Edward Hannon-Smith
Archive number: 443
Preferred name: Ted
Date interviewed: 06 June, 2003

Served with:

451 Squadron

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Edward Hannon-Smith 0443


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Tape 01


Well good morning Ted, we’re happy to be here to hear about you life. I’m wondering if you could start, just tell us something about your family perhaps about your parents and where they came from and that sort of thing.
Well my Father was born in England, a place called New Brompton, he came out here when he was about 5 year old. He was up at Bendigo,


he married up there, they had 5 children, his wife died, came down to Melbourne and he married my mother. And another I’ve got a brother and a sister. I had two brothers one who only lived 3 days and one about 3 hours. My mother passed away about 10 days after my 10th Birthday and my father passed away


exactly 9 months after that. So I went to live with a stepbrother, one of his first sons who had a daughter and that daughter was known mainly throughout the TV [television] world as Corrine Kirby, on Channel Two. I lived there until I was 16 and then I went to live with another stepsister who had a son that’s


he was 3, 4 years older than me. At age 16 I joined the 29th Battalion Militia which he was in.
Your father must have been a fair, a reasonably old man then by the time he had his second family?
My father was 59 when he passed away, my mother was only 37.
He’d come out from England,


when was that late 19th Century?
Yeah I suppose, if he was alive today he’d be about the 135, 140 I suppose so.
Oh O.k.
His mother and his brother and sisters they all nearly lived in Sydney. My Grandmother she was about 90, 91 when she passed away that was around about 1930 odd ’31.


When your father met your mother, did he, were all his children living with him at that stage?
That I don’t know I think they were mainly in Bendigo, they did come down here because my brother, my stepbrother that I was living with lived in East Coburg and my father and mother before they passed away lived, we lived in East Coburg.
How much older than you


were your stepbrothers and sisters?
Well the youngest of the stepbrothers turned 21 when I suppose I would have been about, that’s only guessing from memory, now around about 6 or 7.
And two of those stepbrothers served in the First [World] War.
Did you know much about their Service details?


No not a lot about them. I know the one that I was living with had gas TB [tuberculosis] and he was, he worked in the Tramway, as did my father, he was on full pension. One of my other stepbrothers was a TPI [Totally and Permanently Incapacitated] man, there was also the husband of the stepsister I was living with he was a TPI
And your mother


what was here background?
I don’t know a lot about them. Her maiden name was Murray. Her father was I always believe that he came from Northern Island, as did his first wife, that’s where the Hannan came from.


And they were fairly involved with the Methodist Church in Coburg, that’s about as much as I know of them, because I was only 10 years old.
So you grew up in Coburg and were any of your stepbrothers or sisters living with you there? You said most of them were in Bendigo, but did they…?
No when I was living with my stepbrother he


was living in Harding Street, Coburg.
I meant when you were still, when you were living with your mother or father?
No they were mainly, they were down in Melbourne at that time.
And what can you remember of Coburg in the 1920s?
Oh, not a lot. I went to the mall and infant’s schools it was then. The East Coburg State School


started, I started there on the day it opened. From memory I think that was about 1927. My father drove the first tram out of the new East Coburg Tramway shed that was in those days, that’s all closed up now, it’s something else.


I wonder if you can tell me about those couple of years, it must have been a bit of a shock to you?
Oh it was when my parents died, I as I say I went to live with the brother. My brother that’s two years younger than me, he went to live with stepsister and my sister, who was 6 years younger than me,


one of my Father’s brothers from Sydney took her over to Sydney. So we were all split up. My brother was with the stepsister for a couple of years, she couldn’t keep him any longer so he went to one of my mother’s brothers in Coburg and I use to see him a lot. Then his wife died and he married again and the second wife, him and the other two children from that brother’s marriage out, she didn’t want them there so my brother went to Sydney


and that left me living with Corrine and her father, when I turned 16 I went to the stepsisters that had my brother in the first place because then I was working and that helped to provide a bit of money for the upkeep and so that’s where I lived with them until I went away with the forces. And with them when I came back, til I was married.
Did you get on well with your….?


I got on very well with them. Bit hard with the brother first, cause with the girl, there’s only Bee and that’s why I went to live with the stepsister then who had the son even tho he is 3 year older than me we got on famously. Unfortunately he passed away about 12 months ago.


stepbrother can’t have been a very well healthy chap if he’d been gassed and had TB?
Well he was with, I think it was up at Stanthorpe up in South Queensland where they (UNCLEAR), No he was, he was not too bad, but still on a full pension that’s…


but working in the Tramways.
Oh O.K. He was a driver or something?
A conductor he was.
Your father had been…was he a driver?
He was a driver, he drove the first….
That’s right, yeah. Did you travel a lot on trams in those days, what did you…
Oh yes we went everywhere on trams. It was all right struck when my brother was on, we didn’t have to pay.


That was the Moreland Road Tram that was when it was just, you were saying that they’d just done that line.
Yep, that was East Coburg line; it ran down Nicholson Street, East Coburg and everything and terminated at Bell Street.
Is that the 96, what is it? They may have changed the numbers.


I can’t remember, they could have changed the numbers.
It run along Nicholson street and down through East Brunswick and went round to St Kilda.
What can you remember that you got up to in your spare time, when you were…?
Spare time, when I was with my sister, we were into motorbikes.


When they moved from Beverford out to Gallipoli Parade in Pascoe Vale South then we joined the Essendon Motorcycle Club and we use to do scramble riding everything through the mud and slush. That was our main thing. And we used to go away on Holidays down camping down Balnarring and everything down on the motorbikes, that was our main thing except for joining the 29th Battalion you know with their camps.


Did you need a licence to ride those bikes?
Yes, but I was riding from 16 for two years without, not round the roads mainly but on the scramble tracks which you didn’t need it of course.
What about, I’m interested if you can remember more back in the 1920s when you’re perhaps still at primary school, what was a typical


you know weekends activities?
Nothing much just getting out with a bat and ball in the street, with the lamppost playing cricket and everything. Kids still do it the same these days. Football but for, half the time for football you use to a bit of newspaper rolled up about 6 inches long tied up with string and kicking that round as a footy. You know just


games like that or cards, players cards and throw them up against the wall or marble and all those sort of things. Not like now with all these sophisticated toys now.
From East Coburg State School, did you go to a High School after that for any period?
I went to Melbourne Technical College Junior School.


which is down in West Melbourne, it now the William Anglis Food School now. I was there til I turned 15, had to leave at the end of second term. Cause when my father died the tramways provided enough money for our education until we turned 15. Money a year, it’s only something about 15 pound a year for each of us until we turned 15. Then I had to leave and go to work, cause


back in those days a bit hard. But had to contribute towards my keep and everything so. So I left in second term of intermediate so I didn’t even finish that.
And what was your, what work did you find?
Well back in those days, really in it’s infancy and the principal, the chaps would come up and interview the principal and I went as a panel beater. There were no apprentices back in


that time, it was what you call an improver. And I went right through until the time that I joined up and went away.
Whereabouts were you working?
The first place was a place called Wotton Car Renovating Works, they sold out and I went down to a place called Melbourne Motor Engineering Works in Queensbridge Street, South Melbourne, and I was there until I joined up and went away.


It sounds very much as if you know you just got on with what had to be done. Looking back on that period now do you, what do you think about this young ten year old boy whose families world has been turned a bit upside down?
A bit hard but just we were lucky we got on all right. It’s I suppose


we were very lucky that we didn’t go to an institution or something, We all went to family members, even tho we were split up you know. We didn’t see much of once my brother went to Sydney we didn’t see a great deal of each other. But it’s one of those things, there’s nothing much you can do about it, you just got to get on with it.


As you said Panel Beating was like a trade in its infancy then.
And in those days it was one of the top pay trades.
It was probably lucky that you could get that without needing an apprenticeship?
Yes, oh yes.
What sort of cars were you working on in those days?
One what


that I remember well when I first started work it was about a 1936 Bedford Panel van, which were, I think we were panelling for I think it was Anglises in those days. We also made a few of the, all the, panel all the cabins on the Melbourne City Council water cleaning, they use to go round cleaning all the gutters and everything, we did the panelling on those, that’s the earliest ones I can remember.


Now was that making panels or just fixing them up?
No that was making panels, wheeling them up on the wheeling machine and weld them all together and smooth them down and fitting them to the wooden frame.
How did you learn all the skills, welding skills and…?
Well only the fellows that were there teaching me and everything.
Did you feel that you should try and get some sort of Trade Certificate


or was it enough just to have the job?
Well, it’s enough to have a job back in those days. As I say trade certificates didn’t come in til some time afterwards so it was recognised afterwards but you go through as an improver. It would have been nice to have had the apprenticeship certificate but it didn’t do me any harm later on for how I got on.
No well you probably would have


to have done with reduced pay if you were going to be seen as an apprenticed?
Of course later on after I came back from the services I went back to the panel beating for a while and eventually became a manager of a big repair place and then went in a an engineer assessor with the insurance company. I was with them for, doing that for over 20 years until I retired. And that’s all that hard work


and bringing up to learn the trade properly and everything.
What sort of machinery did you have in you know in the workshop in the 1930’s?
Was only welding (UNCLEAR) and the wheeling machine as they called it, that they wheeled the panels up in. But and perhaps a guillotine and a set of rollers but that’s about all there was back in those days.


I suppose a couple of sledgehammers? Did you have to do, I mean did you have to clean up after accidents, I mean you know try and…?
Yeah we do that sometimes, wash the (UNCLEAR)
And did the vehicles come to you or did you have to go and get them sometimes?
No the vehicles were towed in to you by the tow truck people.


What sort of I mean being as assessor you’d know the sorts of stories that people try and invent as to why they’ve got a dint in their car.
That right yeah. Some of them put some good stories over you and everything, but you can usually get round it and know. And some would say and that happened in the accident to no way you can see.
Was that the same, I mean did you see that from the very beginning,


back in when you first started in the trade?
Oh yeah people would come in and say can you get this included in it and everything and you’d try and include it, but the assessor if he knew his game, they were pretty cluey and … Especially somebody like me, most of them come up through the trade and everything. But the company I was with in the first place they all had to have been come through the trade and be very experienced people.
There wasn’t nearly so much traffic on the roads in those days?


I know I use to ride a motorbike there and you could fire a cannon down the road.
What sort of accidents would people be having were they different to?
Much the same sort of thing.
I suppose maybe they ran into a horse rather than a…?
Still use to turn themselves over sometimes. Especially when the Volkswagens came in they use to roll them over quite easy you know,


until they got to know them.
Towards the end of the 1930s as events are happening in Europe, were you. I mean did you pay much attention to the sort of news from Europe?
That would be in the middle 30s and everything would be


when Chamberlain [English Prime Minister] went over to Germany and came back, I can always remember him coming back and see the pictures of him waving his umbrella around, peace in our time and everything. Which only gave them a bit more time to prepare themselves.
Would you talk about those sorts of things at work you know over a tea break?
Oh sometimes but not a great deal. I think you’d be mainly


talking about the football and anything like that.
And the bikes, did you own your own bike?
What was that?
The motorbike?
It was an Excelsior 2 stroke. Only a little 250 cc [cubic capacity] but nothing like the bikes of today. But I owned a pushbike though and I use to ride that from Pascoe Vale to South Melbourne and back


everyday, down to work and then home.
Keep you fit?
All uphill coming home.
Yeah I think so. You said that you use to get away down to Balnarring. Who was that with?
With my, well it’s funny with my nephew, even tho he’s a few years older than me.


We’d camped down there perhaps for a long weekend or something like that. And we’d walk around the beach, go for a swim, come home.
Did you miss your mother and father in those years?
Yes, I can always remember when my mother died, I think back because I use to go out with her a lot


to all our Sunday school anniversaries and everything round with her, cause she was that way inclined. And I remember I cried for days after she died. But when my father died, at that time I was up staying with my other brother and his daughter, it came as a shock but I think I got over that.
Had he been ill,


or was it a complete surprise?
He was, I remember I went in to see him a few times; he was in Royal Melbourne Hospital, which in those days was on the corner of Lonsdale and Swanston Street. And he had pneumonia and pleurisy but he really hung up the will to live after mother died, because they were told not to have any more children because of her condition and they did and she died and after


having lost his first wife and then her I think he just …
So your mother died in childbirth?
Yes. Something, which would never happen these days. Kidney problems and high blood pressure and she died. Pretty serious back in, well it is now, back in the 1930’s those things were fatal.
You mentioned that she’d had


some other children which hadn’t lived very long. I’m interested that you would know all those details because I would have thought that perhaps in those days, or even today children don’t necessarily get told a lot of those things.
Well the first one had lived for a few days, I can always remember because the coffin was brought home and was in our front lounge room and


it was open and we were taken in to say goodbye before. And the other one that only lived a few hours when my Mother died, well that was buried in the coffin with her. That’s the only reason probably that I remember both those. I always remember the little white coffin in the front lounge room.


Let’s move onto the late 1930s, you’re working down in South Melbourne at the panel beaters, spending weekends riding your bike.
Yes, yes, and some other weekends cause 1936 when I joined the 29th Battalion.


Where we use to have to do, go every fortnight I think it was, we use to have to go to the drill hall over in East Melbourne and every so often had to go away for weekend camps.
You were only 16 when you joined that, what prompted that decisions?
Well my nephew that I was living with he was a member of the 29th Battalion, so I joined as a senior cadet, to be with him cause we always went out together and everything.


So he was more like, became more like a brother to me and that’s how we were. So my big brother used to take me.
Show off his uncle to his mates?
That’s right yeah. Use to get a few laughs I’ll tell you.
And what did that, what did you do with the 29th Battalion, for your weekends away.


How much involvement did you have?
Oh I use to go what they call ‘weekend bivouacs’ and training, much I suppose what they the same as they do now go along with learn your rifle drills and everything. I became what they call a first class Lewis Gunner [machine gun operator].
That’s when you’re even underage, you’re firing machine guns?


Was that a …when you say first class how is that assessed?
Well it was done out at the Williamstown Rifle Range, it use to be there. And with the Lewis Gun you’d have to be able to pull it down and put it together in a certain time. And on the range, fire at the targets and obtain a certain score with the targets. Well I was


learning it all as a senior cadet and as soon as you went in at 18 into the full thing, then you did your firing and everything and if you got that badge that gives you a bit of extra money. And I was with that 29th Battalion until war broke out and when war broke out they were a security battalion and only a few days after war broke out I was a security guard on the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation.


And did that for a months, I went back to work for a couple of months and then up into a camp at Trawool up at Seymour doing intense training under firing and everything for over a month, back to work for a few months and then to a three month camp on the Nagambie road. And in that three month camp there was three battalions of us there and they did


a trial mobilization call up I think for all 21 year olds. And from that camp, that’s where I joined the air force. I had to get a written permission from the CO [Commanding Officer] from there to join the air force.
Was your nephew, brother whatever, was he also


involved in all this in the battalion?
Yes, yes, yes he was with the 29th Battalion right through under the Militia, they went up to the islands after when the Japanese came into the war.
Did you enjoy the work with the battalion?
Yes, yes I use to enjoy it. It was a bit hard with all the route marches you had to do and everything. No, no it was good, companionship and everything.


