Thursday, 22 January 2015 00:00

Lake Corangamite Wirraway

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In late 1950 23 year old pilot Vance Drummond was flying a low level navigation exercise as part of his 4FTS Course from Pt Cook when he was forced to ditch his Wirraway near the western edge of Lake Corangamite, a little north of Stoneyford. Vance exited the aircraft unharmed and was helped ashore.

For the last 65 years the Wirraway has sat where it came to rest that day hidden under the very salty waters of Lake Corangamite and a stack of mud, as a silent reminder of this great Kiwi.

On a regular basis after extended dry spells the top half of the aircraft is visible as the lake water level drops. It reveals an intact airframe that was ditched successfully, it is remarkable that after so long in such a harsh environment it is still all together as an airframe.

Vance was a remarkable pilot who went on to have a distinguished career. Serving in Korea from 1951 to 1953. He was awarded the United States Air Medal for his “courage, aggressiveness, and tactical skills in the face of superior numbers of enemy high performance jet aircraft….” After been shot down in December 1951 by a Chinese flying a MIG15 he was taken as prisoner until the end of the war, receiving punishment for an escape bid on Good Friday 1952.

By December 1961 he was Flight Commander of No.75 Squadron, and shortly thereafter became Squadron Leader. By October he was in charge of the RAAF “Black Diamonds” aerobatic team flying the Sabre Jets.

He later served as a Forward Air Controller with the US Air Force in Vietnam. On 24th July 1966 as an FAC in a Cessna “Bird Dog” he and his pilot went to the aid of an army company who were pinned down by Viet Cong troops. In the face of heavy anti-aircraft fire they flew low into the fight dropping flares to illuminate the enemy while calling in the helicopter gunships and fighter bombers. After having flow for 5 hours earlier during daylight, this night time action saw them fly for a further 11 hours over 4 sorties. By the morning of the 25th July the army company had been saved. For this bravery Vance was to receive the DFC.

Tragically before he received the DFC he was killed in 1967 when his Mirage jet crashed into the sea off Newcastle NSW during Air Combat Maneuvering. At the time he was acting CO of Number 3 Squadron. His wife, Margaret and his 9 year old son, David, travelled to Government House in Canberra on the 5th of April 1968 to receive Vance’s DFC.

His service record includes:

Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Force Cross, New Zealand War Service Medal, Korea Medal, United Nations Service Medal for Korea, Australian Vietnam Medal, United States Air Medal, South Vietnam Government Medal and South Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star.

You can get near the site by road, Pomborneit Foxhow Rd runs right past. Travel approx 2 k’s north of Bullarook Rd. a few hundred meters off shore to your east.

Vance Drummond 1927 to 1967. Lest We Forget.

Last modified on Thursday, 22 January 2015 06:03

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