In September 1944 a Beaufighter from No 31 Squadron, RAAF, crashed in the Northern Territory following a strike mission over Japanese-occupied Timor. Although evidence was discovered some time later that the two-man crew of the aircraft had survived the crash, no trace was ever discovered of what became of them.
The pilot of the lost Beaufighter was Squadron Leader Wilbur Wackett, the 23-year-old son of Lawrence Wackett – himself an ex-RAAF officer who became well-known as one of Australia’s leading aircraft designers. Wilbur had followed in his father’s footsteps into the Air Force before the war, and was a veteran of the air campaign in New Guinea where he had already survived being shot down and avoided certain death at the hands of the Japanese.
This book highlights the flying career of Wilbur Wackett and describes the catalogue of tragedy that unfolded with his mysterious end. The loss of Wilbur was quickly followed by the loss of his only child. His wife, who remarried, lost a battle with cancer at a young age. Strangely, the full circumstances of Wilbur’s disappearance were withheld from his father until just before Sir Lawrence’s death in 1982.
Lost Without Trace is a stark reminder of the cruel fate which could await airmen who were downed while operating in the harsh environment of Australia’s north.