A mystery remembered 80 years on

Eighty years ago, a RAAF Bristol Beaufort Bomber departed Busselton Airfield en-route to Rottnest Island as part of planned surveillance activities. It never returned to RAAF Base Pearce.

CAPTIONWing Commander Paul Taylor, left, Squadron Leader Michael Leonard and Navy Lieutenant Michael Wheeler lay wreaths at the Beaufort Bomber ceremony, Busselton, WA. Story by Stephanie Hallen. Photos by Pamela Harrison.

The four crew members and one passenger on board were honoured with a memorial ceremony in September to mark the 80-year anniversary of the aircraft’s disappearance off the coast of Busselton, WA.

The ceremony was a chance for families of Flight Lieutenant Arthur M. Aitken, Flight Sergeant Peter D. Hastie, Flight Lieutenant Cedric S. Richards, Flight Sergeant Alexander Emerson and Captain Harry D. Kolbig to come together and reflect upon their service.

Returned and Services League Busselton sub-branch president Steven Mott thanked the friends, families and guests for their attendance before speaking of the history of the Bristol Beaufort Bomber A9-317 and its crew.

“Today [September 9] marks the anniversary of when they did their duty, to patrol our coast for enemy shipping from D’Entrecasteaux Point to Rottnest Island. They were last sighted around 2.00pm, and to this day, where those five young men lie is still a mystery,” Mr Mott said.

Donnybrook resident Pamela Harrison has been researching the disappearance of the A9-317 aircraft since 2015, after a Busselton resident approached her about it.

“It has been an honour to solve through official reports, all there is to know, other than where the wreckage lies somewhere off the south-west coast,” Mrs Harrison said.

Representatives from the RAAF and Navy travelled to Busselton to attend the service and pay their respects, laying wreaths in memory of the fallen.

Commanding Officer 25 Squadron Wing Commander Paul Taylor reflected on the ceremony and the significance of marking the 80-year anniversary.

“It has been an honour to be a part of this ceremony and to pay tribute to those who lost their lives protecting our country 80 years ago. We feel the loss even to this day as our Defence family’s final resting location is still unknown,” Wing Commander Taylor said.

After The Last Post sounded, and a minute of silence was observed, the words ‘Lest we forget’ were recited by all in attendance.

Although the crew of A9-317 are gone, one thing remains certain: they will never be forgotten.


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