That was our initial trainer. The advanced one was a thing called Western Wapiti, great big bi-plane, and these Wapitis were used by all sorts of frontier by the RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force], and they came to us after they’d finished with them. Interesting course. It was a very hard course. Met a lot of friends on that course. Still two alive. And from there I was posted to 3 Squadron,
and that was a Demon Squadron, Army Cop Squadron, based at Richmond, New South Wales. By that time, of course, war had broken out and so they decided to make me an instructor. Initially a Navy instructor, again at Point Cook, and then to CFS [Central Flying School] Camden, to do instructors. So the next nineteen months I spent at Wagga, which is No. 2 Service Training Flying School [part of EATS, the Empire Air Training Scheme],
commanded by Wing Commander Frederick Scherger [later Air Chief Marshal Sir Frederick Scherger; Chief of Air Staff, 1957-61], who was a marvellous CO [Commanding Officer], really was. And from there I was posted to the Americans in 1942, the first American Fighter Wing to come to Australia which was the 49th Fighter Group, as a liaison officer and instructor, and from there to 77 Squadron in Perth, so I spent about nineteen months with 77 Squadron, back to Australia to the Fighter OTU [Officer Training Unit]
at Mildura as Chief Flying Instructor, and a few months later, in early 1944, up to Darwin, Wing Leader of the Spitfire Wing. At about that time they decided to make me Formation Commander of 81 Fighter Wing, which was a B-40 Kittyhawk Wing, then to be based at Darwin. It never happened.
They [the wing] went to Townsville, so I stayed at that wing for a while as Commanding Officer, then Wing Leader, until March ’45, and came back to Australia to do a Staff College course, and that was roughly my wartime experience.
Can you just elaborate and give us a little bit more detail of where you went with 77 Squadron, and when?
Yes. 77 Squadron was formed by an RAAF Squadron Leader, who stayed there about three or four weeks, and then they gave it to me. In April ’42. No, we formed in Perth at Pearce [Aerodrome], whilst there they decided that Pearce was a target, therefore moved me out. So I took over the Dunreith golf course, just out of Perth which is now, of course, the main aerodrome.
I took over two or three beautiful houses there, four messes and quarters, and so on and so forth, and we formed two fairways into a good runway, about three thousand feet, so we could operate the Kittyhawks, and in July ’42, I was told we’ve got to move to Darwin. So I was told by the OC [Officer Commanding], he was a bloke called,
Nick, up to Darwin and find out what’s there. When I got there, a bloke called Dad Bladen, Air Commodore Bladen then, he was OC of North Western area. He said, ‘There’s nothing here, Cresswell. Build the lot’. So I got back to Pearce, got hold of five good capable people, gave them up to sixth three thousand pounds to spend,
they went across to Adelaide. They bought everything. Utilities, beds, palliasses, straw, ton and a half of beer, tools, everything. Especially trench tools, that sort of thing. So that’s how we started off, by buying all our own stuff for the squadron. And we eventually moved to Darwin in August, ’42. And between Alice Springs and Darwin, there was a dirt road, just dirt, there was no road at all.
It was a good navigational aid because you could see the dust rising from the road as the trucks were going up. Anyway it took thirteen days to get the squadron, by train, by road, and by air, to Darwin. And I was slightly abused by the then Chief of the Air Force, a bloke called [Air Marshal George] Jones, ‘why did I take so long?’ So “Dad” Bladen, the OAC [Air Officer Commanding] at North Western area said, ‘What’s your answer? So I said, ‘Send the CS [Company Sergeant] a map of Australia’.
Which he did. So, that CS and I have never talked. Never liked each other. At Darwin, we were there from August ’42 to January ’43, and we didn’t experience any daylight air raids at all, but they did come at night. And I was the only night flying, night pilot available, or trained, so I got an aircraft one night in
late ’42, November ’42, and shot down one Betty Bomber [code for a Japanese Mitsubishi G4M bomber]. And that was our first victory, and the only one in Darwin. In January, by ship to Townsville, to Milne Bay, the aircraft flown to Amberley, Queensland, we refitted a new model of the B4, the Kittyhawk, the model K,
and in February ’43, we arrived at Milne Bay, took over from the Yanks [Americans] that had been there, and we stayed there about three months, then to Goodenough Island, north of Milne Bay, and I came back in September ’42, back to Australia, to the OTU. They’d had the squad there for nineteen months.
stayed there for two years, I was CO for about a year, where we trained pilots for the [British Commonwealth] Occupation Force in Japan. We had three squadrons in Japan, the Occupation Force, and the 77/82 and 76 Squadron. After ’48, posted to, become a member of the Directing Staff at
the new RAAF Staff College being formed at Point Cook. So from ’49 to early ’50 I was back at Point Cook again. And I knew the Air Force realised I didn’t like being a bloody staff officer, so they posted me to take over 21 Squadron, which was Assistant Air Force Squadron at Laverton. It had Mustangs, and later on, Mustang Vampire jets,
so I stayed there until the then CO of 77 Squadron was killed in Korea, a bloke called Bruce Spence, and the next thing I knew I was told, this is on Sunday morning, told to leave on Monday for Japan. And three months later I was told I had volunteered. So I stayed in Japan, with the squadron, Japan and Korea,
from September ’50 through to October ’51. And that was another hard exercise, because we initially were the only Mustang squadron in Japan. The Yanks had transferred their Mustang squadrons to F80s, their first jets, called the Shooting Star. In the end they had to transfer five of their squadrons
back to Mustangs, because Mustangs were the only aircraft then capable of carrying the weapons load necessary to stop the Koreans from coming down in Korea. We had several moves in the Korean campaign. Initially we operated from Iwakuni, which was the Air Force base in southern Japan,
so it was an hour’s flight across in the morning, and an hour and a quarter back in the afternoon, and we generally did two or three missions. Of course, they used to land at a place called Taegu. Where we were re-armed and re-fuelled by the Americans. And they were long hard days, because it was about quarter past four in the morning to about half past six at night. And I was flying each day, so it was a pretty tiring sort of period for most of us.
We were then transferred as a member of an American Fighter group, a Mustang aircraft, 35th Fighter Group to Pohang. That was on the east coast of Korea. And we operated from there for a couple of months, but the group was transferred to Hamhung, in North Korea. Near the Chosen Reservoir, and there was an interesting story there. Because the Chinese hordes
were coming in, and at once stage of the game, we finished up with the only squadron actually operating out of the three Mustang squadrons. The Yanks had sort of, gone south. So we got, we evacuated Hamhung, the strip was called Yompo, Y-O-M-P-O, down to Pusan. And we were there until April ’51,
again doing long trips. Sometimes, the longest trip I ever did in a Mustang was eight and a quarter hours. Wasn’t bad for a fighter aircraft. I finished up with a pretty sore bum, of course, with a bloody CO2 bottle for the dinghy stuck up the back end. But there were lots of long jobs, three, three and a half, four hours. And we flew and operated all over Korea.
There was no specific target area. We were just told, we went where we were sent. In April, I took the squadron back to Iwakuni [Japan]. And transferred the squadron to a [Gloster] Meteor jet, British jet. It wasn’t the aircraft I wanted. I wanted the American [F-86] Sabre, but they just weren’t available. So we operated the Meteor jet right through from
July ’51, to the end of the war, which was July ’53. We lost about thirteen Mustang pilots in the Mustang days, and about twenty six in the Meteor days. We lost a lot of aircraft. We lost about fourteen or fifteen Mustangs,
and about forty six Meteors in that three-year period, in the total Korean War. It was interesting flying the Meteor, because an inferior aircraft then to the Russian MiG 15 [fighter]. I only flew them for a while, because I was transferred to the American forces for a while. But the blokes that flew the Meteor,
they liked it, they thought it was a fairly rugged aircraft, and it was safe, it had two engines for a start, even though our losses were pretty high. In total we lost forty two pilots, in the Korean War, of which seven were RAF [British Royal Air Force]. We had to bring the RAF into the scene, because we were terribly short of fighter pilots, and when they brought the Meteors out to Australia, out to Japan,
there were four RAF instructors, and those guys wanted to fly the Mustangs too, so I gave them fifty missions each, and we all went to Japan, over to the Meteor. But they suggested I use the jet-trained RAF pilots, if we were short of pilots. I said, ‘Sure’, and of course in Germany they had Meteor Wings. So we got pretty highly-trained pilots from the RAF.
I think it was thirty seven was the total number of pilots we got from the RAF, in the last two years of the Korean War. Some of them, one became Chief of the Air Force, RAF. Another one, John Price, was out here last July, at the… ex-Air Vice Marshall. At Williamtown last July, we had our fiftieth anniversary
of the Korean War. And after Korea, I came back to Fighter Ops, Wing Commander Fighter Ops, Director of Operations, Air Force Headquarters in Melbourne, and stayed there about eighteen months, and got a posting back to Williamtown.
Out to command the Fighter OTU, Operational Training Unit, which is jet based. And I stayed there for three years, at Williamtown, until my last posting in the Air Force was DOSP, Director of Operational Policy.
So I went up there as chief pilot for a while, and stayed there about fifteen months with him. Then I came back to Australia, and I joined an organisation called Hawker-Siddley Group
which commanded many aviation factories throughout the world. Also owned real estate, and railways, goodness what. It was a big group. So I eventually finished up as the Canberra-based rep for the whole group, worldwide. And stayed there fifteen years, with them. But the advantage there was, about every two years, I got a three-months trip around the world. And everything I could get hold of.
