Douglas Charles COOTE


COOTE, Douglas Charles

Service Number: 407763
Enlisted: 4 January 1941, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: No. 11 Squadron (RAAF)
Born: Port Elliot, South Australia, 6 September 1912
Home Town: Port Elliot, Alexandrina, South Australia
Schooling: Port Elliot School, South Australia
Occupation: Farm labourer/wood cutter
Died: Flying Battle, New Guinea, 21 January 1942, aged 29 years
Cemetery: Lae War Cemetery
Plot D Row D Grave 5,
Memorials: Adelaide WW2 Wall of Remembrance, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Port Elliot War Memorial
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World War 2 Service

4 Jan 1941: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2 (WW2), SN 407763, Aircrew Training Units, Adelaide, South Australia
6 Feb 1941: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Leading Aircraftman, SN 407763, No. 1 Wireless Air Gunnery School Ballarat, Empire Air Training Scheme
1 Jan 1942: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Sergeant, SN 407763, No. 11 Squadron (RAAF), Battle of Rabaul

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Douglas Charles COOTE (1915-1942)

Sergeant Doug Coote was rostered on as an extra crew Member in RAAF Catalina, No. A24.9, of No. 11 Squadron RAAF, during the lead up to the Battle of Rabaul in early 1942, commanded by Lieutenant George Hutchinson of the US Navy, who had been seconded to the RAAF early in the Pacific War

They were tasked to convey signals equipment from Port Moresby to Salamaua.  They were intercepted by five Japanese Zero fighters.  The following account came from Tom Keen, the only survivor of the incident described (1):

They had crossed the Owen Stanleys further east so they didn't require as much altitude. They were at 1,000 feet when we spotted Japanes fighters in the distance, and then climbed for the cloud base at 7,000 feet.  The Japanese fighters caught them at about 5,000 feet.

Co-pilot Tom Rowe ran from his seat to the rear to coordinate defensive fire from both side blisters (the large characteristic perspex bubbles on the Catalina's rear fuselage).  Four zeros attacked while one loitered above as top cover.  The first burst shattered Keen's blister while he loosed off a long burst at the attacking zero which dived away causing Tom Rowe to shout "you got him!".  A fire started in  the rear and then the other blister was hit wounding gunner Bruce Craigie who clutched his shoulder and fell.  The fire consumed  the Catalina's fabric control surfaces , while Keen heard Hutchinson calling Moresby to let htemn know he was jettisoning bombs.  Flames were now burng Keen's back, and one of his twin guns had seized.  The sights had been shot away.  Craigie was slumped over his guns, dead.   The Catalina was slowing, approaching stall speed, and with the potential for un-jettisoned bombs to detonate, Keen decided it was time to get out..

He grabbed a parachute and dived out of the shattered blister without having time to put on the harness.  He managed to hook one arm through the harness and pulled the ripcord with the other.  A Zero dived past him firing as it went.  Keen played dead, and observed the Catalina fall and explode into a ridge about a mile away, the shock wave rocking his parachute. After landing in trees, which left him dangling two metres above the ground, he dropped to ground to hide from the marauding Zeros.

When the Zeros left, Keen trudged towards the coast on native paths and soon met up with locals who escorted him to Lau Mission.  The Mission despatched a party to the crash site but all they found were three charred bodies in a clearing where the wreckage had disintegrated.

Keen returned to Port Moresby ten days later after his misdaventure.  George Hutchinson became the first US airman to die in the South Pacific.  Seven RAAF aircrew died in the crash.

LT George Hutchinson [USN] (1st Pilot)
P/O Tom Rowe 400293 (2nd Pilot) - 
SGT Doug Coote 407763 (Extra Crew - Wireless Operator) -
CPL Jack Wyche 12217 (1st Engineer)
LAC Arthur Meadow 9034 (1st Wireless Operator)
LAC Alan Downes 16809 (2nd Wireless Operator)
LAC John 'Bruce') Craigie 22050 (Armourer)
AC1 Kenneth Murphy 15165 (2nd Engineer)


1.  Claringbold M.J. and Ingman, P. (2017) South Pacific Air War Vol 1 The Fall of Rabaul December 1941-March 1942, Avonmore Books ISBN 978-0-9945889-4-4  (1) pp81,82

2. ADF Serials - (