RAAF personnel from No. 2 Squadron and association members and veterans held a commemorative event at RAAF Base Williamtown on November 3 to honour ADF members who fought in the Vietnam War.  

The commemorative program acknowledged the 50th anniversary of two Australian airmen who died during the conflict.

On the same day in 1970, a RAAF No. 2 Squadron Canberra Bomber (tail no A84-231), call sign ‘Magpie 91’, went down near the Laotian-Vietnamese border after completing a successful bombing mission in support of US ground forces.

The aircrew were Flying Officer Michael Herbert and Pilot Officer Robert Carver. The last known radio transmission to the crew was from US ground controllers who praised their efforts, saying “that was an excellent run sirs”.  The cause of the crash remains unknown.

Following the incident, No. 2 Squadron and the US Air Force searched for the pair for three days, eventually declaring the men missing in action. Their remains were eventually found and repatriated by a Defence Historical Unit on August 31, 2009.

The Magpie 91 event program included a memorial service and colours parade held in the Squadron hangar, acknowledging the service and sacrifice of the airmen. This was followed by a No. 2 Squadron E-7A Wedgetail flypast, performed in the airmen’s honour.

Commanding Officer No. 2 Squadron Wing Commander Jason Brown said the aircraft participating in the flypast was adorned with commemorative nose art completed by personnel deployed on Operation Okra.  

“The nose art combines the 2 Squadron lightning bolt emblem with the unit’s World War II and Vietnam War decorations that include a United States Presidential Unit Citation, a Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm and a United States Air Force Outstanding Unit Commendation,” Wing Commander Brown said. 

“As the squadron has recently returned from operations in the Middle East, we remember those who have come before us and we honour their memory through our service contributions today.” 

Delivering the memorial speech, Commander Surveillance and Response Group Air Commodore Barbara Courtney acknowledged the significance of the commemorative event. 

“Today we pay tribute to Flying Officer Herbert and Pilot Officer Carver and their families as we remember their courage, bravery, service and sacrifice,” she said. 

“We come together as one Air Force family with personnel from Number 2 Squadron past and present and honour these airmen and all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of peace.

“It is the spirit of camaraderie and mateship that bonds all generations of Air Force serving members and reminds us of the importance of our service and mission in the present.

“For those who have been lost, they will not be forgotten and their memory will endure forever in our Service history. Lest we forget.”

Magpie 91 commemorative events were also held in Canberra on November 2, which included a service at the Australian War Memorial followed by an E-7A Wedgetail flypast along Anzac Parade between Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial.