Leonard Hayman
Archive number: 1577
Preferred name: Snowy
Date interviewed: 02 February, 2004

Served with:

451 Squadron
456 Squadron

Other images:

Leonard Hayman 1577


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You are listening to the interview audio


Tape 01


You'll give the announcement.
I'll get you going, no problem. So Len, if we could just start by getting a brief summary of your entire life up until this point.
Mmm. Well I was born in Broken Hill, March


1921. Lived there for about eighteen months. I got very ill. Had to be transferred to Sydney, which was quite a trial for my parents because they had to go by rail from Broken Hill to Adelaide to Melbourne to Albury to Sydney. Anyway I recovered, as you can see, and


I we lived at Lewisham, Sydney, for a couple of years. When I was four and a half I went to kindergarten at Croydon Park School. I was there for about a year and we moved to Dulwich Hill where I stayed at Dulwich Hill Public School doing the


early years. Stayed 'til I was about nine then we moved to Petersham because of my father's business and we stayed there for about four years and through my father's business again we moved to Haberfield and then through, this was through the Depression,


and we did fairly well. We didn't suffer at all and we moved from Dulwich Hill, from pardon we moved from Haberfield to Ashfield, which was only about over the road. Ah, in about eleven I then attended Stanmore Commercial


School. Stanmore was a train ride or a bus ride having to walk half the way each way. I stayed there for three years, got my intermediate. Fairly good marks. Never wanted to be an accountant or anything like that. I wanted to be in the motor mechanic industry or in the defence forces however I went into


the motor industry and various companies and firms and 'til I joined up. In the interim I joined the… what was then the Australian militia the day I was eighteen. I served with as a machine gunner with the D company 26th Battalion training every Thursday night and every fourth


weekend. Once a year a full week camp. The camp was out at Rutherford, which is a few k [kilometres] West of here. I attended that camp for a month, where we got a terrific training. All new equipment, gear, ideas, drill.


Armament was ex-World War I. The company was not motorised, was all horse. There wasn't it went for the whole brigade which was the 30th Battalion, the 36th Battalion and the 30th, 26th Battalion at this camp for one month's training.


Ah we were there was nothing electrical whatsoever. No motorised anything. It was all horse. The ambulance was a two wheeled cart with a canvas cover over it, as in World War I, horse drawn. The commanding officer rode his horse. I got the good job of being a mounted orderly and despatch rider and had a beautiful horse called Mudguts,


nickname, and that was I'd just after the start a war. On September the 3rd, I remember it clearly, I was at church in the evening at 8.10pm. Our minister solemnly announced that we were at war


and of course the church service ended. On the Tuesday after that Sunday I received a telegram calling me up. I had to report at Haberfield military depot on the Wednesday at 6am with all the gear that I'd been issued, which was uniform etcetera, etcetera


etcetera. We wore breeches, putties, tan boots, all World War uniform and I trained then as a machine gunner, Vickers, and as I said before everything was horse drawn so you had horse drawn limber with a trailer. The limber carried the two machine guns, which were


Vickers water cooled, and the trailer carried all the ammunition. There was four horses to the team and a postilion rider rode the left hand front horse. There was a shaft right down the centre of the cart, from the cart, and he had to have a steel bar fitted into his heel


up to his knee because the constant pressure of the galloping, trotting, walking horse banging against the shaft. We did our month's training at Rutherford. In the meantime I had applied to join the, well an expeditionary force. It wasn't… didn't even have a name and I was only eighteen at the time and I was told, “Sorry


son, you're too young. Twenty one is the age." So I wandered off to the air force recruitment centre and applied, got the necessary forms. January 1940 I got the call up for a test examination, medical and all that type of stuff. I think that would a been February


1940. I got me call up and joined the (UNCLEAR) Royal Australian Air Force mid-April 1940. I was posted to Richmond where I was supposed to do a basic training, which is square bashing, drill, saluting, all that type of thing but after I'd been there three days I was made an


instructor and two weeks later I was sent off to Adelaide for basic training as in on aircraft. The normal time for square bashing as it's called, that's basics, marching up and down, was six weeks. So I was away ahead of myself there. I went to I was posted to Adelaide, where I


met my wife, and I was there 'til the July doing whatever one does when training on the aircraft. Then we were posted to Ascot Vale Melbourne where you got your final particular training for the trade you had been selected for, most suited or you preferred.


We went through that for four months. At the end of that you were posted to units. Number 2 Squadron, which was I can't recall but from there I went to number 7 Squadron at Laverton Victoria, which was the biggie as far as the air force was concerned. It was a beautifully… beautiful peace time


airport, air ground whatever. Brick barracks and all that kind a thing. All mod cons [modern conveniences] and four of us that had signed up together had funnily been posted together. That was Jimmy Branch, Arthur Rowe, Harry Riley and myself. Three of us, our regimental numbers were only


twenty numbers apart. So we must have all been in the same line up. We did our stint or doing our stint at Laverton in number 7 Squadron where we had the oddest selection of aircraft you could possibly imagine because we had no aircraft really


and then the four of us got jack of this [exasperated with this] so we put in every Friday the four of us'd march up to the orderly room, which is headquarters, with an application to be posted overseas. They got sick of that and got rid of us. We were posted to Bankstown, which was a personnel receipt and despatch centre, Bankstown aerodrome, which is


as it is now and where we basically got out jabs [inoculations] and our overseas gear. We had no idea where we were to be sent and we were all fitted out, geared out. Gas masks and we thought it was the greatest thing under the sun. All those kind of thing and


mid-April we jumped aboard the Queen Mary I. It was all in secret with thousands watching and we sailed to via Fremantle, where we had an over stop, overnight stop. Never got off the ship then we went to Trincomalee, which is the main port in Ceylon where we had another overnight stop. We could never go


into a wharf 'cause of the size of the ship, we were always anchored off shore. Even in Sydney Harbour there was only one place where they could anchor us and that was off Taronga Park and then we went from Trincomalee, Ceylon now Sri Lanka, we went to Port Tewfik, which is the port at the Southern end of the Suez Canal.


The convoy was the had the five largest ships in the world. the Queen Mary, the Queen Elizabeth I, on her maiden voyage and test trials, the Mauritania, the Ile de France and the New Holland. Obviously where they came from, the country of origin. Arriving in Tewfik we


were despatched to another personnel receipt, receipt and despatch centre. They didn't know us. They didn't want us. Didn't know we were coming and didn't know what in the devil to do with us. So we just walked around scrounging gear here and there. We were issued with pith helmets, which didn't delight us at all and it was used for every reason other than a


hat. 'Cause we had our traditional fur felt slouch hat. We were there for about two weeks and they finally and the camp was full of fifteen, twenty thousand people arrivals of all races, size, shapes and trades and what have you and


I think we must have been there for two or three weeks when we were posted to Aboukir, A-B-O-U-K-I-R, where they we still didn't have any aircraft and we didn't have any pilots. No air crew whatsoever. So in Aboukir we were put on put on to assembly planes. These planes I don't


know how they got there. They would not have come through the Mediterranean. They were packed in crates. Hurricane Mark II they were. They must a come 'round the cape into Port Tewfik. Unloaded by rail. Taken to Aboukir. We had to unpack these and assemble 'em, which was quite a good job. We were rather proud of ourselves because the


previous unit that was doing it were doing three a week and we were doing two a day. Ah we worked ourselves out of a job. Finally wound up with twenty four planes which were ours, all Hurricanes. Then the air crew just wandered in. The pilots, there were no other air crew. They were only single seater and we were posted to the


whole unit was assembled at another part of Aboukir, which was a big airfield. There was no airstrips, runways. They would just non-existent and where the pilots learned to fly the Hurricanes, which were ex-Battle of Britain. Good old war work horse and


finally we all learnt our lessons, flying, ground crew found our own way about Hurricanes and all that and we're posted up to along the North coast of Africa to


we never knew. There were the places we the landing grounds we were sent to were known as ALG, Advance Landing Ground, and a number. OLG, Operational Landing Ground, which might have been two or three hundred miles from nowhere, which we travelled. The pilots had it good, they used to fly there,


but we went up to the push. Oh yeah, before I forget, we arrived in Egypt just as the evacuation of Crete. The 6th Divvie were demoralised, demolished and they weren't too happy at our presence. They wanted to know where we were when they were need,


when they needed us and we had to explain to them we were on a ship but we still got done over. A few of the boys got done over in what you I suppose you'd call righteous rage. It settled down after awhile. Well there's three pushes in, we called them pushes, in North Africa. The various


British colonels and generals and goodness only knows what. Wavell was one of them. Montgomery wasn't there at the time, at this time, 'til later and we sort of followed the army but weren't with it. We'd be fifteen mile, eight mile away. Being front line army co-operation reconnaissance.


Having three planes fitted with each with three aerial cameras to give the oblique shots of their what they had to reconnaissance, reconnoitre and we passed Tobruk and we went right on through Derna, Benghazi, on to Tripoli, which was


the capital of Libya. Tunisia, sorry, Tunisia to Tripoli. Then we were pushed back as far as, equivalent I suppose to Tobruk. Then we had another push up there, another advance. Then we were pushed back again when Rommel arrived. They pushed us within, us


I mean the total army and we being part of it, to about sixty mile West of Cairo, which was Tobruk. We were quite a few miles south of Tobruk assisting the 9th Divvie [Division], which by this time had arrived from Australia and were holding Tobruk and they


we had a detachment of two planes in Tobruk in a underground hangar. Funnily enough the Germans never clicked that we had a couple a planes in there. Well towards the end of the siege of Tobruk three or four of us were sent into Tobruk, I being one


of them, Brian Mack being another, and others to service these planes. We only used them a few times and we'd wait 'til the bomb raid and then they used to take off, do aerial reconnaissance where these planes came from, come back again and hide in the underground hangar, which was bomb proof, and then there was the relief of Tobruk


where we ah when we were sent by road right all the way up through the then Palestine now Israel. That's East from Libya to Egypt. Through Egypt, through Gaza, up through Palestine now Israel. Into Lebanon and into Syria, which was a long drive. We were all bikers. I,


as I said, we were mobile squadron. We had eighty two trucks and sixty seven trailers. The trucks were four tonne Fords and later American GMs [General Motors]. Six wheelers. Useless in the sand. Our four by twos used to pull 'em out of the sand box and they were a six by six drive.


We had to go over the Alps in Lebanon. Ah down for the road we the pass was nine thousand feet and the valley beyond was called Rayak, R-A-Y-A-K, where there was a French aerodrome, a real aerodrome. Brick barriers and everything. The free French didn't want to lose that


but we had other ideas and to put it politely, we turfed 'em. Took us about two weeks to clean the place up and then we had a bit of a fracas in a neighbouring village called Zahle, Z-A-H-L-E, and with the free French and we that after that little fracas we didn't have any further trouble with the


free French. This Rayak would be about forty mile, sixty k, east of Beirut and a few times we got down into Beirut to see it. Beautiful city, Beirut. It was never bombed or raided. Just out of enemy reach. Then when Germans


had been cleared out of North Africa virtually a detachment of our squadron was sent to Cyprus. I was one of that detachment and I was sent to Cyprus, which was the hottest place on earth I think. Everything was white. The cliffs, the beach and the only relief was the swimming pool in Nicosia, the


capital, or Lakatamia or Larnaca, they were the three main cities, but we did our patrols daily way out over the Mediterranean flying West. They kept us busy. Day starts at first light and night starts at first dark, and that is dark,


and when we came back to Rayak and the powers that be decided that they didn't need any army reconnaissance units any more in that area so they swapped us over to a full fighter squadron, which means we had to relinquish six of our aircraft


and consequently so many ground crew and pilots. I was one of the ground crew that was relinquished and I spent a couple of months down at a maintenance… air maintenance unit beside the canal, Suez Canal, and then I got posted to Port… to Alexandria, where we were put aboard a ship expecting to go


home but we went the other way. Took us thirty-one days to get to England from Alexandria, so you can imagine the roundabout way we went. We believe if we had good eyesight we could have seen the coast of America 'cause it was we were dodging subs. We picked up a convoy somewhere along the Newfoundland.


We went up within sight of Iceland, dodging subs. The weather was particularly rough in the North Atlantic, fortunately for us. Then we come down into England via over the North of Ireland down through the Irish Sea into Liverpool. We were bussed to Brighton, which was another personnel receipt…


despatch and receipt centre. It was Australian base, the Metropole Hotel. We were very fortunate. We were up on the, I don't know, 9th, 11th floor by stairs. We waited there for four, five might be five or six weeks 'til they sorted out and I was sent to


a Mosquito fighter squadron, night fighter unit for 56 Squadron. Um airborne radar. Purely night fighters, did no day work at all, and I saw we moved from the east coast of England at Bradfield-on-Sea, which


was right in the path of the V1s [German VI Rockets]coming over. In fact one was shot down right in the middle of our runway. Then we were moved to the mid centre of Yorkshire on the moors at Church Fenton, which was half way between York and Leeds, where we froze for six months in the middle of winter with brooms as scrapers and goodness


only knows what we had to keep the runways clear and then we were posted down to sunny Sussex, which was the very South of England to a drome called Ford, which was near a little village called Little Hampton about oh say thirty miles West of Brighton. We hardly


ever got any leave. Then D Day [6 June 1944] came along. Even though we were only thirty, forty mile from perhaps one of the main bases at Plymouth of the invasion force and we saw the airborne invasion we didn't know what in the devil it was. Just saw all these wing tip lights and tail


lights flying over. Hundreds and hundreds there seemed to be in an endless flight. We had no idea. No idea. That was at ten past twelve on D Day, June the 6th '44. We


then gave day and night support to the landings and so forth. Had a fine record of, for the want of a better word, kills and particularly with the V1 Doodlebugs as the Yanks [Americans] used to call them. They were nuisance value more than anything else. Then the war was over


and two days after the war was at all finished the squadron was demanded, ah disbanded back to Brighton personnel receipt and despatch centre where we spent five months waiting for a ship. Finally word came. We jumped aboard a bus, which took us to the station to


where we caught a train to Liverpool, where we boarded the a bus, which took us to the wharves, which took us to a boat, which happened to be the same ship that brought us to England, the SS Stratheden, and we boarded and came home and got home November '45.


A little off side story, we got chatting with the captain of the Stratheden. He was an Australian on his maiden voyage to it was to Australia. He was recalled and he never got back to Australia 'til he brought us home in November '45. He


that was a twenty two thousand tonner so she wasn't a bad it was a good trip home 'cause we had we could have port holes and lights and everything. Food was pretty yucky. When we arrived home, dumped at another PRDC [Personnel Receipt and Despatch Centre] at Bradfield Park where my parents picked me up and took me home and the


royal, right royal welcome. Then I had accumulated two months leave. At the end of two months leave I reported back to Bradfield [Bradfield] Park when I was informed that my services were no longer required under the existing contract, which had been for the period of the war for the length of the war and a period not exceeding


twelve months thereafter. That was the standard and well I accepted me discharge. Picked up my deferred pay of two shillings per day and I think it was the princely sum of a hundred and eighty pounds and then started thinking about


earning a living. I wasn't there's plenty of, wouldn't say plenty of work. There's there was work around but my technology didn't fit anything that was going. So I just took anything and everything from land salesman to hire car driver


and then in the '50s a police officer. Then I decided to go back in the army and with my experience as a police officer they put me in the military police as security. Went up to Woomera, that's a long range weapon establishment, and came back


to a come back, I got mixed up there. Have a break for a sec.
No problem.
Posted to Woomera and my through the grapevine I heard I was either


set for Japan in, keeping in mind the year of 1954, as the peacekeeping policing force in Japan and I didn't want any part of that. So I wangled a discharge and got out. I then went


for twelve months on a sheep farm through a friend I'd met while at Woomera and returned to Adelaide after getting out of the air force and my Dad and Mum in Sydney thought it'd be a good idea if I came over. So the family packed up and Geoff and everybody else. Merle, my wife,


Lee who had been my daughter, young daughter, who'd been born at Woomera. We all trundled home to Sydney, well and things didn't work out as well as they expected and I'll have to take a break now.
On arrival back in Sydney with the family my Dad and I decided we'd open


we'd go into business and from my motor mechanic experience and what so, so on and so on we took on a service station and we had a the odd service station here and there for the next I suppose thirty years it'd be in Sydney and country areas. Singleton,


Hay, all that kind a thing and 'til we returned to until I'd had enough. We returned to Sydney and then Geoff, my son, he had a job


up here, good job. So we sort of followed him and we went into a furniture removalist business here and for quite a few years then Geoff took it over. I retired and here we are. I think I was


seventy when I retired from work.
Excellent. Well that's a very thorough summary. Thanks Len.
We're nearly at the end of this tape. I'll just ask a little question or two about your childhood years and then we'll take a break. So
I'm glad. I thought I'd do it quick.
No that was, that was good. Alright, could you tell us a little bit about the sort of work dad was


doing around the time that you were born?
My Dad was manager for Nestles, Nestle it is now, in Broken Hill. He had an enormous sales area. Menindee, Wilcannia, all of Broken Hill and points in between. Keeping in mind the only transport was horse and buggy, horse and sulky.


Being a manager he had a driver. So it was a long haul on no roads, or I should say without roads, and it was only because I was ill I got very bad double pneumonia and the doctors said the only one place for me was Sydney where the professional help was available.


It was a terrible trip for my Mum and Dad. Eighteen month old baby, as I said, from Broken Hill to Adelaide to change over the night and then Melbourne changed at wait over night. Albury change and then arriving in Sydney. Fortunately my mother's mother was in Sydney and as my Dad's parents were in Sydney.


I cannot recall that. As I said, the next thing I can remember going to starting school at Croydon Park. My Dad was a wholesale merchant. Later on in the mid '20s when he left Nestles, because he got a demotion when he had to take leave from


leave of Broken Hill and he couldn't take the demotion so he started out on his own. That's where my first job was. Wholesale merchant. He was virtually a wholesale merchant 'til he retired in a very small way. Enough to keep the wolf from the door.
Alright Len. We'll just take a break here. We're at the end of that first tape.
Interviewee: Leonard Hayman Archive ID 1577 Tape 02


Can you give us an impression of some of the strongest memories you have of growing up in Sydney in the Depression years?
Well the Depression years didn't start 'til 1929 and my Dad had his own business, as a wholesale merchant, and he did very well right up until


a premier decided to close the banks. My Dad had banked on the Friday and he had no money on the Monday. It was locked away in the banks. Then it was pretty hard going but we didn't suffer in any way, physically or, things were tight but we always


had a car and phone and all those, which were mod cons in those days. We lived simply but well. Always had a nice motor vehicle of some description. Nice homes. My Dad didn't believe in buying, so it was rented. Therefore we moved around a bit.


Two, three years and we'd move on. My mother was not very pleased on about that but that's the way it was. We lived at various locations in Sydney up to the end of the up to the start of the war from Lewisham, Dulwich Hill, then Haberfield


and Ashfield.
What was your schooling like?
My schooling? I can't remember kindergarten. I started school early, I know I can remember that, very early but my mother had been a school teacher and when she married, married by law then she had give up her job. 'Cause married women weren't allowed to hold


down a job in the government departments. So she just became a house wife. School, I can remember I did the normal schooling at Croydon Park and Haberfield and then


I went up to a college in Springwood up in the mountains here for twelve months for some reason. For some reason they sent me there for a year.
What subjects did you enjoy?
What subjects? You name it. You did what you were given. We studied


through the years twelve, thirteen subjects. You had no option unless you were going to high school, which was a lead in to uni or tech school, which was obviously lead in to anything technological. I wanted tech but my parents wanted commercial. Parents


won out and I went to Stanmore Commercial School for three years. Then got pretty good marks in what would be now Year 10, where I left school. I was half way through my fifteenth year. I left school on the Friday and went to work on the Monday as a storeman for my father. I couldn't take


that. So I wanted to be a mechanic. So I got a job as a assistant mechanic. Then I got indentured and then I went to two or three companies, engineering. Sonnerdales, Hastings Deering, which is still going. Bradley Brothers, which are extinct, and from there I joined the militia.


