He’d been a soldier in South Africa and in the Indian army. So I suppose I inherited a bit of a love for this. Because Dad was then an engineer in the Queensland railways, we moved around a bit and finally finished up in Brisbane. As a young boy, all I ever wanted to do was fly. So whatever I did was aimed at getting airborne. My education was very brief. I went to state school and then on to the Brisbane Grammar School and left
I suppose at 15 or 16, junior standards it was then. Had various jobs. None were very interesting. Only with the sole aim of getting enough money to go fly. I was lucky enough to get a few pounds together and I hopped on my bicycle and went out to Archerfield Aerodrome where I did a bit of flying. In my spare time I joined the Citizens’ Army Reserve and was in the artillery. When war
broke out I was in camp with the artillery. I was fortunate then, I certainly still wanted to fly. They started the Empire Air [Training] Scheme. I received a letter from the Royal Australian Air Force saying would I like to join the air force. The thought of being paid to fly instead of having to pay for it, thrilled me no end. I was pretty keen to go. So in April 1940 I joined the Royal Australian Air Force and went to UK
in December ’40, flew with some Royal Air Force squadrons. Came back when the Japs came into the war in late ’41. Went up to Milne Bay in 75 Squadron Kittyhawks [fighters].
I joined a famous squadron, number 17 Royal Air Force Squadron flying Hurricanes [fighters]. They’d had a pretty terrible time in the Battle of Britain, they’d lost a lot of aeroplanes. They also lost a lot of pilots. So I joined 17 Squadron. Then, through circumstances I joined another squadron called 134 and we went to Russia. Being a young man at 20 at the time, my knowledge of politics and particularly
international politics wasn’t very good. I thought we were at war with the Russians, but to my astonishment I found I was on their side. So I went with 134 Squadron, another 3 Australians and myself, and we flew off an aircraft carrier up near the North Pole. A place called Murmansk. We were there for about 6 months. We shot down a couple of aircraft and went back to UK for Christmas to discover I’d been posted missing in action
and pinched myself and found I wasn’t. Then we re-equipped in Hurricanes and Spitfires. They were great, I loved them very much, still do. The Japs came into the war in December ’41 and I came back in 1942. Joined 75 Squadron flying B40 Kittyhawks, went up to Milne Bay. I always get into places where we have a bad time. We lost a lot of fellows
in Milne Bay, but it was one of the turning points of the war. We shot down quite a few Jap aircraft and lost a lot of our blokes. Came out of Milne Bay and went instructing at a place called Madura at a fighting school. We taught learning pilots the art of fighter pilots and dog fights, air to air gunning sort of thing and dive bombing and all that sort of stuff.
Then I got a bit, not tired, but I found it quite frightening, so I wanted to get back to the war. I got myself into a Spitfire [fighter] squadron up in Darwin. 457. Was up there for close to 12 months flying Spitfires. Enjoyed that very much. Then it was getting towards the end of the war and they posted me back to Madura. I said “Not again. This damned instructing stuff.” About that time, very early 1945,
the Royal Navy came out with lots and lots of aircraft carriers. People have forgotten how big the Royal Navy were out here. For instance they had four big aircraft carriers, plus a lot of little ones. Each one of those had 80 odd aeroplanes on it. It was a pretty decent sort of thing. So to cut a long story short, 12 of us, sorry the Royal Navy had lots of aeroplanes, but could do with extra pilots. We had
fighter pilots in the RAAF coming out of Korea. We had lots coming out from all over the place. So there was a deal done with the two governments. So all the extra fighter pilots went to fly for the RN, Royal Navy. 12 of us went across and one day I was a flight lieutenant Royal Australian Air Force and the next morning I was a lieutenant for the Australian Navy Volunteer Reserve on loan to the Royal Navy. So I flew with the
Royal Navy until the end of the war and a little bit after. Then I was out of work, because war was over and the Australian Navy weren’t gonna have an aircraft carrier in those days. It was rather interesting how it happened. The admiral in charge of aircraft carriers, a wonderful fellow called Fines [?], he liked us very much. We were very experienced by this time. He said “What are you fellows gonna do? You’re out of work.” He gave us a little party just for the
Australians in the flagship. He said “What are you gonna do?” I was senior boy, so I got the boys together. We’d lost a few fellows along the way for one reason or another. I said “We’d like to join your navy on one condition.” He said “What’s your condition?” I said “That we fly” because we could see ourselves going back to UK, poor old, tired old Britain, after 5 years of war and they weren’t going to waste any money on us.
We were going to be stuck in an office somewhere. We didn’t want that. So if we joined the Royal Navy we wanted to fly. His words were, “I’ll fly the arse off you.” He was a wonderful bloke and he kept his word. So I now had gone from Royal Australian Navy VR [Volunteer Reserve] to lieutenant Royal Navy. I took a commission with them and went over there for about 3 1/2 years. By this time we’re in 1948 and the Australians bought HMAS Sydney, our first aircraft carrier and
wrote to me “Dear Lieutenant, Royal Navy, Gould, would you like to join the Royal Australian Navy?” By this time I wanted to come home, the pay was much better. I was very fond of England, but the climate gets you down after a while. So I said, “Yes.” So I came back and did the next 20 years Royal Australian Navy. Retired in 1965 as a commander. Retired exactly on the 4th May 1965.
On the Monday I joined Hawker DeHavilland marketing military aircraft. The reason for that was I had so many friends and colleagues in the services and I knew a little bit about war and defence and aircraft and so on. So I started marketing British aircraft and missilery and all that sort of stuff. I was with Hawker DeHavilland with some success from the company’s point of view. I sold
a few aircraft, helicopters and fixed wing aeroplanes. Then about 1977, takeovers back in UK, they formed a big company, still going, called British Aerospace. One of the biggest companies in the world. So they headhunted me. They asked me if I’d like to go to them. I went across and served with British Aerospace, doing a similar job. They
put me on the board of directors, which was very nice. I started looking after their aircraft. They had some wonderful aeroplanes. My favourite one was the [Harrier] Jump Jet. So I actually had just about sold it to the Royal Australian Navy, I shouldn’t say I sold it to them, they had just about bought it from us when the change of government here and they cancelled the aircraft carrier fixed wing. So I soldiered on with British Aerospace
and left them and retired completely. Then the bicentennial thing came up and I was asked if I would help put on the first big bicentennial air show at Richmond. The reason they chose me was that by this time I had a number of acquaintances all round the world in the aircraft aerospace business. People like Rolls Royce, Boeing, all those people. So I was able to
not command, but able to interest them in coming to our air show, which was a great success in 1988, bicentennial air show. After that they moved the air shows down to Melbourne and I wanted to play more golf. I was losing fire in my belly and all this stuff. So I quit. They made me an honorary something in the air show business. I’m not sure what it is now.
So then I settled back to playing golf. And that’s about the end of the story.
Can you walk us through your childhood?
Mum and Dad were immigrants. Dad worked for Queensland Railways. It was in the Depression years when I was growing up. There were 5 children. I had two elder sisters and two younger brothers. We weren’t poor, we weren’t desperate, but there was no way they could pay money for me to learn to fly.
One of the things I did to get a few dollars before I started work while I was still at school, I used to go round the paddocks in Ashford where we lived, collecting cow manure, which I used to sell to the local gardeners, one [shilling] and six [pence] a bag, I remember. Also I’d get up early and go and get mushrooms which we’d sell to the local pubs. I can’t remember how much we got for those. When I got 10
shillings or 15 shillings, on my bike out to the airport and got myself a half hour of flying. In fact it was such a success that by the time I was 17 I think I got a pilot’s license, just on cow manure and mushrooms. Mind you, it was only a little aeroplane called the [Piper] Tailor Cub. But then I sold it and I got a few more hours up and I think that's one of the reasons the air force wrote to us, we had a license, they knew you could fly, they
knew you were medically OK and so you were accepted.
after verse of it. I guess I would in all modesty say I was above average in most subjects. I liked physics and chemistry at high school. I liked sport like any other young fellow of those days. I played a lot of cricket and rugby league. There’s a funny story about rugby league. When I started flying in the air force, I came out as a sergeant pilot. Most of us
did, 90% of us. After I came back from Russia we were commissioned. It was interesting to be interviewed to be commissioned to become an officer. I went up before a Royal Air Force old school air commodore. Real waffly old bloke. He asked be some questions about what I did and what sports I played. I played cricket. He said, “Good, good, good, good, good, boy.” He said, “Football?” I said, “Yes. I play rugby.” “Oh, wonderful. What sort of rugby?” I said, “Rugby league” and he said, “Oh!.”
Rugby league in England was a working man’s sport. Union was [private school sport]. So I pointed out to him, “Sorry you feel like that, but in Queensland they don’t play anything but that. All the schools play rugby league.” He said, “Oh, that’s different. OK.” So I got my commission.
I don’t quite know how this happened, but he joined the army. He joined a famous regiment called the Prince of Wales Lancers. I’ve got a lovely photograph of him. Wonderful uniform. He went off to the Boer War when he was 16. No, he couldn’t have been 16. 17 or 18 when he went to the Boer War. He got in the lead and he got shot and he went back to the UK and back to London. Didn't like it. So somehow he waggled himself and joined the Indian Army and he went off to India and was
up in the Khyber Pass. Didn't ever talk much about it. I think he had a bad time up there. But what turned him onto Australia was that, he was in a mountain regiment up there and the horses the Indian Army were getting all came from NSW, and they were known as Walers. Dad used to break the horses in, he was obviously a very good horseman. They got to know a lot of Australians. So he decided that was for him. He finished his time in the Indian Army, he went back to England and still didn’t like it.
he joined P&O [Pacific and Orient shipping line] as a deckhand. He was quite a chap. He came out to Australia a few times and met Mum on the way out. Mum was emigrating out here with her parents.
at Point Look and places, go up to Caloundra, which is now up at the Sunshine Coast up there. Then I joined the Citizens’ Military Force and we were horse drawn in those days. Even our guns, we had 18 pounders and they were pulled by horses. Six in the team. I was very lucky, being fairly bright, they made me signal man and I
finished up running. I think I was about 16 or 17, or 17 or 18, and I was what they call NCO [Non Commissioned Officer] in charge of the sigs [Signal Corps], so I became a bombardier. So I was head of the signal thing in that. That took up a lot of time. Weekends, not every weekend, but I think we had a weekend a month or something. One night a week I think. It’s interesting, I was in the army as a bombardier, I was an air force flight lieutenant, Royal Australian Navy as a
lieutenant RAN VR, a lieutenant RN, Royal Navy and a commander in the Australian Navy. In fact I got three commissions.
After the Civilian Military Force, where did you go to next?
I suppose I was in the CMF as they call it from whatever age I was allowed in, 17 to 19, until the war broke out in December 39. Now I must admit I was one of the few people who was absolutely overjoyed, because I knew I was going to get some adventure and I could see myself joining up. I didn’t think I’d get into the air force straight away, but I said
“Hey, this is where I’m gonna get some fun.” I was living in Brisbane and there was very little chance of travelling. I was certainly aware of the geography around the world, but not so much politics. History I knew a bit about. This was going to be that opportunity and I had to be very careful. Everybody else was terrified at the fact we were at war and thought we were going to get killed. I was quite happy.
I was only a corporal, a bombardier officially. They were gearing up for full mobilisation, so it was not chaotic, but it was flux in those days. To go into more on the changeover, what was astonishing, when I talked about how people weren’t quite sure what was going on, we
reported out to Archerfield and the last of the cadets, there were cadets going through who were going to be cadet officers and they were going to be commissioned. They had all aircrew pre-war, 99% of them, were officers. We went in, they didn’t know what we were. We had no rank, we had no uniform. We were given long blue overalls and a beret. They called us Mister and we ate in the cadets’ mess. The
troops used to salute us, but we had no rank at all. We didn’t know what we were. It was a pretty tough life. We didn’t have beds or anything. We had palliasses on the floor. We had to get up at 5 o'clock and go and have cold showers and the cadets were making sure we had them. Then we’d go flying and do ground school. The flying was great. I took to
it, I loved it. We did it in Tiger Moths. I had a civil aero class instructor. He wasn’t very good frankly, as I learned many years later when I was instructing myself. God knows how I ever learned to fly with that bloke. However, I passed and I came out round about mid-1940.
Did you have input into that decision?
We were asked what we wanted to be, but the decision was made by your instructors. Some would say, “I don’t want to be a fighter pilot, I want to fly bombers.” The instructors looked at your aptitude. The fact that I loved aerobatics I was obviously a fighter pilot. A bloke who didn’t like aerobatics, hated being upside down, put him in a bomber sort of thing. That’s over-simplifying, but that was the sort of thing you went through to decide.
When we went to Wagga they realised we can’t be Misters anymore. So they made us LACs, Leading Aircraftmen, which is one of the lowest ranks in the air force. We did our conversion there, Wirraways or Ansons, as LACs.
We knew, at least I knew anyway. We went straight onto Wirraways and the others went onto Avro Ansons. Then, remembering how brash and overconfident I was, the air force hadn't had Wirraways all that length of time. The instructors didn’t know much about them either. I had an instructor, who shall remain nameless, who,
he’d sit in the backseat and I’d sit in the front seat. So we’d go and fly. It was a piece of cake I reckoned. Mind you it’s an enormous jump from the Tiger Moth to Wirraway, because you had, amongst other things, 2 or 3 times the speed, you had all sorts of other things, you had variable pitch propellers, you had retractable undercarriage, you had flaps which you could put up and down and all sorts of other things in it. Half your time was
worrying about the cockpit checks and pills and so on. But I remember my instructor was very nervous and they used to do the takeoff. I used to teach him how to do some of the flying in the Wirraway. It was only overconfidence. I was overconfident. I think one of the reasons I left was that I wasn’t at all concerned about it. So we did a Wirraway
conversion and the other boys did their Anson conversion. We did night flying for the first time, which was terrifying. We did basic strafing and dive bombing. It was very basic. Then we got our wings. You were qualified. They put your wings on your left breast. I’ve got my original ones up there.
you know where they are. You know if you’re that way or that way. At night, and this was a very clear horizon, can be very deceptive, sounds silly, but you can get the stars and the ground lights mixed up. Not quite, but if you’re not careful. You have very good instruments in the air force and what you’ve got to learn to do, as I learned many years after as an instrument flying instructor, God didn’t make a very good job of us as far as
our reactions are and our orientation. For example, normally you know where you are relative to everything else, by sight. You’ve got verticals and horizontals and things to refer to. You’ve also got muscles that tell you when you move and so on. You’ve also got these clever things which are called the semicircular canals, which we won’t worry about. So when you get up in an aircraft, all sorts of movements, those things,
particularly your visual, you could lose them. So you have to trust your instruments. Sometimes it’s very difficult to do. Your body’s telling you to turn to the left and your instrument is saying “Shut up, you’re straight an level.” You’ve got to do that. So that takes an enormous amount of discipline. You have to overcome all your normal reactions and believe it. The other most worrying thing is coming in to land, particularly in an aeroplane like the Wirraway with a long nose and propeller
in front of you, you had a flare path. Ordinary kerosene flares each side of the runway. When you’re doing final approach, remember to put your wheels down. One of our fellows got killed doing the wrong thing. He meant to put his wheels down and put his flaps down and finished straight into the ground. That was one of my first solos when I saw that. What you do as you’re coming in to land and see the flare path and
it changes orientation. One moment it looks flat and next it’s like that. So you have to find, and it takes a little bit of getting used to.
is two Ansons collided in midair. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this story, have you? Quite incredible. This bloke, they were on cross country training. The Anson was a twin engine aeroplane, originally a bomber but it was a twin engine aeroplane. It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky and their paths crossed and one flew into the other and they got jammed in midair together. The bottom bailed out. The fellow in the top,
I’ll think of his name in a moment, he landed them both stuck together. Rather rude actually. He landed this thing. I’ve got a photograph of it. Rather tragic end to that. He passed and went over to England and became a bomber pilot and got shot down and killed, no, no, no, he did his tour over there. He did a full tour in bombers, came back to Australia and was riding a bicycle and got hit by a car
and was killed. I'm digressing. What else did you ask me?
flew the Spitfire much later on and for pure flying the Spitfire was delightful. The Hurricane we flew at southern Bedford later on could take more punishment than the Spitfire. It could be shot up quite a bit more. It was a bit slower than a Spit [fire]. It was one of the nice things about it, it was a more robust aeroplane to land. In those days
we didn’t have runways, we landed on grass airfields and so on. A Spitfire was easily bent. The wheels were a little bit fragile compared to a Hurricane. So that was always in our favour when you were coming back and you were probably a little bit tired and a bit frightened and all you wanted to do was go out and have a beer or something and your landing wasn’t as good as it should be, a Hurricane was more reliable. The Hurricanes we flew had, the first ones I flew had 8
guns firing from the wings. Browning .303s. Later on we had 12 guns and that was when the Hurricane improved a bit. It was for those days fast. I can't remember speeds anymore, but I imagine you’re talking 280-300 knots. Something in that order. I’ll tell you a very strange
story that happened to us at Sutton. Is this alright to go on like this now?
Sutton Bridge is a pretty gloomy sort of place. It’s out in the fen district in England and flat country, lousy weather and it was January. It was a bad time. I hadn't flown for 2 1/2-3 months. We got there and the Hurricane was a quantum leap from a Wirraway and my instructor
had been shot down a couple of times and he was very twitchy. He took me over to a Hurricane. He gave me one typewritten sheet about all the cockpit checks and all the speeds and all the clever stuff. Gave me a quick check in a thing [trainer] called a Harvard, he did a couple of circuits and he went off. I climbed into this aeroplane and took off. By
the time I got my wheels up I was in cloud. One of the funny things about transferring from Australia to England, amongst other funny things, is their maps and the countryside. In Australia, when we learned at a place like Wagga to navigate, you had maps that were 15 miles to an inch for example, on scale. Got to England and it was 4 miles to an inch. So you had to make that enormous
jump. Four times the thing. Plus the fact that flying in a place like Wagga, if you were map reading and you saw a railway line, there was only one railway line, and there was only one road that crossed it. So you knew where you were if you found that place. In England there were railway lines and rivers and bridges and things and flying down very low in a fast aeroplane, which you’re unaccustomed to anyway, you didn’t know where you were. I had no idea where I was most of the time. A couple of strange things happened.
You always flew these aeroplanes, even the first time when you were only learning to fly them, you always had your guns fully loaded because you were just as likely to have anything happen. Intersect an aeroplane on attack, after you got airborne. A couple of strange things happened. A friend of mine, Nolly Clarke did his first solo and he came in to land and as he landed he pulled the stick back and he was kangarooing as they called it. The aeroplane was -- have a look at the gun button which was just a little thumb thing you pressed with your thumb. Every time he pressed his thumb on it.
8 machineguns spraying all over the airfield. Everybody ran into cover as he did his first landing. My first take off landing was very uneventful except I got lost. Another time I got lost soon after. It shows you how stupid we were in those days. I took off, run into cloud, by the time I shut everything off, wheels up, flaps, tidied everything up, I was well above the cloud, but I had no idea where I was. My radio wasn’t working. We weren’t used to radio. We didn’t have them in the Wirraway.
I didn’t know what to do for a while. I saw an aircraft and I said, “That’s a Blenheim bomber. I’ll formate on him and he will show me the way to some aerodrome.” cos there were plenty of aerodromes in England. I couldn’t catch him. I got up close to him. The faster I went the faster he went. So I was getting a bit low in fuel and I thought I should go. I very cleverly worked out now that the North Sea, there’s no mountains or hills out there, if I get out over the North Sea and down through the cloud, I
shouldn’t run into anything. So I did exactly that. It was very clever of me. I came out over the North Sea and flew due west and found my way home and landed at Sutton Bridge. The blokes said, “Good on you mate.” I said, “What for?” They said, “You chased that JU88.” What happened, while I was airborne trying to formate on this, it was a German JU88, a bomber. I didn’t get close enough to see the bloke’s red crosses on him. He’d just bombed the airfield.
Here’s brave old me on one of my first trips chasing this German. So I told them I was trying to formate on him, I thought it was one of ours. That was a funny story.
just had the rugged old Battle of Britain. They lost lots and lots of blokes. They shot down 170 aircraft, so they had a pretty good tally. But they’d lost fellows and they needed some new ones. So our people from, 2 of us got sent to 17 Squadron. By the time I joined them, we took a bit of leave first, went to London to the best spots, and so on. A bit naughty. We stayed a bit longer that we should have. We finally got the squadron. By that time it was up in Scotland. A place called Castleton.
You can’t go any further north. We joined them up there. This is where I first, you asked about readiness. What you did in those days, when the squadron was on readiness, they usually had you on readiness on 4 hours or relief for 24 hours. When we were on readiness you have maybe 4 aircraft. You go out to your aircraft when you’re due to go on. You do all the
cockpit check ready for takeoff. You set your rudder trims, your fuel, you put your helmet on the gun sight with connect to your radio and oxygen. Your parachute would be in the seat with the straps to one side. Then you would go back and sit outside or inside the disposal hut with Mae Wests [flotation jackets] on, flying boots and gun strapped to your shoulder all this. Maps stuck in your flying boots.
You’d sit there trying to read or play cards, twitching like mad, waiting for the call. They’d phone eventually and say, “Scramble all directions!” Scramble meant, “Get airborne.” You’d race out to your aircraft, it wasn’t very far away. By that time the ground mechanic had started it for you, so the prop was going and it was warmed up. You leap in ready for takeoff and put your parachute on, helmet and everything on, while you’re pulling your wheels up. So
by the time they said, “Scramble!” you’d be airborne in three minutes and off on the intercept. You wouldn’t know until you got your radio and helmet and everything on and warmed up, usually 2 of you at a time, maybe 4. The ground control would vector you. They’d say, “Steer 180, angle 30.” 30,000 feet was what that was. So off you go on this thing and they changed as the raid came in. They’d say,
“Steer 160.” or whatever. They give you bearings and distances until you’d gotten to your intercept and they’d say, “Bogeys.” bogey was the word for if they weren’t sure if it was a friendly or baddie. Bogey was unidentified. So, “Bogeys at 12 o'clock above you or below or 3 o'clock.” When they were positively identified they’d say, “Bandits 3 o'clock.” and you’d say, “Jesus!” That’s when your tummy turned over. So you
had your gun sight on. Your guns were always armed. You were really a little bit twitchy. They’d off you on the intercept and the first time we didn’t get intercept thank God. By that time I got over the fright and, “Let’s have a go.” So that was the first one. Can’t remember all the others. I only had one,
I didn't fire my guns up in Scotland. We chased a few. I had a pretty unpleasant thing. There’s an airfield called Alden, which is just near Inverness. We were supposed to be rested, but we had a couple on night readiness. I got scrambled and Aberdeen was being bombed. Oh
God it was a black night. In a Hurricane at night the exhaust, you looked out of the cockpit and the exhaust was just streams coming past. You couldn’t see through it. Just streams of orange and red coming through. You got on your instruments and you were being vectored. I’ll never forget this. They started off they vectored me to chase a JU88 that was bombing Aberdeen and he was heading out over the North Sea. So they give you all sorts of things like
“Buster, buste!” which is, “Faster, faster.” “Gate” means, “Go right through.” They gave me a gate and said, “He’s 12 o'clock, same level.” So I was just up his backside. Suddenly the whole of Aberdeen ground defence opened up on me. They had anti-aircraft. They were supposed to be aiming at him, but I was copping the lot. I had red and yellow and greens going all over the cockpit. Quite frightening. So I said a few rude words over the radio to tell these blokes to stop. I was the goody
and not the baddy. He got away and I didn’t get a shot at him because by this time I couldn’t see anything because of all this stuff going on. I was just about out of fuel. So I couldn’t get back to where I started, so they told me to land at Aberdeen at a place called Dice. When you’ve not been to a strange airfield at night and you just had a couple of frights and your fuel gauge was empty. I landed all right.
I was taxing and the engine stopped, I was right out of fuel. So I went in the mess and had a couple of beers I think and they filled it up and I flew back the next day. So that was an interesting one.
the ambition was always to get on his tail. I don’t know whether, dog fighting, when you see it in the movies, is nothing like the real thing. In a dog fight you finish up in a steep turn. If you see an aircraft, say you’re firing your guns at him, you’ve got to fire well ahead, because by the time your rounds get there he’s done that.
Even if it’s only a couple of seconds, the aeroplane’s along there. So you have to stay off deflection. So you finish up in a steep turn. If you can get right behind him, right up his backside, there’s no deflection, you’ve got a dead aim shot. I’ll never forget at fighter school there were three methods we were not taught. Three famous blokes told us how they did it. There was a fellow called Stewart Bewing [?]. He was a Canadian.
He was just a mathematician. He shot down a lot of aeroplanes. He could tell you of your gun sight, which was a radar sort of thing, about deflection shooting. You could say to him, “Messerschmitt 109 doing 220 knots, 30 degrees off.” he’d say, “2 1/4 rads.” He mathematically told you where to aim to get it. The second bloke who was good is a famous bloke called Salem Halad [?].
That’s all bloody nonsense. He said, “You wanna shoot the aircraft down, get on his tail, get both hands on the stick and fly up until his tail wheel from your cockpit sight you can’t miss.” Why with both hands? He said, “Because you’re right in the bloody slip stream you fool.” The third one, who I loved dearly, [Squadron Leader Keith] Bluey Truscott, quite a famous bloke, he didn’t go for any of this nonsense at all. Bluey was a duck shooter. He
was just one of these fellows who knew exactly where to aim your sight. The boffins [scientists], the mathematicians worked out, that if a JU88, which was a fairly big aircraft, if he came across at nearly 90 degrees and you had 8 guns firing at whatever speed level, the most you could put in him was 11 rounds, which meant it was impossible almost at 90 degrees. Bluey
was leading the whole wing across the Channel on a sweep and he had about 24 aircraft behind him. A [Messerschmitt] 109, which is much smaller than the JU88, came at it from 90 degrees and doing not 280 knots, doing 220. Fast like that. Bluey just pulled the stick back, boom, it fell out of the sky. He just knew exactly. He just had a feel for it. Like clay shooting.
You did eventually get out of that squadron?
By this time we were having more of a rest. We went up to Shetland. Next stop was the North Pole. As far as I was concerned the air war was, you’ve got to remember you wanted to go, you wanted to be in the action. The big war was on in the Middle East. That’s where the 3 Squadron was and all the action was. So I applied for a posting. I said, “I want to go to the Middle East.”
About this time, I’ll have to perhaps start telling you what happened, which we didn't know of at that time. The Russians came into the war round about this time. I’m talking towards the middle of ’41. My understanding was that they were coming in on the German side and they were going to be the baddies. But they weren’t. They came in against the Germans. They were having a rough time. Stalingrad was coming
up, the worst of it. So [British Prime Minister] Churchill, because [Soviet leader] Stalin was jumping up and down and asking for help, he decided to send some fighter aircraft to Russia. I didn't know that at the time. So when I applied for a posting, wanting to go to the Middle East, it was all, “OK, off you go.” Half the squadron was sent to somewhere in Yorkshire.
They started issuing us with big woolly leather jackets and neck to knee underclothes and three pairs of gloves, silks, woollens, leathers and so on. It didn’t sound like the Middle East to me, but no one knew where it was, so weren’t told. Then we went and caught a big transport aircraft and went up to Glasgow and joined an aircraft carrier. I’m not going to talk about Russia now,
but that’s how we got to Russia.
all over the place to form the squadron. So I was still a sergeant pilot and we climbed aboard this Argus in Glasgow and I still thought we were going to the Middle East somewhere. I knew it could be a bit cold in some parts. The ship sailed out of there and even I was, this is my lack of navigation, when she turned right in stead of left and started heading up north a bit, I said “This doesn’t look like the Middle East.” Away we went.
After we’d been aboard for a little while they told us where we were going. Churchill had promised Stalin some help and he was sending 2 squadrons. The idea was to teach the Russians, we weren’t supposed to necessarily go there fighting, we were supposed to teach the Russians how to fly the Hurricane. But more importantly how to maintain them, look after them, because it was a big jump from the agricultural aeroplanes they had.
Rolls Royce engine and all this sort of stuff, lots of guns. So that was the whole idea. I think we had 24 aircraft in the Argus. The Argus was not much of a ship. I think she could do about 22 knots an hour. We’d never been on an aircraft carrier. We had no idea what carriers were like. We were in fog, out of fog and in the fog again. We got spotted by a German
reconnaissance aeroplane that went around and around telling everybody where we were. Back into fog again. Finally we decided we’d fly off. There was no wind speed, so no wind at all. So we had very little wind speed over the deck. So it meant our takeoff was very critical. Other thing I should tell you,
at that latitude, first of all, compasses are useless anywhere near the poles. Everything points north. The other thing, they hadn't been swung. That meant they hadn't been checked against the magnetism in the aircraft, which you had to do every, in fact they were useless. So what they said, “You take off in this thing and fly to port. We lined the destroyer up on the
starboard beam, that’s about there, so many miles away, and fly over the aircraft carrier and over the destroyer and pull your direction gyro out and you’re heading south. You fly on that course for 20 minutes or half an hour and you’ll hit Russia. It’s a big country, you can’t miss it. You won’t go over it or anything. When you hit it, turn right and after a certain time you’ll find a big river. Fly down that river and after a certain time, on the left you’ll
find a little village and that’s where you’re going.” We did that.
and, it was a strange war in many ways. I’d just had my 21st birthday by the way. I was unsure about the Russians. Till I got there I thought they were the enemy. The other odd thing, and this has happened to me totally, and it’s quite true, that in the Russo-Finnish war, when the Russians and the Finns had a fight,
Britain had given the Finns Hurricanes and so to the Russians, Hurricanes was the baddy. We were over there in Hurricanes on their side. I can assure you we had a couple of very funny experiences where the Russians were trying to shoot us down. We were supposed to be on their side. Our senior people were terrified of an international incident. You have to cast your mind back to those days in 1941 when things were really
grim all around the world. The Germans, we were there supposedly to teach them to fly these things, not to go to war and the Germans, I learned this later on, they had one of their biggest divisions trying to take Murmansk where we were, because it was a warm water port. They wanted it badly and they put everything into it. When we landed and got into our
little huts and things we could hear gunfire only just up the road. It might have been 20-30 miles away, but you could hear the guns. So the ground war was close to us, which we didn’t like very much. The other thing which was disconcerting, the Russians had no radar worthwhile, and the Germans had a big airfield near us called Petsamo. They’d send over their bombers to bomb us and bomb Murmansk and places around.
