Looking rearwards from the cockpit of a Dragon.
Shortly before 10.00 am on 17 Apr 43, Pilot SGT Doug Doyle,
co-Pilot SGT Frank Doyle and their three passengers departed Mascot airport in A34-47, enroute to Forest Hill, NSW. The flight
was expected to take 2 hrs 40 mins, with arrival at Wagga being anticipated at approx 12.30 hrs same date. The aircraft was
to maintain an altitude of 3000 ft. It was sighted shortly after departure to be travelling in the NW lane rather than the
SW lane it was expected to fly along. Whilst possible the Pilot (most likely Frank to increase his flying hours), was
providing his American passengers a 'birds-eye' view of Sydney, this is however an unlikely scenario if timings provided for
the two occasions the aircraft was spotted in the Sydney basin are to be accepted as correct.
The last positive sighting of the aircraft was made at 10.07
am by an observer at No. 18 Searchlight Battery, Chester Hills NSW. The aircraft was sighted proceeding about 2000 fit height
in a westerly direction, approx 2 miles (3.2 km) south of Prospect Reservoir, NSW. The spotter continued to observe the
aircraft until it flew out of sight; (it is interesting to note that many searchers believe this to be the last 'official'
sighting of A34-47).
The last probable sighting of this aircraft was made by a
Volunteer Air Observer Corps (VAOC) spotter Catherine Adams, at Werombi (NSW). She stated in the Court of Inquiry that
she observed an aircraft (fitting the description of the Dragon), flying approx 1.5 miles (2.4 km) SE of Werombi, and heading
in a southerly direction.
A34-47 reported overdue
At 1.55 pm 17 Apr 43, the A34-47 and occupants were reported
overdue by the Aerodrome Control Officer at Forest Hill. No attempt was made to search for the aircraft until 11.00 am the
following day. A message later released by the RAAF provided that the aircraft was 'last seen vicinity Goulburn'. Police and
other authorities were notified of the missing aircraft, and accordinly advised that information was being sought as to its
It is interesting to note that although the weather was
fine on departure, it was reported to be raining over southern NSW by later that afternoon. The following several days saw
heavy rain and strong winds between Sydney and Wagga.
Enquiries were initiated with other RAAF establishments
as to the whereabouts of the missing aircraft. Flight logs at No.1 Fighter Sector were examined, and when plotted, the aircraft
was initially ascertained as having proceeded to a point approx 48 miles (77 km) from Cootamundra NSW. Unfortunately
however, at 2300 hrs 18 Apr 43 this plot was established to be the result of an error caused by a VAOC spotter
who apparently mistakenly had referred to the applicable flight log for 16 Apr 43 instead of 17 Apr 43. This of course led
staff to believe A34-47 to be an Avro Anson aircraft which had passed through that area on 16 Apr 43.
A34-47 officially missing - search activity commences
On 19, 20 and 21 Apr 43, a number of Anson aircraft from
73 SQN (Camden) and No. 3 Communication Flight (Mascot) conducted an intense aerial search of localities between Camden and
Goulburn, including the Burragorang Valley and surrounding areas. They searches were unfortunately hampered by poor
weather conditions (ie., storms and strong winds), and were abandoned following the last search on 21 Apr 43.
View from cabin of a Dragon in flight. Note the fuel glass, fuel filler and airspeed indicator, (160kmph).
A reported sighting
Despite not knowing exactly which route A34-47
had flown, the RAAF notified applicable authorities (ie., Police) in relevant areas along a number of suspected
flight paths, obviously hoping that they may have received reports from 'eyewitnesses' etc, who may have seen an
aircraft in difficulties on 17 Apr 43, (or who may have been witness to other unusual sightings which might further
On 27 Apr 43 (ten days after the disappearance of A34-47),
Mrs Hilda Donahue reported to an enquiring Police Constable that she had heard an aircraft in difficulty near a residence
in the Central Burragorang Valley where she was minding a baby; (residence now covered by the waters of Lake Burragorang).
Mrs Donahue further reported that shortly after hearing the aircraft, she heard a noise resembling a crash over a mountain
on the eastern side of the valley, (Mt Wanganderry, Nattai). She then looked to out of a bedroom window of the residence to
see a dust cloud rise up over the mountain.
It should be noted that 1.00 pm 17 Apr 43 could not possibly
be a correct time of sighting of the A34-47, which would have passed her residence approx 1035 hrs. Despite many
theories having been raised over the years which have attempted to explain/support this quite significant
time lapse (ie., daylight saving which finished 28 Mar 43!), it is much more likely that Mrs Donahue either accidently
mistook the time of sighting (due to ten days passing from time of incident), or that she saw a search plane on one of the
preceeding days ie., 19 Apr 43. The 'crash' and subsequent dust cloud she reported (as being on the eastern
side of the valley), could well have come from blasting operations from nearby mining operations on/near the Wanganderry tableland.
