ACT News

Rare pictures of World War II air crash

Pictures have come to light of Canberra's forgotten World War II air crash.

The accident, near Mount Ainslie at 1.25pm on June 15, 1942, came just under two years after the high-profile crash that killed members of the Menzies war cabinet on August 13, 1940.

Reg Kupsch is the man standing closest to the plane in the group shot. Names of others are not known.
Reg Kupsch is the man standing closest to the plane in the group shot. Names of others are not known. Photo: Supplied

Aviation historians have confirmed the Ainslie crash involved a Wackett Gannet operated by the RAAF's No 2 Air Ambulance Unit.

The earlier crash had involved a Hudson bomber seconded for executive transport. Those killed included information minister Sir Henry Gullett, army minister Brigadier Geoffrey Street, air minister James Fairbairn, and chief of general staff General Sir Cyril White.

A rare picture of the plane crash at Mount Ainslie.
A rare picture of the plane crash at Mount Ainslie. Photo: Supplied

The Mount Ainslie crash was, fortunately, fatality free. The pilot, Flight Lieutenant Bruce Graham, broke his ankle, a medical orderly broke a shoulder blade and the radio operator was treated for shock. The mechanic, Reginald Kupsch, suffered head injuries which were not reported at the time.

Fairfax Media learnt of the accident from Canberran Dave Wheeler, who said his uncle, Bill Guard, had witnessed a plane crash at Mount Ainslie during the war and removed an engine ID plaque bearing the inscription Gipsy DH Six.

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With the assistance of Bob Piper of Military and Aviation Research Services, he identified the plane as a Gannet in May this year.

An exhaustive search of detailed wartime records eventually turned up a post-incident report confirming the crash had taken place. The only physical remaining evidence is the engine plaque.

The wreckage on Mount Ainslie.
The wreckage on Mount Ainslie. Photo: Supplied

Mr Wheeler, armed with the information from Mr Piper, was able to track down descendants of Mr Kupsch, who died in 2003 at the age of 91. He was told the former fitter 2E, who later worked as an engineer, rarely spoke of his wartime experiences in later life.

His military career included a stint in New Guinea and he survived three crashes. The Canberra crash was a serious one; the plane was written off, and as the photographs show, the damage was extensive.

Dave Wheeler from Gordon with the engine plate of a De Havilland Gipsy DH Six Series 2 that his uncle Bill Guard III in ...
Dave Wheeler from Gordon with the engine plate of a De Havilland Gipsy DH Six Series 2 that his uncle Bill Guard III in his early teens salvaged from a plane crash during WWII on Mt Ainslie. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

For the full story visit Mr Wheeler's website: http://acanberraboy.blogspot.com.au/