Commemorating the Crew of NO.43 Squadron Catalina A24-64

Last Sunday, 11 June 2023, Vice President Mr. Neil Turnbull attended the Commemorative Ceremony and plaque unveiling to Commemorate the crew of No. 43 Squadron Catalina A24-64

The crew of a 43 Squadron Black Cat Catalina A24-64, known as “The Dabster”, flew their final mission together on 14 December 1944, the night before Australian and US forces were to land at San Jose on the island of Mindoro.

The term “Dabster” is Australian slang for an expert or “the best”.

The Catalina A24-64 was handed over to Flying Officer I. O. Righetti’s crew who had arrived at the squadron in the first week of October 1941. By the end of the month, Righetti’s crew had completed their first anti-submarine patrols and bombing missions to Ambon (Indonesia) and Kavieng (Papua New Guinea). Although she was used intermittently by other crews on patrols and bombing missions, Righetti’s crew remained the regular crew and it was Righetti who named her “The Dabster” because of her special talents. The name was subsequently painted on her nose.

Twenty-four Catalinas were required to lay mines at a very low altitude to prevent the Japanese from leaving Manila Bay and interfering with the Mindoro landing. “The Dabster” was number six in a sortie of 15 aircraft that took off from Jinamoc.

Tragically, “the Dabster” never returned to Jinamoc on completion of the mission.

The nine crew members had flown a number of missions together before.

They were:
Flight Lieutenant Herbert Cunningham Roberts of Perth, Western Australia
Flight Lieutenant Frank William Silvester of Collaroy, New South Wales
Flight Lieutenant James Henry Cox of Warren, New South Wales – the hometown, in fact, of Bishop Arthur Jones
Flying Officer Robert Carlisle Barbour of Coburg, Victoria
Flying Officer Raymond Harold Bradstreet of South Yarra, Victoria
Sergeant John Charles Macdonald of Manly, New South Wales
Flight Sergeant David John Albert of Auburn, New South Wales
Sergeant James Robert Robinson of Watson’s Bay, New South Wales
Sergeant Harold Stanley Goodchild of Mukinbudin, Western Australia

On 14 December 1944, Catalina A24-64 was part of a formation of 24 aircraft, each flying independently on a different route to mine Minial Bay in the Philippines.  A24-64 planned to fly via the west coast of Mindoro Island, then north across the mountains to the western shore of Manila Bay, they returning over the southern shore of Manila Bay.  Weather in the area was reported as good and the crash was not witnessed, the details are therefore unknown.

All nine crewmembers tragically lost their lives with the Catalina A24-64.

In 2015, the wreckage of an aircraft was reported in mountainous terrain on the northwest of Mindoro Island.  In March 2019, a mission to the site was conducted to search for evidence to support an aircraft identification.  Additional wreckage was discovered, however no human remains.

Following investigations and additional research in Australia, the crashed aircraft was identified as 43 SQN Catalina A24-64.



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