Nine Catalina aviators remembered

Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Robert Chipman was the guest of honour at a commemorative ceremony at the Catalina Memorial in Cairns on June 11 for the nine crewmembers of 43 Squadron Catalina A24-64 that went missing in 1944.

CAPTION: After the commemorative service, the photos of the Catalina crew A24-64 were proudly exhibited for all to see. Story by Flight Lieutenant Karyn Markwell. Photos by Sergeant Glen McCarthy.

Air Marshal Chipman unveiled a commemorative plaque dedicated to the aviators, then joined the Ambassador to the Philippines, other dignitaries, and family representatives of the crewmembers, to lay memorial wreaths.

“The families of the crew may now find some peace in knowing the final resting place of their loved one,” Air Marshal Chipman said.

“Australia remains committed to investigating, identifying and, where possible, recovering our missing servicemen and women, no matter how much time has passed. It is our obligation to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for Australia.

“It is in this spirit of gratitude and respect that we commemorate the crew of Catalina A24-64 today. These nine brave young men. The plaque we unveil today will stand as a reminder of their sacrifice, both today and for future generations.”

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CAPTION: The family members of the late Catalina A24-64 crew lay wreaths at the Catalina Memorial in Cairns, Queensland.

Wing Commander Adam Saber was then invited to share his perspectives as Commanding Officer of 11 Squadron, Air Force’s current maritime patrol squadron.

“The Catalina crews who came before us are a fundamental part of who we are,” Wing Commander Saber said.

“To us, they remain on patrol. To us, they remain young and free.

“It is an honour to be here today to remember the sacrifice of these brave men, in the company of their families.”

To represent the young ages of the crew of Catalina A24-64 – between 19 and 34 years – Air Force Cadets from 104 Squadron (City of Cairns) formed an honour guard and their bugler played The Last Post.

During a morning tea reception following the ceremony, Air Marshal Chipman presented the crewmembers’ medal entitlements and Certificates of Service to their next of kin. The medals included the 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, War Medal 1939-45 and Australia Service Medal 1939-45.

Family members then shared their personal recollections and stories of their lost loved one.

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CAPTION: After the commemorative service, Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Robert Chipman gathered with Wendy and Peter Duke, the family members of the late Sergeant James Robinson of the A24-64 crew.

43 Squadron Catalina A24-64 was reported missing on December 14, 1944, following a mission to mine Manila Harbour in the Philippines. Subsequent searches of the area failed to find any evidence of the aircraft or determine the fate of the crew.

In 2015, the wreckage of an aircraft was reported in mountainous terrain on the northwest of Mindoro Island to the south of Manila.

In 2019, the Directorate of Historical Unrecovered War Casualties – Air Force, conducted a reconnaissance mission to the site in a joint ADF and Government of the Philippines operation. Additional wreckage was recovered; however, no human remains were identified at the site.

Following investigations and further research in Australia, the crashed aircraft was identified as 43 Squadron Catalina A24-64.

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CAPTION: After the commemorative service, artefacts from Catalina A24-64 were on display.


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