a pig’s a fairly fierce animal. I’ll never forget that, particularly the mother one shielding it’s young. I learned to swim with the crocodiles, the freshwater crocodiles, in Leichhardt River. See we were are in a muddle now. In our days you call the freshwater ones crocodiles and you call the salt water ones alligator and you each knew what you were talking about. That is technically wrong. Now they’re all crocodiles. You occasionally see a photograph of a fierce
man eating crocodile and it’s a Johnsonian crocodile with a long thin snout, a mouth that is not a danger at all. No worse than a kangaroo. If it’s injured it’ll try and damage you. Then we went down to Sydney and I went to Manly Sydney Junior Primary School for nearly a year.
Then the Depression hit and we went out and lived in a tent near Mullaley. Mount Gunnedah, Coonabarabran area. Lived in a tent, went to correspondence school in a tent. Our cooking facilities were a sheet of galvanised iron stood upright lengthwise as a wind break and we cooked on that in a camp oven and a billy can.
My father was looking after sheep on agistment. I went to school at Merrygoen which is near Mendooran and used to ride three miles to school. The government gave you money for horse feed to feed the horse. I used to shoot crows and eagles for pocket money. You got sixpence a head for a crow and two shillings for an eagle on one side of the road
and two and six and a shilling the other side. You can guess which side the birds were shot. Then came the polio scare. We then moved to Sandgate.
Darr River Down. I was second in charge but I suppose I didn’t want to get into twin engine and large aircraft because of so many people might be killed because of me. They only had crews of about seven or eight, the bombers, or nine. It didn’t occur to me till quite recently but in the end I was controlling 11 other aircraft and 11 other people, leading a squadron of single seater fighters.
It’s funny how your thinking comes full circle and you don’t realise it sort of got there, in effect, the same sort of thing. I graduated as a sergeant pilot from Amberley. Flying Wirraways at that stage. I was posted to Evans Head bombing and gunnery school.
Flying Fairy Battles which are clapped out single engine bombers like a big Hurricane. I did mainly bombing practice, not the gunnery. The gunnery were already short flips and restricted to a certain area up and down the coast, mainly teaching them bombing and navigation. So you got up to several thousand feet
and flew to the bombing range and higher at times and then you did cross country. Just a couple of them to train your navigators. One of ours was I think from Evans Head to Warwick and then down to Armidale and back again. Three legged mainly they are. You had spare time as it was coming home from a bombing detail. I eventually ended up with 630 hours I think
and a few battles in about seven months. In fact I flew myself out of that place. But there were three of us there. Paul Float and Arthur Collier. We all ended up in 3 Squadron. We used to nut out little scenarios in aerial combat which we knew nothing of and no-one else did on our way back from the bombing exercise
and you had to fly back and we didn’t always get on the same ones, but when we did we nutted out these little things and found out if we did a certain thing, well a certain thing would happen. You find out quite easily if you make the other person push his stick forward all the dirt comes up from the cockpit floor and he can get it in his eyes if he’s a bit unlucky. You’ve got to keep an aircraft very clean. When you push a stick forward everything comes up. I didn’t waste it. I was doing other things and learning other things and
one thing I did learn is there’s only one way to lose height in an aeroplane without gaining speed and that’s to side slip it. In the end I was side slipping Fairey Battles fairly happily although they were very heavy to handle. Towards the end of my career in flying nearly every landing I did in the Kittyhawk was what we call a dead stick landing on a down wind leg.
If you’re landing approach you just cut the engine off, put down about a third flap and when you’re going to overshoot you can see that. You put it down two third flap and that controls that and then put down the third lot of flap and if you’re overshooting a bit then you just side slip it in. Side slip’s quite safe because if it stalls you go over the top instead of going in the other direction and you’re falling on the ground with the aeroplane on top of you. It’s better to go through
the far fence at 40 kilometres an hour to hit the close fence at 110. So you ideally tend to overshoot marginally as against undershoot. It’s just as simple as that. That stood me in good stead because it gave me a lot of confidence in the aircraft and I was happy if I had to make a forced landing. I was better prepared for it than probably anyone else in the squadron by having trained every now and again coming back home with a forced landing.
they ended up with about 370. I joined 3 Squadron with 800 hours. I didn’t have the… I could fly a plane. I think I flew it well because I made myself fly it well. If I ever flew a new single seater flyer I’d sit in that aircraft for about anything up to one or two hours quite often with my eyes shut putting my hands on the things you had to have your hands on quickly sometimes. Nowadays if you want to fly there’s an aircraft out here at Toowoomba.
I think if a new person wants to fly it, they have to go to America to look at a program that’s on something that gives them the cockpit drill. We were just given a new aircraft and you flew it. You didn’t initially have any, in a single seater fighter when you’re competent on those.. I’ve flown Kittyhawks, Spitfires, Hurricanes, Mustangs -
had my own Mustang at one stage. And a Macchi 205. We captured a brand new Macchi 205, the latest aircraft in the war, captured it in Sicily. Only about three quarters of an hour old according to the soot in the exhaust and the colour of the…the metal changes colour when it’s new and when it’s used. We just hop in that and fly it. The throttle went back to front incidentally, all the European ones did in those days, which we changed over at Beltran [?].
No, we did that and then England found we had it and it was the most recent aircraft available and they grounded it. Shipped it home by boat to England for evaluation. Lovely aircraft, didn’t get a very high rate of climb. We didn’t realise it had been measured in metres and not in feet. Had three times what we thought. No, there is a good advantage in having a lot of hours.
When I went over to the Middle East I got posted to a general operation training unit in the Sudan. Eight hundred hours, all the others were 375 hours, shot straight at the 3 Squadron. They got sent back. Ridiculous isn’t it? I was the only one. I had all those hours and I got sent to an operational training unit which I should go to but they shouldn’t have sent the other ones back because they
then have to come back. I still needed a bit of extra training. They needed all they could get. The more you can be - you still see people looking at cars - they’ve had the same car for twenty years and they still look where the gear lever is. It’s not necessary.
We hold reunions every year. Three years ago 3 Squadron put…3 Squadron incidentally started in 1916 flying the hornets at Williamtown now. We had a reunion in Canberra and 3 Squadron put 74 people at a sit down dinner. The day after that finished 450 had one in Bathurst. We put 76 at a sit down
dinner and I had disbanded them literally in 1945. That answers your question. We’re still hanging on. We pulled our widows in. We had one widow - he was lost in Sicily, shot down. No-one saw it happen. I think he was shot down and his wife had never got anything other than a bit of paper from the authorities. No clothes, no nothing.
Ages later she went to some small thing in Melbourne of memorabilia or some such nature and here’s his log book. She’s subsequently become a member of 450 Association and she’s our staunchest member. You pull them in really and it’s better than some of your other organisations because it’s personal.
We don’t just look after them because we think we should. We come together and it’s a great thing. A year ago we put 40 into Bathurst. We had one person - Alan Harris, in 450 - he comes from Montreal in Canada. He’ll arrive in Australia on the Friday and come to, say Bathurst, on the Friday night, have a full day Saturday in Bathurst and a dinner that night and
go back to Sydney on Sunday and go back to Montreal. Done that for the last two years. He’ll be here this year I’d say from Montreal. Interesting, isn’t it?
small ships with a few people so if you lost them you didn’t lose too many. Eight of us, all pilots with 3 Squadron and we left Melbourne at seven eight thousand tons. It had the beer and whisky on for the 9th division in the Middle East and very honoured therefore of course. We left Melbourne and went about south, south west.
The waves got bigger, they got clearer, they were enormous in the end. It got colder, the waves coming over the front of that vessel right along the top deck and hitting the structure that goes up to the bridge. It was cold. Unescorted as I said. We knew the direction we were taking just by looking at the sun to a degree. I don’t know how far south we got. Then we turned west.
Then we came up across the Indian Ocean towards India and our defence on that was very interesting. We had a point five machine gun that would only fire once. It would only fire one bullet. I know they could only fire one bullet, but they could fire again pretty quickly. This would fire one round and stop. We couldn’t fix it. We had minimal knowledge on that.
We had a field gun mounted on the aft of the vessel and that was from the Boxer Rebellion which I think was in 1903 wasn’t it? And best of all, for defence against aircraft, we had a box kite. It was that long. The type of box kite that a child would fly in a suitable open space. That was out defence. Anyway our top speed,
I think, was seven knots. Our brake down speed which was frequent was three and I think both those speeds are slower than the submarine of the day even, I think, submerged. Unescorted the whole trip. Went across, pulled in at India, pulled in in the evening. Refuelled, sailed at three o’clock in the morning or thereabouts and on the way out
our mast fouled a barrage balloon travelling then and unbeknownst to everyone it slowly dragged it down until it exploded on the mast head and it was all this great big boom sort of thing. It’d be hydrogen I suppose. Then all these fluttering bits of burning fabric were coming past our porthole. We didn’t know what happened. We were terrified because we didn’t know what a war really was. No-one did.
Anyway we got to Cairo. Then I got sent up to this thing and had to catch a train in Cairo. I was the only person that wasn’t an officer.
I got hit twice in my first three operations. I was in the Battle of El Alamein and that. We were down at beggar all feet strafing. One of our pilots, Arthur Dawkins, got a paper wrapped safety razor blade in the scoop of his radiator. That’s how low we are and that’s how you can realise that a paper wrapped thing won’t go very high no matter how much force.
The paper was on it, the wrapping. He got that. We used to get stone fragments. I’ve been there you get some of them in bomb blasts sometimes. I got hit in the reduction gear just behind the air screw and I got oil over my windscreen and I was left to myself. I was down at bugger all feet.
Everyone had gone. It’s funny about aircraft like that. There can be a bit of a dogfight and there’s aircraft everywhere and next minute there’s none. They’re all travelling at a fair rate of knots and I suppose they go in their respective directions and there’s just none in the middle of it.. It just happens like that. There’s just none. All this oil’s coming up and I’m at bugger all feet. I’m over the desert which is pretty featureless and there’s no other aircraft around, not even my own
which was a little bit wrong. Being a bush kid I had a pretty fair direction sense, most of us have. Anyway it started to come round. I opened my cockpit, wound the canopy back and then it started to come round because it was getting more and more and coming along, creeping in. I pulled my goggles down because if you’ve got oil in your eyes that’ll be the end of you. I was trying to find my way back and - see if there’d been any aircraft there I could have been
shot down. I couldn’t have done anything about it. I could have done a bit about it, but I couldn’t see any. So when my goggles started to foul up I wound the canopy forward and got a bit of rag and cleaned them and did that procedure and got back to the aerodrome and that’s where my ability to slide slip an aircraft quite happily was great because I couldn’t see Stourhead and I put her down in a turning side slip onto the runway.
Let it run off. Didn’t fly again that engine, would have gone longer of course. That was that. What do you want to know next?
You had roughly 16 aircraft and you’d choose your aircraft. You’d put two pilots about the same height to the one aircraft and they could leave a parachute in there and just get in and sit in and use it. The CO had his own and the flight commanders had their own but of course that goes by the board if you’re short of aircraft. No, you’d have used colours and used call signs.
