Search for the missing men of Operation RAVEN

In 2011 Unrecovered War Casualties – Army commenced an investigation into a World War Two Z Special Unit patrol into the Celebes of the Dutch East Indies in 1945. The investigation hoped to determine what had happened to two Australians and one local interpreter who were members of the patrol.

Operation RAVEN was a search and recovery patrol, from Z Special Unit tasked to find and rescue the crew of a United States plane shot down over the Celebes in the Dutch East Indies (now Sulawesi, Indonesia). 

Search for the missing men of Operation RAVEN
Search for the missing men of Operation RAVEN

The patrol was inserted onto the island on 19 June 1945, 13 days after the plane was shot down but was unable to find any trace of the American crew. While waiting to be extracted 24 hours after insertion, the group encountered a Japanese patrol. Two of the team, Lieutenant Scobell McFerran-Rogers and Mr Roestan (the local interpreter) and, were killed during the initial fire fight. 

Private John Whitworth became separated from the patrol during the withdrawal and was believed to have been wounded and later captured and executed by the Japanese. 

As the Australian patrol left the island in a Mariner aircraft, they flew over the beach but did not record seeing any bodies. The search for the missing airmen and three Z Special Unit men was not renewed. 

After the war the remains of the three men were located by a war graves registration team but as the operation had been secret were not identified as the men from Operation RAVEN. 

They were buried in the Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery as “ Unidentified Australian soldiers and an Unidentified Papuan soldier (Roestan)”. 

After exhaustive work by Unrecovered War Casualties – Army, the three men were identified, and new headstones bearing their names installed and rededicated during a moving service on Tuesday 6 November 2012.