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  S.23 "Circe" Empire Flying Boat Registration G-AETZ  
Qantas Empire Airways
Former Assignments
Imperial Airways

Captain  F/L William Bloxam Purton, RAAF 296 20 Squadron (MIA / KIA) Hobart, TAS
1st Officer
  F/O Mervyn William Bateman, RAAF 267574 11 Squadron (MIA / KIA) Vaucluse, NSW
Radio  Herbert G. Oates (MIA / KIA)
Crew  James L. Hogan (MIA / KIA)
Passengers  Plus nine other crew and sixteen passengers

MIA  February 28, 1942

Aircraft History
Built by Short in Rochester, Kent United Kingdom. Purchased by Imperial Airways London (IAL) and registered in the United Kingdom as G-AETZ. Nicknamed "Circe". Next, served with BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation). Afterwards, operated by Qantas Empire Airways (QEA).

Wartime History
At the start of the Pacific War, this flying boat was pressed into service evacuating civilians from the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) to Australia.

Mission History
On February 28, 1942 took off from Tjilatjap on Java piloted by F/L William B. Purton (Royal Australian Air Force, 20 Squadron) with first officer F/O Mervyn William Bateman (RAAF) who were both former Qantas pilot with sixteen passengers aboard on an evacuation flight bound for Australia to evacuate civilians. Aboard were Dutch diplomats and a U. S. Navy officer plus four Americans. When this flying boat failed to reach Australia and was declared Missing In Action (MIA).

Postwar, no trace was ever found of the aircraft or an examination of Japanese records. In a long-running dispute over the insurance for the aircraft and her crew, the Australian and U. S. government steadfastly maintained that there was no evidence that "Circe" was lost due to enemy action.

In fact, through recent research in Australian by Phil Vabre and Japanese archives by Osamu Tagaya has confirmed that "Circe" was shot down by a G4M1 Betty bomber piloted by Flight Petty Officer Yamamoto and Ashizawa that took off from Denpasar Airfield on Bali on a maritime patrol. This bomber spotted and engaged "Circe" roughly 200 miles south of Java and shot the flying boat down with gunfire.

Purton is memorialized at Ambon War Cemetery on the Ambon Memorial on column 10.
Bateman is memorialized at Adelaide River War Cemetery on the Northern Territory Memorial on panel 6.

WW2 Nominal Roll - William Bloxam Purton
WW2 Nominal Roll - Mervyn William Bateman
CWGC - William Bloxam Purton
CWGC - Mervyn William Bateman
Aviation Heritage - Mervyn William Bateman
Thanks to Osamu Tagaya for additional information

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Last Updated
September 24, 2018


Tech InfoS.23

16 Missing
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