3 Squadron was Shabby and 450 was Falcon. Red one leads and the bottom six is red and you have what is called top cover. That’s blue section. That’s led by the blue one and you have yellow, black and green and the other. Blue section top cover is always down sun from red
so that they were looking into sun, they’re looking over the top of red. So no enemy aircraft can come out of sun from both blue and red. If you had blue section towards the sun from red they might be in line with the sun and anyone that comes out on the shadow of blue might be on the shadow of red. In theory. Anyone coming out of the sun is not seen by 12 aircraft. So blue always sits where
- a thousand feet above, whatever, and so that you can’t come out of the sun and be obscured by the sun from six aircraft. That’s how you work it. If you fly in three fours you have red, white and blue. Blue flight’s the same. It’s down sun. But white flight goes up sun a bit. It can be forward or back. You can get out of visibility. It’s good because sometimes
you can bomb your target and you’ll put six aircraft down and the fourth or fifth bloke clobbers the target in that or second and third and you pull away for a couple of boats. They’d still drop the bomb and it’d do good. But you could probably get more targets. You might even get three different targets with those in theory. It gives you a good way to train a leader. Let him lead in the white section. They’re all the same, but he’s protected above and he hasn’t got to make any great decisions
as yet. It’s good to do that. No that was it. You don’t fly close to one another. It’s not a tight formation. Number twos fly behind your red one and red two and green one and green two and the leader flies straight ahead usually. It’s a wonder he isn’t shot out of the sky. I still don’t know why. All the others weave.
You weave a Kittyhawk - all your single seater fighters are blind from looking down and behind you. You weave that way and as you turn that way you’re looking down that way and turning your head round to there. Then as you swing over, swing your head up and you’re looking above you and behind you and you swing across you and look down there and then you do that. That covers as much as you can. It’s all rhythm
actually. I often wonder if that’s why a lot of us wear scarves. Because - my scarf’s there - because when you’re doing that, in the desert water was short. You quite often washed your shirt in petrol. If you wash your shirt in petrol and it’s not a good quality thing it’ll either disintegrate fairly quickly or it’ll become harsh and prickly. And your neck’s doing that the whole time,
looking round. Then the movement of your aircraft takes you up, you know what I mean? I tilt my chair over and now I’m looking up. And you look back again. Your number two’d be a safe distance behind you, probably 20 feet or something. Then the other two on your right would be your same height and they might be
200 or 300 metres over there. You’ve got room to move - move suddenly - you’re not going to hit anyone. Also it flows together - you’re looking at the other people. You can fly a Kittyhawk, in any single fighter, you can put your wing kit past the wing tip of the other aircraft in front you tailgate. If you do it when the other bloke doesn’t know you’re there it’s pushing enough air up the front of your wing to muck up his A line and you have funny little things and
he doesn’t know what’s happening. But that is quite safe. You’re all travelling at the same speed, but you don’t need to be close. You’ve got to be away so that you can do any violent move and you’re not going to hit anyone.
bunch of houses and it’s better to get up in that corner or whatever. You’ll fly out there, the number one’s leading and map reading. It can be difficult in Italy in the winter because sometimes overnight the enemy can use, because it needs to use, a non main road near a main road and then next morning that looks like the main road because of the usage of things on it.
When it’s covered in snow it can be a bit difficult. You can’t stop and have a look. You proceed to your target in the best route you know of avoiding known akak positions. Like the 88 millimetre, that’s a very good gun. It was in tanks and everything. It’s a good field gun, it’s a good everything, good all rounder.
You go there and there’s no speaking. I’ve seen a time that if someone spoke at the start of a sortie it’d probably be aborted because it would put so many enemy aircraft up into you, a bit before my time, would put them up into the air again. You’d have to get a few bombs and fight for your life and you’d done nothing. The leader would bring it up until it’s
forward of your left wing. We always turned left and dive bombed because you normally fired at the left hand circuit. It’s common nature, unless there’s some other reasons you can’t with adjacent hills or whatever, but you usually can. No-one ever does a vertical dive. It’s terribly hard to assess what it is. I’d say it’s probably about 65 degrees or something like that. But with all that weight
on you’re really accelerating. Accelerating is incredible. You don’t notice it, but it is. And you’re lining your gun fight up to your target. That means your aircraft is pointing at the target. Most of us, I don’t know whether every squadron did it, but we always fired our point five machine guns. Six of them. These will scatter because they’re outside your wing flying past your airscrew.
Three on each wing. They come to and you harmonise them at 270 yards in those days. I had mine harmonised on a point, they all came together. Normal harmonisation is like a door or something like that, a recover, a door. When you fire those they’re going to scatter because they’re going to cross one another at 300 yards and three lots are going that way and out that way. Also most would keep people’s heads down on the way down
and then in firing those you have released that number of empty shells and the metal lengths that hold them together. They are going to go everywhere. They are falling and tumbling, then they are further going down after you’ve arrived there and departed. We used to get odd reports that we had fired on our own troops but that would be the, when we’re doing it very close, all the main shells
of the things coming down the midst. Undoubtedly one would kill you if it hit you in the proper place, but if you’re wearing a tin helmet or whatever they wouldn’t be nasty, but that was it. We didn’t often bomb that close. That would keep them occupied dodging those when they should be firing at you.
run. I think if you can develop that to a reasonable degree it helps everyone. No, you just make your decision on what’s happening. If you lose one you just lose them suddenly. Can’t really say, oh we’re going to lose one and we’ll do two more strafes whatever. It’d depend what the target was, of course, if you strafe them and that sort of thing. Some you’d deliberately go out and you’d dispose and you’d
ask to strafe if it’s feasible. But if you’re getting so much stuff throwing up though, it’s terribly interesting, you can get akak so thick you can nearly get out and walk on it and you get home and no-one’s got a hole in them. And then other times you get hardly any ack-ack [anti-aircraft fire] and someone gets shot down. It varies a lot. You can go on your first op. You can go on your last. I’ve had one person go on his first op.
He was a New Zealander. He went on the 15th of December. So you can imagine the type of message his relatives got for Christmas. Lovely bloke. The first op. You don’t know how they go. When you’re leading, I didn’t always lead of course. I worked my way up to flight commander. I didn’t always lead. There are only three people that lead a squadron.
They’re a CO and two flight commanders. On some occasions in 3 Squadron we had two sergeant pilots, Keith Kilby and Danny Baldwin. They were leading the squadron. They were leading the wing show as sergeants. This was upsetting the Brits a bit because you might have a trusty squadron leader leading the top cover to 3 Squadron leading down, maybe three squadrons in the wings, but wing shows were rare up there. I’ve lead one wing show. I led
a wing show, I was leading 450 and 3 Squadron, and up above me was top cover. The whole squadron was top cover. We were on gun positions and various other things. Hodgkinson got shot down. He was a dentist in Orange. He got shot down and taken prisoner. I met him at the end of the war on Manly- Sydney - Beach. He told me that when he was taken prisoner of course you give your name and address and colour
of your eyes and that’s it and then you get handed up. If you strike the Gestapo you’re going to suffer brain damage at a later date if you live to a later date. He got passed up on the stage and when the real interrogation came and I’ll drop the story there. I’d been in 3 Squadron for three months and the call sign was Shabby and then six months later which is a short rest tour because a certain thing happened in my rest
tour that I decided it was safer in the air. I got back and the call sign was now Falcon. Anyway Hodge was sitting there at the table, they’d taken him to a room with a table and two chairs and this bloke marched in, this German marched in with a couple of cups of tea and sat down on a chair and said, “How is Doyle liking 450?”. That was the first remark. As if to say, “We know everything, you might as well tell us”. They’d pick up my absence and then they’d pick up my voice. It’d be easy to recognise. Change of call sign.
Before we leave Africa, we had an interesting episode happen there. When we pushed the Gerrys out of Africa there was an enormous congregation of entire forces. You’ve no idea. They were considerable. They would be. air force and army and the navy’d be there. And aircraft all lined up. Red soil so they’re not particularly sandy, but they’re gravelly and
shale and sand. There was a lovely area there smoothed out. King George came out from England. Here are all these enormous number of troops, beautiful troops, there was a place there that had been levelled for the small group that came from England. There was a place out the front of that chair levelled and a red carpet put down. This chair was incredible. It was
like a grandfather, I think they call it, dining chair with arms. Straight back. It was scarlet and gold. It would have been genuine gold. It would have either come from King Farouk’s palace in Cairo or it would certainly have come from an influential Egyptian. It was beautiful. The King came, a bit of speech making. We didn’t have the PA [public address] systems that you have now, so it was hard,
the whole lot didn’t hear it. The King sat in that chair. The gentleman went in front of him and marched up to him and knelt in front of him. The King tapped him on each shoulder with a sword and said, “Arise sir so and so”. That was the end of the ceremony. We were all scattered. 3 Squadron grabbed the padre’s truck and we cliftied that chair. The word cliftie is - we borrowed it if you know what I mean. And the 3 Squadron was known as the cliftie squadron. We cliftied that chair and we took it back to the
mess. Our mess was in a tent. We shoved it in the mess and it was glorious, it really was. We decided what could we do with it, we were going to take it back to Australia. So we decided you had to have a gong before you could sit in the chair. No-one had a gong in three at that stage. We held it and Desert Air Force got to us on the phone and apparently they knew we had the darned chair. They demanded that it be sent back.
There were no repercussions at all because repercussions had struck up. Desert Air Force lost the chair being lax. But no that was good. Gee that was a lovely chair. I’d like to have got it back in the museum here because some of the 450’s in the museum. We had three hats. Have you ever seen them in the museum? They’re there and a lot of the people know. The girls that run it, they know. We had a top hat, a bowler hat and you know the pith helmet? Tiger hunting.
We had one of those. If you got decorated or promoted you wore the top hat. That sort of frivolity. Top hat, white tie and tails and you shouted from the mess for an hour. And if you finished a tour you got the bowler hat because that in effect was civvy street [civilian life], but you didn’t go into civvie street. But that was the thing. But if you shot a lion - are you familiar with the expression, you’re shooting a lion? You’re making an exaggeration like “we were flying so low
to the sea our SP indicator was reading nought”. Or “We’re getting verdigris on the pit overhead”. So if you shot a line you wore the helmet tiger hunting and ditto. They’re in down in the war museum in Canberra, large as life. Then we had the gaggle board. You’d write on it all the positions of red one, red two, red three. When I was in 3 Squadron I discovered something.
There were some of them leading there that it had been so long since there was a new sprog they didn’t realise what you went through when you were a sprog. You didn’t get enough information on the target and where it was and that sort of thing. So I made a decision then that if ever in my life I got into that position of leading a squadron that I would do something about it. So I put myself down on the gaggle board as red two. This is the most protected thing in the lot.
You’ve got the red one leader there, his number two there. You’ve got the deputy leader there and his number two there. And the other member of the six there and there and this bloke’s really protected and he’s got top cover above him. I had CO written on that. We had South African pilots. We had Australian ground crew, but we could have any nationality and that was good. No young people had travelled overseas at my age. You had to have wealthy parents to go overseas. Really, very few had travelled. We’re getting all these other cultures,
we just got a couple of South African - what are they? They’re army air force there. They’d come in. I’d had a South African flight commander and made him a flight commander. I think it might have put an odd nose out of joint in the Australian component, but he was getting shot at the same as we were. He was there and this new recruit from South Africa had met me all shiny boots and gosh knows what and standing to attention. They’re very strong on discipline
and good on them. He’s standing there and he’s met me, knows who I am and Porky Shaw, the flight commander’s on the other side of me. He says, “I see CO on the board there. I understand that is commanding officer. That’s red two. Why is he flying there?” And Porky said, “He’s not very clued up so we put him there so we can look after him”. This poor kid, he went all coloured and … I felt sorry for him.
