Allan Jackson - May 2008
e-mail correspondence I've had with my informant Graham Howgego
has cast some light on the sad sequel to the WWII loss of
Catalina H which crashed on take-off at Lake St Lucia on 25
June 1943. Graham's uncle Richard Thomas Cork was killed in
the crash along with seven other members of the crew. The
craft was to have escorted a convoy of ships to protect it
from submarine attack but it had hardly risen to fifty feet
in the air before there was a flash of light and a muffled
Richard Thomas Cork and, above, a copy of his attestation
on joining the RAF.
images to view enlargements.
courtesy G Howgego.
Officer Keeble, who was in a launch at the end of the flarepath
marking the take-off path, reported that he then saw what
appeared to be a large expanse of water on fire. He signalled
the shore and headed in the direction of the flames to see
if he could rescue any surviviors. They managed to rescue
the badly injured Sgt Benjamin 'Nobby' Lee but there was no
trace of the other crew members.
were made by a diving team from HMS Revenge, under Lt MacLachlan,
to recover the depth charges on the aircraft and then the
bodies of the crew. The diving conditions were very difficult
and the salvage attempt was abandoned but the bodies were
recovered between 2 and 9 July, 1943. The dead crew consisted
of Flight Officer FNC White, Flight Sgt. THT Lane, Sgt. AF
Soady and Sgt. RF Jenkins, who were Australians, and Sgts,
AJ Mills, RT Cork, TJ Burrington and RP Kay, who were from
have just discovered your website concerning Military Flying
Boats in Durban. With reference to the crash of Catalina
'H' on the 25th June 1943. One of the eight crewmen who
died was my uncle Sergeant R T Cork (RAF).
South African website I have visited have suggested that
Catalina H is still visible at low tide in the lake but
your website indicates that this could in fact be Catalina
E of 259 Sqn which crashed on the 7th June. Anyway, if you
have any further info on Catalina H, I would be grateful
to receive it.
Graham's inquiry to Jeff Gaisford who has studied the Catalinas
at St Lucia extensively. He wrote:
Jackson of FAD kindly
forwarded your email about Sgt Cork to me. I have made a
study of the St Lucia Catalina operations involving 262
Sqn RAF so do know a bit about it, also having lived and
worked in the area for many years. As you correctly note,
Catalina E belonged to 259 Sqn and this is the one that
has been occasionally visible when the level of Lake St
Lucia drops sufficiently.
remains of Catalina E.
Pics courtesy Jeff Gaisford - click to view enlargements
crashed on 7 June 1943 and I have photographed the wreck
extensively. Catalina H, on the other hand, crashed into
a deep section of the lake and no one to this day knows
quite where it lies. Naval divers worked on it for a while
at the time but complained of the murky, cold conditions
and eventually the wreck was blasted to free the bodies
of the crew.
wrote an article on the St Lucia
Cats which is on Allan's website and which does give
fairly accurate records of the events - especially the dates
- 25 June 1943 is the date of the crash of H and that coincides
with the date of the death of your relative as reflected
on the photo. Most of the victims of both crashes were buried
in the Stellawood cemetery in Durban.
thanks for the info and pictures. Would it be possible for
you to indicate on a map the route of Catalina H's last
flight from the lake?
you find yourself a map of lake St Lucia its quite easy
to work out, however. The Lake is divided quite neatly into
various natural basins. The southernmost one which we refer
to as the "South Lake" has a large bulge on the
eastern side that is known as Catalina Bay. At the southern
end of Catalina Bay lies Mitchell Island.
The wreck of "E" lies slightly north-east of the
southern end of this island. On the western shore of Catalina
Bay lies one of our camps called Charter's Creek and north-east
of Charter's are the Vincent Islands. The flarepath used
by the Catalinas ran from Mitchell Island diagonally across
the "south lake" to the south of the vincent Islands.
to eyewitnesses "H" took off towards the western
shore, climbed steeply, stalled, nosedived into the lake
and exploded. we are not sure if the Cat fell off on one
wing as this would help pinpoint the location of the wreck
but it is commonly accepted that it crashed into a deep
hole between the Vincent Islands and the western shore.
of my now-retired colleagues who spent a great deal of his
career on the Lake recalls the propeller of his boat hitting
something that left a bright smear on the prop. It is possible
that in "taking-off" in his boat, the stern dug
deeply into the water and caused the prop to hit whatever
it was underwater. That is the nearest we have ever come
to pinpointing the site of "H".
then wrote that he had found an album amongst his mother's
things containing pictures from his uncle's burial in Stellawood
Cemetary on 12 July 1943. He sent me scans of the pages by
e-mail. The occasion also seems to have included the burials
of FO White, Sgt. Soady, and Sgt. Burrington. I'm not sure
what happened to the rest of the crew. 15 MAY 2010 - FOUND 2 OF THEM, SEE BELOW.
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