One of Jackson's Few

contributed by Michael Hall

Barry Cox arrived in Canberra in the late 1930s to work with a stockbroking firm. He joined the RAAF in February 1940 and trained at Point Cook before earning his wings and joining No.4 Squadron in Canberra. On the afternoon of 4 April 1941 he and two other planes were flying in formation, returning to Canberra from Narranderra, when Cox’s plane collided with another aircraft over Canberra.

The other aircraft was being flown by Rupert Baster, another pilot from No.4 Squadron at Canberra, who, while on a training flight that afternoon, found himself blinded by the afternoon sun and collided with Cox’s plane near Yarralumla where the Governor General, Lord Gowrie, the Acting Prime Minister, Arthur Fadden and the Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Charles Burnett were in a meeting. Lord Gowrie and Fadden rushed to Yarralumla woolshed where Baster parachuted safely. Cox also landed safely and was rescued by Burnett. However his passenger, Corporal William Ramsay of Sydney, was unable to escape and died when the plane crashed in a pine plantation near Yarralumla.

In March 1942 Cox joined No.75 Squadron flying a Kittyhawk out of Jackson’s Field in Port Moresby. He was “one of Jackson’s few” defending Port Moresby from regular Japanese bombing raids. On 28 April 1942 his squadron flew out to confront eight Japanese bombers which were supported by 12 Zero fighters. In the ensuing battle Cox’s plane was shot down and crashed in Waigan Swamp near Port Moresby. An army search party found the plane buried down to its tail and on fire. The body of Barry Cox was not recovered.

Baster had a similar fate. By the end of 1941 he had joined No.3 Squadron in the Middle East also flying a Kittyhawk. On 8 January 1942 his squadron was sent on an offensive sweep over Agedabia in Libya when they encountered an enemy formation of more than 40 aircraft. In the ensuing dogfight Baster was shot down and killed.

Yarralumla Woolshed