My family, my children Libby and Tony and grandchildren
David, Kathi and Michelle have been pestering me for years to
write about my war exploits and past experiences so that they
wouldn't die with me. So, when the researcher from Canberra asked
me to send any relevant material about Eddie Hudson who, during
the War, flew to Australia the Lancaster Bomber "G George"
(now in the Canberra War Memorial) and with whom I completed my
last four operations over Europe, he set off a spark, rekindling
memories that I had previously preferred to lie dormant. If I
didn't do it soon it would be too late since I will be 80 years
old on 30th. August 1993.
Hence the so-called memoirs that follow.
I was teaching at the Newtown Central Technical School in 1939
40 when I enlisted in the RAAF. Children from the very
depressed areas of Erskineville, Newtown and surrounding areas
attended this school. It was during the depression and there were
two and three families living in the same house, as most men were
unemployed. In fact one of the kids was Finney the gunman's son.
Another kid said he always looked forward to Friday night as that
was the night his old man came home drunk and threw about "bobs"
(ten cents). These were great kids and I loved them. Maybe I subconsciously
enlisted to fight for a better future for these kids.
During this period when I was teaching by day I was also attending
the Sydney University at night doing an Arts course, hoping to
major in Mathematics. I just loved this subject and hoped that
one day I would have the joy of teaching it in a State High School.
In mid 1940 I had a medical examination at the RAAF Enrolment
Centre, Woolloomooloo, and from that time was placed on the RAAF
Reserve. This enabled me to complete my second year at the University
and, in the two years, to pass in five subjects.
I never ever kept a diary so what I am about to relate is gleaned
from my flying log book and from what I can remember.
On the day following my 27th. birthday I married Joan Pedder on
the 31st. August, 1940. She has been the most loving, caring,
understanding, loyal, faithful, practical and supportive wife
anyone could wish for. It was because of this, her typing of my
essays and her constant encouragement that I was able to pass
my Second Year university exams.
In Autumn 1941 the RAAF enlisted me as a Leading Aircraftman (LAC),
and posted me to the Embarkation Centre at Bradfield Park, Lindfield.
We were a rather select lot consisting of school teachers, accountants,
solicitors and two actuaries one of whom was Les Oxby, twenty
one and the youngest actuary in Australia. He was posted to an
Australian Air Training School before being posted on operations
in Australia's north. Thank goodness he survived the war and subsequently
became manager of the AMP. Here we were trained and examined in
the ramifications of Air Navigation and Physical Education. We
were dressed in goon suits, a type of navy blue overall, and under
the control of foulmouthed illeducated army sergeants,
were bullied and treated like school children as we sloped arms,
drilled and routemarched for mile after mile..
Besides all this we were given many antivirus injections
by the Station's medical officer. It was during one of these injections
on 6th. June that I was informed my wife Joan had given birth
to our lovely daughter Elizabeth Anne. When I sailed for Canada
on 8th August she was just eight weeks old. She was almost three
years of age when I returned in May 1944. What an awful period
for poor Joan.
Some of the navigators were posted to Australian Empire Air Training
Schools and thirty of us were posted to Canada for training. Only
four of us returned.
We left Sydney in the modern ship Awatea, after much tearful parting
with our dear relatives, and encountered the most violent Tasman
gale on our way to Auckland New Zealand. Most of us were violently
ill but the Awatea, which regularly made this crossing, berthed
unscathed in Auckland Harbour in much better condition than its
passengers. Here the locals couldn't have been nicer, treating
us to a bus trip to the hot springs of Rotorua being the highlight
of their hospitality.
New Zealand airmen, who introduced us to the Maori's Farewell,
joined us as we sailed for Fiji from whence we zigzagged across
the Pacific accompanied by a destroyer which had been with us
from the time we left Sydney. The Awatea was later sunk in the
Mediterranean by German Stuka divebombers.
We finally berthed at Vancouver. Crossing the Rockies, beholding
the might of the snowcapped Mt. Robson, the beauty of Jasper with
its totem pole, then crossing the prairies of Alberta to the capital
city of Edmonton, where we were to train, was indeed a very rewarding
experience. We felt as though we were on a Cooks Tour with these
experiences we never even dreamed of. You see, unlike the adults,
young people and even children of today who have travelled
extensively around the World, most of us had never been outside
our own State.
The people of Edmonton treated us all like Royalty. They just
couldn't do enough for us; inviting us to their homes, putting
on sumptuous dinners, taking us on car rides and making and bringing
to the camp an abundant supply of the most luscious pies (pumpkin,
blueberry, etc.) that only the American housewives could have
At Edmonton Air Training School we were instructed and examined
in navigation, compass swinging, signals, photography, maps &
charts and meteorology. We applied this knowledge in the air in
Avro Ansons working in pairs. My constant partner was my very
dear friend Roy Canvin. Our pilots were American civilians who
wanted to be in the war but couldn't as the U.S.A had not declared
war at this time. They were very highspirited and bored
and gave the raw navigators, who had never flown, a rare experience
on their first flight. Our pilot took us to 10,000 feet and then
suddenly put the aircraft in a nosedive. We were lifted
from our seats, floating in midair. He then suddenly pulled
the aircraft out of the dive so that the gravitational force was
so great we felt that we must be forced through the aircraft floor.
He then descended to treetop level flying over forest and
hot prairie where the thermals change rapidly causing us to bounce
up and down. That was the only time I was ever sick in an aircraft.
Roy apparently had a stronger constitution. He didn't succumb
From Edmonton we were posted to the Bombing and Gunnery School
at Dafoe in Saskatchewan, a veritable snow desert, flying in clappedout
Fairy Battles that stank of glycol and nearly suffocated us as
we dropped our practice bombs from the belly of the aircraft.
We practised gunnery from an open cockpit firing at a drogue being
towed by another aircraft. Because of the intense cold at that
altitude our fingers suffered from severe chilblains. These civilian
pilots were, like the Edmonton pilots, quite mad and bored, flying
between closely positioned wheat elevators (silos) so that they
had to bank the aircraft to get through, then flying back to base
so low that they had to raise the aircraft to clear boundary fences
and then descend again so that the belly of the aircraft again
almost scraped the ground.
Our first Christmas away was at Dafoe where my other very dear
friend Harry Taubman led us all in singing the carols. Later we
were transferred to the Astro Navigational School at Rivers about
40 miles west of Winnipeg in Manitoba. It was here that we experienced
the extreme temperatures of 40 below!! With our gloves on we would
race outside, take a two minute shot of the sun on our bubble
sextants, race back to the hut, take our gloves off and thaw our
fingers on the air conditioner. We again had civilian pilots to
fly the Avro Ansons by day and night when we took astro shots
of the sun, moon and stars. At night all our navigation was done
by astro so you can imagine the pilots' apprehensions flying with
sprog navigators. The Canadian navigators were known not to be
as good as ours so you can imagine why one of the pilots refused
a Canadian's course back to base, saying he would fly back "on
the beam", as this was the way all navigation was done in
the U.S.A. The beam operates between two cities emitting a morse
code signal A(dit dah) on one side and an N(dah dit) on the other.
Between these two, on the exact track, the signals merge giving
a constant signal. The pilot misread these signals and flew a
reciprocal course, running out of petrol and forcelanding
in North Dakota in the U. S. A. Poor fellow.
This was the completion of our navigational courses. We all passed
and besides receiving our wings we were elevated from the lowly
rank of LAC to that of Flight Sergeant Observer Navigators. A
few of us, including myself received the commission rank of Pilot
Officer. Our insignia was an "O" with a single wing
on one side; hence the nickname "Flying Arsole". Later
we were issued with an insignia with an "N" and a single
Whilst at Rivers one of our more astute members contacted the
Australian Government's representative in New York with the result
that we were officially invited to spend our 8 days leave there
after our graduation. We were well and truly feted during those
days being given tickets to shows, including a recital by the
great band leader Glen Miller, invitations to luxurious homes
for dinner, to see the great Rockettes at the Rockfeller Centre
and much more. It was also organised for each of us to vocally
broadcast messages to our loved ones in Australia. What an experience
to be walking up the great Broadway with its bright lights flashing
as we had so often seen on the movies.
