Flight Sergeant Byron Veitch MacLEAN BEM

Service No: 414053
Born: Rockhampton QLD, 2 April 1921
Enlisted in the RAAF: 20 July 1941
Unit: No. 8 Squadron, Goodenough Island
Awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM), 20 January 1944
Died: Air Operations: (No. 8 Squadron Beaufort aircraft A9-217), New Guinea, 15 November 1943, Aged 22 Years
Buried: Rabaul (Bita Paka) Cemetery, PNG
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Hector Albert and Flora Maclean, of Baralaba, Australia.
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Panel 99, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

BEM Citation: “On 3 May 1943, an aircraft in which Flight Sergeant MacLean was wireless operator crashed near the aerodrome of Canberra and immediately burst into flames. He extricated himself from the wreck and although in a dazed condition and suffering from shock and abrasions he proceeded immediately, assisted by the rear gunner, to search the burning aircraft for members of the crew who were missing. They climbed into the rear compartment of the burning fuselage and carried out Corporal Morris who had been rendered unconscious by the crash. They searched further and discovered the body of Flying Officer Owens McAlister Howden (408845) and removed it also to a place of safety. Flight Sergeant MacLean displayed devotion to duty and courage of a high order in entering the burning aircraft and saving the life of one of the crew and preventing the body of the other from being incinerated. His action is worthy of the highest praise.” (Commonwealth Gazette 20 January 1944 Page 107 Part II)

Air Officer Commanding No. 9 Operational Group, Air Commodore Joseph Eric Hewitt (O32), directed Beauforts of No. 6 Squadron to bomb shipping in the harbour (Rabaul) on 14th November. The pilots found three groups of ships, one in the west side of Simpson Harbour, one in the centre of the harbour and the other off Lakunai. They made two hits or very near misses on a motor vessel and two direct hits on the stern of an 8,000-ton ship. Flight Lieutenant Oates (1) scored the two hits on the 8,000-ton ship. He singled out his target and made a gliding approach from 10,000 feet, clearing Talili Bay by 400 feet and dropping to 150 feet over the harbour. His first four bombs entered the water running up to the side of the vessel and the last two entered the vessel. Later that night seven bomb-carrying and five torpedo-carrying Beauforts of No. 8 Squadron led by Flight Lieutenant Dorward (2) also attacked the harbour. One of the Beauforts (A9-217) was lost. The Beauforts of No. 100 Squadron which also attacked the harbour could not see the result of their efforts.

(1) Flight Lieutenant Aubrey John Raymond Oates DFC (260822) was discharged from the RAAF on 24 November 1944.
(2) Squadron Leader Edward Alfred Dorward (251607) was discharged from the RAAF on 7 March 1946.

Extract from Odgers, G.J. (George James) (VX127783) Air War Against Japan 1943-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1957 – Page 103

Beaufort A9-217, piloted by Flight Sergeant J. C. Woodgate, failed to return from a torpedo patrol in St. George’s Channel, on the watch for any ships that might try to leave the Rabaul Harbour. He crashed near a little island off Kiriwina. An US PT-boat later found debris near the coast and a petrol tank which was identified as A9-217’s.

Extract from Graham, B. (Burton) and Frank Smyth, A Nation Grew Wings: The Story of the RAAF Beaufort Squadrons in New Guinea, Winterset House Publishers Melbourne VIC, 1946 – Page 76

The crew members of A9-217 were:

Flight Sergeant Stewart Ian Drakes (427073) (Observer)
Flight Sergeant Byron Veitch MacLean BEM (414053) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Flying Officer Geoffrey Stewart Wells (410824) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Jack Carroll Woodgate (420730) (Pilot)


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, 248


Wilson, S. (Stewart) Beaufort, Beaufighter and Mosquito in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications Weston Creek ACT 2611, 1990

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