Thanks to last night’s program offerings on ABC TV I became aware that the RAAF celebrates its centenary tomorrow, 31 March 2021. The RAAF is a few months younger than another iconic Australian organisation, Qantas, established in November 1920.
The RAAF’s history fascinates me as the family of my mother Julia Dennis was full of ‘fly-boys’. She had a brother and three cousins who served as pilots or navigators in WW2 and she herself worked for several years from 1944 as a draughtswoman for the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Fishermans Bend in Melbourne. Last night we were reminded of the high death rates among aircrew in WW2, a statistic which rang true for my family - 50% killed, the other 50% badly injured.
1941. My mother’s cousin Pip (Philip Hugh Boulton) happened to be in England when war broke out, just like his father had been when WW1 began. (See my book 'Brothers in Arms: The Great War Letters of Captain Nigel Boulton, RAMC, & Lieut Stephen Boulton, AIF'). Pip trained as an RAF pilot for the Bristol Beaufighter, used as nightfighters. Just after he joined the crack No 604 Squadron, whose aircraft carried experimental radar, he was killed in May 1941 as a passenger/observer in an aircraft accident over Dorset. http://boultonfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2017/09/pips-life-circle.html A few years ago I visited his official war grave at Alperton Cemetery in London. http://boultonfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2019/12/belatedly-honouring-philip-hugh-boulton.html Although he flew for the RAF, as an Australian he has recently been honoured at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra: http://boultonfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2020/01/commemorative-roll-awm-canberra.html
|Heroes Corner, Alperton Cemetery|
|Stephen Dennis, 1942|
|'A Terrifying Beauty' by Piotr Forkasiewicz - Lancaster Bomber on Fire|
|Peter Martin Boulton's Crashed Plane, 1945|
2020. With this family background in my mind, I’ve recently enjoyed reading ‘Invited to a War’ by Ret’d Air Vice Marshall Alan Reed, AO, a memoir which tells its own fascinating story of the adventurous opportunities created by a career in the RAAF.
|'Invited to a War' is available from BookPOD in Melbourne|
I liked the way the ABC's story ended with a tribute to the wives and families of RAAF personnel, who make these careers possible, as Alan does in his book. In my family's case it was the widowed mothers, young wives, sisters and daughters who kept the home fires burning for their menfolk and kept their memories alive.