One night several of us were drinking at the bar of the Waldorf
Astoria when one of us, Harry Taubman, arrived and asked if we
would like to go to a party. He had gone from floor to floor listening
for activity inside. He told them he had been invited to a party
but couldn't remember the name. So, they invited us all to come
in. It was a party of newspaper men and women. On arrival we had
thrust into our hands very large glasses of scotch on the rocks.
I don't remember much of that night but I do remember seeing our
host with a leg of meat in his hands and attacking it vigorously.
After our 8 days in New York and a train journey we arrived at
our embarkation depot in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. One of
us had contracted the mumps so we were all promptly transported
to Defoe in Nova Scotia where we were isolated in deserted army
huts having no duties to perform. We were all itching to get to
England to have our bash at Hitler and his gang but we spent our
days for a month trecking knee deep in snow, cloaked in our wool
and silk longjohns, uniforms and great coats.
We embarked from Halifax in the ship Llanstephan Castle resurrected
from the scrap heap in South Africa when war broke out. She was
very smelly, dirty and ill equipped. The convoy was a huge one
and as it had to be protected by LendLease destroyers from
America it had to remain compact, travelling at the speed of the
slowest vessel. The destroyers continually encircled the convoy
to intercept German Uboats but an explosion would tell us
that another one of our convoy had been sunk. It was indeed a
relief when we sailed up the Clyde and berthed at Glasgow,
We were entrained to the south of England to Bournemouth, a peace
time popular holiday resort but now converted to an army and airforce
depot. We were there for some time, occasionally being straffed
by German fighters operating from Normandy, France. From there
we entrained to Lichfield, near Birmingham, an OTU (Operational
Training Unit). There we flew in the geodetically constructed
and fabriccovered aircraft the Wellingtons, or "Wimpies"
as we called them. These aircraft, with two Bristol radial engines,
were still operating over Germany from bomber squadrons. Ours
were those that had seen better days on these squadrons. After
much training we were allowed to form crews for operational flights.
I teamed up with a super pilot, Ted Parsons, a Pilot Officer in
rank. My very dear friend from our navigation course, Harry Taubman,
who now had transferred from navigator to bomb aimer, (a new category)
also joined this crew.
Bomber Command had just sent 1,000 bombers to bomb Cologne, hoping
that these tactics would swamp the German defences and serve as
a morale booster for the workers of Britain. This was an unprecedented
number, unable to be repeated, and the raid wasn't a great success.
However, Command persisted and sent, on 28th. July 1942, 600 aircraft
drafted from every station including training units like ours.
The target was Hamburg, but because of weather conditions we were
all recalled before reaching the target. On 31st. July, these
600 aircraft were again sent out but this time to bomb Dusseldorf.
Whilst some of the elite squadrons, just converted to Lancaster
bombers, were flying at 21,000 feet, we in our clapped out old
Wimpies with full bomb load couldn't reach more than 8,000 feet
and were at the mercy of the accurate light flak which could reach
to 10,000 feet. Because of fog over our drome, we were diverted
to the Oakington air field. This was when we learnt from Lancaster
crews that they flew, and bombed at, 21,000 feet. What an introduction
to our operational duties!
We were next posted to 460 Squadron, the first RAAF Squadron to
be established in Bomber Command. This was a satellite station
to the parent peacetime station HolmeOnSpaldingMoor
about 8 miles away and about 20 miles south of York in Yorkshire.
W/C Hubbard, DFC was the CO(Commanding Officer). He was rather
an aloof and uncharismatic type. The Squadron had 2 Flights, A
and B under the command of 2 Squadron Leaders and it operated
by using Wellington Bomber aircraft.
Losses on the Squadron had been great so you can imagine our relief
when, on the same raid, P/O Bill Brill and P/O Arthur Doubleday
completed their first tour of operations (30 Ops). They were the
very first to do so and were awarded the DFC. These two terrific
blokes were posted as instructors at an OTU station. They later
came back for their second tours as Wing Commanders to two RAAF
Squadrons that had been formed after 460 Squadron. Subsequently
they were commissioned as Group Captains, were highly decorated,
and safely returned to Australia, Arthur Doubleday later being
appointed as Director of Civil Aviation.
Just after our arrival our pilot Ted Parsons requested to fly,
as second dickie (i.e pilot), with a crew that had completed some
Ops., hoping to get further experience. All aircraft carried only
one pilot so I was disappointed that he was doing this. That aircraft
never returned, Ted being killed. We were now a crew without a
pilot. Our bomb aimer, my close friend Harry Taubman flew two
operations, as a spare bomb aimer, with Peter Isaacson who later
was posted to PFF (Path Finding Force) with his complete crew
and subsequently flew the first Lancaster Bomber, Q Queenie, to
Pilot Officer Peter Jackson needed a complete crew, except for
a navigator, and the rest of my crew flew with him. On that night
they were attacked by night fighters. They got back but Peter
had to crash land in the south of England. All the crew were shot
up and never flew again. Harry Taubman had his foot shot away
and spent his time as a "guinea pig" for the great plastic
surgeon MacIndoe's team which had established a great reputation
for their skill in skin grafts.
As a spare navigator I felt like a shag on a rock. Would I ever
operate again? My fellow navigators were failing to return and
my very close friend Roy Canvin was building up his quota of Operations
with his pilot Alex Wales who postwar flew as a Captain
with the newly formed Cathay Pacific Airline flying between Sydney
and Hong Kong, Sydney and Vancouver.
A new Commanding Officer W/C Keith Kaufman DFC replaced W/C Hubbard
in September 1942 and the Squadron commenced a conversion to the
4engined Halifax Bomber. As the A Flight was doing the conversion
at the parent station, B Flight continued operating with Wimpies
This was a sad time for the Squadron and morale couldn't have
been lower. The Halifax crews were being killed during the conversion
because the aircraft developed a rudder stall. On the 460 Squadron,
one night, 8 aircraft bombed enemy territory and only 4 returned.
You can imagine how we all felt when Keith Kaufman summoned us
to the briefing room and told us he had bad news to relate ( his
little bit of fun). As from now we were to convert all crews to
Lancaster Bombers! The roof must have been lifted with our deafening
reception of this great news.
The very first raid the Lancasters made from 460 our A Flight
Squadron Leader S/L Dickie Osborn, who made less frequent Ops,
selected me as his navigator. It was on the night of 22/11/42
and was a low level moonlight attack on Stuttgart, Germany. We
all returned except the Lanc flown by Dave Gault. Dave arrived
back at the station a fortnight later. Flying low level in moonlight
he unfortunately had flown over an antiaircraft emplacement
and was a sitting duck. Flying lowlevel with a full bomb
load he was forced to make a belly landing in an open field after
they shot an engine out. He was picked up by the French underground,
smuggled over the Pyrenees into Spain and somehow flown back to
England via Gibraltar. Dave didn't fly with us again, being transferred
to the Australian 10 Squadron, Coastal Command, operating from
the south of England. Dickie Osborn was very young, an Australian
in RAF uniform having been seconded to the RAF at the outbreak
of war. His father was a professor at Oxford university so you
can deduce that Dickie was pretty clued up. Dickie was a superb
pilot but still was later killed operating over Germany.
The scientific boffins had invented a device called Gee and we
were now using it in our Lancasters. In the aircraft we had a
receiving set to receive electronic signals and a cathode ray
screen to display these signals. Our Mercator plotting charts
had imprinted on them hyperbolic curves each one of them giving
us a position line determined by the signals the set received.
There were two landbased transmitting stations. The main
transmitter would send out a signal that we and the satellite
transmitter received. The satellite would then transmit this signal
microseconds later depending on the distance between the two stations.
That gave a "Time Base", the basis of its functioning,
and when we manipulated the signals so that one signal coincided
with the other we noted the time and read off the 2 coordinates
from the screen. Around England, because the two sets of lines
cut almost at right angles our fixes were almost perfect. However
the further from the two stations one got, the lines cut more
acutely, leading to less accurate fixes. Before Gee, aircraft
returning from Ops often were lost looking for their aerodromes
in blackedout and often fogbound England. With Gee
we could preset the coordinates of any part of the 'drome
and in any weather could "homein" to that exact
spot by altering course until the two signals fell one upon the
other. I am sure this saved the loss of hundreds of aircraft over
Although aircraft returning from ops could, now, with the aid
of Gee, always locate their 'dromes, it didn't mean they could
make a landing there. Often, on their return, they had to be diverted
to some distant 'drome because heavy fog or foul weather had developed
on their homeward run and now cloaked their home 'drome. I shall
never forget one night when I was not operating. Aircraft were
circling above the dense cloud, trying to find a break, and we
were trying to pierce the clouds with searchlights. They couldn't
be diverted because all Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and most of
England was so enclosed. Most of them crashed in open fields.
