Flying Officer John Wilson HURSTHOUSE

Service No: 416215
Born: Adelaide SA, 26 September 1913
Enlisted in the RAAF: 24 April 1941
Unit: No. 24 Squadron, Fenton NT
Died: Aircraft Accident (No. 24 Squadron Liberator aircraft A72-80), Vansittart Bay WA, 23 March 1945, Aged 31 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Calvert Fearon Hursthouse and Lilian Ethel Hursthouse; husband of Jean Isabel Hursthouse, of Toorak Gardens, South Australia.
Roll of Honour: Cowell SA
Remembered: Northern Territory Memorial, Adelaide River War Cemetery, NT
Remembered: Panel 102, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: World War II Honour Roll, National War Memorial of SA, North Terrace, Adelaide

At 0650 hours today Squadron Leader Straus, Captain, and crew (plus one passenger) took off in Liberator A72-80 from Truscott Strip, leading a formation of four aircraft on an armed recce (reconnaissance) of the Lombok area. Shortly after take-off, Squadron Leader Straus called Truscott tower on VHF (Very High Frequency radio) indicating that he was preparing for an emergency landing. Owing to low altitude it was apparent that Squadron Leader Straus could not locate the strip. For 23 minutes after take off the aircraft was airborne and during this time various messages from the aircraft were received by Truscott tower and VHF homing and by the remainder of the aircraft in the formation. None of these messages informed the exact cause of the distress but all that was received was that the aircraft could not gain height. At 0713 hours a message was received that Squadron Leader Straus was about to ditch in Vansittart Bay. Following this, the crews of the remaining three aircraft saw A72-80 ditch with wings level but at a fairly high rate of decent. The aircraft caught fire on impact with the water and disintegrated. The control tower at Truscott ordered HMAS COONGOOLA, at West Bay for sea rescue purposes, to proceed to the scene of the crash.. HMAS COONGOOLA arrived there about four hours later and searched the area, recovering only the body of Flight Sergeant Rodgers. Spitfires and Venturas searched the area throughout the day and again the following morning.

No. 24 Squadron Operations Record Book A50 Entry dated (Friday) 23 March 1945 as related in Beasy, J and C. (John and Carol) Truscott: The Diary of Australia’s Secret Wartime Kimberley Airbase, Australian Military History Publications, Loftus NSW, 1995

Operation FEN.7 – Four Liberators airborne TRUSCOTT on armed recce LOMBOK, alternative Target HADJI VILLAGE. One aircraft ditched in Vansittart Bay shortly after takeoff. Other three aircraft bombed probably mile layer taking evasive action. Nearest bomb 39 feet away – nil damage. One SD (Sugar Dog – small supply vessel) in AMOEK Bay bombed and then vessel took evasive action. One near miss on stern – nil damage. Propaganda leaflets dropped PEDANG. ACK ACK – slight light inaccurate red tracer from bow of mine layer and also naval auxiliary.

No. 58 Operational Base Unit Operations Record Book A50 Entry dated 23 March 1945

The crew members of A72-80 were:

Flight Sergeant Harry James Boyd (427775) (Second Pilot)
Warrant Officer William Richard Flanagan (401748) (Wireless Operator Air)
Flying Officer John Wilson Hursthouse (416215) (Wireless Operator Air)
Corporal Douglas William Madden (36484) (Instrument Maker)
Flight Sergeant Ronald Malcolm Morris (46563) (Flight Engineer)
Warrant Officer Herbert Gordon Parker (408591) (Wireless Operator Air)
Flight Lieutenant Charles David Parry-Okeden (404485) (BLO)
Flight Sergeant William Anthony Jordan Rodgers (436889) (Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant John Richmond Ryan (422716) (Air Gunner)
Squadron Leader Nathaniel Herbert Straus MID (250759) (Pilot)
Sergeant Alexander Douglas Whitehead (121592) (Armourer / Air Gunner)
Flying Officer Raymond Allenby Whiting (426733) (Navigator Bomb Aimer)

These loss of these 12 young men is the highest ever loss of life in an Australian military aircraft accident in Western Australia.


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, 71


Beasy, J and C. (John and Carol) Truscott: The Diary of Australia’s Secret Wartime Kimberley Airbase, Australian Military History Publications, Loftus NSW, 1995
Nelmes, M.V. (Michael) Tocumwal to Tarakan: Australians and the Consolidated B-24 Liberator, Banner Books Belconnen ACT 2616, 1994
Wilson, S. (Stewart) Boston, Mitchell and Liberator in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications Weston Creek ACT 2611, 1992

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