What sort of an 18 year old, were you. I mean you’d had some pretty hard knocks, where you a…. do you think you were a mature 18 year old or still a bit of a kid?
Oh still a bit of a kid I think, I was pretty quite and shy. Didn’t get that you know knocked about very much only just out my nephew and everything. Very quite family


orientated more of less.
You didn’t think to volunteer for the AIF [Australian Imperial Force]?
No, I always sort of wanted to get into the air force and so.
So that is when, towards the end of 1940?
Ah yes it would have been, I joined up around about September or something


Why you’ve already got some mates in the Militia and you know everything’s sort of humming along there, why the desire to join the air force?
Well I thought there was more chance of I wanted to serve and go away so that’s why I didn’t stay in the Militia because they weren’t going


away at the time. I suppose it’s a bit silly to want to go away but after what happened.
I mean the closest examples you’d had of Service men were people who were on TPI status, did that weigh on your mind?
No, I always thought they’d been away and served and everything and I was I suppose I still am pretty


loyalist and everything. Very much so.
What was it at that time that you were loyal to? Was it Australia or Britain that sort of was pre-eminent in your mind?
It was always thing because at school, it was always God, King and Country. It’s you know very


loyal Australian but you always wanted to serve the Empire and everything it was in those days. That’s I think that’s why.
Had you been involved with Anzac Day ceremonies before the war, as a school kid or..?
No I had been taken in to see the


Anzac Parade at time and at school I can always remember with our second grade we had a school teacher named Miss McNamara and her brother came in to the school a couple of times and he’s a VC [Victoria Cross] winner from the Australian Flying Corp from the First War and that was always my hero, probably one of the reasons for joining the air force too. But no I always remember that and he made a bit of an impression on all the kids.


So making the transition to the air force, how did you go about that. What did you have to…what process was there?
Well I went through the recruitment thing, down in Melbourne, passed all the medicals and everything and then went to Laverton as to do the rookie squad and everything. And from that passed all that and went down to No. 7


Armourers course down at Point Cook.
Did you have an idea what you might like to be in the air force?
Well having been with guns, Lewis guns and everything, it gave me a step into an armourers position it was a trade that was available to me. Which I went down and fortunately did very, very well at it, pass out with a over 90 percent pass, which


is distinction was sent down to 1 ITS [Initial Training School] at Somers instructing air crew all had to do that were going through their a certain amount of how a gun works and everything, just teaching that and it was from there I was posted overseas.
And in Somers were you learning or were you instructing?
No, instructing.
Instructing. Were you asked to stay on as an Instructor?


No, I was on leave one weekend that at my sisters place up at Pascoe Vale and got a phone call from the …from down at Somers saying that I’d been selected to go to 451 Squadron. I had to come straight back to Camp.
Were you excited about that or worried about that or…?
Oh no pretty excited


now that’s the only thing we had to sign an agreement then that we would, well we had to volunteer then that we would serve under the same conditions as RAF [Royal Air Force] being the ATF [Australian Task Force] Squadron.
Can you explain those what are the differences between the various (UNCLEAR) organisation?
Well with the Australian air force their pay and conditions were much


higher than what the RAF were so we had to volunteer to go over and serve there under the same pay and conditions as the RAF The other pay just accumulated in our own pay books back here but whilst we were over there we weren’t allowed to draw any more than what an RAF man draws. That and when we got over we had to retain our own uniforms and our own


identity being Royal Australian Air Force. It was when we got over there to the Middle East they took our Australian pay books off us and gave us English pay books and that created a bit of a hassle with the fellows you know. Air Marshal Williams came to visit us and he was he’s known as the Father of the RAAF when he found out about the pay books he created merry hell and had our own pay books


given back to us. He said they were the conditions; everything was to remain the same except we served under RAF conditions as regards to the amount of pay and everything, so we had to get our pay books and everything back.
What, you say that there was a difference, can you remember, I mean how much of a difference in pay?
I think there, I can’t remember exactly but there was quite a difference. We were well paid to what


they were. The only thing they got, as part of their pay they also use to be entitled to a weekly ration of beer and cigarettes. That’s when I unfortunately started smoking. Wild Woodbine the worst cigarettes they’d ever made which caused a lot of my problems for later on in life.
The various training


schools that you’d been through. Can we just go back through those? First you went down to was it Laverton
Laverton, yes and that’s when you did all what they call square bashing and everything, drill and everything, discipline it was all that type of thing. From that to an armaments school at Point Cook.
And what does an Armament School involve?
Well that’s, they teach you


the use of the guns and everything that they were using on the planes everything in those days and also various training about bombs. We use to go out to Derrimut Munitions Dump to move bombs around and cleaning them up and everything. Some of them use to exude a little bit at times, just teach you how to clean it and everything.


Exude, you mean the bomb casing would be leaking?
Mmm, a little bit around the top where the fuse goes in, a little bit leaked around there.
Were there any accidents?
No not in my day.
What were the various guns that you learnt about?
Well they were mainly Browning .303 [rifle] , Brownings back in those days mainly.


Which changed later on when we were overseas of course.
And are they, did you learn how to you know fix them to the aircraft, all those sorts of things?
Oh we could take them in and out yes, if one had to be changed, when you majored on them and everything. Mainly they were, when we were overseas in the planes over there they were cleaned and oiled and everything in the plane itself.


O.K we’ll…
Interviewee: Edward Hannon-Smith Archive ID 0443 Tape 02


Ted I’m wondering if can take us through the process of cleaning a gun, one of these Browning .303s, step by step?
I suppose when the planes came back in, and they’d fired the gun. There’s a panel on top of the main plane, you take that panel out.
Now the main plane?
The wing.


Layman’s terms.
And take that panel off which exposes all you’re the guns and everything to you. And then you clean them all out with a mixture of petrol and oil and everything. And with a rod and bag and everything up from the front, up and down the barrels to clean, thoroughly clean them and everything. Wash them with oil and everything. Rearm


all the belts of ammunition and everything back to them, put it all together again. Put your panel back on and they were the fronts of the main plane. You’d just put little patches of fabric over them so that the dust and everything wouldn’t get in them. And that was…
What were the sorts of things that could go wrong with the guns?
Oh sometimes they’d get what they call a stoppage in them. Something might jam and they’d misfire


but usually they were pretty reliable guns. And later on the aircraft had 20mm cannons in them then. The same sort of thing would occur with those.
What’s the difference between a cannon and a machine gun in a plane?
Well the .303 it’s only, well as it says point .303 of an inch I suppose, it’s only a little thing, a 20 mm cannon


is getting up near an inch, 25 mil to the inch. A twenty millimetre is getting very close up to the.
And are they firing similar sorts of ammunition?
Yes it’d be a high explosive incendiary, and armour piercing all mixed in sequence in the belts that go through them.
So one after the other they..?
Yes, and that was the usual configuration of the things.


And what sort of a range did they have?
That’s something I don’t know. I don’t know the range and everything but the .303 had a pretty fair range on those I think it go about a mile, that’s what I think as far as I know. But that I can’t remember the exact range of them. Or the firing rate which is fairly high.


What other things did you learn at Point Cook?
Oh mainly only that and how to fit, they had the bomb racks on the planes and how they were attached and things like that. But those things changed as time went on you know.


But I’m afraid I don’t recall a lot more about. But it was mainly with the Browning guns and also going over and seeing the different types of bombs they had at Derrimut and everything and learning about them.
Can you remember what they were?
Out there they were mainly 250 pound and 500 pound bombs they were.
And what are they filled with?
Oh just high


explosive sort of (UNCLEAR)
How many chaps were on the course with you?
I’ve got a photo of the course that I was on over there with all the fellows on it. Roughly about 20 on each course.
You said that you came through pretty well with a good score, were there other chaps that found it harder?
Yes, yeah I think there were only


3 of us that got over 90 percent but the rest of them they got enough to pass. But it’s funny the three of us all got a high score all finished up on 451 Squadron. And a couple of the others off other courses that got good scores were on 450 Squadron.
Must have been, I mean the early part of


the war being in Australia learning all this stuff. Did you feel you know that it was a good life in those days?
Oh yes, it was hard but good.
Were there any aspects of being in the air force that you didn’t like?
No, to be honest no, it was quite


good. It wasn’t so good serving with a couple of these Permanent English fellows that we had. Because Australians are fairly easy going and everything and they’re more rigid with saluting all the time and (UNCLEAR) all the time.
What positions did they have?
Oh well our first


CO was a, I think an Englishman. A few of the Senior NCOs [Non Commissioned Officer], we had a couple of Englishmen on the (UNCLEAR) course. We were pretty raw when we went away really and when we went, landed over there at a place called Port Tewfik which is one end of the Suez Canal, we went to a transit camp for a while and then we were taken to El Aghelia which is not far out of Alexandria.


Just before we get overseas I just want to finish this discussion about the training. Can you remember how long you were at Point Cook?
No, I cant really. It was would be a couple of months I dare say about that.
Did you get any time to go off base?


went home for a weekend. A couple of times we use to get a weekend leave and go back home.
Were you in touch with your brother and sister at this stage?
No, I didn’t see them until, when we went to Sydney to posted to the squadron.


So from Point Cook it was then down to Somers?
And when you took over instructing?
Down there yeah that’s only the aircrew had to learn the principal of how the guns operated.
So your instructing pilots or ….?
You training aircrew.
Did you enjoy having that ?


Oh yes it was (UNCLEAR). It’s funny a couple of those fellows finished up on our squadron. And down there for only a couple of months. So down there when I got posted to the formation of the squadron.
Tell us about that process?
Well as I said I was on holidays and received the call, had to go back to


Somers. Do all the necessary paperwork and everything there and then I was sent to Bankstown Airport, where the squadron was formed.
And how many people in the squadron, when it was formed?
Roughly 300.
And what’s the mix of personnel?
Well there were, naturally the lot that I’m with Armourers, and Fitter


2A’s that’s fitter 2 Airframe, Fitter 2E who were the engine people, there’s instrument makers, there was coppersmith, there’s just general hands, aircraft oh I don’t know what they’re called guards, cooks


of course you’ve got your WO [Warrant Officer] Disciplinary, your Adjutant, Medical Officer, Medical Orderlies that’s roughly general things for the air force.
And what’s the mix between Air Crew and Ground Crew roughly?
Well aircrew, when the squadron was at I suppose at full strength and everything you could have about


20 Pilots, 24 Pilots and the ground crews there about 300.
And what planes were you, had you been involved in at this stage?
Well that’s when we went overseas planes we were involved with the first ones we had were Hurricanes, Hurricane 1s and then it became Hurricane 2Cs I think they were, then we…
What had you trained


Well our first training was on Hurricanes when we went overseas.
I meant at Point Cook and Somers and places like that.
Oh, no planes, that was just all lectures and talks and learning everything, no planes at all.
So when the squadron is formed in Sydney, how long did you have in Sydney?
I went up there


about end of March, I would have only been there a few weeks before we went away. The squadron started forming I think it was in February 41 and we went away on the 8th of April ’41.
And you said you had a chance to see your brother and sister?
Yes, yes I had leave there a couple of times and saw them. Actually I’ve got a photo of myself with a few of the other fellows of the squadron with my brother and sister.


What were they doing at the time; you’re the eldest are you?
Yes, yes. I’d be twenty at the time, my brother was just 18, sister would only be 14 at the time.
Did your brother; was he called up for the CMF [Citizens Military Forces]?
Yes, he was in the army for a while but his employer


pulled him out. It was his occupation, he was a senior miller on the Bronton’s Flour Mill and everything, so they pulled him back out, they didn’t want him to go away. But he’s there in uniform, I’ve got a photo of him there in uniform, so he didn’t go away.
Tell us about the trip from Sydney?
From Sydney? We went onboard the Queen


Mary and on the 8th of April, ’41 then we went down to Jervis Bay and waited there while the Queen Elizabeth went into Sydney Harbour and loaded up with all troops and everything. Which was the first time ever that the Queen Elizabeth had been used as a troop ship or anything. Because it was still in England when the war broke out and they rushed it over to America


and then brought it out to here, the first troop come out. And at that time it was the largest convoy that had left Australia, only five ships but there was a huge amount of men aboard. The convoy was the Queen Mary, the Queen Elizabeth, the Mauritania, the Ile de France, and the Nieuw Amsterdam. The Nieuw Amsterdam was the smallest ship in the convoy, 35,000 tonne. Unfortunately


that had the 8th Division on it, it broke away at the Indian Ocean and went to Singapore, we all know what happened to them. Then we went on and we disembarked at Port Tewfik, all out into barges and onto shore.
How many, you say it’s the largest convoy, do you know how many troops there were?


There was roughly about 30,000 I think over the five ships.
And did you have any form of escort?
Yes we had the Australian warship escort across the Indian Ocean. Till we got to about Aden, when the Queen Mary just went off on it’s own. Cause nothing else could keep up with her, just open up being straight. Do about 32 knots I think it was,


none of our warships could keep up with her at that time.
That would have been the first time you’d been to sea?
Was it?
Yes, yes
I mean there’s a lot of new experiences at that time but can you recall how you responded to the voyage?
Oh I thought it was very good, because we lucky I suppose at that time the Queen Mary was pretty luxury compared to the rest of the troop ships going


away. Because they’d just taken the beds and that out. We had, the one that I was in the room was only about four bunks in it. Later on when that was bringing Americans over from America over to Europe they’d stripped all swimming pools everything out, bunks and everything and they were sleeping in two shifts and bringing huge amounts of troops in one go on it, whereas there was only 7,000 on it when we went away so that was quite good.


Food was reasonable a bit different to what we’d been use to but a lot better than what we were to get later. I can remember the commander of the ship coming around, they’d have life boat drills and everything at times and be there and you’d have your life jacket on, he’d come around and grab it and roar at you and everything, that’s not on properly if you’d jumped over off here


it’s so many storeys up, you’d break your neck if you haven’t got it tied down properly. Little things I remember. But we had plenty of music onboard. The 2/2nd Pioneer Division was on, the battalion was onboard ours and the 2/25th which later on Bruce Ruxton [Former RSL (Returned and Services League) President] joined, later on when they came back from over there. And both of them had bands and we use to have plenty of music on board


when the brand practiced.
What about songs?
Oh all the old songs.
What were the old songs?
Songs like the First War, Tipperary, (UNCLEAR) Sergeant Major and all that type of song. But then they played other good music and everything as well.
Did you form close friendships at that time?


Yes I was very close friends with a couple of other Armourers fellows that I use to go out with those days I use to not drink and they did and they use to take me out everywhere with them to bring them home. Then later on I started to drink.
You landed in you said Tewfik?
Port Tewfik
Port Tewfik, whereabouts did the squadron go from there?


We went to a place called Ishmailiya, which is a transit camp; we were there was a while and then moved to Aboukir which was a huge RAF base that they use to assemble planes and like that. And that was our first experience; we were there helping to assemble Hurricanes which would come out from England and all


parts all knocked down in crates and everything. We were helping them there and that’s where we got our experience of working on Hurricanes.
Whereabouts was this camp?
Aboukir is not far out of Alexandria on Aboukir Bay.
So you’re in Egypt?
In Egypt, yes.
Did you get leave to go into Alexandria


Yes we did a couple of times and it’s whilst we were at Aboukir the evacuation of Crete was going on to. And at Aboukir Bay the Sunderland flying boats were landing there with troops they were evacuating out.
What did,


you mentioned that you had a couple of mates that might have been, what were they a couple of years older than you?
No we were all about the same age yeah all about the same age.
And they gradually you know led you into a life of debauchery?
I wouldn’t say that but…
Did you get a chance to go you know go and kick your heels up in Alexandria while you were there?