90 aircraft were lost over England that night but this was never
reported in the papers.
In the old Wimpies, wireless bearings were out because of radio
silence and we mainly navigated using the wind directions and
velocities provided by the meteorological forecasts. These so
frequently were way out, because of the lack of weather reports
from Europe. Our one salvation was our practise of dropping Flame
Float bombs when over the North Sea. These bombs floated and emitted
a flame enabling the rear gunner to rotate his calibrated turret
until he had the flame in his sights. A drift of the aircraft
was thus established and the navigator could alter course to maintain
his true track although he would not know his exact position.
However, when we got Lancs and Gee we knew exactly where we were
when over the North Sea and for a considerable distance into Germany.
With aircraft being shot down the Germans soon broke down Gee's
secrets. We could use it over the North Sea but on crossing the
Dutch coast there was so much interference on the cathode ray
screen that the apparatus became unusable. Before the Jerries
cracked the code, Bomber Command used Gee on their first 1,000
bomber raid on Cologne to navigate (only a few of the leading
Lancaster aircraft had it at this time) and to bomb on it. As
the Gee position lines crossed so acutely at this distance from
the transmitting stations you can guess that this was not a great
1941 and early 1942 were disaster periods for Bomber Command as
targets weren't always reached and when they were it was difficult
to find the aiming point at night. Essen and other cities in Germany's
mighty industrial centre in the Ruhr area were the main targets
and these were always cloaked in fog or thick industrial haze.
More aircraft and crews were lost than damage done.
We the airmen were mere pawns. The ones who really made the bombing
of Germany the success it was were the brilliant scientists who
supplied us with such superb equipment. They developed the superb
woodconstructed Mosquito fighterbomber fitted with
two mighty Rolls Royce Merlin engines as fitted to the Lancasters.
To complement this they developed a most sophisticated navigational
and bombing aid, Oboe, that had precise accuracy while an aircraft
was up to 400 miles from England. The Mosquitoes could now reach
the Ruhr flying about 400 knots at 40,000 feet and, without using
visual aids, drop their bombs within 100 to 400 yards of the aiming
point! Instead of carrying high explosive bombs they dropped red
TI's (Target Indicator markers) which were fused to explode 4,000
feet above the aiming point and gradually float to the ground.
On these the rest of Bomber Command dropped their bombs and the
results were startling. Although the Mosquitoes came in waves
there were times when the red TI's weren't visible. To overcome
this Bomber Command created new squadrons of PFF (Path Finding
Force) under the command of the very talented Australian aviator
and navigator D.C.T. Bennett who was promoted to the rank of Air
Commodore. He was completely versatile in all aspects of aviation
having written text books on astronavigation prewar.
He regularly checked pilots on engine details, wireless operators
on their morse code (he could transmit and receive 25 words/minute),
gunners on all aspects of their Browning guns and of course the
navigators. These backup aircraft that PFF flew were Lancasters
These crews were recruited from all the squadrons and carried
normal bomb loads and green TI's which they dropped on the red
TI's. All bomber crews were instructed to bomb the red TI's and
lastly the green ones if the reds had faded. At this stage all
PFF crews other than those on Mosquitoes were, except for the
fact that they carried green TI's, doing the same as the rest
of bomber command. Also, squadrons did not always send their best
crews to PFF, wanting to retain them. This was a great pity as
they were needed for what was to come when they were to use the
accurate H2S new radar navigational and blindbombing equipment
enabling them to take the place of the Mosquitoes on targets beyond
The scientific boffins again came to our rescue when they developed
this H2S giving us unlimited range because the aircraft were both
transmitting and receiving the same signal. This was the beginning
of radar as we know it today. Its implementation was possible
because they developed a magnetron small and light enough to fit
in the aircraft and still enable us to carry big bomb loads. With
the parabolic scanner rotating in a plastic black cupola beneath
the aircraft its total weight was only 800 pounds enabling us
to still carry a bomb load of 12,000 pounds consisting of a 4,000
pound "COOKIE" (an oversized 44 gallon drum filled with
High Explosive) and 8,000 pounds of incendiaries, which were hexagonal
in cross section to fit as many as possible in their multiple
canisters. It may be of interest to note that the American Flying
Fortresses, with much larger crews, carried a bomb load of 4,000
pounds; but they were flying by day and needed more fire power
to counteract fighters. Also, we carried a fully trained navigator
whereas they carried one leading navigator and a few backups
for their multiple aircraft on the raid.
As a point of interest H2S sent out signals and received their
echo on a cathode ray screen which retained the image until the
scanner completed its 360 degrees rotation. As a result a complete
picture of the terrain, for many miles below, was obtained. Large
objects like towns and cities returned bigger echoes so that when
the "gain" (volume on your TV) was reduced, small echoes
from flat land and water disappeared and the high terrain, the
towns and cities stood out as though looking at a map. If, on
crossing the coast line, the "gain" was increased all
echoes received were intensified, except from the flat water,
giving a complete detailed picture of the coastline, inlets and
rivers. It was just like looking at a map in front of you. The
centre of the circular cathode ray screen represented the aircraft.
A line stretching from the centre to the circumference was the
direction line and could be rotated manually through 360 degrees
so that, when rotated to pass through an echo, its exact bearing
"relative to the aircraft" could be found. There was
a blip (pinsized) which could be moved manually from the
centre to the circumference. When not being manipulated it formed
a perfect circle due to the rotation of the scanner. When this
was moved, until the circle passed through the echo, the exact
distance from that object to the aircraft could be determined.
Hence accurate navigation!
Blind bombing became relatively easy. By using the laws of physics
we could easily work out the time a bomb took to reach the ground
from any height, and, knowing the speed of the aircraft, could
work out how far from the aiming point the bombs should be released.
We fixed the direction line to zero to represent the axis of the
aircraft, set the distancefromtarget circle to intersect
it, and if necessary altered course, and "homedin"
on the target.
The effectiveness of the German UBoats in the Atlantic and
around England was greatly reduced when the Coastal Command Sunderlands
commenced using H2S. They could "homein" on them
whilst they were recharging their batteries at night and, even
in overcast conditions, accurately drop their depth charges. On
a clear night they could flood them with their searchlights and
also straff them with their guns. They would never have found
them at night without H2S.
I heap praise on the brilliant scientists; but what about the
production people, the factory managers and the hardworking
people who worked in these factories ? Most of these were women
because the men were mainly scattered all over the globe, on the
sea, in the deserts of North Africa, attacking the under belly
of Europe, prisoners of war in Germany and Singapore's Changi
jail (like my brother Reg) and building up huge forces and equipment
to land on the French Normandy beaches in their first land attack
against Germany since the great Dunkirk disaster. Besides, they
had to provide food and clothing for the entire population, not
to mention the vast amounts of beer to keep up the morale of its
people and particularly that of the thousands of aircrew enlisted
from all parts of the Empire. When you consider the thousands
of aircraft being lost and having to be replaced immediately,
being fitted out with the very advanced equipment they carried,
it is so difficult to comprehend how it was ever achieved. This
kind of superb coordination is beyond me.
My third Op was to Essen, 9/1/ 1943, in the very heavily defended
heart of the Ruhr. It was with P/O Shorty Grenfell, whose navigator
was indisposed. He had just married a nurse and this was his first
operation. At 21,000 feet, just before we could drop our bombload,
we were coned by a battery of so many searchlights that we could
have been in the brightest sunlight. Heavy flak was bursting around
us. Shorty had been told that, in this predicament, weaving was
futile; that he should take a gradually changing course, put the
nose down and "go like hell". Although a very small
person he did just that! He was magnificent; and as I stood beside
him watching the speedo climbing so rapidly and the wings flapping
so much I was sure that the plane would disintegrate. We levelled
off at 4,000 feet and on the way down our inexperienced bomb aimer
in the nose of the aircraft reported that we weren't the only
ones in trouble as some one below was letting off red and green
verey pistols (this was a signalling device). In reality it was
light flak being sprayed at us. We finished up east of the Ruhr
and to get to England had to set course, still at 4,000 feet and
fly through the target area. Miraculously we got back but being
interrogated, on our return, were asked if we had seen balloon
barages protecting the target. Their steel cables reach a height
of 10,000 feet and their presence had not even crossed our minds.
