Northern Territory Government

Roll of Honour

McTAVISH, Hugh McLaren


Hugh McLaren McTavish was born in Oregon to parents Duncan McTavish and Bessie McLaren McTavish who were both born in Canada. At the age of 16 McTavish was living with his aunt and uncle, John and Margaret Roth in San Francisco. McTavish later married a widow Mary House and they lived in Sonoma, California with her young daughter Helen House.

McTavish's service number was 6549162, he was a career serviceman who had been stationed in several locations including Wheeler Army Airfield in Hawaii in 1935, where incidentally Amelia Earhart had landed that year on her first Hawaii-to-Mainland solo flight, and in Rantoul, Champaign Illinois where there was a large Army Base called Chanute Field later changed to Chanute Air Force Base. He was a Staff Sergeant bombardier on the B-17s in the 19th AAF Bomb Squadron. On 19 February 1942, ten P-40s of the 33rd Pursuit Squadron led by Major Floyd Pell had earlier left Darwin for Java but had later turned back after being advised of the weather report in Koepang. The arrival of these planes coincided with the arrival of the first air raid by the Japanese on Darwin. These planes had only just landed; nine of the US fighters were either shot down or destroyed attempting to take off, and the Liberator AL521 was strafed and destroyed on the ground killing the flight engineer Senior Sergeant Hugh McTavish and wounding the upper gunner. Liberator AL521 had arrived from Java the previous day carrying Major-General Patrick J. Hurley who was enroute to his post as US Minister to New Zealand. It was parked on the tarmac adjacent to the 13 Squadron workshop hangars.

McTavish was originally buried at Gardens Hill Cemetery but was later disinterred and buried at the Adelaide River War Cemetery in Grave 117, Row 4 on or around 10 July 1942. After the war in 1945-46 the US government disinterred all of its service personnel buried in cemeteries throughout Australia and reburied them at the US Armed Forces Memorial Cemetery located in Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney. On March 28, 1949 Hugh’s remains were again re-interred to his final resting place in the Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno San Mateo County, California in Plot: Section n Site 1775 after being shipped back.

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