3 Squadron LIFETIMES

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Vale Stan CURRAN
- Engineer - 

17 August 1921 - 10 July 2010

Stan Curran

 Jim Hall writes:

Stan was a member of our Association.  Some time ago, it came to my attention that Stan had passed away.  Seeking some information, I eventually found out that his wife, Daisy, had also passed away, just a short time after Stan.  In fact, she died just a few weeks later, on 07 August 2010.  The remaining family were not able to be contacted.  With the assistance of the National Archives and the Brisbane Courier Mail, I was able to piece together some of Stan’s life.

Stan was born at Burrawang NSW and joined the RAAF on 8 June 1942 and served on with 31 Squadron in Darwin, Noemfoor, Moratai and Tarakan during the war, as an Engine Fitter on Beaufighters.

Ground crew stand in front of a line-up of Beaufighter aircraft of No. 31 Squadron RAAF.

Stan was very active in the Boston and Beaufighter Association of Queensland and wrote a couple of articles for their newsletter, The Whisperer.  (This name aptly referring to the Beaufighter, which earned the name ‘Whispering Death’ from those who were on the receiving end of an attack from this legendary quiet aircraft.) 

After the war, he was posted to Bradfield Park, then Richmond, and in 1948 he found himself with 3 Squadron in Canberra which was, at the time, equipped with Mustangs and Austers. [See Stan's rollicking recollection of his 3SQN "Recruiting Hi-Jinks" in 1948.]

Leaving Canberra in 1949, he was posted to Schofields, Richmond, Laverton, Butterworth (where he was again with 3SQN for a time, on Sabres in 1963), Ubon, Williamtown and eventually HQSC, where he took his discharge, having risen to the rank of a Squadron Leader ENGO in 1975.

Sabre Pilot assisted by groundcrew member.  Butterworth Malaya. 
[AWM Copyright ART94548.  Drawing by Charles Bush.]

He eventually settled in Springwood in Brisbane, where he lived until 2010.  

Rest in Peace Stan.

Demonstrating his wry sense of humour, Stan wrote the following slapstick account of his experiences one day when a RAAF Dakota transport plane [A65-116] crashed near his airfield at Schofields NSW.  [11 May 1950.  Fortunately the crash caused no loss of life, but exposed many RAAF shortcomings in those "war surplus" days.]


Before I tell this story I must describe one of the characters.  Desmond John CRONLY, a General Hand, was very well respected.  No one knew his background or anything of his private life.  He had a scar on the back of his head that appeared to have been caused by a serious injury.  He was well mannered and gave the impression that he had been well educated, however, at times he would seem to be off the planet.  He was employed on various odd jobs and always worked cheerfully.

  One day just before lunchtime the crash alarm sounded.  When this happens on an Air Force base, everyone is galvanized into action.  The Duty Pilot [in the control tower] activates the alarm and directs the crash tender to the site of the crash.  On this occasion a Dakota had crashed at Doonside, about five miles away.  The crash tender is continuously manned while flying is in progress.  Within seconds it was on its way.

A war-surplus RAAF Crash Tender from the 1940s.  Note the extinguishers at the ready.

There is usually a back-up crash tender, unmanned, but near the hangars.  The nearest airmen to this will promptly man it and follow the first tender.  I was handy and jumped on the back-up tender.  The roads were unsealed.  There had been a lot of rain and there were potholes everywhere.  We had gone about three miles and caught up with the first tender which had broken down.  Some of the crew jumped on our tender and off we went.

About half a mile further on our back-up tender broke down. A jeep with an Officer and a Driver came along.  Someone yelled, “Grab the fire extinguishers and pile on the jeep”.  We were all over it. I was on the bonnet.  We had left the road and were going through a lightly-timbered paddock in sight of the crash, about two hundred yards away, when the jeep ran into a tree, I shot off the bonnet.

There was a sound of tearing and I had a stinging feeling in my right buttock.  (I had torn my overalls and left a piece of my behind!) 

I hit the ground running, together with the rest of the jeep crew.  When we arrived at the crash site the aircraft was a burnt-out skeleton.  The crew were unhurt.  They could do nothing but stand by and watch it burn.

A press photograph from the Sydney Sun.

The crew consisted of a Pilot, Navigator and an Airframe Fitter.

Historical record from Blacktown City Council.

There were a few grass fires, so we put them out by beating them with green branches.  There were four of us in the gang where I was working.  One was Desmond John.  Another person appeared and he was taking photographs and identified himself as a newspaper reporter.  He asked us about the crash but we told him we were not allowed to say anything.

We continued with our work. Desmond John spoke up.  He commented on the coolness of the pilot and his presence of mind.  We asked him what he meant, he said he was on the first crash tender and heard the pilot call the tower.  He told the Duty Pilot [in the control tower] that they were about to crash and he asked the Duty Pilot to order three late lunches for them!

We realized that the reporter was still within earshot and Desmond John was saying this for his benefit.  Sure enough, the headline next day was “COOL PILOT ABOUT TO CRASH ORDERS LATE LUNCHES.” 

You must be wondering what caused the crash.  I can’t be sure of this.   I didn’t see the crash critique but the word was that the aircraft simply had not been refuelled, and just ran out of fuel.

In reporting the crash, the Pilot tried to get away with: "Attempting asymmetric overshoot, aircraft failed to climb away on one engine..."
Transcript Page 63.
- However the official inquiry also discovered that he had neglected to raise his undercarriage and flaps -and had un-feathered the propeller on his non-functioning engine - all of which had contributed fatal aerodynamic drag on the Dakota.

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