I was the first to fly the Caribou, which the Air Force eventually bought. 748s, Midge fighters [Folland Midge micro-fighters], anything they built, wherever they were, in Canada or England, I flew. So I kept my flying up on all sorts of aircraft until I had to stop in 1974 because of heart attacks. But that was a very interesting job, being based in Canberra
representing a large, worldwide aviation engineering group, and of course, maintained contacts with my Air Force friends, and civvie friends and the government. See, in the squadron, one of my original pilots was John Gorton [Prime Minister, 1968-71]. I taught him to fly in 1940 in Wagga, when I was instructor, and he finished up
as one the guys that escaped from Singapore. And he and I maintained our friendship right through. And I had many other senior guys, that came to the squadron in the initial days, in ’42, at Pearce, and most of them have gone now, but we retained a good friendship all those years after the war. In business, and flying, and general ex-Air Force associations.
Anyway, I resigned from the Hawker-Siddley outfit, whilst still based in Canberra, in 19, must have been about 1970, ’75, then set up a small organisation in Canberra,
where we sort of renovated old homes. Another guy and myself. I did that until about, ten or twelve years ago. In the meantime, after I left the Hawker-Siddley group, I and my wife separated and I went to live in Tamborine Mountain,
west of the Gold Coast, for about ten years. And the only reason I came back to Canberra, my then wife, third wife, died, and both my girls were in Canberra, and they said, ‘Come back to Canberra, Dad,’ and I said, ‘Too bloody cold’, and they said, ‘No. Come back’. That was seventeen years ago. Still in this area. So, that’s roughly the story of my life.
They run it into the wind and just go for it.
Well, you could do up to forty five knots. In a heavy wind, you’d probably get a good forty five knot wind across the deck before you took off, so no trouble with the Fury. And these were lightly loaded the aircraft. Beautiful aircraft to fly, the Fury. So I did a couple of Antarctic trips, whilst I was with de Havilland, and that’s why I joined de Havilland. How I became a member of the Hawker-Siddley Group. After I resigned from the Air Force I had no job.
So word got out that they wanted a pilot to go to the Antarctic. On a Beaver. So I went down there a couple of times, on what they called the Summer Cruise. But they were interesting trips, they really were. Because they were on floats. I went aboard a Danish ships called the Magadan, my ship was the Magadan.
We put the aircraft in number two hold, always loaded it over the side if you wanted to fly, and they were very interesting trips. And of course, the scenes down there, the picturesque, the ice, beautiful. I’d like to go down in a 747. Qantas asked me once, and I said, ‘Oh, no, I couldn’t’. I wish I had now.
And they wanted me to go down as a sort of an instructor, to tell the people on board what it was like down there. But I understand the 747 flights down there are bloody marvellous.
I think she got torpedoed once during World War I. And met my father when he was going home to England from India, on holidays. About 1918, I think. No, in 1919 they got married, and he said, ‘I’ve bought a property in Tasmania’. Sight unseen. Which a lot of people did in those days. And he bought an apple orchard, pears, and a quarter acre of strawberries
at Franklin Village just south of Launceston. Which is now, ever since we left it, it has been a girls, no, a boys’ home. But Mother was only twenty eight, I think, when they got married, and he was forty nine. So they had me. I don’t remember anything about that property. I remember once playing with matches. I must have lit my hair, because
my father grabbed me and dived me into a duck pond. With me in his arms. That’s what I remember about Tasmania. I went back there a couple of times, with my two girls. And I have a lot of friends in Tasmania, too. So, that’s how I became a Tasmanian. And my father died in 1924, so
my mother took me to England, and I stayed with my aunt, my father’s sister, for two years. Before coming back to Australia.
so there was some connection in the blood system. But she was a very interesting woman. Because she’d travelled a lot before World War I, or during World War I, she had seen a lot of the world, and she made me appreciate how big the world was. And how interesting it was, which probably helped me,
gain my interest in the world, world affairs, and travel and so on. She was a lonely woman. She should have married again, but no such luck. She also wanted a big family. Only had me. I wanted a big family myself, when I got married. I wanted six boys, and finished up with two girls. A female dog and a female grandchild. So we missed out on the male section of my family. I’m the last of my lot, my family anyway.
It finishes with me. Because my family’s fairly old. It goes back to the 1600s. But, no more males in the family. Mother and I got on very well together. We talked normally and naturally to each other. We argued like hell about all sorts of things, because I was living in a modern world,
compared to her world. And she died when she was seventy seven. Some years ago now. The second marriage, I came down to Canberra and built a house down here, Actually I designed it and got a building licence to build the house, myself. And we made a little flat in it for Mother, so she came with us.
but he obviously was a pretty clever bastard. Well, he topped his Oxford course for a start, The Indian experience was quite something, having designed and built the Darjeeling-Himalayan railway was quite an achievement in those days. And he finished up as the then Managing Director and later on, Chairman of the company.
So he must have been, he was no fool. I missed him, because when I was very young I needed an older bloke to talk to. And I never found that older bloke. Mother’s so-called friends, male friends, in the late ‘20s, ‘30s, were no interest of mine at all. Oh, there was one guy from New Zealand, whom I liked.
But I think Mother would have liked to be married again, but she missed out. Yeah, I missed my old man. I think any single man does. You like to have people around you, family around you all the time. His brother came out to Australia for about, oh,
twelve months, about 1947-48, Geoffrey, but I didn’t get to know him very well. Father had a brother and a sister. The sister looked after me in the UK in 1924-26. But she and I kept in contact for years,
until she died many years ago. I finished up with two cousins, they’re still alive. They’re in their eighties. And I keep in contact with them. The girl Barbara and her brother, Patrick. And any time I used to go to the UK, which was quite often in the old days when I was working, and stay with Barbara
and the kids, but we’re all growing apart because we’re getting older and getting sicker. She’s a pretty sick girl. She’s got some sort of disease. I think she’s lost her memory. But her kids, she has four, and their kids, of which there are eleven, they keep in touch with me some of the time.
if I went back to the UK, I’d have sort of no trouble staying with the family. I’m planning next year to go back. But a lot depends on my health. So far, things are improving. In two or three months I could be semi-normal again, but, so not having any direct family, apart from my two girls,
especially the younger one, Claudia, she’s 42, and she’s got a daughter aged fifteen. And the eldest one I see when she gets back to Australia, because she’s spends a lot of time in America, but the girls are pretty good. They always come around and look after me and see me. Take me out to a nice lunch somewhere.
come back next day. I was adventurous. I like doing things. Making things. I joined the Sea Scouts for a couple of years. I became a YMCA [Young Men’s Christian Association] physical instructor. But when I came back from the UK, Mother took one look at me, and said, ‘Oh, boy, you’re thin’, or words to that effect,
and she handed me over to a Swedish School of Instruction at Bennett’s Building, which is still there in Sydney, and they built me up a bit. And got me interested in gymnastics, and I became a junior instructor there. So when I joined the YMCA, that was the small job I had, a junior instructor. It was quite good fun. I’ve always been a healthy bloke, up till recently.
I like the sports, especially swimming and sailing, and tennis. Not football. Cricket occasionally. In my school days. But I couldn’t be still. I had to do something all the time. That’s why I got interested in doing up old homes and renovating, and doing odd jobs for people.
During the Depression days, that’s how I earned my pocket money, repairing all sort of things in houses. And in 1935 I went to Westinghouse in Rosebery in Sydney, and I was an electrical apprentice. I spent nearly three years there, before I joined the Air Force, but that was an interesting job too. Because those days, our first year as an apprentice our pay was twelve and sixpence, for a forty-eight hour week, a six day week.
I used to drive seven miles to work every morning and seven miles back every night.
What sort of student were you?
Lousy. I went to Double Bay after the Manly school, Double Bay, then to Randwick High. I did about three years at Randwick High. I passed, just. Intermediate. But I wasn’t a good student. I liked doing things. I should have gone to a practical school, engineering school. Not to an ordinary high school system.
When I was at Westinghouse, my two and a half, three years there, I went to Ultimo Tech at night time, to get technical training, but most my technical ability came from doing things myself. For instance, in the Air Force, in 1946, ’47, end of the war, I was at Williamtown, as CO,
and the guys there were doing all sort of crazy bloody things. So I formed a school of apprentices, in all sorts of areas, using Air Force tooling, machine shops, you name it. Some of these guys learnt quite a few trades during that time. Whereas they were doing nothing. Sitting around on the tarmac waiting for something to happen,
because there was no decision on the future of the Air Force, in those days, 1946, ’47. So I formed the first airmen’s club in the Air Force. Against all bloody orders. I thought corporals and all those guys below should have their own club, be able to get their own beer, that sort of thing. So I turned the airmen’s mess into a club. Against orders. Got away with it.
That made them very happy. Then I found that quite a few guys were getting full in Newcastle. And one or two prangs, not serious ones. So I got hold of the local police in Newcastle, and I said, ‘Come up and do some flying’. I had Vampires then. So I said, bring them out to Williamtown, and I’ll give them a flight. Same as some of the press boys. Bring the press out, Give them all a flight. Then I got very little co-operation from Newcastle.
None of my blokes were ever in trouble. And if they were, they were put in jail straight away, and I was phoned, or one of my senior guys was phoned. ‘We’ve got so and so in jail’. OK. We’ll come and get them. But we finished up with very good liaison between the Newcastle community and ourselves. Which is essential.
As you were growing up, where did your organisational bent come from?
Well, I was well trained by Scherger. Scherger was then a Wing Commander. CO of RAAF, Wagga No 2 Service Flying School, where I had nineteen months with him. He was very keen to make sure that his senior instructors knew what they were doing. I did a few silly things down there, and he punished me by giving me another job.
