Grahame Patrick LOBWEIN AFC

LOBWEIN, Grahame Patrick

Service Numbers: 76248, 404723
Enlisted: 3 September 1939
Last Rank: Flight Lieutenant
Last Unit: No. 33 Squadron (RAAF)
Born: Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, 24 September 1920
Home Town: Hurstville, Kogarah, New South Wales
Schooling: Downlands College, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia
Occupation: Radio Assistant
Died: Aircraft Accident, New Guinea , 15 November 1945, aged 25 years
Cemetery: Rabaul (Bita Paka) War Cemetery, Papua New Guinea
Plot C, Row A, Grave 13
Memorials: Acland War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Hurstville War Memorial, Toowoomba Roll of Honour WW2, Toowoomba WW2 Roll of Honour Book, Toowoomba War Memorial (Mothers' Memorial)
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World War 2 Service

3 Sep 1939: Enlisted Australian Army (Post WW2), Private, 76248, 11th Light Horse Regiment
5 Jun 1940: Discharged Australian Army (Post WW2), Corporal, 76248, 11th Light Horse Regiment
8 Nov 1940: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Lieutenant, 404723, No. 33 Squadron (RAAF)
8 Nov 1940: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, 404723, No. 2 Initial Training School Bradfield Park, Rank: Aircraftman 2
4 Jan 1941: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Leading Aircraftman
27 Jun 1941: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Sergeant
1 Apr 1942: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Sergeant
1 Oct 1942: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Pilot Officer
16 Apr 1944: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Flying Officer, Unit: No. 6 Communication Unit
1 Oct 1944: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Lieutenant
13 Oct 1944: Honoured Air Force Cross, Australia's Front Line (incl Darwin Defenders)
12 Oct 1945: Embarked Royal Australian Air Force, 404723, Rank: Flight Lieutenant Unit: No.33 Squadron RAAF
15 Nov 1945: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Lieutenant, 404723, No. 33 Squadron (RAAF)

Help us honour Grahame Patrick Lobwein's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by David Barlow

33 Squadron RAAF Dakota A65-54 (VH CUP) was lost between Jacquinot Bay and Rabaul, Papua New Guinea with all crew KIA:

MILLS, Maurice James (LAC) 137163 / LOBWEIN, Grahame Patrick (Flight Lieutenant) 404723 / HANRAHAN, Ronald Alexander (Flight Lieutenant) 423723 / BREDERLIN, Douglas Albert (Flight Sergeant) 444773 / BRIDGE, Stanley William (Corporal) 69362 / CUSHING, Hugh (Corporal) 419913 / BLAKE, Norman Harold (LAC) 431713 / SHEAH, Verdun Bernice (Sister) 501253

Biography contributed by Sue Smith

Graham Patrick Lobwein was born on the 24th September 1920 in Toowoomba QLD, the eldest son of Francis and Catherine Lobwein.  He had a younger brother and the family lived at Wilsonton, a suburb of Toowoomba.  His secondary schooling took place at Downlands College, a Catholic boarding school for boys in Toowoomba.  He attained his Junior Certificate and left school to work as a radio assistant at McKinney Radio and Electrical Company in Toowoomba.  His interests included motor cycle racing, golf and stamp collecting. 

At age 18 he joined the Australian Army serving with the 11th Light Horse Regiment, a part-time unit based in the Darling Downs region of Queensland.  His service number was 76248 and he attained the rank of Corporal in the 18 months of service with this regiment. 

He discharged from the Army to join the RAAF Reserve on the 6th June 1940.  Five months later on the 8th November, he enlisted in the RAAF aged 20.  His service number was 404723, his rank an Aircraftman 2.  In his service record he’s described as being 7ft 7ins tall, with a dark complexion, black hair and blue eyes.  

Grahme commenced his training at No. 2 Initial Training School at Bradfield Park NSW and in early January 1941 was promoted to Leading Aircraftman.  A few days later he proceeded to No. 6 Elementary Flying Training School at Tamworth NSW.  Two months later he proceeded to No. 3 Service Flying Training School at Amberley QLD where he took part in No. 8 flight training course.  Three months later he graduated as a Sergeant Pilot.  In July 1941 Grahme proceeded to No. 2 Communication Unit at Mascot NSW and then attended the Central Flight School at Camden where he undertook a flying instructors course for 3 months.  He then proceeded to No. 3 SFTS at Amberley and in November was graded as a Flight Instructor “C”.  In early 1942 he was regraded to a Flight Instructor “B”.

In April 1942 Grahme was promoted to Flight Sergeant and posted to No. 1 SFTS at Point Cook then spent 2 months at the General Reconnaissance School at Cressy VIC where he undertook a navigation reconnaissance course in becoming a master navigator.  These men were usually posted to maritime patrol duties.  He passed with a special distinction.  At the end of September he was discharged from the RAAF on being granted a commission with the Combat Air Force.  He was promoted to Pilot Officer and proceeded to No. 1 Air Observers School at Cootamundra NSW.  A month later he was posted to 107 Squadron which was a Seaplane Training Squadron.  He then proceeded to No 3 Operational Training Unit at Rathmines NSW which was the main seaplane training unit for the RAAF during WW2.  

