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23 November 2016

Firefly memorial service.

Sunday November 27th 2016 will mark 60 years since Firefly aircraft VX 381 and 887 collided over Jervis Bay near Moona Moona Creek taking the life of two young pilots during training exercises.


A memorial service will be held on the water this Sunday to pay respect for the two airmen that lost their lives over Jervis Bay on the 17th Novermber 1956.

Sub-Lieut. Arthur Arundel, R.N., of Hull, England, the pilot, and Midshipman Noel Francis Fogarty, R.A.N., of Newmarket, Brisbane died when their Firefly 887 spiraled into Jervis Bay at 250 knots and disintegrated on impact killing both men.

The second plane VX 381 despite loosing a large section of wing manage to ditch in Hare Bay near Callala Bay,  both pilots managed to get out of the fast sinking plane into a life raft and survived this terrible disaster.

Despite a very extensive search, the remains of 887 and the flyers Arundel and Fogarty  were never recovered.

VX 381 was discovered by Diver Charlie Pickering by accident in 1983.  At the same time I got to know Charlie as a member of the Jervis Bay Protection Committee, the committee was set up by local divers to stop the mass destruction of the sea floor in Jervis Bay by uncontrolled scallop trawling.   I dived on VX 381 soon after.

The where about’s of the second plane 887 was always a mystery, and was often discussed by local diving friends. 

Local diver Greg Stubbs who dived on VX 381 in 2005 was inspired to try and find the missing plane, after many years of frustrating research and diving he found the shattered remains of Firefly 887 in small pieces scattered across a large area.

This search led Greg to try and find out if either of the other two pilots from VX 381 were still living.   By pure chance Greg  managed to find one of the surviving pilots via information that came to him when tourists from England called into his mechanic business for assistance.  Greg in conversation told them of his search and almost immediatly and  unbelievably the tourists contacted people in England which led him to discover one of the remaining pilots.

Sub-Lieut. David Eagles, R.N., of Yorkshire,  is now 81, and was the pilot of VX 381.
After talking to David,  and eventually meeting him in person in February when David traveled to Australia.  Greg made plans to have a memorial service on the anniversary of the collision which took place on the 17th November 1956, to show respect and to honour the pilots involved in this amazing piece of Jervis Bay history.

Greg has since managed to find and contact the navigator of VX 381 Midshipman Donald Geoffrey Debus, R.A.N., who now lives in Canberra.

It's an amazing story,  and a credit to one man's dogged determination to bring closure to the families and honor these young men who just by the very nature of their job risked their lives every time they took to the air.

Continue Reading.  This will take you to other information concerning Firefly’s and Jervis Bay.
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