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March 20th every year - 'Wirraway-Challenge' Day at Kununurra Museum

 All Digital Videos are embedded on this page (below) OR go straight to the Kununurra Museum - YouTube Channel (Information - below ;^) or to the Wirraway-Challenge Videos (Listed - below ;^).

  It was today (March 20th) in 2005 that we got Lew Dwyer over from his home at Taylor's Beach in Queensland, to open the Wirraway-Challenge Display at the Kununurra Museum. It was on the same date in 1942, just weeks after Darwin was bombed, that Pilots, Lew Dwyer and Warwick Carmody on a mission to salvage parts from a Wirraway that had clipped a tree on take-off at Pago - Drysdale River Mission. [1 - See footnote at end]

 On that day Carmody and Dwyer of RAAF 12 Squadron, left their base at Batchelor, NT (code-named 'Spinster' on a WWII Secret NT map), in RAAF Wirraway A20-62 (the 60th Australian built Wirraway) on a flight-path to Wyndham, where they were to re-fuel.

Wirraway means Challenge

 They were out over the Timor sea, in the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, when their engine suddenly lost power and oil spread out over the windscreen, which Lew found was hot on his face, when he opened the canopy to clean the windscreen. Carmody was able to take control with the twinned rear training controls of the Wirraway, while Lew cleared the oil from his face, having already headed the aircraft to port, south, towards Australia! It was still around 20 km to land, but with their altitude, the stricken plane managed the distance to the coastline. They glided in over one of the widest stretches of saltmarsh, where it is about 40 km from sea to bush, with a dead flat saltmarsh between.

1942-03-20_Force-landed_RAAF_12_Squadron_Wirraway_A20-62_WA-NT_border_coastal_saltmarsh_KHS Archive No. KHS-2005-8-A-L-P-H-WC1-D_019

 The Wirraway managed to glide in for about another 15km from the coastline, with the engine still turning, just 'wind-milling', as Lew describes it but having no power, then a wheels-up forced landing, skidding in on the wet saltmarsh, with a slight curve to the right after the propeller contacted the marsh at the end of the forced-landing. The propellor marks are visible in the image to right, which shows Pilot Sergeant Lew Dwyer of RAAF 12 Squadron, standing on the wing of force-landed Wirraway, A 20-62 - Cleanskin bore would be on the right hand horizon twenty kilometres away (KHS Archive No. KHS-2005-8-A-L-P-H-WC1-D_019). At this point, they were just 5km inside WA from the WA-NT border and still out in the middle of the widest stretch of East Kimberley saltmarsh.

The landing was as 'smooth as you like,' as Lew described it, but had they been alone on that flight, they would have almost certainly perished out in this rugged and remote part of the East Kimberley, however their Squadron Leader, Brian 'Blackjack' Walker, was flying an Army Major (Intelligence) to Broome and had witnessed the forced landing of Wirraway A20-62, saw all were OK then flew on into Wyndham, which had suffered it's first air-raid in prior weeks. Here with assistance from Carlton Manager, Percy Pretlove, they contacted Carlton Hill Station by pedal radio, where Percy's brother Charlie was, however Charlie was the Manager of Legune station, next-door to Ningbing and Carlton first over the border from the NT coast, between the Keep and Victoria River mouths. Percy told Charlie to tell the Aboriginal Stockman to go out where one of them had broken his leg years before, so they knew to go out to Cleanskin Bore. Charlie and four Aboriginal stockmen, Carlton Head Stockman, Waddi Boyoi, Joe (Waddi's brother), Grant Ngabidj and George Carlton, got horses, pack-horses and mules together and headed out to search for the airmen. Descendants of these men came to the 2004 Opening of the Wirraway-Challenge Display. The forced-landing may well have been a blessing in disguise, as had Wirraway A20-62 continued on their original mission to Drysdale, they may have come across the enemy, as March 20th was the day the Japanese attacked Broome and Derby.

The passages above were written on the day, March 20th, 2016 then added here. [AB 21 III 2016]

You can see the full story in eight parts to hear Lew tell his full story on the Kununurra Museum - YouTube Channel or go straight to the Wirraway-Challenge Videos (Listing).

