Sergeant Melville Beckman Tyrrell was only 21 years old when the Catalina A24-50 aircraft went missing with 10 men on board on September 2nd, 1943.
Sergeant Melville Beckman Tyrrell was only 21 years old when the Catalina A24-50 aircraft went missing with 10 men on board on September 2nd, 1943.

Fate of lost WWII airman revealed

NEARLY 76 years after a Townsville airman went missing during World War II, his grieving family finally have answers about his fate.

Sergeant Melville "Micky" Beckman Tyrrell, 21, along with nine other Australian men, went missing aboard RAAF No.11 Squadron Catalina A24-50 on September 2, 1943.

The airmen vanished on a sea mining operation to Sorong in occupied Dutch New Guinea, leaving behind hurt families who never learned what happened to their loved ones.

Susan Pearson, 64, said the loss of her Uncle Micky pained her mother and entire family throughout their lives, praying they would find him.

"No one ever got over losing him, my mother, her sister, the two brothers waited for news about Mick," she said.

"They never received it unfortunately, we his descendants are the ones to benefit, learning as to what his fate finally was.

"It means everything to finally know what happened to him and the other brave men."

Melville Beckman Tyrrell on leave during WW2 in Townsville.
Melville Beckman Tyrrell on leave during WW2 in Townsville.

 

Wreckage found of the Catalina A24-50 in Indonesia.
Wreckage found of the Catalina A24-50 in Indonesia.

The RAAF Historical Unrecovered War Casualties team left the RAAF Base Amberley on July 14, for a recovery mission in Indonesia at the crash site of the Catalina aircraft which they identified.

Recognisable pieces of wreckage include two sections of the wing, engines and propeller, and the empennage (rear part of fuselage).

A number of small artefacts were also discovered, with more forensic work needed to confirm the origin of each item found.

Mrs Pearson said her mother Maud Hebert, who died at the age of 91 in January 2015, spoke about her brother all her life and was constantly plagued by thinking about the worst.

"It appears they (air crew) died on impact … which gives us some measure of consolation knowing that he wasn't taken a prisoner of war," she said.

"My mum and her sister always worried about him being a POW and mistreated.

"They left this world never knowing the fate of their brother, it's relieved our sorrow a little bit knowing it would have been a quick death."

A Catalina flying boat “black cat” similar to a A24-50.
A Catalina flying boat “black cat” similar to a A24-50.

When her family moved near the RAAF Base Richmond in NSW, Mrs Hebert often told her daughter that she dreamt she was going to one day run into her brother Micky in town.

"I used to feel so sorry for her that she could never have closure," Mrs Pearson said.

Mr Tyrrell enlisted in the RAAF on November 8, 1940, and served as a gunner and armourer and was described as an affectionate and considerate brother, regularly bringing his two sisters gifts.

While on leave back home in Townsville during the war, he begged his father Joseph Tyrrell to sign forms that would allow the man, then aged under 21, to fly in the planes.

Mrs Pearson said her grandfather for the rest of his life regretted his decision, and would regularly say "I shouldn't have signed the papers".

Micky worked alongside his father Joe at the Ross River Meat Works and both were major horse racing enthusiasts.

Archival records of Sergeant Melville Beckman Tyrrell. This death notice letter was sent to his father.
Archival records of Sergeant Melville Beckman Tyrrell. This death notice letter was sent to his father.

 

A letter from King George VI.
A letter from King George VI.

Australian War Memorial archives show correspondence between Joe Tyrrell and the RAAF, after the end of the war, always enquiring about the result of search missions.

"It broke his (Joe's) heart … he tried for years to find out," Mrs Pearson tearfully said.

A Last Post ceremony will be held at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra on the 76th anniversary of the disappearance as a farewell.

"He never had a funeral, as there was never a body," Mrs Pearson said.

Mrs Pearson said she and her family were waiting to hear from the Department of Defence if any remains were found for DNA testing.

"We're all he (Micky) has left, and I hope he can see what's happening from above," she said.