and a sister. My father was an ANZAC [Australian and New Zealand Army Corps] original Gallipoli veteran; he was badly wounded in Gallipoli. So we grew up as kids being very much aware of what the soldiers had done. I went to a local convent school from primary. Reason, when I was about twelve or thirteen I thought I wanted a career in the navy so I did a examination to get in as a boy.
But unfortunately after passing out very high in all the marks I wasn’t accepted because I had a false tooth. I was trying to go around the swings, you know, thirty-sixty degrees, and it didn’t work and I landed on a stone. However, then I switched to high school and I went to Maitland Boys’ High School and I stayed there through matriculation. When I was seventeen I wasn’t particularly outstanding at school, but I wasn’t bad either.
And I was quite good at sport, particularly in swimming and diving and football and cricket a bit too, and tennis, probably all of them. And because I was only seventeen and I wanted to go in the airforce I joined the air league and my mum said, “Look, you have got your elder brother in the army.” He was already in the Middle East at this time. “And your younger brother is going in the navy the moment he turns seventeen. I want you to have a job.” So I went to work in the bank until I
was eighteen. And I worked in the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney at Cessnock. And I was there for about fourteen months or so, which was very good, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. And then we went from Cessnock into the air force and I joined the air force I think it was about the 25th of May in 1942. I firstly went to some kind of a depot and they said, “Right, we have got to many aircrews in training at the moment. We need some people in security.
You are an aircrew guard for three months.” So they sent me out to Richmond and I was a guard at Richmond. But they worked you four on and I think eight off, and during your time off you had to study. So we were studying for being aircrew so it wasn’t all wasted time. And then I went to Bradfield Park, which is the Initial Training School and I had three months there in aircrew training. I went from there to Narrandera to start my flying experience,
which was in the beginning of 1943, flying Tiger Moths, and I got my wings after 7 hours. Not my wings, I went solo after seven hours, and I stayed there until we had finished the course. Then we were posted to Uranquinty where I trained to be a fighter pilot. 5SFTS [flying training school] it was called. Uranquinty is near Wagga [Wagga Wagga] if you are not to sure where that is. And
I did all right there and I was what’s called a course corporal, which is the people in charge of your particular course. My bigger problem there was I had an instructor that couldn’t bear to be an instructor – he just wanted to go to the war – so he wouldn’t teach me how to fly. So I had to sort of work it out myself and I was nearly scrubbed because every time the check pilot asked me to do a loop, I stalled the thing on the top of the loop
and went into a spin. And he said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I am doing what I used to do with a Tiger Moth.” He said, “Haven’t they told you what to do in these?” I said, “No.” Anyhow, the fellow, unfortunately, was killed – the instructor. He wasn’t really interested in it. But the chief instructor took me over and I got my wings and then they sent me to England along with two very dear friends, Ron Tubman, who I had gone to school with in Maitland, and Geoff Jones from Pymble in Sydney.
And we sailed across through Panama Canal, which was terribly exciting to a young man, right up to New York. And then the ship that was taking us across the Atlantic was sunk so we were transferred. I wasn’t on the ship when it was sunk, we were at the docks. And then they put us onto another ship which was the original Queen Elizabeth, which was fascinating. There were like two hundred Australians and about fifteen thousand Americans, but because we were pilots we were given the job of
helping with the watch so I stood up on the bridge of the Queen Elizabeth across the Atlantic doing my shift, sub [submarine] watching, which was very interesting. We landed in Greenock, in Scotland and then went by train down to Brighton and I was there for a couple of weeks waiting for my posting to a Spitfire pilot because I had trained to be a fighter pilot. However, they came along and said, “Look, nobody in Spitfires are getting killed at the moment but there are lots of bomber pilots getting killed. Would you like to be a bomber pilot?” And I said, “No.”
They said, “Why, well if you want to be a Spitfire pilot you have got to wait six months and go and work in the control tower.” And I said, “What if I want to be a bomber pilot?” He said, “There is a train leaving tomorrow.” So that’s what we did. They switched us up to a place called Church Lawton near Rugby and we went through training initially on Oxfords, then onto Wellingtons. And it was on Wellingtons that I formed up my first crew. Then we went from Wellingtons to Halifaxes to do a heavy bomber conversion unit then we went to a
Lancaster finishing school and then I was posted to my squadron, which was 625 Squadron in 1 Group, which was near Lincoln not far from Binbrook where many Australians served on 460 Squadron. It was there I met my wife. She was the intelligence officer on the squadron and I remember to this day coming in from a difficult flight over Germany and coming back and there is this beautiful girl waiting to interrogate
you. So I finally asked her for a date and she thought, “Well maybe,” and put me off for a few weeks. And then finally she decided to go with me. And then a fellow named McHaddie, who was the group captain, a wonderful pathfinder navigator, came around lecturing on pathfinders and by this time I had done eighteen operations and only needed to do thirty to finish my first tour and then I could have finished
operating. But the pathfinders got to me and I said, “No, I want to go there.” So I said to the crew, “I want to go to pathfinders.” And they said, “No, don’t be mad,” and, “We have only got twelve to do and we all want to stay here.” So I thought about it for a while and went along to see the wing commander… “No, you are one of our best crews you have got, stay here.” Anyhow, I took my wife out, my wife to be out, and the wing commander called me in the next day, and I didn’t know that but he was very fond of her and he had been trying to ask her out and she wouldn’t go. So he said,
“The request of yours to go to pathfinders is now approved.” So he approved it. I went then down to 156 Squadron. The crew decided, incidentally, to come with me even though they didn’t want to. They said, “No, we are going to stay with our skipper.” So we went down to a navigation training unit for a brief period and then across to my pathfinder squadron, which was 156 Squadron, and there I completed another forty-two operations,
so I did sixty operations altogether nearly three tours. As a matter of fact I was only looking at an obituary a couple of days ago where it mentioned Hughes, a wonderful Australian and who completed two tours, and said, “He wasn’t the only one to do it.” But I not only completed two but I did another fifteen on top of what he did in the same period. I ended up being a deputy master bomber on a couple of occasions. And I was on quite a few
of the famous raids, like the raid on Dresden. I went along with the air force, but at the end of the war I was chosen to be a flight commander of the pathfinders squadron coming out to the Pacific. However, the Americans dropped the atomic bomb and that changed all those plans. But as I had got out of the normal schedule I used it to study, so I went to AV Rose and got a first class airline transport pilot licence on a Lancastrian.
I went to Southampton University and I got a second class navigators licence and in Australia I got a radio telephony licence first class. And when I came back to Australia I applied for a job with Qantas and the day I was discharged I joined Qantas and the next day I was in Learmonth on the west coast of Australia. I stayed with Qantas for about fourteen fifteen months before I was made a captain. I was one of them at the age of twenty-four.
I was an international captain flying on Qantas’s international routes. And I stayed with them flying all the routes that they were flying at that time, which was very exciting and because of my flight nav [navigation] and my radio operator licence and my first class operators pilot licence I did many interesting trips. I won’t go onto them now because that is another story on that. And then anyhow after about, it was April 1954, I had three children by this stage,
I was away a lot of the time, about three weeks of every month, and it was really unfair to my wife and kids. And somebody came along. Caltex, the oil company, said, “Would you like to be our chief pilot in Indonesia? We’ll double the pay.” They didn’t quite say it that way, but that is how it worked out. They doubled the pay that Qantas was paying very poor money in those days. And so I said, “Yep.” So we switched to Indonesia and there I was the chief pilot
in Indonesia. We had a completely Indonesian operation by the time I finished there and it was completely expatriate when I got there, so I trained them to do that job and it was with an oil company. And because I spent a lot of the time there in the oilfields there, so I spent that six years when I was in the oilfields studying, so I studying petroleum engineering by correspondence and our course being right on the job with what was being done it was very, very good. And I stayed there until I trained myself out of a job.