Kununurra Museum - YouTube Channel

KHS Wirraway-Challenge Information

This Digital Video (DV) set in 8 parts, was originally created in 2005 as a DVD for the Kununurra Museum - "Wirraway-Challenge" Display. Wirraway means Challenge. It is also now 10 years since the opening of the display on March 20th 2005 by Wirraway A20-62 pilots (in March 1942), Lew Dwyer (in person) and Warwick Carmody (was present by phone). The forced-landing site was first located and filmed, then salvaged by Andrew, Mario and Marieke in September and October 2004 and then to March 20th 2005 creating these DVs and the "Wirraway-Challenge" display for the Kununurra Museum. Many parts which were salvaged in September and October 2004 are now on permanent display at the Kununurra Museum. The pilot of the Wirraway, Lew Dwyer phoned me a few weeks ago, and has regularly since 2004, Lew turned 94 a few weeks ago in October 2015. Andrew Barker (President) for Kununurra Historical Society - November 6th 2015.

The YouTube Videos were put online just before Lex Cameron 'Lew' Dwyer passed away, Lew turned 94 in October 2015 and passed away in November 2015. The digital videos were only recently put online as mentioned, however I created all of these for the display DVD in 2005 and had given Lew a copy then, so he did get to share this with family and friends for many years. [AB 20 III 2016] 

Wirraway-Challenge Videos

Part 1 of 8 - Finding the A20-62 Forced Landing Site - 9 min. 41 sec.

Wirraway-Challenge - Part 1 of 8 [Goes to Kununurra Museum YouTube Channel]

Part 2 of 8 - CAC Wirraway Factory - Fisherman's Bend Slideshow - 9 min. 55 sec.

Wirraway-Challenge - Part 2 of 8 [Goes to Kununurra Museum YouTube Channel]

Part 3 of 8 - "Australia has Wings" (1939 Wirraway film) - 10 min.

Wirraway-Challenge - Part 3 of 8 [Goes to Kununurra Museum YouTube Channel]

Part 4 of 8 - Wirraway A20-62 - Site-Salvage - 22 min.

Wirraway-Challenge - Part 4 of 8 [Goes to Kununurra Museum YouTube Channel]

Part 5 of 8 - Wirraway A20-62 Forced-Landing (The Main Story) - 29 min.

Wirraway-Challenge - Part 5 of 8 [Goes to Kununurra Museum YouTube Channel]

Part 6 of 8 - Before the Display Opening - March 2005 - 7 min 25 sec.

Wirraway-Challenge - Part 6 of 8 [Goes to Kununurra Museum YouTube Channel]

Part 7 of 8 - Display Opening - March 20th 2005 - 27 min.

Wirraway-Challenge - Part 7 of 8 [Goes to Kununurra Museum YouTube Channel]

Part 8 of 8 - NT Open Air Picture Theatres during WWII - 10 min.

Wirraway-Challenge - Part 8 of 8 [Goes to Kununurra Museum YouTube Channel]

Back to the Kununurra Museum - YouTube Channel (Info) or top of the Wirraway-Challenge Videos (Listing) or back to Top.


1 - Pago & Kalumburu - 'Pago pago' - in Kwini - Guini Aboriginal language - meaning women's fighting sticks. In same language

Pago was the site of the original Drysdale River Mission site from 1908 until it was moved 30km or so to the new Kalumburu Mission site in the 1930s.

Kalumburu' meaning - 'Long straight road' - 'Kalum' = spear - in Kwini - Guini language - Long and straight like a spear & 'Buru' =  track (animal track?) - "It's not Kalumburu - it's Kalum-Buru and it means long straight road" [Source Manuela T?(add) to author (AB) in 1991 - This was a road Manuela told me that she saw and helped to build and photographs exist of her in a horse-drawn cart on the first trip using the road in the 1930s - Found at Battye Library by the author in Feb 2015 - AB for KHS] - Back to Top or go to Kununurra Museum - YouTube Channel - Info