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by Graham Campbell


I lived in Lae as a small boy in the 1950s. My father, Dave Campbell, was Chief Pilot with Mandated Airlines (MAL), and I was an airline brat who couldn't get enough of aeroplanes. During 1958, when Adastra came back to Lae with Hudson VH-AGG, I met the engineer, Bob Cozens. I had been given a model aircraft kit, but it was a bit too complicated for an 11 year old. Bob (an ardent aeromodeller) offered to put it together for me. My good mate Peter Ramsay and I spent many afternoons with Bob at the MAL mess, where the single members of the crew lived. We got to meet Allen Motteram, Pat Murphy and Gordon Murrell. We knew all of the crew as good blokes, who were never too busy to have a chat with a couple of eager small boys.

Peter and I (like all boys in the town) were really taken with the Hudson. It was a really cool aircraft: aggressive, noisy, and straight out of the war comics we all read. It was unavoidable that we would try to get a ride in it. Which we did, of course. It took a while, but Allen finally gave it the nod and picked a day. We were to be at the MAL mess at 7am on 8th June, 5 days before my 12th birthday.

We showed at the appointed time, only to learn that the aircraft had left an hour earlier than planned. Apparently the weather over the target area looked like it might not hold out, so they had launched early to make the best of it. We were told to go down to the Adastra tarmac when the Hudson was due to return, and Allen would see if he could take us on a short local flight. Sounded good enough to us!

Later on we were at the top of the big hill leading down to the airstrip, excited about the flight, when the Hudson rejoined the circuit. I was standing with my back to the airstrip, talking to Pete. His eyes went wide and I heard a strange muffled noise as he spun me about to face the seaward end of the strip. I immediately noticed an unusual large disturbance in the water just offshore, and the quick flash of a wingtip or rudder perhaps, as the Hudson slipped under. For a few seconds I did not know what it was, until my mate told me that the Hudson had crashed. Peter had been watching it all the time, and saw the whole event. We stood there and watched as a ski boat zoomed across from Voco Point and a body was pulled from the water.

Lae was very much an aviation town, and the Adastra crew was well known and popular. The news spread quickly and the town almost ground to a halt. Peter and I were fairly gung-ho and hardy kids, but were profoundly affected by the crash, and rarely spoke about it again.

Graham Campbell
Ningi, Qld
June 2005