To which?
To go into Alexandria and you know..
Yes we went in there a couple of times, and go into there to what was called the Fleet Club cause being, Alexandria being a seaport it’s where the Royal Navy had a big base there and they had a fleet club where they use to play bingo or housie housie whatever you like to call it. Which is a legal game in the English Forces. Only two games they were allowed to play


and had money on was bridge and ‘housie housie’ or Bingo as they called it.
I bet there were a few other games that got played? What sort of entertainment did you find for yourself?
That’s about all, a bit of sightseeing and Fleet Club playing Bingo


or played cards. We use to play a lot of bridge in those days with any free time you got but we were kept fairly busy, but we did get a bit of leave and everything until we got moved out onto the squadron, formed the squadron. Got our planes and everything.
That must have been an exciting time


Yes we moved out of Aboukir to take over another an English Squadron, it was 6th Squadron, we took over all their planes, all their equipment and everything. Which was some of it been getting a bit weary some of it and everything but that was the first lot of equipment and everything we had and straight into the desert.
And that’s preparing for the battle of El Alamein is it?
That was


the first relief of Tobruk.
Oh right.
That was. That was in 1941 that would be the relief of Tobruk campaign.
So your squadron were flying sorties, cause that’s a fighter squadron?
No, an Army Co-operation Squadron in those days with cameras in the underneath of the plane,


which made them pretty slow and cumbersome for some of them, we lost a lot of pilots. When we moved from Aboukir and took over from 6th Squadron and went straight up to a landing ground, our first, when we got there we were just getting our gear off the trucks when we got our first initiation to action, we got strafed and we lost a couple of planes on the ground and our first casualties, we lost 2 fellows that were wounded and one lost an eye he was


home straight away and the other one was wounded too. And that was our first initiation so.
Had you had much training as to what you should do if you’re being strafed?
No, not a lot. First think we did, we got under a truck and then we realised it was the armoured truck with all the ammo with explosives on board so we out from that just hugging the ground, we were lucky they were just after the planes and the things.


From there we were all over the place from one landing ground to another landing ground. We moved very quick being Army Cooperation Squadron it was always very close to the behind to the army because they were doing recko [reconnaissance] for them everything all the time. In fact on one of the aerodromes we were on there was all this clattering


and clanking of a night time we thought it was our own but it wasn’t we woke up in the morning it had been German tanks and everything coming and well we were able to get the planes off and everything got away but we had some of our fellows taken prisoners. They were prisoners for about 5 weeks until Bardia fell. And then when Bardia fell we got them back except an officer who was taken off by submarine.


So explain to me, you’re on the base and it’s overrun in the middle of the night?
Particularly, it’s still on the thing, they were particularly, particularly one end of it and we’re down the other end.
It must have been a bit of a shock when you woke up in the morning?
Oh yeah.
Did you have weapons of your own, I mean did you have a rifle?
Yes, yes we


all had rifles, not that they’re much good against tanks. But it says on the book that I got there, they’ve taken out the log books, the squadron log books and everything and said well the Germans must have been a bit exhausted and asleep as they were up one end and we could make them out. Well say it’s not that close, it probably you know a couple of miles so and see them and we


were able to get the planes off and everything. I can remember we were all there on our trucks waiting to go and as soon as the planes went, we went too. But there was one place called Sidi Azeiz, which was a fort and some of our fellows were still there and they were taken prisoner and that was by Rommel himself was in that. I have some photos of


So you lost chaps from your squadron?
Were they, ground crew?
Yes ground crew. The Officer that was taken, was a captain he was the army fellow he was a liaison man with as I said we were Army Cooperation and he was the liaison officers so he had his code books and everything were captured and they were taken off by submarine,


got out. But our own fellows after 5 weeks we got them back because we were just outside Bardia doing the spotting for the AIF gunners that were close, the 25 pounders which they had were just on the side of our drone shelling Bardia while our fellows were doing the spotting and telling them how they were going. Then when Bardia fell we got our blokes back.
Did you know much about the way artillery worked, did you


have to learn about that?
No, no. We also had planes in an underground hanger in Tobruk right through the siege of Tobruk.
But they didn’t fly out?
On recos, they do a couple of times as it tells you in one of the pilots came back and reported that they’d seen to the wing commander


liaison officer there that they’d seen these tanks and everything so and they were taken down and reported them to the brigadier as he was and that’s in our book there and he said Oh they’re only dummies. So when our pilot came back to the wing commander he said, “They’re not dummies he said see the track and one of them swung his turret around and fired at me and he said dummies don’t do that.” So he said, “I’ll get back and tell him.” But it was a couple of days later some units of the Black


Watch, English Regiment went out and got hell belted out of them and our pilots said what the hells the good of us going out and telling them if they don’t take any notice.
Why do you think that they didn’t trust the information?
I don’t know. I think they trusted it a bit more after that. But they thought they were only dummies there but they weren’t. But lucky Tobruk was relieved you know not long after that so.


No our squadron was in Tobruk from about the 17th December to about the 11th of December till about the 21st. And then we were pulled out of there back down to outside Bardia which was still in thing and that’s where our fellows were prisoners, doing the spotting outside there.
How did your routine change


from when you started off in the camp when you first got your planes to when your suddenly at the front line?
Well we were always ready for rapid moves and everything because we had a lot and pretty hard living, not much waters, you’d get a water bottle of water probably have to last you a couple of days. No water to wash your clothes or anything in.


You’d go for while and your clothes would be washed in petrol which caused a few rashes and things. Otherwise there was not enough water to do anything else. Plenty of petrol.
And was that what you used to, presumably you got grease on your hands a lot of the time.


you’d wash that off with petrol too?
That’s right, yeah. That caused a lot of skin problems and everything, desert sores as they’re called. Fairly harsh living really it’s but we got by.
And were you just living in tents or did you have huts?
No, oh sometimes if you were on the landing ground for a bit longer we had the proper tents other times you’d have little bivouac tents.
And what about supply, I mean


it’s no good having a gun unless you’ve got something to stick in it, did you ever have any problems with ammunition supply?
No, no. No trouble with. Only supplies, only trouble at times you wouldn’t get the proper rations and you’d be living on just Bully Beef and hard biscuits for quite a while. But as I say lack of water, no lack of petrol, no lack of munitions.


What were the particular issues for you as an Armourer in the Desert, I mean how did those conditions affect the guns?


Well you had to be very particular there with the dust and dirt. Because dust storms and everything, sand storms pretty prevalent. Sometimes sandstorms they’d be that bad you’d be locked up in the tent with all the things and you wouldn’t be able to see more than a few feet. It might go like that for a day or a couple of days. And then be as good as gold and another time you’d get a rainstorm, which seems funny, get floods in the desert, you’d be floating out of your tent trying to stop it. A few days later you’d have a sand


storm and wouldn’t be able to see for a day. So you can guess we had to be very particular with the cleaning of the guns. Same as everybody on the aircraft, everything had to be very particular with cleaning and keeping the dust and everything out, it was a big problem.
Did you have to make up you know, invent a few solutions?
Oh yes you’d be you’d get a bit the way you’d wash them and clean them.


What special things did you have to do?
Just be very, very careful and thoroughly clean them with your petrol and oil and everything and make sure they’re all covered properly. And that you’ve got your bits of fabric over the front of the main plane so as no dust could get in. Or anything like that.


Just being careful.
Were there any, any times that people weren’t careful enough and there were consequences?
No, no we had very good, use to have some of the best records of the lot of the lot our fellows. Even tho the first


CO had said we were green and we weren’t this and we weren’t that. But English squadrons if they had to do an engine change or a main plane change it would be done, back to a RSU [Repair and Salvage Unit] Re-service, Repair and Re-salvage Unit. Our fellows would whip up a pair of shear legs or have a crane come and change their own motor. And we’d all get underneath and heave the main plane off and get another one on, bolt it on. And that was all


done on site with some of our, when we had time we’d do it. But even tho he said we were raw and green and everything and I suppose not like permanent RAF blokes at least we could do things in the field that they couldn’t do in the field. Cause the Australian usually they’re pretty inventive and resourceful


really. But that’s one thing we use to pride ourselves on.
You said that you were, there were some casualties, with the pilots because of the camera equipment was slowing the planes down or something.
Oh yes and the Luftwaffe, German Air Force at the time had complete air superiority in the Desert at that time.


And well all of us used a lot of planes and everything. One German pilot by the name of Marseilles is credited with about 150 killings, so that’s the type of plane they had. Later on when we got Spitfires and everything we changed to a fighter squadron well things were a bit different.


How does that affect the morale of the squadron, is it just something that you...?
No it’s one thing, you’re there and you’ll know you’ll have casualties and its be a bit down you know you came back and you’d lose somebody but straight on with it again and everything.


Did you have reinforcements at that time?
Now and again we’d get a reinforcement. The ground crew were pretty stable for a long time but there’d be a few of them went to a couple of other squadrons and some from those other squadrons came to us just interchanged. Because as we got experience and everything, some of the experienced fellows go to the other ones and some would


come to us.
Interviewee: Edward Hannon-Smith Archive ID 0443 Tape 03


I’d like to ask you some questions about the armoury set up on the different planes, I’m quite interested in what sort of guns each plane had?
Well first off, our first Hurricanes which were Hurricane Mark One, they were fitted with eight Browning 303, 4 in each main plane. Later on we got Hurricane 2Cs they had two


20mm cannon and the Browning guns in them. Later on when we went over to Spitfires we had planes that still had the 20mm cannons in them and the later ones had 2, point 5 Brownings in the main plane.
When you say 20mm cannons, what sort of ammunition have they


got in them, have they got long, are they like shells?
Yes, yes they’re fairly long, just from memory I’d say Oh be roughly about 5 inches long, 6 inches long with the shell and the projectile.
And where are the cannons fitted on the plane?
In the main planes.
In the …what is that.
We did have a couple of Hurricanes that had they mounted on the top of the main planes. It’s funny we


had, I’ve got one friend who was in the RAF and he said no they didn’t he said I tested them when they put them on and I said yes they did, I’ve got a photo of them. So it’s only a couple of weeks ago, so I gave him the photo and he’s had it blown up and sent one of them back to England to people at Hawker to show that they did. But then later on they were all inside the main planes.
When you say the main planes that’s…?
The wing.
On the wing?
Inside the wings,
Inside the wings.


So what’s the set-up? Where does the ammunition come from.
Well the ammunition was in drums in, it’s inside the main plane as well, the belt feed into the cannon.
And is there someone on the plane who’s job it is, like is it the gunner who has to keep loading up the ammunition or?
No, no, they’re only loaded when they come back, when they’ve been out and if they’ve used any


ammunition when they come back it’s the armourers job to clean the guns and everything and replenish them all with new ammunition and everything. The only one that has any control of them in the plane’s flying is the pilot to fire them.
So how quickly would they run out of ammunition then, I mean how many...?
Oh they’d only have a couple of minutes probably of ammunition, which they’d probably fire in short burst and everything. Especially if they


were in a fight with another plane or anything, but when they’re strafing they’d soon run out of ammunition.
So when we see these films on the TV where the planes are flying over strafing you know and they seem to go on forever, it’s just not true they can’t…?
They can’t go forever it’s only as to much, how much ammunition they can carry as to it would be any more than a few minutes of you know continually


going all the time.
That’s not very long is it?
You were talking before, So Ted, if the armourer was the only person that could replenish the ammunition on the plane, tell me about the routine that you’d go through when the planes came back in.
Well when then come back in and if they’d fired their guns and everything on it naturally take the


cover off the main planes, clean it all, all in the breech, all the mechanisms, clean it wash it down, make sure the barrels thoroughly clean out and everything and then you’d reload it all with new ammunition. So they were quite a bit heavier (UNCLEAR) with getting ammunition up to the main plane and getting in but that’s all there was to it. It doesn’t sound


much but it’s quite a bit of work.
How long would that take you?
You’d probably be working on it for about an hour to do it all properly. Because if you came back and were in a rush and had to go out straight away you could probably rush it through quicker but fairly oh it’s just one of those jobs you just got on and did it.
What were your biggest problems when you were in the Middle East,


Well the biggest problem really was the dust and the sand and everything. That would be the biggest problem.
Was there only one armourer working on each plane?
Usually. Sometimes you might if it was in a hurry you might get one on each side doing it but it all depends on how many,


well there would only be when we were under Cooperation, there’d only be a couple of planes go out at once.
You said before that you put the ammunition in in a certain configuration; can you tell me a bit more about that?
They usually did it with boxes of ammunition it would come in the thing and usually you’d put an armour piecing, a high explosive and tracer probably in whichever order


they wanted them in and that was usual configuration with them.
Who was, who would decide on what the configuration was?
Oh usually pretty standard it was, if you had to do it, load the belts that’s the way.
So it would be a high piercing, an armour piercing, an incendiary and a tracer and what did, what was the different between them?
Well armour


piercing as it said, it’s good for going through any solid stuff and everything, high explosive well that’s naturally when it hits it like that and incendiary well it show’s they up the path and also more fire and everything. But my memory’s not extra good on (UNCLEAR)..
And the tracer bullets what do they do?


They can see them throughout the tracers.
So they can see where they are firing?
Yeah see where they’re firing.
So while you were working in the Middle East you were moving around a lot, you said from place to place.
And how did they, how did they get landing strips sorted out?
Well landing strips were just landing on the desert with


a cleared place so that no rocks or stones or anything there. They would just clear it off and be a landing strip.
And that’s all they had?
All they had, yes.
And what about the facilities for the armourers?
Just had a tent or a bench thing, work with all the stuff off the truck.
So did you carry all the ammunition on trucks?
Well each


flight would have it’s own armoured truck with A flight or B flight and you’d have a truck on each and all your ammunition and all your other goods and pieces were all carried on those trucks.
Was it a special sort of truck?
No, no just merely three tonne trucks.
So it wasn’t specially fortified?
Oh no, no.
So if it had got hit, it would have gone off with a bit of a bang?
Yeah, yes.
Did you


ever feel that you were in you know very real danger, imminent danger?
Oh a couple of times when you’re strafed or everything. More dangerous still later on. When we went to Corsica and everything. But in the desert we got strafed a few times and naturally you’re off try and get a slip trench


if you had one.
How long did you stay in the Middle East?
Roughly about 3 years it was. We got there in 1941, I’m not sure whether it was 43 or early 44 when we left the Middle East. We went to quite a lot of different places


in the Middle East because after we were in the desert and everything we went up to Syria and from Syria back down into Palestine and detachments in Palestine and Syria and on Cyprus.
What were you doing in Syria what was the campaign up there about?
Well that the Syrian Campaign was over when we went up there, we were up there and just training and working and training with the 9th Australian Division and a New Zealand Division


well they did come down to have the battle of El Alamein it was all mainly training and we were doing air defence of Beirut, around Palestine and over in Cyprus and chasing any enemy high flying recko, reconnaissance planes and things like that. That was practically the total air cover for up in that way. The squadron was split up into


three flights, so as everything else could come down ready for El Alamein and all the defence down there.
When they spit you up into 3 flights did they send you all in different directions.
Yeah one flight was at a place called El Bassa, which is down in Northern Palestine another flight was, we were on a, altogether on an aerodrome at Rayak first before they split us up and then the flight


went to El Bassa, one flight was over East of Beirut at a place called Estabel and another detachment went to Cyprus. And then later we had another one, we had a couple of planes at Beirut Aerodrome too. A couple of underground hangers they had there. I was in Beirut meself for one of them.
What was Beirut like?