As Shorty and his crew went missing a few nights later, on this
same target, I began to feel that I was somehow meant to survive
My next two Ops were with W/C Johnnie Dilworth who had now taken
over the command of the Squadron from Keith Kaufman. He selected
me as his navigator to do the next two attacks on Berlin, on 16th.
and 17th. January 1943. Our tactics here were to fly north of
Europe over the North Sea, cross Denmark into the Baltic then
fly south to attack Berlin. After bombing we would set a westerly
course which took us just south of Hamburg, cross the Dutch coast
and then relax on the way to base.
From now on I was to crewup with Flt/Sgt Paddy Boyle who
had made up a crew from the odd aircrew on the Squadron. He was
indeed a wild Irishman from the Newcastle mining district and
made no bones about the fact that he intended to survive. From
the time we crossed the Dutch coast and returned to it Paddy would
throw the 4engined Lanc all over the sky, hour after hour
averaging out my courses reasonably well (many pilots flew straight
and level and only commenced weaving when the gunners sighted
a night fighter). As you can imagine, this made navigating rather
difficult. To this day I still marvel at Paddy's great physical
strength and endurance.
I did my next 17 Ops, in quick succession, with Paddy when he
was a Flight Sergeant and the next four with him when he was made
a Warrant Officer (W/O). He had now completed his tour of 30 operations
and was transferred to an OTU as an instructor whilst I still
had 5 Ops left to complete mine. Paddy couldn't land an aircraft;
he used to drop it in from a great height, bounding down the runway
like a kangaroo. When he made his last landing with us it was,
for the first time, as smooth as silk. One of the wags on board
jokingly said "Have we landed yet, Paddy?" to which
Paddy replied "I don't know. I'll call up the Control Tower
and find out!".
About the same time Paddy was made a Warrant Officer I was promoted
to the rank of Flying Officer. With Paddy's record any other pilot
would been elevated to the rank of Pilot Officer but he was a
rough diamond and didn't impress the hierarchy. I was VERY fond
of Paddy. But what an imbiber of the amber fluid. He would ring
up from some pub at some distant village to see if Ops were on.
He would then turn up to the briefing room in a semiinebriated
state. This never worried me because I knew that when we reached
10,000 feet and turned on the oxygen Paddy would be rearing to
go and throw that Lanc all over the sky. He returned for a second
tour, completed it and later, when the war ended, remained in
the RAAF, was promoted to the rank of Wing Commander and commanded
a squadron in Perth where he continued to live. He really must
have mellowed. At the recent 460 Squadron reunion 23/4/1993 I
learnt that Paddy died a couple of years ago.
With Paddy we attacked Hamburg (3 times), Cologne, the submarines
pens and environs of Lorient, France (3 times), Willemshaven,
Milan (Italy), Nurnberg, the submarine pens and environs of St.
Nazaire (twice), Berlin (twice), Essen (twice), Munich, Stuttgart
and Duisberg (twice).
A few episodes come to mind when writing about dear old Paddy.
On a couple of occasions, because of some explicable reason (engine
failure etc.), we had to drop out of the attack, drop our "cookie"
in the North Sea and return to base early. A new Flight Commander,
an Australian I am sad to report, and a proper shit, didn't take
kindly to this and had Paddy in his bad books. On a number of
successive nights, Bomber Command routed us over London to our
targets so as, they said, to raise the morale of the the populace.
As if the Jerries wouldn't wake up to this and have their night
fighters waiting for us! We were climbing from our base on one
of these nights when Paddy said the aircraft was getting out of
control and was becoming unflyable. I gave him a course to the
North Sea where we dropped our "cookie" and then returned
to base. The next morning the Flight Commander had him on the
mat, told him there was nothing wrong with the aircraft, and accused
him of LMF (Lack Of Moral Fibre); a most serious charge. The ground
crew loved Paddy and the next day on his request gave the aircraft
a thorough check. They found that one of the trims on the the
tail plane had been installed upside down! That Flight Commander
was soon transferred from the Squadron I am happy to report. How
could anyone accuse our dear brave Paddy of such a thing!
On one of our raids on St. Nazaire, at 1500 feet and on our runin
to drop our bombs, the inside of the aircraft burst into flame.
An aircraft above us and on the wrong approach, at right angles
to us, had straddled his incendiaries across our path. One of
the incendiaries, about two and a half feet long, had hit a vertical
brace and broken in two, each half penetrating the aluminium skin
and bursting into flame as they landed on the floor aft of my
navigation section. The very prompt and superb action of our WOp,
Wireless Operator John Austin, with the extinguisher, soon had
it under control. One in 12 of all incendiaries contained an explosion
so that the enemy wouldn't approach to extinguish them. This could
have been one of them, so we were very lucky. As we discovered
on landing that one of the engine nacelles had also been hit I
was again feeling that I was indeed meant to survive this war.
Another incident occurred when we attacked Hamburg. We approached
it over the North Sea out of range of their Geejamming.
I knew exactly where I was, so that when Gee became ineffective
I was able to get an exact pinpoint when we reached the
Danish coastline and then set a course southward to the target.
On this course Paddy told me he was altering course about 3040
degrees to starboard to drop our bombs on the red TI's that PFF
were dropping. I told him that could not be the target and to
ignore them. Some time later red TI's were dropped on our port
side. I told him to alter course and bomb them. He swore like
the trouper he was, saying those bastards would get us if we were
to circle the target area. But I knew that, unlike some pilots
who would have ignored me and gone on to bomb the first TI's,
Paddy would do the right thing and accept my judgment. At great
risk to himself and his crew he did just that. I really loved
Paddy after that. Each aircraft dropped a flash bomb with their
bomb loads, it being fused to light up, at 4,000 feet, the area
where their bombs landed and to take a photo accordingly. Each
squadron had an insignia (a triangle, a square, a diamond etc.)
to distinguish them on the plot that Group Headquarters made showing
where every bomb was dropped and sent the results to the squadrons.
Most of the bombs were dropped on the bend of the Elbe River,
on the first lot of TI's, many miles to the west of Hamburg. These
crews of PFF carrying H2S, the accurate navigation and blind bombing
equipment had failed dismally. At least those PFF boys who dropped
the second lot of red TI's were using the H2S equipment effectively
and were worth their salt.
Another Op still fresh in my mind was when we bombed Hamburg again.
This time our track was to be over Holland and just south of Bremen.
Paddy evidently was not averaging my course as well as on other
occasions and we passed right over the centre of Bremen; the only
aircraft! As the heavy flak burst all around us, Paddy threw our
Lanc around more violently than ever and got us safely to our
target. We had a spare bombaimer with us that night, Stan
Ricketts, who had trained with me as a navigator. Being the wag
he was he recorded in his log book "Hamburg via Bremen".
Stan was killed whilst on the Squadron and on our return to Australia
Roy Canvin and I went to Rockdale to express our condolences to
his parents. Stan was the son of the high class furniture manufacturer
Ricketts of Ricketts & Thorpe. They were making the wood frames
for the Mosquitoes aircraft when we arrived and it was here I
first came to learn about the newly created super glues used to
When Paddy finished his tour our Flight Commander, S/L Frank Campling
DFC, asked me if I would navigate for him in an attack on Frankfurt
on 10/4/1943. It was a moonlight night with 10/10 altostratus
cloud over the target and over the land both there and back to
base. Frank flew straight and level just above the clouds at 15,000
feet and doing 140 knots indicated, a sitting duck for night fighters
who could be vectored onto us by radar and silhouette us against
the moonflooded cloud tops. The cloud was so dense we were
unable to see any TI's that PFF might have dropped, only search
lights fighting their way through the clouds. So, on our ETA,
we dropped our bombs on them and turned for home still doing 140
knots. Most pilots always returned home at well over 200 knots
knowing that the shortest time over enemy territory was desirable
so I suggested to Frank that he clap on the speed. He said that
he would do that when I got a fix so, although Gee was jammed,
I got one almost immediately, or so I told him. He then said he'd
maintain speed and increase power when we crossed the French coast!
