Wartime riddle of Foxground bomber crash

AN email from a historian in Canberra has rekindled a mystery surrounding a World War II bomber that crashed in Foxground 69 years ago.

The twin-engine Beaufort crashed into rainforest on the escarpment on November 18, 1943.

All five crew members were killed in the crash on the south side of Hoddles Track, which runs from Saddleback Mountain up to Barren Grounds.

Flight Sergeant Ronald Christie piloted the plane, with Sergeant Douglas James and Flight Sergeant HTS Terrill navigators and Sergeant Francis Fanning and Sergeant Reginald Sharples wireless operators, all from Victoria, onboard.

Julian Ginnane, who works for the federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, has been researching the crash and has raised some interesting questions.

“I first heard about the crash after a colleague I was working with at the then Jervis Bay National Park [now Booderee National Park] spoke about seeing an article on the rediscovery of the crash site in 1999,” he said.

“Over the years I have undertaken some private investigation and have spoken to numerous people about it but don’t seem to be able to get any definitive answers to a number of questions.”

One is why the crash was still officially classified.

“This crash turns out to be the only World War II aircraft crash that remains classified to this date,” he said.

“A section of the file is marked not to be opened until 2015.

“Why is there an additional 50 years of official secrecy?”

There are a number of mysteries surrounding the crash.

“An A9 Beaufort bomber only has a crew of four, so why were there five crew members onboard?” he said. Why were there two radio operators?

“The crashed aircraft was witnessed at the time as being “perforated with many bullet holes”. How or where did it get those?

“Does this mean the aircraft was returning from a mission, not taking-off, as reported in the press.

“Apparently they took off in bad weather, why would they do that? And in a shot up plane?

“There is no official RAAF document [allowed to be viewed] that lists the scheduled flight of this particular A9 Beaufort bomber.

“The only official listing of a plane crash in November 1943 of a Beaufort bomber was Serial A9-142 that crashed near Moruya.”

Mr Ginnane said he would love to get to the bottom of the mystery.

“I have heard so many rumours about it; that it was just a training flight, that it may have been giving a mate a lift to another airfield. If that were the case why did they need a full crew and also why would they be flying in a shot up plane?

“And it’s not only me. I know family members of the crew are also still unable to get answers to some of their questions.

“There have still been no proper reports on the crash for loved ones.”

Mr Ginnane said he has been researching the Pacific theatre to try to ascertain what the bomber might have been doing.

The crew members were buried in Camden and Mr Ginnane hopes to visit their graves and the actual crash site to try to glean some more information.

While researching the Beaufort he has also come across around 30 aircraft that have crashed either on land or into the sea around the Shoalhaven.

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