Trip to Kroombit Tops gives poignant history lesson
FIND out more about a fascinating Kroomit Tops tragedy in this first-person travel piece by Lisa Maynard.
A four-wheel drive day trip or leisurely overnight camping stay is a fantastic way to experience the natural and rural beauty of the Gladstone area.
But before being invited on a drive to Kroombit Tops National Park, I had not put much thought into visiting the popular location.
Perched on a ridge high in the Kroombit Tops above dense rainforest scrub, far away from any townships, the scattered remains of the Second World War B-24D Liberator Bomber, nicknamed Beautiful Betsy, lend a loud voice to the legacy of wartime sacrifice and an open-air classroom well worth the 85km journey to the park.
My travelling party left early for the wreck site - after a quick coffee stop - and I would recommend you do the same to make the most of the day.
The drive along the way on Tableland Rd is picturesque, featuring rolling hills, cattle properties and high vantage points from which to view the beautiful hinterland along the way.
On reaching Kroombit Tops, we arrived at the Forestry Barracks for a quick break and subsequently stopped again on the way back for a picnic lunch.
The road itself was well graded with a wide gravel surface, but a 4WD is recommended to drive around the area and to visit the Beautiful Betsy site, I would recommend some experience with rough terrain driving. As a 4WD rookie it was fantastic to see the driver manoeuvre the vehicle, but I would have little faith in my own abilities without prior practice.
Quite a number of vehicles were travelling along the road on the day we visited, but we were lucky not to encounter any on the narrow hillside sections.
Once you arrive at the site where Beautiful Betsy crashed, you immediately see wreckage strewn across the hillside along a clear walkway - bent propellers, twisted wing pieces, broken engines and mangled fuselage.
Read the signs along the walk to learn more about this tragedy that occurred in 1945, costing eight servicemen their lives, and how the crash site was discovered many years later in 1994.
A poignant last letter home from British serviceman Flying Officer Roy Cannon, who was flying to Brisbane to be married four days later, is included on one sign.
His letter, dated February 14, 1945 - 12 days before the crash - tugs at the heart strings as he writes about honeymoon plans, his Australian girlfriend Daphne Studdard and business ambitions.
The final resting place of the lost airmen is one of the region's true historical gems and a tranquil area to visit.
Fill up a 4WD with friends and supplies, head to Kroombit Tops, read the full letter for yourself and see this interesting snapshot of history.
- Location is 85km south-west of Gladstone. Access is via Tableland and Gladstone-Monto Rds, off the Dawson Hwy (via Calliope from Gladstone)
- Beautiful Betsy crashed on February 26, 1945
- At least four search attempts were made to find the wreckage
- The wreck was found by accident by a park ranger in August 1994, 49 years later
- Most of the roads carry two-way traffic, but some are narrow. All standard give-way rules apply
- Drive slowly to allow time to react to sudden or unexpected problems and keep an eye out for wildlife
- Before setting off, check the national parks alerts webpage at http://www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/park-alerts for the latest information on conditions at the park or forest you want to visit.