They had no radar, so the first thing you knew about a raid was when the anti-aircraft guns on the airfield opened up, or the bombs dropped on the airfield. So we’d take off between the bomb bursts. We’d be on readiness and siting in the freezing bloody snow. The bomb burst would go and off you’d go. We shot out I think about 16 confirmed aircraft. We shot down a lot more than that, but
the Russians were strange people. They were loath to give us any real success. We never quite understood why, but we think that it was a sort of national pride, they were going to shoot down the German aeroplanes, not these bloody English. We had a funny joke too, we found out afterwards that they got something like 1,000 roubles when they shot down. So we said we wouldn’t accept it because it would
spoil our amateur status. We shot down 16 or 17 confirmed, but it was quite a few more. We only lost one bloke in combat. Sergeant Smith got shot down. We had quite a lot of combat. One of the most absurd things, and I give you my word of honour this is completely true, the Russians had one of their destroyers up in one of the fjords, right on the frontline, providing naval
gunfire support. Firing out the ships’ guns while their infantry was advancing. What’s called gunfire support. So we sent one of our flights, that’s about 6 aeroplanes, over to fly escort around the destroyer to keep the German bombers away from it. The Russians then sent over three bombers from our airfield to dive bomb the German troops. We, the other flight,
the other 6 aircraft, the same squadron who was around the ship, escorted the dive bombers to keep the German fighters away. It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, see for miles. We got over this fjord and we were at about 15-20,000 feet. Suddenly the lead Russian dive bomber peeled off and dive bombed the Russian destroyer. Word of honour. Dropped his bombs on the Russian destroyer. The Russian destroyer opened up and shot the
Russian lead bomber out of the sky. We were scratching our heads, metaphorically. “What the bloody hell’s going on here?” For one awful moment we thought “Maybe they’re not our Hurricanes, maybe they’re somebody else’s Hurricanes.” It was very confusing. I’d love to tell the story and say the Hurricanes had a go at each other, but they didn’t. The Russian crew bailed out of there. I think we watched them flutter down, I don’t know what happened to them. Couldn't care less by this time. So that was rather a strange thing.
was very nose heavy. So what you always had to do was taxi, particularly in snow or mud and so on, a couple of airmen would sit on the tail and lean over the rudder fin like that to keep your tail down, otherwise you’d tip up. Then you got up the ramp and you stopped and they got off and you took off. I was coming out of my little ramp and our flight commander, a fellow named Vicky Berg had his two airmen on.
Bombs are dropping and guns are going off. Vicky climbed up the ramp and opened his throttle and didn’t let the blokes get off. I watched in horror, I stopped and watched. I saw this Hurricane going across, tail going down like this, full throttle trying to get off. All these heavy blokes were not only keeping the tail down, but they were blocking the airflow of the elevator, so the thing didn’t work. He finally staggered into the air like that. It was awful to watch. He got up about 100 feet and
was absolutely vertical, and he catapulted down like that, cartwheeled like that and the two little airmen were flying from the sky. Not much left of them. Not much left of Vicky Berg either. The aeroplane was in a mess. So we took off and came back. We couldn’t understand why these two blokes didn’t get off. So we tried. You can’t. If you’re sitting on the tail of the plane and you’ve got the fin coming up like that, and the
fellow’s got full throttle, you’re pinned with the slipstream. You can’t get off. So that was terrible to watch.
You asked me what it was like when we were taking off with the bombs bursting and all that stuff. You don’t usually have much time to think about it, you leave the aeroplane. You get butterflies, of course you do. Once you get airborne and tidy up the cockpit, pull the wheels up and settle down and start listening to the radio, you’re still a little bit on edge, but
I don’t recall being particularly frightened. I don't remember a particular feeling. I assume I was frightened. I’d be abnormal if I wasn’t. I don’t ever remember wondering whether I was going to get shot down. It’s always the other bloke that gets shot down, not you. You develop a
sort of a fatalistic thing towards it. I think you do, without realising it. It’s not you, you’re still there. When you come back and land you’re a bit glad to get out of the cockpit. I could tell a longer story up in New Guinea, but you don’t want that now I shouldn’t think.
I know a couple. They called it lack of moral fibre, LMF, which I suppose is a polite word for saying “Coward” I suppose. He’s not with us, he doesn’t want to be in this anymore. I think it happened more with the bomber boys. I would have hated that. I think you did 20 missions over Europe before you had a rest. At one stage
there the fatality rate was shocking. I think with the fighter blokes, I think too many sorties missions] and the blokes would start to say “Hey, this can’t go on. I can’t keep it up.” I knew one chap in 17 Squadron when I joined it, who was shot down twice in one day. Had to bail out twice. The second time, he got a good rest the second time cos he got badly burned, the aeroplane was on fire.
To this day he’s got what looks like an oxygen mask because where he had his mask wasn’t burnt, the rest of his face was where the helmet wasn’t. It looks like he’s got a pair of white gloves on, cos he wasn’t wearing gloves. So all his skin was badly burned. Some blokes had enough. I can understand. I came close to it myself saying, “Hey, can I get out of this for a little while?” Just rough weather. I’d like a bit of a good rest. Some
squadrons they didn’t get a chance. Particularly in the Middle East. It was far worse than we had. I knew one chap in the Middle East. He got shot down and he bailed out in the middle of a tank battle in the desert. He landed next to some of the German tanks. They were trying to depress their machineguns to shoot him and he was running along the side of the tank keeping as close as he could so they couldn’t shoot him. He lived to tell his tale.
He didn’t fly for a long while after that. That would be dreadful.
been on a ship, never tried this before. We were briefed by some of the fleet air arm pilots. I’ve still got the instructions here of exactly what happened. They push you as far aft as possible. I think we had 3 aeroplanes at a time to take off. The rest were down on the hangar. So you could have maximum flight deck takeoff. I think the ship was at the most 600 feet, if that, long. Usually, in taking off from a ship,
the two things that happened is the ship always steams into wind because the total of the ship’s speed and the wind across the deck reduces your takeoff run. We had no wind over the deck. We’re talking about this foggy place. So what we were told to do, they pushed us right aft, we hopped in, ran up the aeroplane full bore, feet on the brakes, holding the brakes on, you had 10 brakes.
The brakes full on and the bloke waved a green flag and you went, tried to keep on the central line, otherwise you’d hit something over the side. The ramp went up in front, pull the pole back and hoped you got airborne. Pull up your wheels and the rest was as I said earlier on.
we had one Russian speaker amongst us. We got by with a bit of sign language and so on. We, the ordinary pilots, had very little to do with them. There was no social life. There were no toilet or bath facilities. I think we had a bath probably not once a week. It was a communal thing. It was bloody awful. The toilets
were indescribable. They had no flushing toilets or anything. It was horrible. We didn’t have laid down water for example in the sergeants’ mess that I was in. I can remember to wash and shave you’d go and get a bucket of snow and put it on a little potbellied heater we had in the thing. Then poured it into a basin of some sort and had a wash. You smelt a bit after a couple of days. Food was
very ordinary. We started off when we arrived, for breakfast we used to get champagne from the Russians. Then the commanding officer found out we were paying for it, so that stopped pretty smartly. Then we got vino, and we found out we had to pay for that as well. The bill was going back to the British Air Ministry. So that was stopped. Then we got this awful bloody Russian tea and the food was pretty grim. It was so grim that in the end
we had navy rations. We started to get bully beef and all the old English food. We lived.
There was very little fraternising. I think some of the senior people fraternised a bit, talked tactics and strategy and what have you. But at our level. There was a certain amount of distrust. I’m just thinking aloud now. I remember when our aeroplanes, which were separated in these little dug out things, for reasons so if a bomb went off it wouldn’t blow up the whole lot of them.
We put at night an airman’s guard on, bayonet and rifle. I’m not sure why we did this, but we did. The Russians put a guard on our guard. I’ve got a photograph of that somewhere. The Russian guarding our guard. Anything interesting thing I found about Russia in those days, it’s probably quite different now, I remember talking to one of the interpreters, a Russian officer.
Remembering how young I was, and inexperienced, I said, “I understand you don’t have any class distinctions in this country.” Thinking of England where I’d spent a bit of time. “That you’re all equal.” He said, “Good God, no!” not exactly like that. “Look at that bloke over there” and he pointed to one of the guards who was obviously a Mongolian and looked as though he hadn't had a shave or a bath for a long while. He said, “Would you expect me to have him in my home?
What we do, we make friends and team up with people of our own standard. The university graduates with them, or engineers and so on. Yes, there are grades of people you want to be with. Maybe not officially, but you pick your friends with the same education and the same interests.” It was understandable. So there was a distinction to that extent.
now filling in time. So it was time to leave the aeroplanes there and for us to go home. Apart from the pilots and the ground crew I think there were 150 or 200 of us all told to get back. The first thing we were told to do, the wing commander told us, was we were to go from Murmansk down to the Middle East across Russia. I don’t know how he dreamt that one up, but at that time and what was going on. There was no transport of any sort going north and south.
There was a battle going on at Stalingrad and everywhere else. So it was a ridiculous thought. So then he said, “We’ll get you home the best way we can.” So another Australian and I, a fellow called Bart Campbell, a Queenslander, we went down to the wharf at Baenga and a British destroyer came in, HMS Entrapment, a lovely little ship. She came in, he said, “All aboard.” so she was going back to the UK and we jumped on. I think I did tell you this story, didn’t I?
we were doing this, and there was a German troopship had just arrived and she was alongside. She was going to disembark all her troops to help in the battle that was going on. So he let off a torpedo and sunk this ship while she was alongside. And I had this pair of Lewis guns. I don’t know what I was supposed to do with them. By the time we’d done all this we were out of fuel. There was no way we were going to get back to the UK. So back to Murmansk we went. I was bloody angry about all this. We went back and refuelled. Finally we set off for the UK and we got back to
Scarpa Floe [Orkney Islands]. It was on the way back that we heard about Pearl Harbour, December the 9th 1941. So that’s how I can pinpoint that. So then as Australians we knew it would get dangerous now, we wanted to go home. We got back to the UK, Scarpa Floe; I don’t know how I got from Scarpa Floe to London. We got to London, reported in. They said “Gould? You’re missing in action.”
So I said, “No I’m not, I’m still here” so then they
We were billeted, I told you we went up to the north of Scotland on the squadron, we were reinforced. It was a bare airfield, we were billeted out. I was billeted in the manse, a local Presbyterian place. It was interesting. Nearly everybody in that part of Scotland spoke Gaelic. They didn’t speak a bit of English, but most of them were Gaelic. It was quite interesting. They found it was my 21st birthday, I probably told them.
They gave me a, there was a tiny little pub down the road and they gave me the keys to the bar for my 21st birthday. I was responsible for giving everyone drink. I got very drunk. I drank beautiful scotch, what do you call it? Glenfiddich and all that sort of stuff, malt whiskey. It was beautiful. I passed out somewhere along the road. That was my birthday. Fortunately we had the day off the next day.
friendly. Some of our blokes went down to Dublin, which was enemy territory. They’d go down there, and we had no civvy clothes at all, so all they did was not wear their blue jacket with the wings and rank on it, they’d get a sports coat from somewhere and they’d use their identity card to cross the border. It was quite stupid. They’d go into Dublin and they’d find German U-boat [Unterseeboot, German submarine] commanders and they’d have a drink at the pubs and so on. Southern
Ireland was a haven for these blokes. Not all the southern Irish felt that way. We had a lot of southern Irish in our squadron in some cases. It was a mixed up sort of place. You could buy a fight, when we were over there, by singing the wrong song, which some of the fellows did. Singing the Black and Tan [English Police] song or another song and you’d get into a brawl pretty quickly. (UNCLEAR). We had 4
Australians then in the squadron. Pearl Harbour happened on the way home, so we’re talking January, February, March ‘‘42 and all we wanted to do was come home. ‘King and Country’, now it’s ‘Australia and Country’. We wanted to get home. Things were grim. Singapore had either fallen or was about to fall. I can't remember now, but the Japs were well and truly knocking everybody over. So we wanted to come home. We all put in for posting home.
You may or may not remember the politics of the time, but [Australian Prime Minister]John Curtin wanted everybody home too. He had a go with Churchill over all this. So one day the posting came through. By this time I was a pilot officer thank God.
I was wheeled up before an air commodore, Royal Air Force, not Australian. He asked me lots of questions and said, “Very good, yes, very good. What sport did you play in Australia?” “I played a lot of cricket.” “Good, good, good, good.” He was old school obviously and he said, “What else?” I said, “I played rugby.” “Great.” I said, “Rugby league.” he said “What?” I said. “Rugby league.” He said. “What?” I said. “Rugby league.” As you know,
in UK that’s the working man’s, not officer stuff. I was able to point out to him, “Hang on, sir. In Queensland when I played rugby league at school there was no union. All the schools played rugby league, it was the only game. We only called it rugby.” He said, “Oh, OK, that’s all right. That’s different.” So I got my commission.
were coming right down to Papua New Guinea and so on, particularly wanted to bring home the 7th divvy [division], which were in the Middle East. Churchill said, “No, we’ll finish the war in Europe first and then you can have them back.” inferring, we believe, that what happens to Australia is not important at this time in the big strategic picture. It’s winning the war against Hitler. We want your 7th divvy and whatever else in Germany and what have you there.
Churchill disagreed completely. Not him, John Curtin said, “Not fair. Come home.” and he ordered them home, which I think was great. Right and proper. But I’m not sure whether that’s exactly what happened, but I believe it was. So we all believe anyway.
Interesting thing, there was a chap in Russia with us, in our squadron, called Sergeant Pilot Neil Cameron. I didn’t see him till long after the war. When I next met him he was a wing commander of the DSMC [Defence Services Military Command]. He had finished up Lord Cameron. He was boss of the whole defence force. So he went from sergeant pilot to Lord Cameron, boss of the whole defence, which meant that Britain was changing as far as officers were concerned.
The 17th or March we caught the train from Londonderry to Belfast. Caught a little ship across to Liverpool I think. I can't remember all the details. They formed us up there cos apart from the couple of Australians from our squadron, there were some more famous ones, Bluey Truscott and people like that, came across. We caught the ship to Nova Scotia.
God knows why. Then we got to Montreal and we were supposed to fly, remember this was now March April 41 and the Americans were just gearing up. So we were going to fly B25s back to Australia from the US. I don’t know what happened, it didn’t eventuate. So we
spent 10 glorious days in Montreal. The lights were on, no coupons, no rationing of any sort. Then caught a train from Montreal down to Chicago and did that wonderful trip from Chicago to San Francisco by train. Wonderful trip in those days. Then caught a troopship from San Francisco
back to Melbourne. I can remember some of the days there, cos we got nearly home and the Battle of the Coral Sea happened, which was a turning point in the war’s history. We were only in a merchant ship. I know that happened because we were told it was going to happen, so the ship turned due south and went towards the South Pole to get away from it all. So that was round about the 6th May, that sort of period. It
happened on my birthday. Then we got to Melbourne some time in May.
