Friday, 25 November 2011

O' 13th Avenue, Where Art Thou??

12th Avenue within Toowong Cemetery - amongst all other Avenues, this Avenue has always held a special place in my heart as I have family buried there.  At the bottom of the hill, alongside 8th Avenue & almost in line with 12th Avenue, the first wife of my great grandfather, who died in childbirth, is interred (mother to 5 children, half-siblings to my grandmother - 4 of them are interred nearby).  At the top of the hill, just past the end of 12th Avenue at the intersection of 2nd & 3rd Avenue, my grandfather's aunty & family are interred.  My great great grandparents & 6 of their children are interred within an area known as "the grove" alongside 12th Avenue, an area heavily overgrown with Bunya Pines & Camphor Laurel trees, & populated with amazing monumental masonry that has always fascinated me.   Most importantly, which will become apparent shortly, another grave housing my great great grandparents & 1 of their children, lies alongside 13th Avenue.  Needless to say, I know this section of Toowong Cemetery incredibly well, given the number of family interments within its confines.

Searching for stories of Brisbane ghosts & hauntings as I regularly do, my interest peaked recently whilst reading an article published in the City South News, reporter unlisted, on the 13th of September 2010 entitled, "Tour issue dead and buried."  The article itself was unengaging aside from a sadly downplayed parting comment by the Greater Brisbane Cemetery Alliance Vice-President Kelvin Johnston, stating more should be done to prosecute cemetery trespassers - only one year prior, vandals had gone on a rampage through a section of the cemetery, resulting in the destruction of over 80 graves.  Sadly, after a protracted court case, the 4 individuals were acquitted of charges on the back of inadequate cemetery laws.  However, my interest was instantly drawn to a public comment posted about the piece by "Jason" - "Just compare a Ghosts of Toowong map to a real one of Toowong Cemetery to see how Mr. Sim has relocated 13th avenue." 

So, what of these claims of a "relocation" of Toowong's 13th Avenue??  A quick Google search on "toowong cemetery 13th avenue" brought up a blog site, which stated, "At the corner of 12th and 13th Avenue it is said that the Angel of Death stands and hisses whoever comes near."  From this lead, various related search strings pulled up further hints, including testimony from one of the tour guides of the Toowong Cemetery tour  - "While I waiting on the hill alone above the intersection of 12th and 13th Avenue (the place where The Angel is said to appear) I heard a male voice whispering to the right behind me."  Yet another personal blog site stated, "At the corner of 12th and 13th Avenue, said to be the middle point of the graveyard (there is no street sign to mark 13th Avenue as it is the most stolen street sign in Queensland) we joined hands and summoned the Angel of Death.  He must have been taking a night off."  Here, another very important factor wades into the mix - the 13th Avenue sign, allegedly "the most stolen street sign in Queensland".  After some more detective work speaking to extended friends who had taken the tour of Toowong Cemetery, I discovered that the intersection of 12th & 13th Avenue was located above the Mayne monument at the high point of 12th Avenue - I was assured that this "fact" was verified by the "angel" story & Toowong Cemetery map in the book, The Ghosts of Toowong Cemetery: Brisbane's Haunted Necropolis.

Seeking out the story & map in said book, I located the section about the "angel of death" on page 23 - there I found the reference again, as clear as day - "At the intersection of two roads - Twelfth and Thirteenth Avenues, a crossroads in the dead centre of the cemetery..."  I then flipped to the associated map of Toowong Cemetery on page 37, which clearly showed the intersection of 12th & 13th Avenue (marked at Figure 8 above). For reference, the photo at the top of this article shows the intersection, complete with 12th Avenue sign & jagged bracket below where the 13th Avenue sign has supposedly been torn free by thieves.  So - you're likely wondering where I'm going with this?  Well, having family buried alongside both 12th & 13th Avenues & knowing the area of the cemetery extremely well, I can categorically state that no such intersection between the two Avenues exists!  A simple search of the Brisbane City Council website provides a link to the official map of Toowong Cemetery - this map clearly shows that the intersection in question is actually between 12th Avenue & 11th Avenue. 13th Avenue exists much further along 8th Avenue at the bottom of the hill, & in no way comes anywhere near the top of 12th.  Furthermore, the intersection is far from the centre of the cemetery, as claimed.  Conveniently, the missing sign at the top of 12th Avenue belongs to 11th Avenue, not 13th.

