CRASH OF A MOSQUITO
NEAR NARROMINE SALE YARDS, NSW
ON 27 JULY 1945

 

On the afternoon of Friday 27 July 1945, Mosquito ‘R1’ serial no. HR614, of 618 Squadron RAF crashed near the Narromine Sale Yards while buzzing the airfield and doing a victory roll over the town, killing its crew of two as follows:-

Squadron Leader James ‘Sammy’ McGoldrick RAAF
Flight Lieutenant Francis French RAF

The Mosquito, an armed FB.VI fighter-bomber version, was leaving Narromine on a one-way flight to Laverton in Victoria. It was fully fuelled and exploded on impact.

 


Photo:- Roley Manning

Mosquito FB.VI fighter-bomber of 618 Squadron RAF after assembly at Mascot, destined for Narromine

 


Photo:- Roley Manning

Close-up of the above photograph

 


Photo:- via Mike Nelmes

The funeral of McGoldrick & French, Sunday 29 July 1945 at Narromine cemetery.

 


Photo:- Mike Nelmes

The site now, opposite the Narromine sale yards near where Manildra Street crosses the railway line

 


 

The following article was written by  Mike Nelmes, the former Curator of the Narromine Aviation Museum

 

"Plane crash at Narromine"

The above heading appeared with an article in Narromine News nearly sixty years ago. At the time the paper was not able to reveal the identity of the Royal Air Force squadron involved, nor even that it existed, such was its secrecy even during the final weeks of the Second World War. To John Flinn of Victoria, though, the gruesome scene of the Mosquito fighter-bomber crash near the Narromine sale yards is still etched into his memory – particularly as he knew the two men onboard. “There was nothing left… just bits”, he recalls.

The war was all but over. After their six month stay, the men of 618 Squadron RAF had mostly packed their bags and left Narromine Aerodrome for postings to India, Southeast Asia and elsewhere. The urgency of their original mission – to ‘skip-bomb’ Japanese battleships using Dr Barnes Wallis’ spherical bouncing mines – had faded. The war had retreated north, and the Japanese Navy no longer posed a threat.

The squadron had disbanded in June, but a few personnel remained behind, helping the farmers out and soaking up Narromine hospitality for a while longer. On the afternoon of Friday 27 July 1945 one of the flight commanders, Squadron Leader James ‘Sammy’ McGoldrick RAAF, together with the commanding officer’s usual navigator, Flight Lieutenant Francis French RAF, prepared to leave Narromine on a one-way trip to Laverton, Victoria. McGoldrick was to receive his next posting, while for French it was the first leg of his trip home to Surrey, UK and return to his pre-war job as a detective and fingerprint expert with Scotland Yard. Their mount, Mosquito ‘R1’ serial no. HR614, was an armed FB.VI fighter-bomber version, a few examples of which had just been shipped out from England to save flying hours on the more valuable and top-secret ‘Highball’modified B.IV bombers.

John Flinn, a wireless mechanic with the squadron (who would make Narromine his home for some time yet), was out on the tarmac to farewell the two. “They packed their bags and put them in the back of the Mosquito. We shook hands with them, ‘Good luck’, and they took off.” It was 3.20 in the afternoon, and the weather was fine.

 

Erratic flight

McGoldrick climbed to 500 feet, heading northwest, then decided to ‘shoot up the drome’ from just above ground level as a farewell, before climbing southeast towards town and banking vertically left to begin a ‘victory roll’. A detailed description of the short flight, from the subsequent court of enquiry, comes from Captain Hector Sutherland who was playing football southeast of the aerodrome:-

“It continued parallel with the road until about half the width of the golf course. He then banked very slightly to the left and then again very steeply to the right, and came directly for the flour mill. From this position he commenced to roll on his back, just missing a block of buildings. He didn’t get completely on his back until roughly opposite the silos in the railway yard. At this point it appeared that the tail rose slightly and the machine went off at an angle towards the ground.”

The ‘block of buildings’ referred to was the post office, court house and other buildings in the centre of town, which Bill Ballhausen and others feared the plane was about to hit. Whether by luck or because McGoldrick was still able to alter its course somewhat, the Mosquito cleared them, but crashed inverted at ‘Narromine Recreation Reserve 1891’ - an open patch of ground between the sale yards / showground and the police pound, about 100 metres from the houses of Terangion Street. With laden fuel tanks for the 650 km trip to Victoria, it exploded on impact. A large part of the plane ended up in a private property.

John Flinn recalls, “We dived into the old blood wagon [ambulance] and shot down there…” But there was nothing for them to do. Pieces of burning wood and aluminium, soon being hosed down by the fire brigade, were strewn around the impact point marked by a shallow ground imprint of the plane’s nose and wings. The two main wheels were 130 metres away, leaning against fences.

