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After 55 years airmen return to honour lost mates

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Media ReleaseThe Hon Bruce Scott 'MRMinister fbrVetemns’Afjaiis · Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence · Federal Member for Mamnoa 44/99 31 March 1999


Two Australian airmen shot down over Denmark in World War II will be guests of honour at a ceremony on the Jutland Peninsular in Denmark this month to commemorate their mates who did not survive.

The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Bruce Scott, will send a special message to be read by the Australian Ambassador accredited to Denmark, Stephen Brady, at the dedication of a memorial caim at the town of Brande. > >

“The building and dedication of this memorial by the people of Denmark, illustrates just how strong these loyalties and friendships forged in war remain even today,’1 Mr Scott said.

“Remembering and honouring those who made the ultimate sacrifice in combat to preserve the freedoms that we cherish, is an important part of the Australian heritage. It is most edifying that our former allies hold these sacrifices as dear as we do.”

The two Australians who survived the crash of their Lancaster bomber 55 years ago are Jack Smith, 82, of Portland Victoria and Keith Clohessy, 76, of South Perth.

The men were members of the seven-man crew of ND420 shot down by a German night fighter over the town of Brande in the centre of Jutland at 4 a m on the morning of April 10, 1944.

Seven Lancasters, which had been on a mine-laying raid to the Gulf of Danzig where there was a submarine base, were lost that night - three of them from 460 Squadron RAAF. Fifty three Commonwealth airmen were killed including 22 Australians.

ND420 exploded near Brande and five of the crew, four of whom were RAAF and one Scot who was RAF, were thrown out and killed. Jack Smith and Keith Clohessy who were gunners, parachuted to safety. It had been Jack’s and Keith’s 13th mission.

Jack landed in trees near a small farm and after travelling a couple o f miles, hid under some pine trees. He was woken by a German soldier poking his rifle in his ribs and taken prisoner.

Keith landed safely and was picked up by some of the local people who gave him an overcoat and some food. He was on the run for three days before he was sighted resting in a field. The police were called and he was handed over to the Germans.

The two men ended up in POW camps - Jack was sent first to a camp on the Gulf of Danzig, then one in Poland and to another in Germany. Keith was sent to and Stalag Luft 3 - the prison that was featured in the film, The Great Escape.

For many years the people who had met Keith on the morning of the crash, Kristian Ostergaarde and his two brothers, kept a match box on which he had written his name - Clohessy Australia. A number of times they tried to trace him and in 1996 they succeeded.

Keith and Jack were invited to visit Denmark and arrived just in time to take part in an Anzac Day ceremony at the crash site memorial to a 460 Squadron crew who had died that same night.

Since then, the people of Brande have raised the money to erect a caim to the five airmen who lost their lives on April 10. Funds have been contributed by the Brande Council, a local bank and two newspapers.

Keith and Jack have been asked to unveil the memorial which will bear the names of those who died- Flight Sergeant Jack Bemaldo of Malvern Vic, Pilot Officers Thomas Bradley of Marrickville NSW, James Nimmo of Brisbane Qld, and Arthur Thornton of Port Melbourne, Vic, and Sgt James Roberts o f Falkirk in Scotland.

There are 75 Australian war graves in Danish cemeteries and over the years several memorials have been erected to honour lost air crews.

New Editors : Jack Smith can be contacted on 03 5523 2074 until Saturday, April 2. Keith Clohessy is at 08 9367 7746 until April 5 when he will leave for Denmark.

Media Contact: Michael Priebe: (02) 6277 7820 or: 0418 482 514