Book on Mystery of Loss of RAAF Pilot Wilbur Wackett

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Book on Mystery of Loss of RAAF Pilot Wilbur Wackett

Post by Edward »

Lost Without Trace
By Leon Kane-Maguire
November 2011
ISBN 13: 978-1-920800-64-2
Price: $25.00 (for hard copy)

"In September 1944 a Beaufighter from No 31 Squadron, RAAF, crashed in the Northern Territory following a strike mission over Japanese-occupied Timor. Although evidence was discovered some time later that the two-man crew of the aircraft had survived the crash, no trace was ever discovered of what became of them.

The pilot of the lost Beaufighter was Squadron Leader Wilbur Wackett, the 23-year-old son of Lawrence Wackett—himself an ex-RAAF officer who became well-known as one of Australia’s leading aircraft designers. Wilbur had followed his father’s footsteps into the Air Force before the war, and was a veteran of the air campaign in New Guinea where he had already survived being shot down and avoided certain death at the hands of the Japanese.

This book highlights the flying career of Wilbur Wackett and describes the catalogue of tragedy that unfolded with his mysterious end. The loss of Wilbur was quickly followed by the loss of his only child. His wife, who remarried, lost a battle with cancer at a young age. Strangely, the full circumstances of Wilbur’s disappearance were withheld from his father until just before Sir Lawrence’s death in 1982.

Lost Without Trace is a stark reminder of the cruel fate which could await airmen who were downed while operating in the harsh environment of Australia’s north." ... Trace.aspx

This was Leon Kane-Maguire's last book before his death in 2011. He had a notable career as a research scientist and author of books on WWII history.

A short article on him can be found at the link below. ... 1ay3a.html
LostWithoutTrace_Wackett_Bio_2010.jpg (78.8 KiB) Viewed 8821 times

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Re: Biography of RAAF Pilot Wilbur Wackett

Post by Edward »

Article from the msn website "9 News"

War mystery subject of new book

Visiting the final resting place of Wilbur Wackett in 2008 brought closure for Julie Parsons because her mother died never really knowing what became of the World War II hero.

Ms Parson's mother Peggie became engaged to RAAF Squadron Leader Wackett in 1942, when she was just 20 years old.

He was posted to Port Moresby the same year, where he became the first allied pilot to shoot down a Japanese fighter in the New Guinea campaign.

Within 24 hours, Squadron Leader Wackett was also shot down by the enemy, when his squadron mounted an attack on the Japanese at Lae.

In shark-infested waters and 16km off the east coast of New Guinea, he somehow emerged from his Kittyhawk and made it to shore.

Avoiding capture by the Japanese, the young pilot trekked through 400km of jungle and swamps for 32 days, before making it back to his unit at Port Moresby.

At the launch of a book on Squadron Leader Wackett called Lost Without a Trace, at the Department of Defence on Wednesday, Ms Parsons says it was assumed that having survived his ordeal in New Guinea, the RAAF pilot would have somehow survived after his Beaufighter was lost while returning to Australia from a strike mission over Japanese-occupied Timor in 1944.

A year later, in 1945, search parties made up of RAAF personnel and police finally discovered the wrecked Beaufighter in rugged country that now forms part of the Kakadu National Park.

No bodies were found.

"There were parachutes nearby. It was pretty clear that they had got out of the aircraft before it crashed," RAAF historian Dr Chris Clark told AAP.

It wasn't until the 1970s, shortly before the death of Squadron Leader Wackett's father, Sir Lawrence, a decorated World War I pilot, that his family became aware of the discovery.

Dr Clark believes the delay was due to those who came across the campsite not knowing how to break the news.

"They found a campsite, but there was nothing to prove it was Wilbur and the other airman on board," he said.

"So nothing was said at the time."

It is poignant because Ms Parsons' mother Peggie married Squadron Leader Wackett in June 1943 and they had a child in 1944 just before he disappeared.

The baby died soon after and Peggie Wackett remarried. Peggie also died at a young age of cancer, in 1956 when Ms Parsons was a child.

Ms Parsons, who was born six years after Squadron Leader Wackett's death, visited the site in 2008 - 52 years after Peggie's death.

"That was a closure for me, for my mother, because my mother never knew that that campsite was found," she told AAP.

Additional closure has come through assisting Leon Kane-Maguire with writing the biography on Squadron Leader Wackett.

Lost Without a Trace can be purchased from the Australian War Memorial's bookshop, or online at the Air Power Development Centre's website.

Mr Kane-Maguire, who died in January, was a year old when his father was killed during World War II.

The former University of Wollongong chemistry professor has also written a history of No 459 Squadron, RAAF, which was published in 2007 under the title Desert Scorpions. ... f-new-book

Daniel Leahy
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Location: Australia

Re: Book on Mystery of Loss of RAAF Pilot Wilbur Wackett

Post by Daniel Leahy »

This book can be downloaded as a PDF at the URL below: ... Trace.aspx

I read it while in Darwin last year (when I got to see the remains of Wackett's Beaufighter) - Quite a good book!
Daniel Leahy
Canberra, Australia


Andy in West Oz
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Location: NSW

Re: Book on Mystery of Loss of RAAF Pilot Wilbur Wackett

Post by Andy in West Oz »

Hi Daniel

They found the remains of the aircraft he was lost in?

Noted some interesting passages in the new Eagles Of The Southern Sky by Claringbould and Ruffato that mentioned Wackett heavily. He was shot down in his Kittyhawk and walked back. Quite the epic journey made all the more poignant when I made the connection and knew his eventual fate.
Andy Wright
Aircrew Book Review
I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library - Jorge Luis Borges

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