The company then sent me to Bahrain, where I spent ten years. Bahrain, it was a different thing. I started out in marketing and then I went into maintenance and then I went into materials, purchasing and then control, but finally I got into a program called Zero Defects in which I was the administrator. It simply means that you can help people to do their jobs with out making mistakes. If you let them see that you believe in
them you give them recognition for what they do and you give them the tools to do the job. It was very, very successful. So out of it they sent me to New York to be Head of Training and Development Worldwide for Caltex. So I kept that job basically until I retired. About ten years of that time I was in New York and about five years of that time was in Dallas – the company moved the headquarters to Texas. During that particular period, though, I did a lot of
training programs around the world and Caltex were operating in about one hundred and twenty different companies and about eight different countries, so I travelled broadly. I also had a daughter who had gone to Kiel and Oxford and another daughter who had gone to London and a son at Yale and a small son who was in hospital most of the time. So I needed extra money so I took on a second job and I lectured for seven years at the Graduate School of Fordham University
in New York teaching international marketing and international business. And that was a tough time but we got through it all right okay. Unfortunately my first son was killed in an accident in the last night of his freshman year but the other kids all got through okay. And then when I retired from Caltex I was sixty-two. They didn’t want me to leave and within a short time of leaving they rang me up – this was when I was in Australia – would you mind going
to Kenya to set up a career development centre for us? So I went to Kenya, set up a career development centre, taught some of the programs but of course did things that we call training audits in places like Uganda, Tanzania, Yemen, Sudan, all the countries in what used to be called East Africa as well as the islands of Mauritius and Reunion. That worked for nearly a year. It was great. We loved Nairobi. I
played a lot of good golf when I was there as well and saw all the animals in the game parks, but then I came home to Australia and I was home for about a year or so. And they said, “Well you come to New York. We want you to write up a program for a refinery we are looking at in Bangkok.” So I did that but that refinery didn’t work out so they switched me to Malaysia where in my previous job as Head of Training and Development I had done a lot of the initial planning. They asked me to do a report on it. I did it
and submitted and they came back to me and said, “Look, it looks as though we need you to go back Malaysia to try and sort things out.” So I went to Malaysia then for two years. We lived firstly for six months on the east coast, which was a lovely part of Malaysia, and then I came home for a little while. And they rang me up and said, “Will you come back?” And then we lived in Kuala Lumpur for about fourteen months or so. So that was a great period and then I came home and I hadn’t been home for more than nine months or a year
and they phoned me again and said, “Would you go to Oman?” I said, “How long?” They said, “Two months.” It turned out to be two and a half years and this is one of my interesting jobs because I was Manager of Training and Loss Prevention there. And apart from training and development, which I knew pretty well, I had to look after fire and safety, occupational health, medical, security, all kinds of jobs that are people related. I had two and half years in Oman again, which is lovely.
Along the way I found I was pretty good at languages so I picked up Indonesian, I picked up enough Arabic to get by without being really fluent. And then came home and I hadn’t been home for more than about a year or so and then they rang me up and said, “Would you go to Thailand?” So I went to Thailand for a short period again, which turned into a another two and half years. We set up all the training programs from a complete grassroots state of the art refinery, which is an exciting time. My wife always came with me on these trips,
incidentally, until we came home and I think I was about seventy-five thinking about all the people who used to hire me had long since retired and I got a phone call and said, “Would I come and do an audit on Japan?” Which I did do and then after I had been back a couple of months, they said, “Will you come and be the Training Manager in Japan?” So I worked there until I was about seventy-seven or so and had a lovely time in Japan. If you look around the house, that woodblock print over there is a beautiful one I got in Kyoto. We have got many things we have collected along the way.
But now we are back. We came back. But during this period we always kept a house in Queensland. When we came back from I suppose retirement in Dallas we lived in Sydney this time because we always wanted to live where we couldn’t afford. So we thought we would come up the coast and have a look and we found a lovely place at Coolangatta at Rainbow Bay. We lived there twelve years when I wasn’t working overseas and my wife wanted to go to the city so we lived in Dockside for about
four years. And then she wanted to come back to the beach, so we bought a lovely place at Currumbin so we lived there for a couple of years. But all of my equipment was getting corroded by the salt water and I love a view to the sunset, so we got this house and as you can see out there in the front, in the evening sitting there with a beer watching the sunset is just glorious. So that is very briefly my life.
I think we pretty well covered my childhood in Maitland. I suppose my life really started again when I had a brief period working in the bank in Cessnock. And that was interesting because the very first night I arrived there, there was myself and the ledger keeper, because they didn’t have girls working in the banks in those days. And there was myself, a junior, the ledger keeper, a teller, an accountant and the bank manager.
And when I came in the ledger keeper and the teller said, “Look, here is a gun,” and they brought out a six shooter Remington, right. And they said, “You have got to make sure anybody comes to rob this bank, you get up with that gun and shoot them before they get through the door,” you see. And I said joking, “Oh yeah, just like this.” And I pulled the trigger, because I had seen that there was a chamber and there were five bullets and the one that
the hammer was in was empty. But it never occurred to me that when you pulled the trigger it went round. And of course it went round and the gun fired, ploughed into the desk about this far from the ledger keeper into the wall opposite. And that scared the living daylights out of everyone, including the fellow that gave me the gun, who shouldn’t have done that. So we moved the adding machine over to cover the hole in the desk. It was a big long ledger keeper desk, you see. And then they held a calendar over the wall and
one of them had a friend who was a chemist, and he brought down some Plaster of Paris and filled it up. And anyhow all during the next day the bank manager came down and he came and stood on the desk where I was and he’d start to move the accounting machine, but not quite far enough to show the hole. And then he’d go over to the hole in the wall and looking at the calendar and touch it a little bit without looking. At the end of the day, I knocked on his office and I said, “Look, I want to tell you what happened
yesterday. I am terribly sorry about…” And he said, “Well it is not really your fault but I am glad you came and to tell me about it.” So that was one of my most interesting experiences in the bank. Then I joined the local diving club and we went down to represent our club at the New South Wales Championships at the pool by Luna Park there, you know, that Olympic Pool in Sydney? And then eventually my call up came but it was taking longer than I thought. So I went to the bank manager
and he said, “Oh, you can’t go because this is a reserved occupation and we can’t release you. We need you.” And I said, “Well I am just going to go and join the army.” So I went off and they just stopped me and called me back and said, they released me to go into the air force. And then I think I told you I went into the air force. But then it was interesting to begin with because although I was an aircrew guard you were on an active base, Richmond, where aeroplanes were flying all the time. And you were able to make some flights as a passenger, for example. Not part of your training but, you know, you could scrounge a ride down to Canberra or somewhere
and there and back again, which I did do. And in between it was quite hard because you are working four hours on and eight off. And on one of those eights is mostly studying time, the other one you had to find time for sleeping. But you had to get to your work and get back and if it was such that it was day time, sometimes it was hard to sleep so you got very tired. And then again I was young and I remember one of the guards’ posts was a machine gun post at a cemetery
and you are there in the middle of the night, dark as anything, and here you are sitting in this machine gun post trying to keep guard. Another time you are marching around a radio transmitting station all on your own. So it wasn’t particularly much fun. And you were a bit scared of the dark. But you worked it all out. And my parents were in Sydney in Potts Point and every now and again you got a weekend off and you’d go in and see them
and then went over to Bradfield Park. And Bradfield Park was mostly pure study and gymnastics, I suppose, exercise to make sure you were kept fit.
because the instructor got out and it was quite early, seven hours, to go solo, and he said, “I think you’re all right, Denver.” You know, they called you by your last name although my I had a double-barrelled Derrymore-Denver. But the corporal used to swear at me, “Derrymore…… Denver.” So we stopped just dropped the Derrymore. I don’t use it. I have never used it since, so it just became Denver.
