Post by Dave Homewood on Apr 19, 2008 16:38:29 GMT 12
The first ever attempt to ferry RNZAF P-40 fighters north from NZ to the Pacific war zone ended famously in disaster when the five fighters and two Hudson escorts could not find the airfield and the Kittyhawks ran out of fuel.
Four landed on a remote beach while the fifth pilot - Stan Quill - was forced to parachute out and land in the sea. This is all very well known.
But, did the RNZAF or an Allied unit later go to the beach and recover the four perfectly good aircraft? Or were they perhaps just left there? I wonder if anyone has ever checked this out. Maybe they're still sitting there waiting to be recovered?
I guess they could easily have boated some fuel in and perhaps taken off again? Did that happen?
Ahh Stan Quill. He was still around when I first went to Wellington.He was an Air Commodore. A very funny guy by the way, and after a major reorganisation which saw him in a job which had the title of DACDS "Deputy Assistant Chief of Defence Staff", he wrote a hilarious letter about how pleased he was to finally reach, as an "assistant deputy chief", the pinnacle of his career.
He purchased a Harvard when they were retired, and it carries his initial "SGQ" at Masterton. He donated it apparently.
When he died, he had a full military funeral in Upper Hutt which included a flypast by that Harvard, and a typical touch of comedy from Stan provided by the RNZAF Band which, as the coffin was carried to the hearse, broke out with an upbeat version of "Those Were The Days"
Post by Dave Homewood on Apr 20, 2008 12:31:34 GMT 12
I have heard he was quite a character. I'd love to have met him. He sounds a bit like a Fred Ladd type of guy. He wrote an excellent article for NZ Wings, which was published shortly after his death, about flying the Fairey IIIF from Hobsonville before the war. I wonder if he wrote any other memories like that, as it was a marvellous article.
Stan Quill was a great officer. Much more down to earth than some of the stuffed-shirted senior officers that existed during that era. My first meeting with him was when he presented my course with our wings in 1975. At the evening function, he was still there with us, just one of the boys; and contributing pearls of wisdom to the wee small hours. Pearls that stay with you throughout your lifetime.
Post by Dave Homewood on Apr 28, 2008 18:43:55 GMT 12
Thanks Paul, for some odd reason I never thought to check adf.serials.
I wonder how they were recovered, whether they were barged out, or a track was cut for trucks, or what. I'd like to see see a photo of the beach at the time.
I have spoken to a chap who was in one of the Hudsons. Amazingly I have read differing lists of who the other four P-40 pilots were. I still haven't worked out who was involved. Chris Rudge's book lists different pilots from other sources.
I'm confused about this incident. According to ADF serial website 7 P-40s departed Whenuapai 26 March 1943 on a ferry flight to Guadalcanal. These aircraft were NZ3048 (Fisken), NZ3049 (Hanna), NZ 3050 (Ferrier), NZ3051 (Quill), NZ3052 (Morpeth), NZ 3053 Karsten, NZ 3054 (MacDonald) Caught in a thunderstorm approaching New Caledonia on 30 March 1943 and running out of fuel Quill ditched 51, and 49, 52, 53, and 54 were put down on a beach near Noumea. Presumably 48 and 50 made it to an airfield. Of the four on the beach 54 was written off and the other three were salvaged and returned to service. So far, so good, BUT
Geoff Fisken said in 1978 Quote: "Nevertheless the Kittyhawk was plane for which I shall always have a great respect and affection, particularly for NZ 3072 which had been dropped in the sea on our first disastrous delivery flight from New Zealand. After taking off from Norfolk Island on the second leg of of the journey north, a tropical storm developed over New Caledonia and closed the three airfields at Tontouta, Magenta and Plaine des Gaiacs. Several of the kittyhawks ran short of fuel whilst searching for the airfields and had to force land on beaches or reefs. Most were salvaged or repaired by US Army Air Service Command personnel who, in the case of NZ 3072, painted their black tomcat emblem on the radiator cowling before returning the aircraft to 14 Sqn. As fas as was possible at the time, each RNZAF aircraft had its own air and ground crew and, since we all came from the same part of New Zealand, we named ours "Wairarapa Wildcat" after our home district and the black cat on the cowling. It was definitely an aircraft with a very friendly gremlin in residence." end quote.
Now these two stories don't co-incide, not unless there were two similar occurences which is most unlikely!
NZ 3072 wasn't ferried to Espiritu Santo (not Guadalcanal) until April 1943 so what did happen?
On the subject of markings, the white outline on the cat in the very well known publicity shot of Geoff Fisken standing by the name is obviously chalked on to improve the contrast for the photo but what about the flags? They too look like they have been chalked. I've often seen it stated that obvious victory markings were not applied in service due to aircraft so marked became an obvious one to try and knock down and thus remove the most dangerous (to the enemy) pilots from the fray. So, are they chalked or not??
