I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published March 27th 2018
Mountain Top Crash Site
If you're visiting the Macedon Ranges this autumn, it's likely you'll make your way to the summit of Mount Macedon to take in the expansive views from the Memorial Cross lookout. Chances are you too will leave the Memorial Cross reserve not knowing that in the pine forest, just below the carpark, is a memorial to the loss of an airliner that crashed into the mountain almost 70-years ago.
Shown here over Melbourne in the 1940's VH-UZK KURANA crashed into Mount Macedon on November 8th 1948. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
As you walk back to the carpark from the cross, take the walking track to the right. Just a short walk down that pathway, you'll come the KURANA Memorial commemorating the loss of the Australian National Airways Douglas DC3 airliner, VH-UZK, 'KURANA' on 8th November 1948.
En-route from Melbourne's Essendon airport to Deniliquin NSW with a crew of 3 and 19 passengers, the aircraft was flying in light rain and mist when it impacted trees and crashed into a pine plantation, just below the summit of Mount Macedon.
The Kurana Memorial can be found in light forest to the east of the pathway leading from the Cross back to the carpark. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
At the time of the accident, 'KURANA' was being flown by First Officer James Barrington-Keyes under the supervision of Captain Harry Warlow-Davies. In the cabin, passengers were in the care of Air Hostess Elizabeth Fry.
A court of enquiry later determined that the aircraft was flying 9 nautical miles west of its flight planned track at 3000 feet, well below the areas lowest safe altitude for flight in reduced visibility, when it impacted the mist-shrouded mountain.
Despite sustaining head injuries herself, Elizabeth Fry ensured all her passengers evacuated the aircraft quickly and safely. Then, with the assistance of 5 passengers, she set about extricating both injured pilots from the damaged cockpit and moving them to safety as fire broke out in the wreckage.
Mount Macedon's Memorial Cross is one of theState's most visited regional tourist attractions but few people know of the nearby memorial to the loss of the KURANA. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
Sadly both died from their injuries, Captain Warlow-Davies at the scene and First Officer Barrington-Keyes shortly after being admitted to Kyneton Hospital.
For her bravery, Elizabeth Fry received an inscribed silver salver from the aircraft's insurers, Lloyds of London, and a medal and scroll from the Royal Humane Society.
The 'KURANA' Memorial was erected on Mount Macedon on the 8th November 1998, the 50th anniversary of the accident.
Twelve months later, Elizabeth Fry visited the site and presented her awards to the Gisborne and Mount Macedon Districts Historical Society for safe-keeping.
Elizabeth Charlotte Smythe (nee Fry) passed away in her adopted hometown of Reno, Nevada, USA on 30th August 2011.
Over the years a number of aircraft have crashed into Mount Macedon while flying in low cloud and rain. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
KURANA wasn't the last aeroplane to crash into Mount Macedon, but it is the only one for which there is a permanent memorial.
The Mount Macedon Memorial Cross is 72 kilometres northwest of Melbourne, just over an hours drive via the Calder Freeway/M79, Mount Macedon Road and Cameron Drive.