THE HON. WARREN SNOWDON MP
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel
Friday, 26 September 2008
RAAF TO SEARCH FOR REMAINS OF WWII AIRMEN IN PNG
An Air Force team will arrive in Papua New Guinea next week to search for the remains of four RAAF airmen whose Hudson bomber was lost during WWII.
The Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, the Hon. Warren Snowdon MP, said a team of nine, including two Air Force Reserve forensic specialists, will travel to an isolated mountain ridge inland from Gasmata, New Britain, where the wreck of Hudson A16-126 was located in thick jungle earlier this year.
Flying Officer Graham Gibson, Pilot Officer Frank Thorn, Sergeant Barton Coutie and Sergeant Arthur Quail were lost with the aircraft on 11 February 1942 during a sortie against Japanese shipping at Gasmata harbour.
“The Air Force team will conduct a detailed search of the crash site for any trace of human remains, personal artefacts and military items. It is hoped that 66 years after losing their lives in the service of their nation, these four airmen will be accounted for.
“Relatives of the four crew members have been advised of this search. Knowing the location of the aircraft has provided a degree of comfort. It is an emotional time for them,” Mr Snowdon said.
The Hudson bomber was originally located by local missionary Mark Reichman in May 2008, on the advice of local villagers, led by Daniel Kovi. An Air Force reconnaissance team officially confirmed the wreck was A16-126 in June 2008
The aircraft is in several large pieces. The cockpit is upside down and partially buried in mud, which will present a challenge for the recovery team. Bullet holes were found in the tail section and cannon shells were located in their original clips.
Air Force will undertake this mission with support and assistance from the PNG Government and local villagers. The team is planning to be in PNG for about two weeks.
Media note: Still images of three of the four crew members and the crash site taken by the RAAF reconnaissance team in June 2008 are available at: http://www.defence. gov.au/media/ download
Archival footage of RAAF Hudson bombers will be fed through to networks at Parliament House.