No. 31 Squadron Association

No. 31 Squadron RAAF (1942 - 1946)
Reformed as No. 31 (City of Wagga Wagga) Squadron RAAF 2010

David Beasley

David Beasley

                   FLIGHT LIEUTENANT, DAVID IAN BEASLEY     36268

 

Summary of Service

RAAF Service from enlistment on 22nd April 1941 at the age of 18 years until discharge on 3rd March 1947 with the rank of Flight Lieutenant whilst serving at Eastern Area Headquarters. Dave served in Beaufighter Squadrons 30, 31 and 93, and 77 Attack Wing as a Navigator. The profile that follows was compiled by his son Ian from a number of sources.

(a) The transcript of an interview, with George Dick (formerly 30 Squadron), which was recorded on 4thOctober  1990 at Dave’s home in Port Macquarie.
(b) The written records made by Dave over a number of years.
(c) Dave’s Observer’s Air Gunner’s and W/T Operator’s Flying Log Book.
(d) Dave’s Members Pay Book.

Background

David Ian Beasley (“Dave”) was born on 6th June 1922 in Forbes, NSW, the sixth child (and fourth son) of seven, to Harold Lemuel and Jeannie Roddan Beasley. In 1924, as a toddler, he moved with the family to Orange where he spent his childhood and youth.

Having gained his Intermediate Certificate he was initially employed at Leagh’s Department Store as a delivery boy and covering general duties. His desire to pursue a career in pharmacy took him to Wellington and into the employ of a Mr McMahon, at Glover’s Pharmacy. Dave worked in the dispensary during the day and studied at night. This career was interrupted by War. At the onset of World War II Dave was only 17 years of age and in, October 1940, he joined the Militia with the 54th Battalion (N33370) and completed the 3 months basic training at Greta Camp in early March 1941. About this time he also attended Orange Technical School in preparation for the Air Force. On the successful completion of his courses he was placed on the reserve awaiting a call up to the RAAF. He subsequently left the Militia and enlisted in the Air Force in April 1941.

In Dave’s own words

My experiences during a three-month camp in the Army convinced me that I didn’t ever want to be a soldier. I had my eyes on becoming a pilot. When I decided to join the Air Force I went down to Sydney, but the recruiting people there said that they temporarily suspended aircrew recruitment, and they suggested that if I enlisted as a wireless operator I would be in the ideal position to re-muster when aircrew vacancies occurred. A lot of fellows fell for that story.

After enlisting as A36268, Trainee Group V, at Woolloomooloo in April 1941, I was sent out to the RAAF Station at Richmond to do my rookie training which took the usual four weeks or so. That was followed, in June, by a posting to No 1 Wireless & Air Gunnery School at RAAF Station Ballarat where the education officers there gave us some instruction in subjects such as physics and maths, in preparation for our wireless training at another school. I was at Ballarat for about 8 weeks.

In August, I was moved to No 1 School of Technical Training, whose headquarters were in the Melbourne Exhibition Building, but the men in my wireless course occupied barracks in Little Lonsdale Street, West Melbourne. These were not what you would call salubrious premises since they were located next door to some biscuit-making factory and behind a leather tannery. We got used to the smell – eventually.

After the morning parade at the barracks, the drill instructors marched us to the school in Queen Street run by Amalgamated Wireless of Australia, under contract. I was conned into playing a kettle-drum for the marches – to the School, back to barracks for lunch, back to the school, and then back to barracks at the end of the day. Another drummer was a fellow called Kelly. He came from the Victorian town of Bendigo. The course in Melbourne took about four months to complete, and towards the end we were moved from our quarters in Lonsdale Street to the vast Exhibition Building. Apart from the discomfort and inconvenience of living in such a cavernous, cold, and noisy building, it took longer to complete the four daily marches, and our lunch ‘hour’ became much shorter.

I started off on No 64 W/T Course, but finished with No 66. All the teachers at the AWA School were civilians: “Merchant Navy Mick” was quite a nice guy and we all got on very well with him. The arrangement was that incoming trainees occupied the classroom on the top floor, and as they completed each stage of their training they moved down to the floor below, finishing up on the bottom floor when they qualified.

Warrant Officer Joe Reynolds was the senior Air Force fellow at the school and he was a real tartar, being feared by each and every trainee wireless operator. His method of motivation might not been looked on kindly today “If you don’t qualify I’ll see that you’re re-mustered to a kitchen hand”. He was a rough, rude, and blustering individual, he made life pretty miserable for the wireless trainees, and was heartily disliked.

Those of us who had satisfactorily completed the training syllabus at the AWA School were posted to RAAF Signals School at Point Cook in November 1941. I was at Point Cook when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour and then a flight of Americans in Kittyhawks landed, having flown from some distant place with only one small Shell road map between them. Their arrival had not been expected. The leader wanted to know where he was, and when he found he was at Point Cook instead of Laverton, asked how to get there. Someone told him it was just north of Point Cook, but he professed not to know what that meant and asked to be pointed in the right direction.

I enjoyed my time at Point Cook, it was a very pleasant place and the school buildings were right near the water. Here again, marching occupied a fairly large slice of our working day since we went along the two mile road round the perimeter of the aerodrome four times a day. And once again, I was nominated to play a drum. The only privilege this brought me was to go to the head of the food line in the Mess.

