BESSELL-BROWNE John 406205

LEST WE FORGET 

Sergeant John BESSELL-BROWNE 

Service No: 406205
Born: Middle Swan WA, 20 October 1912
Enlisted in the RAAF: 12 September 1940
Unit: No. 2 Squadron, Penfoei, Netherlands East Indies
Died: Aircraft Accident: (No. 2 Squadron Hudson aircraft A16-79), Penfoei, 20 January 1942, Aged 29 Years
Buried: Ambon War Cemetery, Indonesia
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Brigadier-General Alfred Joseph Bessell-Browne and Muriel Bessell-Browne; husband of Gwendoline L. Adele Bessell-Browne, of Toorak, Victoria, Australia.
Roll of Honour: Guildford WA
Remembered: Panel 98, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Cenotaph Undercroft, State War Memorial, Kings Park WA

Sergeant Bessell-Browne’s father, Brigadier Alfred Joseph Bessell-Browne, was the Warden of the WA State War Memorial in 1933.

Flight Lieutenant Cuming taxied to a position for maximum runway length (at Penfoei).  The aircraft was then held by the brakes until the engines had been taken up to maximum revs (full power).  With the brakes released the aircraft began to accelerate rapidly, but, as it passed our position, it was obvious that the tail would not lift.  I vividly remember a terrible feeling of apprehension.  Suddenly the tail began to rise only to fall back with a jolt that must have sent the unsecured load sliding towards the rear.  The next moment the aircraft with screaming engines climbed at an almost vertical angle, turned on its bank at a height of approximately 100 feet, and then crashed nose first into the end of the runway in a ball of flame with ammunition exploding in all directions.  A Shocking tragedy.

Extracts from Bennett, J. (John) Highest Traditions: The History of No. 2 Squadron RAAF, AGPS Canberra, 1995 – Page 124 (as quoted from Corporal Arthur Richard Taylor (11035) Record of RAAF Service June 1993, No. 2 Squadron Association, Melbourne)

On 20th January a Hudson, heavily laden with stores and men for Namlea, stalled on take-off from Penfui and crashed. The pilot, Flight Lieutenant Cuming, and nine others in the aircraft, including a party of ground staff for the advanced base, were all killed.

Extract from Gillison, D.N. (Douglas Napier) (254475) Royal Australian Air Force 1939-1942, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1962 – Page 417

Those on board A16-79 were:

Sergeant John Bessel-Browne (406205) (Wireless Air Gunner, Supernumerary)
Sergeant Albert Edwin Blake (4560) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Leading Aircraftman Ormond Frederick Ewald Crawford (19485) (Flight Mechanic)
Flight Lieutenant Robert Wylie Burns Cuming (540) (Pilot)
Sergeant Henry Jennings Dean (3934) (Fitter II Airframe)
Sergeant Kevin Henry Kelaher (403287) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Pilot Officer Robert Henry Martin (401454) (Pilot, Supernumerary)
Leading Aircraftman Edmund Geoffery Mears (19266) (Fitter II Engines)
Aircraftman Class 1 Frank Morris (16698) (Fitter Mechanic)
Pilot Officer Philip Howard Richards (407592) (Second Pilot)
Leading Aircraftman Vincent Harold Smith (30308) (Flight Rigger)

References:

Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A9845, 135

Bibliography:

Wilson, S. (Stewart) Anson, Hudson and Sunderland in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications Weston Creek ACT 2611, 1992