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Pilot Officer Robert John "Jack" OHLMEYER - 23 November 1939.

3SQN’s Earliest WW2 Fatality…

- REVEALED AFTER 73 YEARS!

Very surprisingly, in 2012 it came to light that No.3 Squadron’s WW2 Honour Roll had been lacking the name of the Squadron’s very first WW2 casualty, who died in 1939.  Robert OHLMEYER was a young Pilot Officer who crashed on a solo training-flight from Richmond RAAF Base and into the Illawarra area. 

Presumably the lack of established RAAF casualty systems early in the war, plus 3SQN’s departure for the Middle East in July 1940, caused this glitch in the records. 
 - However, Ohlmeyer's omission remains perplexing, considering the elaborate public mourning ceremonies described in the press articles below:  


A pretty formation of Hawker Demons from 3 Squadron in 1939.
Aircraft A1-62 is visible second from front.

The Kiama Independent, Saturday 25 November 1939

FATAL PLANE CRASH NEAR JAMBEROO.
R.A.A.F. PILOT KILLED.

Pilot-Officer Ohlmeyer, of the R.A.A.F., was killed when a Hawker Demon plane [Serial A1-62], of which he was the sole occupant, crashed at Fountaindale, near Jamberoo NSW, shortly after 3 o'clock on Thursday afternoon.  It had been a cloudy day, and visibility was poor.  

Mr. Wallace Alexander, jnr., who was working near Wallaby Hill, saw the plane go over in a southerly direction, and then he momentarily lost sight of it behind a cloud.  Only a few seconds later, he saw it again, nose-diving to the earth, with the pilot following it, his parachute not then fully open.  

Mr. Alexander, with several others, rode over to the scene of the accident, and found that the pilot had landed about a hundred yards away from the wreckage of his machine.  He was unable to speak, and died within a few seconds.  His parachute was torn, and a large piece of it ripped away.  The plane had struck the ground with terrific force, being buried almost to behind the wings.  Petrol and oil and pieces of machinery were scattered over a wide area.  Another observer, standing near the Jamberoo Factory lane, had heard the note of the engine change from the normal throbbing to a kind of scream...

The body of the pilot was removed by Ambulance to the Kiama Hospital Morgue, and a police guard was placed at the scene of the accident.  RAAF officers and men later came down and took charge. The late Pilot Officer Ohlmeyer, who came from Clare, South Australia, was attached to the Air Force Station at Richmond.  He had recently completed a training course at Point Cook, and was on an authorised flight from Richmond, to which station he was scheduled to return.  The RAAF Court of Enquiry was opened yesterday, when an officer visited the scene of the accident, and also obtained statements from various eye-witnesses.  The wreckage of the plane was salvaged and removed to Sydney.  It was announced that the late Pilot-Officer Ohlmeyer would be buried with full military honours.  


The A1-62 crash scene at Fountaindale NSW, before the wreckage was taken away. 
[This image displayed with kind permission of Mr. John Weston.  Many thanks to University of Wollongong Archive for their assistance.]

Northern Argus (Clare, SA) Friday 1 December 1939:

CLARE AVIATOR IN FATAL AEROPLANE CRASH.

- Untimely End to Promising Career of young Jack Ohlmeyer.

Quite a gloom was cast over the town of Clare and district when it was learned from Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Ohlmeyer that their second son, Robert John ('Jack') Ohlmeyer had been killed in an aeroplane crash. …An Air Enquiry was held and arrangements completed to send the casket by rail home to Clare in the Sydney-Melbourne-Adelaide Express.

TRIBUTE TO DEAD AIRMAN.  Sydney, Saturday…

- An impressive ceremony, the first of its kind in the history of the Royal Australian Air Force in New South Wales, was carried out at the Central Railway Station tonight when officers and men of No. 3 Squadron, Richmond, paid their last respects to Pilot Officer R. J. Ohlmeyer, a South Australian, who was killed when his plane crashed on the south coast last Thursday.  With Air Force honours they placed the coffin aboard the Melbourne express and stood by silently as it began its long journey to the dead pilot's home at Clare.  With the coffin draped in the Union Jack and bearing the dead officer’s cap and sword, it was carried along the platform by officers who had trained and graduated at Point Cook last month with Pilot-Officer Ohlmeyer.  Other members of his unit, with rifles reversed, marched in front of the coffin.

IMPRESSIVE FUNERAL SERVICES.  The local undertakers connected with the express in Adelaide on Monday morning, and the funeral left the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ohlmeyer on Monday afternoon at 2.30 p.m.  One of the largest corteges seen at a Clare and district funeral for many years (80 motor vehicles) conveyed about 500 people to pay their last respects to the dead airman.  Business houses closed for one hour.  A service was held at the home in William Street, Clare, and a large crowd stood reverently in the garden, and on the footpath and roadway, while the Methodist Minister conducted a service from the verandah.  The casket was covered by a Union Jack.