If there is a highway to hell and a stairway to heaven is that an indication as to the expected traffic flows?
Post by Dave Homewood on Oct 1, 2008 18:50:03 GMT 12
I think perhaps Geoff Fisken was mistaken in the quote, as the repair done was after, according to adf.serials, "Damaged when collided with water tanker while landing at Segi on 31 August 1943. Sergeant M. Willis suffered minor injuries."
I will add however I don't know how accurate the adf entry is as it's not written chronologically for that aircraft.
It was after that when it was named Wairarapa Wildcat. I don't think it ditched into the sea.
There is another discrepency around this story about who it was that ditched their Kittyhawks. In Alex Horn's book Wings Over The Pacific he wrote the pilots were: Stan Quill Keith MacDonald P.C. Kenneth R.K. Karsten Sgt H.N. Elliot. (page 57 of the book)
But the adf.serials site and Chris Rudge's excellent Air To Air book says they were: Stan Quill Keith MacDonald R.K. Karsten P.C. Morpeth Noel Hanna. (page 88 of Air to Air)
Alex Horn states in his text "I have studied the records of this incident carefully..." (page59). And I know that Chris also did a thorough job of investigating the stories for his book. One of them has two names wrong, who though?
Not part of the 14 Sqn P-40's that ditched in March 43 but another (NZ3066) in New Georgia in Sep 43.
MUS0308511 - View of P-40 Kittyhawk NZ3066 after crash landing in shallow water on the approach to Munda airstrip, New Georgia. Aircraft flown by 17 Squadron pilot Sergeant Donald A. Williams. (pilot was too slow in selecting a new fuel tank) 13 September 1943. Aircraft was on charge to number 1 Servicing Unit.
RNZAF groundcrew certainly participated in the recovery of these 14 Squadron aircraft from the beach near Noumea. I know this because my father, an RNZAF electrician groundcrew, spent the first month of his first tour doing so. I have also PM'd you about this Dave. Cheers,
Commission built models & dioramas
Post by Dave Homewood on Sept 8, 2012 12:26:05 GMT 12
Thanks Wally. This is an old thread and since I started it I have since had the opportunity to talk with three of the participants in this ferry flight near-disaster, which has been pretty fascinating. Two of them are now no longer with us.
But this is the first I have had confirmation of kiwi groudcrew involvement, so I really appreciate this Wally.
Mystery of the 14 Squadron P-40's is that there were TWO separate incidents on the ferry flights north. First ferry was the one caught out by the weather and landed on (or near) the beach, with second to last (Macdonald) overunning into the sea due to lack of space on beach (which just happened to be covered in Kittyhawks!) and Quill having to bale out. Quill was very lucky to be rescued; he was in the sea alone for 4 hours and was only rescued as darkness approached by a US Navy craft.
This formation originally included eight P-40K aircraft, but one returned to Waiapakauri with engine problems, another was left at Norfolk Island with a bad leak from oil filter, and a third turned back to Norfolk on the Norfolk - Tontouta leg, leaving five to face the weather. I believe pilots of the other three were F/O Fisken, Sgt Ferrier and ? (u/k pilot); call signs were Red 1 (F/L Quill), Red 2 (Sgt Ferrier), Red 3 (F/O Morpeth), Red 4 (Sgt Hanna), Red 5 (F/O Karsten), Red 6 (F/O Fisken), Red 7 (F/O Macdonald), Red 8 (u/k pilot, presume one that turned back to Waipap.)
Second echelon comprised nine P-40K (originally eight were slated, presume addition was the false starter from 1st ecehlon), to have departed Whenuapai on Thursday 1st April 1943 for Waiapakauri, then to Norfolk Island next day in AM. However flight actually set off on 5th April in AM, to Tontouta (New Caledonia) in afternoon, later safely to Espiritu Santo.
Third echelon (five P-40Ks and Ms) scheduled to depart Whenuapai 3rd April, to depart Waipapkauri on 4th. Actually they departed Waipap on 6th April, passed through Norfolk OK, but on landing at Tontouta there was a collission on the runway when first aircraft (NZ3057, F/L H A Eaton) landed short and second (NZ3072, P/O W J Polson) following closely, ran into it from rear. The third P-40 on finals (NZ3048, P/O A G Stanley) became so engrossed in watching this disaster unfolding before his very eyes that he rounded out too high, and consequently landed very heavily after stalling at about 40 feet, the undercarriage collapsing as a result. All these aircraft were subsequently repaired by the same USAAF Depot which was conveniently located on the airfield, and this is where 3072 received its "pussy cat".
