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FROM the VAULT: A forced landing for Leading Aircraftman Edwin ‘Ted’ Ridler, 1941
Mark Clayton on Jul 20, 2021 @ 11:00am
Surrounded by hills in every direction, the former gold-mining town of Gympie in south-east Queensland offers few options for a pilot hoping to escape unscathed from an emergency landing.
Twenty-nine-year-old Leading Aircraftman Edwin ‘Ted’ Ridler was on the return leg of a solo navigation exercise from RAAF Amberley to Maryborough, one Sunday in late July 1941, when the starboard engine of his Avro Anson aircraft failed while flying south at 4,000 feet, two miles east of Gympie. With the Anson possessing marginal single-engine performance, and no airfields nearby, Ridler realized he had no option other than to attempt a forced-landing – but where? After circling the town a few times looking for a suitable clearing he attempted to land in Frankies paddock at Ashford Hill south-east of the town.
Official Air Force records reveal little of what happened that morning, but thankfully local Constable Frank Swepson’s typewritten police report is more expansive…1
He then attempted to land the plane in a paddock about 30 yards further on from where he crashed, but in coming down, he struck the limbs of a tree, which forced him down sooner, with the result that he landed on some very uneven ground, tearing away his under carriage, and the wing of the plane also struck some posts of an old fence. He was not injured in any way…As far as could be seen, damage as a result of the crash was as follows: – Both wings damaged, undercarriage, both air screws, and floors of the cabin also damage.2
After evacuating the wrecked plane Ridler telephoned the Amberley Duty Pilot, arrangements then being made for the immediate despatch of an Air Force guard and recovery crew. In the meantime Swepson and his colleague, Constable Franciscus Bleys ‘kept a close watch on the wrecked plane until a military guard was mounted at 11.30 am,’ the latter having been provided by the 1st Field Survey Company which was then temporarily headquartered at Gympie under Warrant Officer Carpenter.
An Air Force ground crew spent the next couple of days dismantling and loading the damaged aircraft, the accompanying images (from the Ipswich Library collection) suggesting that some may have also camped at the crash site. It was subsequently learned that the pilot may have overlooked switching fuel tanks when overhead Maryborough, as instructed, causing the starboard engine to stop.3
A brief report in a local paper the following day effectively concluded the episode, for Gympie’s citizenry at least.4 For both the luckless plane and its pilot however, the dramas would continue. Despite having been extensively damaged Ridler’s Anson was eventually repaired and returned to service. Nine months after its retrieval from Gympie it was damaged again when struck by another aircraft taking off at Amberly. Barely a month later the same aircraft crashed during a storm, in South Australia, killing its twenty-one-year-old pilot.5
Older than most air crew applicants, London-born Ridler, whose family had emigrated to Australia in 1925, was working as a manual training instructor at the Proserpine Rural State School in North Queensland when he applied to join the Air Force in mid-1940. He received his overseas posting orders soon after his crash at Gympie, and it was while training with the RAF’s No. 1518 BAT (Beam Approach Training) Flight at Scampton, Lincolnshire, in August the following year that he crashed and sustained serious injuries.6 Ridler was night training at the time, using the RAF (Royal Air Force)’s still-experimental radar landing system, when he struck a tree after overshooting the runway at Warwick in the West Midlands.7 His Oxford aircraft (similar to the Avro Anson) was completely destroyed by the impact which also killed his twenty-six-year-old co-pilot from New Zealand.
Ridler eventually recovered from his injuries, spending the next two years flying non-operationally with the RAF in a variety of combat and training aircraft (viz. Tutor, Magister, Botha, Wellington and Halifax). Consistently graded as an above-average pilot, he finally received his first operational posting in 1945, spending the rest of the war flying Lancaster bombers (with 101 and 582 Squadrons) on Pathfinder and electronic counter-measure operations against Germany.
Ted Ridler settled in Sherwood (Brisbane) after the war and resumed his pre-war vocation as a technical trade instructor.
- Anson R3561, Flying Accident Preliminary Report, serial no.14, National Archives of Australia (NAA) Series number A9845, Control symbol 69, Item ID 7127541.
- Aeroplane accidents, Queensland State Archives, ITM320055
- General Conduct Sheet, 20 July 1942, RIDLER EDWIN HENRY: Service Number – 405325, National Archives of Australia (NAA), A9300, RIDLER E H, ID 5262362. https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/NAAMedia/ShowImage.aspx?B=5262362&S=33
- “R.A.A.F. plane down near Gympie,” Maryborough Chronicle, 21 July 1941, 3.
- Church Lawford to Air Ministry (Gloucester), telegram 6403, 5 August 1942, RIDLER EDWIN HENRY: Service Number – 405325, National Archives of Australia (NAA), A9300, RIDLER E H, ID 5262362. https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/NAAMedia/ShowImage.aspx?B=5262362&S=63
This story was written by a Guest Contributor Mark Clayton. The Police Museum is open 9am to 4pm Monday to Thursday and 10am to 3pm on the last Sunday of the month (Feb-Nov) and is located on the Ground Floor of Police Headquarters at 200 Roma Street, Brisbane.
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“FROM the VAULT: A forced landing for Leading Aircraftman Edwin ‘Ted’ Ridler, 1941” by the Queensland Police Service is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (BY) 2.5 Australia Licence. Permissions may be available beyond the scope of this licence. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/au/legalcode