recall but Mum and Dad lived there until the Depression, then we moved back with my grandparents. We stayed until almost when the war broke out, we moved back out to the house in Preston where I, from there went to Northcote High School and my interest in aviation had started when I was about 5 or 6 and I can recall the winning aircraft
in the 1934 Centenary Air Race form England flying over as they arrived in Melbourne. And this is my first memory of my aircraft and nothing stopped from there on, it was aircraft from there on. When I was at Northcote High School, as the war had started then, in 1939, I joined the Air Training Corps and in fact the Australian Air League before that,
before I moved out to Preston and from there the Air Training Corps when I was old enough at 16, with a view to getting into the air force as soon as possible. Of course, 18 was the joining period for air crew which I had to have, I didn’t want anything else except to be a pilot. So I stayed in that until – I was actually kicked out of the Air Training Corp for not handing my rifle
back having reached the age of 18 and not doing as I was told to hand my rifle back. And I finally got a letter from them saying “Hand it back or else” because in those days, as 16, 17 year olds, we used to carry .303 rifles about on the trams and what they do nowadays with terrorist activities I don’t know but we were, as youths, carrying rifles around with
us. So I think I might have got a dishonourable discharge from the Air Training Corps for not handing my rifle back.
Missing”. He was trying to break a record in flying out from England to Australia in the aircraft which is pictured there. He was flying over the Bay of Bengal and he just disappeared, they never found him. Months later they found the wheel from his aircraft in the sea. He’d taken off with influenza from England, he was warned not to fly but he did because of the government activity he was very short of
money and they owed him quite a lot so he thought in breaking the record he’d get some money coming in. So he did it and the theory is that he probably fell asleep presumably in the morning, 2, 3 o’clock in the morning over the Bay of Bengal he might have just fallen asleep and just let the plane go. He hit the top of an island, hit the trees. So that was a
blow to me and of course there was great hope that he would be found in a couple of days but he never was, hasn’t been to this day, apart from that wreckage.
hero much like an unwashed singer nowadays, a rock and roll singer, who you call heroes on radio and television, they’re not heroes, they’re just people, idols you might call them, they’re not heroes. Heroes do something heroic, Kingsford Smith had done quit a lot of heroic things in his time. He was the first to fly the Pacific in both directions, he broke records
between England and Australia. He was the first across the Atlantic, sorry not the first across the Atlantic but he was the first to fly completely around the world, in different flights, but he was the first to go right round the world. He broke records in Australia, he broke a record around Australia so he was the hero of the day and he features very highly in aviation history.
So, someone you’d look up to and hope to emulate some day.
So tell me about your family, you were living with your grandparents?
The whole family was there, yes, Mum and Dad. Dad had been in the army in World War I, in France, he was gassed finally and in hospital in England before he came back here. I was the first child eventually of nine although one died at nine months with pneumonia, the others have all survived, they’re all around still. So being the eldest
I suppose I might have been spoiled I don’t know. The younger ones say I was. I wasn’t made to eat vegetables for instance where they were forced to. I probably got kid treatment. I was the first to go to work, naturally, and we all get on well together still.
trade, a house painter. I don’t know if he did anything on the side, I don’t think so. He used to go to work at 7 in the morning and come home at 5. I know he used to go round to the bookies [book makers], round behind the pub, of a Saturday so whether he made anything I don’t know because I wasn’t into that sort of thing but I think we probably got a bit of help from my grandfather who I think had a reasonable sort of
job with The Argus. He only had my mother and another brother and her brother I should say. But they were a big family too they ended up with nine children as well. And my mother’s brother was a tram conductor and my grandfather used to tell me, I can remember him saying “Don’t get mixed up with aeroplanes, there’s no future in them. Get a good solid job like your uncle, join the
Tramway Board, become a tram conductor”. If I had I’d have been out of work years ago, wouldn’t I. In fact I stayed flying much longer than he did on trams. He retired many years ago anyway. So when we moved out to Preston I think there were only about four of us when we moved back out to
Preston, it might have been five, but then the rest came along. And when war broke out Dad joined the Volunteer Defence Corps and I can recall riding my bike down to Point Cook where he was on guard duty, around Point Cook area and seeing him there, but I think it must have been when the Japanese came into the war, he transferred into the AIF [Australian Imperial Force] again. He was pretty old at that stage, I
suppose he must have been late ‘30s. Maybe I could work it out if I stopped but eventually he got sent up to Darwin so he was up in Darwin when the wharfies went on strike and the army were unloading ships. The Japanese were bombing the place but the wharfies were on strike, so what’s changed, what’s changed? This rally the other day on Anzac
Day, not Anzac Day, what they call Remembrance Day, CFMEU [Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union], a rally, same attitude. Anyway, Dad was then put in charge of movements of Japanese prisoners down to Cowra by train and I can recall him coming on leave a couple of times from Cowra having brought some Japanese prisoners
down and guarding them by train. When the war ended he was out again of course, went back to painting. And I then applied when the first call up for air crew happened, it was the Royal Australian Navy looking for pilots for their new fleet air arm, or naval aviation it was initially known as.
I got through the medical but in their medical they sat you up against a wall with your legs out and measured your leg length. I was ¾ inch too short so I didn’t get into the navy for which I’m now thankful. I later on trained, the air force called up about six months later so I’d missed the first call up but I got into the second. And we were trained in parallel with the
navy pilot trainees and the ones that were on our course I think there are only about two left. One got killed on the course, one was killed in England while he was training, naval training over there, and two or three got killed off carriers. So the air force was a safer
organisation I think. Anyway, to get back to the early years, as soon as I left school at the end of my intermediate year I wanted to get into the aircraft industry. So I went down and applied to work at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Fisherman’s Bend and I got in straight away and they were making the Boomerang fighter at that
stage, the Boomerang was a locally designed fighter aircraft and it was just magic to go into that factory and see all the new secret fighters that we were building in that factory. So I spent 5 ½ years there working right through until I joined the air force but I spent the last 3 years as a member of what they call the flight crew.
That was in the flight hangar preparing aircraft for test flight, rectifying any mistakes, any errors, getting them ready for the air force to test them and to pick them up and to fly them away for sending off to squadrons. So that last 3 years was just heaven, if the factory was heaven, this was heaven on
heaven, absolute magic for a young guy. And also I’d done something I’ve always been proud of – at 19, we were building Mustangs at that stage. We would get the Mustang down from the factory and they’d be prepared for test flight. We had our own test pilot who’d do all the testing until the aircraft was
perfect but then the air force would send a test pilot to verify it then he would take it away. In my last over two years that I was down there I was approved to do all the engine, all the engine testing on Mustangs and I was quite proud of the fact that as a junior worker I was so allowed to do. So from there I went into the
air force, did my training at Point Cook, 18 months of that, and then I was posted to 3 Squadron which was up at Canberra and what they had was Mustangs. So after only Mustangs for the last 2 years, working on them for over 3 years, there I was flying them which was magic again. It was good.
I came across a magazine just recently because I’ve got old magazines, 1932, and I came across a picture of an aircraft which I had in those days. It was called the Meteor. It was an aircraft that was designed by a local company called Central – an aircraft
design called, by a company down on the, it was called the Meteor anyway and I came across the plans for it in a magazine which I took out just recently. And having found that in 1932 it came to mind that one Christmas when I was probably about
9, 8 or 9, I can recall going into my mother’s grandfather wardrobe, mother, father, Melbourne’s – I’m losing my – at Christmas time I went into my mother and father’s
wardrobe and I opened that and there was model of this Central Model Aircraft Company in Melbourne and lo and behold it was that same model called the Meteor which was there for me for Christmas and of course I got into trouble for going into my mother’s wardrobe to find this model which was for me for Christmas.
That was a thing that I remember I flew and got into trouble for not being – no, I’m finding I’m getting out of, a bit out of – give me a little while there.
What sort of impact did that have at home and for you personally?
Oh well of course we had to build trenches in the back yard, air raid shelters because regardless of what you read in books nowadays there was fear of Japanese invasion. And there’s a book that came out by Dr Andrew Ross which I’ve got part of where he said in the last few years, the Japanese weren’t, they were afraid to
invade Australia because Australia was so well prepared. That was absolute nonsense because Australia wasn’t prepared, we were scared of the Japanese invading. Even though I was only a teenager I know what the situation was publicly and we weren’t prepared. We didn’t have any aircraft, the guns, the ammunition, the tanks, anything. In fact, when my father was in the VDC [Volunteer Defence Corps] at one stage they were
training with virtually broom sticks through lack of guns in their training days. The same at Fisherman’s Bend where I worked with the CAC [Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation], we had the VDC also looking after the aerodrome in the aircraft factory, for a time there they were being armed with mock-up guns. In fact in my research for the book that I’m writing or have written there’s a lot of material about the
VDC down there in those early days where they did not have material to defend the place. And I’ve got material about their acquisition of material from the government and how they were allotted two or three machine guns between a whole company until more became available. So if the Japanese had made it through the Coral Sea we could well have been invaded in late ’42, early ’43.
So disregard what you read nowadays.
and there were so many that I liked, they were numbers that were played on the Saturday night dances, of course, and local bands, Jack Davidson, Jack Davidson – Jack was well known in those days, you probably haven’t heard of some of them. But every town hall in those days had a dance on a Saturday night and they were packed with people dancing in pairs, not with each other, not with
males dancing with males and females with females which I abhor so, yeah, it was good fun in those days. We all rode bikes, we didn’t have cars. My family never had a car until well after my mother and father were left alone with the family moving out. And my first car was after I came back from Korea with the air force. I bought one then but we didn’t have cars to go to dances.