When that occurred he actually increased speed to 200 knots! But
on crossing the English coast reduced it to 140 knots again until
we reached base. When we reached the interrogation room only our
most lovable padre, who always stayed up and greeted us with hot
cocoa, and the intelligence officers were visible, the rest of
the squadron had been interrogated, had their egg breakfasts (one
of the reasons for doing Ops), and were in bed. What a wasted
operation! There was no way I would ever fly with Frank again.
I did want to complete my tour of Ops. When I did my next Op,
with Eddie Hudson to bomb La Spezia on the Italian coast (one
of our longest trips) we, because of a fog all over Yorkshire
and Linconshire, were diverted to the research station, Harwell
in the south of England. Only one aircraft didn't arrive; it was
Frank's and we had written him off. But no. Half an hour after
the last of our aircraft had landed Frank put his aircraft down.
At least his new inexperienced navigator had lost him; but Frank
would have been late anyhow.
Frank was a young Englishman, 24 years of age, and indeed a proper
case. When the Officers' Mess closed down its bar for the night
Frank got the bar steward to leave out a case of beer and a book
for him to sign for each bottle he consumed. I know you will find
it difficult to believe this, but someone, and it could only have
been Frank, introduced a competition to see which Lanc got the
best petrol consumption whilst on operations!! I seem to remember
that the average was around 1.1 mpg and that Frank was always
the winner! Frank was later awarded the DSO, promoted to the rank
of Wing Commander, and made Commanding Officer of an OTU. I learnt
later that Frank in this capacity had, contrary to Air Force regulations,
taken 12 WAAFs for a joy ride and, no doubt showing off in front
of the girls, crashed the aircraft killing all on board including
My final four Operations were completed with P/O Eddie Hudson
DFC on his second tour of Ops. The first of these was, as mentioned
earlier, to La Spezia on the night of 13/4/43. I think that was
Eddie's first operation with 460 Squadron and his first over Europe.
It so happened that Eddie had a full crew except for a navigator.
He was a very fine young man. I say young because at that time
I was 29+ years of age and he seemed so young being not yet 21
years old. It was a great privilege to navigate for him for my
final 4 Ops.
Eddie was magnificent as a pilot and a navigator's dream. My second
operation with Eddie was to Pilsen, Czechoslovakia in moonlight
on the night of 16/4/43 with Bomber Command's instructions to
bomb ONLY the SKODA Works VISUALLY or, failing that, to drop our
bombs on the red TI's (Target Indicator markers) dropped by PFF.
400 aircraft attacked Pilsen that night with another 200 leaving
earlier to attack Mannheim serving as a decoy to keep the enemy
fighters away from the Main Force. Eddie's straight and level
flying and holding a consistent course made it possible for me
to get precise pinpoints as, in the moonlight, we crossed
rivers. On our track PFF were supposed to drop green TI's on a
turning point to give an accurate point for the rest of Bomber
Command to make a final runin on the target. I was surprised
then, when on my ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) at this point
not a single green TI was visible. I presumed then that my navigation
was at fault and so told Eddie to hold the course I had given
him. About 5 minutes later our rear gunner reported Green TI's
being dropped to our rear. I was now sure my navigation was correct
so I ignored these markers, had to DR (Dead Reckon) to a point
ahead and from there give a course to Eddie to reach the target.
This entailed the dangerous procedure of flying against the main
bomber stream but, due to Eddie's superb piloting, we were able,
without even having to alter the course I had given him, drop
our bombs on the buildings the bomb aimer could see beneath us,
on my exact ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival).
Following the raid, Bomber Command, as usual, released a plot
of the target area showing where each aircraft dropped its bombs.
PFF had failed dismally and this raid proved to be one of the
greatest failures in the history of Bomber Command. On that night
only one aircraft dropped its bombs on the aiming point, the rest
being scattered all over the countryside. That aircraft was the
one so skilfully piloted by Eddy Hudson. My final two Operations
with Eddy were to La Spezia, for the second time, on 18/4/43 and
to Stettin (adjoining W. Poland) in north east Germany on 20/4/43.
Later when Roy Canvin and I were seconded to Bomber Command Group
Headquarters I was able to get the two actual photos our aircraft
had taken. One was taken by the flash bomb and the other by the
flash created by the explosion of our "cookie". The
latter was only possible because we were flying at such a low
altitude (5,000 feet if I recall correctly). Those photos are
now in the possession of my daughter Elizabeth Anne Klinger, in
W/C Johnnie Dilworth didn't remain long as our Commanding Officer
and was replaced by W/C Chad Martin DFC who was very soon to be
decorated with the DSO award. He remained as our CO at Breighton
and when 460 was transferred to the more modern peacetime station,
Binbrook in Linconshire, he moved with it. I am mentioning this
for what is to follow.
Recently, research people in Canberra wanted information from
me about Eddie Hudson who flew the second Lancaster, G George,
from England to Australia and informing me that Eddie died of
cancer in 1980. G George now resides in the War Memorial, Canberra.
About a fortnight ago, at the beginning of May, 1993, I wrote
a letter to Chad (who runs a pastoral property, "Sherwood",
Coolah, NSW) in which I asked about Eddie, and got the following
reply which refers to the Binbrook period. "Eddie Hudson
of course I remember well. A terrific pilot. He had his 21st.
birthday on the day the King & Queen visited us enroute to
award Gibson the V.C. As I presented the crews to the Queen I
whispered to her that it was Eddie's 21st. birthday, so of course
she wished him Many Happy Returns. He was tickled pink. He flew
G. George to Australia soon after Dr. Evatt's visit to us, when
I flew him up from Hendon and he asked me to recommend a pilot."
When we converted to Lancasters an Englishman, F/L Hugh Thompson,
was transferred to 460 as our Navigation Officer and to do occasional
Ops. He had been Bill Brill's navigator when he did his first
tour of Ops. Hugh was a very shy and charming fellow, a scientist
before enlisting, and he became a very close friend of mine. When
the average aircrew went on leave for 6 days every 6 weeks they
usually played up and got drunk in London but Hugh went down to
fraternise with fellow scientists like Professor Blackett and
to find out about the latest developments. Being his close friend
and confidant, I learnt prematurely about such things as Oboe,
H2S and other developments that didn't reach the ears of squadron
personnel until much later.
I also became a close friend and confidant of the Officer in Charge
of the Intelligence Section, S/L "Leather" Leatherdale.
He was a very fine Englishman and wore the wings that he had won
in World War 1. I spent many hours with him studying reports from
Bomber Command and studying stereoscopic photos taken, during
daylight, by high flying reconnaissance Mosquitoes, of cities
devastated by our bombers. It was a revelation to see, sterescopically,
vast areas razed to the ground and gaunt bare walls reaching skyward.
How could the people in places like Hamburg continue to exist
in such a place ? They did and we continued this devastation.
A piece of information which never ever reached the newspapers
reached our Intelligence section. 100 American Flying Fortresses
left by day to bomb a target in the south of Europe. They were
setting courses on the winds supplied by the meteorological section.
On take off, 10/10 strato cumulus cloud had built up all over
Europe and England and remained there for both the outward and
return flight. They could not get pinpoints so relied on
the Met. winds. The leading aircraft developed engine trouble
and returned to base, its lead navigator saying he passed his
DR (Dead Reckon) position to the no.2 navigator. It so happened
that the southerly winds Met. provided should have been strong
winds from the north. By applying the wrong drifts and no doubt
doing the same thing on their return flight their errors would
have been doubly compounded putting them far south of where they
thought they were. None of the 99 aircraft returned. One can only
presume that they flew over Spain into the Atlantic and ran out
of petrol. What a pity they didn't have H2S.
Just after Chad Martin arrived on the Squadron as our new Commanding
Officer, Roy Canvin's pilot Alex Wales was transferred, I think,
to PFF to fly Mosquitoes so Roy became Chad's navigator. Roy had
completed many more Ops than I had but because Chad as Squadron
Commander flew less frequently, I was rapidly catching up on him
so that we both completed our tour of Ops about the same time.
