Catalina crew remembered

On Sunday 18 July, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) conducted a memorial service for the families of the 10 crew members of RAAF No. 11 Squadron Catalina A24-50 who perished on a war-time mission 78 years ago.

In honour of the lost aviators, a No. 11 Squadron P-8A Poseidon flypast opened the commemoration held at the Catalina Memorial on the Cairns Esplanade.

Catalina A24-50 was reported missing on 2 September 1943 while on a sea-mining operation to Sorong, in occupied Dutch New Guinea. Initial searches found no sign of the aircraft. However, in April 2018 it was finally located at Fakfak in Papua, Indonesia.

Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld AO DSC, said a joint Australian Defence Force – TNI (Indonesian military) operation to the crash site helped bring closure for the descendants of the 10 Catalina crewmembers.

‘Today we demonstrated our unwavering commitment to honouring the service and sacrifice of Australian military personnel from all theatres of war, no matter the passage of time,’ Air Marshal Hupfeld said.

‘Families were today presented with service medals, certificates of service and, importantly, artefacts recovered from the crash site.

‘Our hope is that families will take some comfort in knowing the resting place of their loved ones and their aircraft after such a long time.

‘While we remember and honour those Australian Defence Force members lost in service to our country, we must also acknowledge the families who sustained life on the home front during those war years, and who continue to do so today.

‘Theirs is no lesser service or sacrifice.’

Images and a video of the Catalina recovery and commemorative event have been provided by the Department of Defence.

Further information on the RAAF No. 11 Squadron Catalina A24-50 and crew is available on the RAAF website.

A man in Air Marshal's dress uniform chats with a man and woman in a marquee.

From left: Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld AO, DSC speaking to Mr Neil Turnbull, Director of the Returned and Service League, after the Cairns Catalina A24-50, Memorial ceremony.