So I did that. Normally those three people lead a squadron. But if I flew more than every third flight, which I did fairly frequently, I wouldn’t lead. I’d go either deputy leader or go up and take blue. Blue, that’s good fun. You’re up there floating freely, you’re just positioning yourself correctly. That normally is the set up, only those three people
can lead. But I told you about one going on his first op. There was one went on his last up and I know this, in 450 we had been asked to bump some targets out on the Po Valley. No-one knew what the targets were, but they were promising they were scattered things and they could be ammo or petrol, scattered and camouflaged to the best of ability. We were sent out to bomb them. There was always akak. I don’t think I’ve ever flown without
being shot at. Even if you can’t see it there’s someone having a go at you particularly if you’re low enough, even with rifles or revolvers. We did this bombing and we had warrant officer Brown who was quite a good pilot. He’d never led the squadron. He’d brought us back occasionally and led top cover and that sort of thing. A tour was 200 hours. It’s a minimum of 150 operational hours. You usually made the blokes
do 200 hours but if they’d had a really tough time or whatever you’d chop them off at 180, 190, something like that. Of course if you’re losing the war that area maybe you’ve got to keep going because there may be a shortage of pilots. You can have a shortage of pilots. Anyway he’d reached about 200 and when we got back it was fairly late. There was an urgent request that the bombing was good and beneficial or suitable whatever,
could we do a quick turn round. That’s just ammunition and petrol. No inspections or anything. I said, yes. I said to Brownie, I was going to tour expire him, “Brownie, we’ve got to do the same job again. Would you like to lead the squadron?” He said, “Yes sir”. I said, “I’ll take myself off and put someone else in my place”. He just didn’t come back. That’s a known one. That was his last. Would have been.
Talk about writing things, we had one episode there where one of our ground force wanted to marry an Italian girl and I had to get permission. You have to get permission and you really can’t say no. He did marry this Italian and we couldn’t get the official papers that are necessary for Australians to have and I
couldn’t get them at all. So what the adjutant and I did, we got hold of some quality paper, incidentally the diary of 450 is all written on captured paper. We got hold of this paper and we did a missive I suppose you would call it. I think we did a duplicate and I often wonder if it’s in the museum because a lot of that stuff got dropped over the water.
We had the full address of the squadron. We had written - in a squadron you get one of everything. You’ve got forgers, you’ve got calligraphy people, you’ve got cocksmith. You’ve got everything. It’s the minimum number you can bring together and they can do anything. We got a calligraphy person. He wrote this beautiful handwriting, the full deal and the full address of 3 Squadron
in the field and he wrote about this asking for these things and we had the address down here. In the field it was. I put my signature on it and we got hold of some light blue and dark blue ribbon off a Christmas card and I got hold of a yale key. The round part of the key was about the size of a
modern 50 cent piece, with a hole in the middle. All that was hatched - not hash. They’re calling this other thing on the telephone hash. They’re in a stew. It’s really hatch and hatching, filling it. All hatched there like lattice work. We got red sealing wax and we put it over the folded ribbons, put the blob of sealing wax there and I put the key on top and put my thumb on it and my finger print came out in the hole in the middle and we got one of our despatch
riders which a squadron has - they’ve got everything - they get around in shorts and boots and even got polished leather leggings for the motor bike and rolled this up in scroll and tied it up with red ribbon and he presented himself to the Roman Catholic authorities and they gave him all the paperwork. That’s what you can do with a bit of cliftie stuff.
Bluff your way in. What other stuff did the squadron knock off being clifties?
Doonas. You get a lot of - houses get bombed and people flee because the war past them and you can’t sit in your house while the war is passing through. You’ve got to go. You go. And you get a lot of doonas. When you got a tent in mud and you can grab a doona and you put it on the floor and the moisture comes through and you put another doona and you might have
three or four doonas and ultimately the tent is warm and cosy and dry. People think that’s terrible. There’d be kapok everywhere eventually or whatever. No, we didn’t cliftie things. I think I’m one of the first people to put 450 into billets. When I took over the squadron in the AC [?] - I’ll show you a photo in the logbook with just tents in the water.
They’ve collapsed from the wind, whatever. Subsequently we took over in Farno. My adjutant and my doctor - my doctors was Dr Derek Scanlon who also went to Toowoomba Grammar with me. He’s deceased now unfortunately. We walked up the street and we requisitioned houses because Italy in winter
can be a bit severe. It’s amazing when you knock on the door of a house and tell a person you’re going to take their house how many of them suddenly find out they’ve got heart problems. We had a doctor in that trio. We gave them an option, we’re taking your house, if you can’t find alternative accommodation we are taking a large house and we will house you in the medical section, which we did, and you get a bit of food as well.
We looked after them that way. But when we took these houses there was a hospital over the way and they have emergency generating plants. We had 240 volts with Ford V8 engines mounted into charging batteries. I know Italy’s 240 now. I think it is, I went over there, but these were definitely 110 in the houses. We had
penicillin and the hospital knew we had penicillin. So an agreement that I called ‘erbs for aspros we got 110 volt wire pushed up to the thing and we hooked up to the thing and went through all the houses and they got penicillin. We had penicillin to spare. It annoys me when a lot of people think we raped women when we were overseas. That annoys me intensely because I was with Maxie Thomas one day and we’d got some lovely quarter pound
Cadbury blocks of chocolate. We were walking out one evening and a lovely Italian women, I suppose in her thirties with two young kids, and Max and I broke a piece off each and gave it to the kids. It didn’t work that way. It annoys me. A lot of that’s gone on, particularly the war, accusing war people. Half of them were on our side anyway. I’ve had lunch with
Major Mariotti. He had a shot at me down in Sicily. We were bombing up near Messina. The Messina station were based in Sicily. The navy only shell a small village once because they remove it. There’s, what’s its name - no I’m getting mixed up somehow. This little village, anyhow they shelled that village and we were attacked by some Macchi 202s and some Focke
Wulfs. We got one of them. Ron Susans got one and Rex Laver who’s cousin of Rod Laver, the tennis player, he’s living up the coast here still with us. He got shot up. We both had Spitfire cover but really a cover’s no good. It’s really only a bluffing effect because you can’t stop another aircraft going twice your speed going down near you. If you’re only firing straight ahead you can’t turn, it has
an effect. Anyway we got one of those and they shot one of us up. Subsequently Major Marriotti was on Mount Vesuvius aerodrome flying their Cobras for our side. You don’t see that much in history books. It’s written up in 3 Squadron. But he was in charge of us and Wing Commander Westlake was our wing commander flying in a wing,
which is a collection of squadrons. A group would be a collection of wing. You go squadron leader, wing commander, group commander. You have a wing commander flying. He does a bit of flying with the other squadrons just to see how they’re going and the group captain doesn’t really fly much. He’s done a fair whack anyway I guess at that stage. Wing Commander Westlake was in charge of them. He was on our side of the representation. Major Mariotti was there. I was invited up there and I went up there and had lunch with them.
It’s a typical salesman’s lunch from 11 o’clock until three with accordion music and red wine. He didn’t speak much English but we recalled this episode. “Yes” he said “Spitfires are no good. Navy boom boom Malazo.” That was the name of the little place. So he was part of that mob.
back to 3 Squadron. So they put me in like a Tiger Moth aircraft with a Gypsy engine in it and it’s in amongst vineyards and it’s had a wood tail wheel because they didn’t have good access to spares. And I get into the front cockpit and the pilot gets in the back. I’m going to be flown to Foggia near Naples. So we started up. Anyway the aircraft are very hard to steer. The Tiger Moth doesn’t have
brakes. They do in Canada because they’ve got ice and things which helps a bit. It doesn’t help much. Next thing we veered into the vineyard and the prop only spins slowly and there’s grapes going up in there air and this bloke in the back’s yelling “Contacto!” I’ve got the switch to shut it off and I don’t know. So that aircraft wasn’t much good to do what we wanted to do. So they got another cockpit one, low wing
little two seater. We take off to go to Foggia. This thing, the terrain is climbing a little bit too and this thing wasn’t climbing as fast as the terrain was climbing so we had to go back and circle and get there. We finally went over the top of the rise there inland from Naples. We’re coming in to land at Naples. Now a ground loop is when an aircraft does a loop on the ground.
It can only go horizontally. In other words, you lose control either in the design - Wirraway do it if you don’t lock the tail wheel on landing. You’ve got to lock on the tail wheel. Otherwise you can ground loop and it’s a hard thing to control. You really need to put on power to get effect on your rudder because your brakes are not able to control it. Anyway this thing had to brake levers and you work them differentially. When you’re taxiing along you can steer.
Anyway we got into the Foggia area and there’s a twin engine coming in and a Gossamer or Baltimore or something like that. It’s coming in and it’s secondary with us. Foggia’s a big grassed area. When we come into land, we don’t know where this other thing is, and as we land it starts to ground loop. This bloke’s pulling these twin things and trying to stop it ground looping and he
did what only an Italian would do. He threw his arms in the air and said, “Mama mia”. The thing did a great ground loop and the other thing landed about 300 metres further on. But you know any Australian, any pilot really, would have never quit in that. Obviously the brake was having some effect. Anyway, that was that. So I flew back to the squadron. My
rest tour is probably interesting. You do your tour, as I said it’s 200 hours or 150 and you’re given about a nine month rest tour. At the end of my 3 Squadron was a bit interesting too I suppose. When I got up and I was flight commander for six months and when I got up near my 200 hours I put in permission to do
a voluntary 50 hour extension. This was granted, so I continued on. When I had - I then became a squadron leader. I was never made CO of 3 Squadron which I thought was a bit miserable. I’d been there 14 months. I’d come from flight sergeant to squadron leader in 14 months and I was a squadron leader. I wasn’t acting squadron leader to my knowledge. This was because I was going elsewhere that I didn’t know.
I think I realised. But anyway I’ve got 15 minutes left of that 50 hours and I’m confident in my own self that I can get a Kittyhawk off the ground in much less than 15 minutes so we were on this PSP, perforated steel planking, over sand. You have a little road that you can’t go off in a Kitty because they just go straight down. I’m in my Kittyhawk leading 3 Squadron off for what is going to be
my last op and squad leader, Derek Scanlon, the doctor, drove in front of me on this PSP, switched off and got out and walked away. So a little conversation ensued subsequently on the thingo. That’s why my logbook reads 149 hours 45 minutes. We were still good friends after that. See, he could have saved my life. He could have, quite simply. Can’t argue it.
Anyway I got sent up to mobile operations unit as a sector commander in that because of my knowledge of the whole area half way up Italy. I got sent up on to Rover David or Cab Rank. This is being used today. It’s being used in Iraq. We pioneered it. Group Captain Hasham RAF, he pioneered it in the desert. What you did, you had what they called a cab rank. When the army were going to push they would ask for
this cab rank and you would have say from ten o’clock to twelve o’clock tomorrow that six aircraft would come over with bombs on and an alternative target which wasn’t important or you’d go and bomb it. You wouldn’t take your bombers back if they weren’t needed. They would patrol for half an hour or something and someone else would come and they’d be directed by Rover David. You could use the word, Rover David. You could use Rover Jack. And you would have a jeep and a radio operator.
And an army liaison officer would have a jeep and his radio operator and he would be your connection to that thing that the army up there is going to push. Now when you gave a target, the special bomb line, you were going to bomb within two or three hundred metres of your own troops. So you had to be very careful you got the information up there what the target was. They may not crop up, but they’d go away in half an hour and somebody else’d come over.
So you’d have like a street directory and there might be five houses near a fork in the road up there in the German side. They’re hiding tanks behind there and the army wants to push. You would say to the thing, “Tell me what you see on square nine z” and you’d say “the fork” - he’d be visible. And he’d say “There’s four or five houses there
near a fork on the road” and he’d say “Those houses are hiding tanks, will you bomb them?” So he would do it. You didn’t choose a place that you could necessarily see the area. That’s getting a bit dicey because the moment you spoke they shelled you if you were in shelling range because they knew your voice and knew it was all about. So I chose a villa in Rome. They are enormous these buildings. They own the whole area.
It was on land near Gioiella in Umbria near Lake Castiglione, near Orvieto. It’s in land about the size that a sporting oval would build and own the land around it. That’s about the size this mansion is. Two storeys. Had it’s own chapel, it’s own laundry, billiard room, you name it.
I drove my jeep straight up the front stairs of this into the beautiful chandelier in the session. Now if you ask me why I did that you’ll get a silly answer of course because it looked like rain but it was a sensible thing to do. Jeeps go up stairs quite nicely and the other bloke took his jeep up. We proceeded to go up to the attic, I actually took some tiles off and got out on the roof and looked and my army bloke castigated me a bit
for spoiling the roof. The Germans had pulled out 24 hours ago. The servants were still in the building and also the owner, unbeknown to us and anyone - see you had no sophisticated devices in those days to check on anything. There was a 500 kilogram aircraft bomb in the basement. At three o’clock
it blew up. Three of us lived out of thirty. I went over there in 1999, found a person that as a four year old boy had seen that blow up and does it impress a four year old kid? You tell a kid a house has blown up and he forgets it in 10 seconds. You let him see it go up. And I also found a young woman who had gone past there looking for a relative and was invited in by the owners or the owners’ children, the adult children - late teenage children -
for a drink. She refused because of time and she’s alive today. The owner’s daughter was killed. Had a lovely letter from the brother who’s a solicitor in Italy. We found it. Three out of thirty.
and we sent some lovely cakes that are made locally with nuts, they’re beautiful, sent a couple of those over. The girl that had looked after us, woman she was, Janet Dethie, she held a little party there and the press came and they wrote it up in two editions of the local press. The thing that impressed the Italians - getting off that subject but into the Italian side of things - about the Americans was the whiteness of their bread. Still remember 60 years afterwards,
the whiteness. See all their bread I think’s made from wholemeal, it’s all the same beige colour. You never find white. The very whiteness of it, that was interesting. All I had in my log book was a 26,000 feet PR photo taken of that area and it was taken eight days before it blew up. I didn’t know where it was. I knew I could find it because I was evacuated from
Orvieto, so I knew it was further north than shelling distance. I leased a chalet over there for a week and I was lucky in that - oh it’s a terribly involved story. Italians don’t chase a person with the post even if he’s gone. They don’t do the thing like we do in Australia. I chose the chalet because the owner was an Englishman and lived above it.
So I thought, he’s not silly, he speaks English and he obviously speaks a good grip of Italian because I didn’t know his name, I wrote to the proprietor. This was my lucky day because they then took it to this girl who was managing it. The Englishman had gone home to England I suppose. They would never have got in touch with him. Anyway Janet Dethie came and I showed her this copy of the map I took. She said “My God I drive that road
every day”. So we found that and my doings inspired her to write a book which is in my house. I’m in it about a dozen times - only as a link. Not about me, it’s about the army and there. It’s a lovely book. She came out, we got her out here. Wonderful girl. She’s lived ten years in Italy. She is an interpreter, full interpreter for quality books and she wrote this book. After she’d gone back from here she said,
“I found two more New Zealanders”. She’s chasing the New Zealanders too because the Australians didn’t go through in Italy. They went home from up north. But the New Zealand army went through. The New Zealand army I think opened the Bank of Bologna. It had closed doors and they opened it in the traditional method. Janet came out here and when she went back to England she got in touch with me afterwards and said, “I found two more New Zealanders in
Australia that were over there. One’s at Gold Coast and one’s at Mount Surprise.” Mount Surprise I think has a population of 20 people on picnic race day. When you think of it, those people were in Italy 20 years before Janet was born. Isn’t it incredible how these people get in and get their teeth into a thing? Makes you wonder. I did that. I got evacuated in a hospital. It was 14 days or ten.
It was front gunnery. The Americans are funny like that. Either give good scores or nothing. The difficulty of that is you’re flying aircraft you’re not used to and you’re flying a different kind, Spitfire and Hurricane. I was used to Kitties and they were quite different. They just paint - four of you fire on the one target in turn. They just put different colour paint on your bullets and then it goes through the cloth and leaves a paint mark.
I got back then and I was actually posted to 3 Squadron. Posted via headquarters to take command of 3 Squadron but the group captain, Eaton who I admire greatly, he was a real all rounder, he’s dead now, but he sent me to take over 450 cause he reckoned I could handle them.
There was nothing wrong with 450 except perhaps that they had blown up the officers’ mess in Sicily with gelignite. What you did when you got liquor overseas - you bought it, you could arm a few blokes and take it if you wanted to, no short of armoury. You paid for it and a bit of haggling. Because you get a greater volume of beer than you do in spirits you usually give the beer to the ground staff and the officers
take the spirits and if there’s enough the ground staff will get an odd bottle of whisky or gin or whatever because we weren’t miserable. But the distribution didn’t work out as it should have apparently. The officers mess’ - it’s called the officers’ mess or the pilots’ mess - Australians introduced, I think they never had any other in the 39- 45 war, the pilots were all together whether you were a sergeant pilot or not. This is silly. You’re in the bomber and the captain in charge of the bomber can be a sergeant pilot and you’ve got a flight lieutenant
navigating. He’s in charge of it. It’s silly because you should talk to one another. It’s a group thing. The more cohesive and that the better you get on and you understand the other people and whatever. Any rate… I’ve lost the track.
didn’t lose - nearly lost a bomber there at Scotty. They lost one in the final. I’m going to mention this because there was a case that studied it and they were exonerated about three months before the end of the war. Let me start again. There’s a German aircraft, the Fieseler Storch. It’s one of the best aircraft in the world of its time. A light runabout. Very short landing and take off. It’s
the right size and holds, I don’t know how many, four or six people. Single engine. And anyone who’s ever captured on the Allied side is the top brass there. You’ve got it cause you’re moving about planes you see and it’s safe to do so. You’d paint roundels on it as large as you could all over it. About three months before the end of the war - this is written up in 3 Squadron’s official history - there were some
top brass that went to fly into Germany to negotiate a ceasefire. One can guess who they were. There’d be a senior American, a senior British, a senior Italian and whatever, secretary, note taker, something else. They were escorted by 3 Squadron flying Mustangs. That aircraft
was shot down in flames by an American flying a Mustang. You cannot recognise the aircraft you are flying. Twelve aircraft can’t stop one aircraft doing that. You can’t, if it’s done suddenly and that’s what they do. They just fire at you and take a squirt and then just deviate. I’ve seen them personally shoot at Colonel Wilmott test flying a Kittyhawk over the top of his aerodrome. I heard these machine guns
that I’m familiar with the sound of and looked up and here’s smoke coming out of the American aircraft that’s just deviated like that and pressed the button and gone back to Foggia or wherever it’s going. At one stage the wing was 20 miles from the bomb line. It’d been there six months. It was on the coast if you can’t map read a coast even in snow you can map read a coast. It doesn’t alter. It was there. This was attacked
by an American aircraft which strafed them. They killed the air sea rescue pilot who was based with us. They’ve got to be based somewhere. They’re not a complete unit. They don’t hold, they get base with someone who can do their instrument work and whatever. They have a fitter and a rigger for the engine and the air frame to do that. They killed the air sea rescue pilot who’d been plucking Americans out of the Adriatic when they came back from bombing and they shot up the aerodrome.
One of our staff got a mention in despatches for dropping a bomb off a burning aircraft and taking it away. I wasn’t on the squadron then. Next day when the top brass flew up, two aircraft flew up from down Foggia way and I think they came in a Mustang and some of my ground staff painted a
roundel round the canopy of the Mustangs. If you shot Germans down you painted a swastika and you painted a roundel round the CO’s thingos. There was hell to pay over that. That’s not in the - I don’t think that’s really well known. That was appalling. Killed the air sea rescue pilot. There’s 70, 100 aircraft all with roundels on them sitting there and they
shoot the things up and then just took off. No, that’s bad to do. It’s called friendly fire and it’s still going on.
exhibitionists or whatever. You had 99 Squadron, SBS [Special Broadcasting Service] ran a documentary on this. They usually do it every year. 99 Squadron it was Major Davies’ negro squadron. Their call sign was - I’ll get it in a minute … No. They had Thunderbolts and they had
Mustangs and they all talk and they go through everything. Someone might say, we might be flying and someone might say, “Shabby, bogey aircraft five o’clock high”. And if I’d seen them I’d say, “Okay”. If I hadn’t I’d just say “Watch them”. That’d indicate that I hadn’t seen them but Americans will chat. “Translake” was their call sign. One of them
would call up and say, “Hello Translake, green one. My ships been hit in the tail and I’m going home.” And Translake red one would say, “Hello Translake red one, boy we’re all a coming with you”. We’d just click you know you might say “Yellow two I’ve been hit” something like that. There’s no chattering going on. They used to - 99 Squad - they would
fly at 15000 feet as the Yanks seemed stuck on and they’d bomb through us. It only happened once and really you couldn’t hit another aircraft if you tried, but it could be hit accidentally. But it’s not comfortable knowing those blokes up there are going to bomb much the same target as we are and they are going to dive bomb and they’re going to pull out over us and their bombs going to leave the aircraft and go down. Of course they don’t hit anything. There’s no accuracy at that height. You just put your gun sight on the target and then at the bottom
you pull out a certain amount. You can do it at various rates. You can then let go of your bomb because your bomb’s going to go in that trajectory, it’s going to fall short. You always bomb along a railway line or along a bridge, so if you’re short that way. Talking about that, we had a situation that arose in 450 squadron, or with Kittyhawk squadron, that we were losing blokes in the air.
They were blowing up. 88 millimetres can blow you up, but I’ve never known anyone blown up with it. We always think of it as sabotage. It lowered the morale a bit. We were putting seals on the petrol tanks in case somebody had put a pressure sensitive thing that went off. We lost a few of it with that one. I can remember in my log book, a rather sad thing,
I’ve written “Warrant Officer Denholm seen in the inverted position at 3000 feet minus support wing”. That was pretty hopeless. English bombs, we now found out, were exploding during the bomb dive. It’s a rather complicated thing. You can briefly say it was doing this because the English bomb was not meant to be carried
in contact with three and four and five and six hundred kilometres an hour wind. It was meant to be carried inside an aeroplane with bomb doors folded round it to make it nice and aerodynamic. It was something to do with a sort of a nut on the front of the bomb. The nut had little blades on it so that when it encounters fast air it will unwind itself and let the rest of the thing be driven in when it hits
the ground. You have a little sheer wire going across, usually made of thing copper or something so there’s enough strength to cut it, it sheers it off. It’s a scientific little thing. The diameter’s got to be right, and if you drop your bombs safe, there’s a little cable goes from that little pin to your aircraft. If you drop the bomb safe that releases this cable up here.
It falls with the bomb and that little pin’s still doing its job. Hopefully won’t go off when it hits the ground. It’s relatively so thick you could drop them low but there’s always an element, but this thing, when you arm them, this then hangs over this little wire at the top and it pulls out when the bomb leaves and that spins off. I think what was happening, in the bomb dive that very speed you were going
was really spinning that thing off and winding the - in the dive before you released the bomb it was winding the - if you hold a nut still and wind it off the bolt, the bolt’ll move. It was winding it into that. We were getting them going off in the bomb dive. That’s what I think killed that bloke that went on his last op. And I had one episode that is highly documented. I was in my bomb dive and
a couple of seconds after I released my bomb it exploded. We didn’t realise that. In my logbook it says I’ve got akak 128 millimetre with a question mark in the original thing. The blast was seen from top cover in line with my aircraft. My aircraft got about 22 holes in the left hand side.
The other two bombs went way to the right. Bombs only vary fore and aft if you release them too soon or too late. I was probably within another two seconds the other way and I’d have exploded. In view of that when you look back on some we probably lost three or four people in that same way. Might well have lost that bloke that went on his first op.
He might have either had too much petrol in his fuselage tank, altered his centre of gravity. He should have used it more first and may not have. Or one of those bombs could have gone off like that. It was eventually discovered that was the reason we used the American bomb which is quite happy in different - and I learnt later that those later British bombs we were having trouble with they were also meant to be used as a mine somehow. So some of that mechanism may not have been compatible with what we were doing. We were doing
things that shouldn’t have been done with bombs. Travelling at six or seven hundred kilometres an hour with a bomb exposed to the most of the wind.
drogue is for. You tow a drogue and someone shoots at it. It’s a windsock. It was put on rear gunnery. What you do, you have a Fairy Battle flying along there with a long tail line down there and there’s a drogue flying behind it. What you have to do is, you overtake that drogue and you throttle back and let it overtake you and that gives you the deflection shooting with a gunner, because you’ve got to aim in front of it there
at a certain time or aim behind the back of it, overtaking you and whatever. You do that. The easiest way to do that if you’re a pilot flying with a gunner, the drogue is behind you so rather than look round there and fly on the drogue, your relative positions, you look where the towing aircraft is so you sneak up a bit of the towing aircraft and you drop back a bit and you sneak up and you drop back and you have a look occasionally that you’re relatively in the right position and that’s all right. I’d done this thing
and the gunner, how he got and told me with thingie he’d finished. I looked over at the drogue and there’s an Airacobra formatting on it. An American, he’s seen the drogue and was formatting on it just for something to do. It’s being shot at. I mean a drogue has one purpose in life, to be shot at, nothing else. And he’s formatting with Airacobra on it.
Hard to believe isn’t it really? They were putting Airacobras down all the way between Casino and Evans Head because they couldn’t find New Guinea. You keep the Pacific on your right and Australia to your left. They were flying up and down south. With a dry shield undercart you could do that. Put them down the road. They were putting them down there and coming up to Evans Head. Couldn’t find the aerodrome anywhere. It’s right under there. You couldn’t win a war without their productivity.
I got this Kittyhawk made be a gentleman who’s won national competitions in the assembly of these things. On that side of course you see the “CVL”. That is 3 Squadron, the CV, and I always flew hell for leather whenever I could, and that’s the camouflage of the desert. Then if you turn it round
on this side you’ll see “OKL”. OK was the thing of 450 and they’re in the different colour camouflage cause they’re European. And the serial numbers of that particular aircraft are correct on either side. Now the wing tips, they’re under a lot of screws there. See, Spitfires had clipped wings.
You can remove a whole lot of Phillips screws and take that wing tip off and the other side. We had a couple of wooden ones made that are mirror image and we put them on. This was after the war because you’ve got to keep people busy otherwise they get into mischief. We did that and I flew it. I led the desert air force flight path in it. There’s an official photograph in the air of me leading with this thing. When I had this thing made - this incidentally took a year to
make. Two months searching for the right colour white. I love these fanatics. I led the air force flight path in it and when I talked to this modeller and talked about the clipped wing Kittyhawk he said, “I’ve got a plan of it”. Isn’t it interesting how the modellers get hold - not official. He showed me the plan of it.
That’s it. It’s with the two 500 pound bombs in the belly tank. It’s the latest model with no bar down there. I did a little three way cross country when the war finished. As I say, you’ve got to keep people working a bit, not heavily. I did a little three way competition
and I flew my clipped wing Kitty over the Alps and put it at 10000 feet over Munich, just in case someone had kept an 88 millimetre in his backyard, I thought 10000 was a nice friendly height. And then flew back to Berchtesgaden, not knowing anything. It was a three way there from Eden there to Munich/München and Berchtesgaden and back. I just took them over to show that we’d arrived. I’ll stick it over here.
Beautifully correct that thing. You’ve no idea. The Japs are turning out beautiful things. All the rivets and everything on them. Beautiful.
to come down low you could talk to them. They knew about that too. You had the old saying, “The higher, the fewer”. We could have said, “The lower, the more afraid” no doubt. I had an interesting thing, it was a subsequent thing, there was a jet aircraft coming down over on the seaboard of Italy, the Adriatic Coast,
then flying along the bomb line to the other side and going back. The Spitties could get to it alright, but it would beat them downhill because the jets were not fast. The potential was obvious, but they were not fast. They were heavy and the heavier you go downhill faster. They couldn’t get to them so I was assigned to go across to 3 Squadron - I was in 450 - and get one of their Mustangs.
Wing Commander Westlake came up with me and what we did, we reduced some of the weight of the Mustang by leaving some of the ammo out and not taking much petrol cause they’ve got a good range without it. We had six Kittyhawks, Spitfires at 20,000 feet and we went up to 30,000 feet till we started making paper trails and then we dropped down a bit. Then the wing commander
got a bit of sinus headache and we started to come down. Then we got sent back again. I’m a bit wrong there. We didn’t start to come down. The wing commander went home and I stayed up there. But then we got sent up again before we got down very far. This plot was found to be friendly. So
I came home at about the speed of sound. It was very interesting. I didn’t get any of that porpoising but I wasn’t at that speed, didn’t want to. Came back and that was alright. But I’ve been in touch with Russell Brown who’s written Desert Warriors. I’m just getting the end of that book because I had three operations in it in Africa. He’s well into the second one now in which I’ll probably feature a bit more prominently from the other one. And the
German in charge of that whole operation of the chaps who are doing PR work is resident in South Australia and is doing that for quite a while. So I know his name and I think I’ll get in touch with him and tell him he was a bit of a wuss because he didn’t come down when we went up there looking for him. I think he’s probably got an Australian sense of humour now that he’s been out here a fair while. Might be interesting.
live with Americans, their food is soft and pappy and in the long haul you end up really liking the hard stuff. Perhaps not of the moment. Americans have coffee and everything else. The British got good in the end. They had packs. I think they were seven people for one day or one person for seven days. They had a bit of everything. They were a complete solid menu. They were quite good but it varied with what you could buy.
We used to go out and scrounge and then buy food and buy alcohol and that sort of thing. I think we got the mess drunker for three and sixpence in Italy at one stage because the little peroni [?], the little over the centre bottles where the cork goes over and you press the little thing down. They were I think threepence halfpenny something on the bottle and I think you got threepence on the bottle. I’d say we got
the mess drunk for about three and sixpence, exaggerating it a bit. No, we’d send the truck away. That’s how I got my staff car. They only gave me a jeep to get round doing my duties in Italy in the snow. It had no hood on it, just a plain thing. I think I showed you how ultimately I did get a body put on it with
panel beating tin and iron found in a rubbish heap. My ground crew did it for me, but then I decided I should have a better transport than that so I picked a Sydney taxi driver and asked him to grab a mate, take a truck which we called the Gary, and put what equipment you needed to get me a vehicle. So he shot off up near the Austrian borders
and there was a car pool up there. No, they went through some border or some block and the English are very impecunious in their operations. Fair enough. They were hard up. They would only get three or four days leave. And then you’d go down to the local Peroni [?]. Might be a day’s hitchhiking to a NAAFI [Navy, Army, Air Force Institute, British Military stores] and get in a queue and get a beer and drink it and go down the end of the queue again. You’ve got to admire them
that way. They were good toilers. They worked differently to we did. They found one of the Redcaps [military police]. That’s the British police on this boundary thing. So they gave him an orange or an apple and had a bit of a yarn with him and went on. They came to this car pool. I don’t know the finer details but I know there was a shot fired. Probably not in anger. They grabbed an Oldsmobile. You had to be careful what
motor vehicle you got. It had to take 600 by 16 tyres. That was the common tyre in those days. Jeeps took it, a lot of the American cars took it. They shot off and there was a shot fired, not necessarily at them, but then they came to this bloke on the thingo again. He remembered the orange and went through.
They went behind an international railway station and spray painted the car. I told you I picked a taxi driver from Sydney to take what he wanted. I’m not condemning taxi drivers but they’re versatile people when required, same as I am at times. They painted it up and we got it back to squadron and we put the crest on it and put a number plate on it. It was my staff car. It wasn’t abused. It was necessary.
When I disbanded 450 at the end of the war I was offered from two different sources 2000 pounds sterling - what was the basic wage then? One sterling a week or something like that? Something like that. It was phenomenal. One of the offers was from the Vatican. I didn’t sell it. I walked away from it.
But if I had sold it I might have been the one time owner of the first pope mobile. It would have been quite an honour I think. I walked away from it. I don’t know where it is now.
This should really come at the finish but you don’t know where the finish is. One of our 3 Squadron members, he was an older person and he drank a bit and he smoked, but he did two tours and he got a DFC and he earned it and he was a flight commander. He was put on training flight after his first tour in 3 Squadron and he was drinking with a town major. I might explain,
the town major is the person who takes hold of a town when you capture it. He’s usually an army - he’s invariably an army person obviously, he’s usually a major, but he’s called the town major and he would take the place of the mayor of the town. He gets the sewerage going and all piping and water and all those sort of things, hospitals going. My friend, Natter, we’ll call him Natter - he was drinking with the town major in a pub and there was some mild screaming
from upstairs and this town major said, “Natty, your pilots are annoying my staff up there” or something. So Natty punched him in the jaw, which is not a good thing to do particularly with a senior officer, or more senior than you are. So he was court martialled and dismissed with ignominy. Which I think means tearing the buttons off. AnywayGgroup Captain Eaton got hold of that, he was good on red tape and he was good in the air too so he was a good all rounder. Really worthwhile bloke in this situation.
For heavens’ sake you’ve got to be practical in some things. Anyway we redid him and he was then reduced in rank. He was sent to me. They reckoned I could handle him. He wasn’t hard to handle. He was okay. He did a full second tour and I made him a flight commander eventually. He got a DFC which he deserved. When the war finished
things did get a bit less form. You had good top brass there because you had some of them had operated in India and they were interesting characters. They were good. We had a semi formal gathering and Pussy Foster who was in charge of things there, he’s making a bit of casual comment and we’re not standing stiffly to attention and he said, “I hear the troops are going back by train down to Cairo.
Going down to the end of Italy and then taking a thing”. Incidentally I was posted home through Austria. But it got squashed because poor England nearly sank with all the POWs [Prisoners of War] coming out of Germany and you have to feed them, billet them and all that sort of thing. The Americans picked up the first thing that’d float and went home quickly as they could. Pussy Foster said, “How are the troops going back?”
We pointed out they were going by train down to the end of Italy and across by boat to Egypt. And he said, “Who’s in charge of the train?” just for something to say. Group Captain Eaton said, “Flight Lieutenant Foster, sir, a bloke that we have resurrected from a court martial”. Pussy Foster went a few shades of red and white and said, “Who put him in charge?” I said, “I did, sir”. That was alright. That ended but I subsequently learnt that
Natter when we’d disbanded properly got hold and drew all the rations for the trip right down the length of Italy and he immediately flogged the sugar for beer. They climbed aboard the train and proceeded down near the Adriatic coast and when they came to a suitable beach he halted the train and they had a barbecue. I believe the Orient Express had nothing on that train trip. It’s spoken of quite a bit.
But it wouldn’t actually be consciously used as a weapon?
No. No we didn’t use that in those days. Only thing, rockets - I haven’t fired the rockets. I’ve only ever fired a cannon from an aircraft. I borrowed one of the South Africans’ Spitfires with a cannon and offered him a flight in my Kittyhawk which he steadfastly refused. They really didn’t have a good name. There’s nothing wrong with them. They’re just not so gentle as other aircraft. They don’t give you warning of things
that might be detrimental to your health. We did the same, we flew across the Mediterranean to Malta too when we left. That was good fun too because we headed off into the unknown, invaded another country and all by yourself up in a Kittyhawk. Not much boot room in a Kittyhawk so some people left out a bit of ammo.
Put some bottles of beer there. A lot of us put our bed roll, our swag, on the bomb rack. The average swag is not accustomed to being about 400 kilometres an hour for an hour and 20 or something and every extra circuit you did of Malta you could lose another blanket. Even so, the edges of your bed linen were a bit frayed on some of them.
But as I say we got there and we never thought anything of it. We actually landed on three different aerodromes at Malta on that first day. It was a good place not to be. You wouldn’t want to have a forced landing there. The locals there don’t have, the farming community there, big trucks or that to cart stones around and tip them over the nearest cliff into the sea when they’re clearing the land for tilling it. They build a fence out of it. If you have a forced landing at
Malta about every 20 or 30 metres you’re going to go through a rock fence and that’s not a good thing. I didn’t have a single forced landing in my entire career except a Fairy Battle in Evans Head. Only forced landing I had.
We put that in there and that was handy because you get an aircraft damaged on an aerodrome and maybe it gets fixed up in that aerodrome later and you move forward you might have to go back x number of kilometres to pick it up when it’s ready. That hundred, hundred and fifty, ninety kilometres you have to go back, it’s mountainous and it’s snowy and you’ve got horse drawn vehicles, you’ve got mud, you’ve got army, you’ve got civilians
with a limited thingo and it might take you three quarters of a day to get back there. With the Eaton Hawk you just threw a pilot in the back seat and flew him back and in three quarters of an hour, back home. Just flies the aircraft back. It’s useful that way. We subsequently got an Auster which is a twin seater light aircraft high wing little monoplane used for spotting. We got hold of one of those that was damaged. I forget whether the wing
or the fuselage was damaged. It didn’t matter. We subsequently found a RSU, a repairing service unit, that had another Auster on thingo whatever and it had a good body that we needed or the wing. The wing, I think. So we just swapped and they don’t care. They’ve got the same thing on strength. Two of my English pilots, Matt Walters and I forget the other one, they more or less did it up with the help of
the ground staff doing technical stuff. They worked on it. We got it flying. I made it a rule that no two pilots could go up together. You had to take a ground staff if you took someone. See, the single engine don’t get a chance to fly. The ground staff rarely leave the ground. I had a funny episode before it had finished. I had an English engineering officer. He’d been a cadet. You can imagine how strict he was and everything in his training.
Everything for engineering, and it’s high in aeronautics anyway. He came to me one night in the mess and he said, “We got a problem with the Auster, sir”. I said, “What’s your problem?” “The A line cables don’t fit this new wing we’ve got.” I said, “What’s wrong with them? Are they too long or are they too short?” He said, “They’re too long”. “Why don’t you tie a knot in them?” This to a bloke who’s working in the thousandth of an inch in those days.
He didn’t know what to say, poor beggar. Really. We sorted it out.
if it’s waxed. They waxed it and the cabin was pressurised. You had no armament. The petrol tank was in the wings. That was called the, not the flying petrol tank. That is a beautiful machine. Then of course we met one of PR bloke in Italy. He’d been over - what they used to do is take off for England at breakfast and fly over
to Italy in lunch and back to England by evening meal, taking photographs. But this bloke had bent his throttle forward so much because he found one of these - it was a rocket one, and this thing was doing head on attacks at him. It’s a bit disconcerting when you think you’re the fastest aircraft in the world and a bloke takes a head on attack at you, turns around and goes and gets ahead of you, turns around and another head on attack on you. It’s very demoralising. I think that might have happened to a
Mosquito because they’re fairly fast. It’s a funny one with the Mosquito. The Americans boast, same as everyone does, and there was an American twin aircraft there - Gossamer, something like that - and a Mosquito and they were heading to Malta. The American was boasting how fast his plane was and chatting about “You Limeys, how do you get around in that?” and it’s made of wood anyway, it’s all plywood. It was a Mosquito.
They all set off for Malta on the way to Cairo and the English bloke let the Yank take off fast and he climbed behind him and gradually lost, losing bits, when he got a fair way back he climbed and he climbed and he had a hell of a lot of height over the other bloke and he dived down behind him. You can get enormous speed when you dive down somewhere full bore and he feathered one engine before he went past him and here’s the
Mosquito goes past him on one engine. Got ahead far enough to unfeather it and keep ahead. I think the Mosquito was faster. But he really proved it on the spot.
should be. When I got out of that thing I could hardly stand up because my legs were sore from holding on to the rudder. You’ve still got to have a bit of power in the air flow coming back. You’ve got to fly a bit faster because you don’t know where the stalling speed is now until you try it out. I was fairly low down. I was strafing front ground troops up near the Alps in northern Italy. You just sort it out and if everything goes all right and all the
instruments are okay, your temperatures are right and oil pressure and various other things you just keep on going. Come back and pull it in and hope that things don’t drop off as you land. There was one funny one with a bomb dropping off. That brings it to my memory. When you’re flying off the perforated steel planking, the PSP, makes a bit of a noise too because it gets loose. I think they put, they grade the sand -
it’s usually done mainly on sand, and then put hessian down and then they put the PSP down and because of the weight of the aircraft you’ll get tracks in the take off thing. Not as defined as the motor car, but there are grooves, parallel dishes in the PSP all heading along in one direction of course and what the airmen do when you come in to land, they go up the far end of the runaway.
A single seater that’s a tail dragger, that you’ve got a tail wheel, not like your modern classical things, you can’t see where you’re going. So if you’ve got to taxi anywhere you’ve really got to weave and swing so you can look ahead. But the airmen go up the other end and they’ll get on and sit on your wing and they’ll just go like that, straight ahead, or left like that and they guide you back even though when you’re on PSP you’ve probably got a
coming back made of the same stuff. But they still go up there even though they may not be needed so much. It’s a tradition they go up there. Anyway all these fellas are clustered up the far end of the runway. One bloke came back - I forget which squadron it was, but one of three or 450. As he came back one of his bombs had hung up and he didn’t know it. Not that he could do anything. When he landed it dropped off. Now, a bomb
has no brakes and a Kittyhawk has. When you land you start to apply the brakes and steel on steel is a pretty slippery thing, because you look at the small incline that a steam engine train can’t get up. They got to get sand on front of the wheel. These airmen, these ground staff at the far end slowly became aware of some dark object preceding the Kittyhawk by a good margin cause the bloke really stood on his brakes when the bomb appeared
out from ahead of the wing because the wing bomb came off and he was braking and the bombs going faster and he really stood on the brakes then. But the blokes up the other end became aware of this thing proceeding towards them and slowly woke up what it was. It didn’t go off. It’d be fairly stable really. It caused a bit of consternation for the runaway mob.
minute left and if you bump that on accidentally when you enter the water you’ve got nothing left and you run out of air. It’s gone. Otherwise you’ve got a one and a half. I always found with my more or less private I call it Aqualung but it’s wrong because that’s patent. At my scuba private club in Sydney we all had twin bottles. You have 20 minutes in each bottle, have them connected, then you don’t even have to
check them for pressure cause you leave them in the shed for a month or a fortnight both turned off and they’re hooked together and sealed both off. You turn both on and if there’s a hissing noise from one air going into another you know one’s leaking. Just a tiny little thing, beep, like that. Or change of temperature whatever. You know they’re both the same pressure, haven’t even got to check them. When you put that on when you go in, you turn one on and leave it on and you go under water and in twenty minutes you run out of -
in forty minutes, it would have been about forty cubic feet, it’s worked differently now. We were only allowed 1800 pounds a square inch. I think they go higher. You have forty minutes more or less. Now, the human being can assess forty minutes. You don’t have to even know what a minute is. You can assess the period of time and assess a more or less equal period of time. But when you run out in forty minutes you turn the other bottle on that’s been turned off all the time and they sing across, your mates can hear it,
and they equalise. Now you got twenty minutes in each bottle, you turn that off then. When you run out again, the same. You’ve got ten minutes, you’ve got five minutes, you’ve got two and three quarters. You’ve got half the previous one all the way down. You can assess that without looking at a watch. Nowadays one and a half minutes Nowadays one and a half minute and she’s empty. Never swum with one bottle.
Then you could engage it into the engine. It would slowly turn the engine round. In the end it got a bit better because you had to start from hand start with ideally two crew. It would be possible to start it yourself if you were setting things correctly and chock the thing properly. In the end I had a tiny little pedal on the floor. You put your foot - doesn’t matter which - on the top of - you put your foot on -
it rocked like that, like a pedal on an organ or something. That used the electric power in the batteries to spin a little fly wheel and you could hear this little whine - cause the engine’s not far - that rose in a crescendo and got up that. When you got up to that and took your foot off the top of that and pushed the bottom of it there’s this hinge there could go like
that either way. You pushed the bottom of that with the toe of your foot from memory. That engaged that with the engine. At the same time it didn’t take off the electric power as well. So you still had that turning engine They just fired quite well. In the Spit you had a guy gas thing. You unscrewed the thing and did a pump and that put a spray of, like a fly spray of petrol into your induction manifold. They started quite happily.
There’s lots of cunning little tricks you can do. I usually get straight into my aircraft and start the engine. Wouldn’t do any checks at all. Lot of people get in and do all the checks and start your engine. Then you’ve got to wait till the oil gets to a certain temperature before you take off. So if you just get in and start your engine and then do all your petrol check, just turn the petrol and start it, that’s all, then check everything, you have a cockpit drill. It varies with the engine and the aircraft. Mine was PM
CRAFT. P for petrol. M for mixture. C for coolant. R for retractor and undercarriage. A for airscrew. F for flap and T for trim. You might have something else to do, lock your tail wheel in the wheelwright or something else. You just did PMCRAFT and that got everything. You didn’t have to use that, but you had to have some cockpit and then when you’re going round again you’d look at the petrol that you had enough and a few other things
In Sicily I got hold of a larynx mike either side of the Adam’s apple from the Americans. I used that. That was good because you could leave your oxygen mask to one side and it wasn’t so hot. It gets very hot in the Kittyhawk. You got this 1000, four or five hundred horse power from here to you in front of you churning out so there was no shortage
of heating and all the flame comes back at night. I landed a Hurricane at night. When you throttle back it all waffles over. You can see it on racing cars with a burst out the side of the exhaust. It comes back at you and you can’t see. Some aircraft you’ll see a little piece of metal going back there that keeps them under there visibly blocks it.
The taking off’s interesting. We did one job on Forli . It’s mentioned in one of those things there. They were a couple of hundred kilometres behind the line, Forli aerodrome. We were way down Fano or Pissaro or somewhere. I forget where. So many different places. I think 450 ended up about 50 or 60 places all told from way back near Egypt.
Our flare path would be large tins of fruit - pineapple or prunes or whatever of a commercial size, emptied normally. Fill them with sand and put some petrol in. I did one. I only did about two different take offs at night. One of them I went and took off first and went out and blew out every second sort of flare which inconvenienced some of the later ones coming off, but I was alright.
We took off at dawn. I didn’t lead this though. I was the deputy leader. Ken Watts led it. We were attacking Forli aerodrome which was about 200 kilometres behind the bomb line. It was in from Rimini which is a bit south of Venice. Remeny there was a dead straight plane line went up to Forli. We took off in the dark and we
went out to sea. We were on the Adriatic coast. This was really exciting. We had 12 Kittyhawks all leaving a wake on the Adriatic. We were radar dodging. It was really good. It made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It was a wonderful sight. We were out of sight of land, flat out on the water and we made land fall at Remeny. We flew up the railway line at the North Sea.
We overtook and passed over the top of an electric train. You’ve no idea the appeal of an electric train. When you hit them they all give off blue sparks at 600 volts worldwide they operate on and then anything that hits them is guaranteed to let off great blue sparks. We went straight over the top of this train. I don’t know what he thought. Must have given him a hell of a fright because we were low. We got into Forli and we got stuck into the aerodrome.
That’s where I got nicked with eight little anti aircraft perimeter defence things around the perimeter. We didn’t lose Wally Hogg. He got shot down, got back, but then we couldn’t find the train on the way back although we didn’t look really hard because we were a long way from home and had belly tanks on. We dropped those just before we attacked the aerodrome.
Went back to Rimini and belted up a few boats there that we’d spotted on the harbour coming over, all from North Sea and went out to sea again, came back. That was like going from here to Tenterfield down the road. Down the road, away behind the lines, along the ground.
see you lose track of the day. I find that even when I’m retired that while I’m still active in a lot of things that sometimes you don’t know what day it is because you’re retired and you don’t need so much. Then days don’t mean anything at all. Nothing. So you don’t have a good overview of the passing of time really because of that. I always wore
boots. I got hold of some English army putties I think. The ones you wrap round. When we went into Sicily we got into the, what do they call them? The equivalent of a NAAFI, the American pack or something, the stores. And I got hold of a lovely pair of -
they were really orthopaedic boots. They fitted your feet beautifully. I got hold of some pigskin gloves which are really working gloves. They were pigskin. I got hold of a loose American style jacket. It was a conventional looking straight jacket. It came down fairly low because I’m a bit tall and there’s always a gap behind when you’re sitting down in an aircraft particularly and you get a bit hot and sweaty and a lot of wind going round
and whatever. I got one of those. It was a loosely fitting thing. I got these boots and I always flew in long trousers and long sleeves. I flew in gloves because I reckoned if you had to go through flames and baling out even a bit of newspaper would give you a little bit of protection. I never flew in shorts even in the summer in the desert.
I got hold of these gloves and I also thought I needed the support that if I came down in the parachute jump being only about as heavy as I am now -I’m in the lightweight scale for my height - the support there round the ankles meant you didn’t break an ankle and you could move about and do things. I always did that. I’ve still got the gloves I flew with.
I wore out about two or three pairs of gloves. The ones I have now are dense gloves made in England, a top supreme glove. They’re really a social glove. You’re not meant to be shooting people with them but they still go with my uniform. They’re still legal.
because we do it occasionally. You get someone with a bit of rank, he writes his name and his rank around the side of his cockpit. I think that’s terribly silly because if he goes down behind the line and the plane is not destroyed and he makes his escape, if you find there’s a colonel or a lieutenant colonel or a wing commander or a group captain or whatever there’s going to be a bit of a harder search for that bloke. I think it’s silly. I never did that.
Also, if you’re carrying a 38 revolver, when you come down, if you do, behind the lines… I never did. you’ve got to make a decision whether you’re going to hold onto that weapon or you’re going to get rid of. You’ve got better things to do than make that decision and find a place to get rid of it or whatever. So I made myself a shoulder holster and that jacket I told you was a shapeless type of jacket and it just fitted straight over it and if I came down behind the lines I would
make the decision whether I’d take the revolver out and throw it away or keep it. I didn’t have to conceal it because you’d probably get picked up by civilians first and they’d probably help you. We had one person, Arthur Kyer, he took his revolver. See, then you’ve got to get rid of your belt or part of it. I just didn’t do that at all. He got down and put his revolver in his pocket, but put it in upside-down and he was felt like that…
they never even picked it up. I think they mightn’t have been very serious. Might have been going to help him anyway from the word go. No, you want to pre-think those things and not have to worry about something that you should worry about once and only prior to a certain operation.
crest. They don’t seem to have it in some other countries. In America you can put anything on your kite and make your own thing. In 3 Squadron in the desert we did have what we thought to be our own symbol. It was a shape of a conventional classic shield in desert sand colours and a cross on it and an eagle with a bomb on it.
We didn’t know really that 3 Squadron started in 1916 and it’s still going now and flying the Hornets at Williamtown. We didn’t realise that it did have a crest. That was okay. It’s always had it. It’s still got it. We accepted that and in the long haul. When we went to 450 they didn’t have a crest. Being an Empire Air Training Scheme all your numbers from 450 onwards and higher I think are air training
scheme squadrons. I don’t think there’s any exception to that. They go right up. So we decided to have a crest. It’s not as easy as you think. There’s a surround with a crown on top and a little space at either side that you can write 3 Squadron or whatever and a place round the bottom that you can write your motto or the statement that you’re making.
We discovered fairly early that if you want to have an eagle you have to go through the Chester College of Heralds in England. If you want to have an eagle, whether you like it or not you’ll find it looks like a half plucked turkey. So you’ve got to make that decision, accept it or not. If you want an animal you can’t have blood dripping from its jaws and if you want a rapier or something it must not point downwards. We eventually got through what I think is quite a nice one.
I would think that of course. It’s a jaguar with a rapier up through its head or neck and there’s no blood showing. And our motto I think is lovely because our motto in 450 Squadron is “Harass”. We got that from Lord Haw Haw who was always mentioning that we were harassing his troops and things like that so I think it’s a lovely motto for us. That’s what we did, we were harassers. We finally got that. But
any dealings with them are done in copperplate writing because they’re these type of people. I think these things are lovely. They give some character to countries. I think you should have those things that are maybe out of date or whatever but they just lend a bit of class to the thing. I actually have the original that was in water colour that was drawn up by Allan Rigby, of the 3 Squadron crest, and that is our crest. I think there’s not an Australian squadron that really hasn’t got a crest. It’s a pity
because they’re there for the getting and a bit of imagination.
Rover David thing. He had his aircraft and he had an aircraft - a Kittyhawk - and he kept his Kittyhawk in 450 Squadron and he supplied two of his English ground staff. There would have been a fitter for the engine and a rigger for the fuselage person. Anyhow, the instruments or whatever
and the petrol refuelling would come from us. He’s kept these two English people and they shared a tent with some of our ground staff. They got into the way, they became Australians in effect, I suppose that’s the best way of saying it. They had the basis of our sense of humour. They lived there and accepted it and we liked them. 450 got very few ground crew replacements. So did 3 Squadron. Some of 450
went about four years over there in the Middle East. It was very limited capability of getting promotion too which was a pity. People who didn’t come over were getting promotions more than they did because there wasn’t the scope for those promotions to be there. But we’d get an odd few ground crew come over and they’d get together and there’d be a bit of a gathering over there amongst them and they’d
be talking to one another. These two English blokes, they had learnt a lot about Australia by hearsay. It didn’t always happen, but sometimes one of the Englishmen might say, “Where do you come from in Australia?” This bloke might say, “Mildura”. The English bloke would say, “Oh you know Tilly the barmaid in the hotel so and so” and the Australian would get excited because here’s someone that comes from his home area and he’s looking forward to a life long mate and these English people had never been closer
to Australia and Italy. But they picked up who the barmaid at whatsername was. Or who else was where or something like that. It didn’t happen often, but it did. There were lots of funny things because of their - they entered in the whole spirit of it. They’d never been close to Australia. When I disbanded the squadron I posted them home to Australia. I’d love to get them home. But I know they didn’t go because I think they would have been picked up on the list of people because their number was a different style of number.
I really suppose I should have tried to find out if they came out here. It wouldn’t surprise me if they’d emigrated afterwards and come out because they were really Australian in outlook. We were happy with them and they enjoyed their life.
told by illustrating the thing. Now in the desert we’d move and we’d all have to put down perimeter defence, a section there that would look after the aerodrome from the air. The British would go and have to dig a hole in the stony ground. They’d have all these dimensions laid down. It’d be this wide and this long and this deep and they’d go digging away there before they had dinner or anything.
What the Australians would do, they’d go there and they wouldn’t dig a hole at all. They’d pick up stones and build a little rock wall around there. That was probably almost as effective and took half the time. You could be attacked while you were digging a hole, the different attitude to doing it. The English, they didn’t have the facility to do it. Our blokes would go AWL, but they wouldn’t
go AWL if it was serious and there were going to be a lot of operations on and you were going to be hard pressed. They wouldn’t do that. Or they’d get dealt with by their own mates. But the English got underpaid and they’d go to a NAAFI and they’d line up for a beer and when they’d drunk the beer they’d go back in the line again and try to get two in a day, something of that nature. We had them go on leave if it was okay to go on leave.
One of my cooks, the gentleman that I mentioned got married to an Italian girl, I lent him my personal jeep to go on his honeymoon. That wouldn’t be done in many squadrons, English or Australian, I’d say. That’s okay. That was it. In the end
the English had a system of giving them a little bit of leave. I love this phrase. When it was safe to fly from Italy to England, as safe as those things can be, they would get an aircraft and they would draw circles on the floor that a person could stand in and they’d put numbers in them. Might be 30 or 40. And you’d be flown to England
standing up. I love what it was called. It was called lollipop. Lots of little leave in place of posting. Instead of posting, you’re on leave. Rather than post you somewhere you were given lots of little leave. You’d still stay in the dangerous old job you’d been in for four years or something. Lollipop. Then you were all numbered off on the tarmac. You marched up and you found your square, I suppose there’d be a sequence or order you came in and you stood in your square
and hung on and away you went to England for three or four days or so.