And he gave me OC Night Flying, because I love night flying. And OC Weapons Training, because I liked Weapons Training. Used to take teams down to Cressy where the Armour Training Camp was, from Wagga. Six or seven aircraft at a time. Wirraways. And, for instance, one night, lovely moon light night, end of flying. Got hold of one of the Erks [an aircraftsman]
and took him up, just to sort of fly around the sky for a while, and I flew down the main street of Wagga, in front of the local theatre, at seven minutes past eleven, one Thursday night, just as Scherger and his wife are coming out of the theatre. So Scherger, next morning, had me really fronted up. He said, ‘Oh, by the way, your Flight Lieutenant’s coming through today, I think. I’m not quite sure, whether you’re worthy of it’.
So that night, I finished up in the officer’s mess. In the far corner, reading a paper. And all the guys are whooping it up because they’d all been promoted, or quite a few had been. Scherger came in, ‘Oh, good evening, Flight Lieutenant Cresswell’. Got my Flight Lieutenant. ‘Come and have a drink. Oh, by the way. You’re also PMC of the mess. That’s President of the Mess Committee, of this Mess, now’. Christ, I was only nineteen. And so I became PMC of the mess. He kept giving me responsibilities.
as a jib hand, for about a year. It was fun, sailing on the harbour. Especially on the weekends when the eighteen footers were racing. But after the war, a friend of mine bought an eighteen-metre, Marconi-rigged yacht
called the Aoma on Sydney Harbour, it was a New Zealand ship and we sailed that. Often. Up the harbour, up the Heads, up to Brisbane, back again. Or towards Brisbane. Not as far as Brisbane. I was always interested in sailing, or being on the water. Even being in the water, because I used to love swimming a lot. I tell you those Antarctic trips.
They were rough trips. The round bottomed hulls, designed especially if the ship was caught in the ice, the ice would put pressure against the ship, and push it, push it out of the water. And never crush it. But boy, did they roll. Oh, god.
But as far as leadership is concerned, apart from being trained by Scherger at Wagga for that nineteen months, the 77 Squadron. I certainly became a leader, with lots of responsibilities. Unknown in those days, but luckily, in the squadron, I had some pretty senior guys, John Gorton was one. Bill Meacham, and Gough Manning, and a few other guys. Jimmy Cox.
Even though, you see John was nine years older than I, but they knew they had to respond to their leader’s instructions. And they became a team. I had a bloody good team in the squadron. Especially the ground crew. Another think I learnt under Scherger was, keep in contact with the ground crew. The guys that do all you servicing of aircraft, and domestic staff and so on.
And I learnt that lesson very early with Scherger, and I did with the squadron. Plus sign. All the way through. I had no trouble at all commanding squadrons or wings. Because all the ground crew knew me, because I used to wander around and talk to them occasionally. A lot of other leaders didn’t. Which was a great mistake.
I was pretty healthy. In fact very healthy. Young bloke. I seemed to have no trouble. I had a lousy education record, really, because I only passed the Intermediate, just. Where most of the guys that joined up had Leaving Certificates. I don’t know. No one recommended me, or advised me at all. I just passed the interview.
The first six months I had a very bad instructor. He had five students and all were scrubbed in the first six months, except me in the end. The Chief Instructor happened to be Dad Bladen. He said, ‘You’re OK, Cresswell. What’s wrong?’ I said, ‘Oh, it’s that bloody silly instructor we’ve got, Sir’. He said, ‘Yeah. We’ve got a problem there’. So the other four guys were scrubbed, and I stayed in the Air Force.
Dad Bladen said, ‘You may have to do a repeat Senior Course, an extra six months’. But they gave me a bloke called Flight Lieutenant Hicks, on the senior course, flying Wapitis. And he was bloody good.
Now about a third of those guys normally finished up in the UK, finishing off their cadet course there, joining the Royal Air Force. Round about ’37, ’38, ’39, we decided to keep a lot of people in Australia, because there was an expansion program, for instance, the new aerodromes being built at Wagga, at Richmond was finished, at Laverton, Pearce, Darwin. All in the course of construction.
Because we could be going for quite some time. The squadrons, we had in those days, I think, two or three, Citizen Air Force Squadrons. Called the Weekend Pilot. 21, 22 and 25 Squadron. Perth, I think was the third one. Finished up with four or five citizen squadrons in the end.
Now these guys had a permanent crew in charge of the squadron, you might say. Two thirds of the total came from citizens who wanted to be involved. Some pilots, a lot of ground crew. The permanent squadrons. We had nine squadrons, and a sea plane squadron, 1 Squadron, 2 Squadron, 3 Squadron,
that was about all, I think. Four squadrons. Oh, 6 Squadron.
It was a very small Air Force. When I joined 3 Squadron, which was July ’39, after a year at Point Cook, Cadets, I wasn’t very impressed at all. I felt it was undisciplined and some of the pilots, boy, I wouldn’t have given them their bloody wings, but they got them. In fact, a lot of those early pilots in 3 Squadron were killed. Because of lack of ability, basically.
When they arrived in the desert in 1940. In fact, I wasn’t very pleased with the 3 Squadron. At one stage of the game, I thought I would get out of the Air Force. I wasn’t happy, at all. When they made me Navigation Officer the war broke out, and then we started to really get stuck into things. We were flying off the coast, about twelve mile off the coast, in our Hawker Demon, carrying old World War I bombs,
one hundred and twelve pound bombs, looking for submarines. That was a pretty frightening experience, too, being so far out to sea. Away from the coast.
Can you talk a little bit about that?
Yeah. Well, see, in 1937, we had already arranged with the RAAF in Rhodesia, New Zealand and Canada, about a training system, which became the EATS [Empire Air Training Scheme]. So in 1937, that was planned, that was on paper, so it was ready to go. And we knew we had to expand fairly rapidly, in our training areas. Which we did. The
we rapidly formed elementary flying schools, that was the Moth, the Tiger Moth then. And certifying training schools, which was the [Avro] Anson and the Wirraway. And they were all formed, well, Wagga was formed in 1940. I was one of the original members. That was the EATS. So we got organised fairly rapidly,
by bringing back into the service, retired NCOs [Non Commissioned Officers] and ground crew, and of course, through the Citizens Air Force, officers and pilots. So by 1940 we were well and truly in the training scheme. Because that went right through until 1945. We only turned out, I think, about twenty six thousand aircrew, through our training scheme.
But Rhodesia turned out a lot more. So did Canada. New Zealand turned out quite a lot. But, without that Empire Air Training Scheme, we would have had trouble in World War II.
At the time, how did you feel about being posted to Wagga as an instructor?
Well, I started to enjoy it, because, when I arrived at Wagga, they gave me thirteen students. I still only had about six hundred hours, total flying. With the instructor course behind me. I said, ‘Hey. Come on’. ‘Well, we’re a bit short of instructors’. I said, ‘You must be bloody short’. After a while, I got down to about four or five students at a time. But we were flat out, as instructors, in those early days.
We were so short of them. Boy, you learn to fly. There’s nothing better than taking a student up who’s not quite sure what he wants to do. Or how to do it. One bloke froze on me in a Wirrawy. He froze on the stick, he was in the front cockpit. And I couldn’t break the hold. In fact, going down, we’d lost the canvas off the side of the aircraft. It was ripped off. So, forever afterwards, I always carried a spare stick in the back of the cockpit.
In case, you could bang him on the head. To break his hold. Never happened. But in some cases it did.
What sort of impact does it have when you land like that, on the pilot?
Oh, a forced landing? Well, we don’t like it to happen. But it does. The other forced landings were at night time, a lot of them. With the engine slightly on fire, so I had to cut the engines. Caused by a leaking engine, so I had to cut the engine and force-landing in a wheat field, somewhere. But Wagga itself, where I did most of my forced landings, was pretty open country. It was wheat fields.
So you had no trouble sort of getting down all right, wheels down. The Operational forced landings. I had one in a Kittyhawk, north of Milne Bay. I landed on a little missionary strip, got a way with that one. But generally the Operational aircraft I had, it was the Kittyhawk, later on the Mustang, and the various jets, all very reliable aircraft.
In fact, the squadron in thirty thousand flying hours, never had a forced landing caused by mechanical failure. Which wasn’t a bad record. That was the old Kittyhawk. In the Mustang days in Korea, a lot of blokes got shot up or shot down, but we had no mechanical troubles, at all. Again, you’re relying on your ground crew to keep your aircraft serviceable.
Apart from the design of the aircraft itself.
Again, you had to introduce discipline in the system. Which I did. I finished up with two flights, I was a Group Commander and also a Flight Commander. In Advanced Training squadron at Wagga and I used to get rid of instructors that weren’t that good. Purposely. Much to the consternation of some of the other guys, because they said, ‘Oh, bloody Cresswell again.
If he doesn’t like a bloke he sacks him’. Well, I didn’t sack him because I didn’t like him. I sacked him because he couldn’t do the bloody job properly. And I used that right throughout the squadron in my operational days. In fact, quite often I sent people home. In Korea, I sent eleven blokes home in the end. Who obviously weren’t trained to cope. These are Mustang days. When we were based in Korea
I used to go across and meet four or five replacement pilots that were sent up by Qantas. On one occasion I was talking to one of these guys, and I said, ‘How old are you?’, and he said, ‘Oh, so and so, I only got married last week’. I said, ‘What?’ A young sergeant pilot, and we had no Operational Training Unit organised in Australia in those days, so he came up as a fresh pilot with no real operational training behind him. And he was very surprised when I sent him home the next day.
Back to Australia. But those sort of guys you couldn’t accept. We were going into a war situation, it wasn’t a very nice one, so, and two or three other guys I sent home like that.
Sometimes against the Air Force policy. So I got known for being a good commander on the ground. Any Erk could talk to me, any time at all. Providing he sort of talked to his NCO first, and his flight commander, that sort of thing. But some guys, when I wandered around the hangar floors, ‘Sir, we’ve got a problem with so and so’. He’d describe the problem. I’d say, ‘OK. I’ll fix that’.
