Trawler’s find may solve mystery of missing bomber

WHAT is strongly believed to be one of two radial engines from a wrecked Hudson bomber that crashed at sea off Tallow Beach in 1942 is currently under wraps, awaiting direction from the Department of Defence.

The Wright Cyclone nine-cylinder radial engine, most likely from the wrecked A16-198 Lockheed Mark III Hudson bomber, was hauled from the seabed by Ballina trawlerman Brendan Puglisi on January 2.

Brendan and crewman Shaun Cameron were dragging for prawns some three nautical miles east of Suffolk Park when their net snagged the wreckage, causing them to lose a night's work in order to preserve an important piece of history.

The engine was handed over to Dr Richard Gates of the Evans Head Living Museum who has been researching its fate.

While the marine-encrusted engine is currently wrapped in wet hessian bags, Dr Gates has already fired a report off to the Department of Defence, through the Royal Australian Air Force, alerting authorities to its whereabouts and asking for direction and, hopefully, preservation.

July 1942 was a time of great concern, with Japan poised to invade Australia.

The aircraft had been pulled out of New Guinea, where it previously operated, and defence authorities as far south as Brisbane were starting to worry that the top half of our country might have to capitulate. These were the days of the Brisbane Line, after all.

So when the Hudson radioed Amberley after dark and in cloudy weather on July 6 that they were low on fuel and anxious for a flare path to illuminate the blacked-out runway, there was some hesitation from ground crew.

After considering that the garbled radio transmission from the plane could be from an enemy source they refused to light up the runway and the Hudson continued south before radioing that it was low on fuel and would head east to attempt a water landing.

There were no survivors from the four crew and six passengers aboard, and precious little wreckage washed ashore, except for an airman's jacket with a name stencilled on it.

One of the passengers, leading aircraftman Frederick Wood did not normally fly on a Hudson, and his family began to ask questions of his untimely death.

His mother Maud wrote to the secretary, Department of Air, two and a half months after the crash asking why her son was aboard the ill-fated bomber.

"When we give our husbands and sons we give our best and everything we hold dear to us. This is not cheap sentiment I'm stating but facts," she wrote.

"And therefore it's our right as their relatives to have the best given to us in return for our boy's services to their country."

IN LINE: RAAF Lockheed Hudson bombers.
IN LINE: RAAF Lockheed Hudson bombers. Australian War Memorial

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