How did you find the Americans in San Francisco?
I can't remember. I can tell you a lot about them on the troopship when we came over. They were the most uninformed people I’ve ever met in my life. They were absolutely completely uninformed. There’d been no war as far as Europe was concerned. That was somebody else’s war, couldn’t work out why and what we were doing over there. That sort of thing. This was officers too. Not just the old Joe in the street, it was
senior officers would say “Hey, do people speak English like you in Australia?” And “How many white people? Are you outnumbered by the blacks? What sort of money do you use? Do you have trains? Transport?” These were senior officers. They were absolutely uninformed. So we had to give them lectures on this sort of thing. We used to pull their leg a bit. We’d come up with all sorts of lies about it.
We got so angry about it, we’d say “No, very few people speak English like we do. Might find one or two, but only the very senior people speak English.” We pulled their legs.
reforming. They were the famous squadron in Moresby who got shot down almost to the last, they did, to the last aeroplane and lost most of their pilots, which is not a very well told story, the Battle of [Port]Moresby the 75 Squadron. The survivors were there at Kingaroy and you had B40 Kittyhawks, which was an American aeroplane. There were quite a few Australians, not Australians. Quite a few of us
back from Europe. We were looked upon by the New Guinea pilots with suspicion. They thought we’d had too good a war, we had lovely messes over there and nice pubs down on the corner of the street and a pretty good war and they’d been slumming it up in Port Moresby and so on. It had a bit of ill feeling to start with. Didn't last long. So we flew Kittyhawks
and our first impression of Kittyhawks was not very good. I was telling you how delightful Spitfires were. You’ve got a Kittyhawks and we described it as a bulldozer. It was a great big heavy aeroplane. Not as nice to fly as any of the others I’ve flown, but it’s pretty reliable. Hefty and strong. Could take a real belting. Thank goodness it could, cos after we’d fought up there a little while we got
sent up to Milne Bay with a sister squadron called 76. I was in 75. That was one of the worst wars I’ve ever been to. Russia was a picnic compared to Milne Bay. Milne Bay was bloody awful. Never stopped raining. The mountains came straight up from the strip. The strip was just mud with steel planking on it. When you landed it used to do this sort of thing and mud would fly up. Spitfires wouldn’t have lasted.
You couldn’t fly the Spitfires, wouldn’t have lasted. We all had malaria and dysentery. I had both at one stage. Just unpleasant. Our living conditions were so squalid. We had 6 in a little bloody tent and a little bit of timber on the floor, but mostly it was mud. I had malaria and the squadron doctor, I saw him the other day, fella
you’d come in and see. I got down to 8 stone 7 [pounds] in New Guinea. Phil said “Don’t you get out of that stretcher.” I couldn’t have got out anyway. He walked out and the boss came in and said “airborne” and you’d go out, have a little vomit on the tail wheel, get in the cockpit. I’m not exaggerating this, truly, and you’d get airborne and I was doing one of these patrols. You take your oxygen mask off and have a vomit all over the place and
out it back on again. You’d have diarrhoea and it’d be seeping down the back of your legs into your flying boots. You had another hour and a half to sit up there in all this. That was unpleasant. I can tell you worse stories than that.
coconut tree, which didn’t do the aircraft much good. I also said Spitfires wouldn’t work there very well. Two reasons why. First of all they were too fragile for the conditions we had. Not only that, they didn’t have the range and endurance as an up and down interceptor. Whereas the Kittyhawks we had were far more versatile. We had a lot longer range. We could go out a lot further. So this was
very useful. We were raided quite a few times by the Japanese who came over from Rabaul. They sent over dive bombers called Vals and escorted by Zeros. We had quite a few fights and lost quite a few blokes and we shot down quite a few. One of the most important things that happened up there, I believe, it was a turning point, the Battle of Milne Bay
was a turning point like the Kokoda Track thing. Perhaps more so at Milne Bay. We got the word one day that there was a Jap invasion fleet coming to land at Milne Bay because the Jap strategy was to take Milne Bay and they could then take the rest around to Moresby over the Kokoda Trail and up that way. When this Japanese fleet was coming in, for some reason we couldn’t get the American
heavy aircraft bombers to go out, so we were given the job in single seat Kittyhawks to go out and attack the fleet, which we weren’t designed for. We were fighter aircraft. We could carry two 500 pound bombs and we went out. I’ll never forget it because it was a typical New Guinea day. Low cloud, pouring with rain and we weaved our way out of the rain and we sighted this fleet. It was terrifying because
it was escorted by Japanese ships, destroyers, a cruiser or two and some gun ships. Our briefing was, “Forget the naval ships, go for the troopships.” Knock off the troops before they landed. We went out there and we tried our best. I happened to be a very good dive bomber. I selected a troopship, came at it, very low
clouds. The Japanese were firing everything at us. The flak [anti aircraft fire] was quite enormous. I didn’t stay too long. I aimed at the troopship, dropped my bombs and got back up into the clouds where it was fairly safe. We finally got back to Milne Bay to our landing strip and the wing commander, Peter Turnbull, came over to me and said “Well done, lad.” I said “What for?” He said “You sunk the gun boat, the flagship.” I said “I did not.” He said “Yes, you did. You were flying so and so?” I said “Yeah.” “I watched you.”
I said “I wasn’t aiming at that, I was aiming at the troopship.” Anyway, I got a flagship gun boat confirmed. They landed and that was very unpleasant because the strip we were on went into the bay itself. The Japs landed and in the end they took one end of the strip and we had the other. So we’d take off over them, crouch down under the armoured plating. They shot at you when you pulled your wheels up, which
is not recommended. One of the satisfactions I had, again please put this in the context that we were in a war and hated the Japanese very much, I was leading a couple of fellows round to where they’d landed some barges. They were up on one of the beaches there and they were waving at us. We found out afterwards was that they
were told that there were no Allied aircraft there, any aircraft they saw were theirs. So they could feel quite safe. They were waving at me, so I pulled the boys in astern and we went down and strafed them. I regret to say it, but we killed many, many, many of them. Rather an amazing sight when you hit fellows with, the Kittyhawk had .5s. I think we had 6 guns. When you hit them you could see they were just like little rag dolls jumping up
in the air. I wasn’t upset at all. I was happy to kill so many.
that it’s one of the reasons the army won the war was because of our strafing the Japs, making them keep their heads down. It was a difficult strafing targets there because it was thick canopy jungle. Absolutely thick. On one side were these very high mountains, I don’t know how high they were, they certainly went up in the clouds. So it was only a narrow strip between the sea and the mountains. There was thick jungle and the Japs were advancing
towards us and towards the army. We couldn’t see anything when we strafed. So what we were told to do was the army would fire up through the canopy a red, I can't remember the colour, say a green Verey [flare], so that’s our frontline. Then a number of white Verey lights for every hundred yards in front of the green to strafe. The problem with that was you were doing a couple of hundred miles and hour
round and round in low cloud, dodging the cloud and watching the mountain on that side and so on. When the green came up you’d see it, but how the devil could you pinpoint exactly where it was in the canopy when the jungle on the top was the same. So you tried very hard, so you’d make sure you weren't’ strafing your own fellows, you went well past them. We couldn’t see the Japs, but we knew they were there, so we just strafed and came back and landed. We were only airborne about 10 minutes and back and landed and had a quick feed and got back in the aeroplane
and did it again. You strafed and strafed and strafed and in the end there we were. You have to know a bit about ballistics to realise how many rounds we fired. For example, the ammunition was so organised in the aircraft that we had tracer, which was a light sort of thing at the end of the belt. That was to tell you you were running out of ammunition so you may as well go home, it wasn’t there to help you
target. What it shows was how we were wearing the rifling in the thing, because the tracer was coming out in great big spirals so in a rude way you couldn’t hit a bull in a bum or a shovel with it. It was useless. We’d come back and land and go out and do it again. That perhaps was the turning point as far as the army was concerned. They had hand to hand fighting just up the strip from us.
We had to move our tent because it was right in the middle of the Japs infiltrating around it. I’ll never forget it because half malaria and not feeling very well and I think there was four of us in the tent. I had a tunic that I never wore that was hanging up on the ridge pole that goes along the tent. We all slept with our guns. I had mine under my pillow. I woke up in this half malaria daze and I thought there was a great big Jap bending over me and
got the gun out. It was just my tunic bouncing up and down in the wind. I nearly shot my tunic. We were a bit upset and a bit worried. The food was bloody awful. No food worth talking about at all. It just rained all day every day. It never stopped up in Milne Bay. We wrote some very rude songs about Milne Bay.
In the end, up in places like Milne Bay and so on, we got to be very fond of it for many reasons. First of all it could go a lot further than the Spitfire could. Secondly it was far more robust. One of our chaps came back, he’d been shot up by some ground fire somewhere. He had a hole in the fuselage down near the rudder that I could put my head and shoulders through. He flew it back. A Spitfire that would have been the end. It was that big a hit it would have knocked it off. The
Kittyhawk had some failings which you could turn into successes. At one stage, this is not during Milne Bay, but the Australians captured a Japanese Zero, their fighter. So they flew it and worked out combat manoeuvres with our own aircraft. One of the things we found out was, if you could get above the Japanese fighters and trade off your
height for speed, you could peck. You could come down and peck and climb up again. Whatever you did, don’t mix with them, because they turned inside within a couple of turns and knock you off. The Kittyhawk had not a vice, but a strange thing that in a dive it’d be at high speed, it wanted to roll one way and yaw the other, which an aeroplane shouldn’t do. It was very uncomfortable in the cockpit.
We found out that if you were bounced by a Jap and you dived full bore, got up over the speed where these things happen, take your hands and feet off and the aeroplane did manoeuvres that nobody could ever shoot you down, because it was rolling one way and yawing the other. It would be impossible to shoot. It was difficult in the cockpit to find your way around. You start at the bottom and work your way up with the stick. I never had to do that to be honest.
What else? I don’t know. We shot down quite a few. I had an unpleasant time; we didn’t fly every mission ourselves. We took it in turns of course, like everybody else. When you weren't flying you went in one of the gun pits with the army, the anti-aircraft people because their recognition wasn’t very good and they were just as likely to fire at a Kittyhawk as they would a Zero. Not deliberately. Not only that it was low cloud and they’re going very fast.
very low, well below clouds. The Jap shot this fellow, shot the aircraft and it started to catch fire and Ingston was the fellow, I know him quite well. He bailed out just up there, I watched him, and his chute was streaming as he hit the ground. He was dead of course. Another couple of seconds and the chute would have filled, but it was streaming. I watched another, I don’t think it was the same day, it was another day I think in the gun pit.
I saw another fellow called Stuart Monroe come screaming out of the clouds with two Zeros up his backside. He didn’t seem to get shot down, but he went over there somewhere and we heard the gunfire and they disappeared into the clouds and that was Stuart. I don’t think we ever found him. The jungle up there was very fierce. If you went down in it, the canopy just closed up over you. They’re still finding aircraft up there now that got lost. I don’t know how long we were there. I can't remember how long we was up there
now. I know we got out by Christmas. One time, when the Japs landed, we were ordered to evacuate and go back to Moresby. We didn’t have enough aircraft for all the pilots, so we’d drew lots to see who would fly back and who’d walk back. If you look at the map there’s a long walk from Milne Bay to Moresby. It was a long way. I drew the short straw so I had to walk back. Supposedly. So I took all my possessions, which was my
log book and a Rolls razor I had and my gun and started to walk off leading a whole bunch of the ground troops, the airmen. We were about to go, and in came a Lockheed Hudson. He came in and landed. The Japs were on the other end of the strip and he said “Come on, hop in” so we all filed in. I don’t know how many we got in this Hudson, but I know I was up in the bomb aimer’s position lying flat on my belly with two fellows on top of me. I could see where we were taking off. Taking off in this thing
and we hit a coconut tree on takeoff. Blew the palm tree apart, but we got airborne. We went to Moresby. It was dark by the time we got to Moresby. One of our chaps in a Kittyhawk by the name of Bill Cowley, was formatting on him and went to find his way in the dark to get back to Moresby. He peeled off to go on his own and he hit the mountains just outside Moresby. I watched from down there and saw it burst into
flames. Cowley was burnt up. So we were in Moresby for a couple of days and then the army cleared the chaps off the end of the strip. We took some more Kittyhawks while we was at Moresby. Flew them back to Milne Bay. We stayed there. The battle gradually eased off and we came home.
just didn’t, there was nobody there to light a fire. As for bars and things like that, we never ever had one. We all grew beards because we couldn’t shave. The physical demands, I said earlier about having vomiting and all this in the cockpit, which you did. I got down to flying saucer weight, a tiny little weight. I don’t know how to describe it.
Because we had no radar, the only warning we had of a raid was the coast watchers. They’d let us know eventually. Usually it was too late by the time we got. We put up standing patrols. That was the only way to go. We put up four aircraft. They’d just go round and round and round and were relieved by another four. So we were always airborne when the raid came in. You had somebody up there. That was the unpleasant part flying around. We had no real controllers like we had in the UK. We did
have them, but we had no radar, so it was more or less word of mouth. “Hey, we think they’re coming in from up that way” that sort of thing “and we think they’re that high.” Usually you just went on patrol until you saw them and by then it was a bit late usually. The Zeros always seemed to have the bounce on us. They always seemed to be above us.
of them, but we knew they were damn good little aeroplanes. They were. They were very versatile. They had their weaknesses. A lot of them was they couldn’t dive, you could get away from them. The other one was that they were not exactly flimsy, but they couldn’t stand the punishment if you got enough shots into them, compared to what our Kittyhawk would take. Normally they would go down. We were quite amused with some of the
antics of them. I remember once I was flying a Kittyhawk, this was before they landed at Milne Bay, and the Zeros came over and there was an American aircraft, B26 I think it was, and I was watching him. He came over with a bunch of Zeros. Two I think. They were doing aerobatics around him. Loops and rolls, don’t ask me why. It was a strange thing. They were showing off I suppose. Showing
what clever little blokes they were.
What was morale like up there?
It was the worst I’ve ever seen it. We were all pretty sick and fed up. The conditions, after being in the UK and even Russia, at least you had reasonable quarters, you had a bed and so on. We had a stinky stretcher and a muddy tent. The Japs had landed and you knew they were around you and so on. We had to move our tents to the other side to get where the army were.
It was hard to keep it. The sister squadron, 76, their squadron commander was a chap named Peter Turnbull. I was telling you about the Japs had one end of the strip. He got shot down on takeoff from the ground. He was pulling his wheels up and they shot him out of the sky. That was the end of him. It doesn’t make you feel very good when that happens on takeoff. Then a very famous bloke
took over from Peter called Bluey Truscottt, who was a very great chum of mine, Bluey. Bluey was good for morale, particularly how good he was. He was a wonderful bloke. We got the order to evacuate all the pilots. Those who an aeroplane flew it back to Moresby and the rest were going to walk. Blue was ordered to fly back. He was a squadron commander and very valuable. He told them all to go and jump in the lake. He handed his aeroplane over to a sergeant and got himself a .303 rifle and got in the trench with his troops.