Beirut was a very nice city really Beirut. Back in those days it was quite a nice place.
Did you get to much sightseeing?
Not a lot but when you’d get into the city a couple of times but it’s not a lot of sightseeing there. But when we first went up there when we were at Rayak which was a big permanent French


Aerodrome with big barracks and everything on it. When we were there we were snowed in for a while there and the Australian Comforts Fund supplied us with some skis and everything. And we were able to do a bit of skiing round there while there was nothing else to do.
So you were in the Middle East skiing?
Seems pretty unlikely doesn’t somehow?
Very, very unlikely. Syria was very, very snowbound and everything during the


winter and in the summer it’s very, very hot place you know.
Had you skied before?
How did you go on the skis?
Struggled a bit but soon got the thing just down gentle slopes.
Who taught you to ski?
Ourselves, stand up or fall over.
What were the skis like that they sent you?
Oh they were pretty basic skis (UNCLEAR)


they were supplied by…?
They were timber skis.
So there you were skiing around?
And then later on were moved back down into the down to the Desert again down to the Nile Delta. We were on Idku Aerodrome which is just outside Alexandria there on salt flats they are so that’s what the landing


ground was there. And then from there back up to the desert again and that’s where we were re-equipped with Spitfires and we became a fighter squadron.
And was that a big change for you?
Big change for very good planes and everything but not a lot of change but we still had the same armament and everything was working on it. But whilst we were there on the spitfires the that’s where the


fitted a bomb rack with practice bombs underneath one of the spitfires of which I have got a photograph and they were doing practising bombing for if ever they had to do any of that. And also whilst I was there, I think it was from memory around about September ’43 or something I was sent to do a I can always remember number 53


Chemicals, Weapons and Warfare Course down to Heliopolis which there’s not a lot known about, they reckon there was no gas or anything around but there was plenty of poison gas there. And I did a course there on the use of Mustard gas in containers on planes if it ever had had to be used. And thank heavens that never was used. Whilst there


at Heliopolis, I was, we loaded quite a few trucks of everything up of gas that was shipped back here to Australia. I mean it’s been denied a lot of times there was no gas, but there was, mustard gas was sent back here and on my discharge certificate which you can have a look at, you see on there No. 53 Chemicals, Weapons and Warfare Course they were with the RAF


So the RAF were running this training school at Heliopolis were there?
Well it was a RAF depot and everything. We had enormous caves and everything all underground into a big cavern in the hill. An enormous big caverns and caves where all this gas was stored.
Was it all mustard gas?
It was all mustard gas that we were handling yes.
Did they, what sort of


things did they teach you on that course?
Nothing, it’s just the container that was to fit under the bomb rack on the plane and it was only just explaining about how to pour it and filling it up and everything and as to how it worked.
When you say filling it up did you have to make the bombs or the canisters?
It was a big canister; big canister and you’d just pour it in so as that the canister was full.


So did mustard gas start out as a liquid?
It’s a liquid.
It’s a liquid is it?
It’s a liquid.
Gee how, what sort of protective clothing and masks and stuff?
Well had masks and full protective clothing and everything. So I mean it’s not much that I’ve ever spoken about it or anything much, so I mean whether it’s to be left on or to come out or not, whether it’s one of those things


Were you the only armourer sent from your squadron?
I was the only one from our squadron that went down to the course. Cause it only needed one, there was nothing much to it, really and everything. It’s just a matter of how to handle it and how to do, fit it on.
Were there a lot of armourers from all over?
Yes all different squadrons all down there doing the course.
What time in the war was this did you say, about September ’43?
September ’43,


I think that the date on discharge certificate.
Oh so it’s pretty late.
It was just one of those things, just to be prepared I suppose in case the other side started using it. Bit like the boys scouts, be prepared.
Do you think, were there any incidents while you were at Heliopolis, were there any accidents with the gas or?
They use to …sometimes you’d go on leave and go into Cairo of a night when you do


you’d have to be all fully examined and everything to make sure there was no blisters or no (UNCLEAR) if there was you wouldn’t be allowed out. No there were no accidents, the protective clothing and everything was pretty good, and very, very careful.
Did they tell you about the effects of mustard gas?
No, not much except that it could cause burns and blisters and everything but no not a lot. Thank heaven it was never ever used.


During that course did they tell you that it was secret or…?
There was no, no
No. I think we were told you know don’t discuss it and everything. But there was no signing of any secrecy things or anything.
You were never faced with having to actually load up a plane with Mustard Gas.
No, It was never ever on base or anywhere near the aerodromes, but it was just down there


to be taken out if ever required.
In these caves down at Heliopolis. Did they have a lot of it down there?
They must have been manufacturing it somewhere?
Oh I don’t know where it came from. In the first place it probably came from England or somewhere else out by ship and everything.
After you’d, you’d spent 3 years in the Middle East that’s a pretty long time?


It might have been a bit more.
Did you know much about what was going on in the Pacific after the Japanese came into the war?
Not a lot, we’d heard about the….mainly when we’re, mainly by letters and everything there and we’d heard a couple of the battleships had been sunk. The squadron had volunteered as a whole to come back to Malaya or anything right there but no apparently it was part of the


thing that we had to stay there for the time. Especially after we’d left the desert and went to Corsica. Some of the fellows got white feathers and everything in their letters and it which caused a bit of a stir on the thing and nearly caused a riot on the squadron, they wanted to come home and everything.
How sent them white feathers?
Friend and everything back from home.


They reckon that they were over there shirking it, should be back here.
Do you know any blokes who got these letters with white feathers?
No, not personally, I might have at the time but I just forget who they were and everything. But it’s in the book, Bankstown to Berlin it’s mentioned in there about it. Everything and the squadron again volunteered to come home, which we were not allowed


but it saved a bit of a ruckus so one of our other Sister squadrons that went away with us 450 they were in Italy and one of our very popular pilots had gone from our squadron over as their CO and they flew him from Italy over to Corsica to talk to our fellows to calm them down and everything. And which he did, it was just one of those things and we just got on with the business.
What did he say to you?
Oh just a bit of a talk you know,


fatherly talk, even tho he was only a young fellow himself. Young pilot and the squadron leader at that time, by the name of Ray Hudson. Later on back after the war he was a pilot that flew the first helicopter down in the Antarctic. So (UNCLEAR) later on we took, we went from there to, we had a lot of fellows killed there too.


In Corsica?
In Corsica we lost 8 fellows killed in an air raid there one night and about 21 casualties, half of them serious and half of them slightly.
How did they get you down from the Middle East, where did you leave from?
From the Middle East we went to Alexandria and when onboard a ship called the Circassia and that took us to Sicily


where we were transhipped onto a French Ship called the Ile de France which incidentally won the Croix de Guerre at Narvik the ship. Beautiful little ship, and they put us all on that. And then at night time rushed us straight from Sicily round underneath Sardinia and up landed at the Port of Ajaccio at Corsica.
Did you know why you were going down to Corsica?


No, we all thought that we were there for part of the attack on Italy and everything cause while we were there our planes, we were stationed at a place, an aerodrome just south of Bastia which is almost opposite Elba and our planes would do strafing all the reinforcements that the Germans were taking down for the battle of Naples and Rome. And that’s why we got


done over properly one night by the Germans when they knocked all our aircraft out and the Americans down the road lost a lot of people as well. And after the, well after we got all our planes serviceable and everything again. I think out of the three squadrons on the drome, there was a funny set up, we was a RAAF squadron,


an RAF squadron and a Rhodesian squadron of Spitfires and they were doing all fighter cover for the Americans bombers that were stationed on Corsica and Sardinia and we were more or less under American control and with a RAF wing commander in charge and doing all the fighter cover for their planes and strafing and everything they could strafe on the way down.


After the air raid I think our squadron only had 3 planes that were left but by the end of the day, the squadron was fully operational again. And after some weeks and everything there we were moved to the other side of the island and still doing fighter cover for all the American planes were going over with big bombing raids on Southern France.


And after that had been all softened up and everything troops landed, our squadron was landed on the 3rd front of Southern France which was not a lot known about, or not mentioned much. We landed from landing ship tanks, American LST [Landing Ship Tank] on the beach at St. Maximes [actually St. Raphael] and were taken to an aerodrome called Quers [actually Oujda] I think it is


which had an enormous big hanger on it for dirigibles and everything and we were stationed there for some time and they were doing reconnaissance work and other work, strafing into Northern Italy. We were only there for a short time and as I said this was an American Invasion, the American and Free French and seeing as we had been with them all at Corsica they thought it was right for us to be with


them thing but when the higher ups got to know about it there was a bit of a political thing, we were pulled straight out by LST and brought back to Naples. We were there for a few weeks and then they transhipped us around to England. And we landed in England on the 1st of December 1944. In the middle of the night


we were taken by train down to an aerodrome called Hawkinge, which is not far out of Folkestone landed down there at midnight, snowing like hell and that’s where we were stationed there for a while. From Hawkinge we went onto a Spitfire [fighter aircraft] I think they were mark 16’s at that time, which had fitted with Rolls Royce motors made by


Packard from America, under licence, no way near as good as the Rolls Royce Engines even though they were made under licence. We were in Hawkinge for a while and then we were moved to Manston, which is the longest airstrip in England. Where all the damaged bombers would land there on their way back from. And Manston


the planes were fitted bomb racks and everything again, we were doing practice dive-bombing on the Goodwin Sands which are not far out from there and it was from there that I was sent to Transit Camp down at Brighton ready to come home. The squadron went from there further to another place in England and they were engaged on dive-bombing things


on V1, V2 [rocket powered unguided missile] sites. The poor little spitfire had a 250 pound bomb under each main plane and a 500 pound under the middle. Down to Brighton which was the transit camp for the RAAF in the Hotel Metropole and New Zealand’s had the


Hotel Grand and I was there for about a month waiting for a ship and then I went up to Liverpool and came home on the Nieuw Amsterdam, which was the smallest ship on the convoy going away. So I came home on that one. And we were 2, 3 days sailing off Fremantle when VE [Victory in Europe] Day was declared. So from


the time I left home till the time I got back the year was what 4 years and 6 weeks.
It’s a long time isn’t it to be away?
Yeah a long time. But the squadron went onto several places in England and after VE day the squadron went to over to Europe as part of the to Germany as part of the Air Force of Occupation.


And as they say it’s the only it and another RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] squadron were the only two squadrons ever to be in an Air Force of Occupation in Germany and I think our Squadron 451 was the only RAAF squadron to partake in the landing on the continent. In the front of the Continent. So


from a very unglamorous Army Cooperation Squadron early in the piece, then a fighter squadron and Air Force of Occupation. And there was at least one member of our squadron that went away with us was still in it until the squadron was disbanded in England in 1946. So whether he is still alive or anything like that I wouldn’t know.


Let me take you back to Corsica because that’s pretty interesting spot.
I’ll tell you one interesting little story of Corsica while we were there. Some of them went up in the hills and everything in time, there were a lot of pigs running around and everything. So they shot a few of these wild pigs and brought them back down to the squadron, thought they’d have a feast. Our squadron doctor, Squadron Leader Perritay he’d


dissected a few of them and they had to hide that, so he wouldn’t let them eat them or everything. But the only wild thing that was wild about the pigs was the farmer who owned the things. They was quite a bit of a diplomatic thing went on between the powers that be before a settlement was made to quieten things down. And it’s funny while our plane used


to take off there, we were beside a bit of a river there and it was well snow water and everything, melted because it had snow on it during the winter. But while we were there we’d just strip off and into the icy water and come out and get dressed again and wait for the planes to come back for refuelling and rearming and everything. But and some of the fellows got to know quite a few of the people


there that were fighting during the German occupation. Couple of them only young girls, 14 or 15 and it mentions one of them in the book that I’ve got there. But we got on very well there and it was the same when we went to France and we had our big slouch hats there and a lot of the younger ones thought we were Americans but some of the older


people that knew everything they grew their fellows (UNCLEAR) and the knew the hats from the First World War and we were very welcome.
Had the Germans occupied Corsica?
And then they’d been driven back?
Back, they had Sardinia and they had Corsica and it was when they were driven off there was when we were taken around to there. But while we were there they were still occupying Elba, which we could see from


Corsica. And after the Italian campaign had got well under way and everything but then they took Elba as well. Cleared that off and our pilots were doing cover over Elba and spotting and everything for them while that was taken. So the squadron was fairly close actually to the action there on Corsica,


we were actually above what the line was over in Italy, cause they were down around about Rome and we were much higher up, getting up nearly up level of Leghorn.
Tell me about the night that there was the air raid and you lost so many planes?
Oh the air raid came over and when we heard them a couple of fellows said I think we better go to slip trenches, so we do and down came


the main and dropped all their flares and everything and they were low level bombing and all the fellows that were killed, they dropped these bombs, big container type that opened up on the way down and all these little 2 pound anti personnel and anti bombs all dropped out and some of the fellows were killed were even in slip trenches or underneath trucks. And they just ripped all the


tents and everything to pieces and everything. And they were that low that some of them were even below the flare levels that they’d dropped. And after they’d done us they’d gone away. It was a bit later on they came down and bombed the American drome just further down the road. And they lost a lot of people as well.
Did you have anti aircraft guns on that base?
Yes American anti aircraft gunner were right round the thing


I was in a…our tent was alongside a big drain that had a culvert over it and we were down underneath the culvert and one of the guns was just the other side of it of the culvert that we were in, going away like anything. I think the guy’s trying to bury down into the dirt I think.
It must have been pretty noisy down there?
Oh very noisy and a bit scary and everything after they’d gone. Everybody came out from their things and found the fellows that had been hit and everything. And we


were just told to leave the camp and go up into the hill a bit and stay there until morning. We came back to get all the planes going and they moved our camp off site from alongside the aerodrome to just down the road a little bit. So we’d come to up in the lorries each day to the plane and the night time we go back and live in tents and everything away from the drome. But that was the only time that they came over.
How did you manage to get


all your planes back together and…?
A lot of them were, there were some that were unserviceable, reinforcements were flown in the next day and other that were able to be fixed up and everything they were all fixed up so as the everything was up because it was very imperative for those squadron to be keep attacking the reinforcements that were going down to Rome and everything and also to prepare for the


cover for the invasion on Southern France. They were replaced very quickly.
Did you know at that time that you were going to be part of that invasion?
No, no I didn’t.
Pretty unusual isn’t it for an air force squadron to be involved.
Yes very, very unusual, we were loaded onto an LST in fact I’ve got some photos there of the LST with the doors open with all the trucks coming out at St Maximes.


So you went down onto the beaches then, you came up off the beach?
Up off the beach with our trucks up to the aerodrome at Quers.
Was this at night?
No daytime, daytime. That was, the Germans had all gone by then except for a few couple of isolated sniper things going on in Toulon, cause it wasn’t far from Toulon and there’s still a little bit of cleaning up to do there. And Quers is a bit


north of there.
So had you been off shore in these craft waiting to go on after..?
No, no we just went straight from Corsica to France.
How long was it after the first wave had gone in?
I think it would have been within a couple of days. Because they cleaned them out pretty quickly. I don’t think they met a terrible lot of resistance; it would have been very unexpected I think.


What was the situation like when you actually got on to that beach?
Oh it was good, there were all locals and everything watching us come off and everything. Drive up, like a welcoming party.
Was it?
A lot of local people hanging around, they were, I think they were very glad to see all the Americans and the Free French arrive.


