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Air Disaster MemorialPrint Page Print this page

Air Disaster Memorial : 09-December-2012
Air Disaster Memorial : 09-December-2012

Photographs supplied by Jason Hitchcock

A cairn commemorates ten people, including three Commonwealth Ministers and the Chief of the General Staff, who were killed in 1940 when their Royal Australian Air Force Lockheed Hudson crashed while circling prior to landing at Fairbairn Airport.

The plane was bringing the Ministers and high officials from Melbourne for an important cabinet meeting when it nose dived into the hill and subsequently burst into flames. The tragedy assumed the proportions of a national disaster in view of the loss of the chief administrators of Australia`s war effort.

A memorial was suggested in Parliament by Dr Maloney (Labor) on 14 August 1940. However it was not until Dame Annabelle Rankin wrote to the then Minister for Air, William McMahon, about the request by Sir Brundenell White`s relatives that a small cairn be erected at the point of the crash in memory of those who lost their lives, that the suggestion was given serious consideration.

The request, in January 1952, was referred to Prime Minister Menzies, who was Chair of the National Memorials Committee and very supportive of the project.

Location

Address:Pialligo Avenue, Fairbairn Pine Plantation, Majura, 2609
State:ACT
Area:AUS
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -35.318444
Long: 149.229306
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Details

Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:Disaster
Sub-Theme:Aviation
Actual Event STart Date:13-August-1940
Actual Event End Date:13-August-1940

Dedication

Approx. Monument Dedication Date:1962
Front Inscription

THIS MEMORIAL CAIRN HAS BEEN ERECTED TO HONOUR THE MEMORY OF

BRIGADIER THE HONOURABLE GEOFFREY AUSTIN STREET, M.C., E.D. MINISTER OF STATE FOR THE ARMY : MINISTER OF STATE FOR REPATRIATION

THE HONOURABLE SIR HENRY SOMER GULLETT. K.C.M.G. VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL

THE HONOURABLE JAMES VALENTINE FAIRBAIRN MINISTER OF STATE FOR AIR : MINISTER OF STATE FOR CIVIL AVIATION

GENERAL SIR CYRIL BRUDENELL BINGHAM WHITE, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., K.C.V.O., D.S.O. CHIEF OF THE GENERAL STAFF

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL FRANCIS THORNTHWAITE, D.S.O., M.C.

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT ROBERT EDWARD HITCHCOCK, R.A.A.F.

PILOT OFFICER RICHARD FREDERICK WIESENER, R.A.A.F.

CORPORAL JOHN FREDERICK PALMER, R.A.A.F.

AIRCRAFTMAN CLASS I CHARLES JOSEPH CROSDALE, R.A.A.F. AND MR. RICHARD EDWIN ELFORD PRIVATE SECRETARY TO THE MINISTER FOR AIR WHO WHILE SERVING THEIR COUNTRY LOST THEIR LIVES ON THIS SPOT IN AN AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT ON 13TH AUGUST 1940 

Back Inscription

Air Disaster Memorial

The Air Disaster Memorial is dedicated to the memory of those who died when an RAAF Lockheed Hudson aircraft crashed on this site on 13th August 1940.  All ten men in the aircraft - four crew and six passengers - lost their lives in the crash.  Three Commonwealth Ministers and the Chief of the General Staff were travelling from Mlebourne to attend a Cabinet meeting.

The national memorial service held in Melbourne was regarded as the most emotional funeral in the young nation`s history.

The loss of so many men vital to war adminsitration in Australia at the time was a devastating blow.  Newspaper editorials across the country recognised this.  The Canberra Times was representative : "These losses to Australia come at an hour when least of all we can spare teh services of those who can lead and direct us through hours unparralled in their significance for the future welfare of this people."

Those killed were :

BRIGADIER THE HON GEOFFREY AUSTIN STREET, MC, ED. MP, MINISTER OF STATE FOR THE ARMY - MINISTER OF STATE FOR REPATRIATION

THE HON JAMES VALENTINE FAIRBAIRN, MP  MINISTER OF STATE FOR AIR - MINISTER OF STATE FOR CIVIL AVIATION

THE HON SIR HENRY SOMER GULLETT, KCMG, MP War Historian and MHR for Henty VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL

GENERAL SIR CYRIL BRUDENELL BINGHAM WHITE, KCB, KCMG, KCVO, DSO CHIEF OF THE GENERAL STAFF

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL FRANCIS THORNTHWAITE, DSO, MC  Staff Officer to Gen. White

MR. RICHARD EDWIN ELFORD PRIVATE SECRETARY TO THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR AIR

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT ROBERT EDWARD HITCHCOCK  RAAF Pilot

PILOT OFFICER RICHARD FREDERICK WIESENER, RAAF Co-pilot

CORPORAL JOHN FREDERICK PALMER, RAAF Wireless Operator

AIRCRAFTMAN CLASS I CHARLES JOSEPH CROSDALE  RAAF Flight Mechanic

 

One other issue raised in the aftermath of the crash concerned the almost impossible travel itinerary imposed on Government Ministers at that time, a burden which had them regularly travelling between Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.  Some commentators used this issue to demand, once again, that all Commonwealth Administration occur at one Seat of Government.  It was felt that, in 1940, Australia still had not committed fully to Canberra as its National Capital.

A granite monolith marks the site of the crash. The monolith was dedicated on 13 August 1960 in the presence of the Prime Minister, the Hon. R. G. Menzies, who had also been Prime Minister at the time of the accident.  The dedication occurred on the twentieth anniversary o

Source: MA,SKP
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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