So you walked down to the dance at the local town hall, you walked home.
seven but you could have two or three hundred people in there. But the Preston Town Hall – but unbeknownst to me at the time the Preston Town Hall was also the headquarters of the Volunteer Air Observer Corps which was called the VAOC during the war and they were charged with keeping track of all aircraft flying all over Australia. And they had air posts everywhere, in Bendigo for instance up on the
top of the tower in the Rose something Garden. The tower is still there it used to be, a goldie, what do you call it, a gold mine type tower, and my ex-wife used to be there as a teenager. And any aircraft that went over anywhere in Australia was followed by that VAOC volunteer people and was reported to headquarters in Victoria which used to be in the Preston Town Hall. And
even though we used to meet in the ATC just up the road from there we never heard about that VAOC headquarters which I’m sorry about now.
anywhere so if somebody flew from Sydney to Melbourne and got lost some country town would say “Oh, an aircraft’s circling looking to find out where he is”, and the Preston organisation would say “All right, we know what he is, he’s 20 miles away from where he should be and he’s just landed”. Anyway, to get back to the dance, there probably be about two or three hundred people there and good music from the
stage. A proper orchestra, not just a bass and a drum and a, what do you call it, but a proper, probably ten or twelve piece orchestra playing good swing music of the day. Excellent to dance to but occasionally they’d play a number – we used to have a fellow with the orchestra at Preston, he was like Gene Cooper,
ever heard of Gene Cooper? He was a drummer par excellence and when he started on a solo everyone would stop dancing and come up to the front and listen to him. Not quite as noisy as it is nowadays but it was good drumming.
were some there because American aircraft were being assembled there. As they came off the ship at Port Melbourne they were towed round up Salmon Street into Fisherman’s Bend and assembled, when I say assembled, they were basically in one piece except the wings might have been taken off and the tail plane or the propellers, they were covered in something like gaffer tape and spray-painted or
sprayed material to keep the moisture out, the sea spray from the ships so it had to be uncovered, all the material taken off with steam cleaners and assembled and got ready to fly, test flown and then flown up north. So there were Americans there at that stage, yes. And one of the things, before I worked in the flight hangar the Americans had an assembly hangar alongside that and at
lunchtime I used to sneak down there to see the American aircraft pretty close up. And of course they had Commonwealth guards to stop you getting into the American hangar but I found a way round the outside of the fence and sneaking in, I crept into the American hangar and I was sitting in Lockheed Lightenings and Republic Thunderbolts and Douglas Havocs until somebody caught me and I said “Damn” but that went on for months. That’s how I got to know aircraft – in fact there’s a Lockheed in there
behind you that’s one of the type that was assembled there and they’ve been my favourite aeroplane ever since. I wanted to fly one but I never got round to it.
that was we used to go to a meeting there it was once a week normally and also weekend parades we’d go to and do drill and they had an aircraft there as well an old Hawker Demon for learning something about the structure of aircraft and there were exams on aircraft recognition so that if Japanese aircraft came over you could say “That’s the Japanese Betty, the Mitsubishi bomber”. And we got down to
doing one hundredth of a second flash on a screen of an aircraft you could pick what it was. We also did Morse code, learned morse code, as I say aircraft recognition, maths, navigation, all the subjects you would have learned in the air force because it was a means of including all the learning you do in the air force for air crew or ground staff training. You get yourself to the
stage where you go in at 18 or 17 ½ even and pass all the exams tout suite. So those meetings with the Air Training Corps were going on in parallel.
run to make sure there were no oil leaks or cooling leaks after of course you checked the oil level and the cooling level. And cooling of course in a liquid cooled engine is the same as the radiator in a car, it has to be full. So after the first run which is only a short run with all the cowls off and the spinner off the propeller everything was gone over to make sure there were no leaks. The oil was drained because it was just an initial run
and refilled with special oil, you made sure there was no bits of metal in the filters as well from the initial run again. And it’s run again you set things like metaphoric pressure, maximum rpm [revolutions per minute], oil pressure, vacuum pressure and the vacuum pump which powered the instruments, most of the instruments. All sorts of things like that were checked. Then the cowls were put on and it was given another run up to on the ground 61 inches of
manifold pressure and you couldn’t run a Mustang up to above 40 inches and that’s opening the throttle – with 40 inches or more the tail would lift and it’s likely to hit the propeller on the ground. So for any runs above that they had to be tied down with about eight hundredweight of concrete blocks from a big bar through the back of the fuselage. Then you could run it up to 61 inches, in setting of that 61 inches sometimes the
throttle might be such, you might go to 63 or 64 inches. In fact, 67 was an emergency setting the pilot could go to so you did have to go to that to make sure it was going to 67. But the settings were done so that the throttle was adjusted so in normal flying and for take off 61 inches was the maximum you were allowed. So that setting was done and then you’d go through the gate and make sure you had
67 for emergencies. But there was wire put across that, copper wire, so if it went through that gate the ground staff, the engineers would have known that and the engine would have to be inspected very carefully to make sure it hadn’t burst anything.
that and falling out of cloud so that was important to have that vacuum at the right suction. The hydraulic pressure was set, the hydraulic pressure for setting flaps up and down and the undercarriage up and down, that pressure was also set. Fuel pump pressure, that was set, all those things were part of setting up the engine insulation before the cowls were put on for final run up. And we had inspectors, a
company inspector, Commonwealth Aircraft Inspector, who checked all the work that I and the others had done. About four or five people were approved to do that running and after he had done it the AID inspectors, the AID was Aeronautical Inspection Directorate, which was an organisation which had started in the RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] but as the war progressed it became so big it became a separate organisation. And after the war it
became the Directorate of Quality Assurance. I’m not sure what they call it now whether but it’s the same thing and they had to run it and check it on behalf of the air force. And after they approved it, the test pilot from the CAC, Jimmy Schofield, who is still living in Adelaide but he suffered a stroke, he would fly it and it might take 2 or 3 flights to get everything right because in the air things were slightly different to what they might have been on the ground. Where we
set the propeller to be rpm to be 3,000 rpm, well, he was doing 300 knots it might have shown 3,075 so we’d wind it back a little bit with the propeller governor. Then he’d come back and those things would be checked. He might fly it again and then it would be prepared for the gunnery trials so the guns would have to be cleaned, not cleaned, they were cleaned because they had, what do you call it, grease
in them, so they’d be cleaned out, 50 rounds put in each gun, in each gun bay. Then he’d take it up and fly down to the Torquay range although here sometimes they didn’t go that far they just went somewhere over the Bay, fire all the guns, make sure they all worked, make sure of the sight. The sight had to be set as well, as the armourer at the time, that was a job that I also was doing. The aircraft was hoisted up into a level
position, laterally and longitudinally and it was set at a thousand inches, well the gun sight was set at 1000 inches back from a big screen that was set up the other side of the hangar. The aircraft had to be perfectly level, laterally that way, and longitudinally and the gun sight up there, of which there’s one there, that’s it there, that’s the gun
sight, it hasn’t got the right glass in it but that’s it – that had to be set at 1000 inches from that big screen, then all the guns had to be aligned individually on the part on the screen. Plus the camera gun in the port starboard leading edge, everything had to converge at say 300 yards and 1000 inches, everything was pointing in the right direction. So that was done before the gun
test and when the guns were loaded he went and fired them and came back and they were – anything left was taken out. One gun might have stopped firing so that had to be rectified and he might have had to do another test. But after that they were cleaned, taped up so they were clear of any dust getting in and it was ready to go to the air force at one more test, well, after the air force test pilot.
Laverton which was the reception centre for American or Australian or British aircraft coming into the air force. They were prepared there and then sent to squadrons. From there they went to 2 OTU [Officer Training Unit] at Mildura for training people in Mustangs and also up to Queensland a couple of squadrons formed up there, 84 Squadron, which was equipped with Mustangs. Usually they had American Mustangs and
American Mustangs were sent up to Borneo and their pilots were being converted on to them up there as well from Kittyhawks. And actually when the war was finished, when BCOF was formed, the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces, the people from Borneo and Labuan were asked for volunteers to fly Mustangs up to Japan to occupy Japan. Well they went up there and they took American-built Mustangs and our
Australian Mustangs were never used in that war. They never went to Japan either though, again you get books and magazines which say Australian-built Mustangs were used in the occupation of Japan, not so, all American Mustangs except at the end of the Mustang phase of the Korean War, four Mustangs were sent up there because they were being shot down at such a rate we were running out of
American Mustangs. So four got up there and I happened to fly one of them back from Korea to Japan when we returned to Japan to get Meteors. That particular Mustang or that number I was the last one to fly and I was shot down in it. Nobody else ever flew it after that.
painted at 500 miles an hour in a dive it was floating onto the air flow. So all Mustangs were then changed to aluminium alloy skins in the elevators, so that was one modification. There was another one to fit rocket rails underneath, those rails you can see there, six of them, they were a modification that was put on afterwards so the Mustangs came back for fitment in the
factory. Plus bomb racks, the inboard ones, they were bomb racks and they were actually fitted but some Mustangs were fitted with tin rocket rails instead of bomb racks, that was a modification done. There were a number of others fitting that reflector gun sight instead of the original American sight that was fitted – things like that they came back for.