What sparked your interest in being a motor mechanic?
I don't know. It was always there. I loved tools and mechanical things and that was my interest, plus army. Only had two things I ever wanted was to be a mechanic or to be in the army.
And was that interest was that happening when you were a child or did that kind of happen later?
Yes, I would say always. I was always mechano


sets and trains and push bikes and repairing them myself and all that kind of stuff. Always. I never deviated.
Did you have any brothers or sisters?
Yeah. Unfortunately they're no longer with us. My brother Geoffrey was shot down in Germany in December '44. Rear gunner Lancaster bomber


and my younger brother by thirteen years he died of cancer ten or twelve years ago. So I'm it. My mother had three sons, I being the eldest.
And what kind of woman was your mother?
My mother was of the old school. She was very str… no, I apologise, she was strict.


She'd give you what she could but she was not an affectionate person. Yet there was love there for you but you didn't see it. She'd be a hard person to know. Well educated, well read and


assisted me all her life in that field. My father, he left school when he was nine in England, London. He was a Cockney or supposed to be a Cockney. He was also a professional singer. A singer in those days was a singer, period, and he come out to Australia.


Worked his way out to Australia. Liked it, went back, told all his family about it. He had six brothers and six sisters and one passed on early in the piece and most of them came out to Australia and settled. I met all of them. He first come out here in 1908 I think.


What was he like as a father to his children or to you in particular?
Never close. Never ever close. Not like Geoff and I or Geoff and or Paul and I. Never close but never see us go short of anything and never, he gave us what he could. What he thought was necessary. He was the old school. He would give


Mum her weekly allowance, what was left was his business. That was the way it was.
How was he must have been really affected when he lost all his money when the banks foreclosed on him?
Ah yeah, I can just remember it. I was still going to school. He was devastated 'cause he had a wonderful business going. Employed quite a few people


in that field, which is wholesale merchant. Had his own sales vans on the road. His own big store down at Petersham and Annandale. I mean big warehouse, very big, and he ah it shattered him I think but he never let it be seen. I never heard it discussed.


I mean they were the old school and children shall be seen and not heard. Like when my mother was pregnant with my very young brother, Brian, I didn't know. I woke up one morning and said, “Where's Mum?" "Oh she's in hospital,” and a few days later Mum comes home with a baby.
Were was your father able to


recover relatively quickly financially or did it take years of struggle?
No. No, he never really recovered. He plodded along. He pushed. He worked his butt off to make sure that we… nobody went short.
What are some of the happier memories you have growing up in Sydney?
Oh happy are French cricket in the back yard. Down to the beach with the family at Bondi


or Manly or whatever. Trips in the car. Like a trip to the car after Sunday school would be to Parramatta and back. That was a trip. Mum used to take the thermos flask and a couple a cakes and that was quite an adventure.
Mm. Well you said that you were interested in the army or the military as a even as a


What did you used to do to try and learn more about it or to sort of pursue that interest?
Nothing conscious. Nothing conscious. My Dad had seen war service but it was in Albury as a drill instructor. My other two uncles, Ted and William, had seen service in Flanders and


France and so forth but that didn't influence me at all because they were not nice recollections, an English soldier in the trenches.
Did they ever talk about it to you?
No. Oh yes, Ted did. Uncle Ted. Dad's second youngest brother I think. He had terrible feet from trench feet. You know slopping around the mud in


for days and days and he had terrible feet. He used to nearly cry when he went to bed and pulled the sheet over his feet from corns and calluses. He cured them on advice from a young fella like me because I had heard from what was then a chiropodist,


now a podiatrist, that if you don't wear shoes you don't get corns. So I and I passed that information onto him and he tried it and he persevered with it. Took about two years but he lost all his corns, all his calluses and he used to run everywhere without shoes on. He was in heaven.
Well was your family very aware


of the political international situation or were they quite sort of sheltered in their world? While you were growing up? Did you know much about Great Mother Britain or
Oh yes, everything from the school everything was oriented centred around Great Britain. If you wanted to buy anything mechanical it had to, well in our family it had to be British made. Like a Vauxhall or an Austin


or a Morris or Americans put a bit a wire in where the English would put in a steel rod and all that kind of thing.
So what was it that sort of made you decide to become a mechanic and join a cause? Did your mother or father have any influence in that?
No influence at all. No. No influence at all. I just


wanted to be and went my way. Found my own jobs and made my own way right through.
You said you did an apprenticeship?
I had one but, through the war, but it'd be considered as being finished because of my service in the air force.
So what made you join you joined the militia quite early on?
Militia, yeah. I wanted


to join the army. I had free time plus you got I think three shillings a night every Tuesday night. Might have been two shillings or twenty cents a night and you got the occasional weekend camp. No, I just liked the idea of regimentation I suppose and the fact that I got to learn about


armament and guns and all that kind a thing. Not from any other point than I could handle them and just you learn to be a good rifle shot. You learn to be a machine gunner. You learnt all your drills, which carried me on into the air force.
Did you…
Militia was there was rumblings of war and so forth but I don't think that was my initial


my primary motive for joining the militia. I just wanted to have something to do of an evening. There was very little to do in our days. I mean everything shut at six. There's no clubs. Library shuts, shops shut. At noon Saturday everything closed 'til


opening time Monday morning. The only thing of an evening was theatre, picture movies. One couldn't afford to go. So the army was the answer.
Was this the answer for a lot of your mates as well?
Beg your pardon?
Was it the answer for a lot of your mates as well? A lot of your friends? Did they do the join the militia as well for the same reasons?
Not that I can remember. There's one other, there's one other


fellow but he went into a different unit. I was I just wanted to and did it. I've never been sorry I went in there, 'cause I learnt a hell of a lot about discipline and the right way of doing things and respect


and then later on how to command and all useful things that come to you in latter life.
So what kind of charac…
What kind of young man were you?
Oh not much consequence I suppose as a young fellow. I just had a few friends. I never tried not well didn't do anybody any harm.


Interested in soccer and interested in cricket and interested everything, although I don't consider myself religious, everything in my teens was seemed to be centred around the church because I knew everybody. They were all locals. All within a mile of where I lived. Boys and girls mixed.
Where were you living at


that time? Where were you living at that time as a young man?
At Haberfield. In particular. I went to the Presbyterian church and there was a great community feeling in the church. There was the three grades. There was the Sunday school. There was Presbyterian fellowship and the church. Whilst I said I


our life centred around the church, not because it was the church but because the people that attended were your friends and mates and cobbers that you did everything together. Cycling together, footballing, going to the local milk bar but the perhaps, I just recalled, perhaps the military came in there was but the Presbyterian


boys brigade, which is a semi-religious form of boy scouts. The only uniform was a white belt and a Glengarry and we used to learn marching, drill, and the age of eleven, twelve. Marching, drill, giving orders, taking orders, particularly the gymnastic side of it. Parallel


bars, mats, vaulting horse. All that kind of thing. Sport. We went away once a year for a fortnight camping and that was the kind you know it was a real community job.
Was there many dances?
Oh yes, a dance every month. Oh yes. Always led in this particular church where we spent most of my religious life.


Johnny Hunter, Reverend John Hunter, a Scotsman, a gentleman and a scholar. Well respected, highly thought of. He engendered a lot of things as far as I was personally concerned. Not from a deeply religious point of view at all


but the dancing you asked me about, he and his wife had a dance in the, we had an enormous school hall adjoining the church. It was a very big church. It's in rack and ruin now. Beautiful old church and a very big school hall, Sunday school hall or whatever you like to call it


was right beside it on the same Norm had about five blocks of land there and every Sun every Friday, excuse me, one Friday a month we'd hold a dance and the minister, John Hunter, and his wife would always attend. He'd say a short prayer. We understood,


we didn't mind, and then he and his wife would have the first waltz on their own and then quietly do a fade out and leave us to our own designs.
You said that the minister, John Hunter, installed quite a few values in you that weren't necessarily religious. Can you explain what you mean by that? What did he teach you?
Well the I meant


no, I can't. Perhaps the war knocked it out a me entirely, as it did with a lot of people. My wife and I were discussing it only recently as a topic and how you get to feel that one side is praying to somebody up there exactly the same as you.


The other side is praying to the same person for the same thing, only in reverse.
What about did you what kind of sort of values would you say your father instilled in you?
My father and I were never close. Never ever close. I think I only hugged him twice in my life.


He was shook his hand. That was the old school. He was the father, I was the son. He was the same with all of 'em. With ah the other two, I should say and he was not frightened to use the belt when required.


He was not a tall man. By the time I was fourteen I was bigger and taller than he was but I don't know how to answer your question there. Would you repeat it?
I just wanted to know what sort of values that your father actually passed on to you that you took
Oh, values.
That you took with you later on in life
Oh yeah.
But what he installed in you as a young man?
Yeah well they might be a bit hackneyed.


To play the game, to be fair, not to lie, or try not to. Don't kick a bloke when he's down. Never actual instructions, just it came about.


That's that's about it, I think.
And your mother?
My Mum was strict. She was not religious at all. I don't know why. She was not an affectionate person either, although she was a loving person. She never showed her affection. She would never she'd rather starve and see us


have a feed than let us go without. She always worked with my father. She hated house work. That was the bane of her life. The family used to, Hayman family, used to call her 'The Duchess' 'cause she had some sort of presence. She walked


into a room and there's silence. She just had that aura. She was a solid woman, not tall. Caring but not loving if you can understand what I mean.
And what did she pass on to you? What did she sort of teach you to be?
Oh she passed on to me a lot of her Scottish heritage through her mother, through her mother's father


and so forth and to like anything Scottish. Nothing like British made, English made. Passed on to me? Nuh.
That's alright. Well we'll move forward to you deciding to join the RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force].


Can you just take us through what led you to make that decision and what how it all happened?
Well I was in the militia at the time. I'd just and during the camp, which was in September '39 out here at Rutherford, I think. I couldn't tell you for sure. I know we had about a ten mile march from the railway station and


could I have a moment?
Yeah, sorry, and I wanted to join the army to be to serve overseas or not to serve, to carry on from the militia to the regular army and


when I applied at this camp first thing they asked me, what was my age? I said, “Eighteen." "Sorry son, you gotta be twenty one." The AIF [Australian Imperial Forces] didn't even have a name. It was just known as an expeditionary force maybe to go overseas.


Well I wasn't very happy in the job I was doing, the particular job I was doing, and I saw an advert, heard an advert or whatever 'Join the air force' and I thought, “I'll be in that." So I joined up hoping to be a flight mechanic. Not knowing anything about what the mustering is, the trade, what it


exactly meant. Well a flight mechanic is a second grade engine fitter, which I'm glad I didn't go, pursue. So I joined the air force, not blind, but not knowing what I was doing and when I'd done my initial training I come out as what was called


an air frame fitter, which is the highest grade. That classification covers everything in the aeroplane except for the radio, the engine and the instruments, which is quite a lot of work. If I'd been a engine fitter,


same classification and all that, but I'd the most I would have done would be to change engines whereas with this one I was repairing planes, brakes, tyres, wheels, air frames, chassis all that kind of thing. Gave you a much broader field to operate in.


Where did you see the ad for you said you saw an ad
Well it would have been I'm sorry, I just can't remember. Would have been poster maybe 'Australia needs you' or 'Join the air force' or something like that.
So before that you hadn't had any particular passion for aircraft
Or flying?
No, no. Oh yeah I'd been interested in aircraft. Tried to build


model aircraft and out of you could buy the kits in those days and glue them together and all that kind of thing but my hands were not never have been sufficiently flexible to do the fine work as some people can.
Before that you were working as a motor you were being trained as a motor mechanic.
In the motor industry, yes.
So would you have preferred to be working on vehicles or


just it didn't matter as long as you fixing engines?
As long as I was working on something mechanical with my hands but you mentioned something that just re clicked in my mind. Because of my mechanical background, the motor transport section had x amount of work to do. With motor transport,


every certain set period, that's mileage wise, you had to do an inspection or repair on the motor vehicle. Check the brakes or other, by checking the brake that meant pulling it, stripping it right down to the bare essentials and then reassembling it. Petrol pump, distributor. Dismantling not


just looking at it and I was often called in to do that type of work because they were short of staff.
By the army?
Who was calling you in to do that?
No, oh no, no. By the air force.
By the air force.
I was I never saw a mechanical vehicle whilst I was in the army.
When did that start? When did they start calling you in to do that kind of work?
The air force?


I'm not with you.
When well you said that they were something like every three months they would call you in to help fix
No, no, no. I said every few months they might be short. Short on men. You can't have a hundred per cent front line all the time. They might be short because they've got two men away picking up a wreck or so or too much work in. A couple of the vehicles


are broken down. Being a mobile squadron you only had a set number. There's no you know picking up the phone and, “Send us a couple a mechanics." The drivers were not allowed to lay a finger on…
Oh okay.
The on the vehicles at all. I think they could change tyres, check the water and oil and battery and that was it. There was strict rules.
So when you joined the RAAF


Did you have to pass any tests? What did they… what kind of…
Oh yes.
How did they assess you as being suitable?
You had a psychological test. You had a medical test. You had a general knowledge test. I've lost the word. The word to what is the word for what you're most suited to?


Aptitude tests and I come out every which way a mechanic.
That's great isn't it?
To know what you're good at.
So take us can you walk us through your training? You know how what did it involve? Where did you go?
Training, well you did your… I suppose you call your initial training for my particular trade. Went to Adelaide


to and you went to Adelaide Tech and Adelaide University. Adelaide University for electronics and what they were in those days and you had to we the airframe fitter had to learn the basics of all the instruments, air speed and all those instruments, flight controls and so forth. Then you had to learn metallurgy,


steel fabrication, metal fabrication. Ah theory of flight. We went into that pretty deeply. I can still recite by the hour the theory of flight. Ah
Well can you explain what that is exactly? The theory of
Theory of flight? Well Bleriot was famous for he flew the first plane


and later on he flew the first plane across the English Channel. He was a Frenchman. He designed the first wing as we know it. Theory of flight is lift. The propeller does not lift the plane off the ground. A jet may, but a propeller, I know nothing about jets other than what I've read. It only


gives you forward motion. Now the wing shape is everything. I won't go into detail. I've given a few lectures on it but for your information, the shape of the wing is such that the bottom of the wing is virtually flat and the top of the wing is curved for the roughly


explanation. As air speeds up it loses its internal pressure. So when you're going through the air and the wing itself it hits the air the wind goes over and under. By going over the top it's travelling faster 'cause it's


got greater distance to travel to get to the back. Therefore the pressure is lower. The pressure underneath doesn't get higher. It is static. So if you got a lighter pressure above and a normal pressure you go up and a course the faster you go


the faster the air goes, the greater the lift and the longer the wing and the bigger the curve, up to a point, then into it comes drag, which is what you don't want but it's impossible to use to dispense with drag. It's there. It's part of the whole business. So the optimum shape of a wing


is as much lift as possible with less drag.
So you obviously took to the training?
Oh yes, yes.
Did you find it challenging at all or…?
No. No
Did it come easy to you?
I found it a piece a cake as a matter of fact. I just soaked it up like a sponge.
When you spoke about the process of mustering before. After the mustering, you said you were mustered.


Oh muster?
Mustering is air force term for your job. My mustering was a fitter, air frame.
Did you have a choice in that or did they tell you?
Well, you were advised.
And was that was that advice dependent on how you did in the aptitude tests or where the need was?
No, how you did in your finals. See you did your elementary, which is


learning how to file, how to fit, how to fit a round peg perfectly in a round hole. You got to have two bits of pieces of steel and you fitted one in the other and all that kind a thing. You learnt riveting and no welding, there was no welding done. Everything was riveted. Um


that's about it I think. Well I could go on. You learnt about hydraulics but when that was the elementary. That was just to get introduce you into the frame of the plane and why it was there and why all the whys and wherefores. Then when you went onto the advanced is when you got into all the metal work and repairs and


what everything was for and how to adjust it. How to fix it. How to offset or how to amplify it and use your nut. Make do with what you've got if you're stuck.
And how long did the training take in all?
Well oh say


about eight months.
This was 1940?
So the war had already started?
It started in '39.
That brings me to the next question. I wanted to ask you, when that announcement was made in your church…
That we were at war.
What was your feelings?
I couldn't tell you really. I think, “At last a decision has been made." It had been waffling around


for long enough and, “Well we'd better get out and finish it off,” I suppose.
So there was no doubt in your mind that you would enlist and that
Oh no, no. No doubt at all. No doubt at all.
And were you enlisting for as because Australia was part of Britain or was it in your was it because you were an Australian?
Oh Australia was no, not because Australia was part of Britain, definitely not.


We always regarded, I…
Interviewee: Leonard Hayman Archive ID 1577 Tape 03


Len you were talking earlier about being quite involved in the church.
As a teenager.
Was that your main outlet for socialising and chasing girls around and that sort of thing? Was that the main focus of your socialising?
Yeah absolutely. Absolutely. There was no avenue for the youth in our day at all other than


sport. Well the church had a cricket team and the church had a soccer team. So you all played together. It had basketball for the girls and Avigarro, which we used to be a female type of cricket. Do you know it?
I do.
Yeah and (UNCLEAR) swimming. So it involved anything and that's how it


revolved around the church in as much as for my social life because we knew everything, we grew up with them and
And did you enjoy going to dances? Were you a bit of a dancer yourself? Did you enjoy the dances?
Oh I loved dancing. Loved ballroom dancing. Ballroom dancing at the drop of a hat.
So they would teach you all the
No, no.
Traditional steps? Did is that the sort of dancing you did?
No, no. I was fortunate my uncle,


my mother's brother, had a very big dancing academy at Hurstville. I'd cycle lunch time Saturday up to Hurstville and he taught me to dance. He and my two cousins taught me to dance. All the old time and I turned out to be a pretty good ballroom


And was that a good way to get the interest of girls back in those days? By being pretty good on the dance floor?
Girls funnily enough weren't a problem. They were just friends, friends who happened to be of the opposite sex. You might go home with the same mainly escorting them 'round I think. There was nothing untoward about the whole thing at all.
Would you take them out to movies, pictures, that sort of thing?


Oh yes. Yes. Go to movies and go to the beach or normally as a group sometimes. 'Course as the years went on, as one got older, one might have had one for a short while one special you might go out for three or four days, three or four times or regularly go to the flicks as we used to call it of a Friday night


but we'd you didn't have we didn't the boys didn't have the money and the girls weren't working, most of them. We were still only kids. Seventeen, eighteen. The wages I used to get maybe two and sixpence a week, about twenty five a cents a week. Well you can't do much entertaining on that.


When you were in your teenage years and you mentioned earlier you knew you were interested in being a mechanic
And being involved in the military
Just prior to joining the militia, what was it about the military world that was appealing to you?
I couldn't tell you. It was just happened to be there.
Do you think it was a romantic notion of being able to travel?
Oh never romantic. Never romantic, no. Not


romantic in the romantic real romantic sense but it was no glamour attached to it or anything like that. It just a wish to, well be with more blokes I suppose and learning. I was always interested in learning. Always interested in military manoeuvring and so
So had you taken a bit of an interest in military history and reading up


a bit on World War I?
No, no. I was always interested in cowboy books. Westerns.
So once you did become involved in the militia
Did you start to feel like this was a world that you enjoyed and you felt a part of?
Yes, yes I did because I felt as though I was getting somewhere, learning something. Part of something. Part of a group.


Enjoyed the training sessions. Some of them they weren't as hard as they are today, yet you did your route marches. Well in one sense they are, because on the month camp or weekend camp you do your twenty mile route march with full pack. You did your rifle training. You did your time out at the at the rifle range with the old .303 [rifle]. I got, I received


I should say, my sniper's or sharp shooter's cloth badge on the what's it on the sleeve, which means you got x amount over a period of a thousand yards and a thousand yards is quite a fair quite a fair range and then you do five hundred yards, two hundred yards.


