RAAF Catalina PBY5, A24-64 – “The Dabster”

the Dabster

RAAF Catalina PBY5, A24-64 flying over Lake Boga, Vic., Australia, November 1944

(from Phillipines Veterans Affairs Office release, 24/4/2015).

Governments of Australia and the Philippines marked the possible crash site in Brgy. Alas-Asin, Kamaya Point Road, Mariveles, Bataan of the Royal Australian Air Force, (RAAF), Catalina aircraft that planted mines in Bataan Peninsula in World War II but disappeared after the risky mission.

His Excellency Bill Tweddell, Ambassador of Australia, and Undersecretary Eduardo G. Batac of the Department of National Defense led the wreath-laying ceremony at the newly installed marker in memory of the nine crew of the aircraft who were believed to have perished while doing their operation.

Mrs Wendy Duke, daughter of 37766 SGT James ‘Jim’ Robert Robinson, crew member of ‘the Dabster’ and her three children graced the event that was attended by officials of the Australian Embassy, Australian Defense Force, and Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific.

The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) also participated in the event, with MGen. Raul z. Caballes, Deputy Administrator; Col. Agerico G. Amagna III, PAF (Ret), and Ms. Cherry Mae Lacbawan in attendance.

Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Catalina A24-64 The Dabster (meaning ‘the best’) had just returned to Darwin from a mine-laying operation at Morotai, when the crew were told they would be going to the Philippines. Their last mission, to mine the Balabac Strait and the mouth of Manila Bay, commenced on the night of 14 December 1944 and was intended to deny Japanese Naval forces the ability to attack allied forces who were to land on the island of Mindoro the next day (Source: Australian Embassy).

Twenty-four RAAF Black Cats (as the Catalina’s were known) from 11, 20, 42 and 43 Squadrons participated in the Operation. However , “The Dabster” never returned, and to this day, neither the aircraft nor the remains of her crew have been located (Source: Australian Embassy).

The target area was known to be well defended, although exact details of gun emplacements were unknown at the time. Philippine military historians have since discovered that the Japanese had established an anti-aircraft gun emplacement along Kamaya Point Road in Barangay Alas-asin, Mariveles (the current site of the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific) as early as 1944 (Source: Australian Embassy).

It was reported during post-mission debriefing that “a flash or explosion was observed in approximate position of the target area that may have some relation to a 43 Squadron aircraft (the Dabster) which failed to return from the operation”.  After numerous searches in subsequent years, by early 1949 the Secretary for the Department of Air had concluded that there was “no likelihood of recovering the crew’s bodies and that it was probable that the aircraft and crew were lost at sea”.

A number of factors suggest that the pilot may have attempted to exit through the northern channel, passing closer to the Bataan Peninsula, to avoid observation from Corregidor. In doing so the aircraft is likely to have passed within 1,000 metres of the anti-aircraft emplacements along Kamaya Point Road in Barangay Alas-asin, the fire from which could explain the “flash or explosion” that was observed following subsequent reports of heavy anti-aircraft fire in the target area (Source: Australian Embassy).

Following this hypothesis, it is highly probable that RAAF Catalina A24-64 was struck by Japanese anti-aircraft fire and now lies in the waters off Alas-asin Point. MAAP is therefore considered a most appropriate location to dedicate a memorial to the still missing crew of The Dabster.

 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.

WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.

Pilot:   F/Lt Herbert Cunningham Roberts, RAAF 406368 (MIA / KIA)
Co-Pilot:  F/Lt Frank William Silvester, RAAF 411054 (MIA / KIA)
Crew:  F/O Robert Carlisle Barbour, RAAF 419949 (MIA / KIA)
Crew:  F/Lt James Henry Cox, RAAF 411867 (MIA / KIA)
Crew:  F/O Raymond Harold Bradstreet, RAAF 406824 (MIA / KIA)
Crew:  Sgt James Robert Robinson, RAAF 37766 (MIA / KIA)
Crew:  F/Sgt David John Albert, RAAF 37077 (MIA / KIA)
Crew:  Sgt John Charles MacDonald, RAAF 15882 (MIA / KIA)
Crew:  Sgt Harold Stanley Goodchild, RAAF 82777 (MIA / KIA)

 

Dabster Memorial Dedication

 

the Dabster

 

Memorial Service, 13 April 2016

 

A Cadet from the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific joins No 92 Wing Detachment Commander, Squadron Leader Michael Sleeman in laying a wreath during a memorial service for the crew of RAAF Catalina A24-64.

A Cadet from the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific joins No 92 Wing Detachment Commander, Squadron Leader Michael Sleeman in laying a wreath during a memorial service for the crew of RAAF Catalina A24-64.

Members from No. 92 Wing, the Royal Australian Air Force’s maritime patrol wing, attended a memorial service for Catalina PBY5, A24-64, a “Black Cat” maritime patrol aircraft of 43 Squadron, RAAF, which was lost during World War II.

http://video.airforce.gov.au/play/4628

The service was held on 13 April during Exercise Balikatan 2016 at the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific in Bataan Province, Republic of the Philippines.