The other two echelons departed New Zealand (Waipapakauri) on 12th April (7 aircraft) and 23rd April (last six). Both echelons arrived safely at Espiritu Santo.
Original plan had been to ferry up 28 P-40s in four echelons of seven each, but this was increased eventually to 34 aircraft (which included replacements for those lost en route). The pilots of the ill-fated first echelon returned to New Zealand to ferry up fresh aircraft as it took some time to recover and repair the stranded and/or damaged aircraft.
Most of this information from a summary of this expedition - so far as I know the original full accident reports vanished many years ago but may have since resurfaced - does anybody know about this? David D
That's great additional information and tallies with what my Dad remembers. My father, Owen Hicks, confirmed with me Saturday that he was groundcrew accompanying the second flight and was redirected to Tontouta to assist the first flight groundcrew repair the 4 aircraft which the USAAF boys had recovered off the beach. He was at Tontouta when the second incidents occurred and the fact that 3 aircraft were damaged explains his recollection that they had a total of 7 aircraft to repair. (Owen recalled 5 & 2). Perhaps third flight groundcrew were also involved since the second incident casualties were their aircraft? While USAAF groundcrew undoubtedly participated in the repairs - I believe it was an American who painted the 'pussy cat' - there was certainly a significant RNZAF contingent. Owen remembers being given access to the Yanks' vast stores of brand new parts. The repairs apparently kept him there for six weeks. I wonder if there are any other original 14 Squadron groundcrew still with us? After all, it was their involvement (or not) that was the topic question first posed by Dave H.
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Post by Dave Homewood on Sept 10, 2012 17:07:33 GMT 12
Yes it was someone in the US repair unit who painted the irate cat on NZ3072, it was apparently a unit symbol of that US unit but I have never seen it elsewhere on US equipment, or discovered who the unit was.
When the first incident occurred the pilots, all lucky to be alive, found the beach they landed on happened to be right nextdoor to a large US Army hospital, where they were all checked over and all given new US uniforms as their flying overalls were likely wet (or brown!).
Right next to that Army hospital was a large US airstrip (I'm assuming Tontouta) which no-one in the RNZAF fighter or Hudson squadrons had been briefed about. None of them had it marked on the maps they were provided, and it turned out a senior officer held back the new maps and issued them all with old maps. This caused a lot of consternation.
They were eventually flown back to Norfolk and Quill was taken seperately, and all those at Norfolk returned to NZ, which is where they finally saw Quill again for the first time. Then the enquiries started and I am told that it was the C.O. of Norfolk Island who was at fault with the maps and poor briefing, but one veteran told me Ron Cohen was also responsible - that I cannot prove nor am i claiming that either were the culprit, only reporting what was told to me by those involved. We cannot prove it as the actual Court of Enquiry documents were apparently stolen later - maybe to help someone's likelihood of promotion? Or some 'researcher' without morals?
Also another factor that Geoff Fisken told me about was they were made well aware of the encroaching weather and Stan Quill decided to ignore it, so Geoff reckoned Stan was equally at fault. The two of them did not see eye to eye and their relationship grew worse after this.
When all the enquiries were finally over these first echelon men arrived at Santo and by then some of the aircraft had been repaired. Quill was allocating aircraft to the pilots and he'd noticed the black cat, and apparently NZ3072 was now the rattiest looking aircraft in the line up. So Quill allocated it to Fisken and made some sort of remark that was meant to be derogtory, Quill apparently though he was giving the worst one to Geoff. When he actually flew it, he found the USAAF guys had done a sweet job and they all agreed it flew better than all the rest on the squadron.
Geoff wrote home to his wife in Rotorua and said he'd got a plane with a black cat on it, and asked her what he should call it. She said in the reply that as No. 14 Squadron had come from the Wairarapa base of Masterton and his Fitter and Rigger were both from Wairarapa, that Wairarapa Wildcat would be a fitting name. So contrary to what you may have read in a lot of books and articles it was Geoff's wife who named the aircraft - and by the way he was not from Wairapapa as many will have you believe. He was born and bred in Gisborne, and learned to fly there at 14. It was only for the months before he joined the RNZAF that he was working in the Wairarapa on a farm contracting job, buit he'd spent most of his life in Gisborne, then moved about a little, then this contract, then the RNZAF. By the time he went away his wife was in Rotorua and that was now his hometown for the rest of his life.
I am not certain where the beach was that the first echelon KIttyhawks landed on, but the airfield nearby certainly was NOT Tontouta, as that field was in the centre of the island, with many large hills nearby. Perhaps the Kittyhawks landed at the Magenta strip after all (the diversionary strip they had NOT been briefed about, not far from Noumea) - that would be ironic. David D David D