The fellows who had done their wireless training in Melbourne were joined at Point Cook by those who had done their training at Ultimo, in Sydney. Ron Allen and Dave Childs were among those. We were swimming in the enclosure near the Marine Section one day when someone spotted a giant stingray towards the bottom. We all leapt out somewhat hurriedly, I can tell you. We prodded and poked and annoyed it so much that it came close to the surface and someone shot it.

The Commanding Officer of the school was Squadron Leader Austin, and one of the fellows on the staff – Warrant Officer Chandler – was OIC Pigeons. He clipped message papers to their legs and sent them off on “carrier pigeon exercises”. Another instructor was Corporal Clarke, a pleasant fellow who was friendly with Lou Lyons and Bobby Graves. Clarke may have been a relation of one of them. We did only a couple of hours training with the Aldis lamp, and I don’t think anybody had to use the lamp from then on. Some of our practical exercise in radio communication took place in small one-man huts scattered around the School site, and which were known as outstations.

Our training in what were called the “Practical Rooms” was pretty much confined to radio equipment which we bought from the Royal Air Force, and which we would now regard as pre-historic. I recently took my grandchildren to the Aircraft Museum at Camden and they, being used to pocket-sized transistors, were highly amused at the size of the AT5/AR8 radio equipment in the Beaufighter. I didn’t go to the trouble of telling them about valves, tuning coils, aerial coupling units, or other mysterious items.

Towards the end of the course at Point Cook, we were asked if any of us wanted to become members of aircrew, and those of us who opted for that were interviewed by a selection panel. That consisted of the CO of the School, one of the staff members, and a couple of other officers – maybe Education Officers from the Empire Air Training Scheme’s Initial Training School. The other fellows from my course, who were interviewed, included Lou Lyons and Bobby Graves. Ron Allen, Dave Childs and I were posted to No 1 Air Observers School at Cootamundra, about April 1942, to undergo No 24 Observer’s Course. As that course hadn’t started when we reported in, we were sent to help out in the Signals Section, taking weather reports and handling general messages.

We did our day and night air navigation exercises in the Avro Ansons with which the School was equipped. We were there in the winter of 1942 and one of the menial jobs given to the trainees was to sweep the frost off the wings of the Aggies. They would leak if they weren’t swept first thing in the morning, and the water would drip down over the navigation table and soak your topographical map, your navigation log and your D.R. Plot.

Some of the air exercises were simulated reconnaissance and required us to fly over little townships in the backblocks on New South Wales and draw a sketch of its principal navigation features. At one time the Anson was classified in the Royal Air Force as a Bomber and a Reconnaissance aircraft, and it had a bomb-aimer’s station in its nose. The navigator was required to crawl past the pilot’s legs, rudder pedals and sundry other obstructions, lie face down on the floor in the nose, and open a sliding hatch in the aircraft’s nose. Your first experience of seeming to hang out in free air and look down at Mother Earth from 6,000 feet was guaranteed to be a trifle un-nerving.

The cross-country navigational exercises required the navigator to determine the strength and direction of the wind at the Anson’s height, and for this he used a bomb-sight fitted with a compass, a variety of knobs, and a set of drift wires. This very expensive piece of equipment had to be removed from its storage box, taken down to the nose, and then fitted to a spigot so that when the sliding hatch in the floor was opened, the operator could calculate the aircraft’s sideways “drift”. One of the trainee navigator’s greatest concerns was the possibility of dropping this instrument out through the hatch – not so much because it might damage some farm property, some cow-cocky, or even some cow, but of the threat of a court-martial over the loss of this highly secret equipment which the Japanese would give their left testicles for. Not to mention the absolutely horrendous amounts of money which would be taken out of the offender’s pay-book to recompense the Air Force for its loss.

A somewhat lesser punishment was attached to dropping the hand-held instrument which was used to plot the aircraft’s drift and three separate headings and work out a three-course wind on the Course & Speed Calculator. However, we usually attached a lanyard to that and secured the other end to a hook in the Anson’s nose.

                                               No 1 Air Observers School Cootamundra, No 24 Observers Course, 25th April 1945

Towards the end of our training some of the staff at Cootamundra had hinted that the three or four of us on the course who would be selected to undergo training as Air Navigators. The object of this was to provide Radio Operator / navigators for two place aircraft, at that time consisting of Wirraways and Vultee Vengeance. In August we were posted to No 1 Bombing and Gunnery School at Evans Head, which was equipped with the single-engine Fairey Battle and we heard the same story.

I was one of those selected and at the end of our Navigator training we were made aware that a new two place aircraft, the Beaufighter, was just being introduced to the RAAF. Tony Waite, an officer of the Royal Air Force on secondment to us as a navigation instructor, and who had flown in Wellingtons in the UK, was positive that we’d be going to these new strike aircraft. We didn’t know much about the aircraft, apart from having seen one or two photographs of them in the torpedo role in Britain.

Our postings to 5 Operational Training Unit at Forest Hill came through in early November and we knew we were in fact going to Beaufighters because No 31 Squadron had just formed.

“Butch” Gordon was the pilot of my first flight in a Beaufighter, and I thought he was absolutely crazy the way he handled that aircraft. He was the instructor/pilot at the OTU, Bruce Rose was the Commanding Officer, and Col Butterworth, a navigator, was the Chief Ground Instructor.

Fifteen aircrew comprised what would have been considered No 1 Beaufighter Conversion Course. Pilots: Bob Bennett, Bevin West, Fred Catt, Harold Woodroffe, George Gibson, John Drummