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|Pilot Sgt James Austin, 404699 (KIA, BR) Armidale, NSW
Crashed September 25, 1942 at 5:30pm
Built by Brewster Aeronautical Corporation as a model B.339-23. Constructors Number 387. This aircraft was intended for use by the Netherlands East Indies Air Force (NEIAF) and assigned NEIAF serial number B-3185 and painted in Dutch markings. Assigned to the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) with a "NX" test number. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia.
During March 1942, one of seventeen Buffalos transfered to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as Buffalo serial number A51-5. This aircraft, still crated was transported to Essendon Airfield and assigned to 1 Air Depot (1 AD) and assembled at Ansett Airways at Hangar 3. On June 15, 1942 assigned to 1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit (1 PRU). Modified with armor plate and guns removed and had 3 x F24 cameras and an auxiliary fuel tank installed.
On September 25, 1942 took off piloted by Sgt James Austin and crashed at Derby at approximately 5:30pm, killing the pilot. After the crash, this aircraft was written off.
Austin was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He was buried at Geraldton War Cemetery, WA at plot B, row A, grave 12.
During 1977, Stan Gajda first found evidence of this the tail section of this aircraft abandoned Mowanjum Mission on his way to Kalumburu. About a half mile away the rest of the aircraft was located. During 1980-1981, Gajda recovered the wreckage.
Stan Gajda adds:
"I spotted that wreck from the air one day flying around Derby when we were looking for a B-24 crash site. There was a complete tail group and port wing plus numerous other small bits. This aircraft had the orange triangle with black border on upper and lower surfaces of the wing. The wreckage was taken to Sydney by HARS Dennis Baxter."
Transported to Sydney, this aircraft was owned by several Australian aviation organizations. Today, owned by Chris Prevost / Vintage Aviation Company who will presumably it will be restored.
During the 1990s the starboard wingtip of this aircraft was donated to the Australian War Memorial (AWM). The item was accessioned as REL34222.
Other sources incorrectly state this Buffalo escaped from Batavia during the Japanese invasion and was pressed into service with the RAAF.
ADF Serials - Buffalo A51-5
CWGC - James Austin, 404699
Oz @ War - Crash of a Buffalo at Derby on 25 September 1942
AWM Brewster Buffalo A51-5 : Wing Tip (starboard)
Thanks to Stan Gajda for additional information
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September 20, 2021
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