Saturday, November 1, 2014

Recovery of Northrop A-17 Nomad 3521

(Photo: Photo of a Nomad aircraft in front of one of Camp Borden's historic hangars, taken by LAC Ted Bates in 1940, shortly before his disappearance. Courtesy Tom Bates via DND) On December 13, 1940, two Northrop A-17 Nomad aircraft departed from Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station Borden, Ontario, a Second World War training site (now Canadian Forces Base Borden, home of the RCAF’s 16 Wing). Both aircraft were searching for a fellow airmen who had gone missing during training the day before. During their search for the downed aircraft and fellow pupil, who were part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, the two Nomads conducting the search were involved in a mid-air collision. Nomad 3512 and its pilot and co-pilot were located shortly after the crash. The other aircraft, Nomad 3521, and its crew remained missing in the Lake Muskoka region of Ontario. The missing crew consisted of Flight Lieutenant (F/L) Peter Campbell, the 24-year-old pilot who was a member of the Royal Air Force (RAF), and the 27-year-old observer, Leading Aircraftsman (LAC) Theodore (Ted) Bates, a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) who was from Guelph, Ontario.
(Photo: F/L Campbell and LAC Bates - via DND) The discovery In November 2007, a group comprising members of the Royal Canadian Legion and the Lost Airmen of Muskoka Project (LAMP) sought the assistance of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in the search for Nomad 3521. Using side scan sonar, a modern technology that creates an image of large areas of the sea floor, and the expertise of the underwater search and recovery team, Lake Muskoka was searched extensively. On July 27, 2010, a remotely operated vessel and OPP divers were sent down to investigate a previously identified location in the middle of Lake Muskoka. The investigation led to the discovery of aircraft wreckage from which the OPP recovered personal effects belonging to F/L Campbell and LAC Bates. The discovery of these personal effects confirmed that the wreckage was that of the missing Nomad 3521. Personal items recovered from the wreckage The items, which were recovered from the wreckage in July 2010, were held at the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa until they were treated and returned to the Department of National Defence’s Directorate of History and Heritage (DHH). On August 23, 2012, a DHH representative returned LAC Bates’ belongings to his family members. The items belonging to F/L Peter Campbell were returned to the British High Commission, in Ottawa, on September 21, 2012, for return to the nearest descendents of F/L Campbell via the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre in the United Kingdom.
Members of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force raise the tail section of Northrop Nomad aircraft #3521 on October 28, 2014 after 74 years on the bottom of Lake Muskoka, Ontario. Photo: MCpl Roy MacLellan, 8 Wing Imaging TN2014-0669-J0029
The tail section of Northrop Nomad aircraft #3521 sits on the barge after members of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force raise it on October 28, 2014 from the bottom of Lake Muskoka, Ontario. Photo: MCpl Roy MacLellan, 8 Wing Imaging TN2014-0669-J0034

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

(AUS.404692) Virgil (Paul) Brennan DFC, DFM - Course 26

Virgil (Paul) Brennan was born on 6 March 1920 at Warwick, Queensland, fifth child of Edgar James Brennan, solicitor, and his wife Katherine, née O'Sullivan, both Queenslanders. Educated at Christian Brothers' School, Warwick, Downlands College, Toowoomba, and Brisbane State High School, Paul became a law clerk in Brisbane and studied part time at the University of Queensland. After enlisting in the Citizen Air Force of the Royal Australian Air Force on 8 November 1940, he trained as a pilot in Australia and at No. 1 Service Flying Training School, Camp Borden, Ontario, Canada. Brennan graduated 12th in a class of 53. Squadron Leader Bradshaw assessed Brennan: "Well disciplined. Confident, aggressive and self-reliant." Squadron Leader Priestley remarked: "Has progressed steadily, learns quickly and has no outstanding faults." 'Digger' Brennan arrived in Britain in August 1941. Following operational training, he served briefly in the Royal Air Force's No.64 Squadron. He was promoted temporary flight sergeant on 4 January 1942 and next month was sent to the Mediterranean. Posted to No.249 Squadron, on 7 March Brennan piloted one of fifteen Spitfires which flew from the aircraft-carrier, H.M.S. Eagle, to Malta. In mid-March the Germans began a major air assault on the island. Brennan and his comrades intercepted the waves of attacking bombers and their protective fighter screens: they had to contend with fatigue and inadequate rations while battling the enemy's superior forces. Proving himself a determined and courageous pilot, as well as an excellent shot, Brennan won his first victory ten days after his arrival when he destroyed a Messerschmitt 109. Further successes followed: on 20 April he shot down another Me-109; later in the day he dispatched a Junkers 88. Wounded in the left arm on 12 May, he was commissioned and awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal that month. By the time he left Malta in July, he had survived twenty-two combats, and been credited with the destruction of at least ten enemy aircraft and with damaging several more; a Distinguished Flying Cross was added to his previous award for gallantry. On his return to England, Brennan and Pilot Officer Ray Hesselyn, a New Zealander from No.249 Squadron, collaborated with the journalist Henry Bateson in recording their experiences in Spitfires over Malta (London and Sydney, 1943).
Granted the rank of acting flight lieutenant and posted as an instructor to No.52 Operational Training Unit, Brennan was subsequently repatriated on 17 April 1943. Slightly built and 5 ft 9½ ins (177 cm) tall, he had dark hair and brown eyes. Although there was aggression in his manner, he had an easy-going nature, an engaging sense of humour and was loyal to his friends; his flair for oratory made him a forceful debater. On 1 May he joined No.79 Squadron, R.A.A.F. His commanding officer observed that he was strained and tired, and that he seemed to be marshalling his reserves for the unit's forthcoming deployment to Goodenough Island, off Papua. For all that, Brennan shared his operational experience with other pilots. During their journey north, on 13 June 1943 the squadron's Spitfires reached Garbutt airfield, Townsville, Queensland. Brennan landed his aircraft in the stream of fighters, but the plane which should have landed behind him overran Brennan's machine and collided with it. Brennan died of his injuries on the way to hospital. He was buried with Catholic rites in Townsville war cemetery. (Sources: ADB, NAA)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

LATEST EDITION OF IMMIGRANTS OF WAR IS NOW AVAILABLE FROM THE FOLLOWING LOCATIONS - Note: Sold Out. Currently editing edtion No. 10

Lone Star Flight Museum 2002 Terminal Dr. Galveston, TX 77554 409-740-7722 or 1-888-359-5736 Contact: Debbie Kolojaco - gift shop manager giftshop@lonestarflight.org
Pima Air and Space Museum 6000 E. Valencia Rd. Tucson, Arizona 85706 Telephone: 520-574-0462 Contact: Beth Barksdale - gift shop manager bbarksdale@pimaair.org
National Air Force Museum of Canada 220 RCAF Road P.O. Box 1000, 8 Wing/CFB Trenton Astra, Ontario KOK 3WO Gift Shop Manager Kendra Liu 613-965-7012 giftshop@airforcemuseum.ca
Aviation World 195 Carlingview Drive Toronto, Ontario M9W 5E8 Toll Free: 1-800-668-1987 Aviation World Unit 105-6080 Russ Baker Way Vancouver, BC V7B 1B4 Toll Free: 1-800-567-3221 E-Mail: info@aviationworld.net

