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  CA-9 Wirraway Serial Number A20-476 Code BF-B
RAAF
No. 5 Squadron

Former Assignments
1 AD
5 SFTS
2 AD
12 RSU
No. 4 Squadron

Click For Enlargement
RAAF April 11, 1945
Pilot  F/O Brian O'Connell, 437192 (MIA / KIA, BNR) Mount Gambier, SA
Observer P/O John Richmond Hatfield, 25350 (survived)
Mackay, QLD
Crashed  July 6, 1945


Aircraft History
Built by Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) in Melbourne. Constructor's Number 677. Delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as CA-9 Wirraway serial number A20-476.

Wartime History
On December 20, 1941 assigned to 1 Air Depot (1 AD). On December 24, 1941 assigned to No. 5 Service Flying Training School (5 SFTS) based at Uranquinty Airfield.

On December 28, 1941 took off from Uranquinty Airfield piloted by LAC Jack Smithers, 412853 on a training flight and while landing at Uranquinty Airfield held too high on landing and stalled at 10' causing damage to the right wing when it hit the ground and damaged the right wing, center section, air screw and undercarriage, pilot unhurt.

On February 1, 1942 to Clyde Engineering. Next on July 29, 1942 to 2 Air Depot (2 AD) then on August 10, 1942 returned to 5 SFTS.

On September 24, 1942 took off from took off from Uranquinty Airfield piloted by Sgt G. B. Davis on a training flight while landing at night, stalled damaging the wing, pilot not injured.

On October 26, 1942 o CAC for repairs then returned November 30, 1942. On December 17, 1942 assigned to 12 Repair Salvage Unit (12 RSU) On January 2, 1943 assigned to No. 4 Squadron. During delivery, suffered an accident that damaged the mainplane. Afterwards, held for ten months awaiting a replacement part. On October 24, 1943 assigned to 13 ARD for repairs.

On May 18, 1944 reassigned to No. 5 Squadron. with code BF-B. During December 1944 flown to Bougainville and operated from Piva North Airfield (Piva Uncle) flying tactical reconnaissance, artillery support missions and as escorts for RNZAF F4U Corsairs.

On April 9, 1945 at 12:08pm took off from Torokina Airfield on Bougainville piloted by F/O Edward "Ted" Gresford Reynolds with observer F/O William "Bill" Herbert Tucker on a tactical reconnaissance mission over Kingori and returned at 2:00pm. Afterwards, took off again at 2:37pm on another tactical reconnaissance mission over Kingori returned at 4:39pm.

Justin Taylan adds:
"AWM OG2432 shows this aircraft with pilot F/O Reynolds with observer F/O Tucker being handed an aerial camera with code "BF" visible at the far right. The caption states this photograph was taken April 11, 1945 in error. According to the RAAF Unit History sheets (Form A50) [Operations Record Book] (NAA: A9186, 13) page 654, this photo was actually taken on April 9, 1945 when both Reynolds and Tucker flew together aboard Wirraway A20-476 on two sorties that same day. Therefore, the date listed on AWM is in error and should be April 9, 1945. Also, the location is captioned as Torokina Airfield which is possible as that was where the RNZAF F4U Corsairs were based, but No. 5 Squadron was based at Piva North Airfield (Piva Uncle) and is more likely that location. The Operations Record Book (ORB) only lists Bougainville as the location for No. 5 Squadron. Of note, No. 5 Squadron ORB page 656 listing for April 11, 1945 does show pilot F/O Reynolds flying Boomerang A46-110 on an artillery support mission over Hongarai. Therefore, pilot Reynolds did fly on April 11, 1945 but it was another type of aircraft without an observer."

Mission History
On July 6, 1945 took off from Piva North Airfield (Piva Uncle) on Bougainville piloted by F/O Brian O'Connell with observer P/O John R. Hatfield leading a formation of Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) F4U Corsairs. Returning, this Wirraway commenced a right turn when the right wing hit the sea causing the aircraft to crash into the sea. Officially, this aircraft was stricken off charge on July 16, 1945 and administratively issued to 10 RSU on August 6, 1945.

Fates of the Crew
Afterwards, both crew were observed to exited the aircraft but were injured. P/O Hatfield suffered a fractured skull and was covered in blood but managed to inflate the dinghy and attempted to rescue F/O O'Connell who was observed with his head covered in blood and dazed and was unable to get into the raft despite help from Hatfield and disappeared and likely drown or died of his injuries.

Search
After observing the crash, Australian Army personnel with a boat reached the site thirty minutes later, and rescued Hatfield and unsuccessfully searched for O'Connell who was declared Missing In Action (MIA).

Rescue
Hatfield was rescued and taken ashore then transported to the nearby 2/1 Hospital. Later, he was evacuated by air to Australia for further treatment.

Memorials
F/O O'Connell was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He is memorialized at Bomana War Cemetery on the Port Moresby Memorial on panel 9.

References
ADF Serials - Wirraway A20-476
CWGC - Brian O'Connell
WW2 Nominal Roll - Jack Smithers
WW2 Nominal Roll - Gordon Barrington Davis
WW2 Nominal Roll - Edward Gresford Reynolds
WW2 Nominal Roll - Brian O'Connell
WW2 Nominal Roll - J R Hatfield
AWM OG2432 (4/11/45 No. 5 Squadron Wirraway [A2-476] handing camera to FO Bill Tucker)
NAA RAAF Unit History sheets (Form A50) [Operations Record Book - Forms A50 and A51] Number 5 Squadron Jan 41 - Feb 46 (NAA: A9186, 13) pages 654 (April 9, 1945 missions), 656 (April 11, 1945 mission) 752 (July 6, 1945 crash)
(Page 752) "6 July 1945 - A most unfortunate..."

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Last Updated
October 9, 2019

 

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