I was overjoyed when Roy, earlier, was justly promoted to the
rank of Pilot Officer and joined me in the Officers' Mess. We
had so many very happy times together.
During this period I was writing letters regularly to my wife
Joan. She was writing more frequently and not once did she complain
about her situation. She sent photos of our dear little Elizabeth
Anne as she grew up and sent movies of her taken on her aunt's
16 mm movie camera. She had recordings (made on pressed waxed
cardboard discs) of Elizabeth Anne talking and singing songs for
me when she was even less than 2 years old. I can still hear her
saying "I wish on a star my daddy come home soon". Besides,
I regularly received food parcels and hand knitted sox from her.
As I had to have my films projected on the Station's projector
and my records played on the Station's gramophone, Elizabeth Anne
became quite a celebrity with the aircrew and other personnel;
and they had to see and hear her with great frequency. Our dear
padre was a constant listener and observer. From his attitude
I think he adopted me as a son. On the night I set off on my last
Op he came out to the Aircraft dispersal point to see me off,
looked at me with the greatest warm affection in his eyes and
shaking my hand very firmly said "GOOD LUCK RON".
At Breighton, 460 Squadron was regularly visited by the Australian
Fleet Street pressmen who interrogated us after a raid. With this
information and that gained from official reports, the Sydney
press reported every raid that the Squadron made. One of these
reporters, Hank Bateson, became a very dear friend of Roy Canvin
and myself. We never went on leave together unless we contacted
Hank and had drinks at the Cogers pub in Fleet Street, the watering
hole of all our bods from the Squadron, or the quaint little ancient
pub on the Roman cobbled Watling Street in central London.
These war periods must have been very harrowing times for the
wives we left behind. We could be on our six days leave every
6 weeks, or not even be flying for days. Most of us, I think,
had conditioned ourselves to what we were doing and were too preoccupied
with our responsibilities in getting to the target to worry about
anything else. Anyhow, if we were killed, which seemed inevitable,
we would have nothing more to worry about. But not our poor wives
like my Joan and Roy's wife Pattie, who shared these times together.
When I returned, Joan disposed of all the paper clippings except
the ones referring to the raids I was on. She told me that if
my name, or Roy's, appeared in the article she would, with relief,
know that we had returned safely. If it did not, she could only
presume that we were not on that raid or else had gone missing.
As the next of kin were notified about 3 days after an airman
went missing, she would worry over that period or until our names
again appeared in one of the articles. What a very very harrowing
time they went through.
At the Breighton Station two photos were taken of a Lancaster
with the aircrew standing and sitting in front of it and the ground
crew standing on its wings. Our well respected Commanding Officer
W/C Chad Martin DSO, DFC is sitting in the middle of the front
seat and I am seated close to him. I sent these photos to my wife
Joan and she had them published in one of the Sydney magazines
during the War. After the war I presented them to the 460 Squadron
Association as memorabilia and they in turn presented them to
the War Memorial, Canberra where they remain mounted in front
of Eddie Hudson's old Lancaster G George.
One of the great characters on the squadron was P/O Cliff O'Riordan,
an Upper Gunner and peacetime barrister. Cliff was an institution
with his compact grey wavy hair, big build and ruddy complexion.
He was so regal in his appearance that even our Group Captain
Station Commander G/C Crummy once confided to me that he always
felt like bowing in Cliff's presence. Cliff only flew with CO's
or Flight Commanders as midupper gunner with the result
that he never seemed to be building up his Ops tally. I think
this was fostered by the Flight Commanders to keep him on the
Squadron. As you can imagine many of the aircrew were pretty wild,
getting excessively drunk, getting into fights and damaging property
when off the Squadron in local pubs and villages. They would be
arrested by the local police and put on a civil charge. Yes, you've
guessed it. Cliff always represented them as their lawyer and
never failed to get them off the charge.
His speech was so slow and precise and this didn't differ when
in the air. On my Ops to Berlin with W/C Johnnie Dilworth, Cliff
was our midupper gunner. I can still to this very day hear
him saying "Fighter pause to starboard -pause
skipper pause get ready pause to weave
pause skipper pausepause WEAVE SKIPPER!".
This was the only time on Ops when I actually burst into laughter..
On his way through the States, Cliff had acquired a lady's Ronson
cigarette lighter and he used this to great effect. All air personnel,
aircrew and our great support the ground staff, usually did our
offStation drinking at the Bubwith pub or else at the "Fourteen
Tits" (in reality The Seven Sisters). How often have I heard
Cliff say "Flick you for a bob!". The one who had the
greatest number of uninterrupted flicks collected the bob. As
the rest of us had lighters constructed out ot aircraft parts
by the armoury ground staff you can imagine that Cliff did very
well out of it after the boys had imbibed rather freely.
What about Station life other than Operations? A lot of the World
War 1 pilots were called up when war was declared and often highly
commissioned to take up positions like Station Commanders, positions
where they didn't have to fly. Our first Station Commander G/C
Dickson, with Group Captain rank( four rings), was an inept supercilious
obnoxious snob who treated us as being far beneath him. Was I
elated when he was transferred and replaced by dear old Crummy,
otherwise G/C Crummy. In reality Crummy was a bully. Englishmen,
even my dear Intelligence friend S/L "Leather" Leatherdale
and the Flight Control officer F/O Beckett stood in awe before
him as he castigated them and swore at them. His big redeeming
feature was that he just loved Australians. In his eyes they could
no wrong. Never did I ever hear him reprimand a single Australian,
even the lowest ranked ground staff. They didn't even salute him
when passing him on the Station; merely nodded at him.
Over the Christmas period there was little flying activity because
of foul weather conditions or fog. As a result we had many wild
parties in the Officers Mess sending buses to York to bring back
Nurses from York Hospital. Les Tate the Bombing Leader would mix
the the highest octane cocktails one could imagine such his Lancaster
Special, Beam Approach and numerous others. Crummy just couldn't
get enough of these and always got hopelessly drunk as he joined
in the revelry. Our Gunnery Officer F/Lt "Mockety" MacLaghlan
was a mad Scotsman. I can still see him, in the early hours of
the morning, appear at the entrance end of the mess mounted on
the station Harley Davidson bike, let in the clutch and race to
the end of the mess just avoiding hitting the bar, temporarily
set up there, by slamming on the brake. He swung the bike around
to repeat this in the opposite direction when about four bods
jumped on top of him. He let in the cluch and bodies went flying
At about 3 O'clock one morning when everyone was well and truly
drunk, and the party was still in progress, two of our Flight
Sergeant aircrew mates Norm Rattan and Jimmy Crabb arrived at
the door of the mess to tell us that the Sergeants' mess had run
out of grog. We invited them in where they saw a high pile of
bods stacked on top of each other engaged in "Cocky Lorum".
Norm asked who the bod was at the bottom wearing four rings. We
told him it was Crummy, to which he replied "well I've never
kicked a Group Captain in the arse before, so here goes!".
When not operating, the station buses took all aircrew, who wanted,
to York. There we drank during the day at Betty's bar and then
gravitated to the DeGreys Rooms to spend the night dancing.
I need to point out that the only ones in the RAF and RAAF who
wore decorations were the commissioned officers who had won the
DSO or DFC, and the noncommissioned aircrew who had won
the DFM. These were as rare as hens' teeth. Besides, they could
wear only the ribbons, not the medals.
We were drinking one day in the company of a couple of girls at
Betty's bar when about half a dozen American enlisted men arrived.
They had just arrived from the States, not having seen a single
shot fired in anger, and were wearing rows of medals and many
bars to support them.
Did those girls goad the Americans! When one girl, pointing to
a medal, asked one if it was the Iron Cross, he took the bait
and replied in all earnestness "No, m'am, I won that for
hitting a target at 400 yards and I got three bars for repeating
It was at York where I first experienced a true bombing raid by
the Jerries. I had just deposited a couple of nurses at the York
hospital, after a dancing session, when the sky was brilliantly
illuminated by parachute flares, and bombs came raining down.
As the bombs were dropped stick fashion I would hear a blast,
a pause, a blast, another pause and so on until the final bomb
in the stick exploded. They hit and set fire to the hospital and
showered incendiary bombs on the tree under which I was now crouching.
