In 1944 Broome experienced another tragic air disaster. At the time, Broome was being used as a Royal Australian Air Force operational base for aircraft conducting patrols and operations into the enemy controlled areas to the north.

On the 18th at 0435 Western Australian Time, Beaufighter A19-163, (F/Sgt.KERRIGAN (Pilot) Sgt.SMITH (Navigator)), crashed into the sea shortly after take off.

The aeroplane broke up and caught fire before sinking. Some wreckage was recovered but no trace of the crew has been found.

RAAF flight records relating to Beaufighter A19-163.

Sergeant Ronald Smith, with pilot Flight Sergeant Ronald Kerrigan
Photo courtesy Val Bullied
Navigator, Sergeant Ronald Smith, with pilot Flight Sergeant Ronald (Stephen) Kerrigan.

The airmen left Broome at 4.30am on 18 September 1944 with the aim of providing protective cover for other aircraft.

While the cause of the crash will never be known, engine failure is the most likely explanation.

Both men were 20 years of age when they died.

A condolence letter received by Kerrigan’s parents after his death.

Dear Mr and Mrs Kerrigan

Though I am a perfect stranger to you people I feel as if I should write to you concerning Steve.

Steve joined our squadron during last year. I knew him very well and were good “cobbers”. He was always happy and carefree and ready for a joke. He gave us ground staff many a thrill with his intrepid flying. I saw Steve off on his last flip. You can imagine our sorrow at losing such a fine fellow.

To join you in your sorrow, feeling sure that I have never met a more grander bloke.

Sincerely yours

Ralph de Young

Sympathy letter to the Kerrigans
Letter courtesy Val Bullied
Dion Marinis Beaufighter
Photo courtesy Dion Marinis & Jim Miles.
In 2014 after two years of searching, Broome historian Dion Marinis and helicopter pilot Jim Miles located the wreck of the Beaufighter aircraft in the waters off Cable Beach.

They are shown here diving at the site.

A memorial to Kerrigan and Smith was unveiled at Cable Beach seventy years after the crash, in September 2014.


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