LEST WE FORGET

Sergeant Thomas McMAHON

Service No: 15916
Born: Greenock, Scotland, 29 September 1917
Enlisted in the RAAF: 25 June 1940 (at Sydney NSW)
Unit: No. 20 Squadron, Cairns QLD
Died: Air Operations: (No. 20 Squadron Catalina aircraft A24-67), Pomelaa, Celebes (Sulawesi), 1 October 1943, Aged 26 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Thomas Stephen and Elizabeth McMahon; husband of Patricia McMahon, of Stanmore, New South Wales, Australia
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Column 10, Ambon Memorial, Indonesia
Remembered: Panel 101, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Rockdale RSL Sub-Branch Memorial Honour Roll, Rockdale NSW
Remembered: Catalina Base Memorial, Rathmines NSW

On 26th September and again on 28th September three Catalinas mined Batu Kilat harbour and Pomelaa harbour and its approaches. The raid on Pomelaa revealed the presence there of an 8,000-ton vessel with an efficient anti-aircraft armament. The gunners opened up on Flight Lieutenant Lawrence’s (1) aircraft, scoring many hits, but it returned safely to base.

Two nights later a Catalina of No. 20 Squadron, captained by Stilling and carrying Lieutenant Commander Carr as a passenger, set out from Darwin for the purpose of attacking this vessel with torpedoes. Stilling made the attack but was shot down over the target area. This was announced over the Japanese radio on 8th October. At 3 p.m. on 2nd October the call signals of the missing aircraft were heard at Perth for twelve minutes, but it was believed that these were broadcast by the enemy as a ruse to encourage Allied searching efforts. On the night of 3rd October Bolitho (2 dropped eight 250-lb bombs on Pomelaa and searched the entire area and all escape points between Celebes and Darwin for the missing aircraft, but without result. A dozen or more aircraft searched the west and north coasts of Australia.

(1) Squadron Leader Dennis Russell Lawrence DFC (402164) was discharged from the RAAF on 15 November 1946
(2 Wing Commander William Keith Bolitho DFC (O4401) was discharged from the RAAF: Date Unavailable.

Extract from Odgers, G.J. (George James) (VX127783) Air War Against Japan 1943-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1957 – Page 360

The crew members were of A24-67 were:

Flight Lieutenant John Malcolm Barnes (J/5310) (RCAF) (Navigator)
Corporal Samuel James Carnell (40274) (Armourer / Air Gunner)
Lieutenant Commander Palgrave Ebden Carr DFC (RAN) PoW, Discharged from the RAN: 6 January 1948
Flying Officer Ronald Frank Dickinson (411876) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Pilot Officer Norman Falkner Dwyer (402648) (Navigator)
Flight Lieutenant Jack Robert Hyde (260445) (Second Pilot)
Pilot Officer Douglas Graham McDiarmed (400562) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Sergeant Thomas McMahon (15916) (Fitter IIE / Air Gunner)
Wing Commander Stanley Gordon Stilling DFC (39579) (RAF) (Pilot), Commanding Officer No. 20 Squadron
Sergeant Frank Haydock Thomson (34362) (Fitter II E / Air Gunner)

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, 148
Register of War Memorials in New South Wales On-Line

Bibliography:

McFarlane, C.C. (Cyrus C.) Tojo’s Fate: Australia’s secret war, Sid Harta Publishers Glen Waverley VIC 3150, 2009
McMillan A. (Andrew) Catalina Dreaming: rescues exciting missions and other stories about the famous Australian flying boats of WWII, Duffy and Snellgrove Potts Point NSW, 2002
Wilson, S. (Stewart) Catalina, Neptune and Orion in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications Weston Creek ACT 2611, 1991