Australian Embassy
The Philippines

SP150423: Address at the RAAF Catalina A24-64 Plaque Dedication in Bataan

Ambassador Bill Tweddell’s Address
RAAF Catalina A24-64 Dedication
Maritime Academy of the Philippines and the Pacific
Bataan, 23 April 2015

Honourable Eduardo Batac, Undersecretary for Civil, Veterans and Reserve Affairs, Department of National Defense

Vice Admiral Eduardo Santos AFP (ret), President, Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific

Rear Admiral Aurelio Rabusa, Jr, AFP, Deputy Chief of Staff for Reservist and Retirees Affairs, J9

Major General Raul Caballes (ret), Deputy Administrator, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO)

Brigadier General Edgar De Vera AFP, Deputy Commander, 1st Air Division

Bishop Arthur Jones

Members of 92 Wing Royal Australian Air Force

Members of the Angeles City Returned Services League

Other distinguished guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great honour to welcome and recognise Mrs Wendy Duke and her sons, Michael and Peter, the daughter and grandchildren of Sergeant James Robert Robinson, crew member of Catalina A24-64.

A special commendation, too, to a former valued colleague in the Australian Embassy, Paul Baker, for the central role he played in getting us to this point, as well as our Defence Attaché, Colonel Bruce Murray, and his team.

It is a real pleasure to stand before you today to formally recognise the deeds of nine exceptionally brave Royal Australian Air Force personnel for their contribution to the liberation of the Philippines just over 70 years ago.

Last year, on the eve of the anniversary of the Leyte Landings, I had the great privilege to attend a dedication ceremony for a memorial in Palo, Leyte to recognise the contribution made by all Australian Defence personnel in the liberation of the Philippines.

Over 4,000 servicemen fought, 92 were killed and many hundreds more were wounded. They made a significant contribution to victory here and in the Pacific.

The crew of a 43 Squadron Black Cat Catalina A24-64, known as “The Dabster”, flew their final mission together on 14 December 1944, the night before Australian and US forces were to land at San Jose on the island of Mindoro.

The term “Dabster” is Australian slang for an expert or “the best”.

The Catalina A24-64 was handed over to Flying Officer I. O. Righetti's crew who had arrived at the squadron in the first week of October 1941. By the end of month, Righetti's crew had completed their first anti-submarine patrols and bombing missions to Ambon (Indonesia) and Kavieng (Papua New Guinea). Although she was used intermittently by other crews on patrols and bombing missions, Righetti's crew remained the regular crew and it was Righetti who named her “The Dabster” because of her special talents. The name was subsequently painted on her nose.

Twenty-four Catalinas were required to lay mines at a very low altitude to prevent the Japanese leaving Manila Bay and interfering with the Mindoro landing. “The Dabster” was number six in a sortie of 15 aircraft that took off from Jinamoc.

Tragically, “the Dabster” never returned to Jinamoc on completion of the mission. It most likely came down somewhere over Manila Bay not far from here.

The crew would not have known about the Japanese anti-aircraft gun emplacement located here at Barangay Alas-asin and it is highly likely that the aircraft was shot down from this location.

The nine crew members had flown a number of missions together before. They were:
Flight Lieutenant Herbert Cunningham Roberts of Perth, Western Australia
Flight Lieutenant Frank William Silvester of Collaroy, New South Wales
Flight Lieutenant James Henry Cox of Warren, New South Wales – the hometown, in fact, of Bishop Arthur Jones
Flying Officer Robert Carlisle Barbour of Coburg, Victoria
Flying Officer Raymond Harold Bradstreet of South Yarra, Victoria
Sergeant John Charles Macdonald of Manly, New South Wales
Flight Sergeant David John Albert of Auburn, New South Wales
Sergeant James Robert Robinson of Watson's Bay, New South Wales
Sergeant Harold Stanley Goodchild of Mukinbudin, Western Australia

They were the first of 56 Australians killed over the next 23 days during the Mindoro and Lingayen Gulf landing phase of the Liberation of the Philippines that continued until 5 July 1945.

To this day, neither the aircraft wreckage nor the nine crew members of the Dabster have been located. Their bodies are very likely lying very close to this location, at the site where their aircraft plunged into the ocean just off Alas-asin Point.

Today, the 23rd of April 2015, the 70th year since the end of World War II and in the ANZAC centenary year, here on the Bataan Peninsula and very near to where it is believed the aircraft was shot down, this memorial is dedicated to recognising and commemorating the valiant crew of Catalina A24-64 “The Dabster.” We can now at last honour their sacrifice.

I am grateful to the Office of Veterans Affairs, the Department of National Defense, and Admiral Eduardo Santos, President of the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific, for allowing the memorial to be built in this splendid park.

To Wendy, Michael and Peter Duke: thank you for making the long journey to the Philippines and dignifying this most auspicious occasion. I sincerely hope that this memorial provides you with a sense of closure and confirms to you that the deeds of your father and grandfather, and the crew of Catalina A24-64, “The Dabster”, are remembered.

Lest We Forget.