But in all my records you will see I am down as Derrymore-Denver. And he used to yell at us like mad so I said Denver. But this instructor said to me, “Okay Denver, take it up.” It was so exciting because you go along, there is nobody else there, and you lift the thing off the deck, and all of a sudden you are on your own in the air. And it is an exhilarating feeling. Did you ever read the poem High Flight?
Oh, you must read that if you are interviewing air force people. It starts out with something like, “Up, up the long delirious burning blue, we never a lark nor even eagle flew.” It is a beautiful… I have got it there, “I trod the high untrespassed sanctity of space and put out my hand and touched the face of God.” And it tells you just how a pilot feels. You know, you are just above everything, above your worries, you’re in complete control, so that was
great. And then you came down and did more drill instruction but then you concentrated. And when I went to Wirraways, which is a bigger aircraft and which was the pre DeHavilland in America or the Wirraway here. It was the one that you fly on if you are going to be a fighter pilot. If you were going to be a bomber pilot in those days you would be on Ansons or something. But my instructor wasn’t interested in instructing so he never really taught me anything so I was feeling my way.
So I noticed when I got my assessment at the end I was above average as a bomber pilot but below average in air to air gunnery and I think this was simply because I just didn’t know enough on how to handle the aeroplane. And I was always cross with that because that is the only below average I have ever received in anything in all my life. But the above average bit had nothing to do with me going into bombers, that was all to do with when I got to England, there were plenty of
aircrew being killed. And I am sure that some of the other fellows have told you that certainly in pathfinders that forty-eight per cent of people were killed. And many of them were killed on their first half or dozen trips or their first tour and statistically I did sixty trips. You know, that is basically three tours, almost three tours so your chance of getting through is very slim.
really any of the flying difficult. By this time I felt I could handle it. Like I mentioned before, you had such confidence in yourself you don’t see anything. But one of my very good friends was killed there on flying Oxfords. He flew into the transmitting tower at Rugby, you know. Because I will never forget it because we had a burial party for him and we had to carry his coffin up to Rugby station to put it on a train, and there was a lot of ice on it
and it was an icy ramp that we were kind of walking up. But that day they had given us injections, you know, they were all ways giving you injections. Cholera or… What is it? Typhoid. And our arms were sore as anything and somebody stumbled and the coffin slid back down the ramp. We all tried to hold it to pick it up and take it back in. It was funny when it was all over, but it wasn’t funny at the time as you can well imagine. But anyway we put him on the train. Oh boy, I won’t tell you his name
because I don’t want that to come out. And he was buried. And then after that though we went to Wellingtons though, and that was more interesting because then you were doing, you were dropping bombs and you built up a crew. And you didn’t really get appointed a crew, you were all put together, pilots and navigators and radio operators and bomb aimers and they said, “Right, make yourselves into crews.”
And being Australian there was an Australian bomb aimer and an Australian wireless operator and I said, “Hey, would you like to be with me?” And they said, “Yep.” And there were no Australian navigators around but the navigators picked us. I think I told you they considered themselves to be a bit brighter than we are. So there were two English blokes who had been out in South Africa together and they could see that Geoff Jones and I were great friends and so they came over and approached us and said, “How would you like us
to be your navigators?” And they asked us a few questions and we said, “Yeah, you’ll do us, fair enough.” So then all of a sudden we got a rear gunner, and I had a wonderful rear gunner, a Scotsman George McQueeny, his brother was killed at Arnhem. Remember that tragedy at Arnhem? Ever heard of the movie A Bridge Too Far? That was that. That was the story of many paratroopers were killed and many gliders and pilots were killed because they missed their target – it was a bit of a fiasco. But his brother was killed there.
Anyhow, he stayed with me. So then we did quite a bit of training and then it was much more… It was operations training – we learnt how to bomb, we learnt how to the gunners, we got a mid upper gunner as well then, you know, to shoot their guns off. And I think we got the mid upper when we got to Halifaxes. On the Wellingtons we didn’t have one, we just had a rear gunners. Anyhow when we got to Halifaxes we got the mid upper and we were doing the same thing again.
And so you did, I am just talking about Wellingtons and getting together with a crew and how we were picked by the navigators, they didn’t pick us. And one of the things we did on the Wellington was a thing called a bullseye.
Because I had read all the books of Robin Hood when I was a kid and we went there to visit that. We were near Sheffield, near Doncaster, getting close to York, you know, some wonderful parts of Britain, and we went there. And then they switched us over to do a heavy bomber conversion unit which was on Halifaxes. Some of the Halifaxes we were flying were the early Halifaxes which had Merlin engines and they were terribly under powered
compared to the later ones, which are Hercules engines, and there were quite a few crashes. And the place was actually Sandtoft but everybody called it Pranghoft because of the number of training accidents they had there. And I was quite glad to get off them. The Hallies [Halifaxes] with the Merlin engines were a good aircraft. I enjoyed the flying in that but I was always a bit nervous because you felt that if you lost an engine on take off with the Merlin-powered Hally you are not going to get around. Then we switched to Lancasters,
which was just out of Lincoln at a place called Hemswell. It was called the Lancaster Finishing School and all that was really, instead of flying Halifaxes you would fly in Lancasters, which were much more responsive aircraft, a beautiful aircraft to fly. I got very good at flying them because, you know, I reckoned I could. Remember I flew them for years with Qantas as well? I could just do it with my fingertips and breeze the thing on, time and time again. It was a great aircraft.
I suppose you could call a heavy bomber close to a fighter, and they respond, you’d turn and you’d get immediate response. And then by this time we had… I have got some pictures in there of the crew. We had a pilot, a navigator, a bomb aimer, a radio operator, and two gunners, a rear gunner and a mid upper gunner. And so that is where we started out.
But we didn’t know where we were going to go. The air force was divided into groups in Bomber Command and the one we went to was 1 Group, and 1 Group was pretty well based around the Lincolnshire area so it was good, really. And Lincoln is a lovely place, and this is where I met Pat, at Kirkston. We used to go to Lincoln occasionally. Her mum had a place which was close at Louth at Grimsby, and the local village was called Ramsay.
And there were only two pubs in the village and you’d go down there and it was fantastic time. But now you’re operating, right.
so forth. But I don’t actually recall Pat briefing me. She might have, but they had about three or four intelligence officers and they would take turns in doing it. And the main work with me when they’d briefed you to go out, when they came they’d debrief you, right. And they would be at a desk and you as a crew would sit around and then you would report – how good was briefing, where did you see flight, where did you see fighters, okay, what
was the target like, do you think you hit the target, and all this kind of stuff. And because Pat was such a good-looking thing I was always waiting to get to debrief me so I dragged the crew back a little bit, “Just wait on, just wait a second fellows.” Because I was fond of her I didn’t shoot a line. Perhaps you might have shot a bit of a line to some of the other intelligence officers. Did I ever shoot you a line, Pat? Quite the opposite, I think.
When you were debriefing me, did I ever try to impress you by telling you how brave I was? No. What we were keen on was getting the operational breakfast, because you got bacon and eggs. So because I was fond of her and she looked beautiful in those days. After being like this in the aeroplane because you were frightened there.
Oh, that was about a particular raid that we came back from, some deep penetration, I can’t remember where it was now, Chemnitz or something like that. When we got back to England, all the bases were closed and we couldn’t get into ours to land and they diverted us to another place. My radio operator, we went to that and that was closed and then he asked for another one, and he got another
and the code for it was five numbers and a numerical figure, but when he wrote it down he wrote three numbers on that line and two numbers on this line. When the navigator got it to check it he just saw the three numbers, and he said, “Oh, that’s Port Ellen.” And I said, “Where in the hell is Port Ellen?” “Oh that is up in Scotland, on the islands, on the Isle of Aaron I think it is.” I said, “Are you sure? We can’t hardly have enough gas.” And the engineer said, “Yeah, I think we might have enough gas to get there.” I said, “Check it, you had better be right.”
And he checked it again, but he never thought to look at the bottom line, so when we got there about the biggest aircraft that had ever got in there was an Avro Anson. Luckily my aeroplane by this time the bombs had all gone and I was virtually out of fuel and it was very light and so I put it down on the end of the strip. But we got there and the bloke said, “What are you doing here?” But because we were in a place where they didn’t have normal signals, we were reported missing, and the wing commander came to Pat and said, I don’t know what words he used,
probably Flight Attendant Denver. Oh no, I wouldn’t have been a flight attendant, I would be a flying officer, “Flying Officer Denver is missing.” And then a little while later a report came in that we were up at Port Ellen and he swore at Pat, “What in God’s name are they doing up there?” And so of course the next morning we had to get the night aeroplane off so we just took minimum fuel, which would get us to the base which wasn’t too much, and I did what is called taking off with the flaps
down to give you the best lift and full throttle through the gate and really wrenched the thing off the deck. It was quite scary but we got off okay. But we were lucky, there were quite a few aircraft, I can’t remember the exact number, twenty or thirty lost that night in the UK [United Kingdom] because they weren’t able to land on their bases. So that was one of the interesting things there. The other one was that when Pat came and told me that, “You had two hundred and seventy-two dints and holes in your aircraft
after that raid on Stetin.” And another one which was a fascinating raid, which was on Stuttgart, we were hit by quite a large shell right near the radio operator’s head. It came through the side of the aircraft and cut into the very cartridges and set one of them on fire. But when it was all over my radio operator picked up a piece of shrapnel and written on the back of it was ‘349’.
Now if you remember… Was it ‘349’ or ‘346’? No, it was ‘346’. And in the air force, we were talking about numbers earlier, you always talk about your last three. For example, my number in the air force was 422844. So you were always 844, and his last three were 349. So we went to Stuttgart another time and by this time we were on pathfinders
and it was a difficult time, we always lost a lot of aircraft on Stuttgart and when it came to the fourth time to go on the raid at Stuttgart and he came to me and said, “I’m not going.” I said, “What do you mean, Ray, you’re not going?” He said, “Well 349, you know what happened. My number is up and if I go we will be shot down and the whole crew will be killed.” I said, “I can’t go to the wing commander and tell him you’re superstitious and we can’t go.” And he said, “Well you better. I am not going.” I said, “No, I am not going to do that. You’ll be charged with LMF [Lack of Moral Fibre].” And you know what LMF,
lacking in moral fibre, which he wasn’t. He said, “I just don’t want to do it.” I said, “Well, Ray, you have got to come to the briefing and go through it and we will just fight our way through it.” Anyhow about halfway through, after we had learnt the target and all this talk went on, the Squadron Leader Walker, who was the signals leader on the squadron, he said, “Ian, you know I am supposed to as the signals officer
to do a trip every now and again. I have chosen your crew. I would like to come with you tonight, radio off.” So that was great. He had heard about it, right, and he didn’t raise the issue in any way, he just volunteered to do the flight himself. Excuse me, I have got this darn cold. But according to Ray he saved our life, “You would have been shot down, no question about it.” And the odds against us of not being shot in any of the raids was great, but this was the one that quite fascinated us.
you know. I certainly was never there saying to myself, “Oh, I am killing all these poor Germans.” But I wasn’t also sitting there and saying, “Well thank God we got rid of another bunch of them.” I just felt, I had a job to do, my job was to carry out to the best of my ability what ever the raid was for that particular night, and I did sixty of them. And every one I went out was the same way; for example, that raid on Dresden that caused so much trouble and so much
criticism of Bomber Command, our briefing was, and I have written it in my logbook, “Aid to the Russian front.” At that particular time German soldiers and airmen and God knows what were all collecting when they were coming back from the Russian front and going to go through the trains. The stations, the streets, were clogged with German military and our deal was to bomb it and kill them. Now in the process of course we did kill many civilians.
And you didn’t go in there thinking you were going to create a firestorm, that just happened because it was an old European city of the style that burnt, just like in Hanover where the firestorm builds up and kills the people. But you certainly didn’t, but you didn’t actually know, you know, you found out most of the numbers of these deaths after the war. All you knew was whether you’d done a good raid. For example, I was the
primary visual marker on I think it was Kiel. Now primary visual marker really meant that that was where the bombing was going to be done. Your job was to put your markers down on the aiming point. If you didn’t get it on the aiming point and they bombed on that then you missed it, right, and it wasn’t such a good raid. And I wrote in my logbook, I was the PVM [Primary Visual Marker] and the Von Shield was sunk. And I kind of feel I have a personal interest for sinking the
Von Shield. And they took the photographs, and next day it turned up at its dock, right. So those things gave you a sense of exhilaration and a sense of achievement, but you never once thought that there were bunches of people down there being killed. Like in my brother’s case in the army, hand to hand fighting with the Japanese is a different thing altogether, is much, much harder to do. You could divorce yourself, you were in an airplane up there and your job was to drop the bombs on the target
on time. And if you did that, you went away from that and never thought what happened when it got down there.
used to iron his shirts first and make sure they were perfect and when poor old Tony was shot down she made mine look good. But I was very lucky at that time, I was in a peacetime mess and I shared a batwoman that did our washing and ironing and so on and so forth. But obviously it was sad. You didn’t let yourself when you were on operations get too close to anybody, you just couldn’t. Now your own crew of course there was a special relationship
that existed within your crew and you’ve have a mate. But I was on pathfinders and it wasn’t like a Australian squadron where you were all Australians. I was… For a long time I was the only Australian pilot in that squadron and while I made friends they’d get killed so often that you didn’t really make close friends, put it that way. And on pathfinders that I was on, on 156 Squadron,
there were so many people there that had done so much more than you had done that you just respected them and you just felt like that, “If I could be like, Cochrane…” who was a New Zealander, he had a DSO [Distinguished Service Order] and bar and a DFC [Distinguished Flying Cross] and two bars, you know. And things happened to certain people. I was one of the lucky ones I kept going on and I got one DFC up to sixty trips. I don’t know if anyone has ever done that and not got more decorations but somehow I didn’t, right, so that’s good. But that is because
I didn’t run it all the troubles that so many of them were running into. So no, friendship side of it, you went down to the bar, and by this time I was having a drink every now and again. And particularly towards the later part, I found that the only way to get the top operation positions was to be down at the bar drinking with the wing commander and so he got to know you and built up a trust with you. And when I had reached my third tour
I had a navigator from Melbourne – the other crew had gone on – and he used to carry fire buckets full of beer around, saying, “There is blood on the moon tonight,” and drinking out of the fire bucket, you know. He was an ex policeman from Melbourne. And anyhow I’d go down and you’d have a pint of this beer but it was very weak beer. I don’t ever recall being drunk or anything. I do remember being a bit dizzy as you were singing and shouting. But that way I built up an association with the flight commanders and the wing commander and the top
operational pilots on the squadron. Because you were there you were one of them, you weren’t somebody sitting away in a corner treating life differently. And from that time on I started to get primary visuals, I started to get deputy master bombers, I got my own master bomber call sign, which was called ‘Plate Rack’. That is not very romantic, is it? They rang me up and said, “You’ll be a master bomber on your next trip and it is called Plate Rack.” And then the war changed and I didn’t go and
somebody else got it and so I didn’t actually do a master bomber. But one I remember particularly was at a place called Floha, Floha is between Chemnitz and Dresden, down that way. A very deep penetration and as we got towards the bombing target, my job as a deputy master bomber was to orbit the target, the same as the master bomber did, and if anything happened to him I was to take over and control the target. But I also carried bombs, markers,
like the primary visuals, and because I was an experienced crew I was expected to put them on the target. And as we were coming in and we got in a little bit earlier and remember because we have got to orbit the target throughout the whole raid. We got in a little bit earlier than the main force; the master bomber called me up and said – whatever he was, Plate Rack 2, I would be Plate Rack 1 – he said, “Plate Rack 2, I think we can bomb this target visually. Go down and find out what the climb base is.” Now I am at eighteen thousand feet and getting close to the target,
and I had to get down to below ten thousand feet so I had to put full flaps down, the gear down. If you know about flying, you are cruising along magnificently and then all of a sudden, you are like that, your gear goes down and you are just going like that, gliding like a brick with bombs still starting to go off around you and fighters flying, God knows what. But anyhow when I broke through at under the cloud at ten thousand, I got down to eight, I said, “You can bomb quite comfortably
at nine.” So he then called the main force down to nine and many of them didn’t do it. They weren’t going to do it. They said, “Hang on, I am up here and I have only got a couple of minutes left. I can’t get down there.” And so they went through and just dropped their bombs. So it wasn’t a particularly successful operation because I will never forget it, because I am orbiting the target which is quite low and there was a viaduct and there was a train, and a couple of cookies, these are four thousand pound bombs, must have hit this train at the same time
because I can remember against the fires seeing a train. You may have seen it in these films they make. The engine was here and the caboose or trailer at the back and the carriages in between, they came together and the train went up like this, so it was like a U, like a parabolic curve, it was fascinating. And I just looked at that and I couldn’t understand it. And so we orbited that and so I was about twenty-four minutes orbiting the target, and that is a scary
time because you are going around and now we were at a low height and aircraft was coming down and trying to bomb at the height the master bomber told them to and the flak is going off all around you and people are being shot down around you and so it is quite scary.
and you were talking. You talked about the raid that you did, what you saw. Not shooting a line, but finding out information, exchanging information. It was dead against our way of doing things to boast. You just didn’t do that, you played down your own activities. For example, I did eighteen raids that I told with the main force squadron, when I got down to pathfinders, that should have been up on the board
but they made a mistake and they thought I had just come in there straight from OTU or some finishing school or something. So for quite a long time it just showed that I was one raid, two raids, three raids, but actually I had done nineteen, twenty, twenty-one. And that is why I probably didn’t get a bar to my DFC. When they got round to realising it, the war was at the end, the adjutant had cleared off and none of the fighter decorations went through. But towards the end I was called in by the wing commander
and he had already put my logbook, “Well above average as a heavy bomber pilot, pathfinder pilot.” He said, “Our squadron has been chosen to go to the Pacific as part of the Tiger Force we are going to be pathfinders over there.” And he said, “I would like you to be flight commander.” And that was a great honour, to go to the Pacific. And I said, “Well, you know, I have just promised my wife, now that the war was over in England, that we’d get married. Because, you know, we have been going together now for the best part of a year.” And he said, “When is the wedding to be?”
And I said, “June the 20th, 1945.” He said, “Oh no, you can’t go, you will have to put your wedding off.” And I mentioned it to Pat and she said, “Well I think if you are trying to put it off, that’s it, we will never get married.” So I went back to him and said, “Isn’t there some way I can work it out?” And he said, “Well you know what the air force is like. But you go up to Glasgow,” – we got married in Glasgow because my wife’s mother had an apartment up there – “and I will fly you up there in a Mosquito.” And so they flew me up there, right, and then he said, “We will fly
some of the crew up to be at your wedding, so you have got someone to support you. But you have got to tell us every minute of where you are and I’ll get a Mosquito to get you.” And so of course that was the way they were. And of course the call never came and we were staying on my honeymoon at the Trussics Hotel, which was a beautiful hotel in the beginning of the Scottish Highlands on Loch Ardray and it had been used a lot for people that had done some pretty severe tours.
Submarine commanders, there was an Englishman and a South African both were actual commanders, both had been on submarine duty for years and years. They were like this and they sent them there to recover. And they had a great bar and they had scotch whisky, all the things you couldn’t get anywhere else. And somehow or another I got in there and they just left me there for a whole month and then they rang me up and said, “We are not going to go now but you had better come back and
see what’s to be done.” So I went back to the squadron and we’d run out of money anyhow and both Pat’s pay book and my pay book were empty and then he said, “Look, I don’t know what is going to happen but it doesn’t look as if we were going to go.” The Yanks hadn’t dropped the atomic bomb so I kept flying and when it came back that they had, I had missed the normal shipment home to Australia. I had got out of synch. And I thought to myself, “What the hell am I going to do when I get back to
Australia? I had worked in a bank and when I get back they had made up my wages during the war. I will have to pay them back what they paid me.” And then, “Pat, my wife, is not the kind of person who is going to live on four pounds and ten a week, I think.” And when we got back our first place was six guineas a week rental so we could hardly live a salary of four pounds ten a week. So anyhow
I went to… Pat said, “I know somebody in London.” She had been lucky because she’d been in the air force a long time. She had known lots of good people. “Go and see Wing Commander Johnston and tell him you want to become a Lancastrian pilot because Qantas has got Lancastrians at that time and see what he says.” And he said, “Look, you and everybody is asking these questions, but it would be very hard for you to get a job back in Qantas because there will be twenty thousand pilots back there looking for a job.” He said, “Why don’t you try and
do a First Class ATPL [Airline Transport Pilot Licence] while you are in England waiting?” And I said, “Well how do I do that?” He said, “You will have to do a course on hydraulics, a course on electrics and the only differences between the Lancastrian and the Lancaster.” I said, “Where do I do that?” He said, “AD Row does some courses, he said, “I’ll give you an address, contact this fellow.” His name was Roy Dobson, right, so off I go to Manchester and I out to Midford I think it was called and I come to the gate
where the security is and I was a flight attendant then, wearing my pathfinder badge and my DFC and he said, “What can we do for you, sir?” And I said, “I want to see Mr Dobson.” And he said, “What about?” And I said, “I want to do a course.” And he said, “We don’t do course here, but over in Chattenham or Willsbar or somewhere, not Willsbar, Woodford.” And I said, “Well this fellow would help me, I understand.” He said, “I don’t think we have anybody by that name who works here.
So but anyhow I’ll call the personnel manager.” And so he called the personnel manager and he came down to the gate. It was quite a lot of security there and they weren’t going to let anybody go into the base. And he talked to me for a while and he said, “What are you trying to do?” And I said, “I want to go back to Australia and I want to go back with a licence on the Lancastrian. I have done sixty trips on it now and I have got more hours than most other people and I will have a good chance to get a job if I have got a licence. And Wing Commander Johnston in the Air Ministry
in London said to me if I contact this Mr Dobson,” I think his name was Roy Dobson, “he will help me.” And he looked at me for a minute and he said, “You couldn’t possibly mean Sir Roy?” And I said, “Who’s he?” He said, “He is the Managing Director of AV Rose.” And I said, “I think that is probably the man.” “Oh.” And he got on the phone, and I never actually saw Sir Roy Dobson, he wasn’t there, but the next thing I had a Humber car,
I was taken to the Midland Hotel, which was a lovely hotel in Manchester, I was put up at AV Rose’s room for about three weeks, they put on a special course for me and drove me out each day. And so when I went back down to London with all that done, the results would give me a licence. So I got a first class APTL and then I went back again and there was still no time for me to go back and I said, “Well I am interested in navigation, I always have been on pathfinders, I will do a second class
navigators,” and I studied like mad. And then I came to a blockage because it was to old fashioned and to get a second class navigators you had to study tides, because a lot of the commercial flying was done on flying boats so you had to be like a ships nav. And I said, “Well where can you learn that?” And they said, “Well the only place I know that teaches it is Southampton University.” And so somebody told me who to see at Southampton University and they put on a special course for me on tides. So when I eventually came back to Australia – and I got
back here in the December of 1945, quite a lot later than the others but still in the air force – I went along to see Qantas. And the fellow there said to me, “Look, we have got Wing Commander Demsure and Wing Commander Wharton, and Wing Commander Kingsford Smith.” I am just quoting you names. Two of them I know for sure, I am not sure about Kingsford Smith. “They are coming in every day, how can we give a flight attendant a job?” And I said, “Well I have got, first of all, two licences
and, second, more time on Lancasters than any of Demsure, Kingsford Smith or Wharton.” And they said, “No, we can’t give you a job.” So I went down to… So that was fine, I went down to Melbourne. So then I went down to Melbourne and Pat was coming by boat from England on the Rangatira, heavily pregnant at this time.