Where exactly is that in Southern France is it which?
From Toulon going over towards where Cannes is you come across St. Raphael, St Maximes all of them on the Southern coast of France between Toulon and Cannes. So we were a bit fortunate while we were there and thing had gone well and we weren’t


required to do a lot and everything there. So we were able to take a little bit of leave and I got as far as up to Nice a truckload the CO and everything was very good, while you’re here and things have quietened down away we went and headed up to Nice and back and when they bought us from Corsica back to Italy we went to get on the LST we were taken down to Marseilles, and got onboard the


LST at Marseilles back to Naples.
What time of the year was that?
That was towards the end of 19, no it would be about the middle of 1944 I think.


that’s summer?
So you had a pleasant summer in the South of France?
Yes, yeah
Interviewee: Edward Hannon-Smith Archive ID 0443 Tape 04


The doctor, he was a Squadron Leader and a top surgeon. As a matter a fact when my wife had her veins all stripped


and tied and everything he was one of the top vascular surgeons. He was, the day before he did her veins was the Queens first visit out here and he was made honorary vascular surgeon for the Queen and we congratulated him on it and he says I hope I don’t have to touch. But while we were in Corsica he decides some of the lads might want to instead of going down to the, some of them use to go down to the Brothels and beside that


he went and recruited some of the girls himself and set one of his own up. In a little town outside and one of his medical orderly’s there all the time and he said don’t you dare let any of you fellows see anywhere else but there.
Did he make any money out of it?
No, no.
I just want to ask you a question that occurred to me earlier because there, was it, was No 3 and No. 10


Squadron that were totally Australian?
Yes totally Australian.
Did you ever see them at all when you were moving around the Middle East?
Not a great deal of them because when we were up in the desert for the relief of Tobruk and everything. 3 Squadron and 450 Squadron were taking part in the Syrian Campaign and when we came out they came


down and crossed over they went up the desert and we went up to Syria just doing defence and everything up there while they were part of the actual El Alamein push which we came back later on and were just on the tail end of that when they were well up. And then they went from North Africa into Italy so we didn’t see, no but we had interchange of pilots between


the two squadrons some of ours went to 3 and 450 and some from 450 came to us.
Did it cause any difficulties there being these two wholly Australian squadrons?
There was cause 3 Squadron would only do a certain amount of time because they were being reinforced from Australia and being repat, others repatriated at a certain time. We had


no repatriation what so ever until when we were on Corsica the first letter came through from the thing that they were going to start a repatriation scheme for ground crew. And the first of our fellows allowed to come home it was a lot of about 20 came home from Corsica. I came home from when we were out in England I was about I think


in the second lot that came home, so things like that yes they were permanent squadron being permanent replaced that was one of the things that why we weren’t allowed to have a lot of their people come to us early in the place because the RAAF wanted full control of reinforcements and repatriation with them and didn’t want them to be integrated into our squadrons which were the ATF [Australian Task Force] squadrons


but we did have a few of their NCOs come to us because we were short of NCOs at the time, didn’t have any fully trained flight sergeants, sergeants so some of them were posted to us for a while until we became proficient and then they went back to the squadron.
Was there much difference in the style of the Australian Officers and the…?
Much, much.


A lot of our officers, you’ll see them in photographs there they couple of them even use to come and work on their planes to with us. We could talk to them, eat with them. Very much more easy going between things and I think it created more respect than it did for the other ones that were


more you know strict and everything, they had great respect for each other. A couple of the pilots wrote very glowing reports on their ground staff and everything they said they didn’t know how that they would have got on without them, they didn’t know how they kept the planes in such good order and everything as what they were.


We had some great fellows, our pilots they were. Well when we were living in our little bivouac tents up in the desert, they just had little bivouac tents too (UNCLEAR). They, well over in Sydney at the Anzac Day services there, there’s a couple of the pilots are still able


to get to there. Back in Melbourne at the last air force march there was myself and on other man march from 451 Squadron and when we had our reunion there was only 4 of us there and that about, there not many of us left here. A few more in Sydney but I think when the book, Bankstown to Berlin was written in 1996 there were a hundred


known roughly still alive out of about 580 that went through the squadron. But from 96 to now it would have, at least a quarter of those or more have died since then.
Did you have much to do with the Americans when you were on Corsica?
Not a great deal. They were a few mile down the road from us, the only one’s we did were the gunners that were around the,


the anti aircraft gunners that were around the squadron, but we didn’t have much to do with them. The only ones we had much to do with was when we were on the LSTs because they were Americans. And while we were on the LSTs the food that was on those was enormous, they didn’t go without anything.
Did you get a good feed?
Well on the LSTs we did yeah. The only thing with them, I did that the camera that I use to take photos with, the cows


went through our, while we were up on deck with all our stuff down underneath, they went through all our things and might camera went missing and a few other things. But no we found them you know quite easy going and everything to get on with.
After you’d been in Southern France, around Toulon and St Maxine, did...was there any action in


that area or it all move on?
All moved on it got up then it was a pretty quick push then they got up past Leon and everything and it when they were up past Leon that we came out. No I think, I think it might have been totally unexpected and it was a very quick push up through there.
Tell me about how you were moved out of Southern France, where you went next?


Out of Southern France we put all our gear on trucks and went along to Marseilles and got on another American LST which brought us back to Naples.
What were the conditions like in Naples at that time?
Oh they were reasonable, reasonable speak English, while I was there we were camped in a half a Spaghetti Factory actually, one half was still making spaghetti and we’re camped in the other half


of it. While I was there I believe I was lucky enough to go to an opera while I was there.
Which opera did you go to?
Madame Butterfly we saw there. So it sounds like a cook’s tour doesn’t it? But no we were able to get there, we were there for a couple of months before we went by ship over to England. And was able to get from there to look over Pompeii too.
What was that like?
Very, very interesting


with all the excavations and everything. And we remember the, they were very small people back there in Pompeii days because they’ve got some that were preserved in all the ash and everything taken there. People probably still go there, they’ve still got them there in little glass thing and they’re fairly small people. And a lot of the streets had been excavated out with everything on them.


Was there much going in the way of action at that time?
No, no no it was all gone right up north. No action at all. Naples had gone, Rome had gone right up to North of the Italian campaign was almost at a finish then.
What was 451 Squadron doing there then, why did they send you up to Naples?
Well when we came back to Naples?
They only brought back to tranship us round to England.
Oh so you were just there for a couple of months


waiting for a ship back to England.
Yeah that’s all. All our equipment and everything left there and just took it back to England and all fully reequipped in England?
And you said you were stationed near Folkestone, yeah?
In England. So what was the situation in England then at that time?
The situation in England at that time, we were at Hawkinge and they were doing


patrols and everything over the Channel and over to France and everything and that’s when the V2 and V1 were still going at that time.
Did you see any of them come over?
Yes, you could hear them, while the engine kept going you were right, and if it stopped you’d know that it would come down and everything, but they devised that they were shooting them down and everything but there was


a Polish Squadron a bit further round in England and they use to fly up along side them and they would put the tip of their plane under the buzz bomb and just tip it up and it would go straight down. They worked out that was safer than shooting them when they blew up and you’ve got all the debris and everything which was a bit of a danger to them. So like that. But the V2s were the biggest worry for the people in London because they wouldn’t know anything until they went off.
They were pretty big weren’t they,


those V2s?
Yes, yes they were the first of your
rockets, yeah.
They got one of those hanging in the Science Museum I think it is in London, hanging up from the ceiling.
You see later on the squadron when it was move to another aerodrome up in further up North of London that’s what they were doing dive-bombing on


V2 sites.
Can you explain dive-bombing to me, you hear it people say dive-bombing, what’s the different between dive-bombing and other bombing?
Well ordinary bombing is just on the straight level and the other planes that are dive bombing dive down towards the target and let them go.
Do they dive down and then level out and let them go, or
They dive down let them go and then off.
Right so and


is it just they do it because it’s more accurate.
See the Germans were very good at it with what they call their Stukas, their Stuka dive-bomber was especially built for that only.
But you couldn’t do it with like a Lancaster [bomber] or one of those?
On no, no, Lancasters, Halifaxes that was all just straight level and all American Flying Fortresses and everything they were all higher level bombing and just done with their bomb sights where they thought they had it right and just let them go.


So what sort of planes did we use for dive-bombing?
What sort?
Well when I was off the squadron then, but I’ve got the photos there they had a 250 pound bomb under each main plane and a 500 pound underneath the fuselage
On a Spitfire?
and they said can you imagine a Spitfire with 1000 pounds of bombs on it.
Why didn’t we built a plane like the Stuka that ….dive bombers?
Don’t know, they said


when it went off with the one under the belly, the 500 pounder nobody every came back with that one on because there was only very little clearance between the bomb and the ground when they landed. So nobody every returned with a 500 pound bomb on.
It’s amazing they could get off the ground?
Isn’t it yeah? Some people might think, a lot of rubbish they don’t have that, but I’ve got photographs


of them there with them on.
Did you actually have to work on making those containers for those bombs under the Spitfires?
No, no, no I had left the squadron by the time they were using the bombs on them. The only time I ever had them is when we had the practice bombs underneath them out in the desert when they were doing a bit of practising.


Did they practice with these at Goodwin Sands did you say?
Yes, yes, yes, that’s what it was used for all their practise bombing and everything.
That’s why they’re still digging up unexploded bombs all over England, I’m not surprised.
That’s funny they’re still finding unexploded bombs.
All over the place.


Parts of Germany, France, England they’re still finding them.
How long were you in England for?
In England, 1st of December ’44, I must have left there about May.
So you had a Christmas in England?
What was that like?
Quite good down Christmas at Hawkinge, when all the officers


waited on their Ground staff for Christmas Dinner which was very good. And having escaped all this and everything a lot of people go to London and everything to have a look around there. I had some leave, I wouldn’t go to London to trust anymore, getting hurt by V2s or V1s, I went to Scotland and mine up to Edinburgh and I found that was


really beautiful city, Edinburgh. Looked around Edinburgh castle which is where the War Museum and everything is it’s very, very nice. And whilst there, there was a place at Edinburgh called Usher Hall and where I went to a concert one night and saw Vera Lynn herself singing at the Concert.
So but so that’s what I did with the leave that I got instead of going to London to look around, I went up there cause why trust your luck.


When you might get hit with a V1 or a V2.
Did you got up by train?
I suppose it was all blackout?
Did you manage to see anything of the rest of England at that time?
No, no I didn’t see much of England at all
What about Edinburgh, had Edinburgh been bombed at all?
I’m not sure whether it had been bombed or not, I didn’t see any bomb damage or anything there, no.


It was all along the whole along, right along Princess Street the main street which shops on one side like gardens and everything, castle there, I didn’t see any damage there at all. It’s funny it was warmer up there than what it was in the South of England at the time.
It was a really bad winter.
It was a bad winter. When we’d arrived there at that time it had been the worst winter that they’d had in fifty years down the south of England.


Gee that must have been bad?
And yet up at Edinburgh we found it was better than what it was down in Southern England.
So how did you keep warm down there?
Well when we arrived there after coming up after Middle East although we’d been in the Middle East but after being in the Middle East we went to bed at night with our clothes on and our overcoats over the bed and everything. And we were given a special allocation of cold


for a while till we acclimatised. Because as you know England and that was well and truly rationed.
What was it like in England with the rationing and?
We when we, I think they must have had a fairly hard time I think with the rationing and everything. But we were lucky we use to get parcels sent from home or from the Australian Comforts Fund and everything. And we got to know, well in Edinburgh


I got to know a family up there and we took all our stuff and everything to there and they thought great you know. A couple of meals with them, the family there and when I came home I was corresponding with them for a long time and even after we were married we use to send over food parcels but gradually it all just went by.
Were you in touch with anybody at home?
Oh write letters at home


and you’d get letters on occasions. It use to take a fair while for mail to come home and mail to come back. And everything was censored, that we wrote.
Were their letters to you censored?
I think so, I think there would be a certain amount of censorship in those days. Our letters, you’d write a letter home and it use to have to go to one of the officers


that would censor them when they came in.
And did they tell you much about what was going on with the Japanese?
Oh yeah, we knew all about that.
How did you feel about being in England then?
Well as I said we had volunteered as a squadron to come back several times but no that wasn’t allowed and had to stay there until things finished. And looking back on it there you can understand why because of


if they hadn’t of fully defeated Germany and everything where, I think the Japanese would have just been able to march through because all those forces wouldn’t have been able to come back here. And so one part had to be cleaned up before the other part was cleaned up. And looking back in hindsight you can understand reasons for us having to stay over there. But that was hard to


convince to some people that had been sending some of them lads their letters.
With white feathers?
Mmm, And if they send them white feathers, and where they got the white feathers in Corsica is where we lost people killed you know. It sort of doesn't make the fellows feel too good.


We all lived as one big happy family and all got on all right.
Were you working regularly in England on planes?
And what sort of planes were there?
The planes we had first at Hawkinge were Mark 16 Spitfires and they were the ones with Packard Merlin Motors in them but no where near as good as the genuine Rolls Royce. Later on


long after I’d left the squadron they were reequipped with Spitfire Mark 14 now that sounds funny that the 16 were the Packard but the 14s had a Rolls Royce Griffin motor in them which are much bigger and a more powerful motor and everything. It seems funny it’s the same when we were out in the Middle East with one Mark Spitfire


the next lot we got were I think they were 9’s the next one’s we got were 8’s and they were better than the 9’s but the 9’s were one’s that were done in a hurry for awhile whereas the other ones were on the drawing board and were genuinely design for that were a better plane. It just as happen to…they modify one and call it a Mark 9 and


gave it for you and then the other one would have been designed and everything come out would be a much better, same plane but a much better. And that’s the same as the Mark 16 and the Mark 14.
What were the spitfires doing, what were they going out to do at that time?
Well from England, that when they were doing out, they doing the firing the bombing, dive-bombing and fighter cover for


different things. Well I’d left the squadron at this time but it tells you in the book there how one particular times it was too far for them so they were able to land in Belgium, (UNCLEAR) refuel, reequip go one and come back. That’s the type of work they were doing there.


you were still there at Hawkinge did they lose many?
No, no I think they might have lost a pilot but no, no none of the fellows no. That’s whilst we were at Hawkinge too there’s a bit of a to do there one time just regressing a bit, when we were in Syria, Syria was a highly malarious place,


we had a lot of fellows got Malaria there and we had no such thing as Atebrin or anything. When we were in Corsica, Corsica was very high Malaria but by that time we had Atebrin and we just look like Chinamen. So when we went to England and to Hawkinge, Mr Drakeford came to see us, he was the Minister for air and we were all there in the thing and Air Marshal Williams was with us, the CO of the RAF


Air Base at Hawkinge and Ray Quib was going on about us and some of them were going crook about not being relieved until this. And he started saying this about oh yes but the fellows in the Pacific and everything (UNCLEAR) Malaria and everything they all got stuck into him, properly and I know the CO Group Captain said you cant talk like that. Just a so and so, he’s an Australian we’re Australian we’ll speak to him how we like and they really got stuck into him and he turned round


and said why wasn’t I told where this squadron has been, I thought they’d been stationed here in England. We had fellows on the squadron that had 2 or 3 relapses of malaria, they’re still on it and he was absolutely (UNCLEAR) nobody had told him. So no wonder they got into him.
So the Australian Government didn’t really know where…?
Well he didn’t, I think he just thought he was talking to a squadron that had been in England all the time


as quite a few, 453 and quite a lot of the others and 460 and all those they’d been in England all this time. But he just happen to struck a squadron that had seen quite a bit of service right through the Middle East and through France through Corsica and everything and he didn’t know. Till he got well informed tho.
Tell me about the trip home from


England to Australia?
That was very good, came home as I said on the Nieuw Amsterdam which is a Dutch ship about 37 odd thousand tonne and coming home on that. I had a lot of there was a Royal Marine Band on that and there were a lot of Royal Marines coming out and there were a lot of English Wrens coming out onboard and everything. And that was quite


a reasonable trip home because I was in a cabin that only had 3 bunks in it. And no so that was as I said VE day came about 2 or 3 days sailing off Fremantle and the order came through then from England. Splice the main Brace and everyone got issued with overproof rum. And a few days


later we arrived at Fremantle.
Did you stop anywhere on the way?
No we came home from Southampton down through, through the Suez Canal, first stop Fremantle. Yet on the way over on the Queen Mary we went and stopped at Trincomalee, well that’s a big port in Ceylon or Sri Lanka as they call it now. But on the way home no it was all the way home to Fremantle.


