Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A wartime plane crash or crash landing on Mount Ainslie

UPDATE: Please note this is not the 1940 Canberra Air Disaster near Fairbairn.

UPDATE: 8/6/13 New post. The Mystery is solved.

I research several old tales and rumours from Canberra's past, Its a hobby. Recently one old tale was raised by a friend, Dave Wheeler and it is even more interesting when an old report is backed by some physical evidence. We are both interested in discovering the circumstances...

The following is written by Dave Wheeler who can be contacted via his blog http://acanberraboy.blogspot.com.au/

My maternal uncle, the late Bill Guard the 3rd, was born in September of 1930 at Nurse Johnston’s Private Hospital in Queanbeyan. If a child could survive The Depression 1930 was a good time to be born, as it meant being too young to go to WW2 but old enough to enjoy the post war boom years where we had virtually 100% employment, affordable housing and little or no congestion.

Uncle Bill was the son of a sign writer, the late Bill Guard the 2nd, who was a well-known identity in the Canberra-Queanbeyan region.  The Guard family moved to Canberra to live in a new govie house at 6 O’Connell Street, Ainslie in 1939.

I did not meet Uncle Bill until he was in his thirties and I knew him only as a friendly, good-natured and quiet sort of a bloke who was much loved by his kids and in his later years his grandkids. I was aware however, that as a lad in Canberra he had not been an angel. He continually wagged school when he attended Canberra High, and as a 14 year old he wanted to fight one of the teachers he did not like, confronting him after school, saying to him, “Come on; just you and me!” The teacher would not oblige him.

Uncle Bill stayed in Canberra until the end of the war and then moved to Sydney to do a fitting and turning apprenticeship. Apparently he did some boxing in Sydney and excelled as a young adult in the rugby codes, playing at a representative level. He eventually joined the merchant navy and went to sea as a maritime engineer.

I am writing about my uncle because sometime between 1939 and 1945 he and his cobbers saw on Mt Ainslie the aftermath of a plane crash or crash-landing. The boys ran to the scene as quickly as they could but were turned back on arrival, as the plane had been cordoned off and officials and emergency personnel were going over it.

Bill and his mates hid behind some nearby bushes to watch the proceedings, but they never found out if the pilot and/or passengers had been killed, injured or walked away unscathed. It was wartime and there may have been some secrecy involved, as it may have been an RAAF plane.

When the officials left the scene as night began to fall the boys crawled through the cordon and took “souvenirs” from the plane. It must have been entirely premeditated, as Uncle Bill had a screwdriver with him, and when he saw a nice brass engine plate he unscrewed it and kept it for many years before he passed it on to me.

I wish I’d taken in more information about the plane crash before my uncle died, which was only a few years ago. Unfortunately his accomplices have also “fallen off the perch.” I would like to know more details about the crash or crash-landing and have searched online without success for articles in “The Canberra Times.” It seems at this stage all knowledge of the event has been lost in the mists of time, which may have been a result of it being deliberately kept quiet by the authorities.

I wrote to England on the matter trying to find out what sort of plane the engine plate came from, and was told that they did not have any records which could assist, although they did say it was not from a Gypsy Moth.

If any readers have any knowledge of the event they may be willing to share it with us.

Update 1/6/13 The mystery is solved.



  1. I’ve certainly heard more glowing reflections on my Father’s character and have seen better photos of him. I believe no disrespect was intended by the author (cousin David), never-the-less, as Bill’s daughter I feel the need to offer another perspective.
    People close to Bill knew him to be a humble, decent and fair minded person with a good moral compass and a great sense of humour. His not-so-angelic side was displayed with obstinate rebellion against behaviour he didn’t respect. From recounted stories about his school years, it was apparent Bill felt a couple of Teachers with overly authoritarian natures were bullies who chose to pick on young boys instead of joining honourable servicemen to defend their country at war. Bill’s Father was a brave veteran of WWI who taught his son to value the sacrifices being made by their countrymen during WWII and to follow the war progress with keen interest. I know Bill and two of his mates kept scrap books, each addressing their particular interests related to the navy, the army or air force. Bill was mostly interested in the navy and, like many of his mates; he viewed his youth as a barrier to joining up.
    Bill spoke of riding towards school on his bike with a mate who went to a nearby Catholic school, explaining as they neared the mate’s school, he acted as ‘lookout’ and if a certain Nun was on duty in the playground (who had apparently beaten his mate badly on several occasions), he agreed to skip school and go fishing with his mate instead. Despite Bill’s proficient fishing skills, he achieved decent results at school and through his tertiary studies.
    Bill was always useful with a screw driver and I vaguely recall him telling the plane crash/engine plate story to the family. I’d never known or heard of my Father stealing anything before. He and his friends obviously seized this rare opportunity to get up as close and personal to the war as twelve year old boys were able.
    I hope my comments have succeeded to paint another positive, yet balanced perspective to the memory of Bill Guard – as he was a man that earned much respect and affection from the people who crossed his path. I feared this story, interesting as it is, shone a less-than-flattering light on a man’s nature that was primarily decent.

    Linda Guard.

  2. There was definitely no disrespect to your dad meant by my article Linda and I don’t believe I showed him in anything but a positive light. I always admired his whole attitude towards school and authority because it was similar to mine. I admired in particular how he wanted to fight a certain teacher after school, as I also had to suffer the very same teacher 20 or so years later. Your dad and I always brought him up in conversation as we shared a mutual dislike for him. The teacher’s name was Noel Lachlan.
    I also could not blame Uncle Bill for not wanting to be at school, because in those days schools were brutal institutions which were usually run by idiots, and not hanging around and suffering unnecessarily showed initiative on his part as far as I’m concerned.
    I suppose it depends on your outlook in life. If you think like me certain behaviour, such as your dad’s, can be seen as heroic, but if you don’t think like me it can be seen as not too complimentary. You can’t please everyone.
    To analogise, if I was Johnny Howard I would feel so ashamed of what I believe was appalling behaviour on his part I would feel like crawling under a rock. But, he wears it with pride because he really believes that implementing Workchoices was a grand and moral action on his part and those who admire him for it would feel no reluctance in writing about it. That’s life. When it comes to morality and what one sees as positive and negative in the character of others it is not something which can be measured like physical strength. It is purely subjective.
    In regard to Uncle Bill’s action of removing the engine plate, he would have been able to see the plane was a write-off, and combined with the fact he was only 12 at the time I can’t see how anyone could think badly of him for what he did.
    On the contrary, even the historians had no idea about the plane crash and had it not been for the engine plate nobody would have taken the story about the accident seriously. Thanks to Uncle Bill it has now been recorded as part of Canberra’s history and I am sure most Canberrans see him as a hero for what he did.
    In regard to Uncle Bill’s photo, I thought it was a good one, but again, you can’t please everyone.

  3. The above comment was made by Dave Wheeler.


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