Flying Officer William Ernest CLARKE GM

Service No: 277547
Born: 25 January 1904, Location unavailable
Enlisted in the RAAF:
Awarded the George Medal (GM)
Unit: RAAF Reserve, Civil Aircrew
Died: Aircraft Accident (Australian National Airways DC-3 aircraft VH-CXD), Higgins Field QLD, 5 May 1945, Aged 41 Years
Cremated: Mt Thompson Crematorium, Brisbane, QLD
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Alice Henrietta Clarke; husband of Sylvia Joan Clarke, of Rose Bay, New South Wales
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Panel 134, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

Captain Clarke was awarded the George Medal for his outstanding valour in evacuating civilians from New Guinea in early 1942 while flying with Parer Aircraft Company.

The accident occurred at Higgins Field in far north Queensland on 5 May 1945. … The aircraft lost was the DC-3 VH-CXD, piloted by Captain Ernie Clark of ANA. He was killed, together with the three RAAF crew members (J. Hornbrook, P. Gidley and N. Browne) and two American servicemen. Ron Back (1) recalls that the aircraft crashed on approach to Higgins Field and the crew members are buried at a small cemetery on the road to Red Island Point (2), while the aircraft wreckage can still be seen on the north western approach to the strip, suitably fenced and available to be viewed by visitors to Bamaga. The crew were stopping to refuel before continuing on to Merauke in Dutch New Guinea with a cargo of fresh meat. Ron had been talking to them at Archerfield the night before and he remembers that Ernie Clark, out of the goodness of his heart, was loading a couple of cases of fresh vegetables for the Red Cross at Merauke.

(1) Flying Officer Ronald Edward Back (426966) Seconded RAAF Member who later joined ANA, Discharged from the RAAF: 28 November 1945
(2) Now reinterred at Townsville

Extract from Yule, P. (Dr. Peter) The Forgotten Giant of Australian Aviation: Australian National Airways, Hyland House, Flemington Victoria, 2001 – Pages 142-3

At 0518 hours on 5 May 1945, DC3 VH-CXD an Australian National Airlines aircraft under charter for military purposes to the USAAF, crashed at Higgins Field, Cape York Peninsular, in darkness, and all on board were killed. The aircraft was on a travel flight ferrying passengers and freight to northern areas, when it struck the top of a hill while landing in darkness at Higgins Field.

The crew members of VH-CXD were:

Flight Sergeant Neville Tasman Browne (436542) (Second Pilot under instruction)
Flying Officer William Ernest Clark GM (277547) (Pilot) (Australian National Airways, RAAF Reservist)
Warrant Officer Alfred Henry Gidley (415975) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Warrant Officer James Hillman Hornbrook (432183) (Second Pilot)
The names of the two US servicemen reported killed in the accident are not shown in the NAA record.

On wartime courier service, ANA lost a second aircraft, Douglas C49A registration VH-CDC at Tacloban, Philippines on 13 November 1945 (Warrant Officer Haydn Selby Rawson (300549) (Australian National Airways) Pilot.


Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records (RAAF Casualty Information compiled by Alan Storr (409804))
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veterans’ Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A9300, CLARKE W E


RAAF Directorate of Public Relations, These Eagles, Australian War Memorial Canberra, 1942 – Chapter: Heroes in Mufti

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