Missing bomber and crew remains found.

Courtesy Department of Defence

The RAAF has positively identified a Second World War Beaufort aircraft (A9-186), reported missing in 1943, along with its 4 crew members.

The aircraft was recently discovered after a challenging mission in the waters south of Gasmata, Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Robert Chipman confirmed the identification of the crash site, which was discovered in 2020.

The discovery was made by an Ocean Ecology Pty Ltd dive team working for Dr Andrew Forrest as part of an ongoing search for his uncle, Flying Officer David Forrest, who was lost during a mission to Gasmata while piloting a similar RAAF 100 Squadron Beaufort.

In February 2022, Dr Forrest’s team returned to the crash site to identify the aircraft. Two members of the RAAF Directorate of Historical Unrecovered War Casualties (HUWC) accompanied them to provide historical aviation expertise and support.

The A9-186 wreck site is located in 43 metres of water, which meant identifying the remains of the aircraft after 79 years took considerable time, effort and teamwork.

Specialist divers worked on an aircraft that was extensively damaged by fire and covered in layers of sediment and marine growth.

The aircraft identity plate and cockpit lever, which were recovered from the site, will be returned to Australia under a permit granted by the PNG National Museum and Art Gallery.

Air Marshal Chipman said small amounts of bone material recovered during the identification mission were analysed by anthropologists and DNA specialists.

‘The RAAF’s HUWC team collated the evidence and a Defence Identification Board identified the remains as those of Warrant Officer Clement Batstone Wiggins and Warrant Officer Russell Henry Grigg,’ Air Marshal Chipman said.

‘Unfortunately, it’s with a heavy heart we can confirm that no remains of the other two crew members, Flight Sergeant Albert Beckett and Flight Sergeant Gordon Lewis Hamilton, were recovered.

‘We will continue to strive to find, recover and identify our missing service personnel as part of our commitment to honouring their service and sacrifice for our nation.’

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