Monday, January 28, 2013

Squadron Leader Donald Kewin McDonald (DSO, DFC) - Course 28

(Photo: July 30, 1941 - Group Captain Roy S. Grandy, O.B.E., officer commanding No. 1 SFTS Camp Borden, is shown pinning wings on the tunic of Sergeant Pilot Donald McDonald, Sydney, N.S.W., who topped the class.) Donald Kewin McDonald was born at Roma, Queensland on 31 December 1916. He worked as an automotive technician in Sydney, and also served in the militia with 1 Light Tank Company from 1938. He was discharged from this unit to enlist in the RAAF on 14 October 1940, with the service number 402748. After undertaking initial training at Narromine and Bradfield Park, McDonald was sent to undertake pilot training in Canada under the Empire Air Training Scheme. He arrived in Canada on 1 May 1941, and after training at Camp Borden graduated as a pilot officer and gained his pilot's wings on 30 July. McDonald was sent to undertake further officer training in England before being posted to 130 Squadron RAF as a Spitfire pilot between October and December 1941. His height, 6 foot 3 inches, proved a problem in the restricted space of a Spitfire cockpit and McDonald undertook training on larger Hurricane aircraft before being posted, with the rank of flying officer, to 30 Squadron RAF in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in February 1942. In April 1943 he transferred to 135 Squadron RAF, based at Chittagong in Burma. Promoted to flight lieutenant in July, McDonald transferred to 261 Squadron RAF, also in Burma, where he remained until April 1944. For his work with this squadron he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
(Photo: Flight Lieutenant McDonald (centre) describes the installation of a 500lb bomb beneath the mainplane of a Thunderbolt fighter aircraft to Air Marshal Sir Guy Garrod KCB OBE MC DFC. Sqn Ldr McDonald is the Commanding Officer of No. 261 (Thunderbolt) Squadron RAF which operates from a base in the Arakan to attack Japanese lines of communication, military installations and forward enemy positions in Burma.) In May 1944 Mc Donald transferred again, to 134 Squadron RAF, flying P47 Thunderbolts in India and Burma. He commanded the squadron from the beginning of 1945, when he was promoted to squadron leader, and became one of the few members of the RAAF to command a British squadron. For his leadership he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. The citation reads: 'Squadron Leader McDonald has been engaged in air operations in the far eastern theatre of war since the fall of Singapore. For a considerable period he has commanded his present squadron which he has maintained at a high level of efficiency. During the advance of the Fourteenth Army he has led his squadron continuously on close support operations achieving brilliant results in the Mandalay and Rangoon phase of the campaign. Although suffering many handicaps during this period, arising from the difficult nature of the terrain and adverse weather which was frequently encountered, the squadron has achieved great success much of which can be ascribed to the enthusiasm, courage and ability of Squadron Leader McDonald'. A personal assessment of McDonald at the time noted that he was 'an officer of very strong character, balanced judgement and much common sense - whose determination amounts at times to pigheadedness. This officer has high standards of his own in his spheres of interest and he insists upon similar standards from his juniors'. During one raid over Ramaree Island, on 22 January 1945, McDonald led his squadron at dock level as the Thunderbolts strafed and bombed the beaches prior to the Allied landings. Liberator aircraft from another squadron also took part in the operation. McDonald later wrote: 'I've never seen a more frightening thing before in my life...I was flying beneath the Liberators when I saw the bomb doors open and stick after stick of bombs come down. They smothered the entire target...I was so close I could hear the bombs exploding.' McDonald was discharged from Headquarters RAF Base Calcutta on 10 December 1945. He died in 1968.
(Photo: Ratnapalong, Arakan, Burma. 1944-12-06. Seated on the mainplane of a Thunderbolt aircraft, RAAF members of No. 134 (Thunderbolt) Squadron RAF operating in the Arakan against Japanese positions in Burma. Left to right: 412521 Warrant Officer (WO) Neil Godfrey of Coogee, NSW; 413358 WO P. H. Cuthbertson of Rockdale, NSW; 414671 WO Francis Harrison Gould of Hamilton, Qld; 403731 Flight Lieutenant James Edwin Franks of Kogarah, NSW (holding dog, Patch); Squadron Leader D. K. McDonald DFC of Randwick, NSW (standing).Franks (Co. 36) and Gould (Co. 64) also trained at Camp Borden. Photos and information: AWM)
(Photo: Ratnapalong, Arakan, Burma. 1944-12-06. Squadron Leader D. K. McDonald DFC of Randwick, NSW, a RAAF member of No. 134 (Thunderbolt) Squadron RAF operating over the Burma front, seated on the mainplane of his Thunderbolt fighter aircraft with his dog, 'Patch'.)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

(AUS.404548) Pilot Officer John Livingstone Boyd, DFM - Course 24

John Livingstone 'Tony' Boyd (DFM) was born at Byrnestown, Queensland on May 20, 1919. He enlisted in the RAAF October 11, 1940 as Trainee Aircrew. Embarked February 22, 1941 for Canada, arriving in Vancouver, March 16, 1941. Commenced training at No. 1 SFTS Camp Borden March 20, 1941, receiving his pilot’s flying badge June 6, 1941. Embarked for U.K. March 16, 1941 where he served until the fall of 1941. On October 11, 1941 Boyd delivered a Hawker Hurricane to Malta flown from the deck of the HMS Ark Royal.Boyd damaged a Ju.88 January 22, 1942 and destroyed a Messerschmitt 109G February 23. On April 16, 1942 Boyd was posted to 185 Squadron. He destroyed a Ju.88 May 8 followed by another 109G on the 14th. That afternoon he lost his life in an encounter with Macchi C.202's. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal with the following citation: “Sergeant Boyd is a courageous and skillful leader. He has shown the greatest keenness to attack the enemy at all times regardless of the odds against him. Sergeant Boyd has destroyed 3 and probably destroyed a further 4 enemy aircraft and 5 damaged.”
(Photo: Megan MacDonald and Richard J. Caruana discussing details from Pilot Officer Tony Boyd’s personal flying log book at the Malta Aviation Museum, Ta’ Qali, with the Hawker Hurricane in the background) The Coffs Coast Advocate May 15, 2011 - Pilot in training Megan MacDonald gained incredible insights into her great uncle during filming for the Channel Nine series In Their Footsteps. The mum of three from Gayndah in central Queensland spent two weeks travelling through Australia and Europe to retrace Tony Boyd’s eventful, if short, life. The charismatic RAAF fighter pilot was part of the large-scale air fights in the Siege of Malta, a brutal two-year military campaign during WWII which earned the Mediterranean Island the titled of “the most bombed place on Earth”. Boyd died in action at the age of just 22, but MacDonald learned his extraordinary efforts in the sky were significant. “I don’t want to sound corny, but a lot of men and women made sacrifices and a lot of them lost their lives,” she said. “I’m not saying he won the war on this own, but (it shows) just the difference that one man can make - the morale to his squadron, his flying ability. To be able to pass that on not only to my family and my children but also it’s going on national TV so other people will know his story as well.” Incredibly, Boyd had the same amount of flying hours as his great niece when he was sent off to fight against the Italians and the notorious German Luftwaffe. “I’ve got under 20 hours and he went to war with the same experience,” she said. “You’re still trying to work out holding (the plane) straight and level, let alone flying into combat and being shot at and trying to do tactical manoeuvres. Obviously he was talented, but it’s hard to comprehend.” MacDonald’s trip to Europe included flying in a dual Spitfire plane in England and a Tiger Moth in Malta – two experiences which have further solidified her love of flying. “I’m not yet a solo pilot so to have flown in a Spitfire and taken the controls is, ah, what words do you use to describe that?” Memorable and significant, just like the life of Pilot Officer Tony Boyd.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Flight Lieutenant Henry Lacy Smith - Course 44

