Alexander Raymond BOXALL

BOXALL, Alexander Raymond

Service Number: 416738
Enlisted: 11 September 1941, Adelaide
Last Rank: Warrant Officer
Last Unit: Not yet discovered
Born: Hawthorn, VIC, 21 May 1921
Home Town: Not yet discovered
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Not yet discovered
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World War 2 Service

11 Sep 1941: Involvement Warrant Officer, SN 416738
11 Sep 1941: Enlisted Adelaide
25 Sep 1945: Discharged

Belly landing - Nadzab Alec Boxall's recall

"All three Vengeance squadrons escorted by the Kittyhawks of No. 80 bombed the target in the morning. They returned to base, refuelled, bombed up again, and returned to the same target in the afternoon. On this day No. 10 Group flew a total of 93 sorties against Mindiri, dropping 35 tons of bombs and firing thousands or rounds of ammunition. They suffered no losses from enemy fire, although one of the Vengeances was damaged in a forced landing on the way back to base. Next morning the Americans landed without opposition at Mindiri."

"Australia in the War of 1939 -1945, series 3 Air; George Odgers"

I recall the time that Howard and I were returning from Mindiri village, when we had trouble with the wheels on the Vultee Vengeance, and had to crash land on the strip at Nadzab. When you are sitting in the back of the aircraft you don't always know what is going on in the front of the aircraft. Howard would have known that the wheels wouldn't go down, whereas I didn't for a while. I remember him speaking to me over the radio; in the Vultee I could see very little of Howard because he had an armour plate protector down behind him and I could just see the sides of his head. You weren't really in close contact.

He told me that he couldn't get the wheels down and asked me to radio the base to tell them, the others had landed while we were still flying around. Nadzab wasn't solely our base, there were other airfields there as well, we shared our airstrip with the Americans and aircraft were quite expendable so I didn't know what they would do. If there was a Liberator landing in an emergency with seven or eight people in it we would have been quite expendable.

The word came back to circle and wait. I didn't know whether they would tell us to go over the kunai and jump out, or what they would tell us. I later found they told us to wait and shot off and got the CO. One of the foremost things in my mind was that navigators did not get out of the back of a Vultee alive. The CO radioed instructions which Howard was listening to.

I worked the radio, but Howard took the message direct - he was told to get up high and bump the aircraft, which meant putting it into a climb until just below a stall then dropping the nose so that the aircraft flops then bites the air and stops. It's hard on your stomach, and the dust at the bottom of the aircraft comes straight up.

Then we tried to dive and none of that worked, the wheels weren't going to come down, then they told us to make a low pass over the airfield so that they could have a look. We then went back to the circuit height again.

Eventually they said that they had cleared the airfield and that we were to make a landing beside the strip, not on it. When that message came through a number of things went through my mind as those navigators before who had done this hadn't fared that well. I had made up my mind that if it ever happened to me I would get rid of the guns. It was common knowledge among the navigators that this was the thing to do. I threw the guns over the side because, when Vultees crash landed, although there hadn't been many of them crash land, the navigator hadn't faired too well. Those guns came flying forward and whacked them fair in the back of the head with disastrous results, so that's why they went overboard in our case.

I told Howard I was going to jettison the guns and I remember him saying over the intercom in typical Howard language, "For Christ sake watch the tail", which was fairly wise because had I hit the tail we both would have gone into the ground. We went through all the preliminaries, after which I dropped the machine guns overboard. They were twin Browning machine guns which were fairly heavy.

I don't know how I did it because it took two people to install them, but in the heat of the moment I got them over the side quite easily. The machine guns were on a slender mounting facing backwards, and had attached to them a pair of electric cables which operated them. I unpinned the guns from the mounting, but wasn't able to unscrew the electrical cables, so I manhandled the guns, levered them to the side and lowered them over the side by the two rubber cables until I was just about hanging out of the aircraft and when I let them go the electric cables snapped.

Whoever had done them up must have used a bit of force. I remember getting them over the side, leaning over and hanging on to them to try and get them as low as possible so they would miss the tail plane. Of course the cable just snapped like string, which I was glad about, my watch got caught and went over with them.

They recovered the guns, which had landed on an American tent, not that I saw that. Nadzab had airstrips that went in different ways, and all around them was swampy land, flooded by the Markham River, with kunai growing in and around and beyond them, so, as we were circling around the area, I must confess I didn't see anything underneath, I had too much else to do. But anyway, away went the guns. I don't think they would have been any good, they were a bit bent.

The CO had a bit of a go at me at the next crew meeting. We had a flight meeting of aircrews a few days later, which the CO chaired, he asked why we had thrown the guns overboard and I explained, not that he didn't know the reason, he knew, but he pointed out that the guns had landed on an American tent. Fortunately, the occupants of the tent were away at the time, so they didn't come to any harm, but he pointed out that in future, if one had to jettison guns, have a good look underneath before you let them go, which is easier said than done, because whilst you are struggling with the guns you have probably moved on about a mile.

At the back of the bomb bay there was a little box called an IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) which gave out a signal to our ack-ack batteries that we were a friendly aircraft, so that they didn't fire on us. The IFF had a detonator in it, so than when the aircraft hit the ground the IFF would explode. We made our approach, and when the aircraft crash landed and the bomb bay crumpled up underneath, the IFF exploded as a result of which the back of the cockpit became filled with white smoke.

This lead me to believe that we were on fire, and my thought was to get out of there as quickly as I could, so when I thought that we had slowed down enough I undid my seat belt, to be propelled at high speed straight down under the nav' table in a heap, and that's where I was when the aircraft eventually pulled up.

So, instead of being first out, I was last out. When I looked over the top Howard was running along the wing, and I was still scrambling to get out.

When I did get out, an intelligence officer jumped out of a vehicle and said, "have you got all your code books". I didn't have, and had to go back and enter the cockpit to get those. My evacuation of the aircraft was a bit on the slow side, not because I wanted it to be.

Alec Boxall's memoirs - compiled by Peter James-Martin 1993

Submitted January 2016 by Peter James-Martin

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