and for various other tests that were done. They took the fuselage tank out which was behind the pilot and fitted a seat just for someone to go up as a passenger from the Aircraft Performance Unit just to measure the acoustics and a few other things about pilot surroundings. That’s another thing I did while I was at CAC, apart from creeping down to the flight hangar, the Yankee
hangar we called it, where the Lightnings and Thunderbolts and Havocs and Liberators and so forth were, I used to go the other way to what was then the Department of Aircraft Production, DAP, they were building Beauforts and Beaufighters and then Lincolns and again there were Commonwealth Police patrolling that – a big fence between the CAC and the DAP. But if you were smart you could get round them so I used to go down there at lunchtime or any other
time there was nothing to do and look at the Beauforts and Beaufighters being built, they weren’t built there they were assembled, because the Railway Workshops in South Australia at Islington and Newport here, near you, and Glenora in Sydney, they were making the major components of Beauforts and Beaufighters and they were then railed down either to Fisherman’s Bend or
to Mascot Airport in Sydney for final assembly of Beauforts and Beaufighters so the final assembly here and the test flying. I also tried to get a flight in a Beaufighter. I got to know the test pilot down there, Harold Shelton, he only died six months ago down here, he was 92, still flying gliders, dual – but anyway – I missed out but I
went down there to see what was doing down there so I got quite familiar with that place as well
equipment was, was on the Nepean Highway up in Brighton and we were making a winch to tow the gliders up, we were preparing a primary glider which was in one piece but it had to be repaired, there was some work to be done on it. So I used to ride my push-bike down from East Preston, down to Brighton if I wanted to get to work on that. I used to ride a push-bike to Fisherman’s Bend every day as well. And we worked on
that and the first camp was down at Governor Road, well it wasn’t a camp, it was weekend flying and we were given initial training, it was just to hold the wings level in a wind as tyros so you learned what the controls were for. When the wind was blowing the wind would react to the controls and from that you did slides towed by the winch
with a great long cable. You’d slide probably a couple of hundred yards learning to keep it straight and level. That was a built up process of course and eventually you did your first off the ground at 2 or 3 feet and 20, 30 yards. As you became adept at keeping it level and straight you’d go up higher and higher, further and further until finally you were released
of course from the cable, it was just towed up from the nose, and when you were considered adept at keeping it straight you were given an S turn, right down the paddock, and if you managed to handle that all right, a few of those, you were able to do a circuit. And finally you were launched up to 1,000 feet and a complete circuit right around. But the aircraft then, the primary gliders, they were very inefficient aerodynamically
so there wasn’t much hope of staying up, once you launched the thing it was virtually all the way down to a landing. So not until you got onto sail planes later did you have much hope of staying up beyond launching point.
Corps. I think I did fairly well on the theory side of things there and then flying training started on Tiger Moths for six months and we did six months on Tiger Moths. Then we went on to Wirraways which I was quite familiar with of course working on them. After that we did 20 odd hours of Oxfords which are twin-engined aircraft just to get some
indoctrination into twin engine flying. Then there’s the wings part of it where we were all given awards and the Chief of Air Staff came down to give us our wings, to pin them on, and then we were due a week’s leave I think it was and we were posted away to the squadrons and I was posted to 3 Squadron at Canberra which had
Mustangs. So it was a great thing finally to get on the – I can recall I took off on my first Mustang flight on Runway 1or 2 at Canberra, facing into the north east and I can recall sitting in then you’d open the throttle and just thinking of those cylinders and the pistons going up and down in those twelve cylinders and think “Oh you beauty, here we go”.
So I flew there for about six months and the Korean War had broken out at the end of June and four pilots from 3 Squadron were immediately up to Korea. They’d been there six months ahead of I was - in fact a couple of them were old
(I’m going a bit peculiar again) World War II so they got posted up because – then the Korean War was meant to finish by Christmas of course - and they were sent straight away to reinforce 77 Squadron which was then based at Iwakuni in Japan as part of BCOF and so I remember then I was posted in August up to
Williamtown to finish pilot fighter training Mustangs. The squadron at Canberra was a tactically (I’m starting to go) –
With the Tiger Moth we had about 60 hours flying in that, 50 to 60 hours. That was a bi-plane which was a fairly elementary aircraft which had been used with the air force since 1939 actually and they were still in use until about 1959, ’58, and sixty hours of training in that, basic training. And from
there once you learned the basic situation with aeroplane flying you went to the Wirraway to get formation flying, instrument flying, low-level flying, all sorts of things that were more operationally mounted. You did about 150-60 hours of that and you also did
night flying, navigation flying round the country and after finishing that you went on to the Airspeed Oxford which was a twin-engined aircraft and it was just a basic thing to get used to twin-engine flying which wasn’t kept up for very long – only the first couple of courses that flew in those days got twin-engine flying.
So from there we were given our wings and then posted to the squadrons. Some squadrons went on to Mustangs, some went on to Dakotas, twin-engine transports, some went on to, oh, what else, nothing much else in those days. Soon after we got aircraft which needed twin-engine flying like
Neptunes and Dakotas was basically what we got apart from Mustangs and once you got into the squadron of course you were trained on the particular aircraft which the squadron had. In those days there wasn’t any particular training organisation, which they later had. So the pilots that were later posted to a particular
aircraft when to an operational training unit like they had in World War II to be trained on the aircraft that went to the squadron. But in the period we went across we were trained within the squadron rather than separately at an organisation. So from there you were trained in the operational use of the aircraft, in low level flying for Mustangs and low level co-operation, they were fitted with cameras, photographic
work with cameras, so we got that as well in the squadron I was with.
aircraft and we were posted to a squadron. So if the army wanted a particular co-operation to be picked up, if the army was on the ground, the enemy was on the ground fighting towards the front line, the Mustang could then go at low level, follow the area where the army was, the enemy army,
camera photographs were taken, brought back, and they were looked at very closely. They said “Right, they’re up in the hills on that area there so we’ve got to get somewhere there to go and fight them”. So the army was dependent on what we picked up.
for. You learned that if you turned the stick that way the aircraft would bend over and bend that way. If you turn it that way it goes that way, if you pulled back on your stick you’d go up. Just basic how to fly but with the Wirraway you learned the more detailed things like doing aerobatics doing high speed turns, diving, pulling up, missing things that were coming after you,
formations, navigation, all the detailed ways of flying which didn’t go – you did a basic navigation exercise in Tiger Moths but that was just from Point Cook down to Lake Colac and down to oh somewhere down that way and just to give you a basic idea with an instructor. But in the Wirraway you did a couple of trips with instructors to teach you something more about
cross-country flying, navigation and you did them by yourself, solo exercises. The final one was from Point Cook up to Wagga and then across to, where was it, Wagga, then across to I think it was Mildura and then back to Point Cook – so a fairly reasonable, a whole day’s cross-country.
And which planes did you like of those planes that you trained in, which did you like?
The Tiger Moth, sorry, no, Tiger Moth to get on to really powered flying but the Wirraway was the most positive one to get on to. You’re really getting towards actual operational flying on the Wirraway. The Airspeed Oxford was just something which was just twin engine training that’s
all. And later on they got rid of that, they didn’t give the later people that sort of training. It was something left over from World War II and with 20 hours of it, it was just a bonus you might say.
fly. Of course your first flight with it was with an instructor and you were then in the front seat and the instructor was in the back so you were actually a pilot of something almost operational and it was quite a positive, very pleasant feeling to get onto the Wirraway. And with 150 hours of it – it took you, it might have been 6 months flying on it, so you went through all the
operational sides of flying, what you would have done later on in the Mustang or if you were posted onto Dakotas, twin-engine transports, you didn’t get to the same stage as you would have on Mustangs doing aerobatics and close formation flying, that sort of thing but the Wirraway was a good step towards flying operational aircraft. The same sort of performances, the same sort of activities but not the same
formation and not the same performance. The Wirraway wasn’t as good as the Mustangs but you could do the same things much more slowly. So that was the thing.
but you couldn’t go very much above that because you’d suffer from lack of pressure from the atmosphere. In fact 42,000 was the absolute limit you’d fly at anyway otherwise you’d just black out from that of course, from lack of pressure on the body – even though you had oxygen, you were breathing through your oxygen mask, your body couldn’t cope with the lack of
pressure to feed oxygen into your whole system, pressure on the blood system. So we just went up to 35,000 feet to see what it was like, so there you go, all sorts of indoctrination. Later on in Meteors in Korea we went up to 42,000 but they were pressurised, Mustangs weren’t pressurised in the cockpit, Meteors were.
They were still limited to 42,000 in case the pressurisation broke down and if you were above 42,000 which was the nominal figure and the pressurisation broke down you could be up there not realising that the body was going to suffer in fact it might also cause death. So 42,000 was the limit and if you did break down you had to lose height straight away, like
operations activity at that time and coming back from an operation, coming in – we used to fly in what we call rear formation, like that, but for coming in to land and the guy out here would move and get back there so that they’re all, 1,2,3,4 and fly into the aerodrome, dive down to the runway, and the leader would pull up like that and the other guy would go
1,2,3 and pull up, you know, 3 seconds apart. But in changing over from there to there he hit the other guy, the Royal Air Force fellow, and they both went down, that was it. So we had four Royal Air Force guys there with us then and that guy got killed along with our guy as well. Incidentally I’ve got my log book up there for Korea if you want to look at it.
