Wing Commander Charles Cuthbertson LEARMONTH DFC and Bar

Commanding Officer, No. 14 Squadron

RAAF Base Learmonth on North West Cape in WA is named in his honour.

Service No: 385
Born: Portland, Victoria, 2 May 1917
Enlisted in RAAF: 19 July 1938, Graduated: Pilot Training 1939
Commanding Officer, No. 22 Squadron, Ward’s Strip and then later Goodenough Island, PNG, July – October 1943
Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC): 13 August 1943
Commanding Officer, No. 14 Squadron, RAAF Station Pearce WA, 7 December 1943 – 6 January 1944
Awarded Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross (Bar): 1 August 1944
Died: Aircraft Accident (No. 14 Squadron Beaufort Aircraft A9-346) off Rottnest Island, WA, 6 January 1944, Aged 26 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Noel Fulford Learmonth and Edith Mary Learmonth; husband of Marjorie Edna Learmonth, of Peppermint Grove, Western Australia.
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Panel 5, Sydney Memorial, Rookwood NSW
Remembered: Panel 100, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Memorial, RAAF Base Learmonth WA

Brother of Lieutenant John Noel Learmonth MID (VX/114) (Royal Australian Artillery) PoW, Died: 10 May 1944, Aged 28 Years

DFC Citation: “Squadron Leader Learmonth, No. 22 Squadron RAAF, a member of an Intruder Squadron has been flight leader of all strikes carried out by one of the flight squadrons. He led a formation which bombed and sank a destroyer during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. His efficiency and speed resulted in two direct hits on the destroyer. Squadron Leader Learmonth has led many strikes against enemy lines of communication including bombing and strafing attacks. On one occasion, the starboard aileron controls were shot away, much of the fabric blown off the elevator and the fuselage riddled with holes but with great skill and coolness he brought the aircraft back to a safe landing. Throughout his entire operational career, Squadron Leader Learmonth has set an outstanding example of courage, determination, leadership and devotion to duty.” (London Gazette 13 August/1943 p.3682)

Citation for Bar to DFC awarded to Squadron Leader Learmonth then Commanding Officer No. 22 Squadron RAAF: “After having temporarily commanded his squadron for several short periods, Squadron Leader Learmonth was appointed to its command in June 1943. He has led his squadron in many successful attacks on enemy occupied territory. His tactical ability, determination and coolness have been largely responsible for the destruction of the objectives assigned to the squadron. Squadron Leader Learmonth has proved himself to be an exceptional capable squadron commander. (London Gazette 1 August/1944, p 3573)

Beaufort Aircraft A9-346, captained by Wing Commander Learmonth DFC (385), Observer Flying Officer Moore (401523), Wireless Air Gunners Pilot Officer Cullen (406095) and Flight Sergeant Chidlow (406689) was airborne Pearce at 1447 hours to carry out formation practice with aircraft A9-331 and A9-345.

At approximately 1455 hours and approximately 18 miles northwest of Rottnest Island, whilst flying straight and level and leading the formation, the aircraft developed a flutter in the starboard elevator trim. Wing Commander Learmonth reported by radio that the aircraft was vibrating badly, and almost immediately afterwards the trim tab was seen to jam in the “fully up” (nose down) position by the other pilots in formation. The aircraft immediately went into a dive from approximately 1,000 feet, which gradually steepened until the aircraft crashed into the sea at an angle of 70 to 80 degrees, killing the whole of the crew.

The United States Navy assisted in raising the aircraft.

No. 14 Squadron Operations Record Book A50 Entry dated 6 January 1944.

No remains have been recovered. The Squadron Operations Record Book is not fully accurate in that only some debris rather that the aircraft was recovered from the crash scene.

The crew members of A9-346 were:

Flight Sergeant Frederick Erick Chidlow (406689) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Pilot Officer Douglas Raymond Cullen (406095) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Wing Commander Charles Cuthbertson Learmonth DFC & Bar (385) (Pilot)
Flying Officer Gordon Gwynne Moore (401523) (Observer)


Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A9845, 253


Page, C. (Charles) Wings of Destiny: Wing Commander Charles Learmonth DFC and Bar and the Air War in New Guinea, C. Page, 2008

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