But you came through Suez?
Through the Suez
Tell what that was like?
Very good, it was going through the place where we’d been before and it was quite interesting trip coming through the Suez Canal. Much, much sand just desert either side.
Did the Nieuw Amsterdam travel in a convoy then or was it on it’s own?
No, no it came back on it’s own.
Cause it was so fast?
Oh no well war was practically.


So they didn’t think you needed a convoy?
A bit thin. The only thing that could have been any danger then was from the Japanese. I think it was at that time. So it was a more or less pleasant trip home.
Were you the only one who came from the squadron?
No there were about


about 20 of us.
What was it like when you got to Fremantle?
It was very good; we got off and had a few hours leave and everything. Only there for a little while and then from there straight round to Sydney. And disembarked there and went to Bradfield Park. From Bradfield Park, there a couple of days,


hopped on a train down to Melbourne and arrived here given straight away on 2 or 3 weeks leave and then at that time I had been away for over 4 years and at that time a thing came out that when you came home you weren’t allowed to be posted outside your home state then


so what did they do with me, they posted me to Mildura. Yep Mildura back in those days, back in those tin Nissan huts and everything again, sandstorms there cause that was in the middle of winter, it was cold and everything and you thought you were back in the desert again. They’d have been better off posting me to Sydney or to Queensland or something. But I was only up there


for a few months and then I came through and I was discharged, it was August or September I think. Only about a month after the war finished with Japan. But while we were up there VJ Day [Victory over Japan] came, while we were up at Mildura and the CO up there was a Group Captain Jeffries and he’d been over in the desert with 3 Squadron and he wouldn’t bloody give anybody leave to come to Melbourne for VJ Day. Only gave them 24


hours leave and of course up there was an all night train journey to get to Melbourne and back so I came down to Melbourne, as did a couple of other, couple of hundred of them, well when we got back he had SPs [Security Police] on all the gates and booked everybody and everything. So I got booked 2 days pay. But I wasn’t, having been away, still at sea at VE Day I was going to come


down to Melbourne to be home with the Family on VJ Day but that’s what happened with him so. We all reckon he was a bit of a stinker after that. And that was funny the officers that I appeared before was a Flight Lieutenant Fires who had been on 451 Squadron as an Intelligence officer so but I did two days pay just the same.


What was VJ Day like in Melbourne?
Well by the time I got down there everything was all over cause you know VJ Day came probably two days after and I was down there and I just went home to the family and the girlfriends I had then before I met my wife. Her best friend.
How did that happen?
We’d been corresponding all the time and everything so I came home, that’s when I met Leslie


I use to go over to the, her and this other girl to the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital every week. Entertaining the troops or take in food and parcels over there and that when I first me her. After I’d been going with the other girl a few years she two-timed off with another fellow and Leslie and I became engaged and married. So


now we’ve been married what about 54 years.
What happened to the other girl?
She married another fellow. That had just come back from up in the Pacific. So she’d married and she’s got a family too. We’ve met her since.
And she wrote to you the time that you were away?
Mmm. yeah,


It’s one of those things; I think it happened to quite a few fellows.
What were you doing in Mildura, what sort of work were you doing, were you doing on planes?
Same there on planes, exactly the same thing. Because there was a big training school and everything there. But it wasn’t much to do after a while because


not much gunnery going on it was practically at the end of the war and everything so it was just more or less going down the workshops working a bit on the planes.
Do you remember hearing about the bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
Yes, yes at the time you know a lot of people going crook about it, I said damn good thing it’s finished the war.


And after all if they’d have had to go in without those types of bombs no doubt it would have been the Americans, British, Australians would have lost thousands of people. I think it’s hard to say I suppose but it’s far better the other way than to lose our own.
Were a lot of people going crook about it then?
I don’t think so then but you hear a lot of them going crook about it now, that it should never


have been done and every thing but what would you rather see a couple of hundred thousand of what was the enemy then go or about half a million or so of your own go. At that time it’s the only way, it was kill or be killed. You know distasteful, as it seem it’s the only way to be about it.


I mean nobody goes away wanting to kill anybody but self-preservation I suppose.
Were you still in Mildura when you discharged?
Yes I was discharged from there; orders came through up to there because I had to report back to the MCG [Melbourne Cricket Ground] So the MCG was all air force and everything back in those days.


What did they do with you when they discharged you?
Nothing just gave me a thing and gave you coupons for clothing, food and everything and just on leave for a certain amount of time and then discharge on such and such a date.
Were you glad to get out of it then?
Yes in a way yet when the Korean


situation arose what did I do went and joined up the Air Force Reserve. I was on the Air Force Reserve for quite a few years.
So where did you go back to, to live. Where were you living at that time?
Pascoe Vale South.
Were you married yet or?
No, no not yet I didn’t get, that was in


’45, I didn’t get married until 1949. Funny how I was 29 when I was married. My son was 29 when he got married, my daughter was 29 when she got married, my wife’s father was 29 when he was married, strange as it
The magic age. the magic age.
Just as it happened.
Were you able to go back to your old job?
I went back


to a place called City Motors Panel Beating and everything in O’Connell Street in North Melbourne, I first of all went to work out at Ansett motors and they were making buses and everything. And a fellow there gave me a job to do which I did and I finished and I went back to get another job I’ve finished and he said oh no you’re still doing that, so I said this is no good to me I’m leaving and he said you cant leave it Manpower


I’ve got news for you I don’t come under Manpower I’ve been discharge after all this time I was a free agent and I said I’m just going. So I went back and got a job at this place City Motors Panel Beating and Engineering Works and I was there for quite a few years and I got married while I was working there and we were living at Chelsea so the travelling became a bit too much so I went to a place Bronson Motors down at Chelsea and worked there for a while


and then there was two other panel beaters myself and a spray painter we all gave notice and we started our own business down in Mentone, and that was going extremely well. And it’s funny one of the assessors use to come round, I knew him because he was the Manager of Melbourne Motor and Engineering Works where I was working before the war. So we got on and he put a bit of work our way


a couple of smashes and everything and he’d move them down to us. After a while my wife’s father got sick and he had a business out in Pascoe Vale, he owned a Service Station so I sold out my share of the business and when out to work for him for a few years and we moved form Chelsea to Pascoe Vale for four years. And then we sold our place up there and built a house just round the corner here and came back here to work


and I went back panel beating for a while and then the job as an assessor with Club Motor Insurance as it was first then changed its name to AAMI [Australian Associated Motor Insurers Limited].
That was a while ago.
Interviewee: Edward Hannon-Smith Archive ID 0443 Tape 05


I was one of the ones that were carrying the coffin for that and that should have been the thing more than anything.
I can’t understand this white feather thing?
Neither could we, the fellow, anybody who got, I didn’t get one but any of the fellows that get it couldn’t understand it, they’re fighting their guts out and just lost a few blokes and everything and people back here reckon they’re over there shirking.
And how did they single out


your squadron?
Well it’s not just our squadron, I think, I think others as well.
Oh right.
I think only people overseas, they shouldn’t have been there, should have been back there. See the same kind of thing happened with the 9th Division, they wanted them back there but they know made them, Churchill and that kept them there and everything and they were in the battle of Alamein. It was actually the Australian and New Zealanders that broke


the line at Alamein. But after Alamein was finished then they brought them back here and sent them up north. But before that people were going crook they shouldn’t be.
Yeah they didn’t really give them much of a leave either did they?
Ted I’m wondering if you can tell us about some of your mates in the squadron?


I had one he came from Fiji, he was an armourer and later on transferred to a Fitter Motor to Transport loader, because he was involved with motors over in, but he was a bit of a funny turn and everything now and again he’d have a pretend making of a Indian curry and dance round, you know how the Indians use to do it over in Fiji and he was one of the ones they use to take me out


and make sure they got home. And another one is another armourer Bobby Jaggers.
Can I just ask what was his ethnic background this guy?
O.K. But he just happen to
But he was working over there in the Gold Mines. Over New Zealand in the motor mechanic and came to Fiji, he’s now up in Queensland. Anyone one a fellow named Jaggers he was another armourer


there was three of us use to go out, we were together. Cause we all in the same Bivouac tent and everything right through the (UNCLEAR) so naturally you stick together. The squadron had a cricket team to at times that played a few matches whilst we were at Idku in Alexandria and waiting there to go up to Syria. And this Jaggers bloke he was a good bowler and


sometimes I use to keep the scorecards for them, they had a few cricket matches. And now and again they’d have a few football match against AIF fellows and that does happen from time to time where you’re coming out of one lot and going to a base, just waiting you know to go onto the next or waiting to be reequipped with a little bit of spare time and you get


with some of the other units and have a footy match or a cricket match.
You mentioned that your squadron was often based very close to the line, did you get to know many of the AIF Units, did you get a chance to mix?
No, no, no. We were on the move too much, you’d be only a few days at the one place and up off you might be for a few days. But fast


Who were some of the other characters in the Ground Crew?
Another was the Secretary of the squadron’s Association over in Sydney now. John Colbert, well he still writes out a newsletter to all of the ones of us that are left, every every three months I suppose, a bit of a newsletter.


He has a pretty good knowledge of a lot of things too because all the fellows have written to him about different things and he was one of the book committee, involved in the Bankstown to Berlin Book. But it’s hard to remember a lot of them really it’s just that long ago.
You said that the squadron was formed in Sydney


but of course you came from Melbourne
Where did most of the people of the squadron come from?
Well some came from Melbourne, some came from Sydney, there were some from Queensland, some from South Australian and some from Western Australia. Unlike an army unit which all come from one place. An Air Force Squadron is made up of people that come from all over the country. Country people, city people everything they all


just come to well like I was to rookie at Laverton and Point Cook and posted down to Somers, Somers to the squadron, that happened all round the country to the ones and they were all just posted to Bankstown to form a the squadron.
Did that mean that after the war, of course you’re all in


back to wherever you came from? Did you see many of the chaps of your squadron after the war?
No. only at the at Anzac Day or reunion that they’d have. Here in Melbourne we had Anzac Day and then we use to have, well we still do but there’s only a couple of us left to do it. The nearest Sunday to Remembrance Sunday in November, for years we went to Point


Cook, especially when all the cadets and everything were down there. It was used for training before they were moved up to the main, Duntroon I think it is, or somewhere else where they’ve done it now. But we use to have our Remembrance Day reunion at Point Cook with wives and everything would come we would have a Barbecue down there. It use to be a


remembrance service with the guard of honour and everything but that’s all gone since the main RAAF has been moved away from Point Cook and that type of thing. And now the last couple of years we’ve gone our to Fairfield RSL but the last time there were only 4 of us there. I don’t know how long that will go, I think one of those wont be there next year I don’t think.


That I mean obviously there’s an inevitability to that process, is it losing comrades at this stage of your life, how does that compare to losing comrades during the war?
I think now becomes a little more emotional now at times. I went to one of ours passed away only


some months ago and I went to the funeral down here at Mentone and I think oh sort of that becomes a little more emotional than it was when we were away, cause when we’re away your in action and everything and it…well you don’t expect it buts it’s more ore less part and parcel of the job your doing while you’re away, somebodies killed, well they’ve got to be buried,


done away with and you’ve got a job to continue on doing and your kept busy. When you’re back here you’ve got more time to reflect on it. Go to the funeral, full funeral service and everything, more reflection so it gets a little more emotional.
I’m interested in your like what happened to you


personally over the course of those years, I mean you started the war pretty young, you know you said you were a bit of a naïve young lad when you started and you come out 25, 26 years old having seen a lot more of life.
Right yes, I basically became a bit more worldly wise and know how to look after yourself a little bit better. And


don’t know just got to keep on look after yourself and do the best you can.
Did you feel that you grew up in those years?
Grew up to a certain extent yes but still I was thinking I was still a little on the quiet side, I’ve always sort have been like that.
So you didn’t I mean,


some soldiers and or airmen whatever get a reputation of knowing how to have high living?
Oh yes some of our fellows are real larrikins and everything, some of them and everything, no I was always pretty quiet always some of them say a bit of a stick in the mud what am I suppose to do. It’s like I’m at the bowls club, I’m on the Rules and Bylaw Committee and they always go crook, I always want to do


thingos by the thing cause I say once you start breaking one rule it leads to another rule being broken, so you’ve got to stick by it. And that’s the way I’ve been brought up and that’s the way I’ve always been. Can’t see myself changing now.
You talked to Annie [interviewer] a lot about this the process whereby your squadron was allowed to get


rotation and that people started eventually coming home, how did you decided when it was time for you, I mean were you able to make that decision yourself or was it just something that came up?
No, no that was the CO of the Squadron would go through his personnel and go through the files and everything and decided which ones would go and which ones wouldn’t. Naturally the first lot that were repatriated from Corsica were all, practically all


married men or some that had some commitment back home personally, they were the first lot that came. I was in the lot that came from when we were in Manston in England in 44 and well they knew that I had a brother and a sister back here and family history of things so I was in


practically the second big batch that came back home.
Were you given a choice, could you stay if you wanted to?
Oh I dare say, if you’d gone and said I don’t want to go home and everything, but at that stage I didn’t mind coming home at all. There had been a lot of us looking forward to the day when we could get home.
And I imagine that you felt that the job was pretty much done by then anyway?


Also having this other girl that I had been corresponding with all the time and everything, thought you know get home. Not that it turned out the right one but that’s another reason for wanting to get home.
How did you feel, you talked to Annie about the white letters that people in your squadron and perhaps other squadrons got, did you


think that the work that you’d been doing was properly valued or understood?
No we were a bit hostile about it and thought that well, people thought that we were over there having a holiday and we weren’t, we’d been living in the very harsh and hard conditions all the time and lost people. We were very very hostile, in fact it created


a lot of anger and everything amongst the squadron. Even if there’s only a couple of them got them, right through the squadron, big trouble.
Was there anyway of resolving that feeling?
No only by having other people come to us from one of the other squadrons and talk and talk it over and with the Padres that were there, talked about


when we lost the people in Corsica, one of the RAAF Padres happen to be with us at the time which Fred Mackay, when he came back here he took over from were Flynn of the Outback had left off and he was the Royal Flying Doctor Man, one of the aircraft is named after him actually now and it’s only


things like that settled everybody back down and got on with the job. Another one was, he wasn’t with us that time, but other times he’d been with us was a fellow named Bob Davies which became Bishop of Tasmania and the Roman Catholic fellow was fellow named of McNamara but he passed away quite a few years ago, he was the first one to pass away.