How such a glaring error could possibly be made (& continues to be made), given the ease with which the Council's official Toowong Cemetery map can be accessed, is anyone's guess.  However, given that the associated ghost tale hinges wholly on the location of the crossroads between 12th & 13th Avenue (which clearly does not exist), one can only call into question the overall legitimacy of the supposed haunting.  There is no doubt that 12th Avenue is an amazing place, made even more so by the almost mystical grove located down its side...changed street names & the attachment of tall tales only aid in cheapening the historic & potentially paranormal nature of the site.  As a final note, one solitary tidbit of information did come to light whilst investigating the "crossroads" claim, found on a forum site - "I know a friend who told me that a certain 13th avenue either disappeared or appeared (bad memory) at toowong cemetery..."  Perhaps this rumour explains my inability to locate the fabled crossroad...or then again, perhaps it is just as fictitious as the intersection itself??

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Executive Building: Charlie wasn't as drunk as tourists are told...

Many visitors to Brisbane who enter the CBD via North Quay on William Street or the Riverside Expressway off-ramp onto Elizabeth Street, may well formulate a false impression of the city's colonial history.  Travelling along the first stretch of Elizabeth Street, two incredibly impressive sandstone buildings loom large on either side, coaxing the onlooker into believing they are commuting between two of Brisbane's original buildings.  However, both came into existence many decades after Brisbane became a free colony, although what lies beneath holds amazing value to Brisbane Town's genesis.  The Treasury Casino to the left of Elizabeth Street was the original Treasury Building, taking an amazing 42 years to complete in 3 separate stages - during these stages, the expanding building was utilised at some point by almost every Government Department including the Premier, until the final stage along George Street was officially opened on the 4th of May 1928 by the Minister for Works, Michael Joseph Kirwan.  On completion, the building earned a reputation as one of the finest public buildings in Australia.  However, from a colonial & historical viewpoint, the building now rested on the original site of the since demolished Moreton Bay Penal Settlement's Military Barracks.

To the right of Elizabeth Street, Queens Gardens exists - a green zone with park benches & a plinthed statue of Queen Victoria & Queensland Premier Thomas Joseph Ryan.  In the bottom corner, another memorial topped by an eagle pays tribute to the R.A.A.F. servicemen & women who paid the ultimate sacrifice during Australia's involvement in the Second World War.  What appears to be a quaint park is anything but that, however - on this site, the Cathedral of St. John existed from 1854-1904, commemorated by a marble slab alongside the Queen Victoria statue marking the site of the original altar.  Later, a stone Rectory & Church Institute building was constructed in the late 1890's, however all were bought soon after by the Queensland Government.  The area behind became known as the Executive Gardens in 1905 & displayed an enviable selection of flowers, available for public view "at all hours, day & night."  During this time, the associated outbuildings were utilised by the Brisbane Criminal Investigation Branch, aiding in the buildings' survival through until 1962 when they were finally demolished in the name of progress.

However, our building of focus lies beyond Queens Gardens to the right of Elizabeth Street, but is no less spectacular than the Treasury Building in size or appearance.  Our building of note is the Executive Building, or current Treasury Heritage Hotel.  Commenced in 1901 & officially opened in 1905, the building housed the Lands & Survey Department, including the offices of the Premier on the second floor & Queensland National Art Gallery along the George Street side of the building's third floor.  Similarly, the site on which the building stands also has an amazing history dating back to Brisbane Town's early years - on the 13th of April 1851, the United Evangelical Church Chapel was opened on the site, intended to provide religious service to the massive influx of immigrants who had arrived in Brisbane as a part of Dr. John Dunmore Lang's immigration scheme.  The Chapel was eventually sold to Dr. Lang on the 7th of April 1857, & again to the Government in December 1860, becoming Brisbane's first electric telegraph office. This amazing piece of Brisbane's history was sadly demolished in June 1899 to make way for the current building.

In an article published in the Sunday Mail on the 4th of October 1998, reporter Lou Robson detailed a tour she had taken in Brisbane, which included one of the best known ghost stories of the old Executive Building - "In the public bar a drunk called Charlie, who fell to his death from the top floor, is said to open doors for patrons & fondle barmaids as they work."  Exactly 10 years later in October 2008, Jetstar Magazine published an article about the same tour, reporting an amazingly similar story, albeit with slightly modified details - "It also takes in the Treasury Casino, where a decanter of expensive whisky has a habit of being mysteriously moved. "They believe it’s the ghost of an old man who was once a regular," says Senescall [the tour guide]. "A security guard once walked in just as the whisky had been poured, and saw the bottle return to the bar without a hand holding it.""  However, like all good ghost folk law in Brisbane, historical sources rarely stand in the way of good stories.

There is a very sound historical basis to this story, however the major glitch in the telling lies in the fact that the bars in both the Treasury Casino & Treasury Heritage Hotel are only about 15 years old - how on earth, could an old drunk be haunting a bar he frequented many years before the bar came into existence?  Ultimately, Charlie does not exist & he was not an old drunk...the truth lies in the story's single detail of a fatal fall.    

On Tuesday the 9th of February 1937, at 11:25 in the morning, 37 year old Kevin McMahon stood up from his work table in the Government Survey Office & walked into the hall on the third floor of the Executive Building towards the men's rest room on the forth floor. Kevin had grown up in Warwick, where he attended St. Joseph's Christian Brothers' College, affording him a high score in public examinations.  As a result, straight out of high school, he was offered a position as junior draughtsman in the Government Survey Office in 1917, which he pursued until a change of employer saw him move to the State Insurance Office as an assistant draughtsman in 1919.  Seven years at his second workplace elevated his experience & knowledge, resulting in Kevin finally returning to the Government Survey Office as a fully fledged draughtsman in 1926 to see out a further ten years in his chosen profession.  Focused on their work, the other 15 to 20 employees of the Government Survey Office paid little notice to his exit from the room - it would be the last time they would see their colleague alive.

Witnesses stated that Kevin looked pale & weak as he ascended the stairs toward the rest room, moving slowly & clutching the bannister for support.  A few minutes later, a horrible crash was heard throughout the building - on descending the stairs, Kevin had relied too heavily on the bannister's support & had toppled over, heavily striking a concrete ledge & the second floor stair railing.  On the ground floor, a woman & salesman Colin Campbell were sitting on a bench seat waiting to enter one of the offices - without a second's warning, Kevin's body impacted the concrete floor a few feet from where they sat.  The woman, suffering severely from shock, was escorted immediately from the scene, whilst Colin was called before the Inquest to provide evidence.  As a result of the Inquest, Kevin's brother Joseph was called upon, testifying that no underlying issues existed to hint at suicide (Kevin was happily married with four children), & the Coroner J. J. Leahy requested to personally see the stairwell before judgement, as testimony had alluded to a dangerously low stair bannister.  Ultimately, the Inquest deemed Kevin's death to be a tragic accident.

So, next time you walk past the old Executive Building (Treasury Heritage Hotel), spare a thought to Kevin & his family's loss - he wasn't named Charlie, he wasn't a drunk, & he sure as hell never frequented a bar that didn't exist for another nearly 60 years.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

It was the the basement...with the cleaver..."allegedly"...

When I first started out in the parapsychology field in Brisbane back in 1998, a number of buildings throughout the CBD held a reputation for being haunted.  However, whilst it was fairly common to be approached by Brisbane residents & told that a specific building was rumoured to have a resident ghost, when these informants were pressed on the matter further, they commonly couldn’t provide anything more than, “Well…ummm…I don’t really know anything about it…but I've heard it's supposed to be haunted.” Obviously, this made pinpointing the origin of the “haunting” & in turn the history behind it exceedingly difficult. Fortunately though, some reputedly haunted buildings had quite complex folklore associated with them, detailing the exploits of the ghost(s) in residence as well as their supposed genesis. In these cases, by backtracking through the detail, it was sometimes possible to locate an historical event that roughly matched the ghost story – hence, whilst the ghost itself still required verification though more scientific means, at least the parapsychologist could take comfort in the knowledge that the likely historic origin behind the haunting was sound.