Some occasions, they actually used to say, ‘Our NCOs not a very good NCO, Sir’. I’d say, ‘Why not?’ ‘Well, he won’t listen to us’ So on and so forth. ‘Well, you don’t sort of sack your NCO straight away. You find out exactly how good they are. Sometimes you promote them, or push them sideways into a course. To benefit them,
and benefit the unit as well. Our move from Perth to Darwin was quite something. It happened in August. I’d sent about a hundred and twenty blokes by train. Well they got onto trucks at Perth, at Dunreith, our new airfield, which is now Perth air port, to Guildford,
with about a hundred tons of equipment. They got onto a train there, at Northam. Changed trains at Kalgoorlie. Across to Port Pirie, changed trains there. To Alice Springs, then into trucks. From Alice Springs to Batchelor air field [Northern Territory] where we were going to be based for a while. They did it bloody well. It took thirteen days, but they got there.
But oh, they had a hell of a job, because they were handling all the gear themselves. All the equipment. The equipment they had to pick up in Adelaide. And before I said that we picked up refrigeration, transport, beer, straw, palliasses, beds, cooking equipment, tools to dig trenches. Lavatories, and so on.
We had to buy everything in Adelaide. Pick it up, take it up to Darwin. And we came very well equipped. With a ton and a half of beer we had on board, too.
which was a great saver. We actually started from scratch. Setting up shop. And don’t forget, you’re flying all the time. You never stopped flying. No, we were well organised. We finished up with a very good camp in Darwin in the end, at a place called Livingstone. It’s one of the road strips, down from Darwin. It was an American road strip initially,
but we took over from them. We had a very good camp there, and we had the pipeline coming up from Manton Dam to Darwin, and we could tap into that. So we had plenty of water, even though sometimes it was bloody hot in the afternoon. But, oh no. Each camp I had was well set up. When we got to Milne Bay, I found a bloke who, he only died a couple of years ago,
he’d worked on Taronga Park Zoo in Sydney. He was a builder. I said, ‘Ah, what about building a mess for us’. He said, ‘OK’. Using cane. He built an NCOs Officers Air Crew mess, at one end, and the airmen’s mess at the other end. And that was a bloody good mess, it really was. Very well run.
In fact, he and a bunch of other lads who’d been in the building game, did a hell of a lot to make sure the squadron was comfortable, even on the tarmac. Building shelters for the guys. Because some of these guys had to wait there until we went away on a two or three hour trip, and got back again. We had good airmen. We still have a very good squadron association. My old squadron. It’s a very strong association.
Probably the strongest in the Air Force. A lot because a few of us oldies are still alive, so we see them. I go up to Williamtown, oh, four or five times a year, once every two or three months. Or I used to. And talk to the ground crew and aircrew and so on. In fact, the young air crew these days say, ‘How did you operate during the war?’ and we tell them, and they say ‘Christ’. Now, of course, they have everything laid on.
so I got the night guys. Two on the end, as I’ve been told. But daytime raids were nil, none. They stopped about, the week when we got there, the Yanks still had charge. And the Spitfires came up and took over from us. So we spent most of our time sitting on our bloody arse waiting for something to happen.
It was then called standby. Or state of readiness. And we got awfully annoyed about that, so any spare time available outside standby, I got the squadron air borne straight away. Morning and night, or late night. The first Fighter Sector was formed in Darwin in my time. It operated very well,
but it was when radar was at Cape Forcray, that was on Melville Island. Purely a directional one, it could tell us what direction, it very rarely could tell us the height of the aircraft. In fact it wasn’t able to really. But we guessed the height because the enemy came in, normally, at about twenty two, twenty three thousand feet anyway. To get the range they wanted. So I spent most of my time, on the squadron,
exercising the fighter Sector wherever we could, getting to know how they operated. Doing a lot of formation flying, and tactics. High formation flying. And tactics. Waiting for our first daylight raid. In fact, I had a very highly trained squadron, but they hadn’t really fired a gun in anger. Which was a great pity.
Didn’t know what was going on in the world. I’d never been a leader, as I became CO of 77 Squadron. Even the jobs that Scherger gave me at Wagga, were just fairly routine, I suppose leadership jobs. Like night flying, and taking armoured camps down to Cressy Armoury Camp. Another jobs that Scherger gave me, and he gave other blokes all sorts of punishments too. It wasn’t just me.
But we learnt a lot under him, by example or by direction. But I felt when I became CO of the squadron, ‘Oh, this is bloody good. Why me?’ sort of thing. And the OC of Western Area then was De La Rue. He was my first CO at Richmond in 1939. He’d been a skipper, between the two wars, he’d been a skipper before the mast [on sailing ships].
And he was a hell of a nice bloke. He said, ‘Well, Cres, you’re a leader now’. I said, ‘What’s that mean, Sir’. ‘Oh, a lot of bloody hard work’. But he was good. He was always helpful. All our senior guys in those days were bloody helpful. They really were’.
that the few NCOs were doing their job properly. Don’t forget when I joined the squadron, they gave me five senior NCOs. Engines, Rear Frame, Electrical Radio, Armoured, and a bloody good WOD. And those guys are the basis of your squadron. They’d had the experience in the Air Force, and knew what was going on. Whereas most of the blokes in the squadron, and in the ground crew, had just come off the streets, or through a training school.
So you’re starting from fresh. In fact, I had two guys that were always going AWOL [Absent Without Leave] in Western Australia. One was called Clark and one was called Johnson. And they’d front up to me on occasions, and I’d say, ‘Oh, Christ, You two again. What are you up to this time?’ And they’d say, ‘Oh, we want to go home and see the family and so on’. I’d say, ‘I’m going to punish you this time. You’re going to both work on my aircraft’. One was an engine man and one was an airframe man.
I couldn’t wish for a better two. They stayed with me right throughout the rest of my career on the squadron. Nobby Clark and Knocker Johnson.
out of Singapore, oh, I suddenly ended up with sixteen pilots out of Singapore, they were all the Fighter Pilots posted to me initially, and then posted to other units. And John Gorton was one of those guys that came out of Singapore. And he’d been already shot up and shot down, had a bad prang and smashed his face up. Been sunk at sea coming out from Singapore. The ship had been torpedoed. He’d been on a raft for about twelve, fourteen hours.
And he was a sorry mess. In fact, the first thing he said to me, he said, ‘You don’t remember me, do you, Sir?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t’. He said, ‘You trained me at Wagga’. And he showed me a photograph of his original face, and said, ‘Gotcha’. He was badly smashed up. But he was a great help, in many ways. Because he was older, and senior. He’d been flying in the UK, too, for a while, before he joined the RAAF. A lot of the guys in the squadron were Perth based.
Some of them older than me. We got on very well. Once we got the idea of a team. The squadron’s not run by an individual. It’s run by a team of people. And once they got the idea and got settled in, and it was fairly straight forward. I could leave things for other people to do. Well, that was essential, too. Passing on, your ability to pass on responsibility to other people.
That was essential. Whether it be flying, or looking after the ground crew, messing, accommodation, sickness. I had a very good doctor, too. Very good doctor. And he was essential. All these top blokes were essential to the squadron. And I used to give some of the responsibility to NCOs. I’d say, ‘Well, you know about this. That’s your job’. ‘Oh, Can I?’
I’d say, ‘Course you can. Who’s your boss?’ ‘Oh, engineer officer so and so. We don’t think very much of him’. I’d say, ‘Well, forget that. report to him. Tell him what you’re doing. And I get to hear about it anyway. But it’s up to you. You’ve got the experience and you’ve got the nous, pass on the information. Direct it where you have to. Train where you have to’.
You mentioned John Gorton. Who were the other key members of your team at that stage?
Oh, Bill Meecham, came from Perth. He became a top bloke in Perth later on. Gough Manning. Jimmy Cox. My 2IC [Second in Command] was a bloke called George Shave. He was in 12 Squadron at Darwin, during the raids there, and he got badly smashed around. Not physically damaged, mentally damaged. And he came back to me, and because of his seniority, I made him 2IC.
The other guy was Daryl Sproule, he came from Sandy Bay in Hobart, he was to take over from me. And the day of takeover, I handed over the squadron, too. He was shot down and later on beheaded by the Japanese. But my senior guys were all experienced. George Shave from Darwin, Daryl Sproule had been shot down in flames, in a Brewster Buffalo, 21 Squadron in Malaysia. Before he got back to Australia.
But George Shave was a very interesting guy. He was an engineer, as well as being a pilot. And in Darwin, one night, we were night flying, his aircraft burst into flames. And he crash landed on the beach, north of Darwin. And we all eventually got out to rescue him, that sort of thing, and I said, ‘What happened?’ He said, ‘Oh, buggered if I know’.
I said, ‘You did your own maintenance. You signed this aircraft as serviceable. Tell us what happened’. He said, ‘Buggered if I know, we’ve lost an aircraft’. I said, ‘We certainly have’. But it burnt out. But he always blamed himself for aircraft blowing up. I don’t know what happened. Probably a loose bloody petrol line. Got hot. Caught fire.
I said, ‘That’s not good enough. I want five’. So I put in five Flight Commanders. The Air Force said, ‘You can’t do that’. I said, ‘I’ve done it. It stays this way’. ‘Why?’ ‘Because we are not a full squadron’. We never operated as a full squadron. We operated in lots. So each one got to be a leader. Another thing I did, which I got roused about. I formed an airmen’s club, ground crew club.