Fire wardens were running to the Hospital blowing their whistles,
so I joined them. We raced to the hoses which we extracted after
breaking their glass case. A warden gave me the end of the hose
to attach it to the fire hydrant in the middle of the grounds.
Yes, he gave me the wrong end. But we did get the fire out.
Roy Canvin, who left Australia with me, and I became inseparable.
The ties were so great we could have been brothers. We completed
our tour of operations about the same time, were both elevated
to the rank of Flight Lieutenant, both awarded the DFC and were
posted to the peacetime RAF Station Feltwell, in SE England, to
do a conversion course onto the extremely accurate H2S navigating
and blindbombing equipment used only by PFF at this stage.
Roy and I became pretty clued up on this equipment and completed
our course in quick time. Not so two American Flying Fortress
navigators. They had arrived long before us but because they were
still on Operations and periodically returned to their Squadron
to do an occasional Op. they were only half way through the course
when we completed ours.
These were two of the most delightful Americans we ever encountered.
They were commissioned officers, Cap'n Paul G. Moore Jnr. and
Cap'n Tex. Morton. They both wore their tour ribbons with a cluster
indicating each 5 Ops and, besides, Tex wore the Purple Heart
ribbon. I asked Tex why he didn't wear his medals like the new
arrivals we encountered in York. He replied "What? In front
of you Aussies and RAF bods who have done many more Operations
than we have and don't wear a single medal? But when I return
to the States, THEN I will put them up!".
They arrived back at our Station one day after an Op. and Paul
told us something unusual and frightening had happened to one
of their aircraft. It had disintegrated in mid air. The German
fighters had always used 10 mm cannons to damage and shoot down
our aircraft. Now, Intelligence learnt, the enemy fighters had
commenced using rocket airtoair missiles.
Also at this Feltwell station New Zealanders were operating a
Squadron of Ventura Bombers. These were a jumped up version of
the old and inadequate Hudson Bombers possessing poor speed and
fire power. In the middle of 2 inch armourplate glass in
the rear belly of the aircraft they carried, mounted on a ball
socket to allow free movement, a Browning .303 machine gun.
One day, before we arrived at the Station, 12 Venturas left in
daylight to bomb the Philips factories in Holland. They were attacked
by fighters before they reached the Dutch coast. Only one returned
and it was so riddled with bullets that it looked like a colander.
The rear armorplate glass was pock marked . To this day
I can't understand how that aircraft ever kept flying. Making
anyone fly these aircraft against the enemy and in daylight was
a disgrace. In my mind this was yet another blot on the escutcheon
of the RAF Bomber Command. And the New Zealanders ? Poor bastards.
Roy and I were summoned to Buckingham Palace to have our DFC decorations
conferred on us by the King. I always felt that King George VI
was about my size, but he was much smaller. I was such an admirer
of this meek little man that when he presented me with the medal
I very FIRMLY shook his hand. I later castigated myself for doing
this because he had to endure this procedure before so many service
personnel. It must have been a great ordeal for him.
The Prince of Wales, had been crowned King Edward VIII. When his
country needed him at the outbreak of war, having carefully nurtured
him for Kingship, he deserted a sinking ship to marry an American
Divorcee. His brother the Duke of York was a stutterer and not
nurtured for kingship and, I'm sure, didn't wish to be crowned.
He accepted this onerous responsibility and was crowned King George
VI. No one could have performed the task that lay ahead as well
as this King and Queen did. He and his loyal wife, previously
Duchess of York, refused to leave London during the Blitz when
London buildings and homes were being burnt and razed to the ground.
Instead, they walked among the people and their house rubble comforting
them and lifting their morale. The people loved them and I'm sure
the workers were able to maintain their mighty armament and aircraft
production right throughout the war because of the King and Queen's
inspiration and encouragement.
By merely reading about the failures that occurred during the
war our Prime Minister Paul Keating now claims to be an authority
on the subject, attacking England for what happened to our troops
in Singapore. Is he man enough to consider the positive side of
England's contribution ? England was sending more troops to Singapore
than was Australia, was dispatching large forces to North Africa
whilst performing a Herculean task defending itself and still
attacking Germany with the might of the RAF. Without England,
Hitler's Nazi's would have conquered the World, Keating would
never have been born and maybe that wouldn't have been a bad
Of COURSE England made many blunders during the war! But it was
under great pressure. Show me businesses and entrepreneureal investors
who didn't make blunders, and big ones at that, when there was
NO stress and money was flowing like water during the 1980's when
our great Prime Minister was at the helm supposedly guiding the
Roy Canvin and I were next posted to the PFF Squadron at Warboys,
Cambridgeshire to instruct their navigators in the use of H2S.
It was here that we met Air Commodore D.C.T. Bennett.
Bomber command was now ready to make H2S available to all bomber
command so Roy and I were among the few that first helped to implement
this move. Roy was posted to his old 460 Squadron which, after
we completed our tour of Ops., was transferred to the plush peacetime
station Binbrook, in Lincolnshire, and he was now with his old
pilot and CO, W/C Chad Martin.
I was posted to 103 Squadron, Elsham Wolds, north of Yorkshire.
It was while here that a Lancaster blew up making a crater as
large as a house. Prior to take off in the aircraft, at their
dispersal areas, the pilots tested whether their bomb doors and
other parts were functioning. Someone must have inadvertently
flicked the bomb release button so that when the pilot opened
the bomb doors the "Cookie" and all the incendiaries
cascaded to the ground. The ground crew together tugged at the
tail area trying to pull the aircraft away before the heat of
the incendiaries detonated the "Cookie". They were unsuccessful
and just departed the area when the explosion occurred. The only
one killed was a wireless operator, killed by shrapnel piercing
his scull. His 'plane was at a dispersal point on the opposite
side of the aerodrome. He obviously wasn't meant to survive.
On another occasion there was a mighty explosion and we observed
a mighty fire in the direction of an adjoining aerodrome. We jumped
into our utility type vans and raced over to help if possible.
There remained a few fragments of the burnt out aircraft and the
charred bodies of the crew. A horrible sight. The pilot had overshot
the runway and had mowed down a forest of small saplings as if
using a lawn mower on a field overgrown with tall weeds. The extraordinary
thing about the crash was that an airman was later found roaming
around suffering severe concussion. He was the Flight Engineer
who, standing next to the pilot, had been thrown through the front
heavily braced perspex.
The Prime Minister, I think it was Curtin at that stage, was pestering
Churchill to send our aircrew back to Australia. They must have
selected those who had been there for the longest period and were
married. Roy Canvin and I fitted this category and, without consulting
us, promptly posted us to Australia, the Hierarchy at Australia
House telling us that we were to wear on our uniforms the three
blue chevrons that they handed us. They were to represent 3 years
of overseas service.
We crossed the Atlantic in the old but mighty ship Aquatania,
crossed from New York to San Francisco by train and crossed the
Pacific in a Liberty Ship doing about 6 knots. A full month passed
on the Pacific before we sailed up the Brisbane River and berthed
at Brisbane. I will never forget the elation I experienced when
on reaching Sydney and reaching my wife's parent's home I was
confronted by my dear Joan and the most beautiful little girl
I had ever seen, almost three years old. We experienced the greatest
joy together as a family over the next six weeks, whilst Roy and
I were on leave, Roy and his devoted wife Pat and daughter Pattie
living just around the corner from us in Mosman. It was over this
period that our wonderful son to come, Tony, was conceived.
Roy and I had left Australia together, trained together, had the
same Squadron experience, were both elevated to the rank of Flight
Lieutenant and decorated with the DFC and had returned together,
unscathed. What a bond between two people. I loved Roy.
On our return to Australia those in authority did their utmost
to take the micky out of us. We were ordered to remove our chevrons
and were posted to Bairnsdale, Victoria where we were made to
do a conversion course, on Avro Ansons, repeating the initial
training navigation course we had done in Canada! Besides, when
we arrived we were given two blankets, a chaff bag which we filled
with straw for a mattress, and shown our sleeping quarters. The
southerly gales blowing from the Antarctic have to be experienced
to be believed. With inadequate covering I just froze the first
night, not ever having experienced such cold anywhere. In snowcovered
Canada we had airconditioning and in snowcovered England
the Officers slept between sheets having WAAFs to light our fires
and attend to our every need. Still, I guess those Australians,
not on active service, felt they were the only ones involved in
a war and had to act accordingly.