On the evening of June 11, 1944, Flight Lieutenant Lacy Smith was leading a section of three aircraft patrolling the beach areas in the vicinity of Quistrehain. The section was flying West to East at approximately 1500 to 2000 feet when over the Rebehomme area 20mm flak came up in front of the aircraft from a wood. No. 3 (AUS.410250) Flying Officer David Stuart Murray (also trained in Canada) observed a strike on Flight Lieutenant Smith's Spitfire in the belly well forward either in the engine or just in front of the long range tank. The aircraft immediately lost speed and started to emit white fume trails from underneath. Flight Lieutenant Smith immediately started a steep turn to the left. His Spitfire continued to lose height and he called up on the R/T and said words to this effect, "I am going to put this thing down in a field." He continued to glide in a westerly direction until his Spitfire struck water and slowly nosed over. (AUS.405939) Warrant Officer Joshua William Scott (No.2) and Flying Officer Murray (No.3) circled over the crashed aircraft for two minutes, but did not observe any movement indicating Flight Lieutenant Smith was getting out of the cockpit. As flak continued, Scott and Murray left the area but returned five minutes later and observed that there was not change in the position of the crashed aircraft nor did they see any persons on the ground near the aircraft. (The Age - February 11, 2011) A World War II Spitfire which became the tomb of an Australian pilot missing for almost seven decades is expected to be transferred to Melbourne's Point Cook RAAF Museum. Flight Lieutenant Smith's nephew Dennis Dostine - who lives at Sylvania, less than 10 kilometres from Sans Souci - said news that his uncle's remains had been found came out of the blue. "It was very welcome, but quite a surprise," he said yesterday. "We knew the basic facts of what happened as my mother received a letter from his commanding officer explaining what had happened, but we didn't know what river it was that he went into." Mr. Dostine, 78, will be joined by his wife, two children and their spouses at an interment ceremony in April when his uncle will be buried with full military honours at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Ranville. He will also be awarded five posthumous service medals. "We're glad that his remains, having been found, will be afforded the respect that they deserve," Mr Dostine said. The plane was removed from the river by French war museum owner Fabrice Corbin with the help of family and friends. After agreeing to hand the plane to Australian authorities, Mr Corbin apparently had a change of heart and this week was threatened with 48 hours' jail if he failed to stick to the agreement. The Frenchman said he felt he has been treated like a grave robber, while an official from France's Ministry of Culture said Mr Corbin had asked for compensation for the costs of extracting the plane. "After what happened, I think I should have not done it," Mr Corbin said this week via an interpreter. "I respect the Australian people, but not the Australian bureaucrats." The RAF Spitfire was initially offered to Britain before French authorities asked their Australian counterparts if they were interested.
Photo Caption: The Spitfire is hoisted from the Rive Ome in France, where it had lain for almost 70 years with the body of its Australian pilot, Flight Lieutenant Henry "Lacy" Smith, trapped in its cockpit. (Brisbane Times – February 12, 2011) The nephew of a Australian World War II pilot whose fighter plane was recovered in northern France is indifferent as to who gets to keep the aircraft, maintaining it's only "scrap metal". Australian Flight Lieutenant Henry `Lacy' Smith's Spitfire was dug out of an estuary in Ouistreham, in Normandy, northern France, in November by French war museum owner Fabrice Corbin and his family and friends. When he was asked to hand the Spitfire over to French police, an irate Mr Corbin said he felt like he was being treated like a grave robber. "After what happened, I think I should not have done it. I should have left the pilot rotten in the cockpit," he said this week via an interpreter. Being a British plane, the Spitfire was initially offered to the United Kingdom before French authorities asked their Australian counterparts if they were interested in it. The RAAF is now looking into options for possibly bringing the aircraft to Australia, a defence attache at the Australian Embassy in Paris said. When AAP contacted Flt Lt Smith's nephew Dennis Dostine, a Sydneysider in his 70s, the retired fireman appeared genuinely surprised by the fuss. "It's nothing more than scrap metal now," he said. "Emotional scrap metal," he added. Asked if Mr Corbin was entitled to keep the Spitfire, given he had found it and went to the trouble of extracting it, Mr Dostine did not take a view. "I'm non-committal. I can't see there is any need to have a great argument over a piece of rusted metal," he said. The Royal Australian Air Force's Museum at Point Cook in Victoria is the Spitfire's most likely destination if it is relocated to Australia. Asked if he would take the trouble to see the plane if it was eventually housed there, Mr Dostine showed more interest. "I would most definitely go down there," he said. "I go to Victoria about once I year. I would most definitely take the opportunity, if it arose, to call in and have a look." Adelaide Now - April 20, 2011) A Lone spitfire rumbled through French skies in a fitting final farewell to World War II Australian pilot Henry Lacy Smith, shot down over Normandy. Hundreds of people, including Lieutenant Smith's Australian relatives, official guests and local school children gathered at Ranville War Graves Cemetery yesterday for a full military burial some 67 years after the 27-year-old's death. "How about that?" Lt Smith's nephew Dennis Lacy Dostine said of the Spitfire flyover. "I heard it and looked up and then, to see it and hear those pistons pumping, what an amazing tribute to our Lacy." Lt Smith's Spitfire was hit by anti-aircraft fire on June 11, 1944. "I'm going to put this thing down in a field," he radioed after being hit. But presumably what he thought would be a soft landing surface turned out to be a canal and his aircraft skidded and flipped into the River Orne, where it remained for more than 60 years. The Spitfire was found and Lt Smith's remains recovered last November, leading to today's re-internment. "Although his remains are buried here in France, his memory and legacy live on in Australia," Chief of Air Force, Air Marshall Mark Binskin said. A volley of shots were fired after the remains were lowered, to be buried beneath a headstone reading: "Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth, And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings". Proceedings came to a standstill as the English Spitfire, appropriately piloted by a British 'Squadron Leader Smith', made four passes of the cemetery. "When he pulled back the stick and did a half roll, the whole place was just in awe. What a fitting tribute," said Mr Dostine, now 78, who remembers, as an eight-year-old boy, his Uncle Lacy leaving Sydney for Canada to continue his flying training. His descendants recall stories of the lieutenant, the excellent sportsman and snappy dresser, known for his "bravery, larrikin character, his love of country and sense of adventure". "From today, we have a grave site and a grave stone - a place for members of our family to visit and remember," great nephew Garth Chapman said during a eulogy on the family's behalf. Defence Personnel and Veterans' Affairs Minister Warren Snowdon, who attended today's burial, said the wreckage of Lt Smith's spitfire will be returned to Australia. "It is currently still under water ... It will be taken up and we will be moving it to Point Cook, the RAAF base in Australia," he told reporters after the burial.
Photo: Conserver at RAAF Museum working on the fuselage remains.

Monday, January 21, 2013

AUS.401676 Pilot Officer Frederick John Silk - Course 42

Frederick John Silk Jr. was a teacher with the Victorian Education Department prior to enlisting in the RAAF, March 28, 1941. After completing his elementary flying training, he embarked at Sydney for Vancouver, aboard the Awatea August 8, 1941. He received his pilot's flying badge at No. 1 SFTS, Camp Borden January 22, 1942. Advanced flying and operational training followed in England prior to Silk's posting to the Middle East, joining No. 450 Squadron November 4, 1942. Pilot Officer Silk was a member of a formation of 11 Kittyhawk III fighter bombers (FR.125) carrying 40-pound wing bombs, airborne at 07.41 hours February 26, 1943, to bomb enemy concentrations in the Gabes area. Light, inaccurate A/A fire was experienced from the target area. Immediately after the bombing, Me.109s were sighted and attacked. Individual fights ensued, with fierce intensity, and running fights continued from Gabes to Medenin. Pilot Officer Silk failed to return from this operation and has no known grave. His father, Private Frederick John Silk was killed in action September 20, 1917, when his son was only 2 years of age. (AWM)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Wing Commander Frank Scholes McGill

Group Captain Frank Scholes McGill was born in Montreal, June 20, 1894. He was a top athlete during his student days at McGill University. In 1915, he completed a commerce degree and was also awarded license No. 30 for float planes from the Aero Club of America. He went on to serve with the Royal Naval Air Service. In 1915 while flying with an instructor over the Thames estuary, McGill's plane crashed, resulting in a fractured arm and stay in the Royal Naval Hospital, Chatham. It was during this hospital stay that McGill wrote a letter to “Tommy” Church, then mayor of Toronto and a former swimming and football colleague. He suggested to Church that Canada should build up a strong airplane industry and air force and establish a training program for air crew from the British Empire. "I believe it's true that, in the near future, wars will be decided in the air. The country with the best air service will win." McGill knew Canada had an abundant supply of spruce, at the time a major component in aircraft construction, but discovered the wood was scarce in England. In 1917, he was second in command of the 1st Mobile Squadron, Scilly Islands. In 1918 he served with the British War Mission to the United States and various training stations as an instructor and advisor before being demobilised in 1919. He helped organize the Montreal Light Aeroplane Club and in 1934 organized and commanded No. 115 (Fighter) Squadron R.C.A.F. Auxiliary. In 1939, McGill resigned as commanding officer of the squadron to become a member of the Air Advisory Committee to the Minister of National Defense. In September 1939, with the outbreak of the Second World War, McGill was given the rank of wing commander and appointed commanding officer at Camp Borden. He replaced Group Captain Stevenson who was posted to Britain to study details of the Empire Training Plan. In June 1940, Wing Commander McGill left Camp Borden after his appointment as officer commanding No. 2 Service Flying Training School, Uplands, the first school to be opened under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. In 1945 he was awarded Companion, Order of the Bath, with the following citation: “Since the outbreak of war, Air Vice-Marshal McGill has rendered outstanding and devoted service to the Royal Canadian Air Force. He has commanded a Service Flying Training School, and served as Air Officer Commanding a Training Command and as an Air Member of the Air Council with great distinction. In all his assignments he has displayed rare qualities of skill, organizing ability and devotion to duty. He sets a very high standard which is an example and inspiration to all who are associated with him. By his leadership, efficiency and unflagging zeal, he has rendered highly meritorious service to the Royal Canadian Air Force.”