Anything else is point blank.
So overall you fared pretty well in the sort of training
I did, yeah. Yeah.
That they gave you?
Took to it like a duck to water but never with the thought of the end result of killing.
Just before Menzies made his announcement
That we were going to war, it sounds like you he had a feeling that war was inevitable at that point? That you could feel it coming?


not myself. It was a general, general feeling that it's we were kept in the dark pretty much you know. The English government leaked things out. The thing that sticks in my mind was Neville Chamberlain, prime minister in '38, '39, that he stepped down from the plane


waving, it's engraved, waving a paper in his hand saying, “Peace in our time. Peace in our time." He'd signed the treaty with Hitler. That's that has really stuck. He was insignificant twerp. He was. One of my greatest blokes that I think that was around was old


Winston Churchill. He had a presence.
So were you doing your best to read the papers, tune into the wireless and keep up with those events in Europe? Just prior to war being declared were you chasing down newspapers and trying to keep in contact with those developments?
Oh no, no no, no, no. We were just letting it happen.
So when you heard


the Menzies or when you were told by the minister that we were we were at war
Your immediate thought was that you wanted to be involved?
Oh yes. Oh well I had to be involved. I was in the militia. I'd had a contract. I was expecting to be called.
Apart from having that contract, were you personally feeling compelled to be a part of the war?
Never felt compelled, no. Like


the thinking of the day was that you've got a job to do.
And what was that job?
To protect Australia. To assist the Poms. To get rid of the enemy. Not easy to put into precise words.
I think you've done well.


So I'll take you back now to the training at Adelaide.
Once you'd finished that training, which sounds like it was quite comprehensive and in depth
And you learnt a lot at that stage, what was the next move for you?
Straight to Ascot Vale, Melbourne on the 12th of July 1940. I remembered 'cause it was the coldest day in Melbourne


for eight years and we were all lined up on Flinders Street station, Spencer Street sorry.
So it was a miserable start to that chapter?
It was a miserable start because we were not prepared. We were then taken to Ascot Vale showgrounds. Housed in the cattle pavilions. All they'd done is hosed her out. The cattle pavilions


were enormous halls. Maybe two hundred feet long. Maybe fifty, sixty feet wide. Concrete floor. Brick building. Few high windows and a corrugated iron, corrugated iron roof and it was the coldest period they'd had for eight years. We had no


beds, no nothing. We had our blankets. It was that cold they issued us with another blanket, which gave us five because it was that cold.
So you had to sleep on the cement?
Yeah well no then palliasses [sleeping pallets] came, which we changed every week, which was a canvas bag stuffed with straw. After the first night it was powder.


So you still slept on the floor. Most of us made sleeping bags out of our five blankets. There was a struggle to get in so you could have the most under you or the most over you 'cause it was still cold. Very, very cold. Then they


decided, they being the powers that be, decided they'd have petitions and they put petitions along allowing the beds to be end on and maybe six beds to almost like a hospital ward. Six beds with about six hundred mil between 'em. Well that kept a lotta the draught out. Oh in the cattle pavilion there was only one double door exit and one double door


entrance and the wind, every time somebody came or went there was no internal facilities, amenities at all. You had to go out. So every time a man opened the door, the breeze whistled through. Then we got the old trestle type bed. Do you remember those? Buzzacott wire frame. That was heaven. You could get up off


the floor. You had to make your bed every morning, no fold it up. You didn't make it. Not like the Yanks. The bed was stripped. Blankets folded in a precise order. Your kit, boots and everything, polished and all that. All that had to be done before breakfast and then you went from breakfast straight in to line up.
How were you coping with the harshness of those conditions at that


Took it as part of life. Did a grumble but as a I think Napoleon said, "An army that grumbles is alright." If there's no grumbling, something's wrong.
So were you starting to make some good mates at that stage? Amongst the blokes there?
Oh you never got yes, yes. You never got


really ‘buddy buddy’ buddies but you got mates. You went out with your friends and so forth. Leave was restricted. Like midnight was the time period. We only schooled for five days a week. We had Saturdays and Sundays off but you still had to get a leave pass to leave the show grounds.


There was no way in other than the guarded exits and if you were late you got marched off. If you got caught.
And what sort of things would you do on leave on the weekend? What would be a typical…?
Oh. Oh you go to the, later on went down to the beach. Not that there's any beaches down in


Melbourne but there was the theatres. I remember I saw a film Broken Arrow. I can see I can the original Broken Arrow. I can remember that clearly. A couple of dance halls. Used to cost you ten cents to go in. Occasional meal. I remember buying a watch for my wife from


a wholesale jeweller in a shop in Melbourne.
Well we should go back and talk about how you met Merle. That happened in Adelaide, is that correct?
Can you take us through that story?
Well that section is quite a joke. We arrived in Adelaide we, that is


the bods, boys, arrived in Adelaide as a squad middle of May and Queen's Birthday we decided to go for a row on the Torrens for something different to do and we saw these couple a birds on the on the river bank and I can't think of his


name, Merle'd know. I can't think of his name now. We rowed into we rowed into the shore and I was pretty shy and the other bloke he was a been there before and he approached these two lasses sitting on a rug and that was it. We've been together since.
So was that early on in your time


in Adelaide?
Well I got in Adelaide in May and I got there in June. I left in July.
So by the time you left, it was clear that you were boyfriend and girlfriend
Oh yes. Very clear.
And the relationship was off and running?
Very clear.
It was it hard for you then to have to leave Adelaide and go to Melbourne because of that?
Yeah but funny you know


it was hard to leave but that was life. I wangled a few trips back to Adelaide. We won't go into that. We still laugh about it and…
Some of those trips were unofficial were they or
Oh they were official. We got leave passes and I never went AWL [Absent Without Leave]. Not I got AWL funny, the only


time I got fined AWL was a few days after the war. I got back eighteen hours late. They fined me two days pay and that's another story.
So at Ascot Vale what sort of training, further training, were you getting there? What was the work you were doing from Monday to Friday?
Work at?
When you were training at the camp?


There was no camp.
At the showground?
At the wherever you were stationed at Ascot Vale.
Ascot Vale was the showgrounds.
Yeah, what was…?
Manual. All manual doing imitation repairs on aircraft, riveting, metal fabricating.
So it was a lot of hand…
Cable making.
A lot of hands on?
It was all hands on. All hands on.


What sort of aircraft were you working on?
Well there was no specific aircraft. You were trained as a fitter for general training. As you would a motor mechanic train as a motor mechanic, not on Volkswagens especially but just as a general 'cause it covered all planes in that era.


So you ended up being in contact with quite a wide variety of different aircraft?
Oh yes. Quite a wide I could rattle 'em off from 1922 model right through to 1944.
And were you enjoying the work?
Oh yes, I liked the work all the time.
Just pause for a sec.
So yeah, we were just… I was just asked you how you were feeling about the work at that stage


working with the planes and you said that it was you were enjoying the work and it was feeling…
Oh I was enjoying the work.
Feeling like your niche?
You were learning, learning all the time. From every day all day you were learning, learning, learning. There was very little study involved, like homework, because it was eighty percent practical I presume.
Can you mention just a couple of


names of some of the aircraft that you were working on there?
I can remember the lot. The oldest plane I was working at was a Woppity. That was a biplane. The Tigermoth, a biplane. The Moth Minor, which was an advanced Tigermoth, which was a monoplane, enclosed cabin. Lockheed Hudson, DC3s, Hawker


Hind, which was a biplane. Lockheed Hudson ah Lysanders, Westland Lysanders. Hurricanes II and IIC. Spitfires V, Mark V and VCs. Mosquitoes


72 and 70 74. I think that's enough.
Well done and were you officially with a squadron at that stage? Had you been assigned to a squadron or was it still general training?
When at Ascot Vale?
No, general. When you left


Ascot Vale you were posted to a squadron.
So how long were you at Ascot Vale before you were posted?
Four, four to five months. That was your… when you passed out as it were. You were if you were passed all your exams, which were fairly stiff.
And how did you go?
The higher the marks you got, if you got lower marks you got a different mustering, or


rating as the navy'd call it. I got high marks so I got grade 1, which was the highest pay.
So where did they post you then?
Posted to Laverton, which was a big peace time air port.
Who were you posted with there?


Jimmy Branch, Arthur Rowe, Harry Riley, Shorty Hill to name
And what squadron was it?
Number 2, which was just nominally a squadron. We were there for a couple of weeks and went to number 7, which had the greatest variety of aircraft you'd ever seen. Oh I forgot


Wirraway, which was the principal fighter of front line fighter in Australia, which was old hat in America in 1935 but we got the licence to build 'em free. So that's why they took them. They were the defence of Darwin.
So how long did they have you at Laverton and what were you doing there?
Well we got to Laverton


I would say November '40 and we left Laverton to go overseas, which was Bankstown, in the February we moved out of Laverton.
And what were you doing while you were at Laverton?
Well we were ah maintaining the Tigermoths and the Lockheed Hudson and the DC3 and all that. Just routine maintenance.


And this was around the time where you and some of your mates were getting a bit impatient and feeling like you wanted to get overseas?
Oh yes, yes.
Is that correct?
That was, that was.
Can you explain that to us?
That was everybody's aim.
So what did you blokes decide to do about that? What was the process?
The process was that the four of us formed a group and each wrote


an application in to be posted overseas and every Friday we marched down to orderly room, H.
[Headquarters], and they got to know us in no time at all and they got rid of us pretty quick.
So you were pretty happy when you finally got that news?
Oh yes. Yes. We were going overseas.
Did they


give you some leave before you got onto the boat?
Yeah. I think we got a week's leave before pre-embarkation leave. It might a been oh gotta think. We got two weeks pre-embarkation leave, which would have finished the first week in April because we sailed on the 15th of April '41.


How were your parents feeling about you going overseas and being involved in the war?
Unfortunate I never discussed it with them. They took it as fact and that was it. As I my mother and father were both very rarely showed emotion, so I can't answer that at all.


And was your brother also embarking around that time as well?
No, he was four years younger than I.
So he came along a little bit later into he joined the war?
He came along much later.
So come the day that you were getting onto the Queen Mary…
How were you feeling?
Can you tell us about that day?
Yeah, I can.


The camp was locked down and we knew something was afoot. No telephone, no letters, no communication with any outside body. It was all very hush hush hush, although a few of them nicked over to the back fence and walked two or three mile to the public phone. Anyway on


early on the morning of the 15th the double decker buses came up and took us to Woolloomooloo, where we disembarked the buses, hopped on to ferries who ferried us out to the Queen Mary which was anchored off Taronga Park. I can't think of the name of the little inlet. They let us in the side door. We didn't have to


walk up the gang way. We were we assembled on the deck, the main deck, and was each assigned to a cabin. I know our cabin had a port hole, so we were very, very fortunate, and I think there was eight in our cabin, which was designed as a twin cabin originally, in double


decker bunks. Comfortable enough. The problem with the Queen Mary was she the whole ship was designed to heat for the heat for the passengers but no cooling for the passengers 'cause she was designed for the Atlantic run. We sailed that afternoon,


sorry next morning, and sailed out of The Heads and as we sailed out of The Heads we saw another big ship, which was the Queen Elizabeth. She came in, parked in the same spot 'cause they couldn't have both in together and we heard later that our sister squadron, 450, went was embarked on her. We went down to


Jervis Bay. Anchored at Jervis Bay for two days while… 'til the Elizabeth caught us up. Then we went anchored off Adelaide where we were joined by three other big ships. Two Australian destroyers as escort and


the French liner was a four stack coal burner and she was belching smoke all the time and there was a terrific to-do about that and anyway, she was tried to keep up with us at say twenty two, twenty four knots but she blew a main shaft bearing and had to cut her speed down to eight knots. Well the Mary at, the Queen


Mary at eight knots wallowed like a row boat and the skipper wasn't havin' any part of that. He just says, “Goodbye, we're off." So we Elizabeth and the Mary scooted to we were anchored off Fremantle over night. I presume it was to take on a last lot of water. Fresh water was heavily rationed, and food, and


then we scooted leisurely up to, pretty leisurely twenty two, twenty four knots up to what was Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.
What was the atmosphere on board amongst the boys?
Oh great. Great. Great. Great. Great. Oh we had a ball. The whole time on the Indian Ocean was like a mill pond. You could see the flying fish go and jumping out of the water and when they hit the water again you could see the


can see the eddies. I can beautiful trip to Trincomalee.
What sort of things would you do to pass the time on board?
I couldn't tell ya. I think there was housie and shuffle board. Cricket. Reading. I don't know how we passed the time. Oh a bit a two up.


Playing cards.
And there were other troops on board?
Oh yes, yes. There was there was only three hundred of us air men, approximately, and the rest were all AIF.
Did you mix with the AIF blokes?
Not particularly that I recall. Air force was air force. AIF, not that there was any enmity in any shape


or form. We just had very little in common other than we were Australian.
Did they feed you well?
No. I suppose five mornings out of six we'd have stewed kidneys for breakfast. You got a bit sick of that. That's the only thing I can remember. I can remember at noon every day we got an old navy,


'cause it was all under the British navy, Royal Navy, the auspices your shot of lime juice, anti scurvy. I've never tasted it since that beautiful lime juice and your tot a rum. Oh yes. We had one fellow who liked his rum. I'm a total teetotaller. Was and is


and there were three or four of us used to put all of ours in his tin cup. He had a right royal trip.
So your stop at Ceylon didn't entail you getting off board? You were on the Mary the whole time?
Oh yes. No we got off for six hours at Fremantle.
They ferried us ashore. We wandered around. Came home. Came back to the


ship and then we were off. We didn't didn't get off again 'til we got to Port Suez, Port Tewfik.
Can you take us through getting off at Port Tewfik?
Getting off. Was the dirtiest harbour or port I'd ever seen. You were anchored off shore. We had… two of us had made friends with the fire chief and a magnificent fire organisation,


all automated, with sensors in every hold and everywhere to warn red lights and all this kind a thing and we palled up with them. I don't know why or how. By the way, there was five thousand three hundred on on the Mary at this particular time.
How many firemen would have been on board 'round about?
Oh possibly sixteen and a fire chief.


Always on duty, you know in teams. He showed us through the whole of the fire department and then took us up to the crows nest, the look out. You go up inside the mast and that was
Quite a privilege.
A privilege and then he took us up there while we entered


we were in the Red Sea on the way to Pan to Suez and at Port Tewfik I was up in the crows nest and I could see the bottom, see all these little sharks flying around eating, eating all the scraps. That sticks in my mind. Next thing that sticks in my mind, I don't know how we got ashore. Not a clue. Must have been by pontoon towed by tugs


or something. We carried our what we called our kit bag and our haversack. Your sea kit bag, which was a big bag which had all your bulk of your gear, that were down the hold. That came later. Everything was emblazoned with your name and regimental number, 'cause nobody ever mentions squadron numbers,


and we went by train which was a trip the first time on an Egyptian train. Ah the peddlars used to run up and down the roof of the carriages flogging everything and they'd start off with, Egyptian pound was worth more than a English pound. Worth about an extra shilling, ten cents, and we didn't have any money at all other than


I don't think we'd exchanged our Australian money by then. There was nothing to buy aboard the Mary at all. So we didn't spend any money and we went to, the name temporary escapes me, of the big holding camp. The lily


white kneed English and South African and all races under the sun. I went to the toilet and carved initials LWH. We knew our squadron number, 451, on the door. This is just a little side anecdote, on the on the door. Eighteen months later an old mate of mine who I'd been to Ascot Vale


walks in. The we were up the scrub as we call it. I said, “How did you know where to find me?" "Oh,” he said, “I saw your name on the dunny door." So that's his, Gilligan. Norm Gilligan.
What were your first impressions of being in Egypt? As far as climate and people and the general…?
It was hot. Dirty, dusty,


stinking. We didn't like the looks of the people we saw. I'm very open about that. Um you daren't leave anything unattended for five seconds. All they were the begging they were all beggars. "Faloos, give us faloos, faloos." With faloos being money, Arabic for money,


and you got that way that you just knocked 'em outta the way. They just wouldn't take, “No,” for an answer. "Yalla, yalla", which is, “Get lost,” and we were shipped then to the oh we're at the we're at the holding camp aren't we? Well we mucked around there for awhile.
And there was a you said there was a fair bit of confusion there and people didn't really know


where to go and what to do?
Yeah, well they weren't expecting us you see as a squadron. As a complete unit. Trained but not, skilled but not trained in the what we were going for. We didn't know what we were going to do, what plane. 'Cause we all wished for this and that and the other and ah they decided they'd give us twenty four Hurricanes, "But you'll have to build them,”


which we did. At a place called Ishmailiya which is half way down, or Ishmailiya, half way along the Suez. A very big air force RAF [Royal Air Force] camp, which we and then the pilots flew them out to ah Edcu, where we had our first where the


pilots had the squads had actually settled itself in.
So that was quite a big challenge for you straight off the bat arriving there suddenly having to assemble
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.
All these planes.
Yeah we were issued with blankets and pith helmets. Those pith helmets. That's a story in itself. I'll leave it to your imagination.
So they came in handy for all sorts of odd jobs.
They came in handy for all sorts of odd jobs?
Only one


only on one occasion for one particular, what's the name we hated the things. We had our fur felt. They were good. All the English soldiers and air men wore them 'cause they had to.
Did you like the Hurricane at that stage? Were you happy that it was Hurricanes that you were going to be working with?
Well we didn't know much about them. There actually was no hand book on them. We had a little


bit of tutoring but anybody with any nous at all could put them together. You know just strip the wings and the tail plane off them. Unhook the controls and the so it was just a case of assembling them, put the props on. Getting the engines going. Made sure everything all the


service controls worked and…
Interviewee: Leonard Hayman Archive ID 1577 Tape 04


Len, can you tell us about the speech problem that you had from a young age that held you back and you finally overcame?
Speech problem? I tried to trace the origin and, of this problem, and I pinned it down


to when I was about four, I was recovering from a bad attack of measles and I was in the back yard and a rather savage dog came into the back yard and pinned me to the ground, barking at my face. Somebody shooed the dog away and took me inside. For the next three weeks I couldn't speak at all.


When I regained my voice, as it was, I stammered terribly. That continued right through school days, service days. Right through say 'til my mid-forties to fifties and slowly through patience and perseverance I speak as I am now.


Did it
That's about the size of it.
Did it hold you back in any way in your career?
Held me back, it did hold me back because if anybody at school particularly needed an answer, an opinion, I was totally unable to give it. In the air force it prevented me from becoming an officer or air crew because of my speech


over the radio and one cannot stand in front of a squad of men and stammer and well you're just not wanted. You're you have a disability that's not acceptable. This went on for many years.


what do you feel that you missed out on because of the speech impediment? When you were in the air force?
What did I miss out on?
When you were in the air force? What
Well I missed out on opportunity I wasn't that fussed about air crew, more on the engineering side of it but I was offered air crew 'til they heard me speak and my original interview with the air force


on enlistment it was particularly noted that I had a bad stammer. I have that on paper now from the air force and then when the chance came up for promotion to officer rank, which did come up, I was refused and a chance come up for a new position in the air force, which was flight engineer, which was


an engineer flying, which was came about when the Constellations first flew. There was too much work for the pilots to handle the complications of all the new ideas and techniques for the pilot to handle everything and the engines. The engines were getting sophisticated in the sixties and so they put in an extra crew man,


the flight engineer, and then I met one of my old squadron mates, Arthur Roberts, who was chief flying off flying engineer for Qantas for some years and they had three flying officers on a plane because two hours at the flying flight deck as the engineering officer was


enough per shift. You had to balance the plane, changing fuel, fuel from one tank to another and all that style of thing. Reading the information relayed from the engines. Cooling, heating, rev all that type of thing, performance, so that you were at optimum performance at all times.


