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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 21023
Last updated: 29 November 2019
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Date:11-MAR-1954
Time:
Type:Silhouette image of generic CNBR model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
English Electric Canberra B.2
Owner/operator:1323 Flt Royal Air Force (1323 Flt RAF)
Registration: WH697
C/n / msn: 71156
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Ailinglapalap Atoll (at Coordinates 07°24′N 168°45′E) -   Marshall Islands
Phase: En route
Nature:Military
Departure airport:Momote, Admiralty Islands
Destination airport:Kwajelein
Narrative:
1323 Flt deployed to the Pacific under Operations Bagpipes/Likewise, the detachment of the four Canberras to Australia to cover the CASTLE series of US hydrogen bomb tests in the south Pacific scheduled for the Spring of 1954. In January 1954 the Flight received a further two Canberras (WH738, WH881) for a second commitment known as Operation Dogstar.

This task was particle sampling of the radio-active clouds produced by the US hydrogen bombs at the invitation of the US military. Both the Operations Likewise and Dogstar Canberras were fitted with extra navigation and radio equipment (twin TR. 1936 VHF and STR18B HF RT) for overseas flying during the January.

On 11 February 1954 two officers and five men left Wyton for Darwin in support of Operations Bagpipes/Likewise, followed on 14 February by the ground party for Operation Dogstar comprising five officers and 14 men. The two Operation Dogstar Canberras followed on the 15 February taking the route Idris-Habbinaya-Mauripur-Negombo-Changi-Darwin.

From Darwin the next leg of the journey for the two Dogstar aircraft was to Momote in the Admiralty Islands (to the North of Papua New Guinea), then a long hop across the South Pacific to the US test site at Kwajelein. While flying in loose formation en-route to Kwajelein on 23 February WH738 drew up alongside WH881 and the pilot gave the “cut throat” signal indicating a loss of radio or electrics, before turning away and descending. Sadly WH738 and its crew of Flight Lieutenant Garside (pilot), Flying Officer Naldrett (navigator) and Flight Sergeant Doner (passenger) were never seen again, presumably lost after ditching in the Pacific.

Such was the importance of Operation Dogstar that one of the Operation Bagpipes/Likewise Canberras, WH697, was then fitted out for particle sampling and dispatched from Wyton as a replacement for WH738 on 28 February.

The replacement Operation Dogstar Canberra, WH697, arrived at Darwin on 4 March and began the Momote/Kwajelein leg of the journey a week later. Problems were encountered with the Radio Compass during the flight. Apparently when en-route to Eniwetok there were a lot of cumulonimbus clouds about and the radio compass usually pointed to the biggest.

When the Canberra descended on flight plan ETA the navigator was unable to pick up the Kwajalein beacon. Worse still, no land was visible. A square search was then commenced and, just as the possibility of ditching seemed likely, an island was spotted. A successful forced landing was made on the beach in shallow water, happily without injury to the crew. The island was part of the Ailinglaplap atoll, about 115 miles south of the Kwajelein (at approximate Coordinates 07°24′N 168°45′E)

The crew remained as guests of the islanders for several days until a US amphibian search and rescue aircraft spotted the beached Canberra and landed to retrieve them. Islanders from Ailinglaplap atoll had sailed to Kwajalien Island and notfied the Ameericans that the plane was down on their beach.

WH697 was damaged beyond repair and so, after removal of the engines, the airframe was towed out to sea and sunk. Unfortunately the Canberra floated rather better than expected and refused to sink, even when subjected to gunfire. Finally the salvage vessel resorted to ramming and WH697 sank beneath the waves into 1,500 ft of water, safely beyond all recovery.

Crew:
Flt/Lt J.O. "Black" Thomas RAF OK.
Flt/Lt M.B. "Chalky" White RAF OK.

Sources:

Air Britain RAF Aircraft WA100 - WZ999
https://www.pprune.org/aviation-history-nostalgia/136285-missing-raf-canberras-over-central-pacific-1954-a.html
http://www.ukserials.com/prodlists.php?type=989
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ailinglaplap


Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
13-Jun-2008 00:37 JINX Added
04-Apr-2013 21:23 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Source, Narrative]
04-Apr-2013 21:29 Dr. John Smith Updated [Cn, Operator, Departure airport, Narrative]
06-May-2013 14:51 Nepa Updated [Operator]
02-Jun-2013 00:53 jerrymitc@gmail.com Updated [Narrative]

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