then Northcote High School. Then joined the Postmaster General’s Department. In those days it was the Depression period and there was a great feeling that to be safe you should get into some sort of public service type life. So although I had ideas on a profession, the advice was get into the public service. So I did the telegraph messengers’ examination and got appointed as a telegraph messenger.
Then there was another examination in those days. I think it was called ‘Entry To The Third Division’. And I became a clerk in the Postmaster General’s Department in Melbourne, in the stores branch. Then of course the war had come along and I was interested. I joined the air training corps and spent some enjoyable days with the air training corps, although my first experience of flying down at Sale in a Fairey Battle wasn’t too exciting because they were doing
gunnery type attacks and very quick movements and I was a little still on that and I was a bit worried then. But never mind. By that time, this is 1942 period, there was an excess of air crew and it wasn’t long after that Britain said, “We’ve got all the Australian air crew we need now,” so there was delay and I couldn’t get into the air force when I turned 18 in 1942.
I had to wait until April 43 and joined the air force as an air crew trainee, went through the usual thing of by train from Melbourne up to Sydney to go to Bradfield Park, initial training school, then to Narrandera for elementary flying training, then to Uranquinty near Wagga for service flying training. Then to Mildura for the OTU [operational training unit] which was on Kittyhawks. And then to my utter horror I was told I
had to go and do some other flying, they didn’t need us in the squadrons. So I ended up at Maryborough flying wireless air gunner trainees around to get some air experience using their radios half the day. The other half the day was driving the same trainees around in a pack of Ford panel vans where they also operated radios around that area. And the next step was a course at Deniliquin
which had the unofficial title of the ‘strut school’. But again it was a course to weed out numbers. But I was successful there. Back at OTU at Williamtown then up to 77 Squadron in the Halmaheras at Morotai, very close to the end of the war. I didn’t serve on any operations at Morotai, but I joined 77 Squadron on Kittyhawks.
Then over till the invasion of Borneo and we landed at Labuan Island. I didn’t fly over. I went in an American landing ship tanker. LST, as they call them. And had to wade ashore on the island of Labuan and then got into operations there but again it was towards the end of the war. One experience I remember well was flying over a prison camp where there were Australians,
whilst our army went in to release these people from the prison camp. They had a sign on the roof of this prison camp which was something like “Get your finger out” or words to that effect. Come and release us, in other words. And then the end of the war came along and at that stage we went from the Kittyhawks to the Mustangs. The Australian fighter squadrons had been transferring to Mustangs. So it was a conversion to Mustangs at Labuan Island. Then the
occupation of Japan came along and those of us who were interested in staying in the air force volunteered for the occupation force. We were a mixed bunch. Some youngsters like me who hadn’t seen much. Some pretty rugged old timers who didn’t want to let go of the air force. But we went to Japan in early 1946. Landed originally at a place called Bofu where among other things we saw a small earthquake.
It was a wooden building and they had 44 gallon drums full of water along the corridors for fire work. About a foot of water slopped out of each of those tanks, but no serious damage. And then as the occupation went on I got involved in some interesting things. One was to help supervise the first Japanese elections. I had a car, a
driver and an interpreter and went around and toured all the election spots supposedly to make sure that there was no pressure being brought on the people. But what we saw seemed to be all very fair. And by that stage the occupation force started to wind down. The Indian air force had gone home, the RAF [Royal Air Force] had gone home, Bofu was overcrowded so we moved to another Japanese spot – Iwakuni – a bit further east, but still
on the Inland Sea. The New Zealanders moved down to Bofu. But it was enjoyable flying the Mustang. Then the next step was a trip up to Tokyo with a bunch of airmen to take part in what was
called the Tokyo Guard. It was a matter of showing the flag I suppose and the Australian army battalions went up in rotation, spent a month in Tokyo putting on cards around the Imperial Palace and such places. I had what amounted to a company of airmen to go with one of the army battalions and that’s where I met my wife. She
was living in Tokyo with her parents. Her mother was Australian, her step-father was American and we met there. About six months later I did another Tokyo Guard and we got engaged and were married up there in January 1950. Not long afterwards it was time to go home. The occupation was wound up. And we went back
to Melbourne and I went to the Citizens’ Air Force Squadron, number 21 Squadron in Laverton where I enjoyed flying again. There was some pretty experienced pilots there who were hanging on in the air force and enjoyed flying with them. And I was then posted to Sale to undergo the Flying Instructors’ Course. And on arrival down at Sale – I’d left my wife at home temporarily
because we were in the process of trying to build a house in Melbourne – I was met by the orderly officer who I knew very well. He said, “You’re posted.” I said, in effect, “That’s why I’m here.” “No you’re not. You’re posted back to Japan for the Korean War,” which I’d never heard of. So three days later I was on my way back to Japan to join 77 Squadron again for the Korean War. We got there only a week after the war started. There were 12 war pilots and 26 war experienced air men
went up. And there I was for the next 9 months flying out of Japan originally and then on Korea itself. I managed to survive that. Got home and unlike the sorts of thing that happens these days when people come back from war there was no publicity, no nothing. My wife met me at the airport and that was that.
And this time I was posted to what was called ARDU, the Aircraft Research and Development Unit at Laverton to undergo an Australian test pilot’s course with three other fellows. That was an interesting experience too. Just for interest, one of the instructors was the then squadron leader, Jim Rowland, who later became the Governor of New South Wales
and Chief of the Air Staff. Was proceeding along doing some minor test flying at Laverton, picking up new Mustangs at the factory from Fishermen’s Bend and things like that when I was asked to go to Woomera to take on the test flying of the Jindivick Pika Aircraft project. Pika was the piloted [prototype] version of the Jindivick pilotless aircraft. And that
was a pretty exciting experience too. So my wife – and by this time child – were up in Woomera in the area that’s come in for some disrepute in more recent times, but we found it a liveable place, where we had tennis courts and shops and quite comfortable life. Another child was born up there whilst we were at Woomera.
I spent some two and a half years there. We were able to get down to Adelaide for annual holidays. Then from Woomera I was posted to America to be an exchange pilot with the American air force, and there’s some interesting aspects to that I could enlarge on but I won’t bother now. But it was flying originally the F86F – the American Sabre
for about the first six months or so. Then it was the new F100 American aircraft which I then transferred to. The Americans were very good. They gave me an appointment as operations officer in the squadron. And then it was back to Australia for more routine work. I formed the reformed
3 Squadron which was getting its Sabres. They were the first Sabre squadron. So I flew with them there, introducing the Sabre. Then it was the RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] Staff College down at Point Cook. A one years college and then from college into firstly Victoria Barracks down in Melbourne as a staff officer working on personnel. Then we moved to Canberra in
1959, and worked there for another year and a half. And then out of the blue I was asked to do a French language course down at Point Cook and got involved in the procurement of the new Mirage aircraft from France, which a team had been over to select. And away I went by myself this time
again for four and a half months in France learning to fly the Mirage and all its aspects. Then back to Williamtown. I was originally going to be 75 Squadron. I was posted as CO [commanding officer] of 75 Squadron, but by the time we got back they’d changed their minds and we were the OCU. The operational conversional unit. So I flew the Mirage there and we taught the other pilots from the F86 squadrons to fly the
Mirage. Then it was back into the personnel world in the Department of Air [Department of Air and Civil Aviation]. Then having had a year or so at that, I was posted as the air attaché to France.
Spent two years in France, which was an enjoyable period. We made good friends over there. Not only among the French people but also some of the other foreign attachés. Some contacts we still have. And that was the start of a long period of six years overseas, which had an impact on the family, particularly the children growing up. By this time we had four children at school. We were able to take the girls with us. And as I remember they were
fluent in French after about six weeks. But from France it was back to Butterworth in Malaysia to be what was called the – oh dear, operations officer? Forgotten now. Used to be called the wing commander and the wing was disposed of. But I was 2IC [second in command] on the base. Three years of that. Thinking, well that’s it, this time we’ll get home. We used to be able to get the kids up
for holidays. But, no, I was posted in 1972 to the Royal College of Defence Studies in London. So I had a year in London on the Royal College of Defence Studies. Then back to Australia and into the operations world, deputy chief of operations. And eventually became deputy chief of air staff in 79, 80, 81.
And I retired on age – the retiring age in those days, still is I think, 57 for an air vice marshal. We retired to Canberra. Then I worked for about four or five years for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in the Appeals Board for veterans who didn’t get what they wanted. And then we decided to move north. We’d got sick of the cold in Canberra and moved up to the
Tweed area and have been here now for 15 years.
A bit of excitement, not too much. It was a matter of packing up and getting moving again. It was off this time by train down to Narrandera in New South Wales. I can tell you a story about that. We arrived at Narrandera, shown into our quarters. This time we had iron frames for our beds, which was a great
advantage having been on the floor. And there was a great big fellow wandering around in the dormitory when we got there. “How are you?” “Where’d you come in? You weren’t on our course.” “No. I was on the previous course, but I’m on your course.” “Oh what’s your name?” “Arthur Beard.” “Oh, Arthur Beard. Okay.” And then it came out that Arthur Beard had been on a previous course and in a Tiger Moth he had
done some illegal low flying over Leeton I think it was. Of course a Tiger Moth is painted bright yellow with great big black numbers on it three or four feet long so it was pretty easy to identify. And the air force sent him to the army – not a prison, I forget what they’re called – for 28 days. And then forgave him and put him back on the next course again. But Arthur Beard was in those days
a very high level surf swimmer competitor. And he was allowed to go down to Sydney from time to time to compete in surf swimming. And only about two years ago I suppose I was driving with my wife one Sunday morning and Macca on a Sunday Morning was on the air and he started talking about the life saving and swimming demonstration
in Wales during the war by Australians and one of those who participated was Arthur Beard, and I’ve just tried to call him on the phone, but his wife was there and she said, “No Arthur’s not here, he’s down in the surf swimming.” He would have been all of 78 by then. But a great big jovial chap.