Mm. Okay. I we'll take you back to Egypt, your first port of call, and when you joined the 451 Squadron. You were working on Hurricanes.
Hurricanes, yes.
And you were had putting them assembling them from scratch.
Well they came in enormous wooden crates. Had to be pushed by


ship, by sea, and we just had to break open the crates. They had a fuselage which, was the engine, were on skids and we had about a gang of twenty Egyptian workers, we called them wallahs, which is the Egyptian word for labourer, who used to pull them out


on these skids. Then we would whilst they were fairly low and the cage was folded up we would attach the wings, which were two to another crate, and then do all the connections. Fill all the hydraulic systems up. Lift the plane up manual ah on trestles by crane, lower the


undercarriage down and then it was mobile and a course they worked on the engine and then tested it and from then on it was ready to go. The machine guns were all there was eight machine guns, .303s. Four in each wing with a effective range of six hundred yards. They were synchronised to form a zone


of fire about sixteen by four I suppose, feet that is. Ah so at six four to six hundred yard there was that area full of flying bullets. From eight machine guns flying at firing at average of five hundred rounds per minute.
What was can you talk about your particular role in assembling the Hurricane? What would you


be doing?
Oh well being air frame fitter or, for the want of a better term, that was the air force's classification, was actually assembling the plane like putting a mechano set together. Hooking all the cables, bolting on the wings, putting all the hatches in.


Actually assembling it. Bit like a as though you had a kit.
And you didn't have any instructions to build those first Hurricanes did you? You did it how did you how did you know what you were doing?
We didn't. We I think we had somebody as somebody there who said, "Oh you put that there. You put that here and that should go into there," and we soon picked it


up. It was basic, very basic so putting together.
And who else would be on your team when you were
Oh goodness only knows, I'm sorry.
The as in what other roles would people being playing? You as the air frame fitter…?
Well, well, well there'd have to be the engine bods as we used to call them, the blokes, they had to make sure the engine was right. Fit the propeller, check out all the magnetos


all that starter gear and then eventually the fuel systems. Eventually start the motor and run it. Of course you don't start a plane from the batteries in the plane. You have what's called a battery cart. You may have seen them wheeled around. Well in those carts are assembled together a


an assembly of three or four big batteries capable of turning the engine over. So the plane battery is just in emergency. It might only turn the aircraft engine over three or four times and that's what they did. They solely did the engine and the engine's controls, which boils down to throttle mixture and


spark etcetera and changing spark plugs. That was took more time to change the whole set of twenty four spark plugs than it did to change the whole engine.
Why is that?
Difficulty of accessibility. The American planes, even more so on a Tomahawk or a Kittyhawk


or planes like that. Four bolts, a couple a tubes and the engine was off and another one in. They were, “Repair by replacement,” was their motto. Ours was, “Repair.”
At so how were the Hurricanes how were they modified to suit the desert conditions
That you were using them for?
Mostly, mostly to filter the


dust and the sand and the grit onto while they were down level down on level down say of a hundred feet, below a hundred feet. They'd suck in great buckets full of air and wreck an engine in a few moments. So they had designed filter air filter systems


only of course into the carburation fuel system, which strangled the engine a lot of quite a lot because of what's called it wasn't able to breathe the way it should.
Were you involved in designing those modifications and
No, no, no. They were invented by Rolls Royce in England.
So was there any other modifications for the desert conditions that you can


think of?
Ah modifications. Modifications we would have liked, we would have liked to have an awning over each plane so we could work on it whilst you were working on the plane, on the wing particularly, you put a tool down in the middle of the day you didn't pick it up again in the summer.
Too hot.
You just couldn't. Just couldn't. You couldn't kneel


or go on stand on the wing unless you had boots on. The cockpits were like an oven and they didn't even have a cover over those to keep the heat out. So the modification that I know of was mainly to do with air intakes of the engine.
With the searing heat that you talk about…
Did that change your hours of work? Did it


mean that you didn't work during the day or waited for dusk or…?
Well you worked not as hard in not as hard in the day. Day, as I said earlier, started at first light and day finished at last light. We even had planes landing with the headlights of trucks and vehicle that we have giving them a


path down, a safe area to land, which was very hairy for the pilots 'cause he had landing lights which were very powerful but it's still a bit hairy.
So just talking about you know getting up at first light, that's it's a good time now to maybe just talk us walk us through a typical day for you in the desert. What would you do from getting up in the morning to


when you went to bed? What would your role be?
Well bedding, first thing you did was get out of bed and go to the toilet. Well no such thing as toilet. We had a, every tent had a shovel and that was the toilet. You went x amount of yards from the tents, dug your hole and did what you had to do. Spread in


and around the tents were what we had we called the term for want of a better phrase, desert lilies. That consisted of a four gallon kerosene tin, half buried in the sand with holes at the bottom. Another kerosene tin cut diagonally. Pushed in that tin. Pushed into that tin that was in the sand and there were holes


in the bottom of the v of the what's a name, of the of the ah tin we'd cut in half and crystals were placed into that and that was our urinal. Nothing to see a man saying, “How's your lily going?" Well they were constantly watered. Yes?
Yeah. No, no I I'm with you. So


okay, we've gone to the we've gone to the toilet. It's morning. So take us through…
I've gone to the toilet.
Obviously. You never, funny, you never went out to the, with your shovel on your own. Anybody you saw you, "Wanna go for a walk?" Or you wanna go for whatever term you like to put it in, "Oh. Oh yeah, I think I'll come too." You might walk a hundred yards, hundred and fifty yards and there was no cover so you were wide out in the open. Nobody took any notice


and then you came back and you had breakfast, which was a big marquee. Our mess tent was a big marquee with a, if there wasn't a sand storm, with the sides rolled up. Trestle tables. You sort a put your plate over and plop, plop. You got what was ever going, which was pretty spartan. Say most of the time porridge,


um bread. An oleo margarine, which was margarine in oil form, and marmalade made from what is now Israel from a town called Jaffa, hence Jaffa oranges, and that was mostly our rations. Bully beef was


on the menu every night in various stews, forms and everything. Sweets were non-existent. Sweets as in dessert. Hard tack, which is the old sea biscuit, which you couldn't break with your hands. Water was the problem, always water, because we had to carry our own with us at all


times. We may be three hundred miles from the nearest water. We had three water tankers constantly coming and going.
Where was the water sourced from?
Wells, bores, which we never knew where they were. Ah
So it was local water? It was most likely local water?
Local water. Oh all underground. There was no


lakes or rivers or anything and it all had to be we all had to put the chlorine pills in it to render it safe, which didn't which means that it didn't taste too good but it was wet. At one stage of the game one of our water trucks broke down and we were in pretty at one particular stage we were in pretty dire straits for water.


We were rationed to a pint a day and that was in the middle of summer. Half a pint went to the kitchen, half a pint went to you, or as I recall, and with that half pint you drank it, you cleaned your teeth, you shaved or you washed. So obviously one


drank rather than do anything. It rained once we were in the desert in particular and it every ditch and hollow and had water in it and I in particular, I can speak for meself, running around with me panicking filling a four gallon can up with water from the storm,


muddy. Waited a day and it settled. Pour it off into another tin, let it settle. Then it was pretty clear. Then with the usual desert fire, which was a heap of sand soaked in petrol and chuck a match into it and put your billy on that and that's that was I can remember that November '42 was


we hadn't had a bath for nine months. We'd had a wash. We washed, I have photos of it, a wash where we pooled our water. We all six of us in a tent washed in the same water. Standing up as Adam and Eve but with our boots and hats on for decency.


Boots and hats only.
Boots and hats only.
Boots and hats.
Alright. So we well you've…
Oh yeah we gotta have…
You've had breakfast. So what happened after that?
And then well you see, depending on what was on, sometimes we'd be up at four o'clock in the morning local time to see the planes off. Then we might go back and have our ablutions and


tidy up the tent. Make your bed. By making your bed up was strip it, folding your blankets in order. That was compulsory. Then you might go and have your breakfast.
If you were to see a plane off what would you actually do? Can you tell us what that would involve? You're called to go and see a plane off. What would that involve for you?
The word is? Sorry.
If, you said that sometimes you might be woken up at 4am


Not sometimes. Regularly.
To go and see a plane off.
Can you explain exactly what that would involve for you? When you were seeing a plane off?
Well it would involve for me, it wouldn't be one plane. It'd be three. It might be six. Then again, if they were going out on patrol being a leading aircraftsman I may be in control of three or six


and we'd do a last inspection. See with flying, as soon as an aeroplane lands, a plane lands, and taxis to a stop he is immediately armed, rearmed, refuelled and quick check ready to go again instantly. That is basic law. So


if you had early morning flight you just checked it, started it for the pilot and he'd just help him in, help him with his harness or the parachute was already in the plane and just harness him up to his chute. Harness him up with his safety harness, pat him on the head, wish him ‘bon voyage’ and he'd just


signal he wanted chocks [blocks in front of wheels to stop moving] away. Every plane had to be chocked, especially when the engine was running, even though it was only idling.
Can you what's that mean?
Chocks. Chock the wheel.
Yeah. Can you explain?
A big wedge of timber
Or steel to prevent it from going forward.
Chocks. I'd wave, that that was the signal, 'Chocks away', they still do it,


and then thumbs up. "Bye sir. Good luck,” or whatever and he'd taxi off.
And there was a form that you had to fill out to… a check list?
Yeah well
And it was called an MS20 form?
Yeah, maintenance schedule it was.
That was the daily maintenance, DMS [Daily Maintenance Schedule] daily main just come back to me, daily maintenance schedule. That had to be filled in by each


individual person who worked on the plane according to his trade. Now he filled it in or marked it off that he'd carried it out as per schedule. Then the next ranking CO [Commanding Officer], NCO [Non Commissioned Officer] would check him or


take his word for it or spot check and he would sign that he'd done it and then when the pilot arrived, officially he was supposed to check the check the check and then he signed and the onus was then on him relievin' the onus on from anybody that had worked on the plane but most of the pilots, if not all


of them, had faith in their ground crew. They knew each other, shall we say intimately, and if you said, “She's right,” he knew it was right. If you said, “Don't take it,” he wouldn't get near it.
Did that happen very often from your experience?
Occasionally, no I wouldn't get in there. Righto. He daren't. If I hadn't if I or the


NCO hadn't signed that I checked it the pilot would not take off, regardless of his rank.
So there was complete
Unless he was an idiot.
So there was complete faith in your
Was that did you find that across the board or was that your per… you're talking from your personal experience?
Oh no, that's across the board.


Of course there's always the odd ball who didn't believe anything. Still thinks the world is square, flat.
With this form, the maintenance form that you had to fill out, what particular what did you have to check out for? What were the things that you had to tick off? Can you go into detail about that?
Well first of all you had to check on the tyres, make sure they were inflated correctly. You checked that the brakes were working,


keeping in mind there's a tail wheel which nobody had any control over. All the wing flaps, elevators, ailerons, runner, were working fine, no slack. Check that everything was together. All the hatches, which were actually flaps that you opened to get into various


internal items of the plane. Check the hydraulic fluids. Check the oxygen. That was one of our what's a names, or they all had all connect always connected to oxygen. Check there was no holes in the fuselage or wings. Oh one particular thing, that the windscreen was


polished and clear and no scratches. The windscreen would be about ooh inch and a half thick. Supposedly bullet proof. A peculiar type of Perspex. You had a polish where you polished any scratches and that took some time to get that out. So that the pilot had a clear vision. You checked that the


cock pit would shut closely. The brakes were in order, as I said. Controls flap and trim tabs, trim taps is the very hard to explain but they allowed the plane to fly hands off by trimming the plane. It used to take awhile to do it.


How long would it take to check everything off as a rule?
Well some planes well you knew your plane. Everybody say I was assigned three planes, which is possibly, I knew that plane. Knew it inside out and knew what to look for.
And these would all be Hurricanes initially? These would all be Hurricanes?
They were all Hurricanes, yeah. Oh yeah we had a squadron of them. There was an one


Westland Lysander, which was built as a specific for specifically for army co-operation. It had a very, very low flying speed. It was funny to see it flying low speed. It'd fly almost at forty five degrees and still go forward and that had to be looked after. Whether a plane


flew or not, you still had a daily inspection.
Sorry, what was that plane called again?
Westland Lysander.
Westland Lysander.
And if you know your Greek, L-Y-S-A-N-D-E-R. Made by Westland aircraft.
And what was its particular role?
Particular role was army co, co-operation or flying down to Cairo to pick up a load of beer for the officers' mess. It used to hold five cartons in the rear cock pit.


Alright. What in your view is are the skills required to be an air frame fitter?
Well you had to be a metal worker, a painter, a tailor because the fuselage of the Hurricane is fabric.


Had to be a riveter, a pneumatic brake op specialist, a tyre specialist, a hydraulic specialist. Knowing how a plane should fly, all things being equal. Knowing what to look for, stresses and strains.


That's about it I think.
Did you did you find that you took to the life like being actually over there in the Middle East, did how did that compare to being at training. Like when you were actually on the ground doing the work how
Oh well
How did you fare yourself?
How did I feel?
Good. It was a our job and you just did it. There's no there was no feeling,


"I don't want to. I don't like it." 'Cause there was always a grumble about it but having to stagger outta bed early in the morning and stagger into bed late at night. 'Cause dawn is half past three to four in the summer and dusk is nine 'til nine thirty, particularly in Cyprus. Dawn was very early and dusk


was very late.
Was it an exciting life at the time? Did you find exciting?
Wouldn't call it exciting. It became it never became boring, even though it was repetitious, 'cause you never knew what you'd find when you looked and always in the back of your mind is that, "Better make sure this is right."


Every man working on it, in our squadron particularly I can mention, there was never slip shod work. It would be more than the air man's life was worth. He wouldn't last five minutes.
Can you talk about the sense of camaraderie or that you felt between


yourself and the other members of your squadron? Were you a tight knit group?
Well you see the squadron was divided into three flights. Each flight had six planes that I can recall. A flight and B flight. They were the strike or the operational flights. C flight was the maintenance flight. Where that's where they did all the work that the


other flight didn't have time to do because of their responsibilities in getting the planes ready for flight. Does it make sense there? Or if need be we needed assistance. Say there was a flap on and everything possible could be up in the air, well everybody'd buck in. The pilots had no


had each pilot had his own plane. He knew its flying attributes and all its little quirks and so forth and he knew his plane and he knew his crew. Always the same crew. So the old saying, “She right? She's right." That's all. Possibly that's the only conversation you had with the pilot


unless you were particularly friendly with one. I had one. We'd have a chat and on return with all of them, “Okay, any complaints. Any problems?" He'd say so and so and so and so and you make a note of them and do it instantly. Do it you know immediately. It wasn't put off 'til whenever. Done then.
Can you explain the


feelings between the pilot and the ground crew? I mean what kind of sense of camaraderie or trust did build up while given you were relying on each other so much?
Well there was very little camaraderie between air crew and ground staff. Even today there's the same. There's that unseen difference.
I've never, can't explain.


We didn't depend on them, they depended on us. They were always of senior rank to us. We had to salute them, not that that was a big deal, but they had their own officers' mess and lived pretty well. Way above the conditions we lived in.


Like they had batman [servants], you know valets or whatever you like to call them. There was less members to a tent, maybe two, where with us it'd be six or eight. Their living conditions were better. We never resented that, we just accepted it. As far as we were concerned they were officers and we were odd bods


as it were. There was a little bit of feeling amongst 'em. If you got the wrong pilot, what did you call a snotty nose, you had to pull him down to our size in a sense but don't take that wrongly.
How would you do it?
I don't know. I don't know. Just by not accepting the fact that he


considered himself better than you were. I do remember one particular time, I'd rather not mention the commanding officer's name, there were certain rules in the desert that your pilot had to obey. You didn't taxi with the flaps down. Do you understand what I mean? Taxi is go along on the ground and flaps are the flaps that


assist in lift and also act as air brakes. You didn't turn too sharply, otherwise you dig your wing tip in which means the wing tip had to be replaced. These rules were hard and fast. The pilots knew that. Well occasionally you'd get the smart alec who would try and do a wheelie, as it were, in the plane


and dig one wing in the sand and we complained. Now this particular commanding officer, our first Australian commanding officer, I'll expand on that in a moment, lined up all the pilots all in a line and we were told to hang around and he gave them a serve. I mean a serve.


Consequently if they damaged a wing tip they repaired it under our supervision. If they damaged the flaps they repaired it under our sup. Needless to say there was no more problems along those lines 'cause it was not a nice job out in the blazing sun. In England much the


same thing happened. I digress. They continued, even though there were runways, taxiing with flaps down and the CO there was a pretty tough sort of a bloke. Nobody liked him but he was a top pilot.


He lined all the air crew up and I can nearly quote, “Now listen here you blokes. You blokes are tuppence a dozen. I can go along and I can get a hundred to replace you but these erks [?] out here, I cannot replace them. They're irreplaceable. They're just not there.


So watch yourself." He sacked one bloke. Yeah, that's about now we're up to?
Yeah I asked you about the relationship between the ground crew and pilots.
Yeah well the relationship was good. Was good depending on it wasn't until well into '43,


1943, that the RAF allowed us to have Australian commanders and largely on that, all these squadrons all Australian squadrons overseas, other than number 3 squadron and number 10 Squadron. Number 3 Squadron were flying Spitfires, Tomahawks and Kittyhawks.


Number 10 Squadron is in England flying the big Short Sunderland flying boat. Those two squadrons were special and were RAAF, hence the numbers. Our squadrons were seconded to the RAF, paid by the RAF under their control and we had to have pay reduction to the equivalent of our RAF,


which for some time was less than half our pay for doing the same work. Otherwise there might have been too much ill feeling. Our reduction…
Interviewee: Leonard Hayman Archive ID 1577 Tape 05


Len, on that last tape we got a general feel for living conditions day to day and that type of thing but I want to go back now and get more of a chronological feel for how things developed for you after you initially got there and set up those Hurricanes
What was the next move for the squadron? After (UNCLEAR)?
The next move was to go into operations, which was


the allies had been pushed back. The exact point I don't know where. Our unit was green. It would have been mid '40, mid '41 about July '41. We were just thrown into it. Our pilots were pretty raw


as fighter pilots. We were thrown in as back up to the existing the air force was pretty weak in strength as far as the allies were concerned at that time. They couldn't get the planes to us or so we were thrown in and we lent our weight and with some


with our it must have been of some assistance because we pushed Jerry [Germans] back and as Jerry went, so we followed. Sometimes way inland from the Mediterranean Sea. Hundred, hundred and fifty miles, say two hundred kilometres, which means we were way out on our own, which is a long way from fresh water. A long way from tucker.


Fuel supplies were difficult to maintain but were always a priority. That's where the Lysander came in, to nip in for spares which could be easily replaced but not repaired. I can't give you an instance. Say a big stone had gone through the radiator, the cooling


system. You can't repair it. You so that's where the old Lysander came in. They weren't fast but they were totally reliable and as the army pushed forward, in some cases we might be ahead of them but south and then we might come into the coast. As I told you earlier, we were on


the move all the time.
We never got settled except up in Syria.
So you were in Libya at this stage?
We were in Libya most of the time until, say November '42 around October '42 when they pushed us back and Tobruk was on and where we come back to


El Alamein.
During that initial period before Tobruk and getting pushed back
Yes this is before, El Alamein is roughly sixty mile, hundred kilometres West of Cairo, which was far as war time's concerned just over the hill, and Tobruk'd be another thirty or forty mile further West from Cairo. We came back and we were fifteen


twelve, fifteen say twenty k miles south of the actual battle of El Alamein. That was the third time we came back.
In the time prior to El Alamein and Tobruk, was your squadron mainly doing fighting ops or were they also doing reconnaissance ops at the same time?
Well our primary function then was army co-operation. They needed to know what the


enemy was doing. That was vital. Our photos, if they come, our photo reconnaissance and visual reconnaissance 'cause our pilots were wide awake was vital. They we were the eyes of the army for the want of a better term and they depended quite a lot on up to date information. What was there yesterday is not necessarily there today


and by comparing yesterday's and today's they could judge what was going on.
So your pilots were doing a lot of the photography and visual reconnaissance as well as doing actual
Yeah, well
Whilst they were their orders were to if they were attacked to get going 'cause the cameras and the films were more of more importance but if necessary stand and fight.


