PETER FRENEY
NEPHEW OF BILL FRENEY
WHOSE HOUSE WAS HIT BY A PLANE
AT ARCHERFIELD

 

Subject:   Crash at Archerfield
Date:             Sat, 18 Dec 1999 17:43:01 -0800
From:           "Peter Freney" <peterfreney@ozemail.com.au>

I would like to comment on the discussion of the crash of the RAAF Ventura at Archerfield in November 1943.

My name is Peter Freney and my uncle is the person mentioned in your original story. (You mispelt his surname). At the time of the crash, I was seven years old and lived on Beatty Road (now Bowhill Road) approximately one mile south of the my uncle's home which is correctly shown on the photograph. I can confirm that the plane did come to rest against that house because my parents took me to see it and I can still see it clearly in my memory. The plane had skidded across Beatty Road, as you described, and came to rest facing the house with it's nose resting against the west wall, ie. the wall nearest the aerodrome.

For information, the photograph is taken from the south looking north. The place marked on the photograph as the crash site is definitely not correct. (This mark on the photo indicates the crash site of a Ventura in Nov 43 - It was a B-26 that hit Bill Freney's house on 25 March 1942)

I was brought up in the area and I held a special pass (even as a child) which allowed me to walk that part of Beatty Road which passed through the Archerfield airbase.

I can confirm that my uncle was a barber as I had my hair cut many times by him at that house, although his main business was carried out in a small shop on Beaudesert Road nearby.

Incidentally a C47, approaching Archerfield from the south, hit a tree on our land and crashed into one of our paddocks killing all 18 persons (from memory) on board. This was, to the best of my memory, in late 1942 or early 1943 (It was 27 March 1943). I think the aircraft in question was USAAF, not RAAF. We were told at the time that the accident was the worst in Australia's history to that time. Perhaps you have heard of it as well.

I hope that this is of interest to you

Regards,

Peter Freney

 

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Subject:   The Archerfield Quarry
Date:           Sat, 18 Dec 1999 19:28:09 -0800
From:          "Peter Freney" <peterfreney@ozemail.com.au>

Dear Peter,

I hope I'm not becoming a nuisance with these emails on Archerfield. From my earlier one today you will know that I was raised very near the drome and I have a very clear memory of the quarry during the war. I went to Coopers Plains State School (later called Acacia Ridge) and walked along Mortimer Road twice daily going to and from school. If I may, I would like to make a couple of points about the quarry.

1. The "bunker" was there at that time but we knew it as an "air-raid shelter". Check out the design of the common air-raid shelters of the time - they were all around Brisbane and had double entrances like the one shown in the picture. I'm sure that this building had nothing to do with radar. However, there was a major communications station nearby on the ground now occupied by the high school (now Acacia Ridge State School) opposite the quarry.

2. It is highly unlikely that there was a tunnel from the quarry to anywhere. What purpose would such an expensive undertaking have served? In fact I consider that proposal absurd.

3. I can not recall there being a second quarry, now described as a "filled in" one. There may have been one started there, but if there was, it was never worked much and it certainly never had water in it like the main quarry has had for as long as I can remember.

4. The group who drained the quarry apparently hoped to find aircraft dumped there after the war. I believe that some aircraft parts were found but nothing of much importance. For your information there were dozens of US military aircraft lined up inside the security fence along Mortimer Road fronting the quarry, most were torpedo bombers, and these were all taken to sea and dumped overboard.

Regards,

Peter Freney

 

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Subject:   Re: Crash at Archerfield
Date:           Sun, 19 Dec 1999 09:12:42 -0800
From:          "Peter Freney" <peterfreney@ozemail.com.au>

Hello Peter

Thanks for getting back to me so soon.

1. Re the crash site for the aircraft that nosed up to my Uncle Bill's house. I am unable to say exactly where that plane hit the ground. However it hit first on the airfield itself, then skidded through the boundary fence before crossing Beatty Road and ending up against the house. I'd say, at a guess, that the first impact point would have been west, north-west or south-west of the house - but definitely on the airfield itself. The crash site shown on the photograph (site of a Ventura crash) was not part of the airfield at that time.

2. Concerning the aircraft that crashed on our property.

My sister and I are probably the only two who can recall anything on this one. You will need a map.

I've always believed that the aircraft was a C47 Dakota but I could be wrong there. Anyway it had the capability of carrying at least eighteen people and possibly up to twenty-three. After further thought, I'm certain that it was a US military aircraft and, because of the large loss of life, the crash was probably "hushed up".