One such ghost tale involves an area most frequent visitors to the Brisbane CBD would know well – that of Brisbane Arcade, cutting between the Queen Street Mall & Adelaide Street. Now, as far as Brisbane ghost stories go, the Arcade lays claim to a very well-known haunting of its own, however we shall savour that tale & the history behind it for a later blog. The story we will focus on this week reputedly involves an area immediately adjoining the Arcade, although the usual telling of the tale also stipulates that the establishment in which the haunting occurred no longer exists. As is the norm with the bulk of Brisbane's ghost folklore, a veritable rabbit's warren needs to be navigated in order to assemble the likely historic components that gave rise to the story - below, by virtue of solid historic research, I will pull the components of the story apart & endeavour to locate the likely events that gave rise to the tale.

The most common version of the story tells of a haunting that was supposedly an occurrence in a butcher's shop fronting Adelaide Street, built behind the Brisbane Arcade. This butcher's shop is said to have traded at the location since at least the turn of the century (1899 - 1900), & apparently continued to trade for a number of years thereafter. However, as usually results from the march of time, the butcher's store finally closed its doors and was lost to progress - the story insinuates that this closure occurred some decades ago. So, what do we know about the ghosts of the site? It is said that at some stage of the shop's operation (no version of the story provides even a rough estimate as to when the event took place), a fight broke out between the butcher & his apprentice - in a rage, the butcher unleashed a cleaver in the direction of his underling, striking him in the head & killing him instantly. Ultimately, from that time after, both subsequent owners & customers alike occasionally heard spectral sounds of a fracas followed by screams from the back of the store.

So, how do we investigate an apparent haunting such as this? No butcher's store exists nowadays alongside Brisbane Arcade & the story itself documents that the store was closed many years ago, & no information exists regarding the supposed time period in which the event occurred - it's now necessary to look at what we do know, historically, about the site itself. Primarily, after scouring all available historic sources, no record of a butcher's apprentice dying from wounds inflicted in a shop in Adelaide Street (or elsewhere in the CBD) can be located. Had a butcher killed his apprentice around the turn of the century (a rough estimate, given the scant details provided in the ghost tale), the sensationalism of the case would have ensured extensive media coverage - none exists. Furthermore, information confirming the existence of a contemporary butcher's store in the vicinity is also very lean - the story is already on shaky ground, or is it? Fascinatingly, some truth exists regarding a butcher's store on the site, however it pre-dates what would be expected given the details of the original tale.

The site on which the haunted butcher's shop allegedly existed, & Brisbane Arcade in general, had originally been a butcher's shop back in the very early years of Brisbane Town. In September 1849, a recently married Irish immigrant name Patrick Mayne purchased a butchery fronting Queen Street. Having arrived in New South Wales penniless in 1841, he moved north shortly after given the opening of Brisbane Town for free settlement. At the time, Brisbane was no more than a frontier town, ripe for the picking for immigrants willing to apply themselves - by 1846, Patrick had secured employment as a butcher at Kangaroo Point. However, on the night of the 25th or early hours of the 26th March 1848, it is postulated that Patrick horrifically murdered & dismembered a cedar-cutter named Robert Cox at Kangaroo Point's Bush Inn for the sum of £350. A year later, this stolen money was supposedly used to buy Mayne's butcher's business on Queen Street, which operated from 1849 until 1871 - the business was continued by Patrick's wife Mary, proceeding his death on the 17th August 1865, at which time Patrick allegedly admitted to the prior murder on his deathbed. For the full story, I cannot recommend highly enough Rosamond Siemon's book, "The Mayne Inheritance."

