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  PBY Catalina Serial Number A24-34 Tail FJ-A
11 Squadron

Former Assignments
20 Squadron

Pilot  S/Ldr John Evelyn Todd, 271707 (POW, died 7-22-44) Dalby, QLD
2nd Pilot  F/Lt Brian Paul Stacy, 406446 (POW, survived) Perth, WA
3rd Pilot  F/O Ian Douglas Vaughan Ralfe, 405501 (survived) Longreach, QLD
Navigator  F/O Frank Ronald Pocknee, 401663 (POW, executed 3-5-44) Burramine South, VIC
W/AG  P/O Allan Bernard Liedl, 426624 (survived) LIsmore, NSW
W/AG  F/Sgt Henry Laurence Murphy, 412621 (POW, executed 3-5-44) Liverpool, NSW
Engineer  Sgt Fred Woolley, 43098 (POW, executed 3-5-44) Chermside, QLD
Engineer  Sgt Ernest Hubert Kraehe, 27791 (POW, executed 3-5-44) Unley, SA
Fitter  LAC (A/Sgt) Richard Murray Howard, 47149 (escaped) Mt, Gambier, SA
Armourer  LAC (A/Sgt) Harold Francis Jones, 71534 (escaped) Scone, NSW

Ditched  February 8, 1944 at 1:50am

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated. Constructors Number 1044. Assigned U.S. Navy (USN) bureau number 08150. Delivered to Australia as part of defense aid.

Wartime History
On April 20, 1943 assigned to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as Catalina A24-34 with code RB-T to 3 Operational Training Unit (3 OTU). On June 11, 1943, assigned to 20 Squadron with tail code FJ-H. On October 6, 1943, assigned to 11 Squadron. No known nickname, nose art or squadron number.

On February 7, 1944 took off from Cairns Harbor at 10:40pm and flew northward landing at Milne Bay to refuel prior to Operation CFB 9 against Kavieng on New Ireland.

Mission History
On February 7, 1944 took off from Milne Bay at 4:00pm a night bombing and photography mission over Kavieng. At 11:00pm, this Catalina reached the target area at an altitude of 9000' with bright moonlight. During the first bomb run over Panapai Airfield, this Catalina did not release any ordnance and received light anti-aircraft fire.

On their second bomb run, dropped two 250 pound bombs and numerous incendiaries and took photographs and was targeted by heavy anti-aircraft fire that was not accurate. Over Kavieng Harbor, ships opened fire with intense and accurate anti-aircraft fire. During the third bomb run over Kavieng Airfield, released two 500 pound bombs and took more photographs while receiving intense and accurate anti-aircraft fire that required evasive maneuvers.

Returning from the mission, on February 8, 1944 at approximately 1:36am a parachute flare inside the Catalina ignited prematurely when its altitude setting ring was being adjusted. At 1:50am a final message was received from this Catalina updating their position. Unable to extinguish the flare, this Catalina ditched into ditched into Jacquinot Bay. When this Catalina failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

The next night, another Catalina from the squadron returning from a mission to Kavieng searched the area, flashing "TODD" with their reconnaissance light. They returned with nil sightings.

Fates of the Crew
The entire crew survived and swam ashore in the vicinity of Malakua. Four members of the crew managed to escape and were rescued: Ralfe, Liedl, Jones and Howard.

The other six crew: Stacy, Todd, Murphy, Pocknee, Woolley and Kraehe were captured by the Japanese and became Prisoners Of War (POWs) and were transported to Rabaul and imprisoned at Tunnel Hill POW Camp.

On February 17, 1944 Stacy was one of six Allied prisoners transported aboard a G4M1 Betty bomber from Rabaul to Truk, and then onward to Japan. He survived captivity.

Four of the crew: Murphy, Pocknee, Woolley and Kraehe were among a group of thirty one selected from the prisoners at Tunnel Hill POW Camp and executed on March 5, 1944 at Talili Bay during the Talili Bay Massacre (Tunnel Hill Massacre / Tunnel Hill Incident).

Towards the end of the Pacific War, to cover up the executions and war crimes, the Japanese claimed that approximately forty Allied prisoners were killed by Allied bombing during an air raid while at Talili Bay after being evacuated from Tunnel Hill and their bodies were cremated and the ashes placed into a single box. They rehearsed a story that the prisoners were killed in an Allied bombing when a bomb scored a direct hit on their shelter. This was a lie to cover up the murders.

Todd died in captivity, his date of death is officially listed as July 22, 1944.

Kraehe was officially declared dead on March 5, 1944.

Postwar, a box alleged to contain the ashes of the Allied dead including members of this crew were turned over to the Allies and divided porportional between the Australians and United States. The Australian ashes were buried in Collective Grave E.C.5-11 at Bita Paka Cemetery. Todd's remains were recovered and buried in Bita Paka Cemetery at grave D.B.1.

A letter from C. O. 11 Squadron to the Air Board on 15 February 1944:
"At 0136/L 8th February, signal received SOS LFIA in flames 010* 180 miles heading west (received from Catalina A24-34 on Operation CFB 9 on 8th February 1944).
Further message received at 0150/L. SOS LFIA 340* 130 miles (near Gasmata). This was last message received from this aircraft. No further word has been received from aircraft or bases at which it might have sighted."
CWGC - John Evelyn Todd
CWGC - Frank Ronald Pocknee
CWCG - Henry Laurence Murphy
CWCG - Fred Woolley
CWCG - Ernest Hubert Kraehe
World War II Nominal Roll - Brian Paul Stacy

World War II Nominal Roll - Ian Douglas Vaughan Ralfe
World War II Nominal Roll - Allan Bernard Liedl
World War II Nominal Roll - Richard Murray Howard
World War II Nominal Roll - Harold Francis Jones
Royal Australian Air Force History Summary Page references to A24-34 by Michael Moskow
"Evasion and Escape From New Britain"
M.I.A. Over Rabaul South Pacific pages 94, 115
"When I first entered the Rabaul Prisoner of War camp, there was a PBY Catalina pilot named Todd from New Zealand [sic, Australian] who had an unexploded projectile inbedded in his hip. How we felt sorry for the poor man yet there was nothing that we could do for him and the Japs were afraid to try and remove the projectile for fear it would explode [sic, likely part of the flare or wound from ditching]. As far as I can remember, I never heard the poor man beg the Japs for anything or for any help. I told him that if the Japs let me, I would try to remove it, but after thinking it over I was really too scared to try. He finally wasted away and had poison set in and he passed away after going into a coma for three days."
The Siege of Rabaul (1996) by Henry Sakaida page 94 (Rabaul's Military Prisoners - Kraehe), 95 (Rabaul's Military Prisoners - Murphy, Pocknee), 96 (Rabaul's Military Prisoners - Woolley)

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Last Updated
March 3, 2021

Technical InfoPBY

6 Prisoner
4 Executed
1 Died

S 10 40
E 152 29
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