Thursday, June 6, 2024


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Spitfire Crashes On Proserpine Farm

June 10 1944 1400 hours

It was a quiet Saturday afternoon in Proserpine. Walter Magnetti was getting ready for his wedding and a young Ivo Botta recalled that many men were away playing bowls.

With the sound of a plane crashing into a cane paddock in the Foxdale/Up River area, locals could be forgiven for thinking the war had arrived at their door.

The plane was a Spitfire (A58-345) on transit from Amberley to Darwin with Flt/Lt Alan Edward Davison 9106931 at the helm. An hour and a half after departure, the plane suffered engine failure. The formation was above 7/10th cloud at the time. Davison headed for the coast and eventually crash landed at 1400 hours.

Newspapers of the day did not report the event.

But unofficially …

Walter Magnetti recalled, “I was getting dressed for the church and, still in my underwear, when I saw the plane hit the ground. There was a large explosion and ball of fire that could be seen eight miles way. I took off to see how the pilot was. When I got there, my cousin, Wilma, who was also in just her underwear, was already there. Luckily, the pilot had been thrown clear. He kept saying, ‘Keep clear of the plane!’ then he passed out.”

Others reported that Livio DeAndrea was first on the scene and when he arrived, the pilot still had the presence of mind to ask him to turn off the controls. There were reports that the plane was loaded with ammunition.

Despite his young age, Ivo Botta had very clear memories of the event. “After the Spitfire crash … I remember the pilot being brought up to the house. (Even though) the men were away … the women were home. They offered him brandy. Neighbour, Walter Dodd, arrived and advised them against this, saying alcohol was dangerous as the pilot was in shock and he told him not to drink any. The pilot had other ideas, grabbed the brandy himself and gulped it down.”

Ivo’s father, Mario Botta, was a partner on Magnetti and Co’s farm where the crash occurred. Years later, Ivo positioned the crash site as 13.5 kms by road or 6.6 air miles WNW from Proserpine Post Office on the northern side of Proserpine River. This farm is now owned by the Orr family. Because people had begun to souvenir parts of the plane, Eddie Maloney stood guard over the wreck with a .303 rifle until the Home Defence Guard arrived. These guards were based in the farm barracks until the wreckage was removed.

Davison was in hospital for some time and after his release he stayed at the Dobbins’ residence until his return home to England. Mrs Arthur Dobbins, who was an aircraft “spotter” during the war, recalled how when she gave him a cup of tea, his hands would shake so violently that he spilt practically all of it.

Families who had befriended the pilot, were saddened to hear that he was killed in a sortie shortly after his return home. However, this was discounted years later when Mrs Joan Clay, whose husband, Phil, also flew Spitfires in the war, provided this information from RAF Personnel Management Agency (Gloucester) “He (Davison) survived the war, and after re-enlisting as an airman, left the service in 1958.”

(Note: While there are discrepancies in these reports, nonetheless their “stories” are interesting.)

Postscript: And what of the wedding? Well, not surprisingly, Walter was late. The bridal car kept driving around town, stopping at the church and asking, “Has he arrived yet?” He eventually did!

Story courtesy of Proserpine Historical Museum and “La Mia Vita My Life” by Walter Magnetti.

Photo courtesy of the late Tom Dobbins.

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