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John Russell Keane

Chapter by chapter the Somerton Man mystery closes its pages. We have Carl Charles Webb and now John Russell Keane, leaving the relationship Jessica Harkness shared with Webb and the circumstances surrounding his death unaccounted for.

The incomplete chapters.

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Flying Officer John Russell Keane (409839), the son of Freda Grace Webb and Thomas G Keane, served in the Royal Australian Air Force during World War Two. He was attached to RAF No. 5 Operational Training Unit at the time of his death in November 1943. John was the son of Gerald Thomas Keane and Freda Grace Keane of East Brunswick, Victoria, Australia. He died on 29th November 1943 aged 26 years old.

Keane was the pilot on board Lockheed Hudson AM694. The crew took off from RAF Long Kesh, near Lisburn, Co. Down at 1520hrs on 29th November 1943. The non-operational flight was a bombing exercise over Lough Neagh. At 1609hrs, the Australian crew completed their task but proceded towards Templepatrick, carrying out a series of steep turns over Loughermore Estate near Dunadry, Co. Antrim. They were due to return to base and this section of the flight was unauthorised.

During one of these turns, the pilot throttled back both engines and the plane lost height rapidly. The engines stalled and the port wing struck the ground. The Hudson burst into flames and all those on board died in the impact.


Back Row: 1. Flight Sergeant Sydney Ross Hore, 2. Michael Lancelot Huppatz, 3. Leading Aircraftman Donald Edward Hefford, 4. Flight Lieutenant James Hodges, 5. Warrant Officer Clifford Anthony Ingham, 6. Flying Officer Ross Walter Geue, 7. Pilot Officer Stanley Ernest James, 8. Warrant Officer John Morton Kemp, 9. Flight Sergeant Wilfred Harper, 10. Pilot Officer Arthur Leonard Gibbons. Middle Row: 1. Pilot Officer Leslie Ronald Giles, 2. Flying Officer John Russell Keane, 3. Flying Officer Leslie Clive Greaves, 4. Flying Officer Mervyn Charles Heal, 5. Flight Lieutenant Roy Campbell Kennedy, 6. Flight Lieutenant Peter Bowen Jackson, 7. Flight Lieutenant Kevin Elliott Harrison, 8. Flight Lieutenant Peter James Harnetty, 9. Flying Officer Harry Girven, 10. Warrant Officer Frank Henry James Grey, 11. Flying Officer Robert Mackay Hilliard. Front Row: 1. Leading Aircraftman Ian Eric Johnston, 2. Flying Officer Eric Hurrell, 3. Flying Officer Reginald Douglas Green, 4. Flight Lieutenant Ross Vigors Hanns, 5. Corporal Walter Richard John Rice, 6. Warrant Officer John Kendrick Jones, 7. Warrant Officer Keith Leonard James Killen, 8. Flight Lieutenant Eric Anthony Gogler, 9. Flying Officer Frank Knowles Harker.

All information lifted from the following site.

John Russell Keane

Derek Abbott revealed that Mr Webb’s oldest sister, Freda Grace Webb, was married to Thomas Gerald Keane, who went by Gerald.

The couple’s son, John Keane, died in the World War II in 1943, which was the same year Mr Webb’s brother Roy died in battle.

John Keane’s possessions included items such as a map of Chicago and some American coins, which implies he resided in the US at some point.

‘Therefore, the hand-me-downs that (Carl) Charles Webb received from his brother-in-law might likely have included clothing of his nephew, explaining why a number of items in the Somerton Man’s possessions appeared to be of US origin,’ Professor Webb added.

It also gave a further clue as to why Mr Webb had the word ‘Keane’ labelled on his tie when his body was found.

Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11099129/Somerton-Mans-family-revealed-wearing-American-clothes-time-death.html

Some of these items if not all might also have belonged to Keane.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Angela #

    I have located a son of Russell Richard Webb, named Douglas Russell McCluskey, who was born out of wedlock in Fitzroy VIC in 1911 (name at birth: Russell McCluskey). He served in WWII from 1941 to 1943. According to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Nominal Roll, his posting at discharge was “Z SPEC.” Possibly Z Special Unit? Unfortunately, his record hasn’t been digitised. In 1943 he was working as a munition worker. It would have been very interesting if a death record could not be found for him (he died in Victoria on 22 Jun 1991).

    August 14, 2022
  2. John Smith #

    Who is is “Professor Webb” ? Mistyping here? Maybe “Professor Abbott”…

    August 15, 2022

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