And Fred Mackay only died a couple of years ago.
Obviously you talk about that experience at Corsica and you’d been bombed and strafed other times, did some chaps find the conditions, the tension got to them?


Not really, we’re pretty lucky none of our fellows sort of went as they use to say ‘troppo’ [mentally affected by war time experiences] or anything about it, no. Pretty good level-headed lot of fellows they were. And some of our Ground Staff, Aircraft Gunners they use to call them with like machine guns sort of on five point thing had a bit of firing off and everything.


Sorry what was that?
Well the ground gunners and everything you know, they’d be, might have a Lewis gun or something like that mounted on a tripod with Aerodrome defence and they’d be there firing their guns and everything at them. And they were a pretty good lot of fellows they were, naturally you’d be a bit scared while it was going on but when it’s all over and everything they were just on with your job and into it again.


There was, I think you mentioned some occasions of friendly fire as well?
Yeah that happened.
Explain how what happened there?
I suppose the aircraft they
Whereabouts was this?
That was up in the desert this one time when the squadron was strafed by some other Hurricanes that probably mistaken the aircraft on the ground or


mistaken position or something but luckily there was no damage or anything done not that luckily, bad shots, hopefully. All woke up quickly, and awake, you can bet your life there’d be some signals going on. The worse friendly fire was the Yanks [Americans] bombing New Zealanders or anything. That happened a couple of times up in the desert.


Can you talk a bit, when you’re in the desert I think one of the first things the squadron was doing was the camera reconnaissance work, can you explain a bit more about how that worked and who were the people involved?
Well on aerial reconnaissance the Hurricane would have a couple of cameras fitted in belly of the fuselage.


They’d go out and have to do a rec and order photograph on different places and there’d be another aircraft go with them as cover. And the poor old pilot in the recky [reconnaissance] kite would have to fly on a straight and level flight at a certain speed and go over with the cameras going all the time. Other aircraft around seemed like an eternity to him. They lost a few planes like that shot down.


We have South African Pilots, lost a few of those had some RAF Pilots and then we had some RAAF Pilots. We were fortunate most of the RAAF Pilots seemed to get by and survive. But the South African ones we lost a few of them. Not very glamorous work you have to do, but work that had to be done. So if they wanted aerial photos or


some recon work to bring back and tell the liaison officer.
And did you have like a photographic person with the squadron or was that someone who was like just joined for that period.
No the pilots do all the photographic stuff and when we came back we had our own dark room special caravan, truck caravan things with about


photographers on the squadron. One of whom is pretty well known was Lawrence Laguy who later became an official war photographer. After he left the squadron when he, well he was taken away from us while we were still Army Coop [Cooperation] being that well known in the photography game, off he went. But we had the other, about another 3 photographers that were perfectly in, well that was their mustering.


when we went away, they went away with the squadron as photographers and that was it.
When you were in England, you mentioned that you went, you had some leave and you went to Edinburgh?
Did you do that, did you go by yourself or did you go with some of your mates?


no there was a couple mates to. Another mate with me, I forget his name now it might have been Christian I think, I’m not sure. And as I say we got very friendly with a family up there and went to, had a couple of meals with them and the parcels that we took, we were lucky to be there at New Years Eve, Hogman’s eve they call it which is quite a good time for the Scots in


up at Edinburgh. And as I said before able to see the Concert with Vera Lynn and everything else so.
Had you, were you familiar with her as a singer from the wireless and stuff like that?
Yes, yeah we use to hear her over the air, when we were in the Middle East and everything. Quite good to be able to see her in person.
Did you also hear the broadcast by Lord Haw Haw [German propaganda broadcaster]?


Once or twice we heard that. But not a great deal that was mainly I think aimed at England itself that one. But we had pamphlets dropped on well the troops at Tobruk and somewhere else, I’ve got a copy of a couple of those. One saying Yanks are having a good time back in your country


and you, what are you doing here?.
What did that provoke any response?
Apart from laughter.
No, just laughter that’s all. I think it’s the same with Lord Haw Haw, I think it’s just a bit of laughter with everybody.
There was one


I understand you went to you were in Palestine for a while and you went to Jerusalem?
Yes, yes when we went to Syria from the desert, went up to Syria in batches we were given a bit of leave and on my leave I went to Jerusalem with a couple of chaps who, I don’t know their names who they were but I


happen to be Anglican and a couple of those were Roman Catholic, when we were there we had a Dominican Father of the Catholic Order happen to be known to one of them and he was the priest in charge of the Church of the Holy Inception and he took us there and all over that we saw Christ’s Tomb and other things there and then


he introduced us to a Franciscan Monk who was in charge of the Church of Nativity, so he took us out to the Church of Nativity and we were there when the famous Bells were there and the choir singing and everything and we heard all that and he took us underneath to show us the Catacombs underneath and where the bones of the holy innocence are but a lot of people don’t happen to see that and that was our…and we were there on Palm Sunday so that was our leave. That’s how I and a couple of others


spent ours while others went off on the town, so. It’s funny, or before that once we were down at Idku while we were at Heliopolis in think it was camp waiting for equipment. I did, I became, took confirmation classes there and confirmed in the Cairo


Cathedral by name of a fellow Beaumaris Gellafate the assistant Bishop who to the Sudan. And myself and another friend of mine named Cummings, he then took us to lunch in the Bishops Palace so that was my introduction, that was one of my reasons staying with the other fellows and going and seeing the sights in Jerusalem.
That’s an interesting story, I mean religion


sort of is very important to people and the war can sometimes intensify those sorts of feelings. Had you been a regular churchgoer before you went to the war?
No I’d start off I use to go when I was a kid with my things I use to go to Sunday school at the Methodist church out in Coburg and I had other friends, I use to go to Presbyterian Church for


a while up at Pascoe Vale just now and again with friends. No not a regular churchgoer at all.
What brought about this interest, desire?
Oh just with the Padres and everything there. And I think the times as they were and everything. I thought oh well I’d be confirmed and everything.
What was that an Anglican, Church of England?
Yeah Church of England


it was or Anglican as they call it now. And now I’m not a great churchgoer but I go to Church every Christmas eve at half past eleven, so it doesn’t take up all Christmas Day and I go on Easter Sunday. And an Anzac Service that they have at a church round here to and that’s the only three times that I go to church.
Did you do any bible reading when you were doing the


undergoing your confirmation?
No, no only just general, a bit of general learning by Padre Bob Davies and another English Army chaplain. Just a few you know run a few things and everything there. No I wasn’t a bible basher or churchgoer or anything but just thought that that what I wanted to


do over there and I was given a bit of New Testament by Bob Davies, he signed it, it’s in the glove box of my car outside which accompanied me right through the rest of the time, which I carry in the car all the time.
That experience of being in a country like Palestine and seeing Jerusalem and these churches like you say, seeing parts that a lot of other people don’t get to see,


what did you think about that at the time? Was it just a bit of a jaunt or...?
No I thought it was rather fascinating seeing about people (UNCLEAR) and everything and there are all the explanations down there, go down underground and there’s part of the pool and having seen these things and everything. There’s no way you can convince me that some of those things didn’t happen. I mean I don’t believe everything,


some of the things they say in the bible happened and everything. But a lot of things did happen and the proof of it is there. But very, very fascinating and very interesting. And just outside Jerusalem is the Mount of Olives with the Church of all nations on it and every parts, different parts of the church all donated by different nations, hence the name.


I just forget, I’ve an idea, it might have been the roof of the Church for the Australian, from Australia. So it’s just the way I spent my leave to there.
Did you see anything, apart from Jerusalem; did you spend time in other towns? Did you get to know any of the local people or...?


Not really, up in Syria we went, it wasn’t a leave but be off, a few hours off for a day and we went to another town, a little town called Zarly [?] which is up in the mountains cause the Rayak Aerodrome was in the Bekaa Valley which is about 4000 feet above sea level and the lowest part going over to Beirut above that is another 3000 feet about that.


Going from Beirut to Damascus it’s 7000 feet up and then 3000 feet down into, well Zarly is up in the mountains and just had an afternoon there, standing around having a few drinks and the photograph of the place I’ve got, when I was an assessor at AAMI there use to be a little place along Fenick Road somewhere that use to do the front ends of Volkswagens and I was telling a fellow


there about it. He was a Lebanese. Showed him the photo and it was his grandfather’s place. Just a little aside but otherwise we didn’t get to know people very much. It was the same, when we came out of the desert and were travelling through Palestine to go to Syria we were camped, pulled up one night on there and we went to a….a fellow came and invited us to come


to their place that night it was a Jewish Kibbutz and we spent a day with them while we were all sitting around the hall and singing their songs and going on and they gave us oranges and everything like that which was bit of a change from Bully Beef. Apart from that no we didn’t have much to do with the only people we met was when we were in England.
How long were you in Syria?


Oh when did we come out of the desert? It was about the end of 41 we’d be up there that was about 6 months or so I suppose.
My understanding, around that part of Syria there’s a lot of you know ruins or remains of old Roman towns?
Baalbek mainly, no I didn’t get there. A lot of the fellows went up there.


Well a couple of the trucks went up for a drive went to Baalbek, no I didn’t get there. I did get to Damascus. There was another place there called a street called Straight and a church of St Paul where he was lowered down out of the window, I seen that. And it’s funny back in those days, I got a photograph there of a big semi trailer type coach, air conditioned


coach run by the Nann Brothers who were New Zealanders. Been over in the First World War, stayed there and started up a coach service from Damascus to Baghdad. So if you could imagine that running then.
Was there a sense, as an Australian being in these places and it would be extraordinary, did you know much about the


history of the First AIF having been in these places you know 20 years prior to you before.
Knew a little bit about it because back in our time when I was going to school it used to be taught. It hasn’t been taught for years. I think they are starting to do a bit more teaching of it now and I think it should be. My Dad when he went to school he went over to Haleabee [?] I think and one of the things that he had to do was American History.


I think that he should have had to have done Australian History. There’s not enough of our own people know the history of Australia, not that I know a lot myself. But as I say when we went to school we were taught about that and we use to have Anzac Day Services always at school. And I can remember every Monday, you had to parade every Monday and you would salute the flag, honour your parents, the flag and your country.


And I don’t think they do too much of that now either. I think that’s one thing the Americans do have over us, is their patriotism. I think the young today should be taught more patriotism. Just my own personal opinion but I think if it was like that, I think it would be a better country. I think today the young


people sort of teachers are not allowed to chastise them, or let them go crook. Back in our day we were, we were none the worse for it and I think we got better discipline for it. But still that’s just my opinion.
Apart from seeing the countryside round, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria


did you get much of a chance to see places like Sardinia and Corsica?
No, the only of course we saw was round the, round our airstrips and everything. No I didn’t get to see Corsica. Pretty mountainous place, Corsica. We were, the aerodrome where we had all the trouble was just a little bit south of Bastia


and after that we were moved to the other side of Corsica and that was where our planes were doing to cover for the South of France. And the road along there was more of less carved out of the cliff faces, only a very narrow road along there. A lot of the American Negro drivers they were pretty horrific drivers and now and again one would go over the edge and that would be the end of them.


Practically all mountain and very high malaria.
Did you have any favourite places in all, in what you saw?
I think my favourite place of the lot would be Edinburgh. For the leave that I had there. We use to go and stay in the Forces Club and the


girls and that that worked there we use to tease hell out of them just to hear them talk and everything. Nice accent, that a very nice place, Edinburgh.
Did you climb Arthur’s Seat?
No, (UNCLEAR). No but I did go over the Firth [Firth of Forth] Bridge to


just to say we’d been over it and back. But apart from that no I didn’t see a lot. Didn’t have a lot of time, had about a fortnights leave up to Edinburgh.
And was that, did you fly up there or did you catch a train?
No, train. Didn’t see much countryside, a little bit of countryside but not a lot cause


It was midwinter wasn’t it?
Yes but it’s amazing with England, travelling by train how much open countryside there is in the place. All the, with the amount of the population there is for a very small island is England. But there’s plenty of open space.
Not quite as much as the desert?
Oh no deserts never ending.


Did people get lost in the desert?
Yes, yes people get lost in the desert. The desert’s not just all flat either it’s all depression there, hills and everything, pretty rugged places in the desert. Luckily we weren’t far off the coast all the time, we were at this, apart from a couple


what they call escarpments and that which is reasonably flat.
What about the Kantara Depression were you ever based around there?
No I don’t think so, no. I know inour book there’s a little bit about the Kantara Depression and everything, some of the long range desert units use to operate through there. One of our detachments got lost one day and ended up there with the long range desert force until they got pointed in the right way.
I think we’ll change.
Interviewee: Edward Hannon-Smith Archive ID 0443 Tape 06


Ted, I’ve asked you about some of your mates, I’m wondering if you can tell me a bit about some of your officers?


Well one Ray Hudson, a very well liked pilot in our squadron was a Flight Commander of one of the flights. Was moved over to 450 Squadron as a (UNCLEAR) CO Squadron Leader and he was the one that flew back to Corsica to do some of the taking to the fellows when


things were going a bit awry. Another named I think it was Archibald and he use to fly during the Vietnam War, was flying reinforcements to and from there cause his son was in Vietnam.


Another one’s name was Col Robinson, and Col Robinson came back as CO when we were in England for his third tour of duties for squadron. Having had a tour of duty with us in the desert, a tour with someone else, and he was back to do another tour with 451. A lot of people use to think they use to do one tour or two tours and go but he’d been there from early in the piece and was still there towards the end. There’s another one that’s still


in the association over in Sydney, that’s Charles Edmondson, there’s another one that was on the book committee (UNCLEAR) the book I cant remember a lot of them. But all their names are in the book there and it’s easy if you go through the book to remember them.


Another one’s George Purdies and he had another mate too, I use to go to some dinners with them over at Choices and RAAF Europe but they’re both passed away. I no longer go out to those dinners, too far to go and too late coming home at night. Getting too old. But


we had a very, very good lot of pilots, they mixed very well with the fellows, we were all just no different, one to the other. Another one of our Pilots he went on as a CO of another squadron, he was eventually taken prisoner of war and he had a pretty hard time, he got belted around a fair bit. Poor fellow he passed away back a couple of years ago it may have been from injuries and everything caused


from that and he finished up in a wheelchair. With the hands of the Gestapo [German internal security police]. And there’s a nice little piece written in the book from him about the Ground Staff and everything. That’s after that, a couple of them finished up flying, some at Ansett, some at TAA [Trans Australia Airlines].


Apart from that I can’t remember the lot back then, much more about them.
When you came back, at the end of the war. I mean you were just in time for VJ celebrations, well almost.
Didn’t get there for the celebrations, unfortunately.
You just got on the charge.


You mentioned that you went pretty much straight back into work. Did you have any leave off? Did you have some time off?
I had some time off, had about; I think I had about a month off before I went back to work. But couldn’t stay away too long, because you had to get back.
Did you have a lot of deferred pay?
Well deferred pay for four years? Deferred pay and


I forget what they call the other, there was another payment as well, it come from War Repat [Repatriation]. Money paid, what they call repatriation or something, what do they call it. Gratuity money, so much a day for that, yes mine all went to a block of land.


