Gear-up landing Accident Lockheed Hudson Mk I A16-36, Tuesday 15 December 1942
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Date:Tuesday 15 December 1942
Type:Silhouette image of generic L14 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Lockheed Hudson Mk I
Owner/operator:1 OTU RAAF
Registration: A16-36
MSN: 1887
Fatalities:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 4
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Soputa, Northern -   Papua New Guinea
Phase: Combat
Departure airport:
Destination airport:
In November 1942 a Special Transport Flight formed by 15 Hudson of 1 OTU RAAF went to Port Moresby and flew from there mission to drop supplies to the Allied troops fighting in Buna area.

On 15 December 1942 thirteen aircraft of this flight were engaged in flights to drop supplies to forward troops over Soputa airstrip, each taking off at irregular intervals according to the times in which they were loaded with fresh fuel oil and stores.

One of the aircraft involved that day was the Hudson I A16-36 flown by Sqn Ldr William Pedrina and his crew. They made three successful flights, from 0715 to 0845 hrs, from 0955 to 1125 hrs and from 1220 hrs to 1350 hrs. At 1425 hrs they took off for their fourth sortie of the day. At approximately 1515 hrs, this aircraft was in the target area with two other aircraft of the Flight, A16-127 flown by Flt Lt Landrey and A16-1 flown by Flt Lt R C Cornfoot.

The Hudsons A16-1 and A16-36 proceeded to the strip in loose formation, A16-36 going first and dropping part of load on strip. When turning away from strip to the left at about 100 feet high the nose of A16-36 came up sharply, the aircraft climbed about 100 feet and then the nose dropped suddenly and the Hudson dived into the trees below, 1.5 miles north of Jumbori. Flt Lt Cornfoot followed it about 1000 yards behind and circled the crash site three times in the course of dropping his load and could see wreckage at bottom of jungle. He saw no AA fire during these events.

Australian soldiers who had seen the crash immediately ran to the crash site. It took around half an hour to get there through the jungle - they sang out as they approached to get a bearing and got a reply. The plane had belly landed but the fuselage was rather crushed plus the front end was on fire. The plane had come down in the jungle amidst a lot of smashed up timber. There was a crew member alive in the upper turret, the air gunner, Flt Sgt Callaghan. There was a lot of ammo on board and though they could see the bodies of the pilot and navigator they had no chance to get them. Callaghan went berserk due to his wounds, and had first tried to smash his way out with his own revolver resulting in it firing a bullet up his arm. Then when the rescuers did get a hole made in the perspex, the wounded man’s belt caught on the machine gun as he was pulled out and he ended up with a shattered pelvis. The three other crew were killed in the crash.

Three days later, Callaghan was interviewed in an hospital at Port Moresby and stated: "We flew over the strip and were beginning to turn when I hear a burst below us and "The Boss" called out "I’m hit". We crashed to the ground and I do not remember any more."

Sqn Ldr William Allan Pedrina (pilot, from Hamilton, VIC) KIA
Flg Off Donald Beviss Kerr (observer, from Adelaide, SA) KIA
Sgt Arthur Rupert Itzerott (radio operator, from Murrumbeena, VIC) KIA
Wt Off Leo Charles Callaghan (air gunner) WIA

The three killed crew were recovered and later were permanently buried at Bomana Cemetery near Port Moresby.

Built by Lockheed, constructor number 1887, this aircraft was shipped overseas to Australia, delivered to RAAF on 9 February 1940 and given serial number A16-26. It went to 14 Sqn on 2 May 1940, next to 13 Sqn on 28 December 1941 and was transferred to 5 AD and 1 OTU on 9 June 1942.

This crash site remains in situ in an oil palm plantation in the Popondetta area, near Soputa. Prior to 2000, one of the .303 machine guns was recovered from the crash site to Dobodura. In 2000 the tail was broken off and laid behind the main wreckage. It was well preserved, and used by locals as a ’diving board’ into a nearby stream. The wreckage was too well preserved, with nearly all of the original green and brown camouflage perfectly preserved. The cockpit and center fuselage areas were destroyed in the crash, but the wings, tail and engine were in excellent condition. In 2002, the tail fin was recovered by Robert Greinert, supposedly for the Australian War Museum (AWM). If it was ever donated or displayed has not been confirmed.

Casualty file of Leo Charles Callaghan, available on the Australian Archives website (

Revision history:

27-Sep-2008 01:00 ASN archive Added
15-Dec-2015 13:54 Laurent Rizzotti Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Cn, Location, Country, Phase, Nature, Source, Narrative]
30-Jun-2023 05:29 Ron Averes Updated

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