I can reach it, don’t take it down. Have you found the Korean part?
beyond, whether that was moving forward or you were being driven back so that you didn’t bomb your own troops. There was a signal that was given, they had a signal on the ground to show that they were there and it wasn’t the enemy. But basically for ground attack work we’d go beyond the bomb line up into enemy territory. In fact some of them were way up, a couple of hundred miles north of the bomb line up into a place
called Wonsan on the north east coast, we went up there and bombed a power house or shipping or something. I’ve forgotten exactly now but that was way up – it was winter then and for a guy that had been brought up in Melbourne basically in summertime and winter where it might have got down to 30 degrees in the morning, Fahrenheit, and then during the day it might have got to 20,
sorry, I’m talking centigrade there, it might have got to 40 degrees during the day and we thought that was cold to get up there into Northern Korea in those days it was just like the end of the earth to us. You were over the snow covered ice covered country, nothing else to see. It was fairly bare so it was a bit of a shock for people down south or any part of Australia.
so I don’t think you could have walked home. But we didn’t lose anybody up there at that stage in fact the only people that we lost in Mustangs were a few people who got shot down, didn’t make it home. As I said the first day I was there one of our people did and then in late February another guy from my course, in the next bed to me in the bunks we were
in, he got shot down. He hit a ditch and turned over and drowned. Lo and behold, just a few weeks later I did the same thing but luckily I didn’t hit a ditch I didn’t turn over so I got picked up by a jeep and then – I don’t know if you watched MASH [Television series based on the Korean War] on TV, do you watch that? Well I watch it particularly because I got taken to a MASH [Mobile Army Surgical Hospital] unit but I didn’t see, what’s her name, Hawkeye
and the bird. But I just got looked at there and I got picked up by a helicopter and taken back to an aerodrome and flown home.
looking for a road that there might have been trucks or even, what do you call it, carts driven by horses or cattle. We knew that they were coming down with rifles and ammunition but anything that we saw that we thought was feeding to the North Koreans before they got driven across the 38th parallel. So we were looking for those with rockets.
We had six rockets and two 500 pound bombs under the wings of the Mustang plus 1880 rounds of .5 ammunition so whatever target came up you’d use what was appropriate. If you saw tanks you’d fire rockets at them, try to dismantle them you might say. If you saw a train you might drop bombs on it
or a tunnel with a train in it. Anything at all, trucks coming down the highway. Eventually it got to the stage where the highways moving down to the south were all given recognition, in fact, the maps are over there I can give you a look at them if you want, showing which ones you were allotted. And two aircraft, we’d go up along say a
hundred miles of those looking for any movements, if there was nothing there you could bomb a bridge or a railway line to discourage anything coming down.
village by driving trucks and things into them, people would get out. In fact, people coming down to Pusan, there were hundreds and thousands of them coming down as the North Koreans moved down there initially. And Pusan was just a, what do you call it, people living in very dire straits because there was no accommodation because they’d all moved down. So probably we
didn’t come across too many up there with people still living. But I think they moved back after we moved back over the bomb line and started to drive them back up, we got people moving back up north again. Whether their villages remained I don’t know, probably not, a lot of them were destroyed.
where they were driving the North Korean ground forces away from the bomb line, nominally the 38th parallel was the place where the North Koreans invaded South Korea so they drove down past that and as the bomb line changed we’d have army people, for instance, or air reconnaissance people giving word about where the North Koreans had got to. That would be fed into General
Macarthur’s headquarters in Japan, in Tokyo, by radio and so forth and they’d draw day by day whether you could move forward 10 miles or whether you were driven back five miles so that the bomb line was then picked out and given in the briefing that anything beyond that was enemy, so don’t bomb or attack anything south of that, you might get our own troops. So the bomb line was flexible, moving every
day but basically at that stage moving north and finally got it across the 38th parallel. Before we got up there to the 38th parallel we’d almost, well we had finished virtually with Mustangs, and gone back to Japan. That was when I was shot down in the last fortnight of our Mustang operations and on the same day there was another guy shot
down, he landed on a sand bank with his wheels up. I landed on an old aerodrome with my wheels up so the two of us were picked up by jeep and helicopter on that occasion. Then a few days later another guy who was on the course with me, he was shot down when the two of us were up there too. So I was able to circle him while he was being fired at on the ground and we got some other aircraft to come along, American and Australian
aircraft, to circle him. He bailed out actually with his parachute, just making it a few hundred feet above the ground. And I told the people in Orange about him, he lives up in Sydney, Ces Sly. He rang me and said “Oh, No, I don’t think I want it” And I said “Do it, Ces”. Anyway whether he’s agreed to do it I don’t know but he was flying up until recently too. But he was picked up
finally by two helicopters, the first one got hit and badly damaged and had to withdraw so they sent another one and picked him up and he was sent home, well not sent home, sent to hospital for a while.
looking for something and going along the highway well the road, it wasn’t a highway really. And we were between mountains in the valley and they had guns and I remember hearing “bang” and I knew, I thought, exactly where I was hit, knowing the Mustang from way back. I was hit just up there in the oil cooler which is in that thing down the bottom. I could hear that and sure enough shortly after the oil pressure started going
down on the cockpit instrument and with that, as the oil went down, of course, the engine seized. So I was getting all ready to bail out and I was heading back then, the guy that was with me who was leading me so no, there’s a disused airfield up ahead, it was Kimpo, so I elected to land on that wheels up and I did. When I landed there was an American Marine Corsair there, which is an American fighter
that had also landed wheels up there, there was nobody there at the time. So we were both there and I got out and there were a couple of characters coming across with rifles from the other side of the aircraft. And I didn’t know who they were, it was in no man’s land, and in fact Seoul which was the capital of South Korea had only been taken the day before and Kimpo was about ten miles north west so I didn’t know whether they were
North Koreans or South Koreans. They turned out to be South Koreans and then a jeep turned up and I was picked up and taken to MASH.
level from 35, 40,000 feet. So they were being taught by somebody, probably from Russia, who’d been World War II combat pilots and they were teaching them what the tactics were. So finally after perhaps a week of training backwards and forwards showing what was required either two or four would be broken away and led down by an instructor, down through
us and firing as they came down within range. But they’d keep on going and we didn’t have a hope in hell as they say of diving and following them. And we were at that stage up near the Yalu River, the Yalu River was the boundary between North Korea and Manchuria where they were based. And General Macarthur wanted us to go across into Manchuria and attack their bases. We could actually see their aerodromes in Manchuria but we weren’t
allowed to cross. President Truman said “No, we can’t do that, we can’t go across”. So we were kept across that side. They could dive across, get across the border and they could perhaps climb up again and come back and fire on us but that’s the way it went. Finally, eventually three or four weeks you might get eight or twelve of them diving down and attacking or firing at us but not stopping to
mix it. In fact on one occasion I was the spare, every mission had a spare aircraft go up because if there were say 8 or 12 aircraft go up to patrol up there, to protect the aircraft underneath doing ground bombing, fighter bombing, or big bombers bombing something, we’d be patrolling above. But the spare was always sent out so that if one aircraft in the 12 had a radio failure
or an ammunition or a gun failure he’d turn back and the spare would take his place. So I was the spare on this occasion and I went up as far as Pyongyang, which was the capital of North Korea, and I heard the guys up there – I think I might have been doing aerobatics or something, just flying around, before I went back home again and I heard up there they were involved in a bit of a dog fight with Migs coming down on them and the leader, he said
“Oh, there’s one of them heading south” so I never thought any more of it because they were 50 or 100 miles north of us. So I turned round then heading back to home and as I was coming back, underneath, a few miles over, there was an aircraft heading north – and I thought it was a Sabre because Sabres were involved at the same time as we were and they were based on the same aerodrome as us. And I thought it was a Sabre spare. When I looked at it as it went
and past down there and I thought “Gee, that’s not a Sabre” so I turned into him and tried to dive on him but I couldn’t catch him, it was a Mig. Obviously a trainee pilot who’d been driven away from the dog fight or the attack and he was down south and if I’d been a little bit smarter I might have got a Mig. I’ve always regretted that.
down, if you attacked from an aircraft like that you always turned into them so that you’d make them pull tighter and tighter so it got to the stage where he couldn’t pull any tighter without breaking G force, getting into 4G or 6G or whatever it was and he just couldn’t cope with turning faster. So we could turn faster than him, he was going faster than us anyway, so the force on his aircraft was such that he’d lose you.
I remember seeing a Mig coming this way to the left, firing at me, you could see the cannon firing, he had a 23 millimetre cannon on the starboard side and a 23 millimetre cannon on the port side and I can recall the flash of the gun. The 23 millimetre was fairly slow firing so you could see flash, flash, flash. That was an attack that he made.
flew like that or crossed over like that. But the leader, it was up to him to watch out for any opposing traffic so by the time you were in a dog fight, if there was a dog fight, you’d be miles separated and later on the leader would say “right, let’s form up on the coast” at whatever place it was, you’d all go home. Or else you’d go home in
pairs if you were separated enough. So it was on one of those occasions when those two Meteors collided coming back from a mission which I wasn’t on. So it was all very exciting, all very interesting for a young lad. We used to test the guns when we went out, as soon as we took off, climbed out over the bomb line you’d fire the guns just for a couple of seconds to make sure they worked, as you were climbing up to
35,000 feet because you had to be sure your guns worked.
