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  PBY Catalina Serial Number A24-43 Tail FJ-B
11 Squadron

Pilot  F/Lt William James Clark, 403318 (KIA, April 26, 1943)
Co-Pilot  F/O John Nigel Elmhurst Potts, 408268 (KIA, April 26, 1943)
Engineer  Sgt Dudley James Ward, 32917 (KIA, April 26, 1943) Kingsford, NSW
Nav/Asst Engineer  F/O Clifton Stuart Dunn, 403985 (KIA, June 16, 1943)
W/AG  Cpl John Fenwick, 22532 (POW, executed March 5, 1944) Hawthorne, QLD
Crew  F/O Colin J. Twist, 407655 (POW / MIA August 7, 1943) Cammeray, NSW
Crew  Cpl Ronald Hugh Alexander Wettenhall, 11785 (survived)
Crew  Sgt Frederick Gordon Thompson, 416629 (survived)
Crew  Cpl Herbert Yates, 62031 (POW / MIA August 7, 1943) Summer Hill, NSW

Crashed  April 26, 1943 at 11:20pm

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated. Constructors Number 1096. Assigned U. S. Navy (USN) bureau number 8202. As part of lend-lease this aircraft was delivered to Australia.

Wartime History
Assigned to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as Catalina A24-43.On April 19, 1943 assigned to 11 Squadron. Tail code FJ-B.

Mission History
On April 26, 1943 took off from Cairns at 3:00pm on a mission to drop supplies to coastwatchers at two locations: Aita on Bougainville for Jack Read and Bunbun on New Ireland. Entering enemy territory at night, the weather was clear skies with no moon visible.

At 11:00pm, the first drop zone at Aita was located from an altitude of 10,000' and the crew released two parachutes while making two left circuits. Before to the third drop, an impact was heard and engine revved to full power at 11:20pm before crashing into trees on a ridge. During the crash three were killed: Clark, Potts and Ward.

Fates of the Crew
Six survived the crash: Wettenhall, Thompson, Dunn, Fenwick, Twist, Yates. Four were badly injured and unable to walk: Dunn, Fenwick, Twist, Yates. Afterwards, the surviving crew freed themselves from the wreckage and remained at the crash site overnight.

The next morning, Wettenhall and Twist smashed the waist blister windows, allowing the other crew members to exited. The noise made smashing the windows attracted the attention of the coastwatchers and natives who had been searching for them since hearing the crash. Using the bunks from the wrecked Catalina, they were carried to an Australian Army commandos camp to recover from their wounds and await rescue.

They group remained there for a month and a half. A U.S. submarine was due to pick up some personnel at Teopasina roughly 15 miles away but the pickup was rescheduled for a later date.

On the morning June 16, 1943, Lt. Bedkober, Sgt. Florence, L/Sgt. Martin and Spr. Cassidy of the A.I.F. and four members of this Catalina: Dunn (on crutches), Fenwick (unable to walk) Twist and Yates were at the camp. They were surprised by a force of about 80 Japanese and 40 natives. Bedkober fired his Owen gun until the magazine was empty. Dunn and Fenwick could not escape, and Bedkober refused to leave them and threw down his gun and walked towards the Japanese. At that moment, Dunn was shot and killed.

Bedkober and Fenwick were captured by the Japanese and became Prisoners Of War (POW). Later, Fenwick was transported to Rabaul and detained at Tunnel Hill. He was executed on March 4, 1944.

The others kept firing and escaped into the jungle. Without food, the survivors of the attack wandered eastward in search of other friendly forces. Near Numa Numa, natives betrayed them to the Japanese and Twist and Yates were both captured and became Prisoners Of War (POW). Both died in captivity during August 1944, location unknown, possibly Rabaul.

Wettenhall and Thompson evaded capture and survived.

Ten months after the crash in roughly February 1944, Coastwatcher Robinson who was with Jack Reed during the crash and Corrigan trekked to the crash site, already partially concealed by vegetation. In the cockpit area, they discovered the two complete skeletons of Clark and Potts both still wearing their dog tags. A few meters away they located the remains of Ward. The three were buried at the crash site.

Twist and Yates names appear on Panel 9 of Bomana War Cemetery
Fenwick is buried at Bita Paka War Cemetery collective grave E, C, 5-11.

Royal Australian Air Force Histories references to A24-43 by Michael Moskow
NAA Catalina Accidents, Report of Aircraft (Catalina A24-43) and subsequent movements leading to evacuation from Bougainville
The Coast Watchers mentions this loss
Lonely Vigil mentions this loss
The Siege of Rabaul (1996) by Henry Sakaida page 94 (Rabaul's Military Prisoners - Fenwick)

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Last Updated
June 29, 2019


Technical InfoPBY

3 Missing
3 Prisoner

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