The Final Voyage
Beaufort aircraft A9-166 as leader ad A9-304 took off in formation from No.1 Operational Training Unit, East Sale, at approximately 1830 L hours on 28th April 1943, to carry out training night bombing exercise DR9. The duration of the exercise was 4.5 hours. The flight was duly authorised, the crews briefed in all aspects of the exercise and aircraft was fully serviceable at the commencement of the flight. Airman – Offer, Catterick, Nichols & Waterman were detailed for duty as the crew of A9-304. No direct evidence was tendered to the Court of Inquiry of the presence of the members of the crew in the aircraft during the flight but Flight Sergeant Haslam, A.F., testified to the presence of all the members down at the flight immediately prior to take off, and it may be assumed that all of the members were, in effect, in the aircraft when it took off.
The exercise was carried out satisfactory and on the return journey bad weather was encountered between Flinders Island and King Island. The aircraft were at a height of 2000 – 3000 feet and the pilot of A9-166 instructed A9-304 to reduce height. At approximately 2105 L hours, when the aircraft were about 5 miles fro King Island, at a height of 800 feet, the leader decided to turn back on account of the weather. He advised A9-304 that he was turning to port which he amended almost immediately to turning to starboard. The pilot of A9-304 commenced a turn to port and on the amended order he took evasive action in a diving turn to starboard. At the reduced height and in poor visibility the pilot of A9-304 apparently misjudged the correct moment for the recovery of the turn with the result that the aircraft dived into the water while still banked.
Searches by land parties, by aircraft from No.! Operations Training Unit and by naval vessels were unsuccessful.
Extract from Court of Inquiry 32/22/270.
Crew and passengers
415676 – Sergeant OFFER, Edward John
401742 – Flight Sergeant, CATTERICK, James Henry
405495 – Flight Sergeant, NICHOLS Graham Charles
405282 – Flight Sergeant, Waterman, Edward
To locate, positively identify and report on aircraft Beaufort Bomber A9-304.
in December 2015, Southern Ocean Exploration Inc. were contacted by Dennis Frank President of Fallen Diggers Inc for the purpose of running on water searches in an attempt to locate the missing aircraft A9-304. SOE have run several trips to King Island, but are yet to be successful in locating the plane.
Fallen Diggers Pozible Campaign – Finding A9-304