ANA/ADAT Douglas C-49/VH-CXD Transport Wreckage

Higgins Advanced Operational Base (AOB)/Bamaga-Injinoo Airport

Aircraft wreck
North and Cape York

Bamaga Airfield (Higgins Field), Bamaga 4876

This C-49 transport aircraft crashed and caught fire while coming in to land in the early morning of 5 May 1945 on a flight from Brisbane. The pilot, an Australian National Airways employee, the RAAF crew of three and two passengers all died in the crash. The tail section, wings and engines of the wrecked aircraft have been arranged within a fenced area near the junction of the Peninsula Development Road and the Bamaga airport road.


The aircraft began its operational life as a Dutch commercial passenger airliner owned by KLM and in June 1940 was transferred to KNILM in the Netherlands East Indies. The DC-3 was one of the last KNILM aircraft to escape to Australia ahead of the rapid Japanese advance through the Indonesian archipelago. Taking off from Samarinda on the island of Borneo on 24 January 1942 it survived an attack by Japanese Zero fighters which left six people on board injured.

The aircraft was acquired after its arrival in Australia for use by the newly-formed Allied Directorate of Air Transport (ADAT). It was transferred to the USAAF in Australia in May 1942 with the serial number 41-1941, call sign VHALT, and known as 'Holey Joe'. Operation of the aircraft was taken over by Australian National Airways (ANA) in December 1942. The call sign was changed to VHCXD and the aircraft was subsequently converted to a freighter operated by ANA under charter for military purposes utilising RAAF aircrew. In June 1944 it was redesignated as a C-49H (DC-3) with the serial number 44-83228. Operation of the aircraft was taken over by RAAF 33 Squadron in March 1945 although it remained on charter to ANA.

On the evening of 4 May 1945 it left Archerfield airfield, Brisbane, on a regular courier run to New Guinea with a cargo of meat for Port Moresby. While circling to land at Higgins Field in pre-dawn darkness it crashed at 5.18 a.m. on the following morning, after striking trees on a low ridge west of the runway. The aircraft caught fire on impact and was partially destroyed, incinerating the four Australian crew and two American military passengers. The wreckage has since been recovered and fenced as a memorial.

Those who died were:

  • Flying Officer William Ernest Clarke (42 years old). 277547. A.N.A. Civilian pilot, RAAF Reserve.
  • W/O James Hillman Hornbrook (21). 432183. 2nd pilot, 4 Communications Unit, Archerfield
  • F/Sgt Neville Tasman Browne (21). 436542. 2nd pilot under instruction, 4 Communications Unit, Archerfield
  • W/O Alfred Henry Gidley (30). 415975. W. Op (A), 4 Communications Unit, Archerfield
  • Sgt Henry E. Doherty. 32337697. 322 Troop Carrier Wing, US Military.
  • Cpl Rudolph M. Kozen. 16022995. 322 Troop Carrier Wing, US Military.


Dunn, P. 'Crash of C-49H at Higgins', Australia @ War

Howard Pearce (Ed.). Heritage Trails of the Tropical North: A heritage tour guide to far north Queensland, Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2001.
Howard Pearce. WWII: NQ: A cultural heritage overview of significant places in the defence of north Queensland during World War II. Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2009.
Roger Marks, Queensland Airfields WW2: 50 years on, Brisbane, 1994
NQ Study. See WWII report p. 116 (Higgins/Jacky Jacky)
RAAF Beaufort, Curtiss P-40 remnants, DC-3.