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Military funeral for Wirraway airman



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MEDIA RELEASE THE HON BRUCE SCOTT, MR

MINISTER FOR VETERANS' AFFAIRS MINISTER ASSISTING MINISTER FOR DEFENCE

MILITARY FUNERAL FOR WIRRAW AY AIRMEN

The Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, Bruce Scott, today paid tribute the sacrifices of all personnel who have fought for their country, following a military funeral held today at the Lae War Cemetery.

“Flight Lieutenant John Denis Uncles and Lieutenant John Rawdon Fetherstonhaugh, who died after their Wirraway aircraft crashed in steep countryside in Papua New Guinea in 1944, were honoured today with a military funeral in the company of their families, 54 years after they lost their lives defending Australia," Mr Scott said.

“Today’s military funeral was an important opportunity for current serving personnel to honour the sacrifices of past personnel who fought for their country and recognise the proud history of our Defence Force."

“This rich heritage is one of the great strengths of the ADF,” Mr Scott said.

“Around 30 members of both men’s families were able to attend today’s service, while Flight Lieutenant Uncles*Granddaughter, Rebecca Ryan-Tanner, played the Last Post on the Bugle."

Local villagers in the Finnistere Ranges, 80 kilometers north west of Lae, told RAAF officers recently they remembered seeing the Wirraway being chased by Japanese fighter aircraft before the Australian plane crashed.

Five days after the crash the villagers recovered the bodies and buried them near the plane where they remained until recently when the plane was located by William Betts, a Tree Kangaroo Scientist.

A RAAF forensic team led by Groups Captain Chris Griffiths went to the site in November last year and positively identified the remains of the pilot and observer.

One of the special guests at the service today was Bubiang Jimuga, who as a young boy located the bodies of the servicemen with his father and helped bury them. He was instrumental in locating the remains of the two servicemen for burial in the Lae War Cemetery.

Australia’s High Commissioner to PNG, David Irvine, head of Defence Staff in New Guinea, Lt Col Richard Humbi and Honorary Consul Phillip Franklin represented the Australian Government and the Defence Forces at the funeral.

ENDS 13/1/99 MIN 3/99

Further information: Michael Priebe - Minister’s Office Ph 02 6277 7820 or 0418 482 514