They were pretty potent weapons, eight machine guns when you're protecting your tail but then a course it called in reserves if necessary from our sister squadron or there were other squadrons there, many. We never saw another squadron at any time that I can recall. We got the occasional


visit from say the CO of a squadron but I never saw another unit. We were always roaming 'round the countryside.
So if your squadron was doing a typical reconnaissance…
…operation, how would that how would that run? How many planes would initially on a average day go out?
Well there'd be one at a time for photo with maybe two


escorts. There's a photo a pilot of a photo reconnaissance plane has gotta have more guts than anybody you can imagine. He has to take pictures, photos whatever you want at a certain height at a certain speed on a given course regardless. It may be any height


depending on what the army needs. Now to get to that height he'd have to adjust his height maybe ten miles from target, twenty ks from target. Adjust to that height, adjust to the course. No auto pilot of course and then fly straight and steady. Get the cameras. Once he's finished with his camera he was up


and off. Head for home quickly 'cause what was in those cameras was vital. The camera personnel would be waiting on the run on the runway. The cameras would be ripped out, taken into developing tents or whatever it was and if it was a rush job they it was rushed.
Can you explain to us how many cameras were set up in a Hurricane


and where they'd be?
Three cameras in a Hurricane. One pointing straight down and one on either of it obliquely covering the same area.
And can you explain to us the way the photographs were then compiled together?
Well when the negatives were printed they


were sorted, numbered, coded and laid out on a big table. Then came the photo interpretation unit who used to after the prints had been laid out in a mosaic form overlapping, which took quite a lot of doing, then it was photographed


as a whole and then the photo interpretation unit would come in and interpret what was in the what there was actually taken, the photo taken. The photos, the most desirable photos, were after 10am and before 3pm because everything depends on shadow.


You could not see the plane but you could you could not see what was on the ground but you could see a shadow. I personally have been in interpretation section whilst they were interpreting a photo and to me it was just a series of dots but the experts with the stereophonic magnifying glasses, I can quote in one instance where


he'd say, “That is a two man fifty calibre machine gun pit." To me it was a dot.
So these men were very talented…?
They were
At the work they were doing?
Exceptionally skilful. They were the ones that the army depended on. All boiled down to the to what they saw. They would send a photo with a report.


Would they work as individuals or would there be a team of them?
Oh there might only be two. Might only be two. I can't recall. Each section was a section within itself, a unit within itself.
Your squadron was a mobile squadron?
Can you explain to us initially


once you were set up properly somewhere
The extent of your camp
And the strip that you'd set up and then could you explain to us how quickly you were expected to then up roots and move to the next location?
Yeah, well assuming that there was never any airstrips. They were airfields. That was a cleared reasonably level stretch of firm


ground. One in particular was a salt lake bed. We couldn't drive pegs in to pitch our tents. Had to cart sand in to fill sand bags to weigh the tents down. I'm lost.
So if you were set up properly
Oh yeah, right.
Before taking off to go somewhere?
Yeah, right, right. Well
Can you explain to us how


big the camp would be?
Well I would say to the field would have on one side'd be A flight. The other side'd be B flight and then the other one end'd be C flight maintenance and the other end would be HQ area. So nothing was grouped in one area. I would suppose they would be


thousand to fifteen hundred yards square. That was quite a walk, which one did do often. They lived their life, you lived your life. You might never see them. The men in my squadron, some men I've never seen.
So you'd tend to spend most of your time with a particular flight
Oh yeah. Most…
Flight group?


You spend your time with your particular group, party of flight. Sorry, I lost it there.
That's alright. So which was your group?
A flight.
A flight.
A flight.
So would you as A flight all set your tents up in one particular area?
Oh yeah, yeah. I'm with you now, yep. Yep. Well all we might be sitting around goodness doing what. Had no


radios 'cause there was no radio stations and might be having a game a cards waiting for the patrol to come back in. The planes were ready, prepared 'cause they'd radio in. The incoming patrol, the end of shift would radio in and we'd have our planes ready, firing and up in the air as


on their way out as the other patrol came in. It might be single, it might be three, it might be six depending on what was on. Depending whether it was A flight or B flight. Maybe it would be both flights. Then we might just be sitting around waiting for the patrols to finish or havin' a bit of a blow or getting advantage of a bit of shade.


Word'd simply come through, “Right, we're off,” or words to that effect. We were expected to pack up everything, kit and caboodle. It was from the cook house to the workshop. Everything. Tents, gear, personal gear, everything. Onto the trucks. We had eighty two trucks and,


I don't know, sixty-odd trailers. The trucks were four tonne. Few couple of them were six tonne and the trailers were all two, three tonners. Four wheelers. Towed by the state side trucks and we'd be on the move. Now that we were expected to be rolling within six hours of the call, the radio call.
Would that always happen? Would you


always make it by six hours?
Oh there there's no option unless of course of a major break down such as once, once we were just unpacking when three tanks decided to pay us, three German tanks decided to pay us a visit. Needless to say we were gone in two minutes. Leaving all our stuff behind us.
Did you


have a set routine as far as what you personally had to pack up each time?
No routine. You just you were always ready to go. I mean you the only stuff that wasn't in your kit bag was on your back.
But as far as would you participate in packing up the workshop and all that sort of stuff?
Oh yes. Everybody had his own shop. Each man had his big wooden tool box. Big wooden tool box,


which he had to thump on the truck. In it was every tool he'd need. Hand tool that is. There was no machine tools because we had nothing to drive them.
In the in the tents that you were living in
Were you sharing a tent with one other person or a number of other people?
Well depending on the job there could normally there was six.


Six to a tent. It was tight but it wasn't jammed. You left your kit bags outside under an awning. So you had only had your day to day clothes to wear, which in most cases through the summer would be boots, shorts and hat. One couldn't even bother about


underwear because there's nowhere to wash them. In fact I have washed socks and shirts in petrol. Plenty of petrol but no water and the socks'd dry in about a minute and a half. You wore socks for your boots because they weren't too good in the sand. Your hat, well that was your hat was


vital. The old fur felt. In the winter time it was the opposite. It was colder than the Arctic. We've had nigh mornings there where you couldn't get warm. I've gone to bed with pyjamas, uniform, overalls, five blankets and a ground sheet and still been cold.


Which was more unpleasant, the heat of summer or the cold of winter?
Well the heat you could get used to but when you're cold, really cold, and the desert can get cold. 'Course in the day it comes out hot.
So you you'd be normally about six to a tent
And you'd sleep in the same area as all


the other A flight guys?
Oh yeah, you'd be you were never together. You'd be a good twenty five yards apart.
How many blokes would there be in A flight altogether 'round about?
Oh you're asking me something now. A thing I've never thought on at all. Well there were roughly three hundred


all told. In that'd be cooks, admin staff, radio operators, transport drivers. So I suppose there might be sixty, sixty per flight. So I'd say so we'd say there's ten tents. Each tent had a double row was sunk down


about two feet and then you had had approximately four feet of double sand bags around that, if you were lucky, with a narrow entrance for a reasonable amount of safety. They were all designed so that no plane could come straight through and wipe out a whole string.


So you mentioned a little while ago the time when the German tanks suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
Was were you often in perilous situations where you were under direct fire during that time?
Not often.
Moving around?
We'd been strafed a few times and one particular time I can remember two flights of German


Messerschmitts came over. We all had rifles a course, ammunition. Always kept them clean, ready for action. I can remember going into a slit trench with a few ammo clips in my hand and trying to shoot a Messerschmitt down with a single action bolt action rifle. By the way, one was shot down by one


of our mob got it. Boom, straight through the wherever. That's why they had armour plating under the seat. He got one. He got a medal for that. A shot in a million. Digressing, that's now come out that Baron von Richthofen, the Red Baron, was shot by


an Australian soldier in France from the ground. They've proved it.
Oh we're good shots.
As you were saying?
So did you have any close calls personally?
Personally yeah. The Italian bombers used to come over occasionally. When they came over they carried five bombs and we'd hear 'crump' and they'd drop


them one at a time. You would count them. When you heard the fifth you went back to sleep. When you heard the fourth and didn't hear any more, well that was it but as soon as strafing come, I tell lots of funny stories about strafing could come at any time. No warning no sound just


flying at zero feet, ground level, you just into your fox holes. They had fox holes everywhere. So it was into your fox hole. 'Course your tin hat was in your tent because you couldn't could not work with a tin hat when you're working on an aircraft. So it was just into the fox hole, and quickly. Normally they only did one run. Sometimes they'd do a return run. We did have


ground airfield guards. They had twin .303s mounted on a tripod. Three sixty round rounds of fire. They were on duty all the time at some locations and they got a couple, couple of strafed. No see we were so much off, our unit was so much off,


the beaten track that the only way they could find us would be would have been to follow one of our planes in and they're not gonna follow one plane in unless it was for some specific reason.
So did any of your mates end up getting injured or…
Yes, we lost quite a…
We lost a few ground crew.
Through strafing?


one got a broken neck because when he dived under a truck he dived too high and hit the side of the truck with his head. I won't mention any names but I've met him since. He's still in a still in a neck collar but he survived that, he didn't dive low enough. Another fellow was working on the wing of the plane when he's strafing


when we were strafed and the story goes that he jumped from the wing, which'd be about I suppose about six foot off the ground and the story goes that when he hit the ground he was pedalling so fast that he chucked up a dust storm. Funny at the time. Ah


no, we had one killed with a tank. Slit trench three or four in a slit trench and the tanks, German tanks saw them and he deliberately ran run his track into the tank and killed one or two. I know their names but I won't mention 'em. That happened before Tobruk.


Those three other guys who you were campaigning with back in Australia to get
Drafted overseas
Yep, yep.
Did they end up in the squadron with you?
Did you remain close to those blokes?
Oh yes, yeah we were mates right 'til right 'til I was posted away. Two of them, volunteers were called for a new unit to be formed


for the long range desert group, out of which came the SAS [Special Air Service]. Harry Riley and Arthur Rowe were the two. We were mates. Two of the ones that had been joined together. They went and took this course. We didn't see them for some months but we knew what their job was. They were saboteurs


and I had put in for it and I had to wait my turn. My compadre was would have been… no names again, I'll show you a photo, but they went away on a course. Unarmed combat, map reading, saboteur and so forth. They picked the air


force, A) because of their mechanical ability, B) because the quality of intelligence, not denigrating the army at all. Ah various other things. Their job, there was two units. They had a Kiwi officer, army officer. They had two, they Geoff what was those


Dodge they were like a big jeep built by Dodge or International. They had twin mounted machine guns on permanently on pardon? Oh they were Dodge or International. They were a bigger four wheel drive, big ute, and they would go out for three weeks on their own, these two


vehicles. Radio, they carried their own water, fuel. Their job was to we saw he's died some time ago, Arthur Rowe. He visited us. I wouldn't a recognised him. He'd aged. 'Cause they were out in the desert on their own.


No radio, dead radio silence I should say, and their job was to infiltrate at night enemy airfields and destroy aircraft. They did that on a few occasions. What they did was they'd spot planes going in to land. They oh they were trained in camouflage


too, you know hiding yourself. Well they'd go within four mile of the five mile of the enemy airfield and at just at dusk set off walking through the desert, which might save them two hours, and they'd just go along to each cockpit. In one night they got nine, they told us anyway, with a delayed


action ah time bomb and then walk back to the their vehicle and then go for the lick a their lives. The Germans never knew why their nine planes suddenly blew up. They destroyed a lot of planes or ammunition dump or petrol dump.
So they…
They were the forerunners of the SAS.


They that was the first work that they did when they got over to North Africa? They went straight into that work or did they…?
No, no, no.
Started with you in the squadron?
Oh no, no, no, no.
They left us. We never saw them again.
So you parted ways with them in Australia and they went off and did their it's did you part ways with them in Australia or once you got over to
Oh this was in 1942.
End of '42.
So initially they went to North Africa
Oh they went as ordinary bods.
With you?
They called for volunteers.


Obviously it was pretty grim working in the desert, being on the move all the time.
What how did you keep your spirits up?
It's something I've discussed with the boys that I've met from time to time and we don't know what we did. We never got dispirited. I can speak for meself and I don't know of anybody if I've my


friends most of 'em are have gone, passed on. Ones I've seen and spoken to or their wives I've spoken to. No way were we dispirited, down hearted or anything for no other reason than I can I cannot explain it. I got scared a couple a times, really scared,


but not for long and when it was over when I was in London I was in an air raid overnight in London, about the only night I spent in London is in an air raid and the bomb was right next door. That scared the livin' daylights out of me because they were testing out the new air anti-aircraft defence, which was multiple rockets, and they let about forty rockets off at once.


Do you recall what sort of things you might do to wind down? Would blokes play cards? Would you get letters in the desert or you'd never see a letter?
Well I can't remember getting wound up. Maybe with anger. Anger with an unmentioned nation who were our allies, supposedly.


You don't want to mention who you're referring to?
No. Ah the AIF, 9th Divvie, had cleaned up. There's a war on at Bardia, which was right on the coast. A town. Oh no it's a and there's a big battle going and we were within a


listening distance of what was going on. We're on an airfield and the Red Cross came up and set up a big marquee and we become a casualty clearing station for the air ambulance and I'd had a bit of first aid training so I was sort of seconded very easily into trying to help these poor


beggars. They'd been patched up in a forward first aid station. Like if you ever watched the show 'M.A.S.H.' well it was a second grade M.A.S.H. [Mobile Army Surgical Hospital] These were patients they couldn't patch up. We had a flying ambulance, a there was two Australian flying ambulances over there. Both were De Havilland


Rapides, which were the original type of plane that Qantas flew in the Northern Territory, a biplane twin engine. Red Cross all over them. No camouflage. They landed on our drome, picked up the five were only carry five passengers and a nurse and a doctor and a pilot. We saw that plane shot down


about two mile away at a height of about a thousand feet. I got angry. We all got angry. We got onto our sister squadron, 450, I don't know how. By radio most likely or intercepted by radio. They had three Kittyhawks in


flight on patrol. When they heard what had happened that bloke didn't last long. That's one time when I got angry. Really upset. We all did.
So it was a friendly fire situation was it?
Oh no, no, no, no. This lone Messerschmitt thought he'd have a he'd have a kill to his name. He got a kill to his name alright. I'm trying to think of the other


instance. Can't recall the other instance now. No that, I mean the whole of the everybody heard about this air ambulance being shot down.
You just mentioned your sister squadron, 450.
I believe that you had a special nickname for them because they would be the ones


who would often end up in the newspaper rather than you?
No, that was number 3 Squadron. Number 3 Squadron was an Australian squadron not controlled by the air force, or Royal Air Force. Not paid by the air force and they were on six month exchange. So they were rotated every six month. We were over there, period. We were not on exchange. We were there 'til they'd finished with us and they did a good job.


They had top planes. Wonderful food. Wonderful conditions in comparison to ours. I never saw them, the unit, but we heard about them through the paper. "Number 3 Squadron does it again."
What was the nickname?
Oh, the paper girls. See the set up with us was all the four hundred and so on


numbered squadrons were seconded into the RAF and lost their Australian identity. So to be politically correct was RAAF, 451 RAAF in brackets, (RAF) squadron and that's why you won't find any history in Australia


of our squadrons. I had to find that out because I wanted some particular information and I was given a clue and I can't think for the moment from where it came and I contacted the vet…


the War Memorial historian, or one of them, and explained to him the situation and the reason he couldn't give me the information that I needed was that it wouldn't find it in Australia because there was no Australian squadron as 451. It'd all be in London, which it turned out it was.


I've forgotten the exact reason. Anyway we sorted it out and it cleared up a lot of problems a lot of misconceptions later on because whilst we were allowed to wear Australian uniform we were paid Royal Australian Air Force rates, I told you all this anyway, and obeyed RAF rules and had an RAF identification and


pay book and we were not allowed to have an Australian CO and no Australian officer would exceed the rank of wing commander. I've said it before and then I think the beginning of '43 the Australian government lowered the boom. We had a bit of clout then by this time and we got our identity, but it still didn't alter


451 Squadron RAAF (RAF). That's why we always found it hard to get rations. Get they get plenty of fuel and that kind of thing, and spare parts, but couldn't get any tucker. We had to scrounge for tucker. Half the time was fed by the AIF in what was then Palestine now Israel.
That time being mobile moving around in the harsh conditions


do you have memories of it being a good experience? Did from day to day were you managing to have a reasonable time there yourself as far as
Oh yeah. Yeah.
Quality of the experiences concerned?
Oh well as good as could possibly be. We made the best of what we of what of what we did, of what we had. A pack a cards,


mail used to take anything between five to eight months to get through, which was something we could never understand and I don't know what we did. I've spoken to others and we don't know how we filled our spare time. Yarning, larking around. There was nothing to see, nothing to do. I write letters,


yeah, well I was a terrible letter writer. Um…
Interviewee: Leonard Hayman Archive ID 1577 Tape 06


I'll just take you back to Syria. You had some good times there apparently on your when you had time off. Can you talk about some of the time what you did when you had time off in Syria?
In Syria. You went and visited a few different places. Beirut, Tel Aviv.
Oh yeah.
Tell us about that.
Well one of the best times we had was when it snowed. We were snowed in. The pass was blocked for quite a couple


a weeks, which means that the airstrip it was a full airstrip. Asphalt, concrete, or something at Rayak was the actual location. We went skiing in the Syrian alps, which is used to be the French ski resort pre-war because


Lebanon which is adjacent to Syria, that's bet Lebanon is between the Mediterranean and Syria. Narrow strip of land. Ah and we used to get up as far as we could to the mountain and then ski down. I don't ask me where the skis came from.


Anyway there's a place called The Cedars, world renowned, up from Tripoli. Tripoli [Beirut] the capital of Lebanon. Far different from what you see on the screen. Different race almost. We were a few of us were invited to come up for the night. Well we got a vehicle by some means. That was


oh only about a hundred, hundred and sixty k I suppose. We went up there. We stayed the night. Went skiing the next day. We weren't skiers, but we had fun on skis. Well there was no means of getting up the hill except the old zig zag pattern up the hills but we had a ball and then when the weather


changed more to our liking we used to get down occasionally through the alps, through the what was known as the Syrian alps, down to the beach at Beirut, which has been in the news quite a lot. We did get over to Damascus. We thumbed a ride, there was always military traffic. Thumbed a ride to Damascus and just for the day.


We weren't terribly popular.
Why do you say that?
Well they were Syrians and we were Australian and the only nation where we, Lebanon and Syria were the only nations where we weren't top dog and the base


at Rayak, which was up in the hill in the alps, was ideal. Beautifully must a cost a fortune to build. We had comfortable quarters, rooms to ourselves and all this kind a thing. Motor transport. Proper runways. I personally wasn't there that long but the nearest


village was Zahle, Z-A-H-L-E, and we used to go in there occasionally and there was a theatre there, see a show, and I don't know that we had a wonderful time there. We had a better time. Living quarters, well get out of dirt and dust and plenty no shortage of water. Cooler climate.


Alpine air and the occasional trip down to Beirut, which was only a oh say eighty k.
What was Beirut like during the war from your perspective?
Beirut was a lovely city there. It was a really a nice top French city. Basically French. All the shop assistants had to speak English, French, Greek,


Arabic and before they even got in the front door and by speak it I mean fluently and the Syrian pound there was nine Syrian pound, or Lebanese pound, to the pound sterling. So we had a lotta money, in theory.
But the locals weren't that friendly to you?


