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|Pilot Flight Lieutenant Dennis Hugh Hobbs, 404444 (KIA, BR) Canterbury, NZ
Crew F/Sgt Frederick Dudley Murphy, 422427 (KIA, BR) Blenheim, NZ
WAG F/L Robert Leslie Scarlett, 412905 (KIA, BR) Nelson, NZ
Crew Warrant Officer Stanley Anzac Nuttall, 421285 (KIA, BR) Hawkes Bay, NZ
Gunner FSgt Neville R. Gardiner (WIA, rescued)
Crashed December 20, 1944
Built by Lockheed as model 237-27-01 in Burbank. Constructor number 237-6396. Delivered to the U. S. Navy (USN) as PV-1 Ventura bureau number 49580. Disassembled and shipped to Oahu then reassembled and shipped to New Zealand as part of defense aid.
On June 15, 1944 assigned to the to the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) as Ventura NZ4634. Reassembled by Unit 45 at Hamilton Airfield. Assigned to No. 1 Squadron. No known nickname or nose art.
On December 20, 1944 took off on a mission to drop supplies to Allied troops on Bougainville. When it failed to climb out of a valley, it stalled and crashed into a ridge near the Aita River. Four of the crew were killed in the crash.
Fates of the Crew
Sole survivor F/Sgt Gardiner suffered a broken leg in the crash. Afterwards, Gardiner was found by Allied forces and a radio message to send an aircraft for his medical evacuation (medivac) from Pusupa village (Persupia village).
On December 26, 1944 the rescue aircraft Auster A11-16 piloted by F/O James A. Russell landed at Pusupa village but suffered a propeller damage from the landing. Afterwards, a replacement propeller was air dropped in a storepedo but was damaged when it hit the ground.
That afternoon, CA-8 Wirraway A20-274 air dropped a storepedo with a replacement propeller inside. Afterwards, the storepedo was retrieved but it had broken when it impacted the ground and another radio message was sent to request another air drop.
On December 27, 1944 around 6:35am CA-8 Wirraway A20-274 returned and air dropped another storepedo with a replacement propeller inside. This propeller landed safely and was installed onto Auster A11-16 and pilot Russell ran up the engine to test it and walked the runway and deemed it to be dry and F/Sgt Gardiner was loaded aboard. Meanwhile, CA-8 Wirraway A20-274 made another supply drop to this location, it is unclear if this was material to aid the Auster or for the ground troops.
On December 27, 1944, the aircraft was repaired with another replacement propeller air dropped and the aircraft was tested. Gardiner was loaded aboard in a stretcher during the attempted take off, the aircraft failed to get airborne and crashed, neither the pilot nor Gardiner was injured.
While attempting to take off, the aircraft was unable to reach take off speed to get airborne due to the extra weight of the patient and soft ground. To prevent it from going over the edge of the runway into the valley below, Russel swung to the left between two stumps, one of them impacted the left wing strut damaging it and the landing gear and came to rest on its nose. During the crash, neither Russel or Gardiner were injured but the aircraft was written off. Officially, approval was given for conversion to components on February 9, 1945.
On December 28, 1944 Russel, Gardiner escorted by Sgt Wigley and Sgt McEvoy plus ten native police and 30-40 carriers began walking back to safety. Gardiner was carried in a stretcher for four days to the coast where they were met by a barge and transported to Torokina.
Recovery of Remains
After the crash, the remains of the four crew killed in the crash were recovered and buried on Bougainville. Postwar, they were exhumed and transported to New Caledonia for permenant burial.
The four crew killed in the crash were officially declared dead the day of the mission. The four were buried at Bourail New Zealand War Cemetery. Hobbs at 6. 26. Murphy at 6. 13. Scarlett at 6. 28. Nuttall at 6. 12.
Scarlett's medal group including his Memorial Cross was donated to the RNZAF Museum collection number 2007/506.1.
Navy Serial Number Search Results - PV-1 Ventura 49580
"49580 (MSN 237-6396) to New Zealand Jun 15, 1944 as NZ4634. To No. 1 Squadron. Crashed near the Aita River on Dec 20, 1944. The aircraft was supply dropping when it failed to climb out of a valley and stalled into a ridge."
ADF Serials - Ventura NZ4634
CWGC - Dennis Hugh Hobbs
CWGC - Frederick Dudley Murphy
CWGC - Robert Leslie Scarlett
CWGC - Stanley Anzac Nuttall
Facebook Air Force Museum of New Zealand April 23, 2016
"Our final story in our remembrance series in the lead-up to Anzac Day 2016 story takes place in the Pacific theatre of operations during World War Two, on the island of Bougainville in the Solomon Islands. On the morning of 20 December 1944, wireless operator Flight Lieutenant Robert Scarlett of Westport took off with his highly experienced crew in a No. 1 Squadron RNZAF Lockheed Ventura. In true Anzac spirit, they were tasked with dropping supplies to Australian troops fighting the Japanese. After some delay, they commenced their dropping run but had insufficient power to make it over a ridge, stalled and crashed into the dense undergrowth. Their pilot, Flight Lieutenant Denis Hobbs and navigator Sergeant Fred Dudley died instantly. Robert Scarlett and the two air gunners were badly injured. Robert, together with Warrant Officer Stan Anzac Nuttall, was carried down from the ridge by Australian soldiers, but sadly, he died on the way. Stan also later died of his burns. Only the remaining air gunner, Flight Sergeant Neville Gardiner survived, having been rescued and evacuated by the Australians and local coast-watchers. The four crew who died are buried in the Bourail New Zealand War Cemetery in New Caledonia. Like other families in New Zealand, Robert Scarlett’s received a Memorial Cross in addition to his campaign and service medals as a symbol of his sacrifice."
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