Dramatic tale retold

By Jamie Lowe

Yesterday marked a significant day in the history of Deniliquin, with the 70-year anniversary of the ANA aeroplane Kurana crash at Mt Macedon.

Six of the passengers were Deniliquin and district residents — Mr AA (Bill) Armstrong, 42, Mary McLaurin, 44, and her son Robert, 16, John (Jack) Huntly, 26, Frank Fitzmaurice 20, and Lindsay Woods 23.

The plane also had three other passengers who were Deni-bound with Mr Sidney Reid, Mrs Alma Reid and John Mather all travelling to visit Deniliquin via the Kurana flight.

On Monday, November 8, 1948 the ANA service to Sydney via Riverina towns left Essendon airport at 7.25am.

Only 15 minutes after leaving Essendon, the plane crashed into the side of Mount Macedon.

The pilot was killed on impact and the co-pilot died later in hospital but all the passengers and the hostess survived with the odd broken bone, abrasions and minor facial injuries.

The cause of the crash remained a mystery, and even though a light mist shrouded the summit of Mount Macedon, the plane was eight miles off its plotted course which would have taken it well away from and above the crash site.

On November 9, 1948 the Pastoral Times reported on the incident, with the snippets from the crash reading as follows:


Captain H. Warlow-Davies. 27, pilot, Central Avenue, Mossman (NSW), married.

First Officer J. B. Keyes, 38, married, of 84 Roscoe Street, Bondi (NSW).

Both pilots were married and each had one daughter. First Officer Keyes’ is three years old, and Captain Warlow-Davies’ three weeks. Their families live in Sydney.

On October 28 (1948), Captain Warlow-Davies was a witness at the Lutana inquiry and gave important evidence of having been misdirected by the Kempsey radio range while he was flying from Brisbane on September 15.


Mrs. R. R. McLaurin, Pine Grove, Deniliquin, abrasions to forehead.

Mrs. A Reid, South Terrace, Adelaide, injured elbow.

Lindsay Woods, Cressy Street, Deniliquin, injured hand.

A. A. Armstrong, Woodbury, Deniliquin, injured eyes, facial abrasions.

Robert McLaurin, Pine Grove, Deniliquin, abrasions to leg.

John Huntly, Cressy Street, Deniliquin, abrasions to forehead.

Sidney Reid, South Terrace Adelaide, shock.

John Mather, Moorabin, abrasions.

Mr and Mrs Reid are the parents of Mr Burns K. Reid, of Morocco West, and are members of the firm of Kidman, Reid and Company, owners of the property. Mr Mather is a traveller for a firm of Melbourne manufacturing chemists and frequently visits Deniliquin.


Civil Aviation Department officials said:

The Kurana was seven miles off its route and it had been instructed to fly at 3000 feet (almost the exact height of the spot where it crashed).

At Essendon control station no word had been received from the Kurana that it was in trouble. A police telephone call informed them that the Kurana was down.

The aircraft crashed in thick pine forest, shrouded in mist. It sheared off the tops of trees for almost 100 yards before the thick stem of an 80ft pine struck between the engine nacelle and the cockpit.

The impact uprooted the pine tree. The airliner, jammed on the tree-top, fell with it, swinging round but remaining upright, into a fire-break.

As the plane crashed on top of the pine its back broke. Passengers’ seats buckled with the impact.

Later an ANA spokesman said the plane was trying to make a forced landing when it crashed.


Reports suggest that as the plane was about to crash into the mountainside the pilot recognised the danger, cut out the engines, pulled the nose of the machine into the air and attempted a ‘‘belly’’ landing against the pine trees.


The Kurana uprooted a 90 foot pine and turned almost a complete circle in the tree tops before crashing.

Two minutes later four petrol tanks exploded in rapid succession, but crew and passengers were then clear of the wreckage, which was destroyed by fire.

The plane came down within 150 yards of several houses — nearest of which was that of Mr. G. R. Nicholas.

Scene of the crash was about 300 feet below the summit, within 100 yards of the Cross of Sacrifice.

The 20 survivors probably owe their extraordinary escapes from death to the natural suppleness of the tall pine, which took the worst of the initial shock.

The last passengers were still getting out when the plane burst into flames.

Rob McLaurin, with two other male passengers, tore away wreckage in a frenzied effort to save the pilots.

They pulled them clear, but Captain Warlow-Davies had passed away.

After the air hostess (Miss E. C Fry) had counted passengers to make sure none remained in the plane Mr Armstrong went off to find a telephone.

Among the first at the scene of the crash was Dr. A. E. Lincoln, of Woodend. He said that Miss Fry had already given splendid first aid by the time he arrived, 25 minutes after being called from his bed.

‘‘The passengers told me they owed their lives to her,’’ he said.

‘‘I am convinced that is true — she got them out just before the plane burst into flames.’’

Officials of the Australian National Airways, led by general manager Mr. H. F. Walsh were on the scene soon after the crash.

An airline bus raced from Melbourne and took 16 of the passengers and the hostess to Melbourne.

M A. A. Armstrong was one of the principal witnesses at the inquiry which commenced at Kyneton at 11am today (Tuesday, November 8, 1948).


Despite the fateful crash some passengers did not lose their sense of humour.

Mr A. A. Armstrong was asked by a fellow passenger how he fared.

‘‘Can’t you see I’ve got a black eye,’’ Mr Armstrong replied.

‘‘That’s nothing,’’ retorted his companion.

‘‘I’ve got worse in a pub.’’