LEST WE FORGET
Flight Sergeant Robert HARRISON MID
Service No: 410054
Born: Ferryhill, England, 30 September 1918
Enlisted in the RAAF: 8 November 1941 (at Melbourne VIC)
Awarded the Mentioned in Despatches (MID)
Died: Air Operations: Lae, Nadzab, Finschhafen (No. 100 Squadron Beaufort aircraft A9-183), near Gasmata, 5 September 1943, Aged 24 Years
Buried: Rabaul (Bita Paka) War Cemetery PNG
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Robert Ramsay Harrison, and Mary Harrison, of Korumburra, Victoria Australia. Captain, Salvation Army
Roll of Honour: Korumburra VIC
Remembered: Panel 104, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
MID Citation: “Flight Sergeant Harrison has served with No 100 Squadron as a wireless air gunner in active operations in New Guinea for six months, and during that period has completed 275 hours of operational flying. He has participated in 54 sorties and 6 strikes, most of these being armed reconnaissance flights, under adverse weather conditions and over long stretches of sea in the vicinity of large enemy fighter bases. Throughout his operational career Flight Sergeant Harrison has displayed courage, keenness and determination of the highest order. ”
The Bostons returned to Gasmata at dawn next morning and found that the enemy had carried out repair work overnight. They dropped bombs which struck the centre and eastern end of the runway where the repairs had been made. It was vital that this airfield should be kept out of action because, on this morning of 5th September, transport aircraft were to drop the American and Australian parachute landing force at Nadzab, and aircraft were to set down part of the 7th Division as soon as a landing field could be made ready. Beauforts of No. 100 Squadron were therefore ordered to follow the Bostons and press home their attacks on Gasmata. Ten of them, led by Flight Lieutenant Roy Woollacott and protected above by eight Kittyhawks of No. 76 Squadron, arrived on the scene just after 7 a .m. An earlier visit of the Bostons had put the enemy defences on the alert. The Beauforts had five tons of bombs to drop, and they approached in a shallow dive starting at about 3,000 feet and coming down to 1,500. This was a dangerously low level for slow aircraft, but the Australians had often bombed this airfield and had not before met strong opposition. On this day, however, the enemy was waiting and opened up with a sudden and unexpectedly heavy box barrage. It was impossible to avoid this deadly fire, but the pilots gamely sent their Beauforts through it. Five aircraft were immediately hit. Woollacott’s machine was among these, but, although it was in flames, he gallantly continued his run and his four bombs exploded on the runway. The aircraft crashed immediately, and Woollacott and his crew (Flight Sergeant James Sugg, Flight Sergeant Harley Williams and Flight Sergeant William Pedler) were killed.
Extract from Odgers, G.J. (George James) (VX127783) Air War Against Japan 1943-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1957 – Page 76
At 0520 hours on 5 September 1943 Beaufort A9-183 took off from Gurney Strip, Milne Bay, to carry out a bombing attack on Gasmata, New Britain. A9-183 arrived over the target just before the attack because of a count of aircraft confirmed all were present. The attack took place at 0700 hours at approximately height of 1,200 feet. A Beaufort was seen hit by anti-aircraft fire, crash and burst into flames, and this was either A9-183 or A9-186. Another, A9-374, was also hit in the attack and positively identified. A sudden flame and a black column of smoke from a burning aircraft were seen 7 to 8 miles north east of Gasmata. Three Beauforts were lost in this strike and two were definitely seen to crash from ack-ack fire. All the accompanying fighters returned safely. A post war search found the wreck A9-183 about 6.5 miles north north west of Gasmata Station and 2.75 miles north of Au village. The remains of the missing crew members were also found.
The crew members of A9-183 were:
Flying Officer Robert Barclay Anderson MID (409070) (Pilot)
Flight Sergeant Robert Harrison MID (410054) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Jeffrey Alan Heath MID (412440) (Observer)
Sergeant Lawrence Vincent McMahon MID (409934) (Wireless Air Gunner)
No. 100 Squadron lost Beaufort A9-374 (Flight Lieutenant Roy Herbert Woollacott MID (407144) (Pilot)) on 5 September 1943.
No. 100 Squadron lost Beaufort A9-186 (Warrant Officer Charles Batstone Wiggins (405335) (Pilot)) on 5 September 1943.
Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veterans’ Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 166/17/298