UNUSUAL CATCH: Ballina trawlermen Brendan Puglisi (left) and Shaun Cameron with what is believed to be a WWII vintage aircraft engine they pulled up from the ocean floor last Thursday night. Photo Graham Broadhead / Ballina Shire Advocate
UNUSUAL CATCH: Ballina trawlermen Brendan Puglisi (left) and Shaun Cameron with what is believed to be a WWII vintage aircraft engine they pulled up from the ocean floor last Thursday night. Photo Graham Broadhead / Ballina Shire Advocate Graham Broadhead

War history hauled in from local waters

BALLINA trawlerman Brendan Puglisi has hauled from the deep a piece of wartime history.

The fisherman was trawling for prawns off the coast of Broken Head at 9.30pm last Thursday night when he and deckhand Shaun Cameron felt the 60-foot wooden vessel Markane II pull to starboard.

Now, Mr Puglisi said it's not unusual for trawler nets to catch on things in the deep.

But when the vessel kept pulling to starboard after about 10 minutes, it was decided to pull the net in to find out what they had caught.

And to their surprise, they pulled up a nine-cylinder radial, three-blade propeller aircraft engine, believed to be part of a RAAF Lockheed Hudson bomber which crashed into the sea in 1942.

"The big thing for us was to keep it (the engine) from hitting the side of the boat," Mr Puglisi said.

Weighing an estimated 400-500kg, the heavily encrusted metal engine could have damaged the hull of the trawler, which was four nautical miles out to sea at the time.

Mr Puglisi said the unusual catch destroyed the net, valued at $3500.

But it wasn't the net which caught the engine - the net's chain snagged on one of the jagged propeller blades.

Mr Puglisi said if the chain had caught on the other blades which didn't have jagged edges, it probably would have just slipped off.

While he lamented that he lost a night of fishing for this catch, he could see the historic value in his find.

And he said at least the engine is now out of the water, so other nets won't get caught on it.

He said he was surprised the engine hadn't been snagged before.

"People have been trawling this area for 40 years," he said.

Mr Puglisi rang the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum for advice on what to do with their historic find, and were put on to Richard Gates from the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome.

 

IN LINE: RAAF Lockheed Hudson bombers.
IN LINE: RAAF Lockheed Hudson bombers. Australian War Memorial

 

Engine could be from war plane crash that killed 10

THE PLANE engine found in a trawler net off Tallow Beach is almost certainly that of a Royal Australian Air Force plane which crashed in 1942, killing all 10 servicemen on board.

The engine is in the care of the Evans Head Living Museum, but may be requisitioned by the RAAF for further anaylsis.

Museum president Dr Richard Gates said he was confident it was from the RAAF Lockheed Hudson A16-198, which crashed in waters off Tallow Beach on July 6, 1942, but was reluctant to make a definite call. Dr Gates said given the sensitive nature of the situation, the wreck's exact GPS location would not be made public.

"This is a really sensitive issue - we're talking about the lives of 10 servicemen; so we need to be sure that this is the aircraft, and that the family members are notified," Dr Gates said.

Ballina RSL Sub-Branch president and former RAAF flight engineer Bill Moore said he would "bet his house" the engine was from the same aircraft.

He inspected the engine as it was loaded on to a truck to be taken to the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome.

While the approximate crash area was identified in the 1990s, thanks to the late RAAF veteran Bill Shrubb, its exact location has been a mystery.

However, the wreckage is likely to be scattered over a large area due to the force of the impact and the passage of more than 70 years.



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