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fraser 'Jum' Falkiner - Course 16

(Photo credit (2001): SGT W.Guthrie RAAF Caption: Mr Jum Falkiner, from Moriac, takes a walk down memory lane; Jum was the first pilot to fly a Spitfire in an operational role. Transcript from Australia in the War of 1939-45 - The Australian War Memorial.) "In those days, at elementary flying we flew Tiger Moths at Mascot which was the civilian aerodrome of Sydney. We got fifty hours flying up and if you passed, we became LAC's then, before that we were the lowest form of Air Force life, an AC2. And then, the course was sort of split up and some were posted to service flying training schools in Australia, I think Wagga and various places. Some of us were posted to Canada and some went to Rhodesia for training. I was one of the ones who went to Canada. We went on the old 'Aorangi' to New Zealand, we left Sydney Harbour, it was all meant to be highly secret and I think every pleasure cruiser was out waving good-bye to us, as we left Sydney Heads and when we got to Auckland the band was there to meet us and Lord Haw–Haw the English-German broadcaster, he said, there was the ship,the Oranji was leaving New Zealand with New Zealand and Australian airmen and three million in gold and they most probably wouldn't get anywhere, 'cause there was a raider near the Cocos Islands. It was all meant highly secret, but when the band was there to greet us, I think everybody in New Zealand, and I suppose all the Germans and everybody else knew that we were leaving. We got to Vancouver, and I can remember it fairly well, it was very overcast and it was late evening and I think it was drizzling and very cold and we got straight onto a train and proceeded across the Rockies and we spent Christmas 1940 on the train. The train was nice and warm, but poke your nose outside...We dropped some of the boys off at Calgary and various places on the way and we went on to Camp Borden, which was a very old Canadian Air Force station, I think from the first world war, near the Great Lakes about seventy miles from Toronto. We started flying Harvards then, which were a more sophisticated aeroplane than the Tiger Moth. They had retractable under-carts and things like that and we also had to do night flying. When we were at Borden, we did get a few, mainly Englishmen who'd been flying during the Battle of Britain, came over and gave us lectures, we realized it wasn't a joke and that we had to be good and our flying was. The instructors were good and we all did everything as well as we could. The accidents at Borden were I think, mainly due to the bad weather. Because the day we arrived there we went in for a medical inspection, it was a nice sunny day and two hours later we came outside and there were twelve aeroplanes, Harvards of the course in front of us that, nobody knew where they were because it was snowing, there was this great snow storm on and you were told to fly down wind and do a ninety degree turn and you should fly out of it, but by that time you didn't know where you were. And there was this range of mountains, (Niagara Escarpment) that were about 2,000 feet higher than the aerodrome and fellows used to just fly into these mountains, which weren't far away, but I think most of the accidents would have been caused mainly through bad weather. We did a little bit of formation flying and you had to change your position flying and one fellow got a bit too close when he was moving under and he chopped the tail off the other aircraft and they both went in. I can remember going on cross-country with an instructor, you had to do so many cross-country's and to find out where you were, you'd fly down low and look at the railway line and find out if your map reading was right. I was not a very good navigator, I think that's possibly why I ended up as a fighter pilot. My instructor in Australia at elementary flying was magnificent fellow and I had no problems at all flying. And then when I first went to Canada, I had a sergeant pilot who was our instructor and he was very very good and he had to go – I think he went over to England to fly, to partake in the war – and I got another instructor, I think who had just come from an instructor's training course and the four of us who he was instructing, we all thought we wouldn't be able to fly, we just had no confidence in the instructor and we got very worried about our own flying, because I mean, we knew we could fly alright, but with this fellow we just lost our confidence. I went to our flight commander and said, "We're not happy with our instructor, we're losing our confidence it's not me, it's the four or five of us who have the same instructor" and he said "Boy, you come up for a fly with me and I'll soon tell you how you're going, if you're alright". And so I went up with him and he told me what to do and he said, "Sure you're doing fine" and so, he said, "Don't worry about your instructor, you'll be OK". So that gave us some confidence. But there were little things like that that were upsetting...you were young, and thought you'd hate to fail. We were starting night flying then too and I can remember going up with this fellow and it's quite scary the first time you go night flying by yourself...well not solo but even...because I thought this instructor, I could feel that he was frightened. It's not very nice and then you've got to go solo, at night. And your first time and if you haven't' got confidence it's not a very nice feeling, and particularly we were landing on snow all the time there, because they used to...and it's hard to judge your height, they used to put ashes across the packed snow so that you could gauge your height. I was twenty by the time I got to Canada and I ended up, I had my twenty first birthday in London, just a few weeks before I was shot down. We were ranked in Canada, we got our wings, and they had a wings parade there and some of us were then made sergeant pilots and some were made pilot officers and I don't know quite how they worked that one out. The ones who'd possibly misbehaved became sergeants and some of the ones had not misbehaved became pilot officers, but there was not very many commissioned then, most of us were sergeant pilots.
(Photo: Course 16 Aussie pilot graduates at Camp Borden, March 17, 1941) We went to this embarkation depot in Debert, Nova Scotia which was an aerodrome, that was being built and it was just when all the snow was thawing and it was so muddy because it was under construction, and all the buildings, we were sleeping the hangar, there were 2,000 of us in double decker bunks and there were six wash basins and six lavatories and six showers and this was for the 2,000 blokes. And the mess was built to serve about 200 people and there was this endless queue all day to get a meal and all on this duck boards, because the mud was about two or three feet deep, so some of my friends and I we took 'french leave' and we went back to Quebec and had ourselves a lovely two weeks there...enormous fun and the Canadians were very very good to us, we were some of the first Australians they had ever seen. We got back to Debert and found that we'd all been given leave because there was such a jam-up and the submarines were active in the Atlantic and the boats couldn't leave and we were given two week official leave then. We'd been AWOL for two weeks but nobody knew we'd been away from the place. And then we were given this two weeks leave but of course, we'd spent all our money so we were broke. One of the boys had a few dollars left so he lent it to us and so we all went on leave again. We left on the Georgic. The boat was very crowded but it was a big boat and very fast. We had no escort or anything 'cause it could go faster than the submarines. We all had to do watches and things like that, around the decks looking for submarines and periscopes and enemy aircraft. But, we arrived up in the north of England and we were straight on a troop train and we went to Uxbridge, which is really a suburb of London. We were just in time for some of the last air raids, night raids on London but there was still a lot of devastation. I'd lived in London for a bit, when I was over there pre-war. You'd look for somewhere and it was no longer there, it was all rather horrible. The civilians, they never talked about losing the war or anything like that, they were very wonderful people. We were all highly excited and we were keen and eager to be posted from Uxbridge. We were only there for about a week and keen to know where we were going. We were given our postings from there and I found that I was to go to No. 57 Operational Training Unit at Hawarden, near Chester, in North Wales, which was a Spitfire one, and so I was very pleased. One of the biggest surprises of my life was, when I found this beautiful beautiful Spitfire and found that it hadn't got an automatic under-cart, you had to manually operate the under-cart.You usually flew with your right hand, and your left hand on the throttle. You had to change...take your hand off the throttle and fly with your left hand and then you had to operate this gear lever thing to pump your under-cart up and you had to pump it solid, which took a little bit of time and then select, say 'up' to bring the under-cart up and then you had to pump about thirty times to get your wheels up and you'd see the blokes, until they got the knack of this, you'd see then going, Burrrp! Burrrp! Burrrp! across the aerodrome. I'll never forget that first solo as you were told to get up to 2,000 feet do a circuit and come in and land. By the time you got this under-cart up, I found I was 5,000 feet and everything was flat out and the engine was still flat out and I had my throttle back, I hadn't put the revs back, so by the time you got that sorted out, you were going very fast and you suddenly found you were so high, so you'd put your nose down and of course instead your speed went up at an incredible hurry and you looked around and you couldn't find the aerodrome. It was all a bit much. It was a lot easier to get the under-cart down than to pump it up, it came down quite quickly and these aeroplanes, these Mk-1 Spitfires, had been through the Battle of Britain and a lot of them had been shot up and you know, patched up and they really were pretty clapped-out old things and the wirelesses were absolutely shocking. I had trouble when I was coming in to land, you had ninety degrees flaps, which were worked with compressed air and I went to put my flaps down, you had the two flaps of ninety degrees and only one flap went down and I started to do a slow roll at about 700 feet, which is not very nice and luckily I managed to give it the gun and fly out of trouble but I couldn't get my wireless to work - because the instructor had told me to call up if anything was wrong – so I just carried on circling around and around the aerodrome until somebody realized, something was wrong with me. Because these Spitfires without any flaps, they'd float...just float and float and float and they were very hard to get onto the ground. So one of the flight commanders came up and made signs to me and said, "Formation" you know, "Formate on me " and we'd only about two or three hours formation flying in Canada so I managed to get the message and formated on him and he brought me in to land and we made it, but I thought we were never going to touch down, the thing it just went on floating. But if I tried to land on my own with no flaps I most probably would have pranged at the end of the runway, but he was an experienced flyer on the Spitfire and knew what to do. At OTU we did approximately fifty hours and then we were posted to our squadrons and they were forming 452 which was the First Australian `Spit' Squadron and the fellows in the course in front of me, `Bluey' Truscott and all those fellows who became pretty well known, they formed 452 and then some of us went on to English squadrons and then they formed 457 and the fellows in the latter part of the alphabet with names like Wright and Williams and things like that, they went on to 457 which formed in the Isle of Man and the 452 formed at Kirton-in-Lindsey which is in the Midlands of England.
(Photo: Group portrait of pilots of No. 452 Squadron RAAF. L to R: Flying Officer Keith Kipling Cox (400141), accidentally killed in the United Kingdom, 23 January 1944); possibly Archie Stuart; Flight Lieutenant (F/LT) Brendan Eamonn Fergus "Paddy" Finucane RAF, DSO, DFC & two Bars (killed during operations over Etaples, France, on 15 July 1942, aged 21 years); 407078 Ian Arthur Lace Milne ; 402120 Sgt James Neate Hanigan (killed on active service at Carlisle, England, on 7 September 1941, aged 24 years); 402129 Frederick Revis McCann; 402144 Squadron Leader (Sqn Ldr) Raymond Edward Thorold-Smith (killed during operations over the Timor Sea on 15 March 1943, aged 24 years); 257414 Sqn Ldr Robert Wilton Bungey DFC (killed in a ground accident in South Australia on 10 June 1943, aged 28 years); 400166 Flying Officer (FO) William Douglas Willis (killed during operations near Rouen, France, on 18 September 1941, aged 24 years); possibly 402007 Flt Lt Alex Roberts; 400148 FO Donald Edwin Lewis (accidentally killed over the English Channel on 21 January 1942, aged 19 years); possibly Flt Lt Dougas; 404086 Sgt Andrew Gordon Costello (killed during operations over the United Kingdom on 5 July 1941, aged 23 years); 400213 Sqn Ldr Keith William "Bluey" Truscott DFC & bar (killed in an accident near Exmouth Gulf, WA, on 28 March 1943); 402115 Sgt Richard George Gazzard (killed during operations over Belgium on 19 August 1941, aged 21 years). Absent: 404087 Pilot Officer Raife James Cowan, 408022 Justin O'Byrne (later POW); 402232 PO William Davies Eccleton (killed in action in France on 19 August 1941, aged 25 years); PO R T Holt. Cox, Holt, Eccleton, Willis and Lewis trained at Camp Borden with 'Bluey' Truscott as members of Course 14.) We had fifty hours flying, which was around about six weeks and then I was posted to 72 Squadron near Newcastle-on-Tyne. We got the first Spitfire Mk-Vb's, which had two twenty millimeter cannons on them as well as four machine guns. Before that we just had machine guns as offensive fire power. We only had sixty rounds in each cannon and you had 360 odd rounds in your machine guns. You could fire the whole lot off at once if you wanted to or you could fire your cannons independently but it only lasted for thirteen and a half seconds, if you fire the whole lot together. You see these films of people flying around the sky, firing off guns - it's a whole lot of rot because you only had thirteen seconds fire-power. Usually if you got close to the German plane you'd give him the works, because it had to be quick, because nobody knew who was going to be firing at you from behind, you just couldn't waste any time, if you got to shoot him down in three seconds, well it was good shooting. A lot of the American planes the fighter planes they