Our property was directly south of the aerodrome and was bordered by Oxley Creek on the north and Bowhill Road on the south and extended for about a half mile from the southern end of Beatty Road towards the Blunder Creek.

I was six at the time so the crash must have been in late 1942 or early 1943.

The plane struck a large gum tree which was situated about ten metres inside our fence line (on Bowhill Road) and about 100 metres west of the junction of Bowhill Road and Sherbrook Road. The crash site was in dense bushland about 200 metres to the west of that point and about 100m from the road (ie. between Oxley Creek and Bowhill Road). I can remember visiting the site a couple of days after the crash (it was under guard until then) and I can still remember the distinctive smell of the burnt out aircraft.

There were rumours later that the death toll was as high as twenty-three but I think the correct figure is closer to eighteen.

The tree was still there a few years ago but I haven't been back to look for it for quite some time. I live in Canberra now.

My sister ( Mrs Jennifer Hicks ) still lives on part of the property but the actual crash site has been sold for many years and is now a sand pit and junk yard.

I hope this helps,

Regards,

Peter Freney

 

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Subject:     Crash at Archerfield
Date:          Mon, 20 Dec 1999 08:20:00 -0800
From:         "Peter Freney" <peterfreney@ozemail.com.au>

Hi Peter,

Thanks for taking an interest in this crash.

I certainly will follow up on the archives reference and I'll give you the results as soon as I get them.

Unfortunately I'll be away from Canberra for a week, starting tomorrow, and then Canberra is virtually closed down until after the New year so I probably won't be able to get anything for you for a couple of weeks.

For your info, I've lived in Canberra for 32 years. After serving in the RAAF for sixteen years (as a supply officer) my family and I decided that Canberra was the place to settle so we've been here ever since.

I'll be in touch. Meanwhile have a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year.

Regards,

Peter

 

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Subject:    Sattler Airfield
Date:             Fri, 31 Dec 1999 09:22:46 -0800
From:           "Peter Freney" <peterfreney@ozemail.com.au>

Dear Peter,

I'm fairly certain that Sattler was the emergency field for Darwin. It was situated next to the Stuart Highway some miles south of Darwin and north of Batchelor.

I arrived back from Casino, where my eldest son lives, yesterday and I've read with interest the info you have been able to find on the Archerfield crash. I'll try to get on to the archives documents next week. I think you are right about the 20th victim. He was probably one of the crew members. As you would be aware the Dakota usually carried three crew members - two pilots and a navigator - so the three 36 Squadron (sergeants/officers) would have been the crew.

I'm going through your various sites and I'm finding them quite interesting. I see you live at Runcorn. Originally I trained as a teacher and my first appointment was to Runcorn Primary - way back in 1955.

Regards,

Peter Freney

 

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Subject:    Sattler Airfield
Date:            Sat, 01 Jan 2000 09:26:41 -0800
From:           "Peter Freney" <peterfreney@ozemail.com.au>

No Peter. Until I read your reference I had no idea that there was a small airfield at Runcorn. You live and you learn.

Re 36 Sqn. I had dealings with 36 Sqn. when I was Air Movements Officer at Darwin in the 60s. They were based at Richmond then and flew Hercules.

I'm retired from work now but still keep active in my hobby as a swimming coach for a local team down here. Our team's web site is www.telopeaswimclub.org.au

All the best for the year 2000.

Regards,

Peter

 

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Subject:   Crash at Archerfield
Date:           Thu, 06 Jan 2000 08:41:32 -0800
From:          "Peter Freney" <peterfreney@ozemail.com.au>

Hi Peter,

My uncle's house, where the Marauder finshed up, is visible in the photo on the Ventura crash web page at the bit about Ernest Simons story. It is on the corner of Beatty and Boundary Roads (ie. the second corner from the marked crash site). It is correctly marked as the barber shop.

The "farm house" ( there was no farm there) shown near the crash site was occupied after the war by a family named Polden.

By the way I'll be in Brisbane on Saturday for the day at a 50 Year Reunion of my old school (Acacia Ridge State School). It was then called Coopers Plains State. If an old school friend, Wendy Polden, is there I'll ask her what she knows of that crash.

I'll be back in Canberra next Wednesday.

Regards,

Peter

 

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Subject:   Crash at Archerfield
Date:           Fri, 14 Jan 2000 15:02:46 -0800
From:          "Peter Freney" peterfreney@ozemail.com.au

Dear Peter,

I've only been back a couple of days and I've just received this e-mail from you.

I'm sorry that we didn't get a chance to meet during my day in Brisbane. I'll make a point of doing so when I get up there next. I hope your finger is healing. dangerous things those Stanley knives.

