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Mark Reichman 2007
|Pilot W/Cdr John Margrave Lerew, 73 (survived) Hamilton, VIC
Co-Pilot F/O William Albert James Watt, 270846 (MIA / KIA, BR) Gympie, QLD
Radio Sgt Kenneth Duirs McDonald, 11095 (MIA / KIA, BR) Birchip, VIC
WAG Sgt Raymond Cherrington Henry, 416181 (MIA / KIA, BR) Adelaide, SA
Crashed February 11, 1942
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank. Constructors Number 1945. Disassembled and shipped across the Pacific to Australia arriving May 17, 1940.
Delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as Hudson serial number A16-91. Reassembled and assigned to No. 24 Squadron on September 22, 1940. 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, 1942.
On February 11, 1942 took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby pilot W/Cdr John M. Lerew leading Hudson A16-103 pilot S/Ldr William A, "Pedro" Pedrina and Hudson A16-126 pilot F/O Graham Ian Gibson on a bombing mission against Japanese ships in Gasmata Harbor off Gasmata on New Britain.
Over Gasmata Harbor, the three Hudsons flying at low level bomb Kinryu Maru and Kozui Maru score hits causing damage and casualties aboard both ships. This Hudson was observed to press an attack from approximately 20' above the sea and after releasing bombs pulled up sharply. anti-aircraft gunners aboard Kozui Maru claimed a Hudson shot down and possibly scored hits on this Hudson.
Meanwhile, four A5M4 Claudes from Chitose Kōkūtai led by Ensign Satoshi Yoshino that took off from Gasmata Airfield intercept the Hudsons. The fighters hit this Hudson in one engine and the wing. Shortly afterwards, they also shoot down Hudson A16-126. Afterwards, Ensign Satoshi Yoshino claimed two Hudsons shot down.
Aboard this bomber, flames began to engulfing the aircraft and pilot Lerew order the crew to bail out. The right wing broke off before the Hudson crashed into the jungle inland from Gasmata. The three other crew members never bailed out and died on impact. When this bomber failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
Fates of the Crew
Only Lerew managed to bail out. His parachute opened just before he impacted the jungle. Afterwards, he managed to evade the Japanese and later escaped by boat with the help of Allied 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 McDonald and a small amount of additional human remains.
The three deceased crew members were officially declared dead the day of the mission. The three crew were buried at Rabaul (Bita Paka) War Cemetery at 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 [currency of Papua New Guinea] 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."
WW2 Nominal Roll - John Margrave Lerew, 73
WW2 Nominal Roll - William Albert James Watt, 270846
WW2 Nominal Roll - Kenneth Duirs McDonald, 11095
WW2 Nominal Roll - Raymond Cherrington Henry, 416181
USAF Serial Number Search Results - A-28-LO Hudson
RAAF records for February 11, 1942 mission are recorded in No. 32 Squadron
Kodochosho, Chitose Kōkūtai, February 11, 1942
National Archives Australia (NAA) "Presumption of death of crew of A16-91" (NAA: 1060826)
CWGC - William Albert James Watt
CWGC - Kenneth Duirs McDonald
CWGC - Raymond Cherrington Henry
Great Air Escapes (1991) mentions this loss
We Who are About to Die: The Story of John Lerew (2007) pages 194-197
RAAF Hudson Story Book Two (2010)
Disaster at Gasmata: Shipping Strike in RAAF Hudsons Wednesday 11 February 1942 (2017)
ADF Serials - Hudson A16-91
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December 16, 2021
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