used to stall pretty easily and you could dip a wing when you were coming in to land, but the Spitfire was hard to even make it flip over on its back, they were beautiful, beautiful aeroplanes and Rolls Royce were a beautiful engine. As soon as I got to the squadron, we used to have to do North Sea dawn and dusk patrols and things like that and these convoy patrols. They were all classed as operational flights. It was generally, at that time, fairly quiet. We were on readiness because every now and then odd German raiders used to come in from across the North Sea. I think I was very lucky because, I had that period of about six weeks where I got a chance to do a whole lot more flying with the squadron. When we were on dawn readiness, sometimes we'd see these fellows in the bombers who'd just come back and were limping home damaged. We'd go and escort them back in and sometimes they landed these old Wellingtons and they looked like a sieve, how they ever managed to fly, I don't know. The squadron morale was very good 'cause the squadron had shot a lot of Germans down during the Battle of Britain, I think we were about the third highest of the squadrons who were fighting down south. But we had a very bad time when we went to Biggin Hill to start with, we lost about ten fellows in the first month. In a fighter squadron you have say about thirty pilots, when lose use ten of them it's a big loss and most unpleasant. But you just had the feeling, well it's not going to happen to me and you went on flying and you hoped it didn't happen to you, until it did. We started off with three Australians on the squadron, I was the only one who survived, but then I was shot down and a prisoner of war otherwise I wouldn't be here, if I hadn't been a prisoner. We used to talk about 'getting the chop' and things like that and say, "It's your turn next" or something like that, "Let's have another drink". We used to weave all the time, you went along like a snake the whole lot of you because you were harder to hit and if you were on the outside and the whole squadron turned say, to the right and you were weaving to the left, all of a sudden, instead of thirty six of you all around you, you were on your own and it was a very frightening feeling because one minute you could have a whole lot of your own aircraft squadron and wing maybe thirty six of you or more and if you happen to weave in one direction, and the rest weaved in the opposite you were just left on your own and usually we were split into pairs, and there were two of you but you could easily get on your own and it was a terrifying thing because that's what the Germans waited for, for anyone who was on their own and they could just bang down on you from up above and if you managed to see them you were lucky, because they'd come out of the sun. It did happen to me on a few occasions, but I was 'Arse End Charlie', as we used to called it, we used to be in three sections of four, well somebody had to be the number four who was right at the back and as I said earlier that we'd lost ten blokes when we first went south and then we got replacements and some of them were pretty inexperienced, although I was not that experienced but I was one of the older members in the squadron and CRO used to say, "Well look old boy, you won't mind being 'Arse End Charlie' again today" and I'd say "I do mind" but that got to be...and I actually was in that nasty position a few times. When that happened suddenly you were on your own. You just watched out and said, "It's time to go home". And you could either dive straight, usually you were flying between 20,000 and 27,000 feet and you'd either go right down to the ground level and try and get home and hope that nobody would see you, you wouldn't run over across an anti-aircraft battery or something or you could just hope to catch up with the main force, you knew where they were going but if you'd lost any height you weren't in the race to catch them again. And I usually went down to the ground and flew home through the trees. You see the Messerschmitt-109's were a little bit faster than we were, but we could out turn them and if you were attacked you used to watch and try and judge and as soon as you saw them coming from behind and usually from above, you'd turn into them at the last minute, just as they were going to open fire at you and if they followed you, you would turn, we could turn inside them and we could out turn them and we could get a shot at them, but if you mistimed it, you were in trouble because they could just break away and see what you're doing and do the same thing again, but if you could turn inside them, and you could get a shot at them. The main thing was to get your shot in quickly because so many times if there was somebody having a shot at you, you had to turn quickly and always stay with somebody, was the whole secret but it always couldn't be. If you got on to the tail of the German and fired your guns and hit him well, you were highly excited but usually by the time you got home, you were pretty wet, you know, you were sweating and it was highly emotional really. But...it's...I really couldn't explain the position, I was shot at more often than I had to shoot at the Germans and I mostly managed to avoid being shot down but, I was very badly shot up one day, and we had metal ailerons on the Spitfire Mk-5B's and I got a cannon shell in my aileron, in the wing and I was flying home and I turned in to the Germans and I'd run out ammunition and I was trying to get down to the deck but there were two of them still chasing me and I turned in to them and they thought I still had some ammunition I presume, and they'd break away and then I'd try and dodge to the English Channel and I managed to dive down watching this aileron thinking it was going to fall to pieces, and that'd be the end of me but it just stayed there and I got down, there was a haze over the Channel and these two German planes behind me, they both went straight into the sea behind me, so I was going very fast when I crossed the channel. Our endurance was only about two hours, and sometimes you'd get into trouble and your petrol was just about run out and you'd hear the fellows calling "Mayday"... "Mayday" giving a fix and then they'd bail out over the channel because they hadn't got enough petrol. We were told not to ever crash land in the sea, in the 'Spit' because you had that great big Rolls Royce engine in front of you, which just went down quicker than a stone. And you weren't allowed to land on the beaches anywhere along the south coast, because they were all mined and so if you couldn’t get past the beaches, you could crash land in a field or something. We had pretty good wireless in these later planes but we were told just to cut out, you'd listen to your squadron leader and people and there was very little unnecessary natter. In fighter command, there really wasn't a period (of duty), it was a matter really of the squadron and demand and the whole squadron'd be moved to a safer area where there wasn't as much operational flying, you'd be doing sort of dusk patrol but not much chance of meeting any enemy...but I did I think, thirty five operational flights and then I was shot down, but I was the oldest sergeant pilot on the squadron, not in years but in time. Biggin Hill is only twenty minutes drive from London. We used to catch the train up – and we used to get twenty four hours leave now and then and we'd shoot off up to London and we had various pubs and these funny little clubs that were all over London. I remember the 'Crackers Club' was a great Australian place and you could guarantee you'd meet somebody you knew there and there was 'Codger's' in just off Fleet Street which was a great pub for the Australians. The English people were absolutely wonderful, we were Australians a long way from home. You'd get your leave and you loved your leave but you know, it was good to get back to the squadron; but you had some nasty shocks sometimes when you got back from leave because two or three more had been 'disappeared'. But you know, we were all very young, which makes a big difference. Lisle, in the north of France, was one of the worse places because that was about the end of our endurance. We knew then that, if the bombers were two or three minutes late we'd be in trouble with our petrol returning and we weren't very keen on flights to Lisle but, it didn't effect everyone. Everyone just said, "Well I hope those bomber boys are on time." The bombers used to fly over say, at 12,000 feet and we'd just escort them and we'd have wings right up from the close escort and then you'd have squadrons on either side and then you'd have a high escort which was say, 27,000 feet. Then the bombers just flew along and dropped their bombs and every now and then the Germans used to make an attack on the bombers. They usually used to get through but, if they got high enough and went through practically vertically, we couldn't catch them, but they brought out these big Stirling Bombers, the four engined planes. The German's anti-aircraft fire was very good and effective but one of these Stirlings got a couple of engines knocked out and we could see it gradually lagging behind, but we were so short of petrol we couldn't stay and look after it and it would've been chopped but that's the way those things went. These sweeps were on because the Russians were in the war and our job was to try and keep as many German aeroplanes in France to stop them going over to the Russian front, who were taking a terrible beating at the time. Douglas Bader the pilot with tin legs, I was on the escort when we dropped his – he was shot down about six week before I was – and I was on the escort that dropped his tin legs on the aerodrome at St Omer and I was then in the same little hospital at St Omer where he was, but he'd been moved. Biggin Hill was sort of defence of London and if there were any people from overseas American high brass and generals and things, wanted to see something in the operation room, they used to ring up the Biggin Hill wing and say , put on a `ding', we've got a few of these 'Yankees' or whoever they were, who want to see it from the operations and that was the day I was shot down, I don't know who somebody wanted and we were only a fighter sweep, we really had...but there was a new squadron – a Canadian squadron – joined the wing and they broke RT silence which we used until we'd crossed the French coast – nobody spoke on the wireless because the Jerry's could pick it up – and somebody had engine trouble and called up and said he had an engine trouble and was going back and our controller then called us up, we were flying about 27,000 feet say there were fifty plus Germans waiting for us and don't go far in, and so we crossed the French coast near Calais and then we turned out and we didn't go too far in. I had new fellow flying behind me. He was my sort of No. 2 and it was his first trip and I told him, "Keep really close to me don't lag behind" and I don't know quite what happened whether he was, I'd learnt this from some people...the fellow who was shot down off the squadron, a couple of months afterwards, he had engine trouble too and he should have flown along side me and waggled his wings and I would've gone home with him but he didn't or forgot what procedure and he shot through and I'd just seen – as we were turning out towards the French coast from France – I saw these Germans down below and I cocked my wing up in the sun and had a good look and called up the rest of the squadron that I was going down to watch my tail and to this day, I wouldn't know whether I would've looked behind before I went down and whether this plane behind me – it was most probably a German – and I thought it was the fellow who should've been flying behind me you see, and I was just about to peel over and go down these Jerry's and the plane just blew up, I was just sitting in the middle of a bonfire as we had two petrol tanks right between us and the engine and I was hit from sort of slightly underneath and it was just sitting in the bonfire. I got my safety harness straps undone, but my canopy wouldn't open. All I remembered was "Get out of here!" I was trying to get out of the dammed thing and I couldn't, because I couldn't open the hood. I got my feet up on the dashboard and was trying open it in the normal way and I went unconscious. I think the plane must have exploded and blown me out because I woke up with this noise of rushing wind and I didn't know where I was. Then I thought "God, I should be flying" and it all came back, so I pulled my rip-cord and hit the ground and the cold air revived me. I had dropped I suppose, about 23,000 feet. When the parachute opened one arm somehow was caught up in the shroud of the parachute and I just had time to look down. These French peasants, they heard the pop of the parachute and my trousers and everything were still on fire and the parachute was also burning. After I landed a couple of Germans came across the field, I think there was an ack-ack battery or a search light battery and they said, "For you my friend the war is over". I was in the hospital in St Omer until Christmas '41. Then they moved me into Germany. A fighter squadron was a very close-knit crowd because there weren't very many of you and your ground crew, you more or less had your own aeroplane and your ground crew thought you were the best pilot in the squadron and theirs was the best aeroplane. There was not much difference between the officers and the sergeant pilots, we were all really just the same. There was the Officers' Mess but we had the Sergeants' Mess. We'd have an experienced sergeant pilot leading the squadron and there'd be Flight Lieutenants and people flying behind him. It was a pretty good sort of set up, I thought. The casualties were shocking, I mean, it was awful. But at the time you don't sort of realize these sort of things. They were there the casualties, they just whittled away. If you went on flying and if you survived, you went on flying … you're gonna cop it sooner or later. I think possibly this would be effected more so in bomber command where they had these great big long flights and it must've been a lot more tension really then. Two hours at a time was our longest flight. You speak to all the bomber boys, particularly in POW camps, how they were shot down and the escapes were quite incredible how people got out. Some of them did seventy, eighty-two tours and three tours. They'd all at some stage been badly shot up or wounded and they just managed to get home and it was really just luck. I mean there was my brother shot down and he got back through Turkey. I was shot and a POW and survived and I had two cousins and they were both in the air force and they were killed. So it was really a matter of luck. (Copyright - Australian War Memorial for the purposes of research and study)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Robert Habbeshaw - Course 28

