LEST WE FORGET

Warrant Officer Thomas Nathan RUST

Service No: 408378
Born: New Plymouth NZ, 24 May 1912
Enlisted in the RAAF: 30 January 1942 (at Hobart TAS)
Unit: No. 12 Squadron, Darwin NT
Died: Aircraft Accident (No. 12 Squadron Liberator aircraft A72-160), Truscott Airfield WA, 20 May 1945, Aged 32 Years
Buried: Adelaide River War Cemetery, NT
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Thomas Henry Lyne Rust and Mary Ethel Rust, of Wynyard, Tasmania.
Roll of Honour: Wynyard TAS
Remembered: Panel 100, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

OPERATION No. FEN.21 – 2 Liberators airborne TRUSCOTT, one Liberator relieved as necessary to carry out “W” patrol Force “SU” from first to last light. Duty 3. A72-160 crashed on takeoff. Blew up, total loss, nil survivors.

No. 58 Operational Base Unit Operations Record Book A50 Entry dated 20 May 1945

At 0546 hours Sunday 20 May 1945, No. 12 Squadron B-24 Liberator bomber A72-160, aircraft captain Flight Lieutenant Francis Leonard Sismey, lined-up for takeoff at Truscott Airfield. About two thirds of the way along the runway, the aircraft became airborne, drifted to the left of the runway, clipped some trees and then crashed. The aircraft immediately caught fire and on-board ammunition detonated, killing all 11 crew members instantly. The subsequent Court of Inquiry determined that the aircraft load had exceeded the 64,000 lbs (29,000 kg) maximum all-up takeoff weight and that the pilot either became airborne at too lower speed for the aircraft weight, or became inadvertently airborne at too lower speed due to the undulating nature of the runway contours. At this low speed, the aircraft was not fully controllable and drifted to the left, unable to gain altitude. After clipping some trees, eye witness accounts record that the nose was lifted (in an attempt to gain altitude), and the Court determined that the low speed of the aircraft resulted in the port wing stalling and the aircraft striking the ground in an uncontrolled manner.

Summary of the Court of Inquiry Findings

The crew members of A72-160 were:

Flight Sergeant Thomas Walter Allen (440166) (Wireless Operator Air)
Flight Sergeant Lester Maxwell Bailey (443477) (Navigator)
Flying Officer William Samuel Bell (417693) (Second Pilot)
Flight Sergeant Donald Douglas Benson (435604) (Air Gunner)
Warrant Officer Bernard Leslie Cox (412402) (Wireless Operator Air)
Sergeant Leonard Duncanson (59752) (Flight Engineer)
Flight Sergeant Ivan Nelson Luke Easton (439751) (Wireless Operator Air)
Flight Sergeant John Raymond Wilbur Herps (440858) (Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant John Austin Hollis (445226) (Air Gunner)
Warrant Officer Thomas Nathan Rust (408378) (Navigator)
Flight Lieutenant Francis Leonard Sismey (402764) (Pilot)

These loss of these 11 young men is the second highest ever loss of life in an Australian military aircraft accident in Western Australia, exceeded only by the crash of No. 24 Squadron Liberator A72-80 in the vicinity of Truscott Airfield on 23 March 1945.

References:

Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records
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, 166/36/576; A9845, 72

Bibliography:

Beasy, J and C. (John and Carol) Truscott: The Diary of Australia’s Secret Wartime Kimberley Airbase, Australian Milit ary History Publications, Loftus NSW, 1995
Nelmes, M.V. (Michael) Tocumwal to Tarakan: Australians and the Consolidated B-24 Liberator, Banner Books Belconnen ACT 2616, 1994
Wilson, S. (Stewart) Boston, Mitchell and Liberator in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications Weston Creek ACT 2611, 1992

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