RAAF Flight Lieutenant John Austral Casey, Leigh-Mallory crash site, Le Rivier d'Allemont


A lone ANZAC in the alps

In a remote corner of the French alps, a solitary ANZAC is buried with his British aircrew and the most senior RAF officer killed in the war.



When Flight Lieutenant John Austral Casey enlisted in Sydney, Australia in 1941, he was an accountant.

Not just a job

He died as signals leader for 288 squadron, a respected expert on the military use of communications and radar.

An all-star crew

Casey had been hand-picked by Air Chief Marshall Trafford Leigh-Mallory.

VIP passengers

Leigh-Mallory and his wife Doris were the passengers.  Air Chief Marshall Leigh-Mallory had orchestrated air operations for the Allied Invasion of Normandy.  He was being deployed to take command of operations in Asia.  The flight vanished on 14 November 1944.

The mystery begins

Their aircraft, an Avro 685 York, MW126, departed London at 09:07 on 14/11/1944 and never arrived at its first re-fuelling stop in Italy.  Their whereabouts became a mystery on the scale of the MH370 disappearance in 2014.  The BBC erroneously reported the aircraft wreck had been found while Japanese propaganda broadcasts claimed the crew were taken alive as prisoners of war.  Today we call it fake news but there is nothing new about it.


The remote crash site was found by a French farmer in June 1945.  Thanks to Open Street Map, you can find it with just a click

A new mystery

The flight had been intended to descend south over western France, giving a wide-berth to occupied areas.  It is believed to have passed over Poitiers and maybe even Toulouse, from where it was supposed to follow the coast.  It had diverged 250km off course when it crashed near Grenoble at 12:30.  Why?

A mystery that lingers like the relics of the crash

Rather than solving a mystery, they had simply replaced one mystery with another.  The location is so remote that many parts of the aircraft remain amongst the rocks there today, like these pieces of the aircraft deposited near the signpost.


It was decided to bury the crew in the communal cemetery of Le Rivier d'Allemont.  RAAF Flight Lieutenant Casey is the rightmost of three graves in the second row.

Memorial service

A memorial service for Leigh-Mallory and the crew was held at Westminster Abbey in London on 28 June 1945.

Casey's circle of friends

Casey's family requested a RAF officer, Flight Lieutenant Anthony Squire, to represent them at the ceremony.  Squire was about the same age as Casey.  His address, Barclays Bank Millbank, is pictured in the Barclays Group archives: the mirror-image of present-day MI5 headquarters across the road.

Choose your own adventure

After the war, Squire had a long career in film, including two James Bond movies.  If Casey had not perished in the alps, how would his career have progressed?

Rediscovering Leigh-Mallory

In the 90s, Jean-Pierre Garnier, a school teacher from Briancon, took a fresh interest in the crash and organized a school trip to find further relics at the crash site and place a plaque there.


Relics gathered by the students were placed in a museum, Espace York-Mallory, in the village of Le Rivier d'Allemont.

Go there

It has become a popular hiking spot with sign posts for visitors.