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No. 11 Squadron
Qantas Empire Airways
No. 20 Squadron
Built by Consolidated as a as a Model 28-5MA at San Diego. Constructors Number 78. Purchased by Qantas Empire Airways (QEA) and flown as part of a Qantas delivery flight across the Pacific to Australia. Registered as VH-AFD.
On February 27, 1941 assigned to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as PBY-5 Catalina serial number A24-3 at Rose Bay. On May 30, 1941 assigned to No. 11 Squadron. On May 14, 1941 assigned to No. 20 Squadron. On January 8, 1942 allotted to Seaplane Training Flight (STF). On January 19, 1942 reassigned to No. 11 Squadron. This aircraft had no known nickname, nose art or markings.
During the night of February 3, 1942, this Catalina took off from Fairfax Harbor near Port Moresby piloted by Captain P/O B H Higgins, 400620 and co-pilot P/O T Duigan, 400082 night raid against Japanese shipping in Simpson Harbor off Rabaul. The formation included five Catalinas: this aircraft, A24-5, A24-18, A24-14, A24-17) that participated in a Over the target, this Catalina was attacked by A5M4 Claudes from the Chitose Kōkūtai (operating in tandem with the searchlight crews) and was damaged by several bullet holes in the hull and the radio operator was wounded in both ankles. This Catalina escaped further attacks by diving into cloud cover at 4,000' and returned to Fairfax Harbor at 20:10Z/3.
On February 28, 1942 moored off Napa Napa in Fairfax Harbor near Port Moresby. During the morning, six A6M2 Zeros from the 4th Kokutai led by Harutoshi Okamoto strafed this flying boat, setting it on fire and set it adrift and sank. During the attack, Australian personnel were working on the Catalinas and electrician LAC Roderick John Nancarrow, 27601 working on one of the flying boats, believed to be Cataliana A24-3 went Missing In Action (MIA) and was likely killed by the strafing or drown or otherwise lost. Also sunk was Catalina A24-6.
The presence of a wreck at this location has been known since the war on harbor survey maps. In early 2003, a PBY Catalina sunk off Napa Napa was rediscovered by the POMSAC (Port Moresby Sub-Aqua Club) during the construction of the InterOil Refinery and dock.
The known aircraft wreck, PBY Catalina sunk off Napa Napa has never been positively identified, but is either PBY Catalina A24-3 or PBY Catalina A24-6, one of the two Catalinas sunk on February 28, 1942. Aboard the wreck were twelve 250kg bombs. MilSearch was contracted to remove the ordnance. The bombs were taken 10 miles out to sea and dumped. Also, 7.7mm machine gun was removed from the nose, angering the local dive community.
In addition, divers also located fragments of another wreck, probably the other Catalina near where the InterOil dock was constructed. According to staff of the company, during the construction of the dock, this wreck was covered with fill, and was not further investigated.
Nancarrow was officially declared dead the day of the attack. His body was never recovered and he is memorialized at Bomana War Cemetery on the Port Moresby Memorial, panel 10.
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