Navy Chopper Rescues RAAF Sabre Jet Pilot
Navy News March 1963
Another Royal Australian Navy “first” was recorded last week when one of the Navy’s new Westland Wessex helicopters went to the rescue of an R.A.A.F. pilot, who had ejected at 4,000ft from his disabled Sabre jet fighter near Goulburn. The rescue was the first by a Westland Wessex helicopter in Australia. The Navy helicopter crew consisted of the pilot, Lt. Cdr. Benny F. Mathews; co-pilot Commander (Air} H. E. Bailey and Surgeon Commander Brian Treloar all from Nowra flying Wessex N7-200
The Sabre. piloted by Acting Group-Captain A. T. Mather. a World War II D.F.C. winner, crashed into a field 13 miles from Goulburn, exploding as it hit the ground on 11 March 1963. The following story of the helicopter’s rescue was told by Cdr. Bailey. At 3.41 p.m. the helicopter was over Manuka Oval. rehearsing for the fly-past to salute the Queen at Canberra. From a Winjel trainer plane. acting as a link between air control and the Sabres, the helicopter crew heard over their radio that one of the Sabre pilots was having trouble and it looked as though he would have to eject.
Four minutes later as the helicopter passed over Ainslie they heard that the pilot had ejected in the vicinity of lnveralachy. When the helicopter crew heard this they called Fairbairn Air Base and told control that they had a Surgeon Commander in the chopper. Their assistance was immediately accepted and Fairbairn gave the helicopter crew the approximate position the pilot had ejected.
The helicopter covered the 2S miles. in 20 minutes and come down alongside the plane wreckage north of Lake Bathurst but searched unsuccessfully for a victim. Bystanders told the pilot that the Sabre pilot ejected about two miles away. They took off and landed at a farmhouse, where they were met by two ferocious dogs, before quickly moving off again to the next farmhouse.
They landed in a paddock where they found Group Captain Mathers sitting on a veranda with a glass in his band.As there were no refreshments for the helicopter crew. they took off with Group Captain Mathers and flew him back 10 Fairbairn Base sickbay.Commander Bailey said the Sabre wreckage was spread over three paddocks. It was fortunate that where the crash occurred it was grassy with only a few trees otherwise the chopper could not have set down.
The Westland Wessex helicopter is one of the 27 which the R.A.N. are obtaining to build up its anti-submarine defences.
Later, F.O.J.C.E.A. received the following message from the Air Officer commanding R.A.A.F.:-
“I am deeply appreciative of the prompt action of the crew of your helicopter Wessex in locating and picking up the pilot of a crashed Sabre, in the Canberra area on Monday. Would you please convey to the crew the gratitude of the rescued pilot and my personal thanks for the highly commendable manner in which they accepted and executed the task.”