I already mentioned that. That was at Williamtown after the war. But I thought it was essential. The ground crew could have a beer where they could talk amongst themselves. That’s corporal down. It was run by officers. I put officers in charge of all these sort of, ventures I called them. Another thing was, aircrew. I didn’t like the idea of having officer aircrew and NCO aircrew.
I thought it was bloody crazy. In fact, in Korea, I gave all the NCOs officers stripes, in case they were captured. They were better treated, by the enemy. So my aircrew clubs were all aircrew, and senior NCOs and all the officers, of the squadron. And that’s how we got the squadron going in Pearce. Again, the Air Force objected, ‘Oh, NCOs, they can go to the servicemen’s mess’.
I said, ‘I don’t care. I’ve got flight sergeants, leading officers, in there. So I’m not going to change that sort of thing’. So I got the airmen’s mess going, or helped to get the messes going. I was told I was the founder of the aircrew mess. But I don’t think so. I think other people did the same thing. Again, it’s teamwork. Getting a team working together. Getting a team working properly.
without authority, except where the Fighter Sector was involved. It was a brand new fighter sector, and they were responsible for maintaining the squadron ability, training and so on and so forth. On occasion, I used to do it myself. I told the fighter sector, ‘Look, I’ll do it this way’. ‘OK, fair enough, you’re the boss’.
In fact, in the end, Dad Bladen said to all the COs, ‘Look, it’s your responsibility. You’re trained as a CO, you’re trained in the aircraft you’re flying. Do it your way, but let us know what’s happening’. But sometimes I didn’t. Night flying for instance. When we realised that the Japs weren’t coming over during the day, but at night, I said, ‘God, I’m the Night Pilot, I love night flying, I’ll have a crack at them’.
I put this scheme up to Fighter Sector and they said, ‘Bloody marvellous’. Mainly because they didn’t have to work overtime, or work through the night. The OC was quite happy about it, so that’s how I got my night victories, and night flying. Then, of course, the other squadron commander was Bluey Truscott. Quite well known. Who had 76 squadron, and he wasn’t a night fighter pilot, nor were his guys, but he wanted to fly at night. So I said, all right, well, if you want to do some night flying better go to the RAAF, Darwin.
The big airport at Darwin, where it’s free of trees and so on. So I flew those guys a couple of nights, or a couple of months. Bluey actually went up later on. Must have been about Christmas time, ’42, with three guys and they had a crack at a Japanese aircraft. Although two had never fired their guns, the aircraft was damaged.
He gave them a quarter each. That was Blue Truscott. Famous bloke.
the third time I fired, only two of my guns worked. We had trouble with oils in those days. But anyway, according to the records, most of my bullets went into that first aircraft. But some must have flown into the other aircraft, which was also in my sights. I was only forty yards away, I was quite close. Which was an excellent position to be in to shoot down an aircraft. So, he got shot down. I followed him down, to make sure, and he started to break up,
about twelve, fourteen thousand feet. He landed in small bits all over the countryside. It was the first aircraft, Betty, we got hold of that we could examine properly. All the bits were available for examination. Blisters for instance. Side blisters. We didn’t know the Bettys had them. They got a lot of information from that aircraft. Also, on board were nine Japanese, one was a colonel. Who’d been trained by the Royal Air Force in 1913.
And he had a lot of information on him. Maps he shouldn’t have been carrying. Dyes he shouldn’t have been carrying. So they got a lot of information from him.
What was your relationship with the Americans like?
Good. I met the Americans in early February, 1942, at Williamtown. The 49 Fighter Group came out to Australia, with the three squadrons, the 7th, 8th and 9th, Pursuit Squadrons they called them then. Kittyhawks. Those guys were at Darwin. I was their instructor and staff pilot. Staff Liaison pilot. And I got to know them very well. In fact, the CO of the squadron,
oh god, Jim, ah, I met him years later at Seattle. He was the Director of Boeing. He knew I was coming, so he pulled me aside from the crowd, the mob that was sent over there, said, ‘Come with me’. So he showed me right through the Boeing outfit. Because those days, they had the thousand passenger aircraft designed, partly mocked up. Yeah, they could build it, two or four engines,
no worry at all, says Boeing. No airport could handle it. A thousand passengers. And we’d still have problems handling a lot of passengers.
Graham Strout, Sergeant Harrop [shot down in North Korea, circa August 1950] and Wing Commander Luke Spence, no, it was down a bit. When you lose your leader you’re a…also they realised they were in a lousy bloody war. But I had no trouble when I took over. Bloke called Flight Lieutenant I.A. “Bay” Adams [later Air Vice Marshal Adams], a bloke you should have interviewed. But you missed out. He’s dead. He was quite a guy, he was one of the leading lights up in the New Guinea Occupational Force. He was the top fighter pilot up there,
according to the Americans, and he was bloody good. He should have been given a squadron up there. He never was, unfortunately. In fact, he should have had my job. So I arrived up there, he said, ‘It’s all yours’. I said, ‘Oh, Jesus. OK, away we go’. So the first day we did about four missions. Within two or three days, I had control of the squadron.
And the pilots were all the old timers. They’d been there for quite a while in Japan, highly trained, very reliable. I had to send a few home, ooh, when they reached their hundredth mission, and I’d get replacements and the replacements were pretty weak. Some were pre-trained, pre-war, post-war. Oh, war time. Most of the guys were badly trained.
But generally speaking, if a guy could survive his first thirty missions, he was all right.
In New Guinea of course, it was generally patrol boats, that sort of thing. Or groups of Japanese on the shores off New Britain and New Ireland. In Korea it was troops on the ground, trucks, transport. One job we did in North Korea.
I’d taken twelve, sixteen, no twelve aircraft up across the twelve thousand foot snow-capped mountains up the Yalu River. This is from Yompo, Hamhung, on the way over I said, ‘Christ, they’re bloody cavalry’. And there’s two companies of cavalry, Chinese, on beautiful horses, riding down a snow covered track going west, going east, our direction. I rang up the Air Defence Centre,
and said, ‘Eh, what’s going on?’ They said, ‘We don’t know, but there are guns firing at us from up there somewhere. Big guns’. We found the big guns. I destroyed those. But these were all Chinese. And they were waving at us, thinking that we were their aircraft. That wasn’t very nice, we shot up the cavalry and destroyed the guns, and did all that, but some things you don’t like doing
when you’re very close to the ground, but you do it because you have to.
Some blokes do, but I don’t. that’s part of the job we did. Even when I got a very good name in Korea from the American generals, both of them, the Commanding General of Fighter Air Forces, and the Commanding General of the 5th Air Force, specially when I didn’t follow their squadrons down to the bloody escape route. I kept my squadrons back and we carried down right till the last bloody moment.
The Yanks got a raspberry for what they did, and the one star was removed from command back to the states. But no, the job has to be done and we did. One thing I always did, and many other squadrons and people have followed it. I always kept the whole squadron informed of what was going on. Especially in Korea, especially in North Korea. Every night, half a dozen of us would go around and talk to all the guys.
No matter where they were. This is what happened today, or what might happen tomorrow. In fact in North Korea, a lot of the Negro ack-ack gunners were coming across, and all of the Yanks were coming across, to listen to our briefings, because the Yanks weren’t briefing their guys. And we did. All the time. Kept them informed. That was essential. And the guys appreciated it too, because it stopped rumours going around. We gave them what we knew to be the truth,
what might happen next day, and they were warned that we would probably have to evacuate. I game them about four days warning on that one. That’s North Korea. So they knew what was going to happen.
There are two fronts operating, coming down towards New Guinea from the Equator, followed by another one. And you knew what time, roughly what time they’d hit the coast, and that was the time you’d avoid. You’d fly before or after. In your various jobs. Just a weather safety feature. But you had to get to know the weather in New Guinea. That was very important. I found it more so when I was flying the bloody transports later on.
For instance, in transport you’d take off, oh, I’d take off about six o’clock in the morning. Be in the New Guinea hinterland, doing the job I had to do, dropping stores off, that sort of thing, and back again before that front came in. Because you knew by two o’clock in the afternoon you’d really hit the rain. But you knew the weather pattern was pretty important.
We found that out pretty early in the flying days in New Guinea. Milne Bay for instance was, oh, half the time was covered in bloody low cloud, and storms and so on. And you’d try and avoid blokes coming back during a rainstorm, if you could. There was an alternative airfield you could land on, but it was a very small one, in case they got caught out.
But you made sure you understood your whether. You had to. But that applied to all, even the bombers from Darwin. The Lockheed Hudsons that took off from the huge strip next to ours. They got in trouble occasionally and they lost two or three aircraft. Because of weather.
In briefing you say, “OK, there’s bad weather coming up. I suggest we do so and so’. And the guys would say, ‘Well, you know. You’ve done it’. Which I had. And that’s pretty important for a leader to have done these things. To know what to do. Know how to brief your guys and so on. But I used to like weather flying. For instance, when they introduced GCA, Ground Control Approach, that’s a radar system.
The first lot came up to Iwakuni in Japan. By the time I took over the squadron. And the CO of the outfit said, ‘I’m not getting enough GCA practice’. I said, ‘How many do you want?’ He said, ‘I want thirty a day’. I said, ‘I’ll give you a hundred’. He said, ‘What!’ I said, ‘I’ll give you a hundred landings a day.’ So every pilot was told he had to get right back to Iwakuni to do a GCA approach and landing.
Under the control of the guys of the GCA fan. All the guys and they became bloody good at it. They could virtually touch you down. They’re supposed to release you at two hundred feet, and you land yourself. But it’s for bad weather conditions. You can land through all sorts of muck with GCA Safely. But it got those guys well trained on the ground. And again we had no trouble at all. The guys,
the pilots that did all the practice work, they thought it was bloody marvellous. They knew they were safe. They could come back in terrible bloody weather, and land safely. So all this is pretty important. What you’ve got to do as a leader. Make sure it’s done properly.