Oh they weren't a'gin us but they weren't for us. Any more than the Palestinians were then. Jewish people couldn't do enough for us. I I've never found a nicer race than Jewish people in their home land. They accepted us with open hearts.


We were stationed I just found out the name of the place, St Helens, which is in Northern Israel on an olive grove. We were camped there on a bit of R&R [Rest and Recreation] and you've heard a the communal living?
The kibbutz?
The kibbutz. Yeah. Also sometimes they were called ganns.


Anyway this was a kibbutz and we were just, I don't think we were flying. I can't remember. Anyway by chance this was in from Haifa. Do you know Haifa? Right and due East of Haifa, by a few mile, and we got friendly with the with the


people, 'cause we're always neighbouring them. Almost neighbourly and they invited us in. I can't think of the word, I used to know it, the end of the fasting from mid from sunset Friday 'til sunset Saturday?
Lent was it or
No. I
I'll think of it. It'll come back to me.
And at the end of the fast, which is done every week, there's a whoop de do


big dig dang. All very sober. All very proper but you have a ball. That's where we learnt Greek dancing, which got me. We went there as often as possible in the short time we were there. Might a run I might a been there half a dozen times and we learnt a lot about the


kibbutz. How they were formed and rules and regulations and rights and so forth but they were poor. They had they lived on income from their orange grove and most a the food was centred around oranges. Orange juice and orange salads and all that kind a thing


and when we used to be treated as equals. Most of them could speak English. All of them were educated. They were all refugees from Europe and we loved the dancing. It's three or four of them. We absolutely loved the dancing and the music. We used to speak a little Yiddish. Used to speak a little


Arabic, so we got by. They respected us and we respected them but a kibbutz in those days was hard but it was good.
Did they make you work in the kibbutz?
Oh very extremely welcome. As though we were part of the family.
Did they make you work in the kibbutz?
Oh no, no, no, no, no, no. I thought you said welcome, sorry. No, no. Oh no, no, no. Nobody


works Saturday. Nobody. Not even to bake a loaf of bread.
And you'd only you'd go that Saturday would be your day off as a rule?
Well we went there after sunset Sunday and we didn't fly at night. So we used to sneak over there. 'Course we didn't go 'til all hours because they had to work like dogs on the Sunday. No we might get back home


at midnight but you know a piano accordion, a guitar, a zither and um balalaika and piano. All playin' that lonely, oh I can't think of the name. Starts with A h. Nah, it's gone.
That's alright and were you mar you were married to Merle at


this stage before you went off to the war, had you and Merle married?
After the war, yeah we were married, yeah.
Ah during the war had had you actually
No, well she was in Australia and I was in Europe.
So you were but you were corresponding by
Oh yes.
Did you was it hard to be away from her for all that time or was it
Well it wasn't easy. Wasn't easy. You just don't think about it. That's all.


Wasn't easy being home but you don't think about it.
Okay. I have another question sort of related to loss.
Did you experience at all a seeing a pilot off and him not coming at home not coming back on one of the planes that you'd fixed? That you'd prepared?
I'm sorry. I missed some of that.
Okay. Had did you ever prepare a plane and see a pilot off that never came back?


A pilot that was killed? Did you…?
Yeah. Yeah I've seen
Did you deal with that much?
Yes. I did. His name was Pilot Officer Rolands. I have a photo of him in there. We were as pally as you could be. Pilot Officer Rolands. I can't even think of his name. It was on his five fifth recce [reconnaissance] trip. We thought he was just missing in action but no, anti-aircraft fire got him.


Whereabouts were you when that happened?
Ah in Libya, which is a very big place.
Alright. Well I wanted to get onto Tobruk now.
And really talk about that in some detail.
Can you just take us there with you
And explain you what your time was like there? Can


you tell us…?
What happened while you were in Tobruk. Why you went there
Well. Well I have a photo out there of the underground hangar that I didn't know I had and I have a photo of our domicile, which I didn't know I had, which was a hole two foot deep about eight foot square with a small tarpaulin over it and sand bags around it. That was home sweet home.


Say fifty yards from the nearest bivouac and that's the other time I've been scared because the bomb was pretty close. That blew a dug out up not far from us and some a the debris fell on our tent.
Are you referring to a bombing on one par on a particular night or did that happen every night or frequently?
Oh it hap…


oh did do have you recalled Lord Haw Haw?
I've heard of that name.
You've heard of him?
Right. Two stories about Haw Haw. I digress a bit. Half way across the Indian Ocean in the Queen Mary the captain of the Queen Mary put over the public address system, “I think you should all listen to this." We heard the tail end of it but we heard it full


later. "This is Lord Haw Haw speaking. We want to send our sympathies in the grief of all the mothers, sweethearts and wives of the personnel on the Queen Mary, which was sunk this morning with all hands,” and we were on it listening to this conversation choofed along.


Now he next time he bobbed up was at Tobruk. Used to listen to the radio there, army radio, and we listened to him every night at about four-thirty of an afternoon and we swear he was helping us. Swear to this day because he'd say, “Well the usual raid's on


today. You'd better have an early dinner or you'll get shot to pieces as you line up to get your whatever." So we brought our meal hour forward from five to four. We had our meal, got back into our hole and sure enough over they came with the strafing raid. That happened not on one occasion but on a few occasions.


I've heard soldiers say in Greece how they got out of bother sometimes from what he said on the 'Berlin Calling.' "This is Lord Haw Haw." We reckoned he deserved a medal. They hung him instead. Hanged him instead. Now we were up to?
Well to Tobruk and your experience of Tobruk.


I'd first of all, why were you sent to Tobruk?
Well we were sent to Tobruk because in Tobruk, unbeknown to ninety nine per cent of the world, was an underground hangar in which there were two Hurricanes, which were air worthy and I in my trade, a mate of mine in his trade and another person to fill in.


I think five in all were selected for some unknown reason. What had happened is, during the Tobruk had been surrounded for five months, or more, and they'd the forces inside Tobruk and the forces outside


Tobruk, which were the on which was the advancing 9th Divvie, had broken through the German line around Tobruk and opened up a corridor about a mile wide. Well they zipped us through that corridor on the back of a truck with all our gear and the next day the Germans closed the corridor by sheer force.


Well we were stuck there for awhile, quite awhile. In that time we checked the planes and so forth. The planes only flew a few times. The pilots were they used to sneak them in either by an old transport plane or on a British destroyer. Tobruk harbour was full of sunken ships. Had been a beautiful little harbour and


we were there to ensure that firstly if Tobruk fell, which it did eventually, the planes wouldn't be hijacked and also if needed in emergency could be out to assist the ground forces or to do a bit of reconnoitring and we worked underground in


the hangar. We didn't stay in there. It was a bit too risky.
How many hours a day would you be working in Tobruk?
Oh I'm sorry. We… it wasn't a regular thing. We just looked at the plane, make sure it was still there and that was it.
The two planes you were looking after
What were they mostly used for, while you were there?
Well they practically, as I said, they only flew three, two or three times.


And that can you take us through those two or three times they did fly? What you actually had to do? What your role was and…?
My role? Was just to make sure they were ready for flight on call, which was easy. Start the engines. I mean as a crew start the engines and make sure they were right and refuel, plenty of oxygen, plenty of air. See you got air brakes and all that kind a thing, so


sometimes you had to manually pump up the air rather than the compressor on the engine and just generally be there in case they had to take off because the crew that had been there it's time they'd had a break.
And the pilots that flew these planes
Were they the same pilot?
No, no. They
Did you have the same crew?
No, no, no, no, no. They were in and out.
Why was that?
I wouldn't


What was it like at Tobruk? What was did you experience bomb raids and
It was pretty hairy I'll admit, only Tobruk was a beautiful harbour at the bottom of like a deep depression. It was pretty big, the area, the whole of the area, and the area we were they were only interested in the harbour as far as air raids


concerned and the area we were right on maybe a mile from the air from the harbour. So we were relatively safe except when somebody got an idea that he might you know stir us up a bit. The perimeter was heavily guarded. Really heavily guarded.
What was it like at night? Did you experience any of the battles at night?
Oh well the


raids were always at night. Or dusk. Bombing raids were always at night. They never come over in the day. Goodness me, they'd be cut to pieces.
Can you describe one of those what it was like at night? Can you take us through it?
Yeah. A typical bombing raid at night? At Tobruk?
Well we chummed up with a bunch a Kiwis [New Zealander], bunch might be six or eight, who'd been there for some months and had a dug out this enormous


fox, this enormous why do words fail me?
Dug out. Reinforced as much as possible on the roof with a zig zag stairs down for a reasonable amount of safety and I've always kept this thought with me. We had our little


bivouac canvas and Brian and I were laying in there you know with our tin hats. Nuts we were. We were safe with a tin hat on and we saw these Kiwis up there suckin' away on a fag you know. Not a care in the world. So we went over and had a chat to them. One of them said


"Well look here Snowy," he said, “If the bullet's got my number on it I'm gone whether I'm don't matter where I am. Under, over or what. So I'm gonna watch the fireworks,” and I've accepted that since. If it's gonna happen, it's gonna happen. A lot were like that. Murphy's law.
What was it like seeing the fire works? Did you actually


can you describe that
There's a photo there I've got of a of an air raid. All the tracer bullets. See the harbour was virtually a circle with a little opening, fortunately, which the Germans tried to close, and all the aircraft defences were around the edge of the harbour in rows and they'd all be firing up like this and I got a shot of the all the tracers.


Better than better than fire works.
And the noise?
Oh terrific noise, yeah. All the aircraft guns from twenty millimetre up to big eighty millimetre anti-aircraft guns, Bofor guns, forty mil. We used to call them the boppum, boppum, boppum because that's just what they used to, they still use them by the way.


It's the same weapon on um on the patrol boats. They were so dependable. Just like a big a big machine gun and it was noisy. It was never long. The Stukas [German Junkers dive bombers] were unnerving in a sense. Stukas you know come down like that and they had one bomb each they used to drop. They would dive bomb them and


they used to put a little siren on the front of the bomb and as it came down it screamed and when it hit, very seldom accurately, but the AIF anti-aircraft gunners had them sown up 'cause they were a very under powered unit, the Stukas. Very under powered. They'd come down at four hundred mile an hour and go up at one hundred mile an hour. Well they


wanted to get away quickly so they'd try and climb steeply. So whether they come that way or that way, the AIF anti-aircraft were waiting and beautiful belly shots, to put it bluntly.
So you'd watch the Stukas
Oh we used to watch…
Fall down out of the sky?
Oh I watched the Stukas, yeah. Had to watch 'em, "eeeeeeeeeeee.” You couldn't stop them from dropping the bomb but you stopped him from getting away.


Did you witness any POWs [Prisoners of War] being taken?
Yeah. Oh yeah. Funniest thing I've seen was Italian, must a been about eight thousand, marching along the road to Cairo. That was a macadamised tarred road. Maybe ten thousand and about a dozen AIF rifles with their slung over their shoulders guarding them, taking them


back to Cairo to be put in the POW camp. That's quite, in fact I've got another photo of that. That's quite amusing.
Why? What can you des… what does the picture of that look like? Can you…?
Oh they were a
Describe it?
A rag tag bunch. They were. The Germans didn't want 'em. We didn't want 'em.
Why do you say that the Germans didn't want them? Why do you say the Germans didn't want them?
Well he couldn't trust


'em as a fighting force. 'Course there was always the good the good ones, as there is in every nation, but as a whole definitely no. Definitely no.
Did you have much to do with the AIF while you were in Tobruk?
Oh yes. Oh yes. Yeah I mean we were not in a other one that general camaraderie you know. You're all mates over there. If the


in town or city or whatever and in trouble you just had to scream out, “Aussie Aussie Aussie,” or something and I don't know where they used to come from, but they were there.
So how long were you in Tobruk altogether?
Oh not a matter of only about seven, seven or eight weeks I think.
Was that amongst the most challenging time for you while you were over in the Middle East? In


Northern Africa? Was that was that probably the most
I never regarded it as a challenge you know. Never regarded it as a challenge. It was just a job. I mean it, it was I didn't find anything a challenge over there, except that when we became a casualty clearing station. That'll always stick in my mind. These poor beggars hurriedly bandaged and patched up. Given a


couple a shots of morphine and all we could do was give 'em a cigarette and a cup a tea. You know on an army type stretcher. Waiting for the plane. Some of them lasted. Oh get a drink of tea or put roll 'em a cigarette. That's couldn't do anything else for them. Some of them made it, some of them didn't. They all would have made it if that plane hospital um airplane hadn't been


shot down.
How long did you spend in that casualty in the hospital?
Oh it was only a matter of days. Two or three days, which was quite enough.
And that was ob you obviously found that very hard to deal with compared to fixing planes as it as you might say? The comparison.
Oh it was some something different I can assure you. It we the allies won the battle quite easily.


in that same battle seven of our squadron were taken POWs. They were given a pretty hard time but they were only POWs for three weeks and when we released them they'd each lost about two, two stone. I remember one corporal, tall thin red-headed bloke he come back as skinny as a drink a water and but good came out of it


because we got a couple a motor bikes. We got a tractor and we got a bus.
How did you manage to score those things?
You don't ask questions. We got a bus and we thought, “What in the devil are we gonna do with this bus?" So we had a medical orderly. His name Dick Brodie. His name nickname was Dr Dick.
Was this in Libya that this occurred?


Where did this occur?
No this was at Bardia, which is
At Bardia. Mmm.
Between Cairo and Libya. Not far from the Libyan border. We got a bus and we had a marvellous doctor. A wonderful MO [Medical Officer]. Worked himself to death, literally, and he said, “I wouldn't mind this bus." We wouldn't


deny him anything. So this is where the air frame fitters came in. We ripped the inside out of it and we made it a mobile surgery. Sick bay, carrying six patients. Could carry six patients. A bunk for the doctor. One for Dr Dick the medical orderly and a driver. Filled it up with water with extra water tanks, fuel tanks and


painted it white. Put big red cross on it and had it all nicely done up and the doc he had he had the only personal ambulance
In the Middle East. Montgomery, general at the time, later field marshall, I had a lot a time for him. He's only a little bloke but he was all he was a man.


He spotted it. "That's mine," and we said, "I got news for you sport." "I'll be 'round to pick it up. Don't quote me. I'll be 'round to pick it up tomorrow morning." Nobody could find it. It vanished. Quite a lot of people got into a lot of strife but we didn't lose that ambulance. We got it back


when he moved on. Nobody dobbed us in and we had a very well equipped mobile surgery.
So that went with your unit wherever you went or…?
Oh yes. It followed us. It was part of it.
Did you make much use of it during that…?
Well I couldn't tell you. I couldn't tell you.
You mentioned before that there was a lot there was always


Red Cross parcels and YMCA [Young Men’s Christian Association] parcels. Would it matter where you were they…?
They always found us. Trunks they were. Little panel vans and we'd be fifty, sixty, eighty, hundred, two hundred miles from nowhere and to see these trail a dust and we'd think, "What's coming?" You know and in'd come the YMCA truck.


Happy as Larry. Opened the door. "Come on. Cakes and a cup a chai" and we'd have a cake and a cup of tea. Chat. Get all the news, such as it was, and maybe stay for two hours. Then they'd go over to the other flight and stay for two hours and
They were Australians?
They were Australians?
Yep and then they'd vanish. Always two days later


the Salvos'd [Salvation Army] come up with the same deal exactly but they used to charge us tuppence. Not that we minded the tuppence. Rock cakes. I don't know where they got them from. We never asked. I don't think they might they might have had their own kitchen but this was never very far from Cairo, any more than a hundred miles from Cairo, but they were most welcome. Thank God for the Salvos.


They'd have notepapers and pens and envelopes. Anything along those lines that were to help you. Then there was the roving padres. They're a story themselves. We used to call them the Marx Brothers. Roman Catholic, a Congregation and a Church of England minister. They were the greatest of mates.


They always rolled in unannounced. Dirty grubby lookin' hobos and we wouldn't know they were there. The tent'd open, “G'day mate." "Oh." Always welcome. Said a little prayer. Had a little service. Bit of a chat then move on. Well they stuck together 'til Corsica. That was two years


later. Then one a them was killed. The Church of England man was recalled to England and the other one couldn't take it. He couldn't take it. Losing his mates and being on his own. He just couldn't handle it and he did what he did. It was pretty stressful
Must have been…


For them. We used to admire them tremendously.
And when they arrived and they did their service would all the blokes participate in that or…?
Oh anybody that wanted to, yeah. Sometimes the service'd be in your tent. About six of you. 'Cause I always remember there opening mine, “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name I am in their midst."


That was their philosophy. Didn't matter whether what religion you were. That was their philosophy. Never asked for anything. Oh they had, “Do you want any mail posted," or you know. They would just drop in. They were three Australians.
You wouldn't remember their names by chance?
You would you remember their


Ah I can find out. I could find out. I could find out from John Colbert.
You also went to El Alamein?
El Alamein, yeah.
Can you tell us why you went there? You spent
Well we were sent there. El Alamein
Why did they send you there?
Is about sixty mile, I'm sorry I the reason it's in miles, I can equate to


sign posts.
That's fine.
All of El Alamein was Alamein was a little railway station maybe two hundred yards long with a name plate on it which was half missing and all you could see was 'A mein'. You could see that from the highway. That was why it was called El Alamein. You want to know what El Alamein was?
Yeah. Why you were sent there.
We weren't


sent there. Well the reason to back up the 8th army. See there was thirty, forty, fifty, sixty-seven thousand men, maybe hundred and fifty I don't, I've forgotten, all ready for the big push. 'Cause either Rommel broke through and took Cairo or we pushed him right back to right back to Italy


and they waited months. They had hundreds of artillery lined up. We were at twelve to fifteen mile due South, maybe a little in advance, of the front line and early in the morning these barrage opened up and kept going for three days, day and night. They must have fired thousands of shells,


artillery shells. Totally demoralising the Germans, which could be done, 'cause they'd had a bellyful, the Afrika Korps, as they were known as and we won the push. That's why on our North Africa Star we have a little rosette. Montgomery


said it was a way to thank our squadron for our effort in winning our in El Alamein. That's why I admired our pilots so much, 'cause they had to fly through hell to get the photos. Get back to the likes of Montgomery and Alexander to know what was happening in front of them.
When you say, “fly through hell"…
What when you said they, “fly through hell"…


The pilots, yeah.
Yeah. What would be some of the things they would be encountering?
Well they're just flying straight and narrow taking photos. Same height, same direction for about ten mile.
Can you tell us a little bit about what you actually had to do at El Alamein?
Just keep them flying. Keep them flying and be ready to move either back or either retreat or to go forward


and to keep every plane in the air that we possibly could at all times. We couldn't fly at night 'cause they couldn't land. They could take off in the dark and in the semi-dark but they could land in the land in the in the day light.
And what kind of planes were you…?
Hurricanes again. The old war horse. They'd been through the Battle of Britain. Amazing. None of 'em were new.


Did you have a lot of respect for the Hurricanes or did you think…?
Oh great, great respect. Disappointed that it was an attack weapon but it was out a date for the to what we were up against. Like the ME109, EF and G. [Messerschmitts] Out manoeuvred and out sped, out gunned.
These were the planes the Germans were flying?
On the


that was for the Hurricane itself but of course then on the other hand other squadrons had Kittyhawks or Tomahawks, which are the top at the time the top American. Ah then later we got Spitfires, which evened up the score, and Hurricanes slowly faded out.
What about equipment? Your mechanical equipment? Were you always able to get the supplies that you needed in El Alamein?
Most times,


most time. There was a few grades of equipment. If you sent a requisition. I don't know how the requis…
Interviewee: Leonard Hayman Archive ID 1577 Tape 07


Len, at the end of the last tape you were telling us a bit about the process of ordering in equipment at Alamein and you were


starting to tell us about the fact that you'd write orders in code.
Oh yes, write orders in code. There was various codes as regards urgencies. I remember one in particular was AOG, Aircraft On Ground, which was bad news. So if you sent in, hypothetically, 'Two tyres


AOG' that got priority and there's other codes but the AOG well most of the stores was down near along the canal and they would be trucked by fast truck to Cairo. The air drome, air port there was Heliopolis, which very ancient name,


and then the courier plane'd take off at midnight and do all the flights they had to do. That was for the urgent the other stuff, well we got through by road.
I gather there was a bit of there was turnover of pilots through the time that you were over there but I also gather that it was harder to find replacement ground crew. That you were…
No, that was the
You were very precious?


