Harold Dick, an Australian War correspondent, was one of the 31 people killed.
Harold Dick, an Australian War correspondent, was one of the 31 people killed. Australian War Memorial

Read the last telegram Harold Dick ever wrote to his wife

VISITING the Canal Creek War Memorial for the first time last Sunday was an emotional moment for Clive Dick, who's father was killed in one of Australia's worst air disasters when Clive was just seven weeks old.

Returning to the site on Wednesday for the 75th anniversary memorial, he said he was glad to go to the service he had been waiting years to attend.

"It has been very very emotional, but it is something I have always wanted to do," he said.

"It's been a hard day, but I have to say, feel relieved now that the ceremony is over."

Mr Dick's father Harold, a war correspondent and photographer, was on his way home for a short time so he boarded the Douglas C-47A Troop Carrier in Townsville, bound for Brisbane on December 19, 1943.

 

Clive Dick, with his wife Beth, made it to the memorial for the first time 75 years after Clive's father Harold was killed in the Canal Creek Air Disaster.
Clive Dick, with his wife Beth, made it to the memorial for the first time 75 years after Clive's father Harold was killed in the Canal Creek Air Disaster. Allan Reinikka ROK191218acanalcr

That flight only made it as far as Canal Creek and all 31 people on board were killed.

Before leaving Townsville, Harold sent a telegram to his wife in Sydney on the morning of December 18, it read;

"Coming home short leave unable to say whether Sunday Monday travelling by air will phone on arrival home."

Telling the story of the last correspondence his father sent to his mother, Mr Dick became emotional.

"He was coming home to replenish his film, he wasn't coming home for Christmas, he had run out of film.

 

The Canal Creek plane crash of 1943 is Australia's second largest air disaster. Thirty-one people were killed when the military plane crashed.
The Canal Creek plane crash of 1943 is Australia's second largest air disaster. Thirty-one people were killed when the military plane crashed. Frank Rumpf

"So he sent a telegram home to my mother saying I'll be home tomorrow.

"She got the telegram, but she didn't get him.

"I have the original of that telegram."

Having no memories of his own of his father, Mr Dick said he has collected information on his dad all throughout his life from those who knew him best.

"I was blessed by a lot of information that was left over from the war by my relatives," he said.

"I have a lot of my fathers photographs, I have the records of where he was and what he did and I have kept it all."

 

The Canal Creek air disaster wreckage. All 31 people on board were killed when the military aircraft they were traveling in went down north of Rockhampton. The picture was taken by Cheryl Cooper's father.
The Canal Creek air disaster wreckage. All 31 people on board were killed when the military aircraft they were traveling in went down north of Rockhampton. The picture was taken by Cheryl Cooper's father. Cheryl Cooper

Details of the crash were kept secret for many years because it took place in war time, but it remains Australia's second greatest air disaster because of the large loss of life.

On board were 27 passengers and four crew; 20 United States Armed Services personnel, eight Australian Defence personnel, a YMCA representative, and an adjutant of the Salvation Army, and Harold Dick an Australian War Correspondent.

There are only two recorded witnesses to the crash, Henry and Daphne Gale, who worked on Canal Creek Station when the plane went down.

Mr Gale's witness statement read; "I saw the plane come out of the clouds and it was spinning and smoking. About 100 feet above the ground it blew up with a terrific explosion and pieces from the plane flew all around. It crashed about a mile from my house and immediately burst into flames. I rushed to the scene but there was nothing I could do because no one survived the crash."

The Canal Creek memorial opened in 2012 comprising of two plaques with the names of all the passengers, historical photos of the crash, and pieces of the aircraft.

 

Another photo of the wreckage taken by  Cheryl Cooper's father.
Another photo of the wreckage taken by Cheryl Cooper's father. Cheryl Cooper

Overwhelmed and grateful to the community for the respect and care they have shown to not only him, but to those who perished, Mr Dick thanked all those involved with the memorial and the service.

"It was excellent, the people here are to be commended for what they've done," he said.

"They have never forgotten and it is really beautiful."

"It's not just down to one person, it is the will of the whole community."



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