I just realised I’d been hit. Realised that. But, so I never had a dog fight with a fighter. Even though that bloody photograph up there says so. That print. No, the guys that did, and a few of my guys have, specially Buster Brown, who took over the squadron from me. He was in the September raids. In ’42. At Milne Bay. And he got chased by Zeros. He thought he’d had it. A friend of his, he was a friend of mine, too, saw it happening,
and shot down the Zero, off his tail. Buster said, ‘I was a very frightened boy. I thought I’d had it’. Because he was not getting away from the Zero, on ground level too. But the Zero was a very good combat aircraft. One advantage we had in the Kittyhawks, was that we could go down hill a damn sight faster, and we were stronger. Now the early Zeros had trouble with their tails. They were slightly weak.
It is known that a Zero tail had broken off on occasions, chasing a Kittyhawk downwards. I never saw it happen. But I heard it happened. But most of the guys that had combat with Zeros, did their best to get away from it. Normally, by breaking away downhill, going down.
We were taught to avoid the Zero if we could. Low down, ten thousand feet, roughly speaking, you could combat with a Zero. But up high you couldn’t. Much more difficult. Same with the bloody MiG 15 in Korea. I flew the American Sabres for a while, it was against the Americans, and you avoided a fight, trying to get into combat with a MiG 15. At height.
Getting back to the incident of Daryl Sproule, how did you find out what happened to him?
Well, we were three squadrons, three formations, six aircraft each, ten minutes apart. I led the first squadron, the first flight, followed by the Wing Leader, a bloke called Wolf Arthur, followed by Daryl Sproule, leading the last six. And although we were low down, virtually on the water, going up the south coast of New Britain, towards Jacquinot Bay and Rabaul,
word came through that he’d been shot down, or he’d crash landed. I said, ‘Oh, Christ’. So I told the guys to stand by, the other five guys were in formation, to see what was going on, while we went back to our own base, Goodenough. And they came back and they said, he’d crash landed and was captured by the Japanese. So we couldn’t do anything about it.
Well, they assumed he’d been captured by the Japanese, because they saw footmarks from his crashed aircraft, on the beach, up to some bushes. Of course, later on we learnt he’d been captured by Japanese. And about ten days later, beheaded.
I’ve written a few letters over the time, to parents and so on. Oh, you commiserate with them. The usual sort of, say what a good guy he was, etc, etc. It’s the hardest thing to do, is writing a letter about a bloke you’ve lost. Whether it be ground crew or aircrew. Well, in Korea we lost forty two pilots,
all told. Not in my time. About a dozen in my time. And they were always hard. In fact, a couple of years ago, I had a luncheon in Canberra, and one lass came up to me and said, ‘I’m Jimmy Gray’s wife’. I thought, ‘Oh, god’. ‘I’d like to talk to you’. And she’d married again. Jimmy Gray was a flying officer, whom I liked, and he was burnt in a tent fire in Korea. Simple accident like that. Burnt to death in a tent fire. And that’s when I said to Scherger, who was Deputy of the Air Staff in those days, over the phone, we had one line to Australia. I said, ‘I’m buying American equipment.’ He said, ‘Go ahead, Dick. Do what you bloody well like’.
So I got rid of all our tentage. All our electrical systems, and got American equipment. I just signed everything. Because the Yanks would give you, give Australia anything at all. So we finished up with proper tentage, and proper sleeping bags. And proper mess equipment, and so on. Because the stuff we had was old Indian Army tents. Dangerous.
Yet the label of LMF was applied? Or was something else?
Well, it was all you could apply to them. Under Air Force regulations and so on. But if I found a guy was LMF, possibly so, OK, because it’s easy to solve. But if there was a lot of contributing factors, I’d probably write a personal letter to the airmen personnel or to the AOC of the area. And say, In this case, not his fault, or words to that effect.
You didn’t write them off. You understood their problem, and tried to help. Or most of them you did, anyway. But see, LMF in the ground troops, not our ground troops, the Army troops, phtt. Written off. Our ground troops were pretty good.
Our ground troops were always on a fairly safe area. They got bombed in Darwin, they got strafed in New Guinea, but generally speaking, they were in safe areas for them.
What methods were used for marking targets, and identifying targets?
They eventually used iridescent strips. Coloured yellow, red, green, orange. This indicated the safe areas where our troops would be. And often our troops were Australians, Americans, you name it. You see there was twenty one nations involved in the Korean War. Korean Police Action. Of which about seven or eight were actually physically in the action itself.
But we made mistakes, and my previous squadron commander shot up an American Hospital train. It wasn’t his fault. Three times he’d called up the Tactical Air Defence Commander to verify that this was the target. And they said, ‘Yeah’. It had to be the last American train coming out of Seoul. Hospital train.
We shot up a couple of our own people, by accident. Incorrect marking of target. Our Army got hit pretty badly by the Americans on occasions. Mistakes were made, but in total war, rapid movement, you have to make mistakes.
What was the relationship between the 5th Air Force hierarchy and your squadron?
Bloody good. They thought the world of us. We were the most efficient squadron, at that time, and our record was pretty good, too. We were held in high regard by the Americans. Later on, in the Meteor days, things went haywire a bit. Mainly because I wanted to used the Meteor in a combat role, in company with the American Sabre squadrons. We tried that.
The only guy who had been in combat before that had been me. All the other guys hadn’t seen combat before, air combat. And the Meteor was no good above, say, twenty five thousand feet. Very good fifteen, twenty five thousand feet. Above that, its performance fell off, very bad. So the Meteor was relegated to ground support and things like that. Escort of bombers, like B29s, and ground tack work,
which they did, from then, this must have been about August ’43, until the end of the war. ‘43? What am I talking about, ’53. Sorry, ’51 until ’53.
Up to six rockets. And/or two two-fifty-pound bombs, or two five-hundred-pound bombs. Always a mixed load. Our guns were always full. And long-range stuff, we carried two drop tanks on our wings, and no other armour except the .5 gun. And we could have, normal sortie’s about two and a half to three hours.
Long range ones were, as I did once, was four and a quarter hours. And that’s a long time, sitting in a bloody Mustang. But most of our targets then were hitting convoys of trucks and people, and troops and so on. Occasional ammunition dump. In winter time when it was snowing, they hid everything under trees, and covered it with broken branches and so on.
One of my pilots was colour blind. And he could see that the new camouflage had been cut, they were hiding tanks and troops and so on. And I said, ‘Oh, come on’. He said, ‘I can’. So I said, ‘In you go and disturb the area’. Which he did. And of course, when he broke the foliage, there they were, odd tank, odd truck, an odd gun. And I said, ‘Do you know of any other colour blind blokes in the Air Force?’
And he said, ‘Yes, I know a couple of guys. They’re both Fighter Pilots’. I said, ‘Give me their names’. He said, ‘What are you going to do with them’. I said, ‘Get them up here’. And I wrote down south, and I said I need these two blokes because they’re colour blind. And they said, ‘There’s no such thing as colour blind pilots in the Air Force’. I said, ‘Yes, there are. So and so and so and so. And I want them now’. I got them. A lot of blokes, when they did their colour blind tests, would remember the Ichihara test, which was Japanese, a way of checking for colour blindness. And they could name them straight off,
whether they could see the thing or not. And they got away with it.
and living in quarters on the base of course. We operated from there, from dawn till dusk. From August, September, October we cross the Pohang, so I had about two months operating the squadron from Iwakuni. And they were long days. We would load up at night, depending on the operation, we were loaded up by the Erks, bombs, rockets, guns, long range tanks if they were needed,
and take off at dawn the following morning. Straight to on operation, a job, land back at Taegu, it was an American strip on the east coast, re-fuel, re-arm, do another job. Maybe two more jobs. And the last job, make sure I had enough fuel to get back to Iwakuni after the last sortie. And sometimes we didn’t land back there until half past six at night. Tired, cold. A bit fed up. So after every day,
and most guys did. When you got off, you were tired at the end of it.
or quizzed me about a certain instruction. And I’d describe it, properly, for them. Ground crew, no worries at all. But sometimes aircrew got a bit concerned. We were lucky, because we had a daily courier, a C47 Dakota, flying from Iwakuni to us at our airstrip, and I could send blokes back for a rest quick smart. And quite often I did.
One bloke got a gun, a bullet through his windscreen. Scared stiff. Didn’t touch him. Frightened him, yeah, and the doc came to me and said, ‘This bloke’s shit scared’. And I said, ‘Well, doc, OK. Send him back’. So we gave him a week’s break at Iwakuni. That often happened, ground crew and aircrew. Ground crew were lucky. They’d get back whenever they wanted. My ground crew never stayed more than three or four months in Korea.
Because we had so many of them we could turn them over all the time. Some stayed the full time, some wanted to, some didn’t. And by having our main base in Japan, our guys were very lucky.
How did you deal with that fatigue on a day to day basis, did you find?
Just did, as a leader you had to. You never showed weakness as a leader. You might get frightened now and again, which I was. You might not sort of want to get up again in the morning, and get in a bloody aircraft and go north again, but you did. See, as a leader, you’re on show all the time. You really are. The night before, in our briefings with our Operational Staff and so on, we worked out the following day’s program.
That was all lined up, so we knew what we were supposed to do next day. Not necessarily the actual operation, but at least how many flights would be available, how many aircraft would be available. And what area we would operate in. Not the actual target. Sometimes we never got the target information until early the following day. The day we were operating. But all my leaders, I always had four to five extra leaders in the squadron, Flight Commanders,
they all knew the score. They knew how I operated. We worked as a team all the time, or tried to. And that’s why I had such a successful squadron. It’s all team work.
