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Qantas Empire Airways
|Pilot F/O Allan Leslie Norman, 407006 (POW, executed 11-4-42) Hawthorn, VIC
Co-Pilot F/O Frederick Arthur Donald Diercks, 407708 (POW, executed 11-4-42) Plympton, SA
Navigator P/O Francis O’Connell Anderson, 403118 (POW, executed 11-4-42) Cremone, NSW
Engineer Cpl Alfred Harry Lanagan, 6853 (POW, executed 11-4-42) Old Burren, NSW
2nd Engineer Cpl Alfred Roland Hocking, 18005 (POW, executed 11-4-42) Prahran, VIC
Radio LAC William Murdoch Parker, 20343 (POW, executed 11-4-42) West Ryde, NSW
Asst Radio LAC Vernon Holloway Hardwick, 17635 (POW, executed 11-4-42) Bencubbin, WA
Rigger LAC John Joseph Burns, 19574 (POW, executed 11-4-42) Preston, VIC
Armour LAC Ernest John McDonald, 10253 (POW, executed 11-4-42) East Malvern, VIC
Ditched May 4, 1942
Built by Consolidated in San Diego. Constructors Number 350. Purchased by Qantas Empire Airways (QEA). On October 23, 1941 registered in Australia as VH-AFS.
Assigned to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) with serial number A24-18. On January 30, 1942 assigned to 11 Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.
During the night of February 3, 1942, took off from Fairfax Harbor off Port Moresby piloted by Captain S/Ldr F B Chapman, 1349 with co-pilot P/O N V Robertson, 400076 on a night bombing mission against Japanese shipping in Simpson Harbor off Rabaul. The formation included five Catalinas: this aircraft, A24-5, A24-3, A24-14 and A24-17. Over the target, this Catalina was attacked by A5M4 Claudes of the Chitose Kokutai (operating in tandem with the searchlight crews). Afterwards, returned safely to Fairfax Harbor at 2028Z/3.
On Apirl 3, 1942 assigned to 20 Squadron.
On May 4, 1942 took off piloted by F/O Allan Leslie Norman on a daylight reconnaissance mission over the area between Tulagi and Shortland before the Battle of the Coral Sea.
Ross Smith adds:
"My father George "Alan" Smith fitter/gunner for the blister was due to crew A24-18 but cut his thumb loading bombs so was unable to fly that day."
This PBY reported it was under attack south of Bougainville, by anti-aircraft fire and the crew reported fighters. Another reference places it over the Solomon Sea, west of New Georgia and south of Bougainville. No further messages were received from the plane and it failed to return to base. This Catalina likely ditched, as the entire crew survived the landing.
Fates of the crew
The entire crew survived and were picked up by a Japanese warship and transported to Rabaul and became Prisoners Of War (POWs). They were held as prisoners for six months. On November 4, 1942 the nine crew members were bound with wire and decapitated on Matupi Island and buried in a mass grave.
Recovery of Remains
During 1947 and 1950 a mass grave was exhumed on Matupi Island and the remains of the crew were recovered and identified.
After the recovery of remains, the entire crew was buried at Bita Paka War Cemetery. McDonald at H. C. 4. Burns at H. C. 5. Anderson at H. C. 6. Parker at H. C. 9. Norman at H. C. 10. Diercks at H. C. 11. Lanagan at H. C. 12. Hocking at H. C. 14. Hardwick at H. C. 15.
"Catalina Squadrons First and Furthest" by Jack Riddell (privately published) mentions this loss
11 Squadron diary February 3, 1942
Royal Australian Air Force History Summary Page references to A24-43 by Michael Moskow
ADF Serials - Catalina A24-18
CWGC - Allan Leslie Norman
CWGC - Frederick Arthur Donald Diercks
CWGC - Francis O’Connell Anderson
CWGC - Alfred Harry Lanagan
CWGC - Alfred Roland Hocking
CWGC - William Murdoch Parker
CWGC - Vernon Holloway Hardwick
CWGC - John Joseph Burns
CWGC - Ernest John McDonald
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January 19, 2021
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