Well the… no, there was very little turnover of pilots in North Africa. We were fortunate, we didn't lose many. Ah none of them that I know of suffered from battle fatigue or anything like that. I'm only relying on memory now, 'cause pilots came and went and you had no knowledge of why. You didn't ask


because you wouldn't get told anyway. Ah but there was but they did rotate pilots more often than they rotated we were not rotated at all.
You mentioned that you had a story to tell us about…
A CO called Dixie?
One of our COs, his nickname was Dixie, he was a wing commander. He was a dinki di Australian. He had been a


boxer with the Sharman troupe [boxing circus]. Ever heard of the Sharman troupe? So he was pretty tough. He liked his drop and a he never wore as soon as he left camp he took his badge a rank off and wore an ordinary fur felt. Put his officers' cap away. He was one of the boys. I been out with him a few


times. Takes his epaulets off, takes his hat off and that's why we called him Dixie because we didn't sometimes we stepped up, called him Sir. However he's in this club and this fella was being totally obnoxious and Dixie was not an offensive person as such. He went up to this bloke and he said, “Look, I've had a gutful a you.


If you don't shut up I'll chop you and chuck you out." "Oh you can have your go." So Dixie dropped him. One of our own squadron men. So two mornings later Dixie, just a pair a shorts nothing else, goes to this bloke's tent and called him out and the fella thought he was in trouble.


Dixie said, “Look here so and so. I took advantage of you a couple a nights ago and dropped you cold. Now I'm in no rank. I'm the same rank as you are. If you to sort it out I'll see you 'round the back." There was, “No. Please don't worry." That's the sort of bloke one of our COs and that's why we wanted Australian COs.


So it was a relief for you blokes when you finally did have the Australian COs after…
Oh yes, well we
Could relate to them. They could the English could not relate to the Australian way of doing the job. I mean we always got the job done. I'm not just saying it, it's fact.


Right throughout history we got the job done. That's why we've got such great inventors.
Can you tell me about the time you got lost in the desert?
Yep. That was Christmas '42, '41 going into '42. A long convoy. I was with the I was on an old Crosley, which


was a four cylinder diesel chugalug four wheel drive. Very slow vehicle loaded to the hilt and being a four cylinder big truck it lumbered along and this dust storm, a severe dust storm, hit us and you're blind. Totally blind. You can't see. You drive on. We


happened to drive on and we come to a border marking post. Libya on one side, Egypt on the other. So we thought, “Well we don't know where we're going." We knew if we went South we'd get lost. If we went North we'd eventually hit the Mediterranean Sea. So we decide to form a circle and stay. Ah Sandy Adams, that's his nickname, we correspond regularly.


He's getting very old now. He was with us and we laugh about this, how we got lost and in the photo, if you see it, we're the grubbiest bunch of tramps you'd ever see. Oh we had uniforms, overcoats, caps, balaclavas. It was cold and we got lost for three days 'cause we had sense enough to sit tight.


It cleared and then we got our bearings of found home but we obeyed the rules. "Stay where you are."
Was that a nerve wracking experience for you?
Was that nerve wracking at the time for you?
No, no, no. Just one of those things. It's a funny you learn to take it as it comes. We had a good old laugh about it after. We got hell for


getting lost because now, when you're in convoy you are stationed two hundred yards apart in five lanes and that's how your convoy moves. So no matter which way a plane would come through strafing if he was lucky he could get no more than three trucks. So it's very easy to get lost.


At one spot there we got a sandstorm every afternoon at three o'clock and by about half quarter past five it'd go.
Can you tell me a bit about the wooden decoy planes that you made?
Yeah. Whilst we were


Edcu, Edcu, we were sort of sorting ourselves out. Training. The pilots were learning. We were learning and up the other end of the airfield somebody in all their wisdom had put six or seven mock up planes, which were very crude shaped fake bits


of canvas and timber frame and the Iti's [Italians] must have had a sense a humour 'cause one evening they came over and dumped five bombs on 'em, harmless wooden bombs.
And can you tell me about the time that you found a Messerschmitt and converted it or painted it and got it in use?
Well we didn't


actually find it, it found us. It was painted, obviously, into our colours. The randle was put on it. No squadron markings on it. It was a beautiful plane. We had to learn from the German which was what. It was all reverse to the British plane. Like the throttle and mixture control and all that was on the


right and the flap was on the left. Our pilots had a bit a fun, otherwise there was a plane, a flyer, but they had a marvellous time with that.
Were you impressed by the plane? By the way it was built?
Well we never went into it quite frankly. We were didn't get very near it at all.
Do you have a


an idea of how many times you ended up having to move while you were in the North African area?
Well I have a list in one a the books which you can which we could find out of all the what's a names. I thought it was much more than it is but it must be 'round the twenty five mark, twenty five mark, from May from June


'41 to October '43.
So where did you go at October '43?
Me personally?
Yeah, where did you
I was I was excess, considered excess, with quite a few others because we were upgraded from a fighter reconnaissance to a


fighter, front line fighter unit. Therefore we lost six planes as come back to normal fighter status and a course the ground crew was excess. More useful elsewhere.
Did this happen when you were in Syria?
Ah I think we were based in Syria. Whether I was actually over in Cyprus


or back in Syria I just can't recall. I remember being posted down to Ismailiya, a holding unit there, and a couple a months later I'm on the boar on board the ship at the Alex at Port
Yeah yes, we did. We ran the we ran the Mediterranean. Must have been Alexandria, 'cause we stopped


overnight at Malta.
Just before we talk about heading out of Alexandria
Can you tell us about what you were doing in Cyprus?
Cyprus was patrolling the Eastern Mediterranean. That was our first inkling of a fighter squadron and we were on continually on patrol. We were forward patrol actually. Now Cyprus is a hundred


and ninety mile West of Lebanon, Beirut we'll say for the want of a better term and it was just hundred and ninety mile represents one hour's flying there and a hundred and another they represent two hours flying, which was a big saving. So they got the planes over there then they had two hours extra they could fly


from covering um into Sardinia and the Mediterranean in general. What the pilots actually did I have no knowledge. We just saw them off and saw them in.
So how long were you stationed in Cyprus?
Five months.
So you came back to Syria and that's when you found out that…
That you were…
That we were made


into a total front line fighter unit. Re-equipped with Spitfires, the latest, new, instead a second hand Hurricanes. In a way we were sad to see the second hand Hurricanes go because if they could get up in the air we knew they'd come back.
So you were essentially leaving the squadron at that point?
Oh yes, yes. Quite a few of us left.
Was that sad?


Well you took it, yes I wasn't pleased at all. "Why? Why?" You know, "What gives?" And yes, I didn't want to leave but you had no option. Your posting orders came through, which means I went to an RAF unit where I was held and they had me driving a truck as a matter of fact.


That filled the time in and then orders came through to embark on the SS Stratheden. You didn't know where I was going but the ship went that a way instead of that a way.
And were you getting on board with some of your mates from the old squadron?
Ah that I can't tell you. I know one of


my mates I was posted to posted out or was recalled to the squadron. He doesn't know why he was recalled. He had the same trade as I had. He was recalled and I wasn't.
When you were pulling out of Alexandria
Were you hoping that you were heading to Australia?
Well I wouldn't be because if we were heading for Australia we'd a been gone through the Suez. So we knew we were going


somewhere and we knew it was not a nice trip. The trip took (UNCLEAR) it took over thirty days. I to our knowledge from the navigators on board we went within perhaps a visual distance of coast of America, East coast of America. Up towards


Iceland and then we come down practically due South into the Irish Sea and into Liverpool praying that no subs were about, 'cause they were at that time they were pretty prevalent. The seas were particularly rough and I had my taste of a North Atlantic storm and didn't get


sea sick, so I was quite pleased.
So you had such a long and precarious path in order to try and avoid the submarines by the sounds of it.
Oh yes, zig zag. Oh yes, yes, yes. That's takes a lot of time but we sailed right in an enormous circle. Like West, West, West, West, West and a little bit a South then a little bit a North and a few days North and then North


East then East then well we didn't know where we were go oh we knew what we knew we must be winding up in Europe, but let's not forget Europe was still in German hands. So it could only have been Great Britain.
And while you were on board you were well aware of the threat of submarines and
Oh yes, very much. 'Cause the destroyers and escort ships were


flying up and down past us. We were part of a convoy. A very spread out convoy and there was the risk at any time. I don't recall any of the convoy being hit but seeing as it was so large could have been ten, twelve mile away down the back. I don't know if we were in the front or in the middle or where we were but we got through


unscathed. In fact the Stratheden, who sailed the seas for six years, never got a scratch.
Was that an opportunity for you to get a little bit of rest or was it pretty sort of tense and difficult to sort of recuperate on the ship?
Well we never looked for rest. I mean


perhaps we had a different view on life in those days. This was the way it is, and we accepted it. I mean that quite sincerely. The R&R we did get, we had got, was spent in Cairo or Alexandria or we might have nipped up to Tel Aviv. By the way, I steered you wrong


earlier. I should have said Beirut, not Tel Aviv. No, I don't think so. You didn't get much rest on a heaving sea.
Since you mentioned R&R in places like Cairo…
How did you find Cairo as a city?
Bustling city.


Very busy. We still couldn't get used to the fact that there weren't Australians, although they were there. Wherever I went the Australians were highly thought of, highly regarded. We seemed to get preferential treatment, for whatever reason, and I say that very proudly,


particularly in what was then Palestine now Israel and the same it goes today. I made a few friends in Israel or Palestine. Quite a few friends.
And did you mix with the locals in Cairo?
No. No, no, no, no, no, you never. No, opportunity. The only people you came in contact


was accidental passer bys. We did meet one in particular we were hitch hiking from, oh no that's the wrong way but we did get picked up and given a lift by a one of the heads of Shell company in the Middle East in his car on a trip to Cairo. We went out on the road with the thumb going.


Aussies had no trouble getting a lift and he took us to Cairo, took us to coffee, then invited us to his home. Well it was a typical Moroccan residence. You know the tessellated marble floor and columns, it was a beautiful home, for afternoon tea and then he drove us back into Cairo. That was one. He spoke


beautiful English. He was one of the top knobs. By the way, petrol motor transport petrol was four pence a gallon, which is less than a penny a litre.
Amazing. Alright, so just to go back to finishing the voyage the thirty-odd day voyage
Getting back to the U.K. [United Kingdom] Can


you tell me what happened next?
Well we sailed into Liverpool. We didn't know it was Liverpool until we saw the sign 'Liverpool' and everything was very well organised. We were told to pack and be ready to disembark and next morning a fleet a double decker buses. We marched down. Mind you there weren't many


air force that I could recall, a bit hazy there, and we marched to the buses. Hopped on the buses, which took us to the railway station. We hopped on the station, hopped on the train. The next thing we know we're in London. Have you been to London? Well I don't know what station we got off at


but then we had to get on another bus to take us to the station, which was Southern Railways, which took us to Brighton. So it was quite some trip. So we got to Brighton in the five or six in the morning. We were tired, I mean really tired, and everything was in darkness of course.


This was in the November, '43. Yep. Total darkness. We went in to through the black out curtains at this enormous building, which turned out to be the Hotel Metropole, which was the in pre-war the hotel in Brighton which was the place where one went to dunk one's toes in the ocean


and we were told to dump our kits. Breakfast would be ready in the basement. Well we went down the base into the basement. There were the greatest sight I've ever seen. There were hundreds of tables and there were girls. English girls. All service women. Big smiles on


their faces and we had a beautiful big breakfast. Hot cup a tea. You could talk to the person behind the counter in your natural language. We were Christmas, they weren't Australian WAAAFs [Women’s Australian Auxiliary Air Force] they were English WAAFs [Women’s Auxiliary Air Force] and then we were assigned our rooms. We were up on the seventh or eleventh floor, which was a bit of a drag. We were given the day and night off.


Next day we were mustered and I think we stayed there about three weeks when we were allocated. I was sent to 456 Squadron. Mosquito night fighter airborne radar, which was top notch, and that was I don't know


where. I can't remember. Only there for about three weeks and we were posted to a place called Bradfield-on-Sea, which is a narrow neck a land North of the Thames pointing towards France. That's when the Doodlebugs started to fly over. We'd switched to Mosquito 72s by then. A beautiful twin engine


night fighter, as I said.
So what squadron were you with there?
4 still 456?
456. RAAF in brackets (RAF) squadron and
Did you know much about Mosquitoes
Never saw…
At that point?
Well a plane's a plane. Control's a control. A few wise words. Elevated to the rank of corporal. There was no promotion in Africa.


Elevated to the rank of corporal and
And what did that mean for you? What was the outcome?
Six pence a day. Six pence a day and not havin' to do a lot of dirty jobs. So then we moved to the middle of Yorkshire moors and spent the winter where half the time they, not me, they spent in


clearing the snow off the runway and tarmacs.
Was it a very big
Camp there?
Mm. Church Fenton was its name, half way between York and Leeds. How many units were on it I don't know, was just too dispersed. Then we were upped and sent to a place called Ford, which would be about thirty to forty miles


West of Brighton where we had been held pending dispersement. Well it was beautiful down there. Sussex is the best of England. The beaches, Brighton Beach, Bognor Regis, Shoreham. I been to the lot of them and, Ford being in the middle of them, Ford was the


name of the actual air port aerodrome, whatever, air base that it was. The nearest village was Little Hampton. It was typical old British
This must have been a lovely change of pace
Oh it was
After what you'd been through?
It was marvellous. It was heaven. Had brick barracks, no we went into what had been peace time


married quarters. I don't know how many to a room but say a double bedroom there might be four beds in it but at least it was right. Coal was rationed so it wasn't that warm in the winter and everybody's issued with a push bike. That's how big the place is. If you want to if you were to be


on your plane and working on your plane and lunch time came up and you walked, you wouldn't get back time in time for tea. So push bike on the treadly and you don't have lunch. Every facilities. The Mosquito is a beautiful plane. I've never known one better, even today.
What makes it so good?


The quality of the plane. The lines of the plane. That was beautifully designed. All timber bar the engine cowley and the necessary essentials. She was fast. She was very fast. She had multiple uses. Fighter, fighter bomber or bomber and beautiful to maintain, beautiful to fly. Crew of two, pilot


and radar operator, and a deadly instrument. As I said, every afternoon every plane flew to test the radar. Radar airborne was in its infancy and used to have to be tested, tested, tested. So that actually doubled the work. The shifts were hard. You worked twenty four hours then you got


eight hours off. Then you worked twelve hours then you got twenty four hours off then you started again. So the twenty four hour shift was a long shift. You did your maintenance of a morning, your test fly and checks of an afternoon and in England the sun down comes early. So you got a long night.
And a lot of operations at night time?


A all, all operations were night. It was a night fighter ranger. Orders were, "See a light, shoot it." See a plane you were never allowed to shoot a plane down without visual identification. On board were, as was with every other plane, a box called the IFF, Identification Friend or Foe,


which was coded daily or bi-daily I've forgotten, which automatically you pressed a button it sent out a code and if the code wasn't returned he was a bandit. So he got blown away. Our CO there was Australian. He was a killer. Went up one night.


Come down. "Get any?" "Yeah, got one." He'd fired six twenty millimetre shells because we counted. It had four twenty millimetre callons, cannons under the nose. They were fast. One of their tricks was to take two of the cannon out, I believe that about the cannon, for


weight because the ammunition weighed too then put a four redesign the belly to take a four thousand pound bomb. Get airborne up to height, twenty-odd thousand feet and they shut one engine down and fly to Berlin. When in sight of Berlin, at a pretty good height, cut the other engine in, drop his bomb,


get out of range of Berlin's defences, cut one motor out. Cut the other motor out. That's how he got the range. If any trouble came, switch the other engine on and ‘pfffffft!’. A highly manoeuvrable, fast and hard to see.
That idea of cutting the engines in and out, was that developed
To save fuel.
Developed by anyone in particular?


No, no, just routine because I flew regularly in the Mosquitoes as passenger because the senior NCO, by that time I was, has by law air force law RAAF law, Australian, on an engine change one a the crew that assisted in changing the engine must fly on its first flight.


So I always used to jump at the chance and the pilot I liked very much. We were a bit pally. He in a Mosquito he sits up there and the navigator, radar operator, sits there. So you had to have radio intercom and his wife lived, I've told this story many times, his wife lived two or three miles from the drome


and he said the flight had been flier flying along he feathering port motor. Feathering means turning the blades of the propeller into the wind so it doesn't wind mill and cutting the ignition. You don't know any difference. Then the Beggar said, "Do you want a fright?" I said, “I don't know." So he cut the engine, the other engine,


out and we had no fans. He quickly cut them both in again because as soon as you feather the… unfeather the propeller it automatically starts itself. Then he said, “I think I'll call in and see my wife. She's got accommodation flat in a farm house." So I said, “Which one is it?" He said, “That's the one down there." Down we went and at


zero feet at about four hundred and fifty mile an hour and zoomed straight up in the air. He said, “We better see if she was alright." So we went around again, lower, and she's hangin' out the winda shakin' her fist. He'd woken her up. She was having a morning snooze, or afternoon snooze. It was quite hilarious. He


copped it that when he went home next morning.
So in that situation you would just do a bit of a test flight after you'd
Oh yes, yes, 'cause you'd fly the main function was for the pilot's safety and everybody's satisfaction that to test the engine and the best way to test it is by switching off the good engine


and see how she handles it. It shouldn't drop a lot in speed at all.
Were you still a corporal at that stage?
You were a still a corporal at that stage?
Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
And is that where you were stationed leading into D Day?
Yep. That was a sight and a half that. I'll tell ya the time. Ten past twelve. We'd just seen a flight off,


flight of six I think, which was extraordinary. Six Mosquitoes off on night patrol and we saw all these stars, lights in the sky. Green, red and white. We'd never seen it ever 'cause no any flying we'd seen at night there was no lights at all


and a few metres behind there'd be another set of lights and as far as we could see in any direction was these lights. We still didn't the penny still didn't drop. Then it finally dropped, "This is the invasion." Then we could we didn't hear the noise of the planes. Then we knew it was on.


Well being a night fighter night ranger was forgotten for the next few days. We just flew night and day. Flew the pants off the plane. I know I worked for seventy hours straight 'til I flaked out. I just couldn't do anymore. So they put me to bed. I woke up next day and carried on as usual but they


flew the pants off everything they had. They threw the lot at them. We got five Heinkels the first night, Heinkel bombers the first night, who were trying to disrupt the landing. So that was good. We were continually getting flying bombed, the V1. The Yanks used to call 'em the Doodlebugs. That was the little flying self controlled bomb. Jet propelled.


We had an excellent record, 456, as a fighter squadron. In a night fighter squadron radar airborne radar everything depends on the communications between the radar operator and the pilot. Pilot depends on the radar operator. He spots a blip on a tiny little


screen in those days, say about six, seven inches square, and the read out gives him what distance it is away and the position of the blip on the screen tells him whether he's up, down, left or right and he sort a honed the pilot in on the plane and then the pilot had to by RAAF law


visually identify the plane before shooting and if he was unidentified you took what option you thought necessary. If you identified him as a bandit just gave him the four barrels. So they depended on they had to be a team.