And I was not happy about that. If I can give you an example of what made me think that way – when the Korean War started, number 77 Squadron was fully equipped with aircraft, pilots – had 24 pilots – twelve more of us were flown up immediately. Within two years the Australians were forced to have six RAF officers to come over
to build up their squadron strength in pilots to be able to maintain their aircraft. In the meantime, pilots had been coming out of flying instructional posts, staff posts, etcetera and going up to the squadron to do a tour. But even so, in two years they were running out of pilots. And yet since then many of these posts where pilots
with flying experience were occupied in non-operational flying roles, or non flying roles such as flying instructors or staff pilots – as I was up in personnel or something like that so that – so that my feeling has been ever since that should there be a national emergency and the squadrons of the air force be obliged to be involved. We haven’t got the numbers of pilots
to operate the aircraft. They’d be very limited. I was quite horrified to visit Williamtown a couple of years ago which is the fighter base of the Australian air force near Newcastle and I was taken around to visit the squadrons and one squadron I went to – it was the only one I sat down and heard the thing in detail –
there were about nine pilots present who represented the squadron pilots. So there were far fewer pilots than there were aircraft in the squadron. And of the nine pilots I think four were permanent or regular Australian air force, three were ex-patriots from overseas and two were part timers. They only worked so many days a
week or month or something. That, to me, is not manning our air force to the level that could be required.
The Wirraway had an unfortunate habit of doing a nasty flick if you got it too slow and if somebody got a Wirraway to slow on their final approach to land, it could go like that and it was a very nasty result. They were developing some wedges on the leading edge of the wings to try and stop this flick thing. So I was doing the tests on that with a civilian engineer on the staff of the ARDU research and development unit.
And two or three other things picking up some aircraft at Fisherman’s Bend – the factory there. And then I got word to go over to the hospital and see one of my old acquaintances, a chap called Freddy Knudsen who lives over here. He’d had an accident in the piloted version of the pilotless aircraft project. This was the Pika and it was the piloted version of the Jindivick pilotless aircraft project. Poor old Freddy’s had
a prang over there, was badly bashed up, and they wanted me to go over to Woomera and take it on. So having had a briefing from Freddy at the hospital, away we went to Woomera. That was a very interesting period. There was a range of test flying to do. Dropping bomb shapes, dummy bombs if you like, to determine their ballistic characteristics so that the
sightings systems could be set up for them. But the Jindivick thing – the Pika thing itself – is a tricky little aeroplane to fly, a tiny little thing. There were three or four roles with it. One was to check the aircraft out itself. The other one was to check the instrument reading on the ground of the instruments in the cockpit which were sent down to the ground for flying the pilotless version.
Check out the autopilot itself which was controlled from the ground also in the pilotless version. And then let the people on the ground do some flying of the Jindivick while I sat in it for them – the Pika. There were some tricky periods doing that. I had one engine failure in it which we discovered what the cause was. That was remedied. Then helped train the first Jindivick crew. Then when the
Jindivick started to fly, I was put in the back seat of a Meteor aircraft – twin seater trainer – where I also had a control system for the pilotless aircraft – the Jindivick. I monitored how things were going in the air while the thing was being flown from the ground. We had some disasters with the Jindivick early. One when the engine failed in mid flight.
I had to fly it from the back of the Meteor into a saltpan where it was recovered more or less intact and so on. So there was a lot of interesting flying there at Woomera. But remote from parts of the rest of Australia in a way. But an interesting period flying with the – it was called originally attachment B of the aircraft research and development unit.
So that went on for the best part of three years. Then I was posted directly from there to America to go on exchange with the American air force, first of all flying F86s and then F100s for two years there out in the Mojave Desert in California. I learnt a lot there – just touching on it briefly –
for some years until the Korean War started, Australian fighter pilots had not been permitted to fly at night. I think I mentioned that. In America, not only was it night flying, it was night flying in formation and night flying in formation land away cross countries. Which we’d never done in our air force. They had a higher state of mobility preparedness than we’d ever seen, in that it was constantly being practised.
The base I was on had six fighter squadrons and two night attack squadrons. The squadrons’d get no warning that they were about to be sent somewhere, which could be in America or might even be overseas and the first thing sometimes they’d see is a couple of transport aeroplanes would suddenly appear in the circuit. They’d say, “Oh who’s going this time?” And they’d be on their way somewhere across the States. And in this regard they had
packing cases all ready, manifests made out for each packing cases and what was to go in them so they could pack up and leave within hours. So that in itself was a development for me. Anyway, American tour was great. Advanced aircraft.