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Burke and Wills Track, Mia Mia VIC 3444

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  • Plane crash site
  • Roadside stop
  • Memorial
  • Information sign
  • Bench seat
This roadside monument stands in memory of ten people who tragically lost their lives in a 1945 plane crash in Mia Mia. 

The Australian National Airways mail plane VHUYY TOKANA was flying its regular route between Melbourne and Broken Hill on January 31st 1945, with two crew and eight passengers on board, when a structural weakness caused a catastrophic failure in the wing. 

The plane lost control and crashed nearby in the paddocks of the Spring Plains pastoral property. 

Emergency services were immediately alerted and a number of locals quickly attended the scene, but flames from the crash leapt ten metres into the air, making any assistance impossible. 

Among the plane's passengers were two brothers aged 10 and 11, and a young man of 17 who was at the very beginning of his career as a cadet mining engineer. 

Situated along Burke and Wills Track in Mia Mia, the site consists of a stone plaque, an informative sign, and a bench seat. 

You will also find a second memorial a little further along this road, commemorating the first flight of an aeroplane built and flown by an Australian - also on the Spring Plains property.  

An information sign displays the following text:


The tragedy

On January 31st 1945 at approximately 8:15am, the Australian National Airways mail plane VHUYY TOKANA was flying the daily route from Melbourne to Broken Hill via Kerang and Mildura.

The plane was observed to be flying at about 300 to 600 metres height above ground. The port wing is reported to have broken off outboard of the engine, which caused the plane to lose control and crash here in the paddocks of Spring Plains. All eight passengers and two crew perished. Many local people arrived at the scene to assist, but could not get close enough to help as the flames and heat from the burning wreckage were too intense. 

The plane

The Plane was an "A" model Stinson manufactured in the USA in 1933-34, one of four purchased by Airlines of Australia. In 1943 the two remaining Stinson Trimotors had been idle for some years in need of parts and were now owned by the Australian National Airways. At the request of A. N. A. the department of Civil Aviation's Aeronautical Engineering Branch detailed engineering modifications to make these aircraft useful, converting the planes into a twin engine configuration using two Pratt and Whitney 550 HP engines from the three Lycoming 235 HP engines. The conversion was carried out by A. N. A. at the Essendon Airport workshop, and after flight testing the planes were available for service. The TOKANA had flown 2797 hours since the conversion to twin engines without mishap and had flown a little over 500 hours since its last Certificate Airworthiness Inspection. 

The people of the districts of Spring Plains, Mia Mia and Redesdale

The early morning flight of the mail plane was predictable and regularly observed by local people. When the first signs of the plane's fate became evident the authorities were soon alerted, the Post Mistress, Mrs S Govey and Reg Bennett, the property owner where the crash occurred, made calls to alert the Heathcote police. Stan Cullen arrived first to discover a scene of total devastation. Rupert Knight, Clarrie Coombe, Reg Bennett and many others attended but were unable to help under the difficult circumstances as flames leapt up to 10 metres into the air. The tragedy left an indelible impression upon the community, particularly the youth whose recollections after seventy four years made cause for this memorial to be created. 

Crew and passengers

Pilots: Captain Alan Leigh Murn, an experienced pilot who came to civil aviation from the Royal Australian Airforce in February 1944.
First Officer: Orvil Darcy Openshaw, was an experienced commercial pilot from New Zealand who joined A. N. A. in August 1944.

Passengers: John Gordon Jensen. Production manager of the Mildura Munitions Factory. 
Roy Fairfax Richardson. Mechanical supervisor with the Allied Works Council. 
John Tayleur. Supervisor in construction with the Allied Works Council.
Harry Franklin Black. Technical representative of the Allison Engineering Company and an American citizen on loan to the RAAF from the United States Army. 
Brothers, Peter Lawn aged 11 years and Kevin Lawn aged 10 years returning home to Kerang after staying with their aunt in Melbourne. 
Father and son, Frederick Kerr aged 50 years and his son Colin Kerr, 17, returning to Broken Hill where Mr Kerr was an Inspector of Mines and Colin was about to start his career as a cadet mining engineer. 

The Prime Minister, The Hon John Curtin's tribute to the victims

"That he had learned with deepest regret of a shocking accident which has cost Australia the lives of valuable men doing great work for the nation. They were fine men, whom Australia could not afford to lose.


An inquiry was ordered into the crash of ANA VHUYY "TOKANA" which included many eye witness accounts, past flight reports, witness statements from the associated aviation professionals and probably for the first time, scientific metallurgical analysis investigation of the air frame at the sites of the structural failures. The cause of the crash was determined to be a crack in the weld of a key structural component of the wing, which was further weakened by metal fatigue leading to a total and catastrophic failure of the wing. Testing of airframe components became standard practice thereafter to determine the safe structure life in Australia and was adopted by many other countries. 

A plaque set in stone displays the following text:

An A. N. A Royal Mail plane travelling from Melbourne to Broken Hill crashed in this area
31 January 1945

Those lost were:
  • Captain Alan Murn  27
  • 1st Officer Orville Openshaw  35
  • John Jensen  29  Production Manager/Munitions
  • Roy Richardson  54  Mechanical Supervisor
  • John Tayleur  57  Building Supervisor
  • Harry Black  32  U. S. Army Tech. Rep. 
  • Frederick Kerr  50  Inspector NSW Dep. Mines
  • Colin Kerr  17  Cadet Mining Engineer
  • Peter Lawn  11  Student
  • Kevin Lawn  10  Student
Erected in memory of those who died by the MIA MIA and REDESDALE COMMUNITIES 31 January 2020



Leave a comment

Doug Brockfield
How sad.. Found this monument yesterday while going along the road to see the other memorial which we had seen years ago. I didn't know about the Stinson crash. ANA had several planes crash which led to it's demise.