A good team. We lost one I know of…
Interviewee: Leonard Hayman Archive ID 1577 Tape 08


We're on the home straight. We'll just ask you a few more questions and…
We're on the home straight now.
Good. You get the whip out now do you?
Not quite. Okay. I just wanted to pick up the story where
Sean [interviewer] left off. You were telling us about one of your warrant officers that had that was killed on D Day?


Oh yes. Yes. Do you know I can't recall his name, which is disgusting. Warrant officer and his radar operator he chased the first of the V1s and he got instructions to shoot it down and not knowing what it was all about he got normal range of four hundred yards


and struck it so easily and of course it was filled with one tonne of explosive. In the explosion, the blast, flipped his plane up over onto its back straight into the sea. We couldn't save him. Well we he wasn't able to be saved but the lesson learnt from that was you did not shoot a V1 Doodlebug


at any range less than six any range less than six hundred yards. It was a pity because that was the first one.
What were the living conditions like in the bases that you stayed in the U.K.?
I can't…
The living conditions.
What were they like
Where's this?
On the bases at
In England?
Yeah, that you stayed at in the U.K.?


obviously they were established quarters, particularly Brighton, particularly Ford and the one for want of a bet it's it was Church Fenton in the middle of the Yorkshire moors. They were a brick established building and Nissen huts, do you know the Nissen huts? The Nissen huts


but down in at Ford was all brick buildings. Ex-married quarters of peace time RAF. Double storey tenement homes. They call them now what, villas or town houses or whatever and we were upstairs and I think there was two in our room,


little Shorty Hill I've seen, don't ask me his first name, Shorty Hill was my room mate shall we say. He ah he's since passed on. He was called Shorty for the obvious reason. We did have another Shorty at another squadron for the obvious reason. He was


six foot two, four or something but the quarters were old but comfortable. Coal was very, very short, so heating was at a minimum but being in the Southern England right on the South coast was the warmest part of the country. The oh that's right, I do remember, Church Fenton the accommodation was


in all Nissen huts, which is a steel total steel unlined they were cold, very cold, but they had big pot bellied stoves in them and we used to stoke those up 'til they were so hot you could practically see through them and we put our beds in a circle feet towards the


stove when we weren't on duty and that's how we slept.
After D Day, did your work slow down? Did
No. It went up. It went up. The work load went up. Instructions were, “If it moves or there's a light, dispose of it." One of our planes came back with a train whistle, a train whistle embedded in the belly.


A brass train whistle.
How did that happen?
Easy. He shot it down as he flew over. The whistle blew off. The Mosquito, Mosquitoes were a marvellous plane. This is a true story written up in all the London papers.


Quite a few collaborators people who'd collaborated or Lesley's Frenchmen who were spying allegedly for England, spying on the Germans, were caught and locked up and they were to be executed and the morale in France was pretty low at the time.


This is before D Day. I remember reading it in the paper clearly and seeing the photos. What they did, they sent a flight of three over with skid bombs, that's one bomb was smaller than the others, which blew the outer perimeter fence out. Designed for that purpose. Another bomb was bigger and heavier was to


destroy the guard's quarters and another bomb, which would had to be directly aimed, was to blow the end off the prisoners' section. Like it was three wings in this particular gaol, brick gaol, and the raid was carried out perfectly. Unfortunately a few of the prisoners, one or two, were killed when they blew the end out of the prisoners' wing


allowing the prisoners to escape. The guards were blown to pieces and the fence was breached and they saved, oh twenty-odd French what's a name but they came in and so low and so fast. They had the light action bombs on them. Sorry I digress.
That's alright. There was a lot of secrets secrecy surrounding your operations


around D Day [June 6, 1944]?
Oh the radar. The radar, yes was secret. Highly secret. Things used to go on like the whole readiness for D Day. Even though we would be in within a hundred mile, forty mile, twenty mile of it we didn't have a clue. You didn't just roam around looking. You just carried on doing what had


to be done. As I said, we didn't know. A Canadian squadron in the Mosquitoes was using the same drome [aerodrome] at Ford [?]. We didn't know they had a different type of had Mosquitoes, a different grade, what their function was I don't know. We never knew. Even though we'd see them take off and see them land and we could see them visually.


Obviously but they were there in normal vision. We didn't know what they were doing. We didn't worry because it was none of our business.
The Mosquitoes you worked with, why do you say that they you thought they were great planes? What did you what did you like about them?
Well they were the most graceful plane you could see imagine. They were made of timber.


They were just a good plane. Why is a Rolls Royce? Like the Spitfire's got a name. Well the Mosquito to my mind is superior. I worked on both but I've only flown in a in a Mosquito. I don't know which'd be the faster. I would say a


Spitfire could dive faster than the Mosquito because of pure strength of metal but who knows? They never to my knowledge tried the Mosquito at ultimate speed. I do know it was much faster than the American P38. That was the twin fuselage night stalker they had.
But you were obviously fixing the Mosquitoes.


Did there was there many problems with them, many design faults or…?
Oh no. They'd all been ironed out. It was originally on the drawing board in '38, 1938. No, I know of no problems at all. No problems at all. No vices, as they say, at all.
So you worked in the U.K. 'til 1945? That was when you returned to Australia?
Yeah, May


we turned returned November '45.
So where were you when they announced that the war was over?
Where were you when the it was announced that the…
We were at must have been at Church Fenton. We spent the winter there. No, that's wrong.


I can't remember.
Do you remember what it felt that what you felt like when they announced it?
Oh they went beserk. They went beserk. See we were in amongst farms and they burnt haystacks down and the farmers couldn't have given two hoots. The whole place just went beserk. Absolutely. If you'd been in London and seen


the wreckage and the trauma and seen the people for five years tramping into the underground station to sleep every night and coming up out of it wondering if the house is still there. We while we were waiting to come home, that was post


June '45, we received a few invitations. We got leave obviously. There was nothing was to do but fill in time 'til the ship come became available and we got a few invitations. Mate and I went to… when I say mate, I don't know which one, went over to Bristol.


You know Bristol on the West coast of England? Well near it is a place called Bath. The Roman baths and we decided to go have a look and we did and you can only call her a dowager, m'lady, slightly plum in the mouth job, “Would you two


gentlemen care to join me for afternoon tea?" You know, “Oh I don't know about this" you know. She was seventy in the shade at least. Anyway we had tea and scones in the what was called the Bath Room at Bath. Turned out it was Lady Astor. Ever heard of Lady Astor? She was a genuine lady. She did it every afternoon. Just picked out two


servicemen. Anyway those Roman baths were astonishing. I believe they've since, not rebuilt them, but brought them back into operation. I forgot the question.
Well it must have been amazing coming from Australia and never being out never you know being out of Australia before
That's right.
To suddenly had this huge life experience. Did it…
Yes. Yes it was. You


mean wherever? Like I must have passed the pyramids a dozen times yet had no inclination to go and see them. Not knowing anything about them other than they were a pile of stone. Ah I liked Alexandria 'cause it was a port. Suez Canal, we found an


abandoned dinghy two of us, type of dinghy. We rigged up a mast, ripped up a couple of palliasses and made a sailing boat and went sailing on the lake the Great Lake as it's called, which is half way down the Suez.
So how did you eventually get home?
We got home on the same ship that we arrived in England, on the Stratheden. Twenty two thousand tonner. It was marvellous. We could have lights


on. Port holes open. No fear of attack from anywhere or anything. We had a good trip home. Pretty fast. We met the skipper of the Stratheden. He was Australian. He was on his maiden voyage, had just left England by a


day or so and he was recalled to England on the day war broke out. He never got back to Australia 'til he brought us home in the November 1945. He was sailing everywhere but Australia.
Was who else was on the ship with you?
Oh about five thousand five hundred other servicemen. A lot of British servicemen. A lot of sailors. For what reason I don't


I don't know, who were terribly seasick over the stern. We were on the deck above them and gave them hell. Who I came home with I don't know with whom.
And were your parents…
Were your parents in Sydney to see you when you arrived?
Oh yes. We were disembarked at Woolloomooloo. Bussed to


Bradfield Park. Do you know Bradfield Park? We had an enormous area there. Five thousand milling 'round us and I couldn't find my parents. I walked around. I thought, “Oh well they must be busy,” you know. "Can't get time. I think I'll pack up and catch the bus." I didn't know where Bradfield Park was 'cause it hadn't been there when I left


and suddenly somebody jumped on my somebody jumped on my back. It was me young brother Brian, the late brother Brian, and he's he'd spotted me. How he recognised me I don't know.
Why do you say that?
Well he was born in 1934 and I hadn't seen him since 1939.


Yet he picked me out in 1945. Mum and Dad, yeah. Big welcome. "Hello, hello." Jumped in a car and took us home. I'd never seen the house before. Lovely home on the harbour at Drummoyne. Couple of weeks later they had a big welcome home do with all the family, all the mob, and it was quite a nice evening.


And your other brother? You had another…
He didn't come home.
Did they tell was that the first time you found out when you'd…
Oh no, no. Whilst I was at in December, sorry August September '44, Geoff was his name, I didn't recognise him. He come up and said, just


walked up to me and I was in overalls working and he said, “Don't you know who I am?" I said, “No." He says, “I'm brother Geoff." Well usual thing. You get a bit stunned at that case, in that instance, and we sat down had a chat for a couple of hours. He had to get back and he told me about he was a rear gunner on a Lancaster.


Had he'd done five missions and he didn't want to go on any more but he did. The next one was his last one. He crashed December the 4th 1944.
Now how did your family cope with that when you got back? Was that did people talk about it or…?
Well not


very well at all. Not very well at all. My mother was distressed that we both didn't come home and let it be known that both should have come home, not one. I just carried on as normal. I've come home. Hardest thing


oh I was on leave 'til oh some time in January and then I had the opportunity to either rejoin or take my discharge and without thinking I said, “I want my discharge." I've been sorry ever since.
Well immediately I arrived in


Aus… back in Australia I got promotion to the rank of sergeant back dated four years. That's how long it had been hanging around. It's all in my records out there. I didn't know. Back dated four years. Well a sergeant in 1945, five years before the Korean War, I would have had a marvellous


future in front of me with the experience I had behind me.
But there must have been a reason you decided to get out.
Well there was a reason is they wanted me to go back to the lowest rank in the air force. Start afresh.
Was that a policy?
That's the policy. They couldn't put me below a leading aircraftsman, sorry. "We're only too happy to take you back at LAC. [Leading aircraftsman]" "Not on your


Do you know why they had that policy in place?
Do you know why that policy was in place?
Well that was just that was just it. They had nowhere to put you. They really didn't want you. Then as a last resort in '48, '49 I re-enlist I tried to get back in the air force and


they didn't offer me anything but a what's a name, 'cause I was behind the times as regards planes. Jets had just come out, not that it affected my particular trade, and I got the letters on file in there. They finally offered me the rank of sergeant with all due back pay as well 'cause my expertise, which was in hydraulics,


and bein' if I was fit and whipped in immediately with the rank of sergeant. Well the rank of sergeant in 1950 I could have romped ahead in the air force, but I didn't. I still wandered around 'cause I didn't know what I, I didn't know I didn't accept well a matter of fact,


I'll tell you the truth, my mother didn't want me to join and she didn't give me the letter. I found it years later. I think my wife found it, I'm not sure. The letter from the air force, which I've still got, which was a pity. Yet I would have been away from Merle.


So you had married Merle by that stage? When you
When you returned from when you returned
You married Merle?
You got married to Merle when you returned?
Oh yes. Yes. Geoff and Pam. Geoff and Lee. Yeah.
So yeah,


so you were gonna say something?
Oh no you were gonna say something.
I was just going to ask you the question, did you find it hard to adjust to post-war life when you got back?
Very difficult. It took me I didn't know what I wanted. I did not know what I wanted. Didn't know what to do. I wandered from job to job. From bus conductor to hire car


driver to painter to police force. Went back we went into the army for a couple a years. When I found out I was likely to be posted to Japan as a peace keeper I wanted out and I got out and I took a job on at a sheep station myself as a oh what would you call, maintenance engineer, and


Merle as cook but unfortunately she got pregnant. Or fortunately, 'cause we got a wonderful daughter there and um I'm startin' to lose track and I'm lost.
I just asked you how you adjusted to post-war life?


Yeah well I seemed to settle down, that's right, '40, '56, '57 I was on this station as a maintenance engineer doing all the windmills, the pumps, the generators and all that kind a thing. Trucks and motor bikes and cars and had my own workshop there. It was good. Merle and I enjoyed it but I


was injured by a rogue steer and we had to used to do everything. We went out and herded him herded this steer in. 'Cause when he had been fixed up, spayed or whatever you like to call it, they hadn't done the job completely and he still had the urge but not the capability and all the cows were happy but


the boss wasn't 'cause there were no calves for that year, for that year for that paddock. So we brought in the herd he was with and finally isolated him in this corral for the want of a better word. It was only a new corral and all made out of saplings, heavy saplings, with all of the bark was on it


and in every corral like that there's a safety rail which you can jump on and grab hold of the top. Well he didn't like me so he came at me. I hopped on the safety rail went my hands up, stripped the bark off and he had me and I've had an injured back since then. So I had a row with the boss over compo [compensation]. I got nothing and


came back to Sydney with my Dad. Had a job. We opened up a new service station. The rest of my life I've worked at service stations. Owned, not worked in 'em. Owned and ran 'em. Quite successful I might add. Geoff worked with me for many years offsider, partner, mate and so did my daughter, Lee, 'cause we were in road houses,


good ones, and then the end of last then the last year I got jack of seven days a week. I had a heart big heart operation and I went into furniture removal business in the admin section to recover, which I did. Then in


'91 I had to have another open heart surgery and it was time to pull the plug, which I did.
Have you been a member of any… of the… do you still see your old mates from the squadron or do you still keep in touch with your…?
Oh yes, I keep in touch. I was only speaking to John Colbert, the secretary of the squadron association, on Saturday about


this. I said, “Who did you dob me in?" "No,” he said. He said, “You're like me. I got dobbed in too and I can't find out who,” but I believe him because I never knew the man really, like he was a motor transport driver. I was a an aircraft fitter and we never mingled. He was


in his section, I was in my section. The only time we come together would might be when he was driving me somewhere or I was in a truck that he was driving.
Does the squadron have many reunions now or did it after the war?
Yes, it had. It was always at a pub at the Bell Pub in Pitt Street, is it? Oh you wouldn't know. I can't I've forgotten. I've never


been to a reunion. I joined the RSL [Returned and Services League] the day I was discharged. After the first meeting of the RSL I told 'em to stick it.
Bunch of hypocrites.
I mean that. I mean a bunch of hypocrites.
Can you tell us why you think that?
Well I'm funny. They held a meeting and they called for suggestions. I stood up. I was to have me say.


I was politely told to sit down. I said, “Why?" I was still in uniform by the way. I said, “Why?" "What would you know?" they said to me. "You don't know what war's all about." I said, “Right. Stick it." Walked out. Never used me badge. Never been to another one. Never
Who was…


been to another RSL meeting, function or anything.
Who was that? That was that another serviceman that had said that you didn't know?
No, it was, no oh yes it was another ex-serviceman from World War I who'd had that was it. Oh that's and that's what got up my nose. "No further meeting." Bang on the table. "Righto, the beer's on downstairs,” and that's that was ah after the prayer. "Lest we forget. The


beer's on downstairs,” and that just got right up my nose.
Was there an antagonism between the World War I vets and the returning World War II vets?
Well we didn't understand them at the time and they didn't understand us anymore than I…I don't understand the Vietnam. I cannot comprehend why they are suffering so


much. So many breakdowns, traumas and I don't know, everything. They just come back totally different. Different people. We come back just a little older and a little wiser. We didn't come back and put on rallies. We never I'm still waiting for our welcome home, our march past. We got none. Nothing at all.


Nothing at all. Just a bus pass home from the what's a name? From the from the wharf to your residence.
Do you feel resentful about that?
Never worried me. Never expected it.
Do you go
And we were just as forgotten as they were.
Do you participate in


the Anzac [Australian and New Zealand Army Corps] Day marches?
I've been to one with my British squadron, 456, 'cause I had a special invite. There I found an enormous difference between air crew and ground crew.
In Britain?
More the no, they were all Australians. The meeting was Canberra. A big week long meeting over


Anzac Day and, a few years ago. I just couldn't stand their Merle, I did as much as they did and I expected to rec be recognised for what I did if they expected to be recognised for what they did. For instance, when I arrived, “Oh


it's not Snowy Hayman." Big hug from the CO and so forth. He never spoke to me again for the week. All that crap I call that. My wife and I my wife was with me. She couldn't understand
And and…
How they could act like that.
And you put it down to the fact that they have a different attitude towards ground crew?
Oh yeah. There's always there.


How do you think the war changed you as a person?
I grew up. I grew up. Unfortunately when I came home I think the first few years I regressed to what I regressed to what I was before I sailed.


Was that do you know can on with hindsight do you know the reasons for that?
No. You have to get on to a psychoanalyst for that but I found my own way. It took a time. I just couldn't find my niche as it was. Perhaps I was looking in the wrong spot. My expectations weren't high.
Did you


miss the work that you were doing on the aeroplanes later on in life? Did you miss doing that kind of work?
Yeah I forgot to tell you, I did work for Qantas. I went back and worked for Qantas. They whipped me in pretty quick into the hydraulic department where I was had a bit of expertise on valves and all this, controls and all this kind of thing and


perhaps I'm a funny peculiar sort a person, I believe in giving a day's work for day's pay. I've instilled that into all my family. I'd been at Qantas for about three, four, five maybe five, six weeks when they called a strike for lunch time.


"Over lunch we'll have a meeting, a stop work meeting." I said, “What for?" Told us some stupid thing. So they had a strike and decided to have the rest of the afternoon off and I lost half a day's pay and all they did was lay around on the hangar floor. All the work and planes around us. Didn't care two hoots. Then I was asked to join, so I joined the union,


(UNCLEAR) union. A few unionists, I'm sorry but this is fact. I joined the union and I just couldn't take the fact that if somebody said, “You're on strike,” you're on strike. Where I wanted to do my job and earn my earn me wages, which the family needed,


and so I resigned. I got letters and letters and letters demanding fees, fees, fees every year for about the next four years. Demanding your union dues. I'd written and answered them 'til I sent one a letter through a solicitor. Haven't heard from them since. I was thoroughly


annoyed. I couldn't understand what was all what all the fuss was about. You just got paid, you put your head down, did your job and got on with it.
So that was the end of your career with aircraft?
As far as aeroplanes, yeah. That was on the Connies, the Constellations.
So do you have an opinion on the war say in Iraq today and how war has changed from the war that


you were in?
Well my opinion is that Bush couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag. The Yanks are good at starting wars, but they can't finish them. Never will. He's in Iraq. He wants out and can't. Ah I know every time


by hearsay in the Pacific war in New Guinea, every time the Yanks got into strife they called on the Australians to get them out because Merle's brother was involved in that and he's been in there extricating the Yanks. "Oh there's twenty men, twenty Japs [Japanese] comin' over the hill. There's only two hundred of us. Let's get out."


So they call up the Australians to back 'em up, rack off and leave the Australians to clean 'em up. The same with the South Africans. That was the name of the country I didn't tell ya. Now I don't give a hoot. South Africans were polite. They were all volunteers as we were. They were politely asked to go home. Time's up.
Just one last question.


This is your forum. Have you got, given these tapes are going to be put in the library and people in hundred or two hundred or three hundred years might be listening, and including your great grandchildren, do you have a message that you would like to pass on? Some advice perhaps.
Message? One message


I can think of sticks in my mind from some general, "War is hell,” and another one, "Nobody wins the war." You might win the battle but you don't win the war and all those clichés.


If I had my way I'd put all the heads of government on one side and all the heads of the other government on the other side and tell 'em to sort it out and may the best side win. That it?
There we go.


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