When the war broke out the CO of 77 Squadron was Wing Commander Lou Spence who had been a fighter pilot in the Middle East in World War II but he was the second pilot killed during a ground attack job in September ’50. And the guy sent up to replace him was Dick Creswell who’s still living up in Canberra. In fact he might be
down on the 4th for this lunch. But he was the CO when I got there. He’d been a fighter pilot in New Guinea during the war on Kittyhawks. So he was there right through my period on Mustangs, he was there until we withdrew and went back to get Meteors but there were also 4 or 5 other officers, flight lieutenants. And then we had the four people
from England, the Royal Air Force came out to convert us onto the Meteors. They weren’t supposed to fly with us but they did. They got as much flying as they could on Mustangs and they did a heck of a lot of flying. So they got more than they were supposed to but enjoyed it of course as fighter pilots form England. And when we converted over to Meteors over in
Japan some time in that period Dick Creswell had organised, no, before we moved back to Japan for the Meteors, he and a fellow called Des Murphy who was a flight lieutenant, they managed to get a conversion onto Shooting Stars which were American jet fighters, as a part of the indoctrination into jet flying. So they had, I think they did 10 missions each from a base in
Japan and that was part of the indoctrination for them to pass onto us about jet operations. And later on after Dick Creswell did his tour on Meteors because he’d done all the Mustang work he was almost ready to be sent home but he got a conversion onto Sabres and did some Sabres with an American squadron as well. Because before we got Meteors it was hoped that we would get
Sabres instead but the Americans didn’t have enough Sabres for themselves at that stage so we were ruled out, we didn’t get any. So we put up with Meteors which were second best you might say, from England. They weren’t in the same class as Sabres for dog fighting at high altitude. So Creswell came home and the guy that replaced him was Gordon Steege, he’d been a
Middle East fighter pilot in World War II as well, with the RAAF and he was there for not very long, a few months, but he was more mixed up with the administrative side, didn’t do a whole lot of operational flying and I think that ruled against him somehow. He wasn’t apparently keen on operational flying it seems so he got posted home and replaced by somebody else. At that stage, he selected to go to
America for which I’m truly thankful. There was a good will tour organised for somebody from every fighting force in Korea on our side, about 40 people, Turks and Indians and South Africans and Greeks and Australians and New Zealanders, Poms, everybody, and all the Americans of course, marines, air force, navy. So we went across to
Washington, on the 24th October 1951, United Nations Day, so we took part in a great ceremony in Washington on the steps of, what do you call it, the White House. And then we were sent round America in two halves, one round the north another half round the back or the bottom to indoctrinate people into buying war bonds, donating blood, joining up,
fighting in the services. We even went to high schools and gave lectures there. But there was a big social round as well, I even had breakfast with Eleanor Roosevelt and met, what’s her name, the singer, female singer – millionaires, we stayed in the Waldorf Astoria so it was quite a thing for a young boy from Preston. But then after we’d finished that I think it was for about 19 or 20 days we were given a week’s leave in
San Francisco. Then were told we were going across to France to go to the United Nations building in Paris to meet the United Nations. And so we did that, then we were given more leave and the army fellow, the Australian Army fellow and myself went to London and had about a couple of weeks leave over there. And I think that if we hadn’t gone back and said “Here we are” we’d still be there.
I think we were lost. Anyway, I got sick of England, I flew, hitched a ride back to America and then back to Korea and tried to stay on for another tour but I’d already been posted to Malta so I had to go back home and get ready to go to Malta. But later on I heard from various air force people, pilots in Korea, that I should never had been selected to go to America on a good will tour because I didn’t smoke and I didn’t drink, I wasn’t a typical Australian
pilot. But I did get on to Rum and Coke over there, that was the start of the decline.
two of the people that were there initially they’d both been there in BCOF, British Commonwealth Occupation Forces, they went into the war as soon as it started. One of them was the guy that I said lived over the other side of the mountains, well the hills, not the mountains, Les Reading. The other one was Blue Thornton and he was in fact the first guy in the RAAF to get a thousand hours on Mustangs. But between the two of them they liked their beer and they had – I shouldn’t tell this, well, I suppose if this isn’t shown for
10 years it doesn’t matter. They used to swap their false teeth and chew razor blades, swallow razor blades in the bar, yeah, so they were a couple of characters. There was another character that I knew called Syd Squires.
bar along with a few others. So I used to borrow his car and drive to Albert Hall to the dances and take a girl home sort of thing. But when he got up to Korea he always had the idea he wasn’t going to return, he was a pessimist, he knew he was going to be killed. Sure enough he did on Mustangs. He and another guy, in cloud, obviously collided and both went in and they never found the remains of the aircraft but they were on there way home from a mission somewhere in
South Korea, poor old Syd Squires and Keith Matthews. Three or four others as I said have been shot down, Don Ellis, Ken Royal, Ralph Strange one of the guys of course did a belly landing forgetting to put the wheels down coming back to Pusan on a Mustang so he wrote off a Mustang but he also wrote off a Meteor later on just out of Iwakuni
landing in the water, ditching it, in low cloud he couldn’t find his way back. So he ended up being an air traffic controller in the air force. Who else was there of note, oh, Ron Howe, he was the guy shot down on the day that I was shot down. He landed south of Seoul on the Han River on a sandbank, picked up by helicopter. But he was of Indian descent, Ron Howe, a little short tubby bloke and he’d been flying Thunderbolts
in Burma during the war and he was in Canberra while I was there but he got posted up to Korea with the first lot. I’m not sure what happened to him I think he stayed on afterwards but he never flew Meteors he was sent home probably because he’d been there 6 months before I was virtually. And another guy called Alan Frost he was hit by a bullet through the windscreen in a Mustang
and I think he lost his nerve. He disappeared shortly after but I’ve heard in years since he joined one of the airlines out of England and he was killed in an airliner crash in North Africa. So I saw something on television recently about an airline crash but it was a different name and I was wondering whether he’d changed his name for that reason but he was the only one killed in the crash – well he died a day later after a forced landing of a
Hermes airliner. And who else, there was another guy, Blue Thornton, the guy that I told you exchanged razor blades. He was also hit through the windscreen and he came back also with wire, a big cable, across the front of his aircraft because they stretched cables between two hills or mountains, so if you were low flying you might
fly into them. He got one but he got back all right. Exciting times.
VFR [Visual Flight Rules] conditions over here and beautiful, well, blue skies virtually, well you didn’t fly in cloud at that stage although we had done it in formation going down to drop bombs in Dunstan Range in training operations being led by the leader of the squadron who was O.K. on instruments. We weren’t, we’d done some instrument training in Wirraways but certainly not enough to make us competent which came later in
courses later on. So on that occasion when the two aircraft collided, going out on trips up and down roads looking for things you’d fly down valleys in conditions that jut wouldn’t be normal down here. Low cloud, snow storms, fog in between valleys and I suppose we were lucky to survive, not to hit something. But down
here of course in general aviation in ordinary charter flying unless you had instrument rating you couldn’t fly in conditions unless you had three miles of visibility. You had to be able to see 3 miles in front of you before you could take off or fly. With an instrument rating which I got anyway you could take off in any weather so it was a benefit from there, learning something up there.
confident about where he was going you’d eventually get up and there might be a clear spot and you might reach the end of it and you’d just climb up through the cloud or through a gap and come back home over the top. In the training out of Williamtown before we went up there we did a big bombing mission down to Dunstan Downs which was down near Sale which is now in the
news because of the State Government wanting to put, what do they call it, one of those uranium dumps down there. And we were coming down past Nowra which is the naval base on the East Coast and we were attacked by Sea Furies and, just part of the training, so
Sea Furies were the navy aircraft. They dived on us and as we turned into them, in my flight, the two Mustangs collided. One, two of the guys that were going up to Korea with us, we were all going to Korea. They both bailed out, they went into the sea, I was circling one of them and I was told to leave them because the navy’s got it in hand. So we went on, we landed at Nowra and the navy never picked them up.
One of them was found later after having suffered a shark attack and they never found the other one.
roads or railway lines. Occasionally there’d be a big strike against something like a power house or an ammunition dump, supposed ammunition dumps. But we lost one of our guys, a flight lieutenant, attacking Pyongyang, a mission that I wasn’t on. He was shot down as they were going in and he landed and I saw him getting out of the aircraft and he waved just on the outskirts of Pyongyang. But he was never sighted
again and he ended up spending 2 ½ years as a prisoner of war - badly treated of course in the North Korean prison camps. And he came back and became the CO of a Sabre Squadron here. A couple of our guys, another of our guys was shot down in Meteors, he also became a POW [Prisoner of War]. He’s recently published a book which is up there about his time in North Korean
prison camps and the horrible treatment they got. He actually escaped but got caught again. There were about 3 or 4 people who got shot down later on in Meteors after I’d left to come home or to go to America. I think there were about 4 or 5 on Meteors that got shot down and quite a few others were killed in Meteors during the changeover from Meteors at high level down to
ground attack work with rocket rails and strafing because the Meteors – it was decided they weren’t good enough to match the Migs because the Migs weren’t fighting with us. They were grounded for a little while until they changed over to ground attack work so they finished up the last year or so of the war doing ground attack.