On completion of this socalled course, Roy and I were posted
to the Tocumwal Station (on the NSWVic. border) to instruct
the navigators on the American aircraft the Liberator. When these
crews finished their training they were posted to Finchhaven,
in New Guinea I think, to support the Yanks on their northward
thrust. I don't think the Yanks wanted their socalled "AUSSIES"
to share their victories because when these crews completed their
training they were posted to the Bradfield embarkation centre
at Lindfield, Sydney, there to just sit on their bums and twiddle
their thumbs. What was I doing wasting my time on these futile
The RAAF took upon itself the task of training navigators in Astro
Navigation so that they could be seconded to QANTAS to navigate
across the Indian Ocean. I was posted to Sale, Victoria to organise
and run this course. Having become close friends with the QANTAS
Manager, Orm Denning, who was also on the station I was able to
get him to put pressure on the RAAF to have me also seconded.
I told him I could do the job much better than the ones I was
training but he didn't think the RAAF would come to the party.
They did; and wasn't I relieved to escape the muddling of the
RAAF and know that I would now be doing something satisfying and
The aircraft of QANTAS carried two pilots, a Captain (4 rings)
and a First Officer, a Navigator, a Wireless Operator and a Flight
Steward. Most of the First Officers were exairforce, one
being Dave Shannon, DFC and Bar who was a pilot with Gibson,V.C,
on the much reported dam raids, Mohne and Eder. Most of the Captains
were exSunderland flying boat pilots flying between Sydney
and New Guinea and navigating by using radio bearings, having
no knowledge of Astro Navigation.
When flying on the American twoengined Catalina seaplane
at about 2,000 feet and doing about 115 knots we left Freemantle
at sunrise, and covered the 3,000 nautical miles to Galle in south
west Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) arriving after sunrise and taking
25 to 27 hours for the journey. The navigators used only astronavigation
and drifts taken on the sea horses whipped up on the ocean beneath
us. You can imagine the state of exhaustion of the Navigator at
the end of this time..
The other aircraft operating from Perth were 4engined American
Liberators. On these we set course from Perth, flew to an aerodrome
at Learmonth, N.W Cape on the N.W. tip of Western Australia, refuelled
and set course for Colombo. We set course around sunset, so that
we would have the stars to guide us, and arrived at Colombo some
time after sunrise. One or two of the Captains who knew nothing
about navigating except homing on a radio transmission, I despised,
particularly the snobbish ones who never spoke to us and treated
us as far beneath their standing. When you have been working your
guts out and established an exact position by having all three
astro position lines passing through a single point, and the captain
tells you he is altering course to home on the transmissions from
the Keeling Islands (Cocos), 150 miles to the west in order to
get an exact starting point, what would you do ? As soon as he
commenced homing he left the cockpit, he passed me without speaking,
and proceeded aft to chat with the passengers. The First Officer
was Dave Shannon so I promptly told Dave that the bastard captain
could do his own Navigating as from now and that I was going to
put my feet up. Dave calmed me down by telling me he would keep
a check of the time and reading of each course change he made.
And so I rested until we reached Cocos and gave a new course for
Colombo. Maybe I did have a short fuse but this wasn't the only
time one of these supercilious snobs had so acted. On reaching
Colombo the Captain stayed at a luxury hotel in the centre of
Colombo, The Galface if I remember correctly, and the rest of
the crew stayed at the holiday resort hotel, Mt. Lavinia, in a
horrible state of disrepair. We stayed and swam here for a couple
of days until the next flight arrived and then we took that aircraft
to Karachi in Pakistan. From there the BOAC English crews took
the passengers and mail to London. We stayed in Karachi for a
couple of days until we could relieve the incoming crew. I have
never in my life experienced such poverty and squalor with ragged
beggars defecating in the streets and sleeping on the footpaths
whilst little girls of no more that 14 years with a baby straddling
their left hips approached us with their right hand extended and
begging with the plaintive appeal "Buck shee sahib ?"
Qantas now acquired Lancaster aircraft and, converting them to
passenger planes, now called Lancastrians, they operated them
from Sydney. The Lanc was so narrow that the 12 passengers had
to sit in a single row facing the port side. On one occasion when
Dr. Evatt was flying with us he was sitting so that he was constantly
overlooking the port wing. When Dave Shannon passed him on one
occasion, he told him that the wing was slightly flapping. Dave
had to reveal to him that if he saw the wing stop flapping he
should commence praying.
My son Anthony Ronald (Tony) had, in the meantime been born. Again
poor Joan didn't have me by her side on this important occasion.
I felt I had been separated from my family long enough so I put
the pressure on Orm Denning for a transfer to Sydney. From now
on I would be able to spend every second fortnight with them,
living like a family for the first time.
The Lancs took off from Sydney, refuelled at Gawler near Adelaide
and proceeded across Australia to Learmonth where they refuelled,
picked up a waiting crew and proceeded to Colombo, just as the
Liberators from Perth were doing. We stayed for 2 days at Learmonth
swimming and being devoured by the swarming flies and taking the
next flight to Colombo.
On one occasion when about 500 miles from Learmonth one of our
engines failed. Our mighty ex flyingboat Captain just panicked
and rushing past me, as if I were of no help, attacked the wireless
operator on my side ( and within my hearing) telling him to "Contact
Colombo and tell them we have lost an engine. Tell them another
one is faltering (liar). Get bearings from as many stations as
you can!". I don't think this pilot who was new to this area
was aware that Cocos existed for he didn't make a reference to
it on one occasion although this was the closest landing place.
I was enjoying myself because the Lanc could fly on 3, even 2
engines without any trouble, that there were no transmitting stations
other than Cocos for the wireless operator to make himself effective,
that we had two pilots and an automatic pilot "George"
which did most of the flying anyhow, but we only had one navigator
who was the only one able to get them out of this predicament.
As he, still ignoring me, rushed back to the cockpit, I shouted
with a smirk on my face, "Captain, if you feel that we can't
make Colombo, would you like me to give you a course to Cocos
so that we can put down there ?". The expression on his face
was that of a perplexed little boy. He must have felt that no
one could find such a minute island at night and in the middle
of the Indian Ocean so he said we would continue on to Colombo.
Of course we got there without any trouble. In these circumstances
the Captain always took over and landed the aircraft, but not
this one. Our First Officer, who flew on Ops with Lancs made,
on 3 engines, a perfect landing. When we put down we found that
air sea rescue water and air craft had been standing by all night
waiting to go out and rescue us. This inept Captain had failed
to notify them that we were perfectly safe.
Don't get the impression that I felt this way about all the Qantas
Captains. Most of them were, like the Qantas Manager Captain Orm
Denning, superb pilots and fine understanding approachable gentlemen,
particularly my favorite pilot Captain Bert Richie who subsequently
succeeded Orm as Manager of Qantas.
The Air Force, after our full training, presented us, the navigators, with our 2nd. Class Air Navigation Certificates. When, with Qantas in Perth, and not flying, I decided to to read and study in detail, from books that I acquired, every subject in the curriculum for the Civil Aviation 1st. Class Air Navigation Certificate. Although not a compulsory requisite, quite a number of us sat for the Exam. Only a couple of us passed and were awarded the certificate. It wasn't of much use to me, because I decided to forego flying and return to teaching.
For every second fortnight Joan, who had shouldered all the responsibility
of bringing up Elizabeth Anne and had sacrificed so much during
the war, now had to manage both our children without my help.
There was only one thing I could do. Leave Qantas and return to
teaching. It meant giving up a Salary of 750 pounds ($1,500) a
year for one of 500 pounds. But was it worth it!
Of the aircrew who served on 460 Squadron, at Breighton and Binbrook,
over 1,000 failed to return.
It would need a fair sized book to recount all the very pleasant
happenings I experienced during this period - the wonderful English
families with whom we spent our leave - and so on. But the bare
essentials are surely enough..
I apologise for any mistakes or misplaced letters as, whilst trying
to compose my thoughts I am typing this, laboriously looking for
each letter, and using one finger to do so. The fact that I will
be 80 years of age this coming August would also contribute to
any mental aberration on my part.