Today I visited the National Archives and read the files on the Archerfield crash. The story is as follows:

From the Accident Report:

"On Saturday 27th March 1943 at approximately 0512 hours Douglas DC3 (C47) No A30-16 of 36 Squadron, Townsville, (your uncle's squadron ) was involved in a fatal accident at Archerfield. The crew of four were killed as were all passengers consisting of 19 Australian and American personnel.

The aircraft had overnighted at Archerfield and had just taken off enroute to Mascot to pick up urgently needed supplies for radar equipment in the Townsville area.

The aircraft crashed in thickly wooded country about 1 mile south of the southern boundary of the aerodrome. The aircraft struck some trees about 100 yards north of the actual crash site.

At the time it struck the trees it was flying on its side - port wing down - slightly over the vertical position and nose down at a fairly steep angle, apparently the result of a stall at low altitude.

The aircraft exploded on impact and spread itself over an area of 200 X 100 yards.

All on board were killed on impact and most of the bodies were incinerated beyond recognition.

The pilot was Flying Officer A D K Arnold."

There was considerable speculation as to the cause of the accident. Some accounts say it was caused by the loss of an engine shoutly after takeoff. Takeoff time is shown as 0511 (the flight only lasted a couple of minutes)

Another account blames pilot error due to a rising fog at the time.

Also there is conflicting evidence as to how many were on board. 17 passengers were manifested and two WAAAF girls (Jackson and Gunning) hitched a ride from Archerfield but this was against the direction of the Archerfield Air Movements people. Apparently they talked the pilot into taking them along.

Twenty-one Australian bodies were given Death Certificates. The Americans, who were first on the scene claimed two other bodies as American Servicemen. The total is probably 23 as you thought. However the Court of Inquiry could not determine the exact number due to the state of the corpses. Only one person could be properly identified.

Regards,

Peter

 

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Subject:   More on C47 Crash at Archerfield
Date:           Sat, 15 Jan 2000 18:24:22 -0800
From:           "Peter Freney" <peterfreney@ozemail.com.au>

Hi Peter,

Following are extracts from the letter written by the Secretary, Department of Air ( I assume that was the department's name at that time ) to the Minister for Air re the crash. He summarized the findings of the Court of Inquiry as follows:

1. The aircraft crashed a few minutes after take-off.

2. The cause of the accident was error of judgement and poor technique on the part of the pilot.

3. Twenty-one RAAF lives were lost- identification of the occupants ( except in one case ) was impossible.

4. All occupants had authorised passages, the two WAAAFs (Corporal Gunning and ACW Jackson) being authorised by the pilot (Flg Off Arnold ) to undertake the trip.

5. The aircraft was not overloaded, its load being under the maximum permissible take-off weight.

6. Aircraft and engines are a complete write-off.

7. Aircraft, engines and instruments were all serviceable at time of take-off.

8. The pilot had met reports.

9. Flg Off Arnold had completed 107 hours dual as 2nd pilot in C47 aircraft and 14 hours as 1st pilot and captain.

Air Commodore J.H. Summers CBE (who was president of the Court of Inquiry) gave the following account which was included in the letter to the Minister:

The aircraft took off at 0511 hours with headlights on, this indicating that the pilot was flying visually - not on instruments. Shortly after take-off the aircraft entered fog before the pilot had time to trim the machine and set his engines. After entering the fog the machine got its left wing down or the pilot initiated a left hand turn. In either case the turn developed and the bank increased to such an extent that the aircraft began to lose height. No action was taken by him to correct the turn or bank. The bank increased whilst losing height until the port wing struck a tree. Evidence and examination of the area where the crash occurred show that the aircraft crashed through timber with the wings perpendicular to the ground and struck the ground in that position.

This was dated 24 Apr 43

The RAAF members killed were as shown on your earlier e-mail and included the one extra person you mentioned as appearing separately. Also on board were a J.C.Smith AMF, and J. Hammond RAAF. Two American servicemen were on board too but their names were not mentioned in the Court of Enquiry documents.

Casualties were 21 Australian servicemen/women and two Americans servicemen - totalling 23.

I will fax you a sketch of the path of the flight, from take-off to crash, which I took from the documents.

Regards,

Peter

 

REFERENCE BOOK:- 

The Forgotten Fifth
A Classic Photographic Chronology of the
Fifth Air Force in Action in the Pacific in WW2

by Michael Claringbould 

The book "The Forgotten Fifth" relates that 2nd Lt. Barry Burnsides was the pilot of the aircraft that hit the house. International relations were mended when the lady of the house invited Barry in for a cup of tea. 

 

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This page first produced 6 December 1998

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