Apart from that I had to go back to work to earn my keep.
Now you were living in Pascoe Vale when you came back?
Yes, they call it Pascoe Vale South; I was living in Gallipoli Parade with my stepsister and her husband, who he was a TPI man from the first war. And that was a Soldier


Settlement there of war houses from the First World War. A Soldier Settlement thing there was quite a few streets of them Gallipoli Parade, oh about 4 or 5 other streets all named after First World War streets.
You nephew who was in the


29th Battalion, what did you get back to see him after the war?
Well after the war I went to live there again, he was still away up in New Guinea. When he came home yes we were living in, his wife was living at that house with a couple of children. I more of less use to do the nursing and feeding and everything. One of them would only feed for me.


And when Dad come home yes we were all there for a few years together until he built his own place a little bit further on in Pascoe Vale and I still stayed living in Pascoe Vale with my stepsister until we were married.
Did you find it easy to adjust back into civvy [civilian] life or…?
Oh more of less, I came back in fairly well apart from


as I mentioned earlier, when I had the job at Ansett, I finished my job and wanted more and he didn’t (UNCLEAR) so I finished up leaving and went to work at City Motor Panel and that was constant work from there on.
Did you miss your comrades that you’d had in the squadron?


No not for a while because I was on with back with the family and everything for a while. It wasn’t for a few years until I started going to reunions and everything then. And then well became good; I use to look forward to every year then at having a reunion and meeting all the fellows again. Back in those days there use to be a lot of us. It use to be met as 451 Squadron Reunion then in the old Federal Hotel corner


of …there’s a government building there now corner of Collins Street and King Street I think it is yes. The old Federal, when that went we went and we use to meet at the Hotel Francis which was in Lonsdale Street between Elizabeth Street and Queen Street.


Then when that packed up we went, we had our meetings then at Richmond Bowls Club there was still quite a lot of us, about 30 or so. Because one of our members was a member there, when he passed away it folded up and we now go to the Fairfield RSL. And now it’s down to about 4 members.


There one of those members he’s about 87 or 88 now and he’s not too good, so I don’t think he’ll be there for very much longer. But he and another one of our members they had joined the Rats of Tobruk Association too. Because the squadron was eligible to join that because they, oh they were only there was a couple of weeks


in Tobruk but eligible to join the Rats Association. Which I’ve never bothered to.
Did you actually go into Tobruk?
On that aerodrome, yes but not into the Tobruk township, no. They’ve got a drome, I think we were only there from the 11th to the 17th of December 41.
Was that, where you were


were you surrounded at that stage, or was the front line not quite?
Oh when we first went in to relieve Tobruk they opened a corridor first for the relief of Tobruk yes we got to there, then the Germans did a counterattack and closed the corridor and that’s when we had to get out quick. And then we were out quick we come out just outside Bardia; no we didn’t get back there anymore. But that’s


where some of our fellows were. One party left there and that’s they were at Sidi Azeiz and they were the ones taken prisoner that we got back when Bardia fell. So we weren’t in there long and when they closed the corridor well we had to get out very quick you know.
But were you able to withdraw on land or did you have to go…?
No on land, straight down on land.


So I was just interested in that part, I want to come back to just after the war again now. Did you talk to your nephew much about his experiences?
Not a lot. He told me a little about up there, but not much, we didn’t talk. Neither of us talked much about the war actually. As my wife said the other day when they rang up and interviewed on the phone interview


she said I’ve heard you say things that I’ve never ever heard you say before. I think it was only when he did the interview, and you’re doing the interview it’s the only time that I’ve ever spoken much about it at all.
Do you think that’s a good thing, do you think it’s been necessary to forget about that period?
Oh I think it’s more or less things, at


reunions and everything that’s the only time you’ll discuss with your friends cause you’ve all been through the same thing and you’ll say I remember this and we did this or we did that but generally going out, no it’s not something you do. Discuss much or anything.
What about with your children?
No, I haven’t told them a lot about it. At all, they


know where I’ve been and everything but haven’t told them anything of all these other things that happened or don’t happen. Just say where I’ve served and where I’ve been. They know I was in a (UNCLEAR) air raid and some fellows killed and everything but I more or less don’t tell, don’t say much of it. But I’ve been in the Anzac March,


the last one my son and grand daughter came in and watched it the last couple of years they have but that’s the only time, it’s only the last two years but they’ve become very interested in it. As I think a lot of young ones are getting more interested in it now too. And in fact the grand daughter, she fifteen year old she wants to march for me now so.


Which I can see the time coming when I wont be marching any much more. Last year when I was a bit crook, this year I marched, they year before I didn’t, I rode in a truck.
In those you know the first few years after the war, did you dream about your experiences? I mean do they


come back to you in anyway?
They do occasionally; they still do on odd occasions now. Especially if we’ve been to see a war film or some other films sort of thing, yes they have. That’s something that you don’t like to say you know because people think you’re a bit of a wimp or troppo or something or you’re making it, no I still have some nights where you dream.


What sort of dreams are they?
Oh hard to say, hard to explain dreams and everything they’re just dreams, wake up and cant get sleep and everything. It’s like after last Friday on the phone talking that night I couldn’t get to sleep before 2 o’clock before I went to sleep, just seem to get the thing over and just mull things


over in you mind just mulling them over, just one of those things, you say why cant I get to sleep. In the end I thing just through exhaustion away you go.
And did that happen a lot in those first few years?
No it’s happened more in later years then it did in earlier years.


Nothing to do with it but I suppose but watching that funeral of that policeman the other day with all the police lined up and they were saluting one after the other, I just cried.
You were married in 1949, wasn’t it?


were you able to buy your own house pretty much straight away then or where did you live?
No, no we went to live down at Chelsea and my wife’s mother had an old property down there with an old house on the front and an older sort of bungalow on the rear of it. The front house was left permanently and we were given the rear one rent free for as long as we wanted to stay there. Which pretty old


place and everything, so we did it up as best we could and we lived there for four years, and it was whilst there when our son was born while we were there, at Chelsea Bush Nursing Hospital. We live there for thing and then we managed to put a deposit. Her father became sick he had a garage and service station at Pascoe Vale so I was in the business and sold out when I run that and we put a, and managed to rack up a deposit, bought a house out


at Pascoe Vale, we were paying it off. We were there for four years sold it and but in the meantime we had a block of land that we owned round the corner, which back in those days we bought for 300 pound. The same block of land to buy it today would cost you about $300,000 at least or more. And Pascoe Vale for four years and in that four years we were able to scratch


enough and they had cooperative housing societies back in those days and one got into one of those and had the house built around the corner. After a number of years my wife’s grandmother died and we were lucky to get a bit of money and were able to pay it off. And this, then one of the oldest house in Beaumaris was on this block we owned, where these two houses are now. It was too big for


us so we were able to sell that and get into this place. So we’ve been in this one now for just on 21 years. I think this where we’ll see our days out.
When you were married in ’49, it was shortly after that I think that the Korean War broke


out. When was that ’50, ’51?
No that was before we were married, the Korean War broke out I think, cause that’s when I the Korean was before ’49. ’45 it was about must have been about ’47 was it do you know.
I can’t remember exactly.
It was before I was married I know because that’s when I rejoined the air force reserves. And I was in that


before we were married.
What did that entail, what responsibilities?
It didn’t entail, I didn’t have to go to camps or anything I was just on reserve and they use to send me journals every now and again and everything. I thought I would have had to have gone to training camps or anything but no and I was on it for a number or years.
Were you asked to join up or


was that a decision you…?
No, it was just a decision I made.
What did your fiancé think about that at the time?
She was a bit stroppo [upset] I think, that was the other lass I was going with, it wasn’t with my wife. But you know it was before I was married. Thought I was being a bit silly and everything, but I’d


always been interested with being in the army since 16 and everything I thought oh well. It was sort of being a bit patriotic I suppose, still am.
So you weren’t ever called up to go to camp?
They send you journals, was that to familiarise you with new armaments …?
No it was just reading, keeping with what was abreast with you know what was


going on and things like that. And I was still on that after we were married, for a few years. And that’s I was still able to get into my uniform at that time. So I was able to wear that, I got the air efficiency award and I was able to go up to Laverton on parade in uniform to get that.


Which was a bit of a moment, that’s when the lad was only a couple of year old.
Why were you going for that certificate?
Air efficiency award was only; it’s for long and efficient service and everything. It’s usually for 12 years continuous


service. Well I had from 1936 till ’45. But overseas service counts double time, but from ’36 to ’45 it was you know time just the same. So just out of the blue they wrote to me from the Air Force saying I had been eligible and been


awarded the efficiency award and I was to attend this parade on such and such a day. So I went. There were about 20 of us altogether. Here was me wearing a sergeants uniform and up the other end of the line was a Group Captain. All the same just Air Efficiency Award. I think in the army called it the Finsey Medal [?] I think in the army.


You’ve obviously got a fondness for that, you know for your association with the Air Force. Were there any pardon me asking but were there any negative aspects of your time in the service?
I don’t think so, no.


I dare say if the same, silly to say it, but if the same thing happened was to happen I’d do the same thing again. I’d always been interested because long before the war they had air shows when we got our very modern Hawker Demon planes that they had here. And they had a big air show put on at the Flemington Race Course and I use to go and watch those


and everything and all the aerobatics with that and my nephew certainly. So I sort of always had a bit of an interest in planes.
Did you ever have a desire to get a pilots licence?
No, not really. I was happy to stay where I was.


about flying did you ever have, if you go on a plane today does that mean anything to you or is it just like getting in a car?
No, it’s all right I suppose we use to go up to the Gold Coast every year for those until four years ago. Use to drive up there


but that got a bit much so then we were flying up there for about five years, no I use to always be all right, sometimes I use to wonder when the flaps go down and the wheels go down, is it falling to pieces? But no just normal flying.
What about guns and weapons, now you dealt with a lot of, I mean that was your job during the war.
Back in those days yeah.


Did you ever have dealing with weapons after the war?
For a while I did, I use to belong in the Coburg Gun Club but that was only a 12 gauge shot gun with clay pigeon shooting. I did that for about 3 years and then I just sold it and everything and never seen not a gun since.
I’ll just take a


quick. Ted I wonder if you could tell me about your involvement with Association, wartime Associations or the RSL?
Well I belong, well when I first came back I joined the Coburg RSL when I was still in the forces back then and then when we come down this way I belonged to the Beaumaris RSL and I’ve been there for


since, I suppose about 40 years based around there. I play bowls for the Duke of Edinburgh Shield, which is held every year which is an RSL Tournament from all the RSLs all over Victoria, those that can field the bowls side. That’s usually held at quite a


lot of different venues, because only 6 teams can go to one venue, so theirs quite a number of venues.
When you say you, that you’re a member of Coburg RSL, what would that mean, would you go there just for Anzac Day or Remembrance Day? Or would you go you know every Tuesday or whatever?
No when I came back and I was still a serving member and


the lass was going with me, her father was a member there, took me down and joined me up and I only went there a few times. Up here at the Beaumaris RSL well I go there every second Thursday night, there’s quite a few of us go up there for a meal and every Tuesday Night we go down to the Mentone RSL for a meal. So apart from


that, that’s about the involvement with it, and they have an Anzac Service every year, naturally which I go to. But apart from that there’s I don’t go there a lot, I use to go to all their meetings at one time but I don’t now cause I was got very involved in the Bowling Club and spend most of my time there.
What’s the attraction of the RSL?


Well it’s very good for all ex-service people and everything. I suppose to put it the same, it’s the same as a lot of workers have got a union that stick up and everything for them. The RSL is there for the ex-service person and it’s also there to help the widows, the sick and the children, that’s the main purpose of the RSL


The RSL is there to be a very good citizens, to make good citizenship and to help the fellow man. That’s the main purpose of the RSL, to look after all it’s ex-service personnel and those that are in need. Those that are having difficulties with Veterans Affairs with pension and everything, they’re there to help them or lend a hand for that’s the main attraction of the RSL


You’ve mentioned a few time about patriotism and the fact that you regard that as important and you’ve talked about Anzac Day. Every now and again some people call for Anzac Day to be a National Day, you know to try and for some people the 26th of January is a bit of a problematic day,


what’s your opinion on whether or not Anzac Day should be a National, you know should be the National Day?
I think Anzac Day should always be Anzac Day as it is and Australia Day should always be Australia Day. That’s the Foundation of Australia OK, but I don’t think Anzac Day should ever be changed. Because more and more or less they are trying to open up more and everything but


I remember some years ago, Anzac Day use to be a completely closed day and those people should remember it was the RSL that voted on it to agree to a half day and I think that’s the way it should always stay everything should be closed up until midday and their sporting fixtures that they have, some of the proceeds always go to the RSL welfare and I hope and trust that it always


stays that way.
What about the Unit Association you mentioned that it was a little bit difficult for your squadron because you’re spread all around.
I mean how much involvement did you have with and from when did you start getting involved?
In the Melbourne one here I was very involved in the early


days of it, 451 Squadron, then we realise there weren’t many of them here and everything, so we tried to form a Desert Air Force Association of which I was right in it from the start I think. But it’s been hard to get, well 3 Squadron to come into it, they’re part of Desert Air Force and 450. Well 3 as I say is a permanent squadron so they’re able


to maintain an Association of their own and have their own thing all the time. I think 450 have had more people here we have a lot of their, tho they’re getting very depleted now. The Desert Air Force Association from having quite a big membership has now gone to about 4 turning up for the...a few more march under the Desert Air Force Banner in the March but


as far as going to a reunion there’s only about 4 of us. All the rest come from all other units and everything so it more of less comes down to just the old 451 fellows, about 4 of us.
Do you look back on your war years as the most significant event in your life or are there more other things that


take that loom larger?
No I think the war had been a part of my life important, the most significant was my bringing up (UNCLEAR) getting married and the family. My family mean everything to me. My son and daughter and two granddaughters. I think the biggest


disappoint I had was about 4 years ago when my son’s wife left him and he’s now on his own. They’re the most important things in my life now, just to look after them.
We’ve talk before about the fact that you hadn’t ever felt the need to talk about your war experience,


do you think it’s a good, I mean we’re here we’ve been probing a lot of this stuff and conscience of the fact that you know, you’re going to be thinking about it again after we leave. Is it a good thing to revisit these memories do you think or is it better to keep them in the background?
Oh no, I suppose it would be a very good thing


I think for some of these things to come out and that’s it’s recorded and everything. Cause I think from the First World War there hasn’t been a lot recorded and you’ve only been able to get it from some of the old fellows, in the last few years, right in the twilight of their years well I’d say it’s getting that way for me too. I think it’s a very good thing to be recorded so as people in the future will know as what happened


and what’s gone on. And I suppose with you interviewing me today I’ll probably discuss it with a couple of the others mates now just I’m round here at the Beaumaris Bowls Club just round the corner and there’s a big lot of us that are ex-servicemen. As a matter a fact I was out for a meal last night to the Beaumaris RSL and mentioned it to one of my other mates up there and he said yes he was interviewed by you


some time back and he said that I think it’s well worth while. He’s one that saw a lot of service. No so with them, he’ll probably want to discuss this with me now and say how’d you go? and everything and it will with some of the others. I’ve told them about the interview from last week down there and they are all very interested in it.


And no doubt they’ll be quizzing me.
Well we’re obviously very interested in your story and we’d like to thank you Ted for sharing it with us today.
Actually I didn’t think I had any story to tell and everything. There are plenty of other people with a lot more than I’ve experienced and everything than what I’ve had but anything that I’ve been able to tell you or anything, I only been too happy to. Even though every now and again it’s brought a bit of a tear to me but...
That’s all part of it I suppose


Just my make up I suppose. I cry now when they play the last post so... That’s something that moves me every time.
Well thanks very much Ted.


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