Engine find a grim reminder of tragedy
"WHEN we give our husbands and sons, we give of our best and everything we hold dear to us."
So wrote Maude Wood, mother of Leading Aircraftman Frederick Albert Charles Wood, to the Secretary of the Department of Air in 1942 after it was reported her son went missing when a Hudson aircraft was reported to have crashed off the coast near Byron Bay.
"I certainly want more news of my son ... a clearer statement as to why he was on a Hudson plane and what has since happened," Mrs Wood continued in her letter.
A piece of the puzzle to the mystery of the disappearance of Frederick Wood may have been recently uncovered thanks to the discovery of an aeroplane engine by two Ballina fishermen.
The barnacle-encrusted engine, now in the care of the Evans Head Living Museum, may tell the story of the final moments of LAC Wood and his nine other travelling companions on that fateful trip on July 7, 1942.
An investigation by a Court of Inquiry was held. On the morning of July 6, 1942, the Hudson A16-198 took off from Horn Island en route to Amberley for a 180-hour inspection.
It refuelled at Gerbutt Aerodrome and took off for the second leg of its journey.
After giving an estimated time of arrival to be 8.15am, the plane, some two hours later, requested a bearing.
Shortly after another message was received from the plane "out of gas, heading east to land on water'.
Some time after the last message, police from Byron Bay were reporting a plane having crashed just off Tallow Beach and civilians having witnessed "an aircraft descended into the water at Tallow Beach ... and that an explosion was heard."
Despite a search by Evans Head aircraft, no sign of the plane was found, although wreckage and some clothing belonging to the crew washed up on the beach.
The bodies of the men were never recovered.