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Missing WWll airmen remains recovered in PNG.

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Media Release The Hon Bruce Scott MP Minister for Veterans’ Affairs · Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence · Federal Member for Maranoa

18 Mar 2001 MIN 62/01

MISSING WWII AIRMEN REMAINS RECOVERED IN PNG The remains of four World War II Australian airmen have been recovered by the Royal Australian Air Force, 57 years after they were reported as missing in action, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, Bruce Scott, announced today.

Mr Scott said the remains were recovered from the wreck of an RAAF Beaufort Bomber, serial No. A9-217, that crashed near Kawa Island 80 kilometres west of the Trobriand Group, Papua New Guinea.

"The aircraft, from the RAAF’s Number 8 Squadron, was involved in a torpedo attack on enemy shipping near Rabaul Harbour on the 15th of November 1943, and was last observed at the southern end of St George’s channel, returning to Vivigani following the raid," he said.

"It was suspected that the aircraft had crashed near Kawa Island, however, despite searches of the area at the time, all that could be found was an aircraft fuel tank.

"The remains have been identified as those of Flight Sergeant Jack Carroll Woodgate (Pilot), Flight Sergeant Stewart Ian Drakes (Navigator), Flying Officer Geoffrey Stewart Wells (Wireless Air Gunner) and Flight Sergeant Byron Veitch Maclean (Wireless Air Gunner). They were from No 8 Squadron based at Vivigani Strip on Goodenough Island."

The deceased airmen are listed on the Monument to the Missing at the Bita Paka War Cemetery, Rabaul, and their remains will be interred with full military honours at Bita Paka War Cemetery, in early May, 2001.

The families of Flight Sergeant Woodgate, Flying Officer Wells and Flight Sergeant Maclean have been informed of the discovery although, to date the Air Force has yet been unable to locate or contact any of the family of the late Flight Sergeant Drakes.

"I wish to express my deepest sympathy to the families of these gallant airmen," Mr Scott said.

"It is always with mixed emotions that I receive the news of these discoveries, however, I understand the sense of relief experienced by families in such circumstances, and I thank all involved in this current operation.

"Every effort has been made to contact the family of Flight Sergeant Drakes, and I hope through this announcement we can quickly locate his next-of-kin."

Any person who has information concerning the location of the Next-of-Kin of Flight Sergeant Drakes are asked to contact Warrant Officer Greg Williams at Air Force Headquarters on 02 6265 1027 during working hours.

The RAAF will assist family members to attend the funeral at Rabaul.

Media Contact: Ministerial Mark Croxford 02 6277 7820 or 0408 645 787

Media Contact: Mark Croxford 02 6277 7820 or 0401 145 787

Phone: 61 (02) 62777820 Fax: 62734140 Email: Website:

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