The Qantas Empire Flying Boat Circe before it disappeared en-route to Java in 1942. (Qantas Heritage Collection)

Circe Mystery Solved after 72 Years

The mystery of the disappearance of the Qantas Empire Flying Boat Circe has been solved 72 years after it disappeared en-route to Java.

Circe was carrying 16 passengers from Tjilatjap to Broome on 28 February 1942 when it vanished without trace. Both the Australian and US governments have long maintained the there is no evidence Circe was shot down by the Japanese.

Today, 72 years to the day after it was lost, the Civil Aviation Heritage Society (CAHS) has revealed research that shows it was definitely lost to enemy action.

"Through recent research in Australian and Japanese archives by aviation historians Phil Vabre and Osamu Tagaya it can now be confirmed for the first time that Circe was shot down by a Japanese ‘Betty’ bomber based at Denpasar, Bali," a news release stated.

"The Betty, flown by Flight Petty Officers Yamamoto and Ashizawa of the Imperial Japanese Navy, was on a maritime patrol when it spotted and engaged Circe some 200 miles (320 km) south of the Java coast."

Although unarmed civil aircraft, the Qantas flying boats were at this time being employed on charter to US military forces to fly vital supplies and personnel into Java. When loads permitted, they were used to evacuate mostly civilian personnel from Java on the return flights to Broome.

Still owned by the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), Circe was operated at the time by Qantas under an interchange agreement.

Circe was the second Qantas flying boat to be shot down by Japanese forces, sister-ship Corio having been shot down off Timor a month earlier.

 

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