Overlooking the beautiful Boyne Valley in Central Queensland are the massive sandstone escarpments of Kroombit Tops.
The dramatic landscape of rugged, inaccessible gorges, concealed waterways, tropical rainforests and open blackbutt forest is a haven for wildlife and provides spectacular opportunities for camping, hiking and four wheel driving adventures. But this remote and beautiful setting guarded a tragic secret for more than 49 years, until its chance discovery in 1994 solved a wartime mystery.
The B-24D Liberator bomber Beautiful Betsy served in the Second World War for eight months before becoming a training aircraft for parachutists. Her next job was to fly around Australia on “fat cat” missions gathering fresh food and other supplies for military personnel based in Darwin. She set out on just such a flight, a routine journey from Darwin to Brisbane, on the evening of 26th February 1945 with six American and two British airmen on board.
One of these airmen was Flight Officer Roy Cannon of the 548th Squadron RAF. He was on his way to Brisbane to marry his Australian sweetheart in four days’ time. His best man Flight Lieutenant Thomas Cook was also on board the doomed plane, which disappeared without a trace.
No one knows for sure what happened to the Beautiful Betsy and her passengers early on the morning of 27th February, but there were no radio distress signals sent, no parachutes were opened and the landing gear of the plane was not engaged, which meant that the crew had no time to react before the crash occurred. There were many futile searches over the years but the wreckage of the plane was not found until 2nd August 1994, when a park ranger monitoring a controlled burn-off in the Kroombit Tops National Park came across the remains of the plane and her passengers.
Today the site is recognised as a World War 2 memorial and has been left as it was found in 1994, with wreckage scattered over a distance of 100 metres up the hillside. The final resting place of the eight lost airmen is tranquil, but the debris of the Beautiful Betsy will always be a reminder of their tragic deaths.