Was the American Air Force decadent in other ways?
Not really. It was a good Air Force. Half of it was World War II experience, anyway. But a few failures. When we were pushed out of North Korea, on a retreat basis, there were one or two American Squadrons, Mustang days, They went bush. They went down the coast to get aboard a ship and leave their aircraft behind. And I didn’t. I kept my squadron,
going all the time. In fact, our last job, was to fly down to Pusan. Which was quite a distance away. Because we kept the blokes informed as to what was going on. We briefed them every night. Six of us, seven of us. And we tell them what was going on, well, all I knew anyway, from the American Air Force. And all the troops, no matter where the troops were,
whether they were asleep, midnight, we made sure they knew, we had even Americans come in to listen to some of our briefings, because they weren’t being told. Especially the Negros, who manned most of the transport and the ack-ack guns.
Today you call it a friendly fire incident. The American hospital train, before you arrived. Was there a certain amount of distrust that remained from that incident? How did that affect the relationship?
Well, none at all as it turned out. First of all the American general came down from Tokyo to see Lou Spence, he was in charge then. Down to Iwakuni. And apologised, humbly, on behalf of the American government, and the American Air Force. And which Lou accepted. He told all the troops too. The American General briefed all the troops, all our troops. Just a terrible mistake was made, and it shouldn’t have been made.
That probably caused a better appreciation of how to control the system. It probably did. Provided better information. Different intelligence. See, when the thing broke out, Macarthur was there in an Administrative capacity. Most of his senior guys might had been wartime people, but weren’t up to date. So to go from a static situation like that,
to looking after a nation, to war, was a big gap.
Oh. Wrong information. About the target. About the type of attack. About who did the attacks. The Yanks had six hundred and forty aircraft available to them, and that’s another incident of interest. The Yanks would call on us. I lost my Number Two [Second in Command], a bloke called Gordon Harvey, he spent thirty two months as a guest of the Chinese, a POW. And we were doing a big raid on Pyongyang, in their so-called headquarters.
Gordon was shot up, and force landed on an ice-bound strip. Strip, no. Island in the middle of the Taedong River. And he was captured. But the Yanks said, ‘If you can find him next morning, you can have control of my whole Air Force’. They laid on a carrier,
they sent a carrier up the west coast, loaded with two or three helicopters, and the operation, that day they gave me a special call sign, and if my call sign went out that I needed help to get Gordon Harvey out, the whole Air Force would turn in and help out. The Yanks did that. They were bloody amazing. Help their friends.
We never got Gordon out of course. We found photographs. He’d been captured. And sent north.
It was a closer war than World War II as far as I’m concerned. Like I think I said before. World War II, strikes by Kittyhawks, up and down the coast of New Britain, south coast of New Britain, targets of opportunity. Whereas in Korea, we were really flighting a bloody war. You could see it happening too. Troop concentrations. For instance, in North Korea,
where we were based at Hamhung, we were coming back from a job, and the whole field, it was the middle of winter, and the whole field we were crossing over was moving. And they were Chinese troops in their white gear. And this is when the poor old first marine division were in trouble in the Chosen Reservoir. But the Chinese didn’t seem to worry about
how many troops they used, or lost. The Korean War was said that they lost about two million troops. Mainly by disease. I could believe that. Once, down near Seoul, the only bridge they had across the river there at Seoul, now they’ve got about twenty two. The whole surface of the water
was covered with bodies, been floating down the river. Chinese bodies. Bodies. You saw some terrible sights during that bloody war. Things you won’t forget in a hurry. Mass murder as we call it. We really got stuck into the Chinese in North Korea. No quarters given by us.
We destroyed everything we possibly could. The mud house, troops or stores or whatever. To stop the Chinese, North Korean advance into South Korea. I’ve been back there a couple of times since, and it’s a funny setup now. You stand on the thirtieth parallel and you’re across from the Chinese. And they’re looking at you anyway. And North Koreans.
I hope it doesn’t start again. It’s a bit ticklish right now. The Meteor days for the squadron was pretty hectic, lost a lot of troops, lot of pilots. Twenty six pilots lost in Meteors. All from ground fire. Because the Meteors
really gave it to a second type target. Which I was against initially. Well, I couldn’t do much about it. I’d left anyway. And because they had two engines, the guys felt they were pretty safe, but they got shot up fairly badly sometimes. Or shot down.
North Korea down to South Korea, or nearly down to South Korea, which was straddled with bloody ack-ack guns. You had to be hit. A lot of blokes came back in Meteors with one engine out, or shot up wing, or severe damage to the aircraft. But they got back.
Lots of our recent Chiefs of Staff came out of the Korean Battle. Quite a few. Korea was a good training ground for us. We changed our ideas. When I got back in ’52, I eventually got hold of the Operational Training Unit at Williamtown. In ’53. I changed quite a few of the ideas the Air Force had.
And formed a thing called the Combat FCI Course, Combat Fighter Instructors Course. My idea was to do all our combat training in Australia. Not go overseas for it, or other parts of Australia. And train blokes to become leaders. And these small courses we had about maybe once or twice a year, initially. Now it’s once a year. There would be about six blokes on it, but they would become the future fighter leaders. And that went though, and that was adopted by the Americans in the end.
And it’s still going. But apparently I’m pretty famous for that. What they called the CFI Course. The thing was to train leaders properly. You see, our Air Force were still sending Senior Squadron Leaders and Junior Wing Commanders to command squadrons, with no fighting experience. This is peace time, sure, but that wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted blokes properly trained, who knew how to lead properly. So we got that one through. Changed quite a few things. After Korea.
The rank of the CO, the type of pilots who go to Korea. The re-forming of a proper Operational Training Unit, which is still going. The training of some of our NCO pilots. It’s all Officer Pilots now.
It was a very easy aircraft to fly. We called it the ‘Gentlemen’s aircraft’. Having two engines didn’t make any difference. Being a jet didn’t make much difference. To blokes with experience. Some of the early guys had a bit of trouble. I had to form what I called an Orientation Flight at Iwakuni, and that flight was generally commanded by a retiring pilot
from the squadron, going south. And I said, ‘Well, spend a fortnight there and teach some of these guys what goes on’. That helped a whole lot and meant that the blokes coming from Australia, with no Meteor experience, but had jet experience on Vampires, could get about up twenty hours in the Meteor before they went into operations. That worked pretty well. Even so, I had some funny incidents.
One young pilot was airborne with cloud base about two thousand feet, and he got inside the cloud. He knew what to do. And GCA was working, Ground Control Approach, and I could hear him talking, and I said, ‘For Christ sake, throttle back’. Or words to that effect. ‘Get your speed down, stop using so much fuel, and do a proper even circuit, under control of GCA,
and come in and land’. Anyway, he came in and landed all right, but he fell short by about two hundred yards. He crashed into the water, out of fuel, and never got his bloody self wet, stepped from that into a row boat, because the aircraft was out of fuel, so it floated pretty well. That was our first loss. Another guy, Tom Stoney, was doing some rapid takeoffs,
climbed up to about fifteen, sixteen thousand feet, and suddenly found himself out of the aircraft. The jump seat had gone off. The ejection seat. And there he was, with no aircraft. And he got rather a surprise. And everyone blamed him. He pulled the cord. Which he hadn’t of course. The sere, that held the cartridge in safety, had broken. Phtt. Up she went.
So we had a few experience with blokes like that. Kittys in trouble. The Meteor was a very good aircraft. Very rugged aircraft. Very strong aircraft. But it wasn’t good enough for combat against the MiG 15. Although we shot down five MiG 15s, with the Meteor.
With the Meteor, the jet engine, does it have, in certain configurations, you can stall the engine and flame it out?
Oh, you could with the Australian Sabre. I did it a couple of times. Not the Meteor. Not to my knowledge. I never heard of a stalled Meteor engine. Must have had one or two. But a single-engined jet, occasionally, you could stall out the engine quite easily. I got caught once in Australian Sabres, out at Williamtown. About twenty four, twenty five thousand,
no, it was about forty thousand feet. Firing my guns. And the gases from these guns, two 30 mil guns, crept around and come to the intake of the Sabre and stopped the engine. She stalled on me. I was about three hundred miles east of Australia. And boy, I only just got back. I eventually got the aircraft lighted up again at about ten or twelve thousand feet. And went into Williamtown and landed.
But I got a big fright that day. I couldn’t get the engine to relight. You had to go down to a certain level, below twenty thousand feet, anyway, to get a relight. Mine wasn’t going to relight. So every now and again you got small frights. As we all did.
As guest of the American government. And we took off, about sixteen aircraft. Two squadrons of sixteen, going north, and the Interfed [International Federation] centre would say fifty five leaving station. Fifty five MiGs were leaving their bloody base to have a crack at us, and they got to about thirty five, forty, up to fifty thousand feet, some of those MiGs.
The operating height of a Sabre was about thirty two thousand feet. Above that, you’re stalling out a bit, even slow. And every time, we were jumped by the MiGs. I did ten missions. I was in six fights. I finished up with a damaged MiG. That was the closest I got to shooting one down. But you knew the MiGs were up there somewhere, in the sun, coming down on you.
And your first tactic was to turn into them. And later on, if you were really caught out, go down hill as fast as you can. Of course, a MiG couldn’t follow you down. It didn’t like flying at low level. But, whereas the Sabre was a fairly rugged, well-built aircraft, the MiG wasn’t. But the MiG fights were quite interesting. The ones I had.
What’s the appeal of air-to-air combat compared to ground attack?
Well, you’re against probably experienced pilots. It’s fighter to fighter, rather than fighter to bomber. Fairly straight forward. In my position, if you shoot down bombers, you shoot them down. But fighter to fighter, you know, you’re one man against another. And if the aircraft are roughly the same capability, OK, you’ve got a fight on your hands. The best man wins. The most highly trained bloke wins.