By Vincent Ball, Brantford Expositor Tuesday, August 26, 2008 There is so much to say, so much to share, but for many years Robert Habbeshaw remained silent about his Second World War experiences. That changed a few years ago. Since then, Habbeshaw has spoken to local business groups and students about the more than 40 missions he flew in the Middle East as an RCAF pilot and of the many different planes he tested during the war. Habbeshaw survived several crash landings but even today, at 88, he walks with a military bearing. Physically, he appears to have escaped the war unscathed. Psychologically, however, it has been a different story. "I started having these dreams, memories of what I had seen started coming back to me in the night," Habbeshaw said. "I would be kicking and screaming. It was awful. "Somebody told me that I should start talking about my experiences so I have." There wasn't a dry eye in the room following a presentation to a community business group a couple of years back, he recalled. There was the time he saw the tail section of a plane fall onto a worker who was lying on his back underneath the tail wheel. Other workers managed to push up the tail section and Habbeshaw pulled the man out by the legs. An ambulance came to take the man to hospital. "I have never forgotten the screaming as the ambulance drove off, with the sound gradually dying into the distance. He died that day," Habbeshaw wrote in a letter a couple of years ago. There is the memory of flying a Wellington and hearing a member of his crew screaming so hard that blood spewed out of his mouth while Habbeshaw flew evasive manoeuvres to save them from being shot down. Other crew members had to hold the man down, Habbeshaw recalled in his letter. Most times they flew at 7,900 feet and were travelling 130 mph. The plane carried 14 250-lb. bombs. After dropping the bombs, Habbeshaw would try to change the pitch of the plane's propeller as a way of confusing enemy radar. Flying towards their target, Habbeshaw would quietly say, 'God help us, God help us.' It is a miracle that he survived it all, he said. "God has been good to me," he said. Looking through his flight book, old photographs and other memorabilia, Habbeshaw said there is so much to talk about, so much to share that it's difficult to know where to start. He remembers the time British Prime Minister Winston Churchill did a tour of the Middle East. It is especially memorable for Habbeshaw because he was able to speak to the famous orator, politician and world leader. "He (Churchill) noticed that I was a Canadian and asked me if I was from Saskatchewan?" Habbeshaw said. "I said no, I was from Ontario." "He then asked me what I was doing here and I told him I didn't know." Habbeshaw chuckles at the story because he given a stern talking to by his commanding officer at the time for not giving the British prime minister a better answer. 'QUITE A SURPRISE' "But I was really young then and it all came as quite a surprise," Habbeshaw said. "I really didn't know what to say." Habbeshaw can also speak about some of the improvisations the pilots and air crews came up with to fight the enemy. Sometimes, instead of dropping bombs, they dropped caltrops, a spiked weapon that is shaped in such a way that when it is dropped to the ground there is always a point, pointing upwards. It has been used in war to stop enemy advances. The flight crew would also screw rods into the points of their bombs so that when the bombs hit the ground they didn't become submerged in the sand and reduce their effectiveness. Once, when Habbeshaw and another member of his crew were doing this, they screwed the rod in just a little too far. "We got the heck out of there pretty quick," he said with a laugh. He also recalled how the Gurkhas guarded their quarters, sandy dugouts in in the desert. "They were crafty. Great soldiers who could sneak up on you without making a sound," Habbeshaw recalled. "If you went out at night, they liked to sneak up behind you and whisper in your ear, 'I got ya.'" Later in the war, Habbeshaw became part of a group of pilots -- the Canadian representative -- involved in testing various airplanes that were being developed by the allies. He flew most, if not all of the planes, that were being developed at that time including the Lysander, Mosquito, several models of the Hurrican as well as the Spitfire. "I've always loved planes," he said. "I've always loved flying. "It's the kind of thing that gets a hold on you and never lets go."

