Flight Sergeant Keith HARRIS

Service No: 430734
Born: Fitzroy VIC, 13 July 1911
Enlisted in the RAAF: 16 March 1943
Unit: Heavy Bomber Replacement Training Unit, Nadzab PNG
Died: Aircraft Accident: (Heavy Bomber Replacement Training Unit Liberator aircraft 109985), off New Britain PNG, 28 November 1944, Aged 33 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Foster-son of Joseph and Helen Harris; husband of Marjorie Gladys Harris, of Moonee Ponds, Victoria
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Panel 35, Rabaul Memorial PNG
Remembered: Panel 112, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

At 0932 hours on 28 November 1944 Liberator 109985 of Heavy Bomber Replacement Training, Nadzab, New Guinea, took off to bomb Tobera, Rabaul, in company with 16 other B24 aircraft. Fifty two minutes after setting out from base, and at 10,500 feet 40 miles from Cape Gloucester, New Britain, a part of the life raft broke away from its housing and fouled the tail plane and elevator. A terrific vibration was set up in the aircraft and it dived, taking all the combined strength of Lieutenant Fry and Flight Lieutenant Court to pull the aircraft out of its dive.

The bombs were jettisoned, and it was decided to make for Cape Gloucester. All gunners were instructed to leave their turrets put on their parachutes and Mae Wests and stand by. The aircraft was loosing height and vibrating badly. At 5,000 feet over Cape Gloucester, all on board were instructed to abandon the aircraft when the aircraft was over the airstrip not over the water. The aircraft flew over the strip 3 times to ensure every one got out. Strong winds however blew 5 members off shore about one mile. Both Sergeant Brown and Flying Officer Henry asked to stay on the aircraft. Flight Lieutenant Court with the help of Lieutenant Fry managed to get control of the aircraft and pull the stick column back for a landing. All the crew members blown off shore were picked up by rescue craft with the exception of Flight Sergeant Harris who was subsequently recorded as missing with no known grave.

The crew members of Liberator 109985 were:

Sergeant Robert Henry Brown (77279) (Engineer) Discharged from the RAAF: 25 September 1946
Sergeant Cathcart (USAAF) (Instructor Gunner)
Flight Lieutenant William Court (2633) (Pilot) Discharged from the RAAF: 6 April 1948
Warrant Officer Jack Lloyd Coutts (412913) (Air Bomber) Discharged from the RAAF: 22 November 1945
Sergeant Francis Albert Dean (13400) (Gunner) Discharged from the RAAF: 16 October 1945
Lieutenant Fry (Instructor Pilot) (USAAF)
Flight Sergeant Keith Harris (430734) (Wireless Operator Air)
Flying Officer Colin Louis Henry (401692) (Radio Operator) Discharged from the RAAF: 13 February 1946
Flight Sergeant Ronald William McLeod (419768) (Co-Pilot) Discharged from the RAAF: 21 February 1946
Sergeant Percival John Rousseau (433494) (Gunner) Discharged from the RAAF: 14 September 1945
Pilot Officer Harold Arthur Seymour (433882) (Navigator) Discharged from the RAAF: 17 May 1946


Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records (RAAF Casualty Information compiled by Alan Storr (409804))
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veterans’ Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 166/17/873


Nelmes, M.V. (Michael) Tocumwal to Tarakan: Australians and the Consolidated B-24 Liberator, Banner Books Belconnen ACT 2616, 1994

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