KERRIGAN Ronald Stephen 427244

LEST WE FORGET

Flight Sergeant Ronald Stephen KERRIGAN

Service No: 427244
Born: Perth WA, 3 May 1924
Enlisted in the RAAF: 15 June 1942
Unit: No. 31 Squadron, Coomalie Creek NT
Died: Aircraft Accident: (No. 31 Squadron Bristol Beaufighter aircraft A19-163) off Broome WA, 18 September 1944, Aged 20 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of William Baden Powell Kerrigan and Blanche Beatrice Kerrigan, of North Perth, Western Australia.
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Panel 6, Sydney Memorial, Rookwood NSW
Remembered: Panel 102, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Cenotaph Undercroft, State War Memorial, Kings Park WA

The crew of members of A19-163 were Flight Sergeant Ronald Stephen Kerrigan (427244) (Pilot) and Flight Sergeant Ronald George Smith (433513) (Navigator).

A Beaufighter was lost on 18th September when it crashed into the sea near Broome soon after taking off to provide cover for a Catalina.

Extract from Odgers, G.J. (George James) (VX127783) Air War Against Japan 1943-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1957 – Page 247

0435 hours, A burst of flame was seen by the Duty NCO (Non commissioned Officer) off the westerly end of the East West Strip. Beaufighter aircraft A19-163 had just taken off in darkness and crashed into the sea. Another Beaufighter was making its take-off run, but on seeing the flash the pilot cut his engines and braked, finishing in the scrub at the end of the strip undamaged. The officer in charge of No. 31 Squadron Detachment, Flight Lieutenant Klug (1) was notified and the ambulance called. As it was thought the aircraft had crashed into the scrub, the ambulance proceeded with the Commanding Officer, Flying Officer Watts (2), in the direction of the crash. On reaching the beach, lights could be seen a mile offshore.

The Commanding officer returned to the aerodrome and despatched a tender for the Marine Section dinghy and motor. The pilot of Moth aircraft A17-515 had been notified and by 0515 hours was ready for a survey flight. The dinghy was taken by tender to a sheltered spot on the outer beach and launched at approximately 0545 hours. A survey of the wreckage by the Commanding Officer showed burning fuel tanks, a wheel, a parachute seat and much plywood distributed over an area three quarters of a mile long. The wreckage was drifting rapidly with the tide and its position gave no true indication of the spot where the aircraft had crashed.

Arrangements were made with the Military Staff Captain to obtain the services of an Army lugger, then anchored offshore in the bay. The lugger went out and recovered a wheel, fuel tank and Navigator’s bag, and dragged for the wreck. An obstruction was found, which could have been an aircraft and in about five fathoms of water. This was three quarters of a mile offshore and a buoy was moored at the spot.

A patrol was despatched to the beach to patrol for drifting wreckage but none came ashore.

(1) Flight Lieutenant John Ernest Klug (416099) was discharged from the RAAF on 23 July 1945.
(2) Flight Lieutenant Adrian Joseph Beachleigh Watts (254449) was discharged from the RAAF on 24 April 1945.

No. 79 Operational Base Unit Operations Record Book A50 Entry dated 18 September 1944

Some wreckage from the crashed Beaufighter A19-163 was found on the beach by personnel of No, 327 Radar Station. The wreckage consisted of pieces of plywood and a hand paddle from the aircraft dinghy.

No. 79 Operational Base Unit Operations Record Book A50 Entry dated 19 September 1944

Authority was obtained by signal from Western Area to hire a diver to search for the crashed Beaufighter crew. Lt. DAVIS (RANVR) agreed to provide his lugger and crew with diving gear, a diver and suit were arranged for. The diver was briefed by Flight Lieutenant KLUG of No. 31 Squadron.

No. 79 Operational Base Unit Operations Record Book A50 Entry dated 28 September 1944

The diver and gear were picked up at 0800 hours and taken to the pier where they joined the lugger, sailing at 0900 hours. At 1700 hours word was received that the diving operations were unsuccessful. The wreck buoy had been torn from the mooring line by the heavy rip tide, but the position of the wreck had been fixed by cross bearings on the shore mark. The diver went down and was drifted across the position several times. The tides caused a swirl over the area of two miles by half a mile. This lifts sand from the sea bed, completely obscuring the diver’s vision. Diving was continued during the period of slack water but nothing could be seen. The attempt at recovery had to be abandoned. Tides prevent any further attempt for ten days and then similar murky under water conditions will most probably prevail.

No. 79 Operational Base Unit Operations Record Book A50 Entry dated 29 September 1944

Some parts of the aircraft were found off Cable Beach in June 2014.

References:

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, 20

Bibliography:

Parnell, N.M. (Neville M.) Whispering Death: A history of the RAAF’s Beaufighter Squadrons, AH & AW Reed Terry Hills NSW, 1980
Wilson, S. (Stewart) Beaufort, Beaufighter and Mosquito in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications Weston Creek ACT 2611, 1990