Pregnant, right, so we were married in June, the baby wasn’t born till May so she wasn’t a disadvantaged woman or like that. Anyhow I went down and saw ANA [Australian National Airlines] and I met I think there was a Johnston there, and a Holland, who the runner or the owner of ANA and
they said, “Yeah, you have got the kind of experience and you have shown what kind of determination we want. You have got a job starting February 2nd.” So I got back up to Sydney to Potts Point and by this time I had taken Pat with me and I said, “I have got a job. I start on the 2nd February. We might have to live in Melbourne, I don’t know where. At least I am going to have a good job and you don’t have to live on four pounds a week.” So we went and got an apartment in the inner Sydney in Bellevue Hill and it wasn’t a bad place,
six guineas a week, which was still a lot of money for what you were getting. But I thought on my pilot’s pay I would be able to afford it. But what actually happened, on the 23rd I got a phone call from someone up in Qantas, “Oh, Denver, what are you doing?” I said, “I am just getting ready to go down to Melbourne because I have got a job with ANA. You wouldn’t give me a job.” “Well we were thinking maybe if you have got those licences that
you’d come along and like to have another interview and we’d talk to you about it.” So I said, “When?” He said, “Now.” And I said, “Right.” So I went in there and he said, “We will offer you a job, a probationary job, on I think about five hundred and fifty or five hundred pounds a year.” I said, “Listen, I have done sixty trips over Germany, I have got five or six hundred hours on Lancasters,
I don’t need to be on probation. I will stick with the job at ANA, they didn’t want to put me on probation.” So I got home that after and he called back, said, “My operations manager has decided that you can start not on probation on eight hundred pound a year, provided you are in tomorrow morning.” I said, “I only get discharged tomorrow morning.” He said, “Yes, as soon as you get discharged you come in here, we’ll fit you with a uniform and you’ll be on an aeroplane tomorrow afternoon.” And what had happened was they had a Lancaster
breakdown in Learmonth and they didn’t have anybody with a licence available. And that was the pure reason, I am sure of it. And they came to me, “Here is a man with a licence, can hop on a plane right now. We don’t break any rules.” So they flew me across in a Liberator and I was only a co-pilot of course, first officer, but I came back a first officer on the day I was discharged from the air force. So that was quite good and then Qantas was another life.
And maybe for the benefit of the archive, I know there is records, but just for the benefit of an oral archive, describe your Lancaster for us?
Yes, well first of all it was a four-engine heavy bomber aircraft. It had normal engines and in rating it became a more powerful engine. I think there was a Lancaster 1 and a Lancaster 3 had a more powerful engine. They had a rear gunner, a mid upper gunner and they had the bomb aimer who had a front gun turret. Now
on pathfinders where I was, I had myself as the pilot and captain, I had the navigator, I had a special set operator to operate the radar equipment that we used, like H2S and Y, as it was called or G, to give the navigator the messages so he could plot the fixes. And we had a bomb aimer, a visual bomb aimer, because remember it was very important in pathfinders to bomb correctly, so a very good bomb aimer.
And you got a radio operator and the gunners. And the aircraft itself was a fixed wing aircraft and had a spar, a main spar that went right through the cabin. You had clamber over that when you were getting up to your seats. The pilots had different parachutes to the others. You had a seat type parachute. I sat on the, I sat on my parachute. And the others all had one they wore on their chests.
Four engines, you know, you would cruise along at about two hundred and twelve miles an hour and so reasonably, quite a fast aircraft. And very responsive to the controls, if you banked like that you’d start to turn and put your rudder on you’d go into the turn a bit faster. Pull the stick, bang, the nose would go up. Push it down, you’re down. So
whereas flying… The first time I flew a Liberator it was amazing – it was like flying a truck by comparison to flying a Lancaster. I’ll never forget it. I only flew it for a little while. But they put me through it because I was going over to pick up this Lancaster and it was a nose wheel aircraft and the Lancaster was a tail wheel aircraft. So you flew them differently then, a nose wheel aircraft. You kind of tried to grease it on, you flew it, you got very close, you had the tail down like that until you just
smoothed onto the runway. You basically just stalled when you touched the runway. Whereas with a Liberator and nose wheel aircraft like DC4, etc., you could fly them on. And you would just hit with your wheels and then let the nose plonk down.
you know, after they knocked it down. So it was interesting to see the two things and it was an interesting city. Berlin is full of life, you know, of one kind or another. I am not particularly fond of the Germans as people, as a race, but I am not disfond of them either. But it was great to see them and talk to them over bars. Let me tell you an interesting story. We were in Hamburg one time and I had bought Pat a new BMW in Munich and we drove it from Munich
up to Hamburg where it was to be shipped from. And it was mid winter and there was ice on the deal and they wouldn’t let you use salt on the roads there. In many places where there is a lot of ice, they spray it with salt and that breaks the ice up so you can drive. So you had to have special studs on your tyres and I didn’t have studs on these tyres. So Pat had to drive the car around Berlin for three weeks because I was having a management teaching assignment in Malaysia that I had to go to.
However, we went into a bar in Hamburg one night to have a drink and there was a fellow, short, dark, looked a bit like you, good looking, dark haired, long haired. And he started talking to us straight away and he wanted to know what I was doing and about my past, and I told him I had been in the air force. And there was another rather tall and much more dignified looking bloke sitting up the other end of the bar, he didn’t say anything
but he looked and made a few nods. And so I said to this chap, “Will you have a drink with us?” And then I called out to that other bloke up there, and I said, “Would you have a drink with us too, sir?” And he looked at us for a fully a minute, I don’t think it was Pat and I, but he wasn’t too sure whether he wanted to be with the little dark bloke who was next to us. Anyhow down he comes and said, “Yes, I would like to have a drink with you.” And he made some sort of a look at this little fellow and off he went, right.
So there was just this chap and he asked us who we were and I told him, and I said I was in the air force during the war and he said, “So was I. I was in Luftwaffe.” And he said he was on Goering’s staff, very senior, a brigadier, or brigadier general or general or something. “Let me tell how interesting it was because I had to make certain that I was captured by the British. I didn’t want to be captured by the Russians and I didn’t want to be captured by the Americans.” So he told us how he dodged
all the trips to be captured by the British, right. And because his cousin had married the Queen of Holland and they were… I don’t know if you know European history much, but they have what is called Hanseatic princes and they were the Germans that lived around that northern part of Germany that traded in shipping, came from very wealthy aristocratic families, and he was one of those. And he said to me, “Have you been in a German home?” And I said,
“No, we had been kind of staying in hotels and things like that.” And told him where we have been, because we have had a lovely trip driving up from Munich via Berlin and other places along the way. And he said, “Come to my home.” And he took us home, because I will never forget it because it was winter, cold as anything. And his wife was quite a bit of an oddball and the place was full of moles, you know, and porcupines. She says, “Too cold for these poor darlings outside.” She had very expensive
carpets. She had a couple of rooms filled with the little animals to keep them warm. And they were charming, absolutely charming fellow. That was an interesting story. And then Christmas Day, I can’t remember the exact name of the place, Rams or something it is on the romantic highway.
and the general manager was a fellow named Ritchie at that particular time. He didn’t want the pilots to have a union. So everybody got together to form the union and then Ritchie came out and said, “Look, those of you who are going to be in this union have got a very limited career with Qantas. Those of you who come over here and line up with me now have got a pretty good career.” And many of the fellows that I had trusted and really thought were going to part of it, not that I was the leader at all, went over
to stand alongside him. So I thought, “Well that is it. I don’t want to be in a company where we are split like this.” And then I was in Singapore one time having a drink in the bar at Raffles Hotel and talking to an Australian there. And he said, “What do you do?” And I said, “I am a Qantas captain.” And he said, “Oh.” And I said, “What do you do?” He said, “I am the purchasing officer,” or something, “for Caltex Pacific.” He said, “We have got a couple of aeroplanes,
three aeroplanes in Indonesia and I have a feeling we are looking for another captain, a training pilot, check pilot.” And I said, “What would they pay?” And he said, “I don’t know but pretty sure that it will be more then you are getting now.” So he said, “If you’re interested, I’ll tell ’em and they can contact you.” And I said, “Well ask them to give me a contact and of some sorts of conditions and we’ll see what it is.” So they contacted me and told me, but didn’t make any offer on the salary. And I got back and said,
“Look, I’ll be flying through Jakarta on such and such a date. Maybe get one of your personnel people to come out and talk to me.” Because I had about an hour spare time for one reason or another we had an hour and half slip over. And this fellow, George Randall, and this fellow named Arnold, Bud Arnold, a tremendous man, he was the managing director, came out and they were waiting at the airport. And this managing director turned to me and said, “What is your name, son?”
I said, “My name is Denver.” “Denver.” He said, “That is the best time I ever had in my life was Denver. What does he want, George? Hire him.” And I said, “Well I want to make sure I am getting more than what I get now.” “Double it George, double it George, hire this man.” And then he walked off. So how about that? He was the kind of bloke that during the war was with the American long range desert group and
he had a machine gun mounted on top of his jeep, you know, and with pearl handles on it and God knows what. Absolutely terrific bloke, he looked after me in a way in that period, but I trained myself out of a job and when I we had a wonderful time. But, you know, I could talk for hours on our time through Indonesia. It was the time when the Sukarno regime was folding down, it wasn’t quite as good for Pat as it was for me because I could always go over to Singapore or something like that and I could get out of it
whereas she had to stay behind. One time we had eleven servants. The managing director of KPM had a beautiful house up in the mountains on the way to Bandung in the Prince shire and if he kept it in KPM’s name the Indonesians were going to take it over, so he rented it to me for one rupiah a month. So I had this beautiful house with servants and everything spread out across the side of the mountain and rice paddies down below to go for at weekends when I wasn’t
flying. And we had a nice house in Jakarta as well.
director was a good golfer. We had good amah, we had good servants and apart from the fact that the food wasn’t so good, we had a good life in Indonesia. I ended up getting an amoeba on the liver so I got anaemic hepatitis, which was very, very bad. But Pat had a more difficult time in Indonesia than I did because we used to go up to this weekend house and when she
was there one time the rebels were shooting machine guns across the house chasing the police, you know, and she had the kids from here Sunday School and our own kids all lying on the floor up there all dodging the bullets. So Indonesia was charming in many ways, exciting, challenging, but I enjoyed it because what I did was, I had to fly the aircraft up from Jakarta. There was another crew there, they went onto Singapore, they always wanted to go to Singapore, and I had been to Singapore so many times.
I was more interested in finding out what was going on in the airfields. So I would go out and spend maybe two or sometimes three days on the oilfields, but I would spend it studying and I was doing a Certificate of Petroleum Engineering and I would go out onto the rigs, where they had the petroleum engineers, where they had the geologists, and they were quite enthused that somebody that was the pilot, who would fly them around, would want to spend his spare time out with them when they were working. So they were extremely helpful and I became quite knowledgeable about what was going on in the
oil industry, so much so that when we had really important executives visiting us, our managing director would say, “Ian, I am going to ask Mr Volavast ” – Let’s say he was the Chairman of Sail Oil of California, or Mr Long, who was the Chairman of Texaco – “to sit in the front seat and you point out to him the various things around the field.” And so I took quite a pride in doing that well. So Indonesia for me was great until I came down with the enema of the liver and they had what they thought was
malaria with constant shakes and God knows what. I was in hospital here for about four or five months before they found out what it was. But then when that was done I had basically trained myself out of a job in Indonesian. All the other pilots had gone, the radio operators had gone, and we had Indonesians doing the job. So the top man up there in civil aviation said, “Look, I don’t think we need Captain Denver any longer. He has trained Captain Perjamin
to do a fantastic job and we are very proud of him. We would like to make him your chief pilot.” And what could they do about it? They came back to me and said, “Look, Ian, there is a lot of pressure on us to put Perjamin…” They said, “What is he like?” I said, “He is darn good. I have trained him and you couldn’t have anybody better.” “So can he do the job?” I said, “Yes, he can do the job.” “So what do you want to do?” “You promised me that when I took this job,” – Arnold didn’t promise me, he wasn’t there any longer – “that you would get me a job in marketing or something like that and I don’t want to go back to Australia.” To go back to Australia
when I have already been the top of the heap in Qantas as a pilot was… And go back and do a job on aviation refuelling or something like that… “I am not interested. I would rather go overseas, learn some job and try and do that.” So they said, “All right. We will send you to Bahrain.” So I went to Bahrain as a marketing representative. I spent about a year before I trained myself out of that job, and then went to what was called maintenance. And this was a three hundred-odd barrel a day refinery,
an oil one, with about six different crude units and a lot of work. So I learnt a tremendous amount about planning of shutdowns, of scheduling people. I supervised the riggers and the scaffolders and all the movements and the materials around the sites and the various shutdowns. So, you know, I could look at a bolt and I would know what a bolt was. I’d get a triangle bar, I’d know what it did. I look at a pressure line and know what that was for and I could look at any aspects of the refinery, basically, and understand the purpose
of it being there. And then we had about an eight… There was a forty million dollar inventory in stores. So they said, “Would you go on to stores now, you know what all these things are, and see if you can get that down?” So after a lot of work I got it down to eight million dollars, so cut from forty million to eight million means a straight saving of thirty-two million dollars that is not tied up in capital, right. And the maintenance people said, “We are not going to give up our little magpie stores,” that they had all over the place.
And, you know, like Bush said, “Trust me, I will make sure you get it.” And I always did. There was never an occasion where something was held up because of a shortage of material because I hadn’t ordered it or go in on time. So I did that for about three years and learnt a lot about buying because I was doing the purchasing and the controlling and the warehousing and so on. And then there was a program – the president came back from America – called ‘Zero Defects’ and it was exciting, and it simply meant that you could do your job without making a mistake
if you get the right facilities to do the job, if you have the right attitude towards to do the job, if your job gives you the recognition that you want and gives you the opportunity to do it then you will do a job without mistakes. So I preached that, basically, but I made it possible. We identified potential causes for error. I got them moved. If somebody was made…of the month, I got the chair of the company at 3 a.m. in the morning out of his bed on graveyard shift to say
well done. And after three years we were running the best refinery in the whole of that Middle East – and all our costs hadn’t gone up like the others – until somebody came down and said, “Hey, maybe you should go and do training.” I said, “I have never done training.” He said, “From now on you are going to be Head of Training and Development for Caltex worldwide based in New York.”
before we moved to Dallas I went back to Bahrain as the Manager of Training and Development there because they had a lot of troubles in Bahrain. The place was burgeoning and every one of the people we’d trained and brought up before were being hired away, made general mangers downtown with twice the salary, you see, so I had come up with some way of keeping them there. So I went back and set up a career development thing that really worked. We kept our people and now that refinery is virtually run by those kind of people that I had
some say in what their training would be. But we went back and they moved to Dallas, and Dallas was a great place; Pat loved Texas. We actually lived in Carolton, which is a suburb of Dallas, and went to the office. If you have ever watched the Byron Datsun Open you can see Caltex house from time to time from the course there. It was great and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But when I was sixty-two, right, the company came up with a golden handshake and said, “Anybody that has worked thirty years,” –
I had worked thirty years at Caltex – “can take this golden handshake and leave.” And so I put my hand up and they said, “We don’t mean you. It’s for some other people.” I said, “No, that is not what the notice says, anybody.” “But we didn’t really mean you. We want you to stay here and be our Head of Training.” And I said, “No. I have just been back to Australia, teaching some management out here.” And I said, “My two brothers live in Australia on less money than I’ve got. I would like to go home. I have been away a long time.”
“Oh, you shouldn’t go.” Anyhow they couldn’t back down. They went up to the chairman and the chairman said, “Well you have got to let him go.” But I hadn’t been gone more than three months when somebody from Australia contacted the Managing Director and said, “Can you come into the office?” And I said, “All right.” And the people from Dallas were on the phone, said, “Would you come back to Dallas? We want you to go to Kenya to set up a career development
centre for us.” And as I had spent some time in Kenya a year or two before doing an organisational survey for them, that appealed to me. And I had never ever worked in Africa except for a short time, so I said, “Yep, I’ll go.” Also I had a problem with my house in Texas, the sale had also fallen through and I needed an excuse to get back to Texas. So I went back and took Pat and we loved Kenya. It was really nice, I had a good job, hard working, and got it all organised and built a career development training centre. And then on top
of that I taught the courses and I did surveys of all the East African countries that we did business in, so I had a chance to go to Uganda and Tanzania and places like that. And so I was able to come back, knowing what they needed, then put together a course that would help them and then teach it. So I did that for the best part of a year. And then they rang me up again and said, “Right, now you have done that job we want a local to take over come back to Dallas.” And I said, “No, I am going home.”
So I went home to Australia. And about six months later they rang up and said, “Look, there is a refinery we want to build in,” – or not build, it was already built – “We want to recognise it in Bangkok. But we would like you to come and write up the manpower and training plan for us.” So that is a month’s work in Dallas and they pay you good money and I said, “Well, why not?” So off I went to Dallas and again and wrote it all up. And I am on my way out to Bangkok to have a look at what this is going to be like, and I was in London and the phone comes and says, “Don’t go to Bangkok. That is
going to fall through. It is too dangerous for us to take that job on because the refinery is located on swampy ground and anything could have happened.” And it was just after that disaster in India. They were scared that they might have got into a situation where they would be sued for things. “But go to Malaysia instead. The training coordinator down there is not doing a very good job. Tell us what we should do.” So I went down to the east coast of Malaysia, I wrote up a program for them, sent it back to Dallas, went home
again. And then they phoned me up again and said, “Right, we have decided that what you said is correct. We need a good man to come here for six months. You are the only fellow we can think of. Will you go to Malaysia for six months?” So, fair enough, that’s where I went. And went to Malaysia for six months and set up all the programs, got it going and did a pretty good job because I came home again. And I hadn’t been home more than six months or so and the call came from the Head of Petrolnass’s HR department, and said, “Ian, we are building a new refinery
in Malacca. We like you to come and be the Head of Training for that refinery.” And I said, “Well send me an offer.” And then the next hour more or less a phone comes from the Managing Director in Caltex in Malaysia, “Ian, we hear that Petrolnass has approached you to be their Training Manager?” I said, “Yes.” “Well we are trying to get a technical services crewman there which includes the supply of a training manager. We think you would be better
off if we put your name forward as the Training Manager and it may help them to accept our package. And you are under our umbrella; you will be better looked after.” So I what did I do? “Yep, put my name forward.” And then in no time at all I was back up there and we lived for fourteen months in Kuala Lumpur and it was great. I got all the programs written up for everybody in the refinery. And then came back here and I hadn’t been back for more then a year and we were living at Rainbow Bay at that stage. And the phone goes again from the General Manager and he said,
“Look, we want somebody to go to Oman.” And I said, “Oman? Where is that?” “Muscat.” “Oh, Muscat. I know Muscat.” It was very, very hard to get into Muscat because it was forbidden to visitors. And I said, “Yes, I got down there, strangely enough, as secondary crew on a Gulf Aviation flight in 1960.” And they said, “So you know it?” I said, “Yep.” They said, “Would you have a look at it and give us a report on what we should do?” “So I said, “All right, for two months.” He said, “Yep, for two months.” “How much do you pay me?”
And it was good money at ten thousand US dollars a month or something like that, or a little less at that time. I said, “All right. I will go and do it.” So I went and did and wrote the report up and then they said, “Now we want you to go back there for a longer period of time and be the Training Manager because they have accepted our technical service proposal. But we don’t want you to just do training and development, you are be in charge of medical, that means the doctors, the nurses and so on and so forth, security, occupational health and
fire and safety and as well as training and career development. Can you do it?” I said, “Well how do I know? I have not done any of those things apart from the training and development.” But I said, “Give me a good man and I will make sure it is done.” They said, “Okay, we will give you a good man in each function and it will mostly be a local except for the fire and safety one.” And sure enough, I went back and I worked there for two and half years, when the agreement finished, and I think I did a great job, thoroughly enjoyed it. I was a good golfer up there too –
I got the golfer of the year trophy from that place. And then we came home and I was home for about a year and I got a ring to say, “Look, we are building a grassroots refinery in Dallas.” Not in Dallas, “In Thailand.”
So then going to Thailand and I went up there and they had trouble with the Training Manager and I wrote up a training report and he just wasn’t able to handle local
people. And I said, “This is your problem. He is not doing the job as well as he should.” And they said, “Well look, he has resigned. Would you take on the job?” And I said, “I had better go home and pack up.” But when I got home the Managing Director phoned and said, “Ian, he has come back and withdrawn his resignation. What am I to do?” I said, “Well what do you think? If you want it to be successful, he won’t do the job for you.” He said, “Yes, I know that, that is why I asked you to come in the first place.” And I said, “Well you have got to make a decision.” And so I came up
and he called him into his office and said, “Look, we are not going to accept your return of your resignation. We really feel that you are not the right man for the job.” And the General Manager, who had been a good man – I had worked with him before – was also fired at that time. So I came in and from a grassroots refinery it was fantastic, state of the art, worked two and a half years in Thailand and thoroughly enjoyed it and had a good opportunity to see Thailand. And because in the first six months I worked sort of six days a week,
from seven in the morning to about six a night and then we had Sundays off and then later on we’d get the weekends off, you know, so it worked out pretty good. And I hadn’t been home for more than a year and by this time I was about seventy-five or so and the Managing Director from Japan phoned and said, “Look, we have a problem in Japan. Will you come up here and write a report on what we should do?” I did that, came home again, they rang up and said, “Yeah, you are right. Will you come up and do it for us?” So we had the last eighteen months in Japan and I stopped working, I think it was
in 1999 when I was seventy-six.