Aircrew identified from B eaufort wreck

The names of two wartime Royal Australian Air Force officers have now been ascertained following discovery of bone fragments in wreckage off Gasmata, Papua New Guinea, the RAAF confirms.

The wreck of their aircraft – a 100 Squadron RAAF Beaufort Mk.VIII, serial A9-186 – was first identified off the south coast of New Britain in 2020.

The light/torpedo bomber was found 140ft down and was described as “extensively fire-damaged” and “covered in marine growth”. According to local media, it took 50 dives to confirm its identity.

A9-186 was found by a Ocean Ecology Pty Ltd dive team funded by Andrew Forrest, a mining magnate whose uncle, Flying Officer

David Forrest, went missing on May 21, 1943, while piloting A9-188 – another 100 Squadron Beaufort. The target of his night-time sortie was a Japanese air strip near Gasmata, and his aircraft is yet to be found. A9186 was shot down by ground fire during a morning divebombing attack on the same airstrip on September 5, 1943 – a second Beaufort, A9-183 was also lost during this raid.

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