Please Note:- Much has been written about the Mayne Family & their incredibly unfortunate history in the recently published schlock-horror fiction series of books produced by Brisbane's Ghost Tours, in blatant contradiction & mockery of Rosamond's heavily researched work, & Brisbane's history in general - for the record, Rosamond holds a PhD from the University of Queensland in History & is a highly respected Alumni. Not only did she donate the entire publisher's advance she received for her book, but she also donated a percentage of the book's royalties to the University of Queensland's Annual Appeal to advance kidney research at the Royal Brisbane Hospital.

Given Patrick's reputation in Brisbane at the time, including further unsubstantiated rumours that he may have unscrupulously killed more early Brisbane residents during his lifetime, his original store on the site most likely gave rise to the story of a butcher's apprentice who suddenly died on-site, hence giving rise to a "haunting" of the building. However, given that no information exists to verify the untimely & unusual death of a butcher in the vicinity, where do we now stand? Well...we stand pretty close, actually - about 300 metres away, to be exact. On Boxing Day 1931, Brisbane was waking up on the flip-side of Christmas, although the staff of the Criterion Hotel, which backs onto Burnett Lane, felt something was amiss - staff taking cigarette breaks & garbage runs in the laneway behind the establishment reported smelling a strong scent of gas. Both Police & Ambulance were called for at 6:45am, & the gas leak was isolated to the door of a butcher & smallgoods store in Burnett Lane.

On arrival, Sergeant Collis of the Brisbane CIB immediately kicked in the door to discover the inevitable - a body was located lying on a number of sacks in the storeroom of the shop, the head in close proximity to a number of gas bottles of which one was open. On an examination of the dead man's pockets, £15 in notes, silver & copper were discovered, along with a loaded revolver & bottle marked "poison." Further investigation identified the man as the owner, 29 year old butcher Leonard Victor Wiltshire. During the subsequent Inquest, Leonard's wife testified that he had left for the shop some time after 3am on Christmas Eve, & she had worked alongside him until late that night. Early the next morning on Christmas Day, he had returned to see to the store refrigerator alone, & had not returned. It was lodged before the Court that Leonard had owned the store for about 6 months, after owning previous stores throughout the city. He had been suffering from "nervous troubles" for two years, & whilst it did not appear that he suffered from financial issues during this time, it is highly likely Leonard's death was unofficially considered a suicide - official sources record the cause of death as carbon monoxide poisoning & asphyxia.

So, next time someone tells you that Brisbane Arcade may be haunted by the ghost of a butcher's apprentice, point them in the direction of the newly renovated Criterion Tavern - not only will they be able to get a good steak sandwich & cold beer, but they may just catch a glimpse of a ghostly butcher that died just behind the establishment, yet supposedly haunts the other end of the Queen Street Mall.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Archerfield ghost: why compile your own material when you can steal someone elses?

"I was walking across one of the airfields on my way back to a group of friends when I spotted a man dressed in what appeared to be World War II flight gear.  I can remember him vividly, right down to his flight jacket, goggles, and cap. As there were a number of wartime aviation buffs visiting the airfield that day, I thought nothing of it - must have been someone getting into the spirit of things by turning up in costume. We passed each other and the friendly chap acknowledged me with a gesture and a nod, as did I to him, and I continued to walk back to rejoin my friends. When I arrived back, I asked my colleagues who the chap in the World War II flight gear was. It was at that point that one of the more knowledgeable of our group told me that I had just met the ghost of Archerfield!"

The above is an excerpt from the Australian chapter in the Encyclopedia of Haunted Places: Ghostly Locales From Around The World, compiled & edited in 2005 by no other than Jeff Belanger, the current day guru on ghostly phenomena.  Furthermore, aside from one segment written by Jeff about Monte Cristo Homestead in Junee, N.S.W., I was responsible for writing the Australian chapter for the encyclopaedia - including the section on the ghost of Archerfield Aerodrome.  The excerpt above was taken from an interview I conducted many years ago with an old ex-pilot who claimed to have experienced the ghost of Archerfield first-hand.  So...imagine my surprise when I recently stumbled across an article written by John Simpson in the Southern Star, entitled, "Eerie claims haunt airport."  Imagine my added surprise upon reading that "Sunnybank Hills-based ghost chaser and author of Haunted Brisbane: Ghosts of the River City, Jack Sim," had allegedly submitted the encyclopaedia entry himself!!

