Missing plane discovered after nearly five years (1948)

On the afternoon of July 5, 1948, a long military funeral procession wound its way through Bundaberg streets. Following a service at the Christ Church of England, the caskets were carried by ex-servicemen pallbearers and placed on two waiting trucks.

Cortege for fallen American airmen at Bundaberg War Cemetery, 5 July 1948. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 73425

Cortege for fallen American airmen at Bundaberg War Cemetery, 5 July 1948. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 73425

The cortege was led by the Municipal Band and the Caledonian Pipe Band as the pallbearers marched beside the trucks. Heavy rain did not discourage Bundaberg residents from paying their last respects as the cortege passed and when the procession reached the War Cemetery, a firing party gave a three-volley salute and a bugler played the Last Post and Reveille.

Funeral procession for the Monto air crash victims in Bundaberg 1948. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 200364

Funeral procession for the Monto air crash victims in Bundaberg 1948. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 200364

The funeral was for 13 servicemen who had been missing for nearly five years. On November 21, 1943, a US Army transport plane bound for Brisbane with 13 servicemen (seven Australians and six Americans) aboard disappeared after taking off from Rockhampton. The mystery was solved on June 22, 1948 by Fred Smith and his father-in-law Norm Marshall of Magpie Station at Yarrol. On that day the men were dipping cattle in a remote area of the 2630ha property.

Discovering some of the cattle missing, Smith rode his horse to the edge of a gully in search of them, but found the wreckage of the missing plane instead. The police, and later the RAAF, were contacted and travelled to the scene to investigate.
The Bundaberg News-Mail reported the “plane lay nose down the side of a gully”. Debris was scattered over a large area with human remains found in and around the wreckage. For Marshall, owner of Magpie Station for 19 years, this was the first time he had ever visited that specific area of the property.

Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland