SEARCH FOR LOST RAAF PLANE IN THE MUGHONS
Hearing that an RAAF aircraft was suspected of having crashed in the Mughon Mountains, a party of horsemen on November 7, 1946 set out from Wollar, near Mudgee to search for the missing Mustang single seater fighter which was seen circling in the area before it disappeared.
Bad weather restricted the air search for the plane to a lone Liberator aircraft, which took off at the first light to scour the mountainous area beween Scone and Merrygoen on the Castlereagh. Several Beaufighter and Wirraway aircrafts were held in readiness to take off when weather conditions permitted.
The missing pilot was Flight Sergeant Peter Mortimer Campbell, of West Esplanade, Manly, who was completing his operation training before joining the RAAF Occupational Force in Japan. He took off from Williamtown, near Newcastle at 8am on the Wednesday. There were sightings of the aircraft near Scone, Wellington and Ulan. He disappeared without reporting by radio that he was in trouble.
When an appeal was made over the local radio for news of the missing plane, Michael McDermott, a Wollar grazier, reported he had seen a Mustang-like plane on the Wednesday morning circling as though the pilot was looking for somewhere to land.
Cecil Edward Carlyle, overseer of Murragamba Station, informed the Wollar constable that the missing plane had been found and that the pilot had been killed. The dead pilot’s body was found 200 feet behind the plane, his parachute hanging in a nearby tree. The search party could not say whether the pilot had been unable to jump before it was too late. The crash occurred in rugged country in the Sandy Flat area, 12 miles on the eastern side of Ulan eight miles from Wollar. The plane itself was smashed to pieces, very few parts being salvageable.
Due to the passing of time, 72 years, I have not been able to obtain a copy of the Mudgee Coroner’s findings or Report of Crash Investigation by the RAAF. The body of the deceased pilot was taken from the crash site by an Air Force ambulance to Newcastle. Later he was accorded a full military funeral at the Sandgate War Cemetery.
Flight-Sergeant Mortimer was born in 1925, attended the Central School at Crows Nest and on leaving became a junior laboratory assistant with the C.S.I.R. He joined the RAAF on December 18, 1943. After completing his Elementary Flying Training at Temora he went onto Service Flying at Benalla, Victoria, finalising his training at Williamtown. At the time the crash he was flying a P51 Mustang fighter aircraft that he was to use in Japan. The serial number of the crashed plane was A68-21, painted on the fuselage near the tail, the aircraft being a CA 17-MK 20 Mustang. This plane had been delivered to the RAAF on September 18, 1945 and issued to Williamtown Air Base on the October 2, 1946. It crashed one month later at Wollar.
The Mustangs produced in Australia were too late for World War 11 and were assigned to Japan for occupational duties. Squadrons nos. 76,77 and 82 flew in 1946 to Iwakuni an air base in Japan. Three years later nos. 76 and 82 Squadrons withdrew to Australia, whilst 77 Squadron remained to take part in the Korean War from June 1950 to April, 1951. The Mustangs remained in service with the Citizens Air Force Squadrons until they were withdrawn in 1959. A number was sold to private buyers and a few of these Mustangs later featured at aerial pageants, including Mudgee.
It is interesting to note that just 25 kms north-west of Wollar, on the western side of Bobadeen Station, during World War 2, the RAAF had an strip of land which was an approved “low flying area”. On one occasion a training plane crashed landed in the area. Luckily the airmen were not hurt. After wandering around lost they came onto the Gulgong Road and were given a lift by car to Gulgong.