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No remains of WWII airmen located at PNG site.

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THE HON. WARREN SNOWDON MP Minister for Defence Science and Personnel

Monday, 13 October 2008 145/2008


A thorough search of the wreckage of a WWII RAAF Lockheed Hudson in Papua New Guinea has uncovered dog tags, but no remains of the four airmen lost with the aircraft on 11 February 1942.

Flying Officer Graham Gibson, Pilot Officer Frank Thorn, Sergeant Barton Coutie and Sergeant Arthur Quail were aboard Hudson bomber A16-126 when it was shot down during a sortie against Japanese shipping at Gasmata harbour, New Britain.

An Air Force team of nine personnel, including two Air Force Reservist forensic specialists, deployed to the isolated mountain ridge inland from Gasmata by helicopter on Saturday, 4 October 2008. They spent a week at the wreckage site, and no human remains were found.

The Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, the Hon. Warren Snowdon MP, said the team divided the aircraft wreckage and surrounding area into grid squares and conducted a detailed search.

“The harsh climate and passage of time meant the prospect of locating remains was slim, but Air Force has made every effort to account for these brave airmen who gave their lives protecting Australia,” Mr Snowdon said.

“The families of the four crew members have been advised, and while no remains were found, a number of personal and military artefacts, such as dog tags, watches, pocket knives and an engraved pen were recovered and will be returned to the airmen’s relatives.”

The Hudson bomber was originally located by local missionary Mark Reichman in May 2008, on the advice of local villagers, and led by Daniel Kovi. An Air Force reconnaissance team officially confirmed the wreck was A16-126 in June 2008.

Air Force undertook this mission with support and assistance from the PNG Government and local villagers.

Media note: Still imagery will be available later today at

Vision will be fed to the Parliament House Press Gallery later today.

Media contacts: Kate Sieper (Warren Snowdon): 02 6277 7620 or 0488 484 689 Defence Media Liaison: 02 6265 3343 or 0408 498 664