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No. 11 Squadron
|Pilot F/Lt William James Clark, 403318 (KIA, April 26, 1943) Bundaberg, QLD
Co-Pilot F/O John Nigel Elmhurst Potts, 408268 (KIA, April 26, 1943) Rylestone, NSW
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) Rylestone, NSW
W/AG Cpl John Fenwick, 22532 (POW, executed March 5, 1944) Hawthorne, QLD
Crew F/O Colin J. Twist, 407655 (POW, MIA/KIA August 7, 1943) Perth, WA
Crew Cpl Ronald Hugh Alexander Wettenhall, 11785 (survived) Melbourne, VIC
Crew Sgt Frederick Gordon Thompson, 416629 (survived) Adelaide, SA
Crew Cpl Herbert Yates, 62031 (POW, MIA/MIA August 10, 1943) Auckland, New Zealand
Crashed April 26, 1943 at 11:20pm
Built by Consolidated. Constructors Number 1096. Delivered to the U.S. Navy (USN) as PBY-5 Catalina bureau number 08202. As part of lend-lease this aircraft was flown across the Pacific to Australia.
Assigned to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as Catalina serial number A24-43. On April 19, 1943 assigned to No. 11 Squadron. Tail code FJ-B.
On April 26, 1943 at 3:00pm took off from Cairns on a mission to drop supplies to Allied coastwatchers at two locations: Aita on Bougainville for Jack Read and Bunbun on New Ireland. Arriving over enemy territory at night, the weather was clear skies with no moon visible.
At 11:00pm flying at 10,0000', the first drop zone at Aita was spotted and the crew released two parachutes while making two left circuits. Before to the third drop at 11:20pm, an impact was heard and engine revved to full power before the Catalina crashed 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.
On April 27, 1943 in the morning, Wettenhall and Twist smashed the waist blister windows, allowing the other crew to exit. 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.
The 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 June 16, 1943 in the morning, 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 Rabaul Prisoner Compound (Rabaul POW Camp). On March 2, 1944 trucked to Tunnel Hill POW Camp. On March 4, 1944 and March 5, 1944 Fenwick was thirty-one Allied prisoners were removed and never seen again. These executions became known as the Tunnel Hill Massacre, Tunnel Hill Incident or Talili Bay Massacre. All three names refer to the same execution event. On March 4, 1944 a group of fifteen prisoners were removed from Tunnel Hill POW Camp and walked to Tanoura at the edge of Talili Bay and executed. On March 5, 1944 a second group of sixteen prisoners were removed and walked to Tanoura at the edge of Talili Bay and executed.
executed at Talili Bay.
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 escaped and evaded capture. Later both were rescued by submarine and returned to duty.
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 with their identification tags. A few meters away they found the remains of Ward. All three were buried at the crash site.
Twist and Yates remain listed as Missing In Action (MIA). Both are memorialized at Bomana War Cemetery on the Port Moresby Memorial, panel 9.
Clark is buried at Bomana War Cemetery in B4. E. 19.
Potts is buried at Bomana War Cemetery in B4. F. 3.
Ward is buried at Bomana War Cemetery in B4. E. 20.
Dunn is buried at Bomana War Cemetery in B4. F. 4.
Fenwick is buried at Bita Paka War Cemetery in collective grave E, C, 5-11.
Twist was officially declared dead August 7, 1943 and remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA). He is memorialized at Bomana War Cemetery on the Port Moresby Memorial, panel 9.
Yates was officially declared dead August 10, 1943 and remains listed as Missing In Action (MIA). He is memorialized at Bomana War Cemetery on the Port Moresby Memorial, panel 9.
Wettenhall passed away July 14, 1988 at age 69. He is buried at Holbrook Cemetery in Holbrook, NSW at section C1, row 10, plot 1.
Thompson passed away April 15, 2002 at age 84. He is buried at Centennial Park Cemetery in Pasadena, SA at Catholic K, Path 19, Grave 1250.
Navy Serial Number Search Results - PBY-5 Catalina 08202
"08202 (MSN 1096) to RAAF as A24-43. Crashed into a ridge Jun 26, 1943, Bougainville. 9 people on board, 3 killed in crash, 4 killed by Japanese troops, 2 returned by submarine."
NAA Catalina Accidents, Report of Aircraft (Catalina A24-43) and subsequent movements leading to evacuation from Bougainville
WW2 Nominal Roll - William James Clark, 403318
WW2 Nominal Roll - John Nigel Elmhurst Potts, 408268
WW2 Nominal Roll - Dudley James Ward, 32917
WW2 Nominal Roll - Clifton Stuart Dunn, 403985
WW2 Nominal Roll - John Fenwick, 22532
WW2 Nominal Roll - Colin J. Twist, 407655
WW2 Nominal Roll - Ronald Hugh Alexander Wettenhall, 11785
WW2 Nominal Roll - Frederick Gordon Thompson, 416629
WW2 Nominal Roll - Herbert Yates, 62031
NAA - Clark
NAA Potts, John Nigel Elmhirst: Servie Number 408268 (NAA: A9300, POTTS J N E)
NAA Potts, John Nigel Elmhirst [sic] Service Number - 408268; File type - Casualty - Repatriation (NAA: A705, 166/33/31)
NAA Fenwick, John - (Corporal); Service Number - 22532; File type - Casualty (NAA: A705, 166/13/43)
CWGC - William James Clark
CWGC - John Nigel Elmhurst Potts
CWGC - Dudley James Ward
CWGC - Clifton Stuart Dunn
CWGC - John Fenwick
CWGC - Colin J. Twist
CWGC - Herbert Yates
FindAGrave - Flight Lieutenant William James Clark (Bomana War Cemetery)
FindAGrave - John Nigel Elmhurst Potts (Bomana War Cemetery)
FindAGrave - Sergeant Dudley James Ward (Port Moresby Memorial)
FindAGrave - Flying Officer Clifton Stuart Dunn (Bomana War Cemetery)
FindAGrave - John Fenwick
FindAGrave - Colin J. Twist
FindAGrave - Ronald Hugh Alexander Wettenhall (Holbrook Cemetery grave photos)
FindAGrave - Frederick Gordon Thompson (Centennial Park Cemetery)
FindAGrave - Herbert Yates
The Coast Watchers (1979) mentions this loss
Lonely Vigil (1977) mentions this loss
The Siege of Rabaul (1996) by Henry Sakaida page 94 (Rabaul's Military Prisoners - Fenwick)
Royal Australian Air Force Histories references to A24-43 by Michael Moskow
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
April 26, 2022
MIA / POW
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