He was going to fight the Japs on the ground. That’s the sort of bloke he was. That was very good for morale. Most the time we were glad to get out of it.
probably have lost in the order of half a dozen or so. Some of the fellows got shot down and walked back. They found their way. The natives walked them back. One bloke got shot down at the end of the islands. He got brought back in a dug out canoe by some native. I think we killed a lot more Japs than we lost. The army was incredible up there.
Bloody hand to hand. The army used to brief us every morning. The general, whoever he was, would come and talk about where we were. You could almost hear the gunfire at the end of the strip. I’m glad I wasn’t in the army then. I’ll give you a funny story. The army wanted the intelligence. They always do. Everybody wanted to know what’s going on, what the strength
of the enemy and where he’s located and what sort of weapons he’s got and so on. We shot down a Jap Val, a divebomber thing. He crash-landed on the beach, well away from us. The natives got him and brought him in for interrogation. We found out he was a Jap officer.
I was at the strip at the opposite end. They walked this bloke in. They had him like a pig. They had a pole on the shoulder of this fellow and another fellow, another Kanaka [Papuan] up in front. They had this thing like a stuck pig. His wrists and his ankles on this thing. His wrists were nearly cut through from the vines. They dumped him to the army. They took the thing off him. He was on the ground there and they were going to talk to him.
And an air force cook came up and said “my first bloody Jap” and pulled out his gun and shot him. There and then. Whatever happened to the cook, he was in serious trouble after that. He was going to kill a Jap before he finished the war.
We had 6 weeks to convert them and then teach them the art of fighter pilots, which was teaching them to fly in battle formation, air to air gunnery, strafing, dive bombing, whatever. What was rather difficult for us, we went there as instructors, none of us were instructors. We hadn't instructed people flying aeroplanes. We
were supposed to instruct them in fighter work. Some of these kids only really just got their wings and they weren’t very good at all. So you had to sit in the backseat of a Wirraway. The stick was up here. For example, and aside, I’m a fairly little bloke and landing a Wirraway from the backseat, I had to put the seat up so I could see where I was flying and where the ground was. Then I had to put the seat right down so I could reach the brakes. It used to be very hairy [scary].
I can't remember how long I was there. That was where we really killed people. We killed more people there. They called it the killer school. The day I arrived they killed 4. In one day. The day I arrived. It was 6 weeks before they went to the war. You have to do everything in the 6 weeks and convert to a new aeroplane. They didn’t have many hours up. So
dreadful things went on. Just an example. We were trying to teach them dive bombing in a Kittyhawk. There was a dive bombing range. You could almost see it from the airfield. We’d be standing out on the tarmac and somebody’d say, “Hey, telltale wisp of black smoke.” You’d see the smoke coming up. Somebody else had gone in. What was happening was that in the divebomb you’d tell them whatever angle to dive on, say it was 40 degrees, and you
get up to whatever speed it was and you release your bomb at whatever height it was, let’s say it was 2,000 feet, and pull out. There were some dreadful navigating results. Nowhere near the target. So we worked it out that they’d gone from the Wirraway to this other aeroplane, the Kittyhawk was much, much faster, so the closing speed was much greater. Not only that, the Kittyhawk had this terrible thing I mentioned earlier, wanting to roll and yaw. If you let your bomb go and the aeroplane’s not pointing at the target the bomb will go anywhere. So we
thumped these young fellows and said, “Hey, keep your eye on the instrument and get that skid thing right in the middle and don’t let it get off.” They’re still looking if they hit the ground. Still (UNCLEAR). The other place where we killed a lot was Lake Victoria, which was this great big lake there. We used to teach this deflection shooting that I was mentioning early on, how you’ve got to aim well ahead of the target to make sure your bullets and aeroplane coincide. It was what you call shadow shooting. You put an aeroplane up and it flew
across the water with the sun, made sure the sun was up there, so the shadow was on the water. So as you flew your shadow was there. The kid would dive down and have a shot at the shadow that was moving. But again they’d forget to pull out of it. I remember I was flying some aeroplane, I think it was a Boomerang. Put my shadow on the water and said, “Come on.” calling him up and saying, “Come on.” I looked over my shoulder and there was a God awful splash in the water as he went in. He was trying to get the shadow. You
have to appreciate in those days you didn’t have time to do all these things and people got killed. I did my time there. This was how I got to the navy. Because I got so, what’s the word? We all thought it was too bloody dangerous to fly at the school, we’d sooner go back to the war. Every Friday we used to go up to before the group captain who I knew very well and say, “Hey, what about a squadron posting?”
He’d say, “You’ve had 3 or 4.” I’d had all my ops. There were too many blokes wanted to go to the war and I’d had a lot. There was nothing to do. “You’re staying here.” So I didn’t like that very much. So I came to join the navy. Do you want me to go on with that now?
was quite interesting. Amusing anyway. One of the things we were teaching them how to do fighter work and so on. But when they first came to the base, maybe they hadn't flown for a few weeks, so we did refresher flying. Just put them back in the Wirraway where they learnt and got their wings. I was taking one off night flying and it was about 1 o'clock in the morning when I got my turn. Black as the inside of a cow. I took off,
I told the lad to take off and I’m sitting in the backseat. Just before we got airborne we burst a tyre. You could feel the tyre going. The aeroplane got sideways, hauled it up into the sky and got my heart back in the right place. I said, “We’re gonna have a problem landing because we’ve got a burst tyre. When we land, I’ll land it. When we land and I say ‘now’ I want you to put on full right rudder.” Just to stop the thing ground leaping off
to the side. He was a young sergeant pilot, not very bright. We came in to land, hit the first (UNCLEAR) and I said “Now.” He put on both brakes. You’ve never seen an aeroplane do anything like this. I wish I could work out aerodynamically how to do it. We just hit and the aeroplane went up in the air and came down and stuck in the runway like a dart in the middle of the dartboard. Absolutely vertically like that. So I climbed out of the backseat, had a long
way down from when the aeroplane’s like that. Climbed down and got on the cockpit and the lad came out and round comes the ambulance. We had a wonderful doctor then, Tony Bonta, a lovely bloke. Tony was used to death and destruction. He came up to me and I think you’re running out of tape, is that right? Shall I still go on?
up in Darwin. So he sent me up there. I was a bit unlucky from a fighter squadron point of view cos the war was receding again from there. By the time I got there, there was very little Japanese raids. One or two came in. Mostly reconnaissance aircraft and the only real excitement I had was the Japs
sent an aircraft over and flattened a mission, a place called Drysdale, which is just over near Wyndham. They flattened it, a stupid thing to do because it was just a few Aboriginals. It was Spanish mission. There was a little strip near there called Drysdale, so I took a few aircraft over there, a few Spitfires. One day we got word a reconnaissance aeroplane was coming in. It was called a Dina. This Dina came, a twin engined aircraft and
we intercepted it. I got behind it and fired a couple of shots and I believe I put his left engine on fire, there was smoke and stuff coming out of it. We were getting a bit low on fuel, we were halfway across the Timor Sea getting out. We were trying to get home, so we let him go. I don’t think he got back, and went back to Drysdale. That was the only real excitement I had. Chased a few other things, but never fired my guns.
To go back to the last story, we just cut off before about the doctor offering the young bloke a drink. Can you pick that story up again?
Where I finished up stuck in the ground like a dart? Fine. It was very dark and we were a bit shaken. Going from whatever the landing speed is in a Wirraway to 80-90 knots to suddenly full stop.
Climbing down and finding we were still all right. The aeroplane didn’t catch fire. Always a worry in an aircraft. My nightmares are always about being on fire. The doctor came screaming out in his ambulance. A lovely bloke, Tony Bond, squadron leader Bond, not James Bond, Tony Bond. Tony came racing up in his ambulance and parked beside me and my second flare. Said, “How are you Nat?” I said, “I’m all right.” He
asked the young sergeant pilot, “How are you?” And the chap said he was all right. So Tony brought out a bottle of brandy, medicinal purposes only, he always assured us of that, and a couple of glasses and filled them up and gave some for me and some for the kid. The young sergeant was very uptight about it all and he said, “I don’t drink, sir.” Tony said, “Good, cheers.” so he took the glass and he and I, I won’t say we finished off the bottle, we got rid of most of it. We were out there for an hour or two
sitting at the first flare. Filled ourselves up with good medicinal brandy on the taxpayers. It was very good.
it was the main toad, north south road, beside that was the main water pipeline, supplying all of Darwin. A great big concrete thing. 12 inch pipe. I was taking off there and I had a number 2. We used to take off in close formation, cos it was only a narrow strip. I had this bright young bloke tucked in beside me. Wings almost touching. Taking off and I was edging away from him, he was getting a bit bloody close.
I hit one of the flare paths, which was a big cone shape thing providing the light for night flying. This was daylight, not night. I hit this thing just before I got airborne and my number 2 got airborne. He pulled the stick and climbed up over me. I veered off the thing and I should tell you prior to this we had, because the road was right beside the strip we had a sentry at each end with one of these boom gates to stop traffic
going up. Because when we were taking off you were likely to do some damage. A truck was coming up there with a young pilot officer in it and a driver. The sentry stopped them at the boom gate and this officer pulled his rank and said “I’m on urgent business, I’ve gotta get up to Darwin” and so the officer told him to let him go. He got halfway up the strip and he stopped to watch the Spitties take off. So
I said I veered this thing off the runway and straight through this truck, hit the bloody water pipe and I finished up the engine fell off, the wings fell off and I was upside down in the little box, just the cockpit. Very shaken. The ambulance came racing up. It was always right beside the strip. The ambulance came up and another lovely doctor called Des, peers up at me, I’m upside down in my straps in this thing. He said “You all right?” I said “I think so,
but look, I just hit a truck.” He said “Don’t worry about them, they’re dead.” I just killed a couple of blokes. Didn’t make me feel very good. They gingerly lowered me down, the aeroplane didn’t catch fire. There wasn’t much of it left there when it was finished. So that was that. That was one of my more unpleasant actions.
Some of the things that happened, they didn’t have much of a war there apart from a couple of the stories I told you. I remember one of the lucky things, not for me, but, I was doing some very low flying. It was a lovely place Darwin. People didn’t realise it. Out further was all the buffalo country. You go out there and there was miles of buffalo and Timor geese. Billions of them. We used to live quite well on those. Low flying was something to do. I had
number 2 and he was beside me. Not too close in, but he was right down on the trees going out over the marshes and swamps and so on. I looked over at Noel and out of his exhaust was coming a white smoke. What that meant in a Spitfire, the engines in the Spitfire were Rolls Royce Merlins. Their cooling was a glycol thing. The jacket round the engine. When you saw that white smoke it meant you had a glycol leak. You had
something like a couple of minutes before the engine blew up and caught fire. So if you saw the smoke, first thing you did was jump out. Right down on the deck and Noel didn’t see it. He was busy formatting. I said, “Hey, you’ve a glycol.” He said, “Shit” and he opened the throttle, pulled the stick back. He had to make a quick decision. By opening the throttle it meant the engine was going to burn more quickly. It was going to catch fire more quickly cos he was pulling the stuff into it. But on the other hand he wanted to get up as high as he could to bail out. He couldn’t crash-land in amongst all the scrub. So up he
went. I pulled away to watch and I saw him get up and I saw his feet come out of the cockpit and it came down like that. I watched him and he got the jerk under his crotch, the parachute caught and hit the trees. Just absolute not a second to spare. Strange life up there.
it was on one of the videos here, because they talked about an experience before they discovered the problem of the sound barrier. What had happened to some pilots. Do you know what happened to me exactly? I’m talking when I was in Darwin. We got re-equipped with Spitfire 8s, which were much more powerful engine and more advanced than Spitfire 5s. I was one of the senior pilots in the squadron, so I got in an aeroplane to see how fast this thing can go. I went up to about 30,000 feet, rolled
it on over the top and dived to see how fast I could go. After I don’t know what speed, the aeroplane went mad. It went all over the damned sky. I couldn’t control it, I lost control completely. So I finally got it back somehow, came in and landed and told the engineer officer about it. He said “I think we’ve got a rogue.” Like a rogue elephant. Every now and then you get an aeroplane that doesn’t conform to what it should do. So they measured every aerodynamic measurement they could think of and couldn’t find anything wrong with it.
They said it was just a rogue. So I don’t know what they did with it, but I didn’t fly it any more. I watched this movie last night. I found that what, actually, sorry, I had realised it before, long since, before I saw this movie, that what happens is that when you get, I don’t want to be too technical about it, but when you’re flying through the air, shockwaves go out in front of you and sort of clear the air away so the aeroplane can go through it.
That’s not quite technically right, but you get a wave out in front of you. As you get near the speed of sound the shockwaves can’t go fast enough to clear the air and so it starts to gradually build up a barrier and so the speed of sound, mach 1, you hit this barrier. Before you get to it you could start to hit the barrier. It depended on the aeroplane how fast you could go. For instance, 747s [civilian airliners] now with Qantas do about mach .8 something, pretty close to
the speed of sound without any problem. In a Spitfire, which was not a particularly good aeroplane aerodynamically, I was hitting it quite early and so I was hitting this sonic barrier. Obviously the aeroplane was going all over the sky. So there was nothing wrong with the aeroplane, in those days we’d never heard of the speed of sound. So when I watched this movie last night I nearly jumped out of the chair because that’s when people started to realise there was a problem.
Christmas time ‘44 January ‘45. I got down there. Same old sameold. Backseat in Wirraways and converting blokes to Spitfires and so on. Bloody hell. About this time the Royal Navy came out. They had huge aircraft carrier. A lot of people always think of the Americans with aircraft carrier, the Brits had these monsters. We had 80 odd aeroplanes in each ship. 80 odd.
We’d get 4 of them in formation eventually. But anyway, back to how I joined the navy. They came out and by this time, gearing up for the war had started to move up to the home islands of Japan. The Allies were gearing up to attack on the mainland and invasion on the mainland of the islands. So the Royal Navy, whilst they had all these aeroplanes, they could do with some more pilots.
Experienced pilots. We, the RAAF had them coming out of their ears by now. The war from the RAAF’s point of view had gone so far north that the Americans couldn’t be bothered with our logistic supplies and looking after them, and they had enough anyway. So nearly everybody was getting out of work. So the two governments talked to each other and the British Government said “How about we have some of your fellows?” The Australian Government said “OK.” So one day a signal came round to us to all the air bases,
all the front bases, saying “Who would like to join the fleet air arm?” A lot of blokes like me, all the fellows who wanted to go back to the war, put their hands up. So after a lot of interviews they took 12 of us. We went across to the, one day I was a flight lieutenant and the next day I was a lieutenant in the Royal Australian Navy volunteer reserve, which I met Sirenne eventually, because her brother was one of the 12 that came across with me.
Rather amusing. That night in the mess that it came through that I was going to the navy, and I had a great big walrus fighter pilot moustache. We decided to lose my moustache. Couldn’t have one in the navy. The blokes started wielding shaving sticks and blokes had razors the blokes were going to take off my, we were all fairly sloshed by this time. I got a bit terrified about this. Finally I let the doctor do it. What they did, they took off one side completely. So I was walking around with one half of a big moustache.
So we went and joined the navy. I was RAN VR on loan to the Royal Navy. Got new uniforms and so on, navy uniforms and went to Schofield just outside Sydney here. It was a very big Royal Navy base then. I went to a squadron called 801. There were 12 Australians went to the squadron. We ranged from lieutenant
to sub lieutenant, some were very junior, but we all were quite experienced in flying aeroplanes. I joined the squadron 801 and it had 24 aeroplanes and 36 pilots. Huge amount. I was made senior pilot. I had been in the navy half a dog watch and I was made senior pilot of a fleet air arm squadron. It was rather good. So we could fly the aeroplanes. They were Seafires, which was the naval version of
Spitfires. So we’d spent hundreds of hours flying, so we had no trouble flying them.
up and down, too fast, too slow, turn left, turn right. So we had to learn all of that. The most frightening thing was flying the aeroplane at a very low speed on the approach. You got right down to just a few knots, stalling speed, which we weren’t used to. When you look at the air speed indicator and it’s getting near the stall pin you start to get a bit concerned. But you had to do that to get down to minimum speed and the art of deck landings was to have a very nose up attitude, lots of power on and you were sort of
holding the aeroplane in the air on its propeller and you just went to stall. So when the batman [deck flight director] went “Cut.” you pull off your throttle and you fell out of the sky. That was the theory and the practise. You caught the wire. So after these dummy deck landings, which we finally got to do, we got out and did our first deck landings off the coast of Sydney here in a ship called the Indomitable. Most of us got away with it, but one young bloke, I’ve got a photo of it on video, of this happening. Charlie Burly came
in to land and there were two signals that were executive signals from the batman. One was “Cut” and you had to pull out your throttle and the other was “Go round again” and you’d made a mess of it and go round. Poor old Charlie. He came in, it was a pretty calm day, the sea was steady. He really made a mess of this thing. He was really committed to the deck and he got a wave off. He tried to take it and he stalled, went into the water just beside the ship. We were all watching.
It went straight down. Getting out of the cockpit of a Spitfire, or a Seafire, would have been pretty difficult, because you’ve got your straps, you’ve got your parachute harness, you’re hooked up to your radio and your oxygen. So you’ve go tto get all these things [undone]. The cockpit of a Seafire was terribly tiny. You’ve got your shoulders against it. We all waved goodbye to Charlie and miles astern we saw a little yellow figure bob up. He came up. The
destroyer, we had a tracer destroyer for that reason. Pick up when people went over the side. They picked up Charlie and he never flew again. I’ve seen him since, but that was it for Charlie. He didn’t wanna fly anymore. He reckoned he got down so far he burst his eardrum. So we did our DLs [deck landings] and were now qualified fleet air arm pilots.
The take offs in those days, we did what we called free take offs. We had no catapult, we ran off the deck like we did from the Argus. There were no problems with any of that. We then went to various squadrons. I went to Implacable. She was not a big ship. Two hangars. Huge monster ships. We had lots of cruisers.
Then we were getting close tot the real war now and some of us were going to join the ships off the Japanese islands. So we flew up to Manus, up in the Admiralty Islands. I had a nice little interlude there. By the way, you’ve never seen an armada and you never will see it again. In the big bay in the Admiralties, I’ve forgotten the name of it now,
there would have been, including American carriers, a dozen of these monster carriers, battleships, you couldn’t, KT5s, the big British battleships, the big American battleships, cruisers, destroyers, there would have been hundreds of ships, all in this great big harbour. You should have seen it. An enormous armada. We flew up in some sort of aeroplane to Mamoti in the Admiralty Islands
and I was with another fellow. The Americans were there. They had an aeroplane called a Hell Cat. You could do that in those days, you couldn’t do it now. We got to know the Yanks and said, “I’d like to fly your aeroplane.” He said, “is my guest.” So the two of us took a Hell Cat each and we flew around and beat up the strip and had great fun. It was great to fly a new aeroplane. So then we climbed aboard a little carrier called the Striker. She was a replenishment carrier. She carried spare aircraft,
fuel, spare aircrew like us and whatever. It was part of the fleet train to replenish the fighting fleet. We got up north of Truk, and they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. So we did a 180 and came back home. That’s why I’m still alive, because I’m damned sure if we’d have gone, if they hadn't dropped the bomb, we’d gone up there, the fatalities, we had to invade the island, it would have been bloody awful. So I welcomed the bomb. I came home.
When was the bomb off? Mid ’45 something like that. VE Day [VJ Day? Victory over Japan] whenever it was. Came back and the war was over and I didn't know what to do. I knew that I was still Royal Australian Navy on loan to the RN. I was out of work. We had a wonderful Royal Navy admiral called Sir Phillip Bine. Straight out of the books of the old Nelson days.
He really was a wonderful bloke and he loved us, the abos [Aboriginal] he called us. His abo pilots. So he gave a special little party for us on the flagship here in Sydney, right up alongside. He gave a little party and we had quite a few drinks, sang a few songs, and he said, “What are you going to do now?” I said, “I don’t know. The Australians don’t have any aircraft carrier and the air force won’t let me come back because they reckon I deserted them, so I’m out of work.” He said, “Would you like to join my navy?” Imagine that happening these days.
I said, “I’ll go and talk to the boys.” So I got the boys over in the corner, had a few more gins and I went back to him and said, “Some of us will join your navy on one condition.” Imagine us lieutenants talking to an admiral like this. He said, “What’s the condition?” I said, “That we fly” cos we could see ourselves going back to poor old war torn Britain, tired and fed up with the bloody war. They weren’t going to waste money on us flying aeroplanes, they’d put us behind a desk somewhere. I said, “That’s no good to us.” He looked at us and he looked at me and he said, “I’ll fly
the arse off you.” So we joined. In the cold light of dawn some of the fellows changed their mind. They didn’t want to go out. They had wives some of them and they wanted to get back home. I think 4 of us decided to take it. So a couple of days later I was no longer RAN, I was Royal Navy.
and life was great. I just couldn’t wait. So off we went to the UK. Got there and did all this flying as I mentioned a moment ago. Want me to keep on going like this? So I was nearly 3 years. About this time we were getting to 1948. Australia decided we’d have a fleet air arm. They bought HMAS Sydney. I think her name was Terrible before. The Brits had her. So I got a letter one day from the Australian Commonwealth Navy Board, ACNB
saying, “Dear Lieutenant R.M. Gould, would you like to join the navy?” So of course I said, “Yes.” The pay was twice as good. I was 3 years in England. As much as I love England the climate gets a bit wearing after a while. I wanted to come home. So I said yes. We started our fleet air arm. We got home in 48 sometime.
Typical navy though. They had started a fleet air arm and I was the most senior aviator bloke with all the experience in the world who didn’t get near an aeroplane for 6 months. I had to go and become a naval officer. So I had to go to sea and I had to go do my watch keeping up on the bride, which in hindsight was absolutely right, of course it was. We can’t afford to have people just fly aeroplanes in the navy. You’ve got to earn your keep and everything. I enjoyed the watch keeping. Drove the ships around and so on.
Eventually they gave me a squadron. I’d been a fighter pilot and the first squadron I got was an anti-submarine squadron. I didn’t know anything about it. So I became CO [Commanding Officer] of a Firefly squadron.
remember we were all ex civilians in for hostilities only, 5 years sort of thing. So we were never anything most of us, but aircrew. We were not air force officer even though we had. We weren’t taught what an officer’s job was, to look after his troops, to do staff work and all these things. We flew aeroplanes. You went to the navy, the first thing I was thought, apart from becoming a seaman, was that
to be a divisional officer, which was the sailors’ name, which was responsible for a whole lot of sailors in my division. I was responsible that they were looked after, that they were given opportunities to advance, that their domestic problems had to be sorted out. So that was one very big difference. We were an officer in the real sense of the word, not just a aircrew. The fact you flew an aeroplane was coincidental. Some of our fellows later on would be a squadron commander and the next job would be 1st lieutenant
on a destroyer. Remember I was telling you at Darwin this young bloke who flew number 2 to me when I hit the thing? He was a sergeant then. He finished up a commodore in the navy driving destroyers. That’s how things could turn.
very experienced. We got on very well mind you, but I’d forget about him sometimes and do something stupid and he’d have to tell me. Funny little thing happened. We were playing games with the New Zealanders and the Brits down south of Tasmania, down in the real cold country. We were playing war games. I took off in my Firefly pre-dawn, a very dark morning, with Tod in the back, my observer.
I was loaded up to the gills. I had a huge extra drop tanks on. The aeroplane was miles overweight. I went toddling off, pitch black, fell off the bow, not in the water, but just got airborne. I toddled and the observer in the back saying, “OK boss, turn onto 130. Boss. On to 130.” I said, “Shut up.” I was trying to get the aeroplane airborne. I was about 2 feet off the water. The aeroplane was so heavy. If I had pulled
the stick back I’d have stalled. So I was trying to build up a couple of notches.[speed] I got the wheels up, I got the flaps up and I was just holding on waiting. I was on instruments too. It was pitch dark. I couldn’t see the horizon. Oh dear. I finally got up to about 100 feet or something and I said, “Now, what did you say?” He was quite upset, but he didn’t know how close we were to going in. The ship would have gone over us had we gone in there.
I went to the navy office. That was in the 5th department and got some staff job. I was in charge of posting aircrew officers. It was not a very nice job. Oh yes, that’s where I was. I was doing that and the Korean War broke out and I was sitting in my little office down in Victoria Barracks in Melbourne. The ship went up there with a squadron. They lost a
few blokes. We had to replace them, send the ship back up again and so I was responsible for posting all aircrew officers. So I posted myself to command 805 Squadron. Sea Furies, the real aeroplanes. Took the list up to the admiral, Roy Darling, and he and I, I was lieutenant commander at the time, he said, “Come on, haven’t you had enough?” “Come on, there’s a war on and I haven’t been to Korea yet.
I’d like to go up and do it.” So I got myself 805 Squadron. That was a fighter squadron, these single seat aeroplanes.
there’s a war on, your country’s in it, you think you’re pretty good, well, you just fell it, why not? You’re not stupidly brave. You just fell that you should do it. That’s your job, it’s your profession. So I gave myself 805 Squadron here and we worked up in Vengeance up in Hervey Bay. Joined the Sydney and away we went up to Korea. Fortunately, or unfortunately,
halfway up there they stopped the war. They had no business. So by the time I got up there, it was in between time. Everybody had fully loaded and finger on the trigger sort of thing up and down. We patrolled the armistice line and dropped a few bombs and that sort of thing. It was, we
lost blokes through accidents. Trying to think of. Oh yes, I went over the side there. It was interesting. The ship always turns into wind for landing and taking off, because it reduces the ground speed or the relative speed, so it makes things slower between you and the ship. You became very experienced in knowing which way the wind was
and where the wind was. There was little white horses and you know the ship’s going to turn into wind within a couple of degrees. The other thing is, when you’re very worked up and very experienced in the squadron, really, which we were. The CO always comes in first. You never keep the ship into wind any longer than possible. Because sod’s law [inevitability] says “into wind is towards the enemy coast or to shoals or at the
least it’s the wrong way.” She doesn’t want to go that way, eventually she wants to be making good to get to port. So the first one round, which is usually the boss, he comes round so that as the ship’s turning into wind, he should land off. That’s the ideal. It is better for him to misjudge it and the ship not be ready. So he gets round again, gets on the tail of his number 2 and his number 2 lands on and he comes on last. So the whole idea is least time into wind. I got pretty good at this.
I’ve forgotten where we were, south of Korea somewhere. The ship’s coming round into wind. By this time I’d done a lot of deck landings. I was very experienced in this thing. I came in and I knew the ship wasn’t going to make it, at least I wasn’t going to make it. The ship was not going to steady. It not only had to turn, but it has to steady so you’ve got a flat deck. So I was bumbling in, the batman was giving me all this. There are two executive orders, one’s to go round again, the other’s a cut. I
knew I was going to have to go round again. The silly bloody batman gave me a cut. I, like a bloody fool, pulled off the throttle. The ship was turning sideways so I came across it like this in stead of up the deck cos I thought I was going to get a wave off. It really was stupid. It was more stupid. I caught this wire and straight over the side of the ship. I’m clapping against the ship’s side looking at the water. I climbed up. I didn’t get my feet wet. I climbed up and got onboard. They hauled
the aeroplane up with a crane. No reason to tell the story, it was just one of the things that happened up there.
the west coast of Korea, in the China Sea there, and 10 days off. You’d be relieved by another taskforce and carrier force and so on. So we’d go back to either Kure or this place near Hiroshima, can’t remember, doesn’t matter. Sasabo or Kure. We’d go back there and have a few days off. It was very good where the occupying forces had very nice messes and so on. We were tax free, duty free. So somebody
asked me a while ago what about, “Could you save any money?” Well, up there you just saved everything, because you couldn’t spend it. There was nothing to spend it on and you didn’t pay tax. And Lord Nuffield [government minister] gave us all one shilling] and six [pence] a day for some reason. So then you back and do another 10 days on. After I think, I can't remember sequences of that you did, you then were relieved for something like 4 weeks.
The captain used to always say to us, the aircrew, cos we were the blokes doing all the work, he’d say, “Where do you wanna go?” We’d all say, “Hong Kong.” So the ship would go down to Hong Kong and we’d have 10 days onboard Honkers. It was great in those days. A wonderful place. We were still the savers, the people really looked after us. It was still British of course. Then we’d go back and do the same thing and eventually we came home. I can't remember when, but. It
was very good from that point of view.
A couple of other shorter courses. Then I went to the US of A and I did an amphibious warfare support course at Norfolk in Virginia. Then I went right down south outside New Orleans and did an air ground operation school with the Americans. All very interesting. I suppose I was away a total of 4-5 months. I came back and the whole idea
of these courses was to make sure I could carry out the task of being on the directing staff of the School of Land Air Warfare up at the air force base at Williamtown. It was a joint school. Land air warfare was to teach young officers coming on how to cooperate and jointly how to for example have the land forces
get their air support when they needed it. It was reconnaissance or close strafing and bombing and all that sort of stuff. Paratrooping. In other words, how to jointly run those sort of operations. It was very much required cos a lot of our young officers tended to be one service minded so they needed it. Also nuclear warfare was coming in then. One of my jobs was to
talk about the use of nuclear weapons and missilery. Missiles were now becoming very important. We talked about surface to air missiles or air to surface missiles and all that sort of stuff. That was, I didn’t fly an aeroplane, but it was interesting.
parachute school. This is a warning to young fellows. I was then a commander, fairly senior. I worked with the lieutenant colonel and a wing commander, so the three of us were the breaking staff up there. The parachute school came under us. I was in the mess one night talking to the parachute chief instructor. He said, “Why don’t you do
some jumps, sir?” I said, “I’d like to do the course. I’ll ask if I can get permission to do the course.” I knew quite well that the navy would not let the aircrew do a parachute course. The reason was they might hurt themselves and too expensive, they also wanted to teach you how to fly and all these clever things and if you went and broke your leg it was stupid. Parachuting was considered reasonably dangerous. I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to do it. I said, “I’ll see if I can.” I sent off a signal to Sydney here, our headquarters to
request permission to do a parachute course. Little did I know that a chum of mine was advisor to the admiral down here and he said, “I’ll fix this bloody Gould bloke.” So he sent back and said “permission granted.” So now I was committed to do the parachute course, which I did. I had to do it properly. I had to take off all my rank and just became a dogsbody [private]. I had to do all the ground stuff, which was more frightening than parachuting. You step in a Polish tower, I don’t know how high it is,
terribly high. You get a little wire up your back and you open the gate and you step out into nothing. Even though I was in the navy I hate heights. I still do. I can’t get up on the roof. I suppose you do about 3 or 4 weeks of really solid ground stuff. Learning how to fall cos you hit the ground pretty hard. Then came the day I did some jumps. I went out and I not only did my jumps I jumped with the SAS [Special Air Service].