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Course 32

Murray F. Pettit standing with his wife and mother after wings parade September 13, 1941.
Norman Marshall, Oakville, Ontario receiving his wings from Group Captain Roy S. Grandy, O.C., No. 1 SFTS Camp Borden. Other graduates included William Frederick Edwin Cane, + Lawrence Aloysius Doherty (J.7468), + Lawrence Theodore Izzard (J.7462), + Lawrence Henry Jordan, Thomas Kelly, + Andrew Albert McNaughton (J.7465), Donald Earl Naismith, George Johnston Hays, Henry Hanan Turick, James Ell Walsh, + Victor Howard Miller, Arthur Lippa, Elliott Allan McCready, Warren G. Straley

Friday, September 21, 2012

1943

+(J/26406) Ronald William Doidge,+(J/26409)Cyril Oscare Barlow, +(J/26415) Theodore Gorak

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Course 22

+Jack Lloyd Roach, +John Roy Freeland (J/5342), +Robert Francis Minnick (J/5340), A.T.A. Young (POW), Lloyd Hubert Warriner (J/5337), Stafford Dean Marlatt (DFC), +Percy Thomas Walter Walker, +Stuart William Jamieson (J/5338), Homer S. ‘Hap’ Armstrong, Charles White, John Andrew Carl Kearns, Harry Deane MacDonald (DFC & Bar), Jack Parker, Peter Myles, +Albert John ‘Jack’ Fawcett, Alfred Ray Moulden, Edwin Herbert Glazebrook (J/5329), +Charles Stewart White (J/5330), +Hilyard Lowell Myers (J/5331), +John Livingstone Hopkins Eliott (J/5332), C.A. King, +Richard Arthur Laing (J/5330), +Arthur Charles White (J/5335), +Garnet Graham Retallack (J/5336), H.A. Nicholson, Frederick John Sherlock (DFC) (J/5343), +Clyffurde George Randall Saunders (J/5344), +George Spence Robb, +Allan Allister MacLeod, +John Albert Parker, +Douglas Roy Richardson, Seymour H. Frankel, James Henry Foy (DFC), James L. Lee, Harley Clifton Elsey, +Leonard Stanley Plunkett, James P. Magwood, Louis J. Collins, +Rupert Henry Davey

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Justin Hilary O’Byrne - Course 14 - Senator for Tasmania, 1947–81 (Australian Labor Party)

