Jun 302008
 

I get bugger all time to browse the ‘newspapers’ these days, so when I spotted this brief article, I was determined to find out more.

I have to say that I’m disappointed at both the brevity and inaccuracy of the report. The aircraft isn’t a Mark III, it’s a Mark IV. The crash site was discovered May 5th on a ridge just north of the Gasmata airfield, which can be seen on Google Earth. There’s a few photos by the discoverer and son Jared here. As you’ll see, the Hudson clearly disintegrated on impact.

Of interest is the narrative attaching to A16-216 and more poignantly, the second of three aircraft which were lost from this one mission, A16-91, a Mark II Hudson. The mental image of three somewhat underpowered, ungainly light bombers attacking shipping less than 20′ off the water, after having been jumped and then hunted by an agile enemy fighter, really bring home to me the sacrifices our military were faced with on a daily basis, all those years ago. To end their days smeared across a forsaken piece of jungle so far from home seems to be such a terrible waste. I’m sure though, that Flying Officer Gibson, Pilot Officer Thorn, Sergeants Quail and Coutie didn’t view their days in that manner.

The action recorded for the day of the losses is succinct:

WEDNESDAY, 11 FEBRUARY 1942

RAAF – First mast height attack on enemy shipping of the New Guinea campaign: three Hudsons attacked and sunk two transports at Gasmata. They are attacked by A6M4 Claudes that shoot down two: Hudson A16-91 and Hudson A16-126.

As to the aircraft which shot down the two Hudsons, it’s debatable whether it was an A6M4 ‘Zeke’ or an A5M4 ‘Claude’, both being variants of the venerable Zero fighter. The name ‘Claude’ was applied the the earlier mark. Given the A6M4 is regarded by many as a non-entity because of the Japanese failure to perfect the turbo-supercharging of the engine, and the date of the action, it’s most likely the ‘Claude’. As to the pilot of the fighter, he survived his victims by four months, before falling to American P-40’s near Lae. The price of fame in a war zone.