FLIGHT SERGEANT RONALD STEPHEN KERRIGAN
R.A.A.F, 31 SQUADRON
Born May 3rd, 1924 to Baden and Blanche Kerrigan
Ron was my brother – and a better brother no-one could have. He was four years older than me and I looked up to him as a role model.
He was kind, generous, talented, hard working, and a wonderful brother and son. I was very proud of his achievements in his short life of twenty years.
Ron attended North Perth Primary School until 6th Standard (7th Grade). He then attended Perth Boys’ High School, Perth.
He had a beautiful boy soprano voice and enjoyed singing. At the Perth Boys’ School Concert in 1937 he sang “Smilin’ Thru’.
As a 12 year old he joined the Young Australian League and took part in many camps and activities with them. He was a good scholar and left with very good references. Ron started work with WD & HO Wills Tobacconists in1939, at the age of 15, where he worked until he joined the RAAF on the 15 June 1942. Previously, at the age of 16, he joined the Air Training Corps. While he was working at WD & HO Wills, he was studying accountancy at night school.
He learned to fly on Tiger Moths Type DH 82 A – and also flew Avro Ansons, Link, A. Oxford, Beaufort, and 26 different Beaufighters.
Ron was awarded his Flying Badge on 20 August 1943 and he served at the following units and bases:
- Number 4 Recruit Training Depot, Pearce, Western Australia
- Number 4 Service Flying Training School, Geraldton, Western Australia
- Number 4 Initial Training School, Victor Harbour, South Australia
- Number 9 Elementary Flying Training School, Cunderdin, Western Australia
- Number 6 Service Flying Training School, Mallala, South Australia,
- Number 5 Operational Training Unit, Tocumwal, New South Wales
- Number 55 Operational Base Unit, Birdum, Northern Territory
- Number 31 Squadron, Coomalie Creek, Northern Territory
- Number 31 Squadron (detachment) Broome.
The RAAF Beaufighter A19-163 (pictured) from 31 Squadron was piloted by Ron, a Flight Sergeant, and navigated by Sergeant Ronald Smith.
Ron Smith (left) and Ron Kerrigan seen here at their camp at 31 Sqn base at Coomalie Creek, a short time before they were temporarily posted to Broome.
Their aircraft was one of four Beaufighters temporarily detached from 31 Squadron base at Coomalie Creek for a time, to Broome.
They were tasked with providing protective cover for the Catalina flying boats that were conducting patrols, bombing raids, and mine-laying operations in the waters occupied by the enemy-held Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia).
Under the cover of darkness, A19-163 took off from the Broome airstrip at 4.30am on the morning of the 18th of September 1944, with a second Beaufighter to follow. Reports state that A19-163 struggled to climb, but made some distance and cleared sand dunes off Cable Beach.
This is an extract from the official report of the accident.
Floating debris was found across one square km at the accident scene. Unfortunately, due to massive tides moving the floating debris, locating the aircraft was not possible.
In 2012, Dion Marinis, then Vice President of the Broome Historical Society and Museum, came across mention of the accident during research, and the reports led him to begin a search to find the aircraft. Joined by helicopter pilot Jim Miles, Dion began diving based on information reported at the time of the incident.
Two years later, and after using several search methods including side-scan sonar operations, metal detection, and dives over a large area, a debris field was discovered. A dive on the target site confirmed that the image was the main wreck, consisting of the wing spars, tail wheel, tail plane, and both engines, which were positively identified as from A19-163.
One of the A19-63 Beaufighter engines Photo courtesy of Dion Marinis & Jim Miles
At dawn on the 18th September 2014, Dion Marinis organised a memorial service at Cable Beach marking 70 years to the day of the crash.
Attending the service:
- RAAF CO 31 WGCDR Joanna Elkington;
- RAAF WGCDR Peter Gibb;
- Chaplain RAAF SQNLDR Bruce Grey;
- Broome RSL President Max Turner;
- Broome Deputy Shire President Councillor Jenny Bloom;
- TS Broome Naval Cadets as Honour Guard;
- Roebuck Primary School Choir; and
- The Last Post and Reveille were played on the trumpet by Eden Robinson.
The service was attended by family representatives of both airmen.
After the service, Dion Marinis organised a tour to the wreck site by Cameron Birch of Broome Whale Watching Tours.
Rose petals were scattered at the site by family members.
Photos courtesy of Dion Marinis & Jim Miles
At that very time, as though a sign from the two airmen, two dolphins glided through the water and passed the boat. It seemed to me that their spirits were there.
That evening, a commemoration dinner was held at Matso’s Brewery where framed pearl shell gifts, sourced from the tail plane, were presented to myself Valma Bullied, and Judy Smith (sister-in-law of Ronald Smith) by Local Member of Parliament, Jenny Bloom.
A memorial has been constructed at Cable beach in memory of Ronald Kerrigan and Ronald Smith.
Profile courtesy of Valma Shirley Bullied,
(Sister to Ronald Stephen Kerrigan) August 2021
REST IN PEACE RONALD