Justin Hilary O’Byrne was a World War II fighter pilot and prisoner of war, and President of the Senate during the 1975 constitutional crisis. He was born on 1 June 1912 in Launceston, Tasmania, the seventh of ten children. His father, Patrick Augustus O’Byrne, a wine and spirit merchant in Launceston, was the son of Irish migrants who had settled at Westbury. His mother, Mary Elizabeth née Madden, probably attended the University of Melbourne’s Conservatorium of Music. The couple were devout Catholics. Justin’s early years were spent at Trevallyn on the Tamar River, where he developed a lifelong interest in aquatic sports. At the age of nine, he was a cox at the Tamar Rowing Club. Educated at Trevallyn Primary School and at St Patrick’s College, Launceston, O’Byrne was a prominent athlete and swimmer. He continued to cox rowing teams, and played handball and Australian Rules football. O’Byrne’s schooling ended at the age of fifteen. He worked at the Kelsall & Kemp textile factory, and then as an assistant in the chemistry laboratory of the Rapson Tyre & Rubber Company during 1929, studying rubber chemistry and accountancy on a part-time basis at Launceston Technical College. O’Byrne left Launceston that year after the company experienced a series of catastrophes that eventually bankrupted it. In 1930 he walked, in stages, over 1000 kilometres from Melbourne in Victoria to Cunnamulla in south-west Queensland, where, as ‘a jack of all trades’, he sheared sheep, drove bullocks, bored drains, mended fences, taught himself to play the mouth organ, and acquired bushcraft skills from Aboriginals. He became a station overseer and bookkeeper, and learnt to fly light aircraft. In his spare time, he read widely in economics and political science. In 1935 he joined the Australian Workers’ Union. Outraged by the conduct of Franco in Spain and Mussolini in Ethiopia, O’Byrne was persuaded by the writings of G. D. H. Cole, Harold Laski and George Bernard Shaw that capitalism must give way to socialism. [1] On 20 June 1940 O’Byrne enlisted in the RAAF at Hobart. In November, he embarked for training in Ottawa, Canada. Commissioned as a pilot officer, O’Byrne travelled to Kirton-in-Lindsey in Lincolnshire, serving as a founding member of 452 Squadron, RAAF. In July 1941 the squadron was transferred to Kenley in Surrey and, with the arrival of Squadron Leader Robert Bungey, 452 Squadron was now predominantly Australian. O’Byrne participated in offensive operations across the Channel, opposing the waves of German bombers preparing for Hitler’s projected invasion of Britain, thus helping to ensure the enemy’s ultimate defeat. A Spitfire flown on occasion by O’Byrne is on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. In August 1941, accompanying British bombers, O’Byrne’s Spitfire was shot down over France by a German fighter. Although wounded, O’Byrne bailed out—it was his first parachute jump. He was captured by Germans, and spent some time in hospital at Saint-Omer, France. A fellow casualty was the legendary Douglas Bader. O’Byrne later related that before the RAF parachuted artificial limbs for Bader into Germany, he carried the ace pilot on his back. Bader never forgot him, and sent O’Byrne a telegram on his retirement from the Senate. After leaving the hospital, O’Byrne began nearly four years of incarceration in eight prisoner of war camps. Conditions, even for officers, were bad. Food was so meagre that without Red Cross parcels many would have starved to death. Life in the huts was monotonous. Only the hope of escape kept up morale. O’Byrne continued his studies, leading seminars in politics, economics and languages in preparation for the better world to come. At Stalag Luft III at Sagan in Silesia, O’Byrne took part in celebrated break outs, which subsequently inspired the popular books and films, The Wooden Horse and The Great Escape. During the latter, teams of prisoners created escape tunnels while others distracted the guards. O’Byrne, who later described himself as ‘the administrative officer’, did not draw a place in the lotteries for the relatively small number who would try to escape through the tunnels. He was fortunate, as fifty of the prisoners who broke out were executed following recapture. To O’Byrne, the effort, despite its results, was worthwhile. As the Russians moved west in the closing stages of the war, the Germans forced O’Byrne and other prisoners to walk 150 kilometres through the snow from Scubin to Luckenwalde, south of Berlin. After the Russians finally liberated this camp, O’Byrne had to make his own way to the American forces on the Elbe, over 100 kilometres away. In light of this experience, and his earlier wanderings across Australia, he later described himself as a ‘Roads Scholar’. By May 1945 he was back in the United Kingdom, having been promoted to flight lieutenant in February 1943 while still a POW.[2] After rehabilitation in England, O’Byrne returned to Sydney in May 1945 and was discharged on 1 February 1946. Back in Tasmania, he worked for a short time as the Launceston district officer in the Department of Post-War Reconstruction. With his gallant war background and well-honed socialist philosophy, in March 1946 O’Byrne obtained nomination for the Senate for the September federal election. The ALP, under Ben Chifley, was returned to power, and Labor won all three Senate seats in Tasmania with O’Byrne elected third. From the first, O’Byrne proved an active senator, speaking, questioning and interjecting. In polemical outbursts, he developed a flair for striking metaphors and witty analogies, sometimes using satirical verse. Despite vigorous criticism of opponents, O’Byrne bore them no malice and was often happy to fraternise outside the chamber, where he became a celebrated raconteur. His enthusiasm for the brave new world to be inaugurated by Labor was palpable. Wartime experiences added depth to O’Byrne’s reading of socialist writers. In 1948 he lambasted the capitalist system, which, he said, during the war had forced the RAF to pay royalties for its fuel to Standard Oil of New Jersey, these royalties eventually going to the German corporation of I. G. Farben. In later years, he complained that ‘Australia was involved in every war that was on’, adding, ‘What did we get out of it? Nothing’. Nevertheless, referring to his POW experience, he declared: ‘I lost my freedom. I gave it up in a cause’. Urging the importance of understanding Australia’s Asian neighbours, he reiterated Franklin Roosevelt’s view that ‘if civilization is to survive we must cultivate the science of human relationships’. O’Byrne insisted that the socialism of the ALP did not require the nationalisation of private enterprises, provided that these were managed without exploitation and in a socially useful manner.[3] In 1949 Labor lost office and began twenty-three years in opposition. As his chances of high office dwindled, O’Byrne identified with the radical left of the party in its contest against the apparently immovable regime of Robert Menzies. He opposed the Communist Party Dissolution Bill as a threat to national liberties and welcomed its rejection in a referendum. A staunch supporter of Evatt, O’Byrne had no sympathy with the Labor dissidents who broke away in 1955 to form the Democratic Labor Party (DLP). Personally denounced by Archbishop Guilford Young of Hobart for supporting divorce legislation, O’Byrne became a constant antagonist of the DLP until its disappearance from the Senate in 1974. Chifley remained his hero. After Chifley’s death in 1951, O’Byrne said that ‘by his personal example he has permanently influenced my conception of the duties of public life’. On 11 February 1961, at Holy Cross Church, Woollahra, New South Wales, O’Byrne married Gisele Anne Crossle, like himself an ALP stalwart and keen social reformer of Irish background. Justin and Anne had three children. O’Byrne took an active part in the protest against the Vietnam War, presenting a petition against the harshness of conscription that led Senator Rae on 27 March 1969 to accuse O’Byrne of being a tool of fraud. O’Byrne in turn accused Rae of acting as an informer, using the word ‘pimp’, for which ‘unparliamentary language’ he was suspended from the sitting of the Senate. He was less virulent, but equally fervent, in his opposition to the flooding of Lake Pedder and the damming of the Franklin River. He proudly advertised his membership of the Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair National Park Board and the Tasmanian Scenery Preservation Board, and spoke vigorously in the Senate on the dangers of uranium mining. He warned that a ‘society based on the lust for private profit must inevitably render the earth incapable of supporting human life’. O’Byrne served on a wide range of parliamentary committees throughout his Senate career. He was also a member of the parliamentary delegation to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, and a parliamentary adviser to the Australian delegation at the United Nations General Assembly in New York from 1971 to 1972. In 1980 he attended the 67th Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in East Berlin, during which, so the story goes, the Russian delegation awarded him a medal, causing O’Byrne to refer to ‘our glorious Russian allies’, memories of his release by the Russians in 1945 overshadowing the more recent events of the Cold War. O’Byrne left the Senate at the completion of his term on 30 June 1981. Under party rules, being over the retiring age of sixty-five, he could not be re-endorsed. His reputation in the Senate reflected the fact that, unlike so many others, he had not been embittered by the events of 1975. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1984. In later years, he regretted the change that had come over Australian politics when the idealism of the Chifley period gave way to pragmatic politics in both of the main parties. Although he was careful not to embarrass the party in public, O’Byrne had little sympathy for the new Labor philosophy of Prime Ministers Hawke and Keating, which he saw as insufficiently distinguishable from that of the Liberal Party. O’Byrne died on 10 November 1993 in Sydney. Anne, Justin, Hilary and Helene survived him. Many of the prominent politicians who attended his state funeral in the Church of the Apostles, Launceston, had turned away from his strong critique of contemporary capitalism, and they regarded his respect for Parliament as a forum for genuine debate and social reconstruction as old-fashioned. His example, however, remains an ideal for subsequent generations. (The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate)