I was there news

Like overtaking on a blind corner and hoping nothing is coming the other way


In 1941, throughout World Conflict Two, as a nine-year previous, I used to be dwelling in England with my 55-year previous Uncle Alf and his spouse Annie. Alf was a member of the Royal Observer Corps and I helped him spot and report on German enemy aircraft flying over our village. He was a eager carpenter and made me a picket model of the Mosquito which had just entered service as a fighter-bomber with the RAF. Alf had carved the model out of strong wooden using photographs and drawings handed out to the Observer Corps outposts due to its likeness to the acquainted German Junkers 88 bomber. Alf advised me to maintain my model underneath wraps because, at that stage, they have been informed it was a secret bomber. In fact, I used to be terribly impressed.

In 1948, one yr after migrating to Sydney in Australia, I used to be 16 and dwelling in Camden, working as a common hand with the Herald Flying Providers (HFS). It had a couple of freighter DC-3s and Hudsons. The supervisor of the HFS was former Wing Commander Harry Purvis AFC. The chief pilot (referred to as Flight Superintendent in these days) was Doug Swain DFC. Doug gained his DFC flying Mosquitos over Occupied Europe throughout WWII. Harry was also an engineer by trade and had been the chief engineer of the Australian pioneer pilot Sir Charles Kingsford Smith. In the course of the conflict Harry Purvis was the RAAF chief Lockheed Hudson teacher. He took the give up of several thousand Japanese troops at Surabaya in 1945. His was a tremendous story.

A DC-Three for dropping newspapers? In Australia it was an efficient device.

I did my very first flight in an aeroplane of the Herald Flying Providers. It was Hudson VH-SMK at Camden, NSW, in 1948 on a check flight following an engine change. The pilot was Harry Purvis. There have been no seats because it was a freighter. I sat on the bare metallic flooring along with several different staff. There have been no seat belts either. These Hudsons and DC-3s have been used for the airborne dropping of newspapers to Northern and Central NSW.

In 1953, there was an England to Australia Air Race. Another former Mosquito pilot was Aubrey Oates who gained a DFC flying towards the Japanese. Oates ran a pub at Campbelltown near Camden. Often known as “Titus” Oates after the story in 1705 of an English criminal, Aubrey Oates was loaned a RAAF Mosquito from storage by the federal authorities to participate in the air race.

Doug Swain acted because the navigator. Through the positioning flight to England previous to competing on the air race, the plane ran into monsoon climate over the Indian Ocean and ditched off the coast of Burma. Each crew survived, however that was the top of their air race attempt.

I visited Doug Swain a number of months later, the place he was now a clerk in the head office of The Sydney Morning Herald at Hunter Road in Sydney. He was by then 37 and the Herald Flying Providers had closed down a number of years earlier. He was unhappy working in an office and never flying. I was in the RAAF at the time and in uniform once I dropped in to see Doug, who was considered one of my idols once I was at the HFS. I look again now and realise how he should have felt to see a teenager like me sporting RAAF wings and telling him about flying Mustangs and Vampires when he was in a dingy little office shuffling paperwork – when solely ten years earlier he had risked his life over Europe. It was insensitive of me on the time, but I used to be so pleased with myself and I assumed Doug can be glad for me too. In any case, I had been just a flooring sweeper at the Herald Flying Providers when he was chief pilot. The ball was now on the opposite foot I suppose.

On the time I visited Doug in early 1954, he informed me he had succeeded in convincing SMH management to restart the Herald Flying Providers. He additionally associated the story of the Mosquito ditching during which he was concerned. He stated that Aubrey Oates, who was the pilot in command, was a loud-mouth sort and both had strongly disagreed with each other on the course of action that they should take once they have been lost in weather with lack of navaids and getting low on gasoline.

That was the final time I noticed Doug Swain until studying the newspapers a number of weeks later of his disappearance within the Hudson he was flying. It was the inaugural flight of the brand new service and the business strain to make a hit of that first flight should have been on his thoughts. Within the occasion, it was later discovered he had been scud operating although the hills of the Barrington Tops range near Dungog, NSW, en route Sydney to Taree. The terrain was dangerous and coated in mist and rain. On the time the aircraft had not acquired DCA licence approval for IFR flight.

The Hudson wasn’t situated until 15 months later. By coincidence, the aircraft that first spotted what turned out to be the missing Hudson was flown by another former pilot of the Herald Flying Providers once I was there in 1948. His identify was Bill Jenkins. I favored Bill very much as he was all the time sort to me. Invoice ultimately turned a Qantas captain. If still alive now, he can be about 94.

Doug SwainDoug Swain, an idol with a tremendous however tragic aviation story.

Many years ago, I was contacted by Richard Swain, a son of Doug Swain. He was just 4 years previous when his father was killed in the Hudson crash. I feel he should have seen one my tales revealed in an Australian aviation magazine. I gave him some pictures I had of his father as well as my recollections of him.

From my studying of the original accident report, combined with what I knew about Doug Swain’s flying and the dangers involved with getting the newspapers to their vacation spot virtually no matter weather, I recall making an attempt to elucidate to Richard Swain (he was in his 50s by then) how that type of accident might occur. Business pressures would have been robust to get the newspapers to their vacation spot on time. So many pilots have misplaced their lives for comparable reasons.

Just lately I got here throughout the next story by Richard Swain about his quest to find the crash website of his father’s Hudson. He quoted a conversation I had with him when making an attempt to elucidate the circumstances of his father’s crash. I should have stated that scud operating in low cloud and poor visibility was analogous to overtaking on a blind corner and hoping nothing is coming the opposite approach. On reflection that isn’t a nasty description.

That is what Richard Swain wrote:

Ghost of the past lastly laid to relaxation

It has taken him greater than 50 years of wanting, questioning and waiting, but on a distant ridge high on the Barrington Tops in New South Wales, Australia, Richard Swain has finally come to phrases with the life and dying of the father he never knew.

It was 15 September, 2007, when he and his sister Suzanne Rose unveiled a commemorative plaque on the hillside the place their father, Douglas, died in an plane crash.

“I do know it’s an overworked phrase… that is some kind of closure, although,” Mr. Swain says.

Richard was four and his mother was pregnant with Suzanne when Captain Swain, his co-pilot and a passenger went missing on the afternoon of September 14, 1954.

They have been on a daily “milk run” from Mascot in a Lockheed Hudson, owned by the Herald, delivering newspapers to Taree, Kempsey, Armidale, Glen Innes, Inverell and Bingarra.

An intensive land and air search of rugged bush country north of Dungog failed to seek out the aircraft, call-sign VH-SML. It was not till 15 months later that the crew of a Butler Airways Heron flying over the Barrington Tops noticed one thing, presumed metallic, glistening under within the brilliant sunlight.

Within 24 hours a police celebration, guided by the pilot in a Tiger Moth, found the wreck at about 900 metres on the Mountaineer Vary, close to Wangat, 40 kilometres from Dungog. By probability, the pilot of the Tiger Moth was Aubrey Oates who had ditched with Doug Swain in their Mosquito within the Burma Sea in 1953

The bodies of the three men – Swain, of Dee Why, Alistair Cole-Milne, of Impartial Bay, and David Burns, of Hawthorn, Victoria – have been eliminated; inquests, funerals, air crash inquiries held.

Of the crash, Richard Swain, his brother and sisters have been advised nothing. “I don’t keep in mind precisely once we came upon,” he says. Of his father, who was 37, he has no recollection.

“My private reminiscences of him, his face, are from pictures.”

Though he had appeared within the newspapers at the time, bravely celebrating his fifth birthday as the seek for his father wound down, he was shortly packed off to a Baulkham Hills boarding faculty. “We didn’t even go to the funeral. It was a era factor, I suppose. We lived in an age when … such matters have been shortly pushed out of the best way and everyone moved on.”

Many years passed. The crash website was reclaimed by the bush. His mother remarried. A sister emigrated. A brother died in a motorbike accident. Mr. Swain, now 57, ran away to sea, joined the merchant navy, ran a pilotage firm. However he never forgot his father. Or his fatal accident.

“I all the time needed to know extra. I might begin then get distracted.”

5 years in the past, following a stroke, he all of the sudden found time on his palms. He began learning official stories, combing newspaper cuttings, talking to his late father’s associates, making an attempt to relocate the crash website, to recuperate a life lost.

He learnt that the plane had crashed in heavy rain, obscured by mist. A pal, John Laming, says VH-SML’s final movements have been in all probability similar to “overtaking on a blind corner and hoping nobody’s there”.

Business pressures to ship newspapers on time – a dangerous enterprise involving low-flying “drops” via a hatch in the fuselage, or speedy floor handovers – have been intense. Three other fleet aircraft had beforehand crashed.

The inquiry hinted at paperwork anomalies, technical troubles. Regardless of the reasons, the plane “ploughed into the mountain from the south, chopping a swathe almost 50 ft [15 metres] extensive via heavy timber”.

“Wreckage was strewn over 100 yards [90 metres]. About 20 timber, some of them as much as two ft in girth had been sliced cleanly by means of.”

Last March, Mr. Swain drove to the Barrington Tops seeking the location. With the help of a parks ranger, Peter Beard, local specialists and forestry staff, they ultimately discovered it in dense forest.

“We went for a little bit of a trek, poked round, disappeared in the scrub. Got here again out. Had another go. It was exhausting going, however, all of a sudden – bang – there it was. Unbelievable.

“Bits of the whole aircraft are nonetheless there. You’ll be able to really feel its oil sticky on your palms.”

And what of Captain Swain? His son’s research reveals a courageous, good-looking man, a turner and fitter who went to England, flew Mosquitoes and Anson reconnaissance planes in World Struggle II, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Mike Bayon, who was Swain’s navigator in the course of the conflict, wrote from England that he was “heroic, generous, fast to laughter, quick to anger … however never imply or vindictive”.

Mr. Swain and his sister say there are nonetheless gaps in the brief lifetime of their father. “I just wish my mother might have sat down and gone by way of it all with me,” he says.

On return to Australia after the top of World Warfare Two , Swain turned manager and chief pilot of the Herald Flying Providers fleet of Lockheed Hudsons and Dakota DC-3s.

A ceremony was carried out at 2.50pm yesterday, September 14, the precise time of the crash in response to a watch that stopped on influence and was later discovered within the wreckage. It was an emotional, tearful occasion.

“I feel an enormous sense of accomplishment,” Mr Swain says.

“In any case these years it was so necessary for me to comprehend it was a job nicely finished.”

Mission completed.