ART22314

Image copyright: © Australian War Memorial,
Creative Commons License This image is licensed under CC BY-NC

ID number ART22314
Title Coxswain, Air-Sea Rescue Launch, RAAF Marine Section 45 OB Port Moresby [Sergeant Arie Smelt]
Collection Art
Object type Painting
Artist Dargie, William
Place made New Guinea: Papua New Guinea, Papua, Port Moresby
Date made 1943
Medium oil on hardboard
Measurement Overall: 59 x 45.6 cm

Description

Portrait of Sergeant Arie Albert Smelt, service no. 75164, coxswain, of the Royal Australian Air Force Marine Section, 45 Operational Base Unit. He is wearing a slouch hat and smoking a cigarette. Dargie noted:
"This airman had served for a period of 12 months in this area, the launch operating at sea and up rivers within a radius of 60 miles of Pt Moresby. This is one of the typical jobs of the section:- A message was received from 5th Air Force that a Douglas had crash-landed in a swampy jungle near Mena Mena, crashed airmen showing them their approximate location and directing them to make an attempt to reach the river bank about 3000 yards distant, where the party from the launch would pick them up. However when the launch reached the mouth of the river it was found to be unnavigable by such a large craft, so the rescue party transferred to a small "chris-craft", and even in this they sometimes found that the river was so narrow and overgrown with the jungle that they had to jack their way through, being guided all the way by a spotter plane. When they reached the point on the river where they had expected to see the airman, there was no sign of the party; but they knew the men must be somewhere some point in the jungle at right angles to the position of the rescue craft to the river. Accordingly the rescuers set off to hack their way inland through the swamp and jungle. After a while one of the party fired a shot from a pistol, and they heard an answering shot in the distance. The airman was finally located about 1000 yards from the river, and hopelessly lost. Their first words were "Buddy, we sure are glad to see you". They were assisted back to the river, and brought back to hospital at Moresby.
During the period this air-sea rescue launch had been operating, the crew have saved about a dozen crashed airmen. Even if they find that the pilot had died before they can reach the scene of the crash, they always attempt to retrieve the body, and bring it back for burial in Moresby. But sometimes, and particularly if the place has crashed in the sea, all their efforts are fruitless: all they discover is a large oil slick on the surface of the water".