They used to bomb Malta while we were there but I joined three when all the hard work had been done. It wasn’t so much aerial opposition and we were getting aerial superiority. I do remember we had one place in the desert - it doesn’t matter where it was - there’d been slit trenches dug there. There was a bit of an air raid there. You get told all these things, if an air raid comes and you’re lying in your bed you just roll out
blankets and all. At least you’ve got some protection. If you haven’t got a slit trench to go to just take the whole lot with you and on to the floor and you’ve at least got a bit of padding then. There was one bit of a raid there at night and a few search lights around and we’re outside on a bit of a slit trench there and bloke’s crouched in it and I’m there and I’m making a trench and he’s saying “I’ve been hit.” Someone else complains again or something. There’s a bloke
standing above them dropping clods of red earth. People take it differently when they’re wandering around in an air raid. They get under their bed or they get in a slit trench. We never had much of that. But the one in Sicily, that did, I’ve got one extraordinary photo here when they bombed the aerodrome at Catania. We’d moved out of camping in the aerodrome because of the mosquitos, they were savage, and
we moved up the hill. Some of the other squadrons stayed down there and some lost, some of those English squadrons, I think they lost about 16 people in this air raid. They dropped bombs on the aerodrome. I’ve got a most extraordinary photo of the cavity that must be 20 feet deep alongside a Kittyhawk and nothing happened to the Kittyhawk. It just went in to delayed action
and the sand blew up and the thing just got a bit of mud on it and everything went over the top of it and any weight fell elsewhere. They did lose some aircraft but we were lucky that way. We didn’t lose many but otherwise they didn’t attack. I’m amazed they didn’t do an attack like we did on Forli. Do a daylight one because there were aircraft everywhere, not much protection.
My flying record was all right. I never flew it although I would have liked to. I was keeping them happy. We had these captured Gibbly and three engine things and two engine and we used to fly down to Cairo and you could bring beer back in them, they were a beer truck sort of thing, and you’d go on leave and you could send down to Cairo on leave. Where else can you go in the desert except
Cairo? There’s nowhere else to go, literally. We could put half a dozen blokes in there and chaps from another squadron as well, three or four of them flying down to Cairo for a week, but it’s all random. We got a fair bit of leave when we ended the war in North Africa because then we prepared for invasion. The vehicles had to be water proofed
to a certain degree. That’s why you have flights really. 3 Squadron was interesting. It had B and C flight. They didn’t have A flight, they got lost somewhere or something. I was a bit disappointed 3 Squadron in its present thing didn’t carry on the tradition, should have been just two flights. Those little things mean something. They had B flight and C flight and there was a flight commander in charge of each so you’ve got to spread the squadron, we haven’t got too much out and see who should go and who can do this and who can’t. It’s done here now so you can
put at least one straight into war very quickly and the other ones go straight into Sicily or something. That’s how you do those things so there’s a lot of preparation. Then they have to waterproof their vehicles with a certain amount of water. That kept us all busy. Shouldn’t get back to where I started, but in the war in North Africa when we finished it
a friend of mine, Arthur Collier, who I was friends with at Evans Head, we went and got a vehicle of some sort and we went up north to Tunis. Amazing we never got shot, the things you do, because there were mines and all that sort of thing. See, if I’d have gone off that road when I went up to that mansion that I drove up the front steps, if I’d have gone off there I’d have probably struck a mine near the side of the pathway.
When we were talking earlier - was it on tape or off tape about the way the Italians received the Australians?
Well obviously most of them were friendly because the ones that didn’t like us didn’t come near us. They were quite friendly. They weren’t allowed on the drome or anything like that. I didn’t get around much because when you’re a CO or even a flight commander you can’t go mixing with the boys.
It’s not being snobbish, but you’re over them and you do more work than they do and if you can get away less you need one of those three people, need two of those three people always at the squadron. You probably can’t go away with one of your mates or whatever and Murray and I shared the same tent as flight commanders for six months. Then when he became CO of 3 Squadron I addressed him as sir which I should do.
That was that. We didn’t have that much formality, but I felt there was always respect. But in those positions of minor command even you don’t get as much leave as you can, you don’t abuse the privilege. You’ve got to set an example. I didn’t have to fly next day when I got shot up. I flew twice. I think it sets a good example. Flew twice
the next day as well but I needn’t have flown at all because I’m a CO you’re not pinned down to a definite thing you’ve got to fly so often. It’s just reasonable that you take your turn in leaving the squadron. All through my career when I had command of the squadron I flew more than one in every three. But if I flew a second time, if it wasn’t my turn I would not lead. I would fly as deputy leader or top cover
where you can roam around fairly freely. It’s all nice and comfy up there. That’s it. I think that’s a fair thing.
the piano wasn’t sounding very sweet so he poured some beer down it to make it sound sweet. The result is that we were all confined to barracks until we had paid in an amount of - doesn’t matter five dollars or whatever - and we were then allowed to leave camp. You always get smart people everywhere. Someone woke up to the fact that it is not legal for you to charge money to confine you to a camp.
So what some person did then was paid in twice and got a chit. See, you paid in your five dollars and you got a chit saying you’d paid in five and you handed that in at the gate when you went out and you were okay. You were marked off the books. But he just paid twice and got one chit and took it into air force headquarters and said, “Look, this is what they’re doing”. So that was stopped immediately. But no you get put in those camps and they’re pretty
dreary things. But you go into Cairo, but you get sick of that in the end. Cairo in those days was all people trying to sell you diamonds and all the glass on the windows of shops are all scratched where they show you this stone will scratch glass. A lot of stones other than diamonds will scratch glass. Then there was a stone, an Alexandrian, Alexandretta, that’s an extraordinary stone. It’s nearly extinct now.
It changes the colour with what you’re wearing it on. Quite an incredible stone, beautiful stone. The Egyptians were great in taking your wallet or fountain pen. I got a fountain pen taken out of my pocket. You didn’t know that it went because they’d hold up three cards like postcards and hold them like curved like you would a hand of ordinary cards. You can slide it up someone’s shirt to show them a thing
and they’d take your fountain pen. If you got a wallet in your shirt pocket you won’t notice it going because that weight’ll keep it down. They just get it under the clip. If you want a parker they’ll go and look for a parker so you can see the arrow on them. Pre sale, someone wants a parker. I had one taken out of my pocket, except it fell off the cards. I got him.
got hold of an American magazine that was well known. I forget the name of it. It tells you how you can make an aqualung in half a day or something. And I made my own aqualung. I work in metal. If I cut a piece of wood I tend to do it with a hacksaw. I work in metal and I’ve got my own lathe now today. It’s only a model making one. I had a better lathe than that and I made that underwater camera entirely
in my garage in Sydney. And I took up scuba diving which I must call it I suppose in respect to Cousteau because that’s his patent name, Aqualung. And I had a sort of private club. I forget how I became interested in it. I met Bill Hudson who started the ABC when it started. He’d been
in the air force in Burma in bombers. He was a pilot. Then he flew on to America after the war and had experience in TV. Then he came out here and he started channel two, ABC, in Sydney as news supervisor. He had federal responsibility for news and sporting and what else? I’ll think of it
in a minute. He also started up Channel Ten. They mucked up the opening ceremony and Mike Whatsername from Channel Nine sent them a get well card. But anyway, no I got mixed up with Bill somehow. I forget how it ended up. He lent me his camera. A Bell and Howell 70DL which is one of the finest
still silent cameras in the world. It’s used by about every army in the world. The Japanese, the German, the Bell and Howell. I shot Pony Trail was the first story I shot for Channel Two. I’ve got all my assignments here, about three quarters of a million feet. Cause you get an assignment. I got four and a quarter minutes on Pony Trail I think. If you got over two minutes
the ABC gave you a voluntary bonus of ,I think, two shillings a minute.
I was NBC representative in Australia and I was tied in with them with the nonuplets. Do you know there were nine babies born at the Oxford Street Womens Hospital in Sydney? And I’ve never heard anything about them. One of the papers, the Women’s Weekly or one of the two big ones, bought them and there was no film shot of them, not from
any I knew and every evening a gentleman which may or may not have been a doctor came from the hospital down to a building in the grounds of the Women’s Hospital in Paddington and made a statement about those nine babies, nonuplets, that’s nine. And I’ve never heard anything about them since. I’m saying this publicly. It can be proved that they at one stage existed, we think, in the hospital.
There was nothing really to get on them. I was with Nine quite a bit more than the ABC eventually because they could call me in and the ABC was seldom short of people. I’ve also done sound for Channel Ten. I’m the most highly paid and worst sound operator in Sydney perhaps. They pulled me in - I’m on an A plus in camera work. I’m a lighting/camera man. I
worked two and a half years with Channel Ten with eight days off. They just had enough camera men to go take one a week - as you know better than anyone else, you can’t have a blank screen on a television set. You can’t all go away for Christmas holidays. So I used to just come in on a Friday and take the camera and the equipment and head cameraman, John Gillies, takes his home and I had full security. Very few people knew I wasn’t a
permanent employee. I had a pay number, 633 from Channel Ten. Two and a half years with eight days off. Just went round the cameramen as it went through the year.
I just use ’14-’18 and ’39-’45 or you don’t know who you’re talking about sometimes. I worked for Channel Ten and Nine, Two. They respected me. I never let any secrets out because I could be one week at Channel Ten and then a month at Channel Nine, or maybe not at all, and the ABC used me occasionally. As I say I read Cousteau’s book, The Silent World, and decided to make an
aqualung and did so. In the end I was making the taps to go in the bottles and then Bill Hudson was extremely difficult to work with. There was only about two cameramen in Australia that will work voluntarily with him and I’m one of them. He was a terribly abrasive character, but he had the most extraordinary news sense. I could work with him and so I say we took each other up to Thursday Island, Bill and I. We went on Vic Morrow’s boat,
Solo, and it navigated Australia. Solo’s the winner of the Hobart yacht race. And we sailed up to Brampton Island on Solo and Vic Morrow put us off the boat because Bill used that much detergent in the washing up instead of that much. We had to get off the boat. Vic Morrow’s like that. If you hear a story about him it’ll be true. And we went up there and we shot a story - there’s a bit of a prelude to that.
We decided to do the longest pilot course in the world. This is the navigation of ocean vessel. The longest in the world is really down the South American coast, that’s not in operation, but the pilot course that is the longest in the world is Thursday Island to Sydney. You’ve got pilots based up there - seafaring pilots, merchant navy based up there,
and you couldn’t sail down within the Barrier Reef unless you were under the guidance of a pilot the whole way. I think it might have altered now. We went up there. We were going to shoot a story on that and we tied in with Eric Shackleton in BP and he was looking for a source for a film because every year BP submitted forth a film script to BP in England
I think it is and a best in the world for that year is made. So Shackleton, the power bloke in BP in Sydney, he was going to do something on that. So Bill and I think on our feet as all gentlemen do as you know. We said, “We’ll shoot you a rough one with it. We’ll shoot you a pilot one”. To cut a long story short we did a bit of underwater in it.
Just really rough and a rough thing put on it, but that won the contest for the year and Cinesound I think produced it at so many thousands and thousands of dollars for BP. So we then transferred our attention to what we did up there and we shot a story on the cultured pearl industry. I dived with the native helmet divers looking for pearl shells.
There’s no real pearl industry. That’s the off shoot, that’s the lucky one. You go for pearl meat that you eat. If you find the pearl that’s good luck.