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No. 31 Squadron
Built by Bristol in the United Kingdom. Assigned Royal Air Force (RAF) serial number JM135. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia.
On July 2, 1943 delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to 1 Air Depot (1 AD). On September 11, 1943 assigned to No. 31 Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.
On October 3, 1943 crash landed wheels-up alongside the runway at Drysdale Airfield returning from a mission to Timor. Afterwards, repaired by 14 ARD and returned to 31 Squadron on December 4, 1943.
On December 16, 1943 took off piloted by S/L "Butch" Gordon on a mission to strafe barges next to a frighter off Lautem Timor, then engaged several Ki-45 Nicks shooting down one and claiming another damaged.
On January 3, 1944, this Beaufighter suffered a tail wheel collapse on landing and the pilot retracted the wheels to avoid hitting parked aircraft. Sent to 4 RSU for repair on January 14, 1944 but was instead converted to components and abandoned at Drysdale Airfield.
Until 1981, this Beaufighter center section remained in situ at Drysdale Airfield.
Stan Gajda adds:
"Both airframes [Beaufighter A19-144 and Beaufigter A19-148] had no corrosion, all interiors were stripped but stringers, frames etc were looking quite good and everything was still heavily painted. The exteriors were white by the look of it with the RAAF roundels having a thin yellow border all around. The airframes both had the cockpit and tail assembly sections removed as well as the outer wing panels. There were undercart doors and one outer wing a bit crumpled up and a lot of other parts. The salvagers came in 1981 and took every bit they could find at Drysdale related to Beaufighters."
During 1981, salvagers Robert Greinert and Dennis Baxter recovered this airframe, plus Beaufighter A19-148 and transported them 6,000 mile round trip to their home in Sydney.
Robert Greinert adds:
"In the early 80's a decision was made by a group within HARS to recover and return to Sydney a pair of very corroded and incomplete Bristol Beaufighters [A19-144 and A19-148] in Western Australia. The saga of this recovery would fill a book but needless to say we succeeded, despite the determined efforts of others, and today we have a Mk21 Beaufighter under rebuild for the HARS flying collection.
The recovery of the Beaufighters caused a national stir. The press ran articles of “stolen RAAF aircraft” and alike. We weathered the storm, created by people who suffered more from “tall poppy syndrome” and jealousy than pragmatism. They were the two best known aircraft wrecks in the country. Every one knew they were there and no one did anything about it.
The RAAF could have landed a Hercules on the airstrip where they sat and flown them out. They did nothing. The Aboriginal elders at Kalambaru were so impressed with our passion and our sense of history that they gave us the aircraft. Only after we removed the aircraft did those, who had done nothing, complain about our act of preservation."
Stan Gajda adds:
"In 1988, I saw the best wing/center section set up in a jig at Bankstown Airport a few years after the salvage. The construction was a combination of steel box trusses and alloy sheeting and sections. Although the rivets were still ok the Australian FAA insisted on total replacement with aluminum alloy rivets."
Robert Greinert reports:
"In the early 1990s a package of Beaufighter parts was acquired by the Fighter Collection It was a mixed bag of British and Australian built stuff. Some parts from Drysdale were included and they hung an identity on this. The majority of the recovered airframes went to RAAF Museum Point Cook a couple of years ago in a deal. Of the three and half Beaufighters I have assembled into projects over the years the Drysdale stuff was the worst. I still retain a Beaufighter project and look forward to the day when we can get back into it."
Acquired by The Fighter Collection and is currently being restored. Parts of this fuselage plus Beaufighter A19-148 and pieces from the tail section of Beaufighter A19-36 are also being used.
ADF Serials - Beaufighter A19-144
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