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  PBY Catalina Serial Number A24-8  
20 Squadron

1st Pilot  FLT Robert Hampton Thompson, 461 (POW, survived) Boulder, WA
2nd Pilot  FLT Paul Maxwell George Metzler, 609 (POW, survived) Mosman, NSW
2nd Wireless Operator  LAC Leo Thomas Clarke, 32579 (MIA / KIA 1/21/42) Chatswood, NSW
1st Engineer  CPL John "Jack" Perret, 6461 (MIA / KIA 1/21/42) Goomeri, QLD
2nd Engineer  LAC Kenneth George Parkyns, 34163 (POW) Liverpool, NSW
1st Wireless Operator  LAC Charles Hickson Sollitt, 8265 (POW) Suva, Fiji
Rigger  AC1 William "Bill" Harry Blackman, 15207 (POW) Greenwich, NSW
Armourer  LAC James Leslie Cox, 33871 (MIA / KIA 1/21/42) Bathurst, NSW

Crashed  January 21, 1942

Aircraft History
Built by Consolidated at San Diego as Model 28-5MA. Constructors Number 250. Purchased by Qantas Empire Airways (QEA).

Wartime History
On August 10, 1941 departed San Diego with a Consolidated crew and flown to Oahu then handed over to a civilian crew from Qantas and flown across the Pacific as part of flight "I". On August 16, 1941 registered in Australia as VH-AFI. On August 16, 1941 arrived at Rathmines.

Delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as Catalina A24-8. On September 11, 1941 assigned to 20 Squadron.

A24-8 was ordered to shadow the fleet. Zeros took off from one of the carriers in the fleet and eventually found and shot down A24-8. As a result the following three crew members were killed.

Mission History
On January 21, 1942 took off from Gizo Harbor off Ghizo Island on a reconnaissance mission over the area north and west of Kavieng to search for a Japanese warships. Afterwards, the aircraft was ordered to proceeded to Lorengau and soon afterwards reported four cruisers south of Kavieng and stated it was under attack by anti-aircraft fire at roughly Lat 3°09'S Long 149°51'E.

This aircraft was ordered to shadow the enemy vessels. Meanwhile, A6M2 Zeros from the Shokaku shot down this Catalina causing it to crash land in the Bismarck Sea. Three of the crew went down with the aircraft: Clarke, Perrett and Cox.

Fates of the Crew
Thompson, Metzler, Sollitt, Parkyns and Blackman survived the crash landing and sucessfully deployed their life rafts. Several hours later, they were picked up by Japanese heavy crusier Aoba.

On January 26, 1942 at 1pm, Aoba arrives at Rabaul where the Australians became Prisoners Of War (POW) and were turned over to the Japanese Navy 8th Special Base Force.

21 January 1942: Operation "O"- The Invasion of Rabaul and Kavieng:
Carrier SHOKAKU launches strikes against Lae, New Guinea. A Mitsubishi A6M Zeke from SHOKAKU intercepts and shoots down an Australian "Catalina" PBY patrol plane. Four RAAF crewmen make it into rafts. After several hours they are picked up by AOBA.

and were picked up by a Japanese cruiser and became Prisoners Of War (POW) for the duration of the war. All five survived captivity and were liberated at the end of the war.

The three crew that died in the crash: Clarke, Cox and Perret were officially declared dead the day of the mission and are memorialized on the Lae Memorial on Panel 7. Blackman was officially declared dead on January 20 [incorrectly] and is memorialized at the Rabaul Memorial on Panel 36.

Thompson retired as a RAAF Group Captain. He passed away on June 10, 1967 and was buried at Bairnsdale War Cemetery at Plot A, Row B, Grave 15.

CWGC - Leo Thomas Clarke
CWGC - John Perret
CWGC - James Leslie Cox
World War Two Nominal Roll - Robert Hampton Thompson
World War Two Nominal Roll - Paul M. G. Metzler
World War Two Nominal Roll - Charles Hickson Sollitt
World War Two Nominal Roll - Kenneth George Parkyns
World War Two Nominal Roll - William Harry Blackman
World War Two Nominal Roll - Leo Thomas Clarke
World War Two Nominal Roll - John Perret
World War Two Nominal Roll - James Leslie Cox
ADF Serials - Catalina A24-8
RAAFDB - Consolidated PBY Catalina A24-8
RAAFDB - Leo Thomas Clarke
RAAFDB - John Perret
RAAFDB - James Leslie Cox
CombinedFleet - IJN Aoba
"The Day a Cat's Luck Gave Out" by Bob Piper
Thanks to Daniel Leahy for additional information

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Last Updated
June 29, 2019


Technical Info

3 Missing
5 Prisoners
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