LEST WE FORGET
Leading Aircraftman Loris Charles EPPS
Service No: 57890
Born: Yarraville VIC, 17 May 1924
Enlisted in the RAAF: 17 June 1942
Unit: No. 100 Squadron, Tadji, New Guinea
Died: Aircraft Accident: (No. 100 Squadron Beaufort aircraft A9-626), Amuli, New Guinea, 23 January 1945, Aged 20 Years
Buried: Lae War Cemetery, PNG
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Henry Charles and Naomi Epps, of Footscray, Victoria.
Roll of Honour: Footscray VIC
Remembered: Panel 99, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
The tragedy occurred during some of the worst weather we had experienced since the opening of operations in Northern New Guinea. Clouds had closed over the Torricellis when the Beauforts had passed through The Gap, but the Japanese village, the object of the mission, was identifiable and the crews unloaded their bombs with accuracy. Meanwhile visibility was worsening and two of the bombers (A9-626 and A9-627), coming out of a cloud, collided. One had no chance. The other continued on a little further and collapsed. We believed, even here, there could be no survivors. Captained by Flight Lieutenant Ted Christensen and Flying Officer Barton, the RAAF men of the two bombers had built up a great record in New Guinea.
The following day, news reached us that one survivor had been found – Flight Sergeant John Chivas, a Sydney lad, who had lived a charmed life in earlier operations. Little information came from the mountains during the next few days as the Japanese had launched a counter-attack. A battle was in progress. On top of that floods, such as had not been seen during our occupation of this point, cut the mountain area off, washed away bridges in the coastal sector and swept men and equipment down stream. Northern New Guinea was subject to this sort of thing, and to accompanying violent earth tremors, history had stated. We had experienced something of them on more or less a mild scale. Our only knowledge of Chivas for the time being was that an army patrol had gone in to bring him out and commanding officer Kessey had dropped medical supplies.
After the enemy and nature had expended their forces against our opposition and defence, our missing air gunner reached hospital at Aitape. To his visitors he told of the calm courage of his captain, Ted Christensen, who had directed attention to a wounded navigator while endeavouring to hold his crippled bomber, and when this was no longer possible, had ordered the crew to prepare for a crash. Chivas had come to consciousness, suffering from burns, a few feet from the blazing and exploding plane, made his way into the jungle, lay down under a tree, and had been found there by a native. Taken to an Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU) station he had been brought out and nursed by the army who had buried his nine companions up in the Torricellis at the scene of their last mission.
Extract from Graham, B. (Burton) and Frank Smyth, A Nation Grew Wings: The Story of the RAAF Beaufort Squadrons in New Guinea, Winterset House Publishers Melbourne VIC, 1946 – Pages 215-6
Beauforts A9-626 and A9-627 were detailed to for day bombing operations against Amuli village in enemy held territory on 23 January 1945, when both aircraft collided and crashed in the vicinity of Tong, New Guinea at 0020Z hours. The wrecks of both aircraft were located by Army patrols on 25 January 1945. One aircraft was 300 yards east of Amuli village and the other approximately 6 miles south east of Tong. Both aircraft had been completely destroyed. There was only one survivor – Flight Sergeant Chivas, a Wireless Air Gunner in A9-627.
The crew members of A9-626 were:
Flying Officer Hugh Sterling Barton (413104) (Pilot)
Flight Sergeant Kenneth Davis (431015) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Leading Aircraftman Loris Charles Epps (57890) (Fitter II Airframe, Supernumerary)
Flight Sergeant Kenneth Arthur Pontt (442362) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Flying Officer Richard Basil Webb (434067) (Navigator Bomb Aimer)
The crew members of A9-627 were:
Flight Sergeant Bennie Edward Buckner (435588) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant John Clayton Chivas (439351) Injured, Discharged from the RAAF: 31 January 1946
Flight Lieutenant Edward Manton Christensen (406559) (Pilot)
Flying Officer Leslie Charles Cooke (413171) (Navigator Bomb Aimer)
Leading Aircraftman Kenneth Stanley Gay (53950) (Fitter II Airframe, Supernumerary)
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, 263
Wilson, S. (Stewart) Beaufort, Beaufighter and Mosquito in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications Weston Creek ACT 2611, 1990