I’ve always had a deep connection to pilots and aviation, so it was a privilege to be on-hand for the unveiling in Broome of a memorial to an RAAF crew lost here 70 years ago to the day.
Flight Sergeants Ronald Smith and Ronald Kerrigan took off from Broome early one morning in September 1944 – their RAAF Beaufighter crashed into the sea off Cable Beach just minutes into the flight. The wreckage – and their bodies – were not found.
In 2012, helicopter pilot and experienced wreck hunter Jim Miles teamed up with local historian Dion Marinis and they began looking for the downed aircraft. After months of searching, they found what’s left of the plane just two kilometres offshore. It’s still not clear what caused it to crash, but an engine failure is the most probable explanation. Now, 70 years after the event, relatives and friends of the two airmen were able to gather at Cable Beach for the dedication of a monument in their honour.
It was a very moving event – and a special moment for Jim and Dion – listen to them talk about the search for RAAF Beaufighter A19-163, and about what else might be found along the Kimberley coast.