Were you flying them when they were doing ground attack?
No, I was only air-to-air. I’d gone across to America before that happened. In fact, while I was in America, in Washington, I think it was Washington, somewhere, it might have been New York, I saw the New York Times and it had a big headline about the great dog fight in Korea where about 3 Meteors were shot down. The Migs were shooting down, attacking, they were in the B29 super fortresses and the Meteors were escorting
them and I think there were about 3 missing - two of them became POWs and one disappeared, we never heard of him again on that occasion. We did quite a few escorts of B29s as well before I left. On one occasion I flew a Meteor 7 which was the 2-seat trainer which an American Army movie camera man in the backseat on an escort of B29s so that he’d
film them for their archives. Whether it’s still around I don’t know. But there was another film taken in our Mustang days, I’ve been trying to get National Film and Sound archive, the ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation], Channel 7, a professional organisation to follow it up. On the last mission of Mustangs on the 6th of April 1951
there was a fellow when four of us got back from the very last mission – the last mission was supposed to be in the afternoon but the weather was so bad it didn’t happen. So we were the last and when we got back there was this guy with a camera – and we’d never heard of TV. There was a fellow called Clint Roberts who was doing a thing for some big TV network in the States to interview the last Australian Mustang mission. So myself and three others but no one’s ever done anything about
chasing it up. I thought we should have it in archives here. Well, I can give you the details if you want to follow it up later on.
aerodrome it had pierced steel planking over the mud or the dust in summer and pierced steel planking, I don’t know if you know it, it’s a metal thing that they make in big strips, that long and that wide, they interlock it and they put it over the surface to stop you going into the mud or into the dust. And of course it throws up mud when you’re taking off in winter and dust when you’re taking off in summer.
But we operated out of that, it was a very makeshift sort of operation. It wasn’t a proper aerodrome like Tullamarine or Essendon, it didn’t even have any permanent buildings. It was just something put there as the war started as we moved down there. We had United States Marines there with Corsairs and Tiger Cats and the United States Air Force squadrons with
Mustangs and a lot of our replacement parts came from the Americans. They were very good at handing stuff out. They also fed us and the food there was absolutely marvellous compared to what we got with British food. Instead of bully beef and stale bread or whatever, you got eggs over hard or over easy, bacon, pineapple juice, tomato juice, ice cream, apple
pie, anything you wanted. It was absolutely marvellous, the Americans, the food that they gave us was excellent. We were actually part of an American fighter wing, we were attached to the 35th Fighter Wing, 77th Squadron was part of it, so we got briefed with them every night as well.
Americans at Pusan. They had their own tarmac area and maintenance area and parking area. We were on the other side of the aerodrome and there used to be a bus run round the aerodrome on a regular basis so if we wanted to round to the other side of the aerodrome we’d just hop on the bus which came round probably every ten minutes. But our only shower was round the other side too. The thing called the Choofa which our engineering flight sergeant made. It was something, you dropped
a drop of oil onto a very hot thing we caused steam of course which heated the water – it was a makeshift type of operation but you’d go round there to have a shower every now and again. So if you were flying in the morning and you weren’t going to fly in the afternoon you’d go around and have a shower. But there’s also a wrecked American C119 which was an American transport aircraft. That had been wrecked there and the fuselage of that was placed on the end of the
aerodrome. You’d go there 24 hours a day and get a meal – there was a chef on duty there cooking American food, bacon and eggs, hamburgers, fruit juice, whatever you liked – so that was available all day long for you. So if you missed out at meal times you’d go round there. So the amenities were pretty good.
them. If we went to Japan to take a Mustang back for maintenance you’d go to the Australian or the British NAAFI [Navy, Army, Air Force Institute], the British were based there as well, and you’d buy a bottle, or Australian canteen, you’d buy a bottle of what we’d call COR Ten which was Corio Whiskey. You’d take that back, you’d get a flying suit or a beautiful winter jacket. Because at that stage the RAAF had no
winter equipment at all. You’d fly in whatever you had and it wasn’t suitable for being down without the heater working or forced down and trying to walk home. You’d freeze to death so you got what you could off the Americans. I’ve still got my American gear inside – so a bottle of COR Ten was quite good, it was quite amenable for your arrangements with the Americans.
attacked aircraft on the ground, destroyed quite a few of them and they were also used to evacuate people out of there back to Japan, the DC4s and so forth. So the main terminal building which was nothing like the terminals you see now, just a big concrete three or four storey building. As I recall, on the far side of the aerodrome from where we were, that was pretty much bombed and
shelled and when we got there with the Meteors the Americans were already there. They’d resurfaced the tarmac area and laid down pierced steel planking to cover up the mud and the dust and whatever. It was actually summer when we got back with the Meteors, July, late August, July, sorry, late July early August. I think I made a mistake there earlier so you can get them to correct that if that’s the case.
But Kimpo was fairly busy it had Shooting Stars there which were American aircraft which were used then for photo reconnaissance. We had Sabres there and we had our Meteors, we had search and rescue amphibians from the American Air Force, Albatrosses which I managed to get a trip in one of them. Dakotas and Skymasters coming in all the
time and probably C119s as well, Tiger Cats, all sorts of everything because we were well forward at that stage and it was a fairly busy operational base. So being summer one of the things we did have drawing back or causing a problem on our aircraft was melting tar. When you taxi down the taxiway, the tar being so
soft it would fly up on the bottom of the Meteors. Anything hanging on the bottom is like barnacles on a boat so one of the things I used to do and probably most other people was to get a bucket of kerosene or petrol, I’m not sure which it was now, and go out in my shorts and sandals when I wasn’t flying and clean my aircraft for every extra mile an hour that I could get. But I can still smell that beautiful smell of burnt
kerosene from the engines, absolutely beautiful.
When those incidents happened what sort of effect would that have on the morale in general?
I can’t recall anything deleterious to anybody, you just accepted it as one of those things you trained for. You were anxious to get into the air force and become a fighter pilot, you became a fighter pilot and if you got lost, well – I don’t think it had any, not to me anyway, I often think about what affect it had on my morale or mind and I cannot recall
any, anything that I – and that’s honestly I’m not trying to hide anything but I can’t think of anything that sort of upset me.
and another fellow who was on my course back at Point Cook. He was absolutely, what would you call him, he went US [unserviceable] on taxiing out so often, his oil pressure would be low or something was wrong, he did it so many times and the spare would have to take his place, the CO, Dick Creswell, eventually sent him home. And I think that was the end of his air force career.
I know he ended up in Canada with an aircraft company over there, De Havilland, but I don’t know whether he continued flying or not but he was obviously not made out to be a fighter pilot or ground attack pilot.
tank which was right underneath the belly, a big tank, and I think we lost a few Meteors through that which was in the air to ground operation. It was pressurised, as you closed the canopy, the thing was pressurised so that you got ground level, not ground level, but probably 10,000 feet or 20,000 feet pressure when you were up at 30 or 35,000. You also naturally had oxygen which we
also had in Mustangs in case we were flying high, but we didn’t in Mustangs really. It was a nice aeroplane actually. The first jet aircraft we got onto after Mustangs, it was quite exciting. The first I knew about it was going to happen was when I was home on leave in Preston, just before I went back up to Williamtown to be brought up to Sydney I think to be
posted to Korea. And when I was home at leave for that week in the news Mr Menzies [Robert Menzies, then Prime Minister of Australia] announced Australia was going to equip 77 Squadron with Meteors – so great excitement. Here I was going to go up there and convert onto Meteor jet fighters which took two or three months but still it was quite a kick. It was a beautiful aeroplane – I wish I was still flying them amongst other things.
Mitsu what’s the name of the island, another island, up Kure with Ron Guthrie, the fellow who was shot down in the Meteor from the highest point ever at that stage, 38,000 feet, he bailed out and he got frozen on the way down he got shot up and he was a prisoner of war. But two room girls and he and I went up to this island were there was a big, what they call a
shrine which you went out to by boat. And there was a, not a museum, a zoo with deer and we spent a day there – very entertaining, very nice. So that was one of the social events on a day off at Iwakuni. Went into Hiroshima, saw the remains of where the bomb blast hit. In fact there’s a piece of, there it is, this comes from the –
58 years, yes. We also went up to a place near, well about 50miles south of Tokyo, it was a leave centre, everybody got a week’s leave while you were at Iwakuni. And that was the most beautiful place you’d ever see – it was built for millionaires pre war. It was a great big hostel right on the cliff front and we had everything served, there was girls bringing us food, girls doing our
washing for the whole week. And there was a beautiful swimming pool. You could go down to the cliff face and you could see the Japanese female pearl divers diving for pearls so that was a magic holiday you might say. What did they call it, Kowana Hostel, so I presume it’s back to millionaire status now.
So how long were you in Japan all up?
