Gasmata Raids - September 4/5, 1943

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Daniel Leahy
Lt Col
Posts: 284
Joined: Mon Dec 16, 2002 10:21 pm
Location: Australia

Gasmata Raids - September 4/5, 1943

Post by Daniel Leahy »

Hi All,

I'm currently doing research into a number of raids that took place on Gasmata by the RAAF on September 4th and 5th, 1943. In particular I am trying to find out more information about the loss of four Beauforts and their crews.

On September 4th ten Beauforts of 100 Squadron, accompanied by three Bostons of 22 Squadron attacked Gasmata to make sure the field could not be used as a staging point for attacks against Australian infantry landing at Lae. The Beauforts dropped twenty-two bombs on the runway, some of which were set to explode after 6, 12 and 36 hours' delay. The Bostons attacked with demolition bombs dropped from low levels.

One Beaufort was lost:

DAP BEAUFORT MK. VIII A9-204, 100 Squadron
F/O Thomas Hessey Allanson, 415106 (Pilot), MIA
F/O Mervyn Noel Keehn, 405193 (Navigator), MIA
F/Sgt Keith Grieve, 405850 (W/AG), MIA
F/Sgt Denis Hamlin Webb, 405458 (W/AG), MIA

The following day, the three Bostons of 22 Squadron returned to Gasmata at dawn where the Japanese had been working on repair operations overnight. They dropped bombs which struck the centre and eastern end of the runway where repairs had been made. Again it was vital that Gasmata remain out of action so it could not be used as a staging point for attacks on the American and Australian parachute landing at Nadzab.

Another ten Beauforts were then ordered to resume the attack on Gasmata. These Beauforts, led by F/Lt Woollacott, and covered by eight Kittyhawks of 76 Squadron arrived at the scene at about 7:00.

Three Beauforts were lost over Gasmata:

DAP BEAUFORT MK. VIII A9-183, 100 Squadron
F/O Robert Barclay Anderson, 409070 (Pilot), KIA
F/Sgt Jeffrey Allan Heath, 412440 (Navigator), KIA
F/Sgt Robert Harrison, 410054 (W/AG), KIA
F/Sgt Lawrence Vincent McMahon, 409934 (W/AG), KIA

DAP BEAUFORT MK. VIII A9-186, 100 Squadron
W/O Clement Bastone Wiggins, 405335 (Pilot), MIA
W/O Russell Henry Grigg, 405284 (Navigator), MIA
F/Sgt Albert Beckett, 408343 (W/AG), MIA
F/Sgt Gordon Lewis Hamilton, 414022 (W/AG), MIA

DAP BEAUFORT MK. VIII A9-374, 100 Squadron
F/Lt Roy Herbert Woollacott, 407144 (Pilot), MIA
F/Sgt James Albert Sugg, 416085 (Navigator), MIA
F/Sgt Harley Joseph Williams, 408311 (W/AG), MIA
F/Sgt William Theodore Pedler, 416608 (W/AG), MIA

Another Beaufort which took part in the September 5th raid was badly damaged by A/A fire but managed to land at Vivigani where it ground looped and was written off. All crew members survived:

DAP BEAUFORT MK. VIII A9-362, 100 Squadron
F/O Charles Stewart Walsh, 406065 (Pilot)
F/O William Edward Henry, 403740 (Navigator)
F/O John Campbell Guthrie, 413857 (W/AG)
P/O Jeffrey Ernest Barton, 410216 (W/AG)

The remaining six Beauforts which took part in the September 5th attack were as follows:

A9-189 - F/O E N Sharpe (254899)
A9-195 - F/O A H Morton (406947)
A9-213 - W/O G L Bland (407519)
A9-321 - F/O B M Warden (421060)
A9-371 - F/O J C Birt (415392)
A9-382 - F/Sgt H F Godfrey (420742)

The wreckage of A9-204 was located by S/Ldr Rundle in dense mangrove swamps approximately 3 miles NE of Gasmata. No crew remains were found.

According to the records I have, the wreckage of A9-183 was located by Capt Reginald Harold Boyan (PX150) of ANGAU, who buried the crew remains at Jacquinot Bay War Cemetery. These have since been reinterred at the Bita Paka War Cemetery, Rabaul.

The sites of A9-186 and A9-374 have not yet been located.
Daniel Leahy
Canberra, Australia


Daniel Leahy
Lt Col
Posts: 284
Joined: Mon Dec 16, 2002 10:21 pm
Location: Australia

Post by Daniel Leahy »

Thanks for that Phil.

The 100 Squadron diaries seem to have the same basic information I already have. Am yet to check out the ANGAU reports.

I've also been told that maybe one of the Kittyhawks was shot down on the September 5th raid, though have been unable to find any further evidence of this. After checking the diaries for that day, eight Kittyhawks departed at about 0600 on September 5th, and returned safely around 0840:

A29-340 - F/O Harrison
A29-345 - P/O Butcher
A29-338 - P/O Marsh
A29-346 - Sgt Eddy
A29-342 - F/Sgt Neane (?)
A29-348 - Sgt Sheahan
A29-349 - F/O Needham
A29-352 - Sgt Maurice Roantree (422300)

Sgt Roantree was later reported missing during another raid to Gasmata on September 23rd. His remains have never been recovered.
Daniel Leahy
Canberra, Australia


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