LEST WE FORGET

Pilot Officer Paul Gotthelf PFEIFFER

Service No: 416005
Born: Point Pass SA, 5 December 1916
Enlisted in the RAAF: 1 March 1941
Unit: No. 4 Operational Training Unit (RAF)
Died: Aircraft Accident (No. 4 Operational Training Unit Sunderland aircraft ML738), Scotland, 3 January 1945, Aged 28 Years
Buried: Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery, Yorkshire
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Gottlieb August and Maria Auguste Mathilda Pfeiffer, of Point Pass, South Australia. B.A.
Roll of Honour: Eudunda SA
Remembered: Panel 128, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: World War II Honour Roll, National War Memorial of SA, North Terrace, Adelaide

On the 3rd January 1945, Sunderland ML738 was detailed to carry out a special photographic flight. The aircraft took off at 1045 hours and flew for about one hour thirty minutes, when it alighted and moored up to avoid a heavy snow shower. The aircraft slipped moorings and requested permission to take off. This was granted at 1308 and at 1310 the aircraft was airborne. The take off was a normal cross wind one, and the subsequent climb appeared to a witnesses to be steeper than usual, and when the aircraft was about 200 feet it became unstable laterally. The aircraft was seen to drop the starboard wing, then its port wing, and finally its starboard wing dropped and continued to go down until the aircraft struck the water with its wing and nose. The aircraft broke up on impact.

The crew members of ML738 were:

Pilot Officer John Theodore Eshelby (185304) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)
Flight Sergeant William Horace Johns (1197225) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)
Flight Lieutenant Francis Noel Johnston (75709) (RAF) (Pilot) (Pilot Instructor)
Pilot Officer Paul Gotthelf Pfeiffer (416005) (Navigator) Died of Injuries
Leading Aircraftman Scott (RAF) (Photographer) Injured
Warrant Officer Robert Lance Webster (410797) (Wireless Air Gunner) Injured, Discharged from the RAAF: 12 September 1945
Pilot Officer Joseph Zita (179681) (RAF) (Wireless Air Gunner Instructor) Died of injuries

Warrant Officer Webster later reported: “We took off at 1045 hours, and flew for about 1 hour 30 minutes and then landed to avoid a snow shower. We stayed aboard the aircraft and then about 1300 hours I slipped moorings, and I noticed about a quarter of an inch of snow on the front turret. This snow was soft. After the usual run up of motors, we took off apparently normally and made an apparently normal climb. I gave an “airborne” signal to Control by radio and then noticed a violent rocking of wings, first the starboard wing went down, then the port wing, then the starboard wing again, and we hit the water and crashed. I heard nothing unusual from the engines. Next thing I was in the water and inflated my mae west and was rescued by marine craft.”

References:

Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records (RAAF Casualty Information compiled by Alan Storr (409804))
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 166/32/603

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