We got back on the 7th of April and we went back to Korea on the end of July. April, May, June, July - four months. We didn’t get back initially because General Robinson who was chief of BCOF insisted that all Meteors be fitted with automatic direction finding equipment which they didn’t have. The Americans had them in their Sabres and he reckoned we needed them so we wouldn’t get lost so then a big
argument went on about that for I don’t know for over a month or so perhaps. Finally it was arranged that because we couldn’t get them in numbers in a hurry that one in every four would be fitted so I think those pieces of equipment came from England and they had to be fitted somewhere in the cockpit. I don’t think I ever flew one with an ADF but somebody in the flight always had one. So if you couldn’t find your way home the bloke would have been lost, that was the
end of you, you couldn’t find your way home could you, you didn’t know which way to go. But that was one reason we didn’t get back to Korea earlier than we did for that reason.
tunnel to blow it down so the train was trapped in there. I can’t recall what we did at the other end whether we went to the other end or not. I can recall hitting those troops crossing that big paddock and as I say they were in quilted jackets, winter jackets, which the North Koreans used, probably the South Koreans had them too but I can recall quite a lot of them crossing a big
field. There was a village somewhere nearby and maybe they were making for that so we strafed them to get rid of them. That’s about all apart from bombing roads, we’d go up and were given a road, one of those big, not highways but big tracks. You’d bomb one end of it and you’d go up and bomb the other end so if there was anything kept along the way hidden in villages during the day there was
no way they could get out and down unless a work party came out and detoured round the road through the rice paddies which was a bit difficult of course because rice paddies are all full of water. So they had their problems in that respect. That was quite a common thing, to go and bomb roads and if you didn’t find trucks and carts you’d just destroy the roads as much as you could. Two 500 pound bombs on, say, two aircraft,
2,000 pounds of bombs along the way – if you hit the road you’d blow a reasonable hole in it. Probably then the North Koreans got the South Koreans to come out and fill it up and whip them or something.
two of us. And you’d fly along the railway line and you’d come to a tunnel and if you were lucky there might be a bit of smoke coming out of it so you’d say right, whoever was the leader would come in first, number one and number two, and say “Here’s the target, I’ll see how I go”. The first one would go and drop perhaps his two 500 pound bombs if we had bombs on board – sometimes you wouldn’t. If you had napalm you’d try and get napalm into the thing
which wasn’t as good as a bomb to close the tunnel off. But if you closed the tunnel the second aircraft would then go on keeping his bomb to go up and look for something else but I can’t actually recall a train on a track in my day. In the earlier days up in the first four or five months they had been finding them but then they were doing all the travel at night and the American Air Force were using
B26 Invaders, they were flying out of Iwakuni and they were finding those by just seeing lights going along and they’d drop bombs on them and rockets. So how good they were at night I don’t know but there were also Dakotas, Douglas C47s, going out at night dropping flares for
aircraft to bomb and strafe. And I managed to get a trip in one of those from, it must have been from Kimpo I think, a night trip, just going up to North Korea and dropping flares so anything could be picked out by the United States Navy Corsairs which were then dive-bombing targets in North Korea so they’d work together and be on a common frequency.
road or a truck or train, that sort of thing, and like that example you were talking about the Koreans crossing the paddock, in terms of your job and what you’ve got to do is there a difference at all in your frame of mind when you’re doing that sort of thing?
Well, no, you had to get rid of the enemy and whatever it took, you did whatever with whatever you had on board, bombs or rockets or napalm or machine guns, anything at all. Nothing, we didn’t have any
Can you talk to us a bit about the sort of relationships back at base with ground crew, between you and the ground crew, I mean how, obviously -
Oh quite good. In fact I’ve got a letter there I’ve got to answer, a fellow who was in ground crew up there on Meteors and he might be at this lunch, no he won’t be at the lunch, he’ll be at a lunch in December perhaps. But I thought he might well like to fill in for this interview as well although he’s not very well so it’s up to them to decide in Orange but yes we had good relationships with the ground crew. Some of them we’d known before at
Point Cook or at Canberra or Williamtown, no problems there with ground crew. They did a very good job because they had to get up, with Mustangs in winter, they’d probably be up at 3 or 4 o’clock to get aircraft ready for us to take off at 6, before daylight for instance. They’d have to load them up with armaments whatever the mission called for from the briefing, what targets we were going
for, how many aircraft were going out and to make sure they were refuelled, they’d run the engines to make sure they were warm and ready for us to start up. We’d all start up together and taxi out behind the leader in the order we were briefed for, 1, 2 and 3 and 4 and the spare bloke, the one I told you about before, he’d go U/S, no he wasn’t the spare, he was the bloke that was replaced by the spare. Invariably he’d go
U/S, he’d taxi back “Oh, there’s something wrong with my aircraft” and the spare would get a ride then so that’s why he got sent home during the Mustang period.
aircraft because 3 people had engine failures on take off or an engine misfiring in the air. And I can recall they had it in a tent over the nose, they’d changed magnetos, they’d changed carburettors they’d changed induction manifolds but it still played up. And eventually it was the one that Ces Sly, he bailed out of. I was with him up there, just the two of us, and
I first saw him on fire. I said “You’re burning Ces, get out”. So what he didn’t do, to bail out of a Mustang you had to pull the emergency release for the canopy to fly off. You had to put your seat down and put your head right down so you didn’t get hit but he didn’t do that he just ran to the back. And when he got to bail out and the aircraft was then going like that, it was actually burning, smoke coming out of it, we were in North Korea, it was going down like that and as he tried to get
out his parachute down here got caught in the top of the canopy. So he eventually kicked himself free at about 400 feet I think just in time for the parachute to open. But that was the aircraft that we’d been having trouble with it and I’d had an aborted take off with it, same aircraft, some time I think in March. About 4 people had trouble with it but they never cured it but that certainly cured it, it never came back.
off, drop the tank out, put a new tank in, put it back up again and they’d do that there. They would probably have got a spare tank from the Americans because I imagine that possibly we didn’t have spare tanks there. But we could get things off the Americans fairly easily. It might well have been that one was flown across from Iwakuni but then I don’t know but that aircraft would have been flying again the next day probably. They did things like that, minor things they would fix there but if it was anything
major it would be flown back to Iwakuni. If it was too badly damaged it had to be scrapped. That one that I mentioned, the guy that did the belly landing coming back to Pusan, that was just scrapped. I’ve got a picture of that in the scrap yard sitting up on 44 gallon drums, all bent wings, so that never flew again. But I guess it supplied spares for anything that was wanted it might have been a new taken out of it
or a replacement gun or gun sight or something so they were always used as much as possible.
130 and I’ve forgotten the 4th one, but they came up because we were losing so many American Mustangs and the squadrons were becoming depleted. So Dick Creswell had ordered 4 and they came from Richmond almost at Christmas time ’50, but would you believe they were held up over the Christmas period because of a wharf strike. They weren’t loaded for some weeks on the ship to come to Japan and I’ve got that in reports, in writing.
So we got them up there, they came across, of course they had to be cleaned and so forth and assembled at Iwakuni then they were flown across. And they were used for, I think it was about the last two weeks of the Mustang operation and then one was lost in Japan during that night cross-country and the other three as far as I can find out from records they never came back so I think they might have been given to the South Koreans,
like a lot of the American ones we had.
fit it in the nose to make it more amenable and power operated. So that was done down there until finally Qantas got the job up at Dangarfield to take on all of that. The C47s were Dakotas that came down with bullet holes in them from up north for repair. There was a C47 converted into a VIP [Very Important Person] aircraft for an American Navy Admiral called Carpenter who was in charge of
all the Australian and American Navy over in West Australia where the submarine base was for submarines out in the Indian Ocean plus all the other ships. So he got a conversion done at CAC into his aircraft for VIP travel which probably wasn’t necessary, it was war-time of course, but I’ve got a picture of the inside of that with fancy tables and drinking material, fancy seats. Still, that’s part of the
aircraft industry isn’t it, what Macarthur or Carpenter wanted they got.
couple off flights in them with the Americans and in fact one of them lived in East Preston, one of the United States Navy blokes, and he was a non-commissioned pilot so one Saturday I went with him and flew over East Preston, round and round, and saw home, East Preston from the air. So they were there for well long after I’d left the CAC organisation then they moved out to Essendon after the war. And
also Associated Airlines were there as well which was BHP’s [Broken Hill Proprietary] private airline. They were used during the war, the Lockheed 12, to even fly Menzies about because at that stage there were no VIP aircraft. Menzies or anybody else would travel between Melbourne and Canberra by train but if it was an urgent job and they wanted to go somewhere he’d call on BHP to fly him and even Makin, no I think by the time Makin was in,
it might have, they might have got a Dakota form the Air Force, yeah.
And that was developed into what they call the CA11, the Woomera, and the first one which had a lot of deficiencies in its aerodynamics that flew until the 15th January 1943 a week before I started at CAC. And it crashed up at Kilmore. It had an engine fire which caused it to blow up and one guy out of three got out of it. But the CA11, the production one, was on the production line,
we had an order for 105 of them. And there were nineteen actually on the line with the first one flying when on the 27th September ’44, the War Cabinet decided it was no longer wanted because the war was moving on, it was too late to build them so within a day they were all being scrapped, cut up with bulldozers and axes, except the first one which did some test flying in the air force just to evaluate the test
in America at Dayton, Ohio, in the American Air Force museum so that’s all we know of, Beaufighters out here. There’s one Beaufort up in Brisbane being rebuilt to fly and conditioned but that’s been going for probably oh 15 years and there’s probably about another 5 years to go. There’s one in the War Memorial at Canberra,
non-flying. What else, Australian built – Wirraways, there’s quite a few of those flying now, probably about 5 or 6 or 7 Wirraways flying people have built up from scratch. So they’re quite common. Wicker trainer, that was another thing designed and built at the CAC, two hundred of those were built. There’s a bloke building one of those down at Lara, he’s been working on that for probably 15 or 20 years too. But he’s
mixed up now in trying to preserve Point Cook which, before you go, sign my petition please. Don’t go out the door without signing it, we’ve want to save Point Cook like Point Depend has been saved and all the naval bases in Sydney. They’re trying to sell it. Anyway, I think that’s the only Wicker trainer flying but there are a couple of other people working on them.
on the factory floor just did a bit of overhaul work on Mustangs or building very slowly the last 20 or 30 mustangs. But then the design team started work on a twin-engined supersonic jet fighter called the CA23 which they built a mock up of, a full-sized mock up.