The article was clearly a promotional piece drumming up interest for "Jack" Sim's book, which at the time the article was published in the Southern Star in March 2009, was only a few months away from hitting store shelves as a second print edition - the first print edition had only seen 2000 copies produced, & was released in October 2005.  Here, we expose the ridiculousness of the claim in the newspaper article, as the Encyclopedia of Haunted Places was also released in October 2005 - why would a first-time author of a book about Brisbane's ghosts, relying on self-promotion & destined for a severely limited print run, submit highly useable material to another ghost book being compiled by a world-renowned author, destined for a massive print run & ongoing international distribution...with an identical release date?? Needless to say, I was less than impressed!

Additionally, Haunted Brisbane: Ghosts of the River City, is emblazoned with statements on the back cover such as "extensively researched" & "haunted historian" & "haunted heritage."  Given the numerous historical inaccuracies that cheapen every chapter of the book, I not only felt insulted at having my historically accurate material in the encyclopaedia linked with "Jack" Sim's name, but also felt insulted as a graduate professional in historical archaeology & cultural heritage at having my material used to advertise a book written by an unqualified salesman plugging gimmicky tours based on fictionalised "heritage". For the record, I have attempted to locate contact details for the author of the Southern Star article without success, & have contacted both the Chief Editor for Quest Newspapers & the Editor for the Southern Star in order to discern who provided them with the information for the article - to date, I have received no replies.  Ultimately, given that my name accompanies each section & photograph in the Australian chapter of the encyclopaedia, their journalistic capabilities in researching & cross-checking leave much to be desired!

So, poorly sourced journalism aside, let's delve further into the real history of Archerfield & the possible origin of the ghost tale of Beatty Road.  I have spoken to multiple people over the years who claim to have possibly spotted the ghost of Archerfield Aerodrome, however only 3 of these witnesses during this time observed the anomaly for more than a split second & were considered credible on interview.  Of these 3 witnesses, the observations of the "pilot" match: a man, dressed in a leather flight jacket with possible overalls under (waist down), & peaked cap with raised flight goggles sitting just above the peak.  One account took place towards the southern boundary of the airport, & two along Beatty Road also towards the southern boundary in the proximity to Mortimer Road.  Amongst these accounts, observations of a deployed parachute do not exist, as published in the Southern Star article - of the airmen that tragically lost their lives in pursuing their duties at Archerfield around the time of WWII, not one had the luxury of deploying a chute prior to the crash of their craft.

So, where does this ghost fit into history?  It is likely that one incident that occurred at Archerfield gave rise to the apparition - at the time, the event was deemed the worst air disaster in Australia's history.  Even now, after almost 70 years, the accident still ranks as the 10th worst aviation disaster in Australia.

On the 26 March 1943, a C-47 Douglas Dakota touched down at Archerfield Aerodrome, after having taken off from Townsville earlier in the day loaded with essential radar equipment destined for Sydney.  Upon landing, both the pilot & flight engineer advised the ground crew that the plane merely required refueling, which was carried out & the aircraft hangared.  At 5am the next morning, under cover of darkness with a chill in the air, the crew of four took charge of the machine & carried out a very brief pre-flight check in anticipation of completing their final run to Sydney.  The C-47 hastily taxied out towards the runway, stopping briefly to take on board 19 passengers who waited patiently in the brisk predawn air - 2 U.S. Army personnel (including a Major), an Australian Army Lieutenant, 13 R.A.A.F. personnel (mostly Signals Unit staff from Townsville) & 3 unauthorised W.A.A.F. personnel who had convinced the pilot to grant them a passage to Sydney.  Whilst the passengers embarked, a Lockheed took advantage of the available runway & accelerated down the flare path, only to abort the take-off & return the the hangars - a thick fog bank had developed at the southern extremity of the aerodrome runway due to the prevailing conditions.

