|Pilot W/Cdr John Margrave Lerew, 73 (survived)
Co-Pilot F/O William Albert James Watt, 270846 (KIA, BR) Cairns, QLD
Radio Sgt Kenneth Duirs McDonald, 11095 (KIA)
WAG Sgt Raymond Cherrington Henry, 416181 (KIA)
Crashed February 11, 1942
Built by Lockheed. Constructors Number 1945. Shipped from the United States to Australia arriving on May 17, 1940. Delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as Hudson A16-91. Assigned to 24 Squadron on September 22, 1940. No known nickname or nose art.
On January 5, 1942 assigned to Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul. This bomber was damaged by Japanese bombing while parked but was able to escape to Garbutt Field near Townsville and was repaired by January 25.
On February 11, 1942 took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby as part a formation of three Hudsons: this aircraft plus Hudson A16-103 and Hudson A16-126. Over the target, they were intercepted by A5M4 Claude fighters that took off from Gasmata Airfield.
This Hudson was intercepted by an A5M4 Claude fighter and hit on the engine and wing. Afterwards, this Hudsons bombed two Japanese ships at Gasmata Harbor: Kinryu Maru and Kozui Maru. Damaged, it pressed a bombing attack from low level, only approximately 20' off the sea, bombing a ship and pulling up sharply.
Flames were engulfing the aircraft and pilot Lerew order the crew to bail out. The bomber's right wing separated before it crashed, inland from Gasmata.
Also lost on the mission was Hudson A16-126, shot down soon afterwards. Japanese pilot Yoshino claimed two Hudsons in that combat, including this bomber.
Only Lerew managed to bail out. His parachute opened just before he impacted the jungle. The rest of the crew failed to escape. Pilot Lerew survived and evaded the Japanese. He escaped by boat with the help of coastwatchers.
Recovery of Remains
During November 1944 the crash site was located by an Australia New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU) patrol, after the Australian Army occupied the Gasmata area. The remains of the crew were recovered and later identified as two individuals, but it was not possible to identify them individually.
On March 20, 1946 a RAAF Searcher Team led by S/L Keith Rundle found the dog tag of Sgt McDonald and a small amount of additional human remains.
The three deceased crew members were officially declared dead the day of the mission. After the recovery of remains the crew were buried at Bitapaka War Cemetery (Rabaul War Cemetery) in collective grave D. A. 2-4.
The wreckage of this Hudsons remains in situ.
Mark Reichman visited the site on May 25, 2007:
"The village chief wants me to write an official letter to the Australian government of the find and wants copies of all my correspondence. After a long discussion which at times I thought I was going to have to pay hundreds to thousands of kina for coming to look at the plane we parted as friends but without confirming the bent pieces. The ground in the area is very soft and a wet season stream runs through the crash site. The people had seen the prop tip sticking up so having heard aluminum was valuable, they began to dig it up but after digging down 4 feet, one blade was still sticking down and they gave up their quest to retrieve the prop. The engine cylinder heads are in the hole as well but very corroded."
Kodochosho, Chitose Kōkūtai, February 11, 1942
RAAF records for this mission are recorded under 32 Squadron
NAA 1060826 "Presumption of death of crew of A16-91"
CWGC - William Albert James Watt
CWGC - Kenneth Duirs McDonald
CWGC - Raymond Cherrington Henry
We Who are About to Die: The Story of John Lerew page 194 - 197
Great Air Escapes mentions this loss
ADF Serials - Hudson A16-91
RAAFDB - Hudson Mark II A16-19
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
May 16, 2020