The CA23 was a twin-engined supersonic jet fighter which they’d started building small parts for, for testing and mock up, the mock up, and some structural test pieces. By then I was in the air force but I’ve since found out all about it and because the Sabre had been selected to build at CAC under licence from America
work went into converting the Sabre to Australian configuration with an English engine of much more power than the American one and with 30 millimetre cannon instead of .5 machine guns. So there was quite a lot of, about 40 per cent of new fuselage design went in to the Australian Sabre. So after about five or six months work on that I think it was the government decided we weren’t going to go ahead with the CA23 so that was
cancelled but if it had been built successfully I’m quite certain from my research it could have been sold to Canada which wanted supersonic aircraft for the (UNCLEAR) in case Russian missiles came across the North Pole over into Canada and the USA and the Royal Air Force was looking for something suitable to replace their Gloucester Javelin so if we had continued with the CA23we might well have had a big export industry. A lot of people
through union trouble that they had to import fuselages from France. CAC had a bit of union trouble but not enough to hold up production of wings, tail unit and the engines. CAC was the engine manufacturer in Australia for all sorts of engines, piston and jet. So we built those, then we built the Mackie which was a two-seat trainer, jet trainer, from Italy, the Mirage incidentally had come from Switzerland.
After that we built pieces for the Nomad which was next door at GAF which also had got a very rare treatment from the government and from bureaucracy. We ended up killing that, 170 were built when we probably could have sold three or four hundred around the world. So, you’ll get me started on the aircraft industry one of these days – it’s a completely separate thing but the aircraft industry has been treated very badly here.
CAC eventually was taken over by Hawker De Havilland which started in Melbourne in 1927, moved to Sydney at the end of 1930 and formed a bigger organisation which during the war had built Tiger Moths and built De Havilland Dragons, which were a two-seat biplane trainer, twin-engined, and then Mosquitos which were attack fighters, ground attack fighters and after the war they
designed and built a thing called the Drover which the flying doctor service used and various small charter companies. But then that ended up building various things outside the aircraft industry, well for the aircraft industry as well, like engine parts for export to America under contract, sub contract. But then eventually in 1985 Hawker de Havilland bought out CAC and in 1985 CAC disappeared as
such and was called Hawker de Havilland Victoria and then North American Rockwell came and bought them, no, bought the GAF which had also become Astor. So North American Rockwell from North America bought them and then Boeing came and bought them. Now Boeing owns Hawker de Havilland as well, Hawker de Havilland Victoria. Although Hawker de Havilland is still up at Bankstown but they’re still part of the American Boeing organisation and Boeing
organisation is now the biggest aviation company in Australia. So that’s Australia for you, let the foreigners take over.
Yes, right at the end of January I think it was, it might have been the first few days of February in ’52. I came back again by Qantas DC4 via Labuan and Darwin. And I can recall at Darwin the Customs got on to me because I had an escape knife. The Americans gave us, well I suppose we won them somehow, but a beautiful big knife with a saw tooth on one side so that if you were
shot down in the jungle or something you could cut your way out or whatever but that was confiscated, I wasn’t allowed to have that and I think I had some silk stockings or nylon stockings from the PX as well to bring home to Mum and sisters and whoever else was about. I’m not sure whether they got confiscated too. A few things got confiscated anyway. And some Japanese china, Noritake china.
So landed in Sydney and came home by train, The Spirit of Progress. My Mum and Dad and two younger sisters were waiting at Spencer Street of course and that was all. When you hear the Vietnamese people saying “Oh, we didn’t get a welcome home”, neither did we, we just came home and we didn’t worry about it. Later on in 1953 when the Meteors came back they were flown around Australia and did a fly past over the cities
but there was no march as far as I know through the streets with cheering and waving and so forth so we just came home. I think the Vietnamese people have gone a little bit overboard and of course they get all the mention now. People on radio and TV say, “World War II and Vietnam”, most of them never mention Korea, nor Malaya, Malaya was another war which we were involved in.
week or two weeks or whatever it was and went up to Williamtown and did a conversion onto Vampire jet fighters which are much smaller than the Meteor. So we did probably March, April, May, June we were there doing further training on Vampires and attacking Lincolns and other Vampires just getting a bit more training before we eventually sailed for
Malta. And I got married up there in Sydney, my fiancée came up from Melbourne and we had our honeymoon there the week before I left and Mum and Dad came up from Melbourne to see me off on the Asturias but I don’t know now, and I’ll probably never find out – one of my sisters might remember, as far as I know my father never flew, I think he came up by train, I flew Mum later on in civil life a few times
in aircraft but I never took Dad up. I think he might have come up by train and Mum came by airline. I must ask my sister about that. But anyway they saw me off on the Asturias and we sailed to Malta and we flew there as part of 2 Squadron, 78 Wing comprising 75 and 76 squadrons, both on Vampires. There was a New Zealand Squadron in parallel over on Cyprus flying the same model Vampires.
So they were part of that reinforcement for the Mediterranean as well. But in that time we also go to, well, we got to Baghdad you might say. The RAF aerodrome outside Baghdad, we went there, we went to Cyprus a couple of times, went to the Middle East, went to North Africa, went to Bizerta, went to England for the Coronation Review we flew up to England.
500 miles an hour so it was a matter of co-ordination and training and they all fed in from different directions to meet a gate. And the leader had to be there within 5 seconds and if he couldn’t make it and he was too late or too early he’d have to disappear, go back home, it was very well co-ordinated. Somebody in England has written a book about it some years ago, about that review. So we all flew over, well I didn’t, I flew in the practices but I didn’t fly in the actual thing because there was a
ground party as well with some of our aircraft on the ground and a march past of or ground staff. But I didn’t do the march past, I was just there with my wife then who’d come across from Malta and we just were there in one of the review boxes watching things. So a very interesting time although I would have liked to have flown in the thing as well but there were only about 12 aircraft and 20 pilots so I suppose it was the luck of the draw.
But we did some interesting exercises in England as well. We even attacked an American base where they had what you might call at that time secret aircraft which nobody knew until just a few years ago were operating in England flying over Russia, taking pictures, Sculthorpes. And in magazines recently in the last few years there’s been pictures of them. They were even given Royal Air Force
cockades, decorations and RAF pilots were flying them but they were American aircraft secretly in England. They were like U2s, you’ve heard of U2s have you?
two and a half years on structural test work. The CA23 had been done at that stage, it was finished but I did some work on the Ceres crop duster which was a CAC adoption of the Wirraway. It was converted into an aircraft with a 6’ long span and a great big hopper put into the middle of it, in front of the cockpit to hold about a ton
of crop dusting material or seeds to drop over the agricultural areas. So they built 20 of those so I worked on that for a while. Then I worked on Sabres again. Then I left to, I got a grant from DCA to work on this book, to do some research on the book – it had started there before but I got about six months full time work on it. Then I went into
DCA as an air traffic controller hoping to get a flying job with airlines taking the air traffic control as a temporary job but that turned out – I was interviewed by airlines but I was too old then, I was 28 and 26 was supposedly the upper limit so one of them kept me for a couple of years in case they couldn’t get enough but finally I got a letter saying sorry. So I left DCA and went into charter flying and I’m glad I didn’t get into airlines.
I had a far better time flying charter work all over Australia and parts of the world in a wider variety of aircraft.
research and travelling to Archives in Brighton then. It’s now in Castleton Place in Smith Street. So I started earning more and more money, there was more and more work coming in flying. I got known around the place, all the companies knew that I was available anytime, anywhere so eventually that took first place to the book. I still worked on the book and I flew for everybody anywhere in anything.
And built up and built up until I was finally flying off to places like Indonesia, the Philippines and to England and back – I went over there for an air race between England and Australia. All over Australia, survey work up in the Northern Territory, North Western Australia, Indonesia. So I built up and up and up so I couldn’t give it up, could I until I finally had a little medical problem
in mid to late ’85. I was sent down for a cat scan and that proved nothing, no, sorry, I was sent down for a heart thing but there was nothing there. I’d had a little infarction on the side of my brain, it just causes a little black out a little dizzy spell so maybe that’s what I did this morning, I don’t think so though. So that was really the end of my flying career commercially, I lost my licence and the
doctors over in Wyndham in the Hospital “You’ll never fly again”. And I said “I will”. And I came back and I eventually got a private pilot’s licence back so I did some more flying but I’ve given it away now because I just can’t stand the way CASA has gone and ruined the whole industry. We haven’t heard an aeroplane all day since early afternoon have we, not one. Once there used to be ten an hour, they’ve
ruined it. People don’t even stay on the aerodrome now if they’ve got aeroplanes that they own they’ll move out to Lilydale which were private aerodromes not owned by a big organisation which Moorabbin is now. So as you might say, it’s been stuffed.