GUARDS OF HONOR AT THE CEMETERY.  On reaching the last resting place at the Clare Cemetery, Guards of Honour were formed up of the Mayor and Councillors of the Corporation of Clare; the District Council of Clare; and Returned Soldiers; members of the Clare Independent Order of Oddfellows, Manchester Unity; and Boy Scouts.  The pall bearers were six young men who had attended the Clare High School with the deceased pilot.

BEAUTIFUL FLORAL TRIBUTES.  Three motor car loads conveyed the floral tributes.  These were laid out near the cemetery gates in the form of a cross about 25 feet in length and 15 feet wide, and bore eloquent testimony to the widespread sympathy evoked by this young man's sudden and untimely end at the early age of 21 years.  A beautiful sheath of white lilies made by his mother and sisters was buried with him.  …Amongst a large list who sent tributes were Pilot Officers F. Williams, and B. Bracegirdle of Richmond, N.S.W.

OBITUARY.  The late Jack Ohlmeyer, while at the Clare Primary and High Schools, was of a quiet, unassuming and likeable disposition.  He took part in cricket and tennis, and played football for the South Clare and Clare teams.  He was a diligent scholar, and secured his intermediate and leaving certificates, and was sports captain at the High School.  As he grew to manhood his fondness for mechanics enabled him to be employed at his brother-in-law's engineering works for some time before joining the Air Force at Point Cook, Victoria.  He was a member of the S.A. Aero Club, and secured his 'A-Class' pilot's licence at the Parafield aerodrome.  A few days before the Clare Show in October last, word was received by his parents that he had qualified at Point Cook to become a Pilot Officer and was being transferred to more active operations, on account of war services, to the Richmond Flying School in Sydney, where he had been engaged almost daily for the past five weeks in numerous flights over the city of Sydney, and surrounding country, where he met with his fatal mishap.


A photo of Jack from his RAAF Personnel File.  This shows him in his home garden in Clare, prior to joining the Air Force.

Kiama Reporter, Wednesday 29 November 1939:

Yesterday morning, apparently synchronising with the funeral in his home State of South Australia, a number of RAAF planes flew over the scene of the accident, circling very low and dipping in salute to their last tribute of respect to a gallant comrade who had paid the supreme sacrifice for his country and had died on active service.  A wreath was also dropped on the site from one of the planes.  A fund is being established at Jamberoo under the auspices of the Returned Soldiers' League for the erection of a suitable memorial at Fountaindale on the site of the plane crash in which Pilot Officer Ohlmeyer was killed.  

A reader, Chris Small, wrote to us on Anzac Day 2015 with the following interesting details about the Fountaindale Memorial:

Many years ago, my father took me to see a memorial marker, on the side of Fountaindale Rd. close to Saddleback Mountain.  That would have been four decades ago.  My father always impressed upon me that Pilot Officer Ohlmeyer was one of the first Australian casualties of WW2, but also pointed out the irony of his German heritage.  I'd been to see the memorial a few times but I could not find it last time - alas, there is now a homestead built right on top of the site and to visit the memorial could be construed as trespass.

My father, Kevin Small, arranged a memorial service for the man, because he felt that he'd never received the recognition that he ought.  (From memory, it was held about fifteen years ago at Port Kembla RSL Club.)  He wrote a poem some time before that - maybe 1999, or some years earlier than that.  I include it here as it might be of interest for your members:

 

-

A Season of War

Kevin J. Small (c.1999)

The sermon on the stone proclaimed,
 To those who stopped, and read...

“Pilot Officer Ohlmeyer, of South Australia, is dead!”

November '39, it was. —He heard the bugle call.
The first of many Australians who would hear, heed
And fall.

On a slope beside the mountain road, one pleasant winter’s day,
I read upon his basalt plaque, those words
Of woe and fear.

Oh!  What an awesome season that date would herald in,
The plaque!  The first of thousands...
Australians would dread
—But yet revere.

He jumped, rolled, plummeted, like the hawks that circle there;
To fly like them, he did aspire;
But lacked their finer flair.

The upward thrust, the powerful wings, were not his maker’s
Will,
He jumped!  Rolled!  Plummeted!  Then merged with that steep hill.

The flimsy plane had faltered in these steeply sculpted slopes.
His life was snapped!  But his Spirit helped
To raise the Free World’s hopes.

And now the war's long ended; and Peace is in the land!
Cattle graze contentedly beside the eucalyptus stand.

I looked down through the tranquil Valley.
Eucalypts, a dam, a fence.  A cattleman taking tally.

High above the simple plaque,
The hawks glide and soar at will.

Pilot Officer Ohlmeyer, may Pax Domini be your fill.

 

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