In early March 1943 Grahme was posted to No. 6 Communication Unit, based at Batchelor airfield in the Northern Territory, which performed Air-Sea Rescue Operations.  In late 1945 the unit moved from Batchelor to Parap airfield in Darwin.  In April 1943 he was promoted to Flying Officer and a year later he completed his tour having rescued 23 RAAF and Allied airmen.  He was promoted to Flight Lieutenant on the 1st October 1944 and 12 days later was awarded the Air Force Cross, becoming Australia’s 24th recipient.  The AFC is a military decoration awarded to officers, and since 1993 other ranks, of the United Kingdom Armed Forces, and formerly also to officers of the other Commonwealth countries.  It is granted for "an act or acts of exemplary gallantry while flying, though not in active operations against the enemy“. 

From the end of January to the beginning of April 1945 Grahme was admitted to hospital twice but the nature of his condition on both occasions were not recorded.  In early May he proceeded to Archerfield airfield in Queensland and then to No. 3 Embarkation Depot at Sandgate.  Three months later he was posted to the 107 Squadron at St George Basin south of Sydney NSW.  In October, while serving with the 107 Squadron, Grahme had to make a forced landing at Rose Bay airfield NSW.  He remained with this Squadron until being attached to the RAAF Headquarters in Brisbane for all of March and April 1945. 

Grahme took 3 weeks leave from the 6th to the 26th July 1945 for two very special reasons.  The first one was on the 14th July when he married Joyce (Joy) Eden at Ashfield NSW.  The second was on the 23rd July when he was presented the Air Force Cross by the Duke of Gloucester at Admiralty House, the residence of Australia’s Governor-General.  Remarks in service record by the 107 Squadron Leader show the calibre of the man that Grahme was…“A rare and conscientious officer who is a good mixer.  Service minded and takes an active interest in station affairs, particularly airmen’s welfare.  He carries out his aircrew duties in an efficient manner and is popular with fellow officers.”

In October Grahme was posted to the 33 Squadron based in Lae New Guinea.  Following the end of hostilities in August this squadron was tasked with repatriating service personnel and former prisoners of war.  On November 15th a Dakota plane left Lae for a routine flight to Rabaul stopping at Finschafen and Jacquinot Bay airfields along the way.  There were 28 aboard the flight…pilot Ron Hanrahan, co-pilot Grahme Lobwein, navigator Douglas Bruderlin, nurse Sister Verdun Sheah, 14 personnel from the Australian Army, Navy and RAAF, one of them a stowaway, as well as 10 Indian POW’s.  The Indians were all members of the 2/12th Frontier Force Regiment who had surrendered at Singapore.  In October they’d been liberated by the Australian Army and were the only survivors of their contingent.  They were on their way to Rabaul to give evidence at the war trials.  The plane left Jacquinot Bay at 9am for the 50min flight to Rabaul.  A radio call was received from them 14 mins after take off but when the flight failed to arrive at Rabaul it was declared as missing in action.  A search was mounted and at 4pm the following day the crash site was located by the 33 Squadron Leader.  The plane had crashed into an unnamed mountain at an elevation of 7,000ft and roughly 150ft below the peak in the area known as Milim approximately 6 miles inland from Wide Bay.  All aboard were killed instantly.  The wreckage was strewn across a large area.  A portion of the wing was sighted hanging in a tree and the tops of the trees were knocked off at a height of 10ft.  Wreckage under the trees showed complete disintegration but the aircraft didn’t burn.  It was apparent by the wreckage distribution that both pilots had tried desperately to pull the nose of the plane up and over the peak but the steepness of the terrain had beaten them. 

The following day another aircraft from the 33 Squadron flew over the crash site and dipped its wings in salute to the 28 below.  It dropped 2 wreaths, one for the crew from the men of 33 Squadron and one for Sister Sheah from the nursing sisters of her unit, No. 1 Medical Air Evacuation Transport Unit.  These nurses had a special function in that they were all trained sisters but also undertook a specialised aviation course to gain their “wings.”  The RAAF created their flying nurses to accompany flights with wounded soldiers or POWs.  That day Sister Sheah stood in for another nurse who was rostered for the flight but reported sick.  It was also later revealed that Sister Sheah had had a premonition of her death.

The search party sent to recover the remains of the crew and passengers determined that the Dakota had flown into a cloud and slammed into the mountain.  It was also later determined that the height of the mountain had been incorrectly plotted on maps.  On wartime maps the mountain was listed as being 7,000ft whereas on modern maps it’s listed as being 7,598ft high.  It appears that the 2 pilots thought they would clear the mountain by some 500ft when in fact they were 98ft short and flew straight into the mountain just 150ft from the top.  The remains of all aboard were recovered, transported to Rabaul and buried individually at the Rabaul War Cemetery. 

During his years of serving in the RAAF Grahme was qualified to fly a number of aircraft including the Tiger Moth, Moth Minor, Gipsy Moth, Wackett Trainer, Avro Trainer, Avro Anson, Kingfisher, Airspeed Oxford, Hudson, DC3, Dragon DH 84, Sikorsky and the Walrus Seagull. 

Grahme’s life was cut tragically short at the age of 25 and just 3 months after marrying his sweetheart Joy.  However, some months after the crash there was a sweet reminder of Grahme for Joy when she gave birth to their daughter in April 1946. 

Grahme’s name appears on two war memorials…one at Hurstville NSW and the other at Acland in Toowoomba QLD.

Grahme Patrick Lobwein was awarded for service in WW2 the Australia Service Medal, Australia Defence Medal, 1939-1945 Star and the Air Force Cross. 

Respectfully submitted by Sue Smith November 2020