, which as you would appreciate, was very unusual for captured air crew, especially at that time, a story in itself."

WW2 Nominal Roll - Jack Aubrey Wawn
Thanks to Daniel Leahy for additional information

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Last Updated
May 13, 2018


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