I could have done without all that ground attack work. I think most of us in ground attack operations would feel the same way. It had to be done, sure. But it’s not nice, it’s nasty bloody work. There was one occasion where, on the east part of Korea, a long tunnel. A lot of long tunnels.
This one was a pretty long tunnel. So one day I said to the Group Commander, ‘I’m going to have a crack at one of those tunnels’. ‘Away you go’. Took eight aircraft up with bombs, thousand pound bombs. And we closed both ends of the tunnel. And so the train that was inside overnight, or of a daytime, couldn’t get out. We found out there were nine thousand people in that bloody tunnel, later on.
There were two or three trains in there, full of people and troops and so on. We closed the tunnel so they couldn’t get out. Nor could the air get in. Oxygen get in. We never thought we’d get that many people. We thought we might get two or three trains. We thought the trains would be loaded with ammo or supplies, mainly people. So there was a few nasty jobs like that in Korea.
Nine thousand. Occasionally our Navy ships also were able to have a crack at some of the trains.
I spoke to some of the guys, some of the pilots who were in that recent show in Iraq. We had about fourteen aircraft and about twenty pilots. And those pilots came from 76, 77, and 3 Squadron. They were the top pilots we had in F18s. I spoke to a couple of guys from 77, the other day when I was a Williamtown. Last July and they said, ‘It was a bit scary. We weren’t sure what was going to happen’.
We soon realised that the Iraqis weren’t going to fly their MiG 29s. So they knew they sort of didn’t worry about that. But they were worried about SAMs, Surface to Air Missiles. Well, they saw a couple, not necessarily fired at them. But it was their first experience in sort of semi-combat conditions. And they were scared. You don’t blame them.
It’s probably a good idea to be scared. You’re more alert. Because I remember on occasions, we’d come down, in Korea especially, we’d have a heavy day, and we’d be absolutely buggered. And we’d land and we’d say, ‘Thank god that’s over’. Up to our sort of mobile bars. But often I could see some of my airmen,
aircrew, absolutely shattered. They had a hell of a day and they didn’t like it. Some would relieve themselves with drink. Some didn’t drink, too, and that always worried me a bit. You just don’t drink for the sake of it. You drink to relieve some of the pressure that builds up inside you. Like a good meal. It was on those occasions I used to send blokes back to Japan, for a rest.
But it happens. You see, in the Korean War, we were so short of pilots we had to get the RAAF in, the Royal Air Force. We finished up with thirty seven Royal Air Force pilots flying Meteors.
And also, there was a Japanese down near Kure, which is near Iwakuni, who was a baron, in the old Japanese language, and he got in touch with me too, when I arrived up there. And I was treated as the son of my father, and I was invited to Tokyo, I visited a couple of times up there as their guests, and Mikimoto I saw a lot of, the old man. And this guy near Kure,
I think he was trying to marry off one of his elder daughters, with me. She was quite nice, actually. So I had contacts already, because of my father’s association with Japan. Which made it very interesting for me. And, of course, being CO you’re the boss, so the fire chief, the police chief, and every other chief that might exist in the local village, puts on shows for you. That was quite fun some of them.
called on by the 5th Air Force, through operational order, to strike a certain target. And the Wing said, ‘God struth, that’s a terrible long way away’. I said, ‘That’s OK. I’ll do it’. I knew it would be an eight hour job. Although we could land on the way back at various places and refuel and that sort of thing. And it was guns only, because you couldn’t carry anything else but guns. They’re full of drop tanks.
So I briefed the boys and took them out about half past six in the morning. Flew up this target area. Shot it up. There was a few at headquarters, I don’t know what it was now. We shot it up. Spent about three or four minutes over the target. And came back. Didn’t waste any time. And we had enough fuel, there was four of us, to get back to Pusan. And I said, ‘You’re sure you’ve got enough fuel, otherwise we’ll land here, here, or there’.
They said, ‘We’re all right’. Normally the leader has the most fuel, because he’s leading and less throttle movement. But we were all fairly right. And we all got back after eight and a quarter hours flight. That was a long bloody flight that one. For three minutes over target. And that happened quite often in Mustang days. Not those long flights, but maybe three, three and a half hour flights. And we’d drop a load of maybe rockets and/or bombs,
carrying one drop tank. Or napalm tank. But I never went in and stayed on target. It was in, out. Otherwise you’d lose someone. You’d lose yourself sometimes. Occasionally, the odd guy wanted to go back and have another crack, because he’d missed his target. I’d say, ‘Nope’. Some did, early days until I stopped it. Because then you lost people, going back a second time to the target area.
Most of our jobs in the Korean Campaign were against trains, against tolls, against bridges. Transport. Coming down the field tracks. Troop concentrations, supply dumps. They were our main targets.
The other pair, we were there, these two were doing something over there. And I said, ‘Hey, he’s left his parachute behind’. The parachute left the body. He’d pulled the wrong cord. So he got killed. I don’t know why. I think he got shot up, by ground fire. And pulled up, got as high as he could, and bailed out. Then I found out he hadn’t been parachute trained, by two or three other guys that came up with him on that course.
I hit the bloody roof then. Oh, god, did I what. Well, I wrote to the CAF, Chief of the Air Force, direct. I said, ‘If this is how you’re training my boys in Korea. What’s wrong with you?’ I was very rude. And very direct, too. So that caused a complete change in training, naturally. But quite a few mistakes were made in those post-war days,
post World War II. In the Korean days. Untrained people. Badly trained people. Selecting the wrong guy for a pilot. Which we had to correct on the spot. Which I told you, I sent eleven people home, LMF. It wasn’t their fault, just lack of bloody training. And unfortunately, ten of them were discharged from the Air Force, which, when I got back,
I thought was bloody wrong. They should have been retrained properly.
I was the first jet commander ever, in the Air Force, in force history. Because when I got back to Australia, I really changed things. I was the boss as far as I was concerned. But the Air Force was the same. ‘You know what you’re doing, Cresswell. You do it. You’ve had experience in American aircraft. Whatever you want, we’ll agree, in principle, until you give us details. So I changed the whole Operational Training Structure. In the Air Force. And when the
Australian Sabre was introduced I said, ‘I’ll take that bloody Sabre, and I’ll form a Sabre Trials Flight, in the Operational Training Unit they already had at Williamtown’. So, I put eight pilots out, ex jet pilots, and we wrote the syllabus of training for the Australian Sabre at Williamtown on the spot. We spent about six months doing that. So the entry of the Air Force into fast aircraft, like the Sabre Plus,
was done by my blokes and myself. By pretty rugged training, and also writing the syllabus of training, which is virtually still used.
I had no worry about getting approval from Air Board, or from the ministers. Even Menzies said, ‘Without you, we wouldn’t have had an efficient Air Force, after Korea’. And I had a good team to back me up all the time, Again, teamwork. Some of the guys that came out of Korea, about my time, like Des Murphy and Olorenshaw, were on my side all the time.
And on occasion we used to get together and have a few drinks and say, ‘What about doing this or that or the other?’ And we’d all agree and go ahead and do it. Or get it approved. Forming a Sabre Trials Flight, at the OTU, which I commanded at Williamtown, introduction of the Australian Sabre in the Air Force, was frowned upon initially by the senior guys. And they said, ‘Why can’t our experienced pilots do this?’ I said, ‘What experienced pilots have we got?’
None had flown jets they were talking about. ‘Oh, away you go’. So we wrote out a list of instructions, operational instructions, and went ahead did our job. Six months or so at Williamtown.
Over the course of your career, Dick, you saw a lot of things, for someone like myself I could never imagine seeing. Horrific images. Things that only happen in times of war. How much do these images come back to you in your life, since the wars you took part in?
If I meet some member from that period, yeah, quite often. Sometimes things come back. My Air Force career comes back now and again. A bloke like Buster Brown and I talk about those days. My trips overseas, particularly with the Hawker Siddley Group. Travelling the bloody world. Flying all the aircraft they were building, all over the world. Including Beechcraft.
Because Hawker de Havilland in Sydney was the Australian agent for Beechcraft. So I saw a lot of Beechcraft people. And flying all sorts of aircraft, belonging to the group. And flying some aircraft the Air Force eventually bought before they’d even thought about buying them. Oh, no. I’ve got good memories, and a lot of good contacts.
And at Williamtown, the fighter boys up there, quiz me occasionally, a bit like you’ve been doing. What happened in World War II, and how did the Air Force operate, and so on and so forth. And what I did afterwards. Flying with the Navy. They said, ‘What did you want to fly with the Navy for?’ I said, ‘Because of the challenge’. But, oh no, it’s mainly. Because I’m eighty three now, so it’s mainly memory of what happened in the old days.
That’s Jones, of the ex CAS. Chief of Air Staff. Whom I didn’t like. He didn’t like me. It took fourteen months to grab me. After I’d finished my little war, I came back and court martialled me. I lost three months seniority. So I decided to resign from the Air Force, this is in 1953. Forty three. So I went across to see the air base for personnel, who was my boss at Point Cook, when I joined the Air Force. He said, ‘Don’t you worry, Dick, you’re right.
Now you’re back to Wing Commander’. I said, ‘I wasn’t Wing Commander before’. He said, ‘Yes, you were’. He said, ‘You were a Squadron Leader’. I said, ‘That’s right’. He said, ‘Now you’re a Wing Commander’. So he said, ‘Forget about what happened at the court martial. A lot of us were very unhappy with the Chief of the Air Force court martialling you fourteen months after what happened in the mess’.
I had good senior friends in the Air Force, those that were operational people. And of course, we respected each other.