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  Bristol Beaufighter Mark Ic Serial Number A19-63  
RAAF
31 Squadron

Pilot  F/O Vivian Charles Leithhead, 406858 (MIA / KIA) Waroona, WA
Navigator  F/O Robert Stanley Graves, 41326 (MIA / KIA) Merbein, VIC

Crashed  August 21, 1943


Aircraft History
Built by Bristol in the United Kingdom. RAF Serial Number T5075. On May 21, 1942 disassembled and shipped as cargo from the United Kingdom to Australia.

Wartime History
In early August 1942 delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as Beaufighter serial number A19-63. On August 2, 1942 reassembled by 1 Air Depot (1 AD). On February 21, 1943 assigned to No. 31 Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. On April 1, 1943 transfered to 4 Repair Salvage Unit (4 RSU) where auxiliary fuel tanks were installed. On May 15, 1943 returned to 31 Squadron.

On May 31, 1943 this Beaufighter was piloted by P/O A. M. Shorter and participated in a low level attack over Langgoer Airfield. During the mission, Observer FSgt A. J. McMurchie took a low level photo over the airfield of a parked A6M2 Zero and Beaufighter.

Mission History
On August 21, 1943 took off piloted by F/O Vivian Charles Leithhead as one of seven Beaufighters on a strike mission against Taberfane Seaplane Base in the Aru Islands (Aroe). During the attack, Beaufighter A19-63 and Beaufighter A19-47 made a converging attack, diving from 2,500' on a biplane type floatplane (F1M2 Pete) which had just become airborne. The starboard wing of A19-63 collided with the port wing of A19-47. Both wings broke off and engines caught fire, with both aircraft crashing into the sea in flames approximately 3,000' to 4,000' off Taberfane. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

Search
During 1946, a RAAF Searcher Team led by F/Lt O'Shea reported:
"No definite news either of these aircraft - Native report that Australian aircraft crashed into bay at Taberfane date unknown may refer to [these] aircraft."

Memorials
Both crew members were officially declared dead the day of the mission. Both crew are memorialized at the Ambon War Cemetery on the Ambon Memorial, panel 8.

References
ADF Serials - Beaufighter A19-47
CWGC - Vivian Charles Leithhead
CWGC - Robert Stanley Graves

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Last Updated
January 27, 2020

 

Tech Info
Beaufighter

MIA
MIA
2 Missing
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