Peter Kierath and Ross Shepherd were among the children at the primary school, whose sports day was interrupted as they watched the Mosquito make its erratic manoeuvres. Just after they lost sight of it behind the schoolyard fence, a huge fireball blackened with smoke shot up, and the sickening thump of impact reverberated around the town. Such a disturbing yet exciting event just a few hundred metres away drew a quick close to play; school was about to finish, and they rushed towards the crash scene.

 

Inquiry

A court of inquiry was convened, and a dozen witnesses questioned. The aircraft itself had been assessed as serviceable, and both crewmen were medically fit before the flight. McGoldrick had had a rest from flying for the past week. In the end the court concluded that he had simply lost control whilst manoeuvring violently at dangerously low altitude. But this conclusion begs the question of how an experienced pilot – a flight leader in one of the RAF’s elite squadrons - could just lose control.

The suggestion has been made that the luggage in the rear fuselage might have shifted, lodging itself against an elevator control arm or counterweight in the rear fuselage. A fitter with the squadron swore under oath that he had thoroughly checked that the bags were securely tied down; but with the G-forces subjected to it by the pilot’s ‘violent’ display, the possibility of dislodgement seems real. Whatever the cause, Sammy McGoldrick’s and Francis French’s luck ran out that Friday.

 

In Memoriam

Two days later, Sunday 29 July, Father Hennessy conducted the funeral service at St Therese’s Catholic Church, speaking of both men’s war service and their popularity among the squadron and the townsfolk. A cortege of a hundred Australian and British airmen made its way through town to the War Graves cemetery, where the two were buried with full Service honours. It is believed that McGoldrick’s mother was present, having visited town a few days before to see her son off. Air Force floral tributes were joined by many from the townspeople. Sixty years on, John Flinn, who knew Francis French, still visits the grave each Rembrance Day to lay a poppy there, and to reflect.

 

The twelve men buried in the War Graves section of Narromine Cemetery are:-

NX169318 Pte Edwin John Brimbecom, age 18, son of Edwin and Zephine Brimbecom of Manly, NSW. Drowned 13.6.43, Australia, while serving with 1st Training Battalion, Australian Army.

S112246 Pte Ronald Roach Roberts, age 18, carpenter, son of James and Frances Roberts of Hampstead, SA. Died of illness 27.9.43, NSW, while serving with 19 Infantry Training Battalion, Australian Army.

NX169891 Pte Noel Humphrey, age 19, son of William and Doris Humphrey of Mascot, NSW. Died by accident 7.3.44 while serving with 28 Infantry Training Battalion, Australian Army.

404846 S/Ldr James Stewart McGoldrick, age 27, son of Joseph and Jane McGoldrick of Tara, Queensland. Pilot, killed in Mosquito bomber crash 27.7.45, Narromine, while serving with 618 Squadron, Royal Air Force.

127458 F/Lt Francis James French, age 36, husband of Dora and son of James and Margaret French of London. Navigator, killed in Mosquito bomber crash 27.7.45, Narromine, while serving with 618 Squadron, Royal Air Force.

9417 F/Sgt Roy Tier, age 51, husband of Marguerita and son of Patrick and Mary Tier of Randwick, NSW. Died in road accident while serving as cook with RAAF Station Headquarters, Narromine.

16671 F/O John Allen Walton, age 27, son of Albert and Mary Walton of Subiaco, WA. Died accidentally 20.9.44, Narromine, while serving with 8 Operational Training Unit, RAAF (Wirraway aircraft).

439746 Sgt Alan Ronald Collins, age 19, son of Alfred and Martha Collins of Arncliffe, NSW. Died accidentally 20.9.44, Narromine, while serving with 8 Operational Training Unit, RAAF (Wirraway aircraft).

419236 F/Sgt John Lewis Tedge, age 30, son of Joseph and Sarah Tedge of Parkville, VIC. Died accidentally 3.2.44, NSW, while serving with 5 Elementary Flying Training School, RAAF (Tiger Moth aircraft).

411272 F/O Richard Trevor Bennett, age 29, husband of Florrie Bennett of Leichhardt, and son of George and Nellie Bennett of Belmore. Died accidentally 2.12.43 north of Orange while serving with 5 Elementary Flying Training School, RAAF (Tiger Moth aircraft).

425831 LAC Collin Arthur Campbell, age 19, son of Alex and Violet Campbell of Rannes, QLD. Died accidentally 24.5.43 near Narromine while serving with 5 Elementary Flying Training School, RAAF (Tiger Moth aircraft).

12127 Sgt Edward George Pretty, age 27, son of Herbert and Ethel Pretty of Cobar. Died in ground accident 24.1.43, NSW

 

Photographs:-

The scene shortly after the crash. The two houses in the background still stand and were used to pinpoint the spot today. (via Bill Ballhausen)

The same spot today, near where Manildra Street crosses the railway line. (Author)

The funeral at Narromine Cemetery

S/Ldr McGoldrick (via Bill Ballhausen)

A Mosquito FB.VI

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Mike Nelmes for his assistance with this web page.

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?

 

I need your help

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©  Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 8 June 2007

This page last updated 31 August 2015