GIDLEY Alfred Henry 415975

LEST WE FORGET

Warrant Officer Alfred Henry GIDLEY

Service No: 415975
Born: North Fremantle WA, 5 June 1914
Enlisted in the RAAF: 26 April 1942
Unit: No. 4 Communication Unit, Archerfield QLD
Died: Aircraft Accident (Australian National Airways DC-3 aircraft VH-CXD), Higgins Field QLD, 5 May 1945, Aged 30 Years
Buried: Townsville War Cemetery, QLD
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Alfred and Anne Gidley; husband of Elizabeth Kelly Gidley, of Wiluna. Western Australia.
Roll of Honour: Wiluna WA
Remembered: Panel 111, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Cenotaph Undercroft, State War Memorial, Kings Park WA

The accident occurred at Higgins Field in far north Queensland on 5 May 1945. … The aircraft lost was the DC-3 VH-CXD, piloted by Captain Ernie Clark (1) of ANA. He was killed, together with the three RAAF crew members (J. Hornbrook, P. Gidley and N. Browne) and two American servicemen. Ron Back (2) recalls that the aircraft crashed on approach to Higgins Field and the crew members are buried at a small cemetery on the road to Red Island Point (3), while the aircraft wreckage can still be seen on the north western approach to the strip, suitably fenced and available to be viewed by visitors to Bamaga. The crew were stopping to refuel before continuing on to Merauke in Dutch New Guinea with a cargo of fresh meat. Ron had been talking to them at Archerfield the night before and he remembers that Ernie Clark, out of the goodness of his heart, was loading a couple of cases of fresh vegetables for the Red Cross at Merauke.

Extract from Yule, P. (Dr. Peter) The Forgotten Giant of Australian Aviation: Australian National Airways, Hyland House, Flemington Victoria, 2001 – Pages 142-3

(1) Captain William Ernest Clarke had been awarded the George Medal for his outstanding valour in evacuating civilians from New Guinea in early 1942 while flying with Parer Aircraft Company.
(2) Flying Officer Ronald Edward Back (426966) Seconded RAAF Member who later joined ANA, Discharged from the RAAF: 28 November 1945
(3) Now reinterred at Townsville

ANA Douglas DC-3 aircraft registration VH-CXD struck the top of a hill while landing in darkness at Higgins Field on 5 May 1945. The aircraft was under charter to US Forces and was ferrying personnel and freight from Archerfield to northern areas.

The crew members of VH-CXD were:

Flight Sergeant Neville Tasman Browne (436542) (Second Pilot under instruction)
Flying Officer William Ernest Clark GM (277547) (Pilot) (Australian National Airways, Reservist)
Warrant Officer Alfred Henry Gidley (415975) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Warrant Officer James Hillman Hornbrook (432183) (Second Pilot)

The names of the two US servicemen reported killed in the accident are not shown in the NAA record.

On wartime courier service, ANA lost a second aircraft, Douglas C49A registration VH-CDC at Tacloban, Philippines on 13 November 1945 (Warrant Officer Haydn Selby Rawson (300549) (Australian National Airways) Pilot.

References:

Australian Government It’s An Honour Website
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, 23