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Old 6th Feb 2018, 17:18
  #105 (permalink)  
David Billings
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Australia
Age: 79
Posts: 198
Engine seen and the Airframe

I joined the Project in early 1994 after reading about a "possibility" that Earhart's Electra was on East New Britain. I contacted the lead Vet, Don Angwin. From speaking to him I gathered that the Patrol of 20 had seen "an engine". There were four Vets still breathing, who were members of the patrol. They had had the occasional reunion over the years and the subject of the "engine" had always been raised and the question was always "whose was it ?"

Where there is an engine 'loose' on the ground, the airframe will not be far away, that stands to reason.

Don had been sent the WWII Map by the former Company Clerk in late 1993 and had looked at it and then put it away with his papers. When I contacted him he searched for something to show me and pulled out the map intending to have it copied to send to me. He undid the masking tape and unfolded the edges and surprise! The writing came into view and he faxed a reduced copy of the map to me which is when my hair stood on end. There are lots of "ifs" in this life and the very fact that the map was to be burnt in Rabaul along with other discarded stuff, raises a whole bunch of "ifs".

The Patrol Leader, Lieutenant Ken Backhouse had never been to the unit reunions. That is not unusual. Men who have been through war want to forget it. Ken was not pure "Infantry". He had been serving in Australia in a Searchlight Unit as a Sergeant and had been commissioned as a Lieutenant and posted to the 11th Battalion AIF as a Company Section Leader. Not being pure "Infantry" he wasn't all together looked on as being an "Infantry" man and there was some friction.

In August '94, I went to Perth on business and met up with three of the Vets, Don, Roy and Ken. The fourth surviving Vet, Keith, lived on the East Coast and I went to see him in 1995. I went to lunch with the three Vets at the Casino in Perth. It was only the second or third time that Don and Roy had seen Ken since the war. Ken had just recovered from a by-pass operation and was not particularly perky. We started discussing the event and naturally raised the engine in discussion. It soon became apparent that Roy had not seen the engine, he had been on rearguard and had remained behind with his section and later walked through the site without seeing a thing. Then, Ken quietly said, "The rest of it is there as well, yes, the body of it is there, the aircraft".

The other two, Don and Roy were flabbergasted, they had not heard that before. Ken had left Keith at the engine and had walked on for about 30 yards to a vine and tree debris covered mound and had seen the airframe. When I saw Keith in 1995 he said that Ken had walked off for few minutes and then had come back to the engine and then had ordered the Patrol to move on, leaving the rearguard to sit it out for a time and then catch up with the Patrol. As the website relates, Ken was in a bit of trouble when they got back and was sent out on another patrol immediately. We do think that it was Keith who wrote the patrol report but he could not remember who actually wrote it.

Ken later described what he had seen of the airframe which is as written in the website. Keith was the person who looked over the engine and who removed the small metal tag from the engine mount, which had the "string of letters and numbers on it."

David Billings

Last edited by David Billings; 25th Feb 2018 at 12:37.
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