So I jumped out with full kit. Gun, kitbags, I led them out at night and did night jumps. I loved it. They couldn’t keep me out of it. I kept on doing it. I finished up doing 20 jumps. So I got my wings up there, paratrooper’s wings, not parachuter. I’m a qualified paratrooper. You can see them up there. I’ve got my air force wings on the right, paratrooper’s wings in the middle and fleet air arm wings on this side. I’m the only bloke with three sets of wings.
Get another pair on my shoulders one day, I suppose. So I did the parachute and I finished up loving it. I did some tests for them. I was just the right height and so on. Right build for Paratrooping. They wanted to do a test with an American canopy and a British harness. So I said, “I’ll do it.” So I went and jumped over. Wonderful. I was the most senior bloke who went on the paratroop
course up there then. I was later on beaten by a full colonel. So that’s where I got married by the way. At Williamtown.
we’d probably get 20 or 30 people in on a course, but there would be big gaps in between them with nothing to do. I had less to do than the air force instructor or the army instructor, cos they had their big contingency up there. I had no navy. So I got all the odd jobs. Every time a naval ship came into Newcastle I was the senior naval officer down there to welcome the French or the Americans or who it was. It was pretty boring. I was about to get out of it. So then they sent me to Canberra. I can tell you now we’re talking,
by the way, I built this house in about 1958, something like that. We no sooner moved into it than I got moved to Canberra. Sirenne followed me down a little bit later. My job down there was the most interesting job I ever had. I was the coordinator of the joint intelligence staff. I enjoyed it very much. We lived in one great big room and I had a lieutenant colonel in the army and major and a wing commander and a squadron leader,
I had a lieutenant commander in the navy, I had a Foreign Affairs fellow, about the 1st assistant secretary, Joint Intelligence Bureau chap and a spook. Weren’t allowed to talk about them in those days.
wonderful job. I can’t even now give you all the details, but the sorts of things you do, you got war intelligence, wireless stuff came in, all the rouseabout and you try to assess it, put it all together and come up with assessments, not usually one, usually a couple, which you pushed up the line to the joint intelligence committee and they pushed it up to cabinet. That was the sort of sequence. A lot of things I obviously even now wouldn’t, can’t talk about, but
it was wonderful seeing this raw intelligence coming in from wherever, from our Embassies, from our high commissions, from intercepts, a lot of it came from that, our allies. All sorts of clandestine and places.
wouldn’t be an assessment by whoever was supplying the intelligence. It would be raw to say, “So and so, so and so, so and so.” you key that up to other intelligence sent to us and come up with a quick, as soon as we could, 1st assessment. Usually we’d have options. We’d rarely say, “This is what’s going to happen.” we’d say, “If so and so, this is the most probably course of events, but on the other hand, so and so.” So that was very good. I enjoyed that.
I got some nice stuff out of that. In those days we had SEATO [South East Asian Treaty Organisation], which was roughly the equivalent of NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organisation] on a much smaller scale. So I skipped to Bangkok and we’d have meetings up there with the Thais and the Pakistanis and whoever else were in SEATO, Americans and us. Do a few weeks up there. That was good.
meant “Hey, there’s a real problem coming up” and you usually woke up your admiral or the general, who’d wake up the prime minister, if it was an indicator, troops massing on the border. That’s the sort of indicator we meant. That couldn’t happen as far as we were concerned, but there are other indicators, which probably are still indicators, so I shouldn’t talk about them. I think I had to wake up the admiral a couple of times.
All in good fun, he didn't worry too much. I learned a lot, to answer your question, about politics. For example, I saw a raw signal from the Prime Minister of Britain to the Prime Minister of Australia asking for what would happen if so and so and so and so. It was straight out a political one, but it was a defence type of question. That was a very quick one, we all had to get out of bed and work on that one. We came up with
recommendations to the joint intelligence committee. The joint intelligence committee is a big step above us, that’s all the heads of the services and so on. So they passed on our recommendations to our prime minister.
Not the Korean War, the Vietnam War. Quite a lot to do. You were still getting reports and merchant ships and all sorts of things. It was still a fair bit to do. It was quite a busy period. Mostly it was security. I was more involved with the security of the dockyard. We had all sorts of funny people. Trade unions were absolutely rampant. I know some people that they’d want a new
sheet metal worker on the thing, so as a trade union, they picked their best communist [comrade]. Cos the governor on the dockyard was a com target. So they picked their best com. The only way we could refuse to employ him was if he wasn’t up to the trade thing. Of course they’d make sure he was a good tradesman. So he’d get in and we’d have to watch him, get other people to watch him. We had a few things like chopping cables to the ship and so on, power cables and
so on, just to delay its departure and so on. That was it and 4th May 1965 I waved goodbye to the navy and became a civilian.
I was going to be a civilian. It’s a terrifying thought after you’d been in the womb since you were 17 or 18. I’d been a good staff officer. I’d been taught how to analyse problems and look at all the courses of action and so on. So I sat down, I had plenty of time to do this, with a pencil and paper and said, “OK, what are you going to do? What do you want to do? What are your qualifications?”
Didn’t take long to work out the only thing I really knew anything about was aeroplanes. So I said, “OK, now what can you do as a civilian with aeroplanes?” You can go and fly for Mr Qantas, or Mr Ansett [now defunct domestic airline] you can be a flying instructor at a civilian school. Not much else you can do. Do you want to do it? I though flying in an aeroplane Sydney-Melbourne, Sydney-Melbourne, Sydney-Melbourne. Like driving a bus. No.
Not any of that, to be quite honest. I’d been flying since I was a small boy, I’d had a lot of accidents, or a few accidents, I had been damned lucky I was still alive. I just thought I’d be pushing the luck to start flying aeroplanes again. My hearing was starting to go, bloody jet engines screaming my ears, and my eye sight wasn’t as good as it should be. Still [UNCLEA] some aeroplanes. I done all this as an assessment.
I said, “I can sell them. What could I sell and who could I sell and how would I go about selling?” I talked to another chum of mine who I knew quite well was in the air force, he finished up a wing commander and fighter pilot. Famous fighter pilot, his name was Dick Creswell. He said, “What are you going to do? Why don’t you come and work for our company?” I said, “That’s a good idea.” Hawker DeHavilland down at Bankstown. Big aircraft company.
He said, “I think they’re looking for a marketing manager.” So I said, “Sounds good.” I wrote a CV [curriculum vitae] about myself and sent it off and I got a reply back to have an interview and I retired from the navy on the 4th May and about the 7th May I started to work at Hawker DeHavilland. I was the marketing manager for military equipment. I had a lot to learn. I didn’t even
know things like what an invoice was. I had no idea what commercial life was like. I had to learn very fast. Fortunately, most the stuff I was trying to market was military equipment and so I soon worked out quite a good system, which I think they use today. I did some staff work and realised that if you’re going to sell some equipment or market some equipment, you’ve got to make sure the right people know about it.
You’ve got to make sure that other people that’ll be on the fringe of it, for example, if you want to sell the air force and aeroplane, the army wants to know what it’s going to do for them. The navy wants to know, “What can it do for me?” Defence and foreign affairs, foreign affairs particularly will say, “We’ve gotta be careful what Indonesia are gonna think about this.” I’m throwing a wide net here, but there were a lot of those things that probably hadn't been thought through before.
Not only that, I knew all the people in Canberra, they were all buddies of mine and they had all become fairly senior by now and so I could go and talk to them. One of the things I must say about defence lobbying, people have said, “it’s a business, you’re using all your old mates.” The first thing I say is, “The services will not, you will never sell the services anything, they’ll buy something off you if it’s what they want.” What you’ve got to find out
is what do they really want. Is the company you represent, have they got something that can do that? If it can’t, can it be altered to do it? Or can you talk to the service and say, “Hey wait a minute, there's something better coming off the drawing board, which will do more what you’re asking for.” They’d say, “That’s interesting.” So it’s a sort of liaison, you interpret.
The spin off from the point of view of the services, you’ve got foreign affairs angles on these things, I can tell you a lovely story about trying to sell missiles. The French would, just like the war we’re in, were going to cut off supplies if we bought it. So that’s the end of that, you don’t buy them off them.
I think they did sell it to them. They didn’t like the Vietnam War, didn’t like Australia being involved in that so they cut off their supplies. So no country’s going to have its foreign policy and defence policy decided by a manufacturer. So all these things come into it, which hadn't been carefully thought through, so a lot of mistakes had been made. For example, to give you an idea how you interpret and liaise. The navy wanted
a big helicopter for an anti-submarine unit. I think there were five, they issue what they call a staff requirement, outlaying the things they want it to do and all the things, pages and pages. I think there were five aeroplanes in the competition. There was Boeing Vertol, [vertical takeoff and landing] there was Sikorsky, the French had two in and I was looking after a British company called Weston. So I
was back and forth to Canberra, and over to the UK and sorting out all these things. One day my gentleman in the navy rang me up and said, “Come down to Canberra. We’re officially going to tell you in a couple of days that you’re out of the competition, you’re finished. You don’t meet our requirements.” I said, “Why?” So he gave me the exact details. I said, “Can you defer it, because I think we can meet it more than you want.” I didn’t know how, but I said, “Look, can you hold it off?” He said, “Yeah, OK.” There’s nothing
illegal about this. They want the best they can get. So I got on the phone to the UK and told them the problem. Without boring you with technical details it involved Rolls Royce upgrading their engine, it involved the manufacture of the helicopter, altering its three gear boxes so it could take this increase in power and it involved a redesign of the tail rudder. This was all done very quickly on paper to start with and I said, “Rick, come out.” So he sent out a highly prized team, technicians
and Mr. Alderoy and everybody else. We had a special meeting down there and we were back in the competition. Then you get down to price. You get down to other complicated things like how long is it gonna be in service before you stop manufacturing spares and bits? How reliable is the source of supply? Are you gonna have trade union problems? Not providable when we need it? All these things come into it. To cut a very, very long story short, I sold eight aeroplanes. That was the job of marketing. It’s an interesting job
and a very worthwhile job. That’s what a good marketer does.
of takeovers in the UK and the famous aircraft companies were head to head banged together and formed one big one. For instance, the famous names like Hawker, the DeHavilland, Avro, British Electric. I can't remember. All of them anyway. Suddenly became British Aerospace. Huge outfit. Now, that meant that out here
they needed a British Aerospace representative. So one of their very senior directors came out and he had to come to us. He obviously had to talk to me because I’d been looking after Hawker at Sydney, so I had most of the aeroplanes. There were a few others they talked to and considered, but I knew I was in the box seat. First time I’d ever been headhunted and I
liked the idea of this. They said, the senior blokes, “We’d like you to come across to British Aerospace Australia.” I played hard to get. I said, “I’d like to, but I’d like to go on the board of directors.” They said, “Oh.” I said, “And I want my superannuation brought back from wherever it was.” They said, “OK.” So to make a long story short I became a director of the board of British
Aerospace Australia. Then I had all the aeroplanes. Getting to your question about changes of government
We were going to buy the ship too, I’ve forgotten the name of the ship, one of the British aircraft carriers. A little one, with our Sea Harriers. The Falklands War came up and Malcolm Fraser talked to [British Prime Minister] Maggie Thatcher and said, “Hang onto the ship, finish your war and we’ll take it when you finish with her.”
So what happened, the war went on a bit longer, Malcolm got tossed out, Bob Hawke came in [as Prime Minister] and scrapped the fleet air arm. Boom, gone, finished, done. No more fleet air arm. So no ship, no Harriers, no nothing.
What I was not an expert on were particular aeroplanes. So my job was to bring out the expert. I’d bring out sometimes a team. For instance on the helicopter thing I brought out the Weston chief test pilot, the Weston managing director, the Weston chief designer, Rolls Royce designer. There were fairly senior people. And I think a couple of others. So you had half a dozen of them
flown out. I arranged their itinerary, who they’d meet, and it wouldn’t be just going down doing a presentation to ‘Joe Blow’. They had to meet the minister, the senior bloke would meet the minister, they’d had to meet the chief of the air staff, they’d have to meet those sort of people. So I’d arrange all that. Plus of all the social things down there, I had senior boys and their wives out for dinner at the Lakeside or wherever it was in those days. Then when they’d come to Sydney we put on something here at our house. We had to wine and dine all
sorts of people. Sirenne loved it. She was very good at it in those days. I suppose she still is.
When it was finally retirement, was that challenging for you initially?
Yes. Why I said goodbye was that the Brits had a rule that directors had to go at 83, so you had no choice. So I had to go on my 81st birthday. For a change I wasn’t apprehensive about what was going to happen. I was starting to look forward to it because off to UK, off to the US and round and round the world on aeroplanes, I was getting tired.
Another thing that was happening is that all my contacts in Canberra, I had a lot of political contacts too by the way, they were all changing in the defence forces. I was now 60 something, so I had no colleagues down there. Some of them knew of me, but I didn’t have the close rapport. So I suppose I can really say that I was not as useful as I had been. I was
getting ready to get out anyway and go and do something quieter. So I got out and one of my friends who had been in the same business as me said, “When you go out, make yourself a consultant. There are lots of useful things you can do, just keep you a bit busy. There are also some benefits. You set yourself up from home and you get tax benefits and so on. You can pick and chose your jobs.”
I thought, “That’s great.” So I did. I told all my old mates in the aerospace business that I was now a consultant. I started to get so much damned work I wished I hadn't told anybody. One of the first things that happened, my first company, Hawker DeHavilland said, “Hey, come work for us part time. We’ll buy half your time.” I said, “What’s half my time?” They said, “Whatever you’d like to say.” So I said, “Well right.” It wasn’t bad. When I went over to them the first thing they did was send me over to the UK again.
I did a bit of time for them and it was financially rewarding and useful and kept my brain ticking over. Again I came to the point where I was now losing all my contacts, so I wasn’t as useful. After a while we had a mutual, I think I did about 3 years of that. A couple of other companies asked me to do something, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to get on with my golf and relaxing. So I quit altogether as a consultant.
some time ago. Round about early 1987 [Australia’s] bicentennial year was coming up. One of the tasks the Bicentennial Authority gave a company was to have a Bicentennial Air Show. So a little aero club out at Schofields was given the job of running a Bicentennial Air Show. So they started advertising for professionals and
that sort of business. I saw a little ad in the Australian newspaper that said they wanted a marketing manager for the Bicentennial Air Show part time what have you. I’d been playing a lot of golf and thought, “I can do a bit of part time. It’s only for a short time. I can do with the extra money.” So I wrote a little note, about half a page, told them who I was and I said, “Come out and see me.” They said, “When are you gonna start?” The blokes at the Bicentennial Air Show.
