LEST WE FORGET

Sergeant Geoffrey Charles COBERN

Service No: 5841
Born: Launceston TAS, 24 November 1916
Enlisted in the RAAF: 10 January 1940
Unit: No. 31 Squadron, Coomalie Creek NT
Died: Air Operations (No. 31 Squadron Beaufighter aircraft A19-45), off Timor, 19 May 1943, Aged 26 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Cyril Walter and Florence Hyacinth Cobern; husband of Agnes Elizabeth Cobern, of Hobart, Tasmania
Roll of Honour: Hobart TAS
Remembered: Panel 10, Northern Territory Memorial, Adelaide River NT
Remembered: Panel 113, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

On the 19th May Beaufighters and Liberators attacked the Penfoei airfield. Six Beaufighters led by Flight Lieutenant Philip Elsworth Biven (280775) (Discharged: 19 September 1945) arrived over it at sunrise on this day. The Japanese, however, were thoroughly alert. Anti-aircraft weapons began firing heavily and enemy fighters, which were on patrol over the airfield at the time, attacked the Beaufighters immediately after they strafed and had destroyed two enemy bombers on the ground. Three of the six Beaufighters (piloted by Flying Officers Frith and Taylor and Sergeant Armstrong) were lost. Two of these are believed to have crashed into the hills south of Penfui and the third into the sea after being hit by anti-aircraft fire. Zekes followed the three remaining Beaufighters for 100 miles to sea, but without getting close enough for accurate shooting. Biven arrived at base with pieces of wood in his aircraft caused by crashing through a tree.

Extract from Odgers, G.J. (George James) (VX127783) Air War Against Japan 1943-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1957 – Page 53

Note: The Confirmatory Memorandum for the loss of Beaufighter A19-45 lists seven Beaufighter aircraft participating in the Penfui mission on 19 May 1943.

On 19 May 1943, Beaufighter A19-45 was one of seven aircraft from No. 31 Squadron tasked to strafe Penfoei aerodrome. On the return journey, the aircraft was forced to ditch some 150 kms south east of Timor. Extensive search searches failed to find any trace of the aircraft or its crew who were:

Sergeant Geoffrey Charles Cobern (5841) (Navigator)
Flying Officer Robert MacDonald Taylor (417009) (Pilot)

The pilots of the aircraft engaged in the Penfui strafing Mission on 19 May 1943 were:

Sergeant Neville Gerrard Armstrong (413721) (A19-58) Killed 19 May 1943
Flight Lieutenant (later Squadron Leader) Philip Elsworth Biven (280755) (A19-51) Discharged from the RAAF: 19 September 1945
Flying Officer (later Flight Lieutenant) David William Bedford Delaporte (A19-47) Discharged from the RAAF: 22 October 1945
Flying Officer Evan James Frith (420180) (A19-29) Killed 19 May 1943
Flying Officer (later Flight Lieutenant) James Timothy Kearney DFC (400091) (A19-57) Discharged from the RAAF: 8 January 1946
Flying Officer (later Flight Lieutenant) Kevin McDavitt (400399) (A19-63) Discharged from the RAAF: 30 November 1945
Flying Officer Robert MacDonald Taylor (417009) (A19-45) Killed 19 May 1943

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, 13

Bibliography:

Parnell, N.M. (Neville M.) Whispering Death: A history of the RAAF’s Beaufighter Squadrons, AH & AW Reed Terry Hills NSW, 1980
Wilson, S. (Stewart) Beaufort, Beaufighter and Mosquito in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications Weston Creek ACT 2611, 1990