LEST WE FORGET

Sister Marie Eileen CRAIG MID

Service No: 501399
Born: Balmain NSW, 6 August 1914
Enlisted in the RAAF: 22 May 1943
Unit: No. 2 Medical Air Evacuation Unit
Awarded the Mentioned in Despatches (MID)
Died: Aircraft Accident (No. 38 Squadron Dakota aircraft A65-61), Dutch New Guinea, 18 September 1945, Aged 31 Years
Buried: Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery, Papua New Guinea
CWGC Additional Information: Daughter of Alexander and Jessie Craig, of Drummoyne, New South Wales
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Panel 117, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Drummoyne War Memorial, Drummoyne NSW

On 18 September 1945, No. 38 Squadron Dakota A65-61 was lost on a flight from Biak to Horn Island. The wreckage was discovered by American missionaries near Mount Carstens in Irian Jaya on 16 October 1968 and recovery operations began on 4 December 1970 as Operation Tropic Snow. With 28 lives lost, A65-61 is the worst aircraft loss in RAAF history. On board A65-61 were:

Crew

Warrant Officer Albert Clifford Hughes (414566) (Second Pilot)
Warrant Officer Arthur Jack Hunter (411069) (Pilot)
Flight Sergeant Allan George Sawrey (6188) (Flight Engineer)
Flight Sergeant Keith Robert Wiles (27141) (Radio Operator)
Warrant Officer Eric Wilkinson (405949) (Navigator)

Passengers

Sergeant Francis Leonard Henry Blackmore (47042) No. 2 Medical Air Evacuation Unit
Private Keith John Bowden (NX108177) 2/12th Battalion
Warrant Officer Allan Campbell * (412376) No. 38 Squadron
Private Laurie Anthony Coombe (SX25862) 2/4 PNR Battalion
Sister Marie Eileen Craig (501399) No. 2 Medical Air Evacuation Unit
Trooper George Phillip Duffy (QX28187) No. 2/5 Cavalry Company Squadron
Leading Aircraftman William Royce Dunderdale * (170241) No. 38 Squadron
Gunner Trevor John Eiszele (TX8234) 2/8 Field Regiment
Private Mervyn John Ford (NX78164) 2/31st Battalion
Lance Sergeant Arthur John Hyde (NX88349) No. 30 Works Company
Private Frederick Joseph Ireland (NX114117) No. 2/5 Cavalry Company Squadron
Private Arthur Trevor Jorgensen (QX60848) 2/31st Battalion
Sapper James Francis MacDougall (NX204635) No. 5 Mechanical Equipment Company RAE
Trooper Ronald Leslie Mathieson (QX60160) No. 2/6 Cavalry Company Squadron
Sapper John Matthews (NX128663) No. 9 Workshop & Park Company RAE
Private John McAlorum (QX54584) 2/23rd Battalion
Private Ian Scott McDowall (QX26044) No. 1 Parachute Maintenance Platoon AAOC
Private Leonard Thomas Oakley (TX16004) 2/31st Battalion
Private Ian Thomas Lawler Ray (NX203686) 2/31st Battalion
Private Donald William Smith (NX92958) 2/31st Battalion
Flying Officer Noel Royce Stibbard * (421110) No. 38 Squadron
Private James Ivan Tindall (NX126131) 2/16th Battalion
Corporal George John Welch (NX31956) 2/102 General Transport Company AASC

* Flying Officer Stibbard (Pilot), Warrant Officer Campbell (Radio Operator) and Leading Aircraftman Dunderdale (Crewman) together with Warrant Officer Hunter were to form a crew for an aircraft ferry task to be undertaken on the completion on this flight.

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, 117
Register of War Memorials in New South Wales On-Line

Bibliography:

Balfe, J.D. (John Donellan) (272371) War Without Glory: Australians in the war with Japan 1941-5, The MacMillan Company of Australia, South Melbourne 3205, 1984

Chapter 26 of War Without Glory, Flight into Oblivion, gives a detailed account of the events leading to the loss of A65-61 and the later discovery and recovery of the remains of those on board.

RAAF Directorate of Public Relations, Victory Roll, Australian War Memorial Canberra, 1945 – Chapter: The Sisters Fly On