Anxious to get in the air, the C-47 threw caution to the wind & accelerated down the runway following the flare trail at 5:11am, radioing through to the control tower as they left the ground with the simple message of "departed now" before disappearing into the fog 5:15am, the aircraft careened into the bush just south of the aerodrome & slammed into the ground in a ball of fire, in complete ignorance of personnel who had just watched the aircraft take off.  Given the prevailing darkness & fog obscuring the southern boundary, further minutes passed before aerodrome controllers were notified that an explosion had been heard south of the runway.  Shortly after, upon investigation, the very worst was revealed - the C-47 had gone down with the loss of all on board.  It became apparent that after crossing the southern boundary of the aerodrome, the plane had banked steeply to the left.  In doing so, the left wingtip had come in contact with the top of a tree, sheering through the wing & dragging the plane over into a nose-down position - gravity & engines under full throttle had done the rest, plowing the aircraft into the undergrowth.

Sergeant James Nicol, of the Moorooka Police Station, attended the scene of the crash at 6:45am to begin civilian investigations - wreckage was strewn over a large area & the bodies of the unfortunate passengers were located nearby the front of the aircraft once the fires had been extinguished - all 23 passengers had been so badly burnt in the resulting fuel fire, that only one had been identifiable.  An immediate Inquiry was launched by the Air Minister into what had become the worst air disaster in Australia's history.  On the 31st of March, the issue was raised in the House of Representatives by Air Minister Arthur Drakeford, with Prime Minister John Curtin adding that, "To the extent it was possible for the Government to make accidents less probable, the House could be assured nothing would be spared."  As a result, the civilian Inquest was begun alongside the R.A.A.F. investigation.

The battle lines were drawn throughout the Inquest period - the Police Force accused the R.A.A.F. of withholding information critical to the investigation, & the R.A.A.F. accused the Police Force of excluding them from the Coroner's Inquest.  After some wrangling,  the R.A.A.F. applied for a successful ajournment in order to complete their investigation, the evidence from which was tendered to the Coroner's Inquest.  Ultimately, the R.A.A.F. found the pilot at fault - it was postulated that by flying into the fog bank, the pilot was forced to switch immediately from visual to instrument navigation, during which he was distracted by the reflection of the craft's headlights on the fog.  An unexplainable non-regulation turn made at low altitude then caused the left wingtip to hit trees.  The resulting collision stripped away a section of the left wing & dragged the body of the plane downwards into the scrub, resulting in complete loss of life.  The R.A.A.F. denied that the crew had failed to maintain the aircraft & carry out a full pre-flight check prior to the takeoff in Brisbane, even though doubts had been raised by American engineers based at Archerfield.

The Coroner held the final say - the maintenance schedule of the C-47 was immediately called into question.  With testimony produced by American Airforce personnel stationed at Archerfield, the necessity for continual maintenance & full -pre-flight checks were reinforced - two factors seemingly lacking prior to takeoff of the fated flight.  Unfortunately, evidence to prove both procedures had been undertaken (or not) were destroyed in the crash when the logbooks burnt & the flight engineer was killed.  Furthermore, the Coroner called into question the reasons behind the steep bank of the aircraft after takeoff - it had been argued that this steep turn resulted from the pilot's attempt to turn the craft around after suffering mechanical failure, as some witnesses claimed to have heard engine backfires just prior to the crash.  American engineers testified that under chilly conditions, condensation could form in the fuel tanks causing engine failure, which could have been avoided had a full pre-flight check been undertaken by the crew - again, little could be proven given the condition of the wreckage.  As a final note, the Coroner stated that overall, given the prevailing foggy conditions on the morning, the plane should never have been allowed to take off.  With that, the Inquest closed, with a number of recommendations for the R.A.A.F., & the death of 23 fine servicemen & women.

So, next time you find yourself driving along the outskirts of Archerfield Aerodrome & around the corner into Bowhill Road, spare a thought for the 23 servicemen & women who tragically lost their lives that foggy morning back in 1943...& if you're lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the fabled airman who is rumoured to have been a passenger on that fateful flight.