Alternately, the dust could also have been smoke from wood fires.
The majority of searches conducted for this aircraft since
1943 hinge on Mrs Donahue's testimony. I personally believe she saw a low flying search aircraft. The above is said with
certainly no disrespect to Mrs Donahue, for whom I have been advised by people who knew her to be a very sincere, decent
and reliable person. But I do believe her testimony, despite the best of intentions, to be incorrect.
Ground search initiated
On the basis of information provided by Mrs Donahue, a ground
search was initiated. It was led by local farmers Mr Ron Hinds and Mr Laurie Carlon, who were familiar with the
proposed search areas, and also comprised a Doctor, amongst other persons. The official party accessed the top of the Wanganderry
tableland via a dangerous climb along a narrow ledge on the western face; (this route no longer exists due to rock falls).
For reasons unknown, the official search party did not end up searching the most likely areas believed to be where the wrecage
of the aircraft might be found. A spotter plane operated in conjunction with the search party on the ground, however the search
still proved fruitless, and was discontinued. It is interesting to note that this search was the only 'official' ground search
conducted by the RAAF at that time.
Many people still believe that the wreckage of the A34-47 is now
covered by the waters of Lake Burragorang. It should be noted however that this is highly unlikely, as most areas flooded
by Lake Burragorang were cleared, and therefore wreckage of the aircraft would almost certainly have been sighted on cleared
lands prior to flooding of Warragamba Dam in 1960.
Has anything from the A34-47 ever been found?
No - nothing has been found that could be confirmed as having
come from the missing aircraft.
Many locals were reported to have gone searching for the A34-47
in a non-official capacity. Some of these searches produced items that were initially thought to be from the missing aircraft,
but were soon proven not to be the case. Accordingly, a machine gun turret and a machine gun were found in Burragorang wilderness
(in the wider vicinity of the Wombeyan Caves), but were later established to have falled from a Hudson, (and another aircraft).
A small piece of 'polished plywood' was found downstream from Whitegum Creek, (intersects Nattai River, approx GR605183 on
1:25 000 Nattai 8929-I-S topographic map). As DH84 Dragon aircraft were fitted with varnished plywood on interior cabin areas,
this find led to a considerable amount of search activity by both the RAAF and independent searchers in the late 1970's &
early 1980's, and 1987. The find was later followed up by two searchers, and now appears to have been a 'furphy'.
A small piece of wooded propellor was also reported to have been found in an unknown location in the valley, although the
identity of the finder or location of the propellor does not appear to have been established.
There have been other 'finds' made by searchers over the years,
most of which I am not really at liberty to report on this page. Unfortunately, none of these finds has yet been positively
linked to the missing aircraft, with most being established as either not from the aircraft, or as simply being 'common'
items used by military, woodcutters, etc during that period.
What might be found?
Notwithstanding the extremely rough terrain that the aircraft
is believed to have gone missing in, the difficulty in locating wreckage has not been made any easier by the passage
of time (74 years), and therefore would now be extremely difficult to detect. Further to any damage incurred during impact
(ie., wreckage of aircraft being broken up and spread about) - fires, falling trees, weathering, shifting soils, rockfalls
and vegetative overgrowth will no doubt have assisted to conceal any items which remain above ground. Accordingly, even from
close proximity, any wreckage from this aircraft would not be visible in any recognisable form (due to burning, melting, rusting
etc), and if visible would more likely resemble that from an old car/truck. Melted alloy engine casings, rusted fragments
of twisted metal (from engine covers), awheel inserts, metal struts and rusted cables, would be all that is left from which
to identify this aircraft. If a large box was loaded onto the aircraft, it might also be found half-buried. (Some personal
effects might also be found).
Items shown in photos on this web site are a good guide as to
what items might be located during a search ie., airspeed indicator.
Current search activities
There have been many people who have searched for this aircraft
over the years since 1943. To date, I am aware of at least four main search groups who undertake consistent
on-going search activities for wreckage of the A34-47. In particular, there are two individuals I have met whose efforts
have been outstanding; both having conducted quite a considerable number of searches for the missing aircraft (one
operated from the 1970's to the 1990's). My contribution is far smaller, although I have now organised over
a dozen searches (eight in Nattai/Burragorang), and am hoping to continue further activities in the near future.
If you would like to share any ideas/information you
may have regarding this incident, please contact me at:
Site first compiled 2003; this update 11 Jan 19.
Am keen to maintain/establish further contact with other searchers and any persons interested in locating wreckage
of this missing aircraft.