LEST WE FORGET

Squadron Leader Geoffrey William COVENTRY

Service No: 457
Born: North Adelaide SA, 15 February 1917
Enlisted in the RAAF: 16 January 1939 (at RAAF Station Point Cook VIC)
Unit: No. 11 Squadron, Cairns QLD
Died: Aircraft Accident (No. 11 Squadron Catalina aircraft A24-32), Coral Sea, 2 May 1944, Aged 27 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Joseph William and Lilian Constance Coventry; husband of Gloria Lorraine Coventry, of Werribee, Victoria
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Panel 5, Sydney Memorial, Rookwood NSW
Remembered: Panel 100, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Catalina Base Memorial, Rathmines NSW
Remembered: Rathmines Memorial Bowling Club, Rathmines NSW

Squadron Leader Coventry and his crew in Catalina A24-32 were tasked to take an auxiliary pump from Cairns to a US freighter in difficulty 960 kms east of Cairns. The freighter had dropped out of a convoy and was being escorted by a small US Tug. The aircraft landed and the pump was transferred with difficulty. The freighter was repaired and moved off while the Tug stood by for the Catalina to take-off. On take-off the aircraft rose to about 100 feet and then crashed nose-first into the ocean, killing or fatally injuring Squadron Leader Coventry on impact. The other crew members escaped the sinking aircraft and were transported by the Tug to Milne Bay.

The crew members of A24-32 were:

Flying Officer Robert Dardanelles Brereton (410445) (Second Pilot) Discharged from the RAAF: 13 December 1945
Flight Lieutenant Ronald Lawrence George Brodie (253902) (Navigator) Discharged from the RAAF: 18 October 1945
Squadron Leader Geoffrey William Coventry (457) (Pilot)
Flying Officer Robert Draper DFM (24175) (Flight Engineer) Discharged from the RAAF: 5 October 1945
Sergeant Stanley William Leek (13848) (Armourer) Discharged from the RAAF: 6 December 1945
Sergeant George Byron McLean Lucas (12372) (Armourer) Died of illness: 17 July 1945
Warrant Officer Keith Reginald Paris (419005) (Wireless Air Gunner) Discharged from the RAAF: 17 August 1945
Flight Lieutenant Kenneth Willmott Towns (409345) (Wireless Air Gunner) Discharged from the RAAF: 7 June 1945
Warrant Officer Douglas Sykes (23912) (Flight Engineer) Discharged from the RAAF: 19 October 1945

A witness account of this mission by Warrant Officer Paris is given at pages 65-69 of Tojo’s Fate.

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 A705, 166/8/451
Register of War Memorials in New South Wales On-Line

Bibliography:

McFarlane, C.C. (Cyrus C.) Tojo’s Fate: Australia’s secret war, Sid Harta Publishers Glen Waverley VIC 3150, 2009
McMillan A. (Andrew) Catalina Dreaming: rescues exciting missions and other stories about the famous Australian flying boats of WWII, Duffy and Snellgrove Potts Point NSW, 2002
RAAF Directorate of Public Relations, RAAF Saga, Australian War Memorial Canberra, 1944 – Chapter: On Borrowed Time
Wilson, S. (Stewart) Catalina, Neptune and Orion in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications Weston Creek ACT 2611, 1991