That was 1987 and the show was in 1988. It was my job to set up the expo. It was the first time we’d had an aviation expo in Australia. I knew what to do about this cos I still had contacts in British Aerospace and the Americans I knew, Boeing and those sort of people. I had to go round the bloody world again seeing all these chaps. It was a pretty easy job, because most of them were
enthusiastic about the Australian expo. I don’t know why, but it sort of rang a bell. I think it was the first time for them to come out in a big way and show all their wares to everybody. What was just half a day a week or whatever it was supposed to be, finished up 24 hours a day and half the night 8 days a week sort of thing. So we put on the bicentennial air show, which was an enormous success. Absolutely – at Richmond -- great success. We made over a million dollars. We were a little aero club company
made over a million. Most of it was mine from the expo. So with that, the organisers set up the Aerospace Foundation of Australia, which is still going. Its idea is to encourage aerospace in all its forms. Whether it’s general aviation, military aviation or something. So then it grew to becoming putting on an air show every two years and it moved to Avalon outside Melbourne.
So every two years they have a big one down there. I did the first one down there. I was commuting again, down to Melbourne. Just to show how stupid it was, we went to London to give a presentation. In the morning we flew to Paris, gave a presentation, flew back to London. The next morning down to Rome, had lunch and flew back again. Afterwards I thought, “This is the last thing I want to do.” They went to Melbourne so it was a lot of commuting just
to go down there and stopping in motels. So I got out of that. I’m an honorary consultant to the air show or something, but I don’t do anything with that now. So that was that.
How did it change me? I suppose I became more worldwide in my knowledge of international politics for one thing. I learned a lot of lessons. My geography’s very good now. I can draw you a map of the world without any help. I think the most important thing it really taught me was, I know it’s a bit trite to talk about mateship. In the defence
forces in the war you really do become absolutely reliable on your mates, on your friends. They protect your tail when you’re flying. The other thing it taught me was that if the cause is just, which we sincerely believed without any hesitation, not like now you can say “Should we be in Vietnam? Should we be in Iraq?” and so on, we knew.
If I believe the cause is right even now, I’ll listen to other people, but deep in my heart I know what we should be doing. So I think it taught me to think more clearly on a lot of the more complicated problems, particularly in foreign affairs and this sorts of things. I think they’d be the main things.
is still part of your life even if you’re not in the services. You drive on the left hand side of the road, you’re not going to drive on the right hand side of the road. That’s an absurd example, but you learn you’ve got to perform certain terms and in the military you learn to do it. One of the things, there are a lot of misunderstandings about the service life, I was taught, before you can give orders and tell people what to do, you’ve got to learn to take them yourself. Always
somebody senior to you. So I don’t mean without question. There’s nothing to stop you saying, “Aye, aye Sir, but what about so and so?” In these days in most services people say “Well” and tell you why you’re doing it. It’s not blind obedience, it’s not blind discipline. It’s the sort of thing that for the good of everybody else there are certain rules and you obey them. I don’t know whether I’m answering your question,
but I think discipline is one of the most vital things. I still think we can do with more of it when I read the papers and hear what’s going with some children. I think a little bit of discipline would be a great help to them.
there’s still an enormous amount of sea services come up through the ranks. There is no difference if they do. Once you become a lieutenant or a lieutenant commander or a commander it doesn’t matter what your background is, you’re an officer. Where things have changed is your job as an officer is you don’t brutally order people around, you’re responsible for them in everything that they account for. I think
that was a misunderstanding, probably still is, particularly with the left leaning type of people who think the officers are a special class from special schools and so on. I think that’s one of the misunderstandings. I can’t think of any other ones. We used to think of soldiers of course as drunken brawling things, fellows. An ordinary infantry soldier now is a very high skilled person. He’s not just a bayonet sort of poke it all, he’s
highly skilled and he’s taught all sorts of subjects. Our technical people in the three services are vital. No, I think the forces, I don’t know much about the modern forces. I see some of my old friends now, they’re also retired of course by now. The services have changed. I think they’re a lot more community minded.
They tend to help out the community a lot more than they used to. Can’t think of anything else particularly.
seriously refer to ourselves as warriors. It became a bit of an in word in my generation, the fellows. If you had a particular friend you’d say “Meet my warrior chum” in other words he was another serviceman. I think there are people who take to service life more than others. It’s not a matter of a killer instinct or anything like that, it’s a matter of there’s
a special camaraderie in the services that you don’t get anywhere else. Don’t get it in companies. It can be a fascinating job, but I don’t care if you’re flying an aeroplane or driving a tank or whatever, it can be challenging and the pay is very good these days by the way. Very good. Some people are more, not warriors, but more inclined to like it, like the
idea of war rather than others who don’t. One of the things I still can’t come to grips with completely is the number of females in the service now. I read a debate the other day about now putting them in the frontline in the infantry. I have reservations about that. Oneof my reservations about that sort of thing, I welcome them aboard big ships and so on, not so sure about on the submarines,
but if you’ve got a woman in the frontline I wonder about her colleagues, male soldiers, whether they wouldn’t be wanting to be a bit more protective than if it’s another chap. Whether they could rely on her when, and I don’t want to be anti-feminist, but what happens when a fellow comes at her with a bayonet for example. I’m just not qualified to talk about it, but I just have reservations about it all.
It is a different defence force, different than those days of course. I think some of the women officers that I’ve met, and I’ve met quite a few of them, I was down at Nowra not so long ago, and my old flying squadron, the engineer officer was a female. She was engineer officer of the whole damn squadron. One of the senior helicopter pilots
is a woman, flying big Sea King helicopters. When they had a ceremonial march past, carrying rifles and so on, pretty little girls. Just a different service. I don’t object to it. It seems to be working all right, but I just have one or two reservations about where you can deploy them, that’s all.
What things do you put that ability to survive down to?
90% luck, 10% perhaps skill. There’s a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time too. The worst thing is people were killed in the wrong place at the wrong time. I lost a whole pilot chums in the war. Lots and lots of them. Some very close friends, some just squadron other chaps. I’ve seen so many, actually watched people
get killed. Strangely enough it didn’t move me one little bit. I watched for example, this is in Ireland, I’m standing out on the tarmac and there’s a Spitfire came into circuit. He’s about 800 feet just up there. He was doing barrel rolls. Right in front of me he got himself into a flat spin and the aeroplane just went like that, went like that, went like that and he almost got out of it and it burst into flames and he was killed. On a slow motion like that. That’s just one example. I can give you
lots and lots of these things. Oh dear, poor chap. That’s it. You don’t go to mourning. I mean this book thing, I probably shouldn’t talk like this, but it’s a load of bloody nonsense. The bloke’s dead, he was killed. Why have pages and pages and pages on it? I just don’t go along with it. I’m not insensitive, but having seen so many blokes killed, I just shrug myself.
I saw that and you watch the bloke being burned. It happened at Nowra, but we got this bloke out. We cleared lower deck as they say, and hundreds of sailors came through and they got the wing and lifted it up and pulled George out. Just before the aeroplane went up. I haven’t had that for years. Now and then I get, I think it’s as I get older and lose my hearing and eye sight and so on,
I have this bloody awful dream. I’m in a strange aeroplane. I don’t recognise the cockpit, everything’s all over the place. All these millions of dials and I don’t know what they are and I can’t find anything. I’ve got my glasses, I take them on and have a look. It’s pitch black night, I can’t hear what they’re telling me on the radio and I’ve got to take off. I wake up absolutely sweating. It’s a silly dream, but that’s more terrifying than being burned.
I don’t know why I’ve got to take off. I used to leap different aeroplanes in those days. I remember when I was in the Spitfire squadron a chap landed in a funny aeroplane called a [Thunder?]Bolt (UNCLEAR). He was an Australian, he got out in his blue uniform. I said, “What the hell is that?” He said, “A bolt (UNCLEAR).” It was a two seater, machineguns in the back and machineguns forward. Big aeroplane. I said, “I’d like to fly it.” He said, “Can I fly your Spitfire?” I said, “Yeah.” So I got him in my Spitfire and he went off
and I hopped in his aeroplane and flew it. You couldn’t do it now. That was a strange aeroplane, but they were near enough similar and you’re not allowed to do it now. You’re in serious strife. You have to go and do a 6 month course if you’re going to fly a different aeroplane. Simulators and all that sort of stuff.
here on Anzac Day. Since I’ve retired, I didn’t go immediately, but I started to go, and I started to see some old chums I hadn’t’ seen for many, many years, since the war years and so on. I found it was great fun. You’re talking to people who you could communicate with and who understood what you were talking about, whereas if you’re talking to people your own ago who
hadn't been in the war, there wasn’t that same wavelength. It was great, have a few beers with them and find out what they were doing and most of them, nearly all of them, had been quite successful after the war. Not all of them, but most of them. One of my greatest chums in the world, Noel Gorton, I had a letter from him.
don’t think it ever was a threat unless as I said it was being used by a major power who were using it as a serving space. Why on it’s own it can’t be a threat, first of all, it hasn’t got the capability to move a large number of troops across that short distance. It would need a number of ships, a number of large transport aircraft, they haven’t got them and it’s
unlikely to have them. First of all I see no reason why Indonesia would want to invade Australia. I just can’t see a reason. When you’re doing an assessment of a threat, the first thing to say is, “Would they want to do something?” For instance, you can spend days and days and days writing about the threat from New Zealand to Australia, but your first rate is, “Why would they want to do it?” So you say, “They wouldn’t want to, there’s no sense in it.” so you forget all the rest
of the assessment. So you don’t worry about it. Why would Indonesia want to invade Australia? What reason would they have? It doesn’t need the land, it’s got plenty of space itself it’s not using at all. So that reason alone I don’t believe it’s a threat. Secondly, they don’t have the capability to transport them. Let’s assume that they did somehow land. Where are they going to land? Northwest Australia somewhere? So what? What do they do then? How the hell do they get. Let’s say they
even take Darwin and Wyndham and Broome. So what? How do they, if they want to really take over, which they can’t, they’ve gotta look at Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. How? They certainly don’t have the capability to come over the South Pole and that way. So they’ve got to come across country. Even with our fairly small defence force, it’s very capable defence forces, if they did land, well, put it this way;
it’s normal military practise that if you’ve got a threat, the first place to stop the threat is before it gets going, before it takes off or sails. At its own port or home field. That’s the best way to get it. The second way, if you can’t do that, is to get them en route. The third and last way is to try and get them when they land. Let’s assume they do the third thing and they land in Australia. I still think we’d knock them off pretty easily.
Their defence forces are infantry type defence forces. They’ve got battalions, lots and lots and lots of them, and highly skilled infantry type. They’ve probably got artillery, I know they have. But their air support, they’ve got some good aeroplanes, we sold them to them a little while ago, Hawks and so on. I just don’t’ see it as a genuine threat. I think it’s a nice bogey for people to put up, but I don’t see it. I really don’t That’s my personal opinion.
committed suicide and what have you. I read it avidly. I have to honestly say; I don’t know. I have no idea. I’m not privy to what’s going on and none of us are. Certainly the journalists aren’t’ privy to what’s really been going on. In my heart of hearts I don’t believe the Americans, the British and the Australians would have gone into Iraq without an honest to God real reason. I can’t see any reason why they’d go there
just to go in. I don’t believe oil’s a thing, because I think if the world was all out of oil they’ve still got Saudi Arabia and what’s the South American country it comes from? So I believe we’re right to go in without giving all the real arguments, cos I don’t know why. I just don’t accept that the leaders of those three countries would go in and risk what could have been lots of body bags if they didn’t believe they had to go in.
I just don’t believe it. You can’t tell me that, I know a lot of people think [US President] George W. Bush is sort of a cowboy. I don’t think Tony Blair is stupid and I don’t think [Prime Minister] John Howard is. I don’t believe they’ve gone in unnecessary, but I can’t argue the case for going in. I just know in my heart of hearts that they were right to go in. At the golf club and so on, my chums are very anti what’s going on.
They’re intelligent educated people. I keep quiet. I just don’t get involved cos I’m not a debater. I don’t know the arguments.
or practically disarmed. I can remember when Hitler was appearing on the scene and most of the media, certainly all our academics or most our academics, and most people were saying, “Look, he’s no threat. Let him take that little bit of extra place he wants. They were done badly by in the armistice in the First World War.” So what happened, he got bigger and better and stronger. He rearmed against the convention that was supposed to stop him forming an army.
People let him do it and so millions of people died one way or another as a result of it. Five years of bloody war and displacement and all that sort of thing. Vietnam, now I have very strong views on Vietnam. People marched in the street “Why does Australia get involved in Vietnam?” I get into trouble. I don’t usually talk like this, but you asked me for my opinions. I am absolutely certain we were right to go to Vietnam. People would look at me in dismay if I said that. Why
I say that is that you go back to those days when communism was a real threat, not just story telling. It was a real threat. The Chinese were coming down to Vietnam. If they were allowed to continue they’d have gone right down to Malaysia and to Singapore. I don’t mean necessarily armed, but they’d have taken over as communists. They’d have gone around the other way to hook round to, I have to get my geography right here, Laos, Burma, round that way
and what would have happened in southeast Asia is it would have become communist. So what Vietnam did, and I believe we bought time. Bought time for particularly, well Bangkok too, but particularly Malaysia and Singapore, to, forgive the word, become democratic, and start to not be communist anyway. So we bought them time, and it succeeded. The Vietnam War, in
my opinion, did its job. It should have been finished of course. The communists are still there, but they’re no longer a threat to the rest of southeast Asia. So my message is to future generations, for God’s sake don’t say, “There’s no threat to Australia. Stop burning money on weapons and so on. Let’s put it into hospitals and education.” all these cries go on. “Don’t waste money on military.” You never know when a threat’s going to
come up, and having been in intelligence for a while, usually there are indicators and you get a little bit of time. I’m not sure that with the speed now of weapons and the capability of missiles and things like that, for example, I used to talk about nuclear weapons, and I know a lot about them, I believe that if people wanted to go to war and
really win, I wouldn’t use nuclear. I’d use chemicals or biological, because then you don’t, when you knock out the place, you don’t have transport that doesn’t work, you don’t have sewerage and power and all that stuff all in a bloody mess. You just walk in and get rid of the dead bodies. Sounds terrible, but if you’re serious about to go to war. So I’m saying to future generations; for God’s sake, take threats, you don’t know where they’re going to come from. It can arrive very quickly these days, particularly, more so
than in our day. So don’t let your guard down. And both, not only your defence forces, but your foreign affairs. Your diplomacy has got to be right. I don’t care what anybody says, people still respect power. If you’ve got a credible defence force, and credible is relative, relative to whom? If you’ve got a credible defence force, which we do have, against any possible threat in our region, except China perhaps,
nobody’s going to even think about it. If you had no defence force at all, if you were wide open, God knows what would happen? I don’t mean necessarily invasion, but people could take over economically some other way. You get boatloads of immigrants coming in and all sorts of things. So my message would be; whatever you do, keep your defence forces in good order.