Keith Braybrook HENRY


HENRY, Keith Braybrook

Service Number: 61691
Enlisted: 30 December 1941
Last Rank: Leading Aircraftman
Last Unit: No. 31 Squadron (RAAF)
Born: Paddington, New South Wales, Australia, 12 June 1923
Home Town: Woollahra, Woollahra, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Mechanical Engineer
Died: Accidental (Flying Accident), Peron Islands, Northern Territory, Australia , 6 December 1943, aged 20 years
Cemetery: Adelaide River War Cemetery
Tree Plaque: Not yet discovered
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour
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World War 2 Service

3 Sep 1939: Involvement SN 61691
30 Dec 1941: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Leading Aircraftman, No. 31 Squadron (RAAF)

One Life Given In Place Of Another

My father, Ron Wardlaw LAC 76310, served in the RAAF 31 Squadron with Keith Henry. The following is taken from my father's war diary and is dated Monday 6th December 1943. At the time they were stationed at Coomalie Creek.

"Duty crew organised a "flip" with F/O Archer. Two of us went up "86" and "152." We were in "152"..."86" didn't come back. Went in just off the coast. Saw a patch of smoke, went to investigate and found Keith Henry in the dinghy. F/O Archer stripped off his "Mae West" and dinghy. I took them to Jack Holland (Obs). We opened the hatch and dropped 2 "Mae Wests" and a dinghy to him. We circled again, then made for home. We climbed to 3,000ft slowly at about 220 knots, leveled out at 260 knots. Came in over Adelaide River. Could see our strip from there. Came home feeling rotten."

The National Archives Accident Report states that the 2 planes left Coomalie Creek at 4.30pm to carry out a test flight and shooting exercises in Anson Bay. During the exercises "86" reported it was having trouble and was heading for the coast south of Peron Island. At approx. 5.10pm the crew of my Dad's plane, "152", saw that Keith's plane had crashed into the sea 8 miles south west of Peron Island. Keith was seen clinging to a partially inflated dinghy. No other survivors were found. Dad's crew dropped 2 Mae Wests and a dinghy to Keith then returned to base. The "152" returned to the scene to direct help from shore. At 6.40pm Keith was retrieved from the dinghy. He was conscious but seriously injured and told his rescuer that he hadn't seen the other 2 crew members after the crash. Keith was admitted to the 1 MRS at 8.10pm but died from his injuries at 10.40pm. His funeral was held the following day at 3pm attended by 30 members from the 31 Squadron. He was buried at the Adelaide River War Cemetery.

The Captain of A16-86, Flying Officer Kenneth Albert Gerdes and Navigator, Flight Sergeant Andrew Kenneth McMillan, perished at the scene but their bodies were never recovered.

Personal Note: Keith and Dad were passengers on these flights and before they boarded their assigned planes the orders were switched which meant the crews changed planes. This meant that Keith changed places with my Dad so he was killed instead of my Dad. This was something that my Dad never forgot or came to terms with. He and Keith were both 20 years of age. Dad died on the 12th October 2000 aged 77.

Submitted by Sue Smith

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Biography contributed by David Barlow

RAAF Beaufighter aircraft A19-86 of Number 31 Squadron crashed into the sea near the Peron Islands, NT while on a gunnery exercise.

Leading Aircraftman Keith Braybrook Henry 61691 survived the impact and was picked up by a rescue flying boat from Darwin but died from his injuries.  He was buried at Adelaide River War Cemetery.  Son of George Braybrook Henry and Mary Jane Henry of Woollahra, NSW

Commemorated on the Northern Territory Memorial to the Missing located at Adelaide River War Cemetery, NT are:

Flying Officer Kenneth Albert Gerdes 410322 - Son of Albert Henry and Fanny Jane Gerdes of Frankston, Victoria

Flight Sergeant Andrew Kenneth McMillan 413320 - Son of Andrew Donald and Ivy McMillan of Bondi, NSW