DOWNES Alan 16809

LEST WE FORGET

Leading Aircraftman Alan DOWNES

Service No: 16809
Born: Kalgoorlie WA, 20 March 1914
Enlisted in the RAAF: 15 June 1940
Unit: No. 20 Squadron, Port Moresby, PNG
Died: Air Operations: (No. 11 Squadron Catalina aircraft A24-9), New Guinea, 21 January 1942, Aged 27 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of William and Lillian Downes, of Dalglish, Western Australia; husband of Lorna Frances Downes, of Nedlands, Western Australia.
Roll of Honour: Harvey WA
Remembered: Panel 7, Lae Memorial, PNG
Remembered: Panel 101, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Cenotaph Undercroft, State War Memorial, Kings Park WA
Remembered: Catalina Base Memorial, Rathmines NSW
Remembered: Rathmines Memorial Bowling Club, Rathmines NSW

Leading Aircraftman Downes was a member of No, 20 Squadron but was killed while serving with No. 11 Squadron. Both Squadrons were co-located at Port Moresby in January 1942.

On the 21st one of No. 11 Squadron’s Catalinas, captained by Lieutenant Hutchinson, had been sent on patrol between Samarai and Lae. With the American pilot as crew were Flying Officer Rowe (second pilot) and seven others. While the Catalina was still on patrol an emergency signal from Salamaua reported to Port Moresby that enemy fighters were over that base. As the Port Moresby operator was about to send a warning signal to Hutchinson he received one from him instead—”Being attacked by five fighters.” A period of silence followed and then came a further signal, simply, “On fire.” That was Hutchinson’s last signal for the Catalina was shot down in flames. A ground patrol from the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU) found the wreckage later in the jungle between Lae and Salamaua. There was one survivor, Corporal Keen.

Extract from Gillison, D. (Douglas) (254475) Royal Australian Air Force 1939-1942, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1962 – Pages 363-4

The crew members of A29-9 were:

Sergeant Douglas Charles Coote (407763) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Leading Aircraftman John Edward Bruce Craigie (22050) (Armourer)
Leading Aircraftman Alan Downes (16809) (Second Wireless Operator)
Lieutenant G H Hutchinson (USN) (Pilot)
Corporal Thomas Henry Keen (9351) (Rigger) Survived, Discharged from the RAAF: 2 March 1945
Leading Aircraftman Arthur Drohen Meadow (9034) (First Wireless Operator)
Aircraftman Class 1 Kenneth Laurence Murphy (15165) (Second Engineer)
Pilot Officer Thomas Nicoll Rowe (400293) (Second Pilot)
Corporal Jack Raymond Wyche (12217) (First Engineer)

Two hours after A24-9 had been shot down, No. 20 Squadron lost Catalina A24-8 (Leading Aircraftman Leo Thomas Clarke (32579) (Second Wireless Air Gunner)).

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, 163/103/158
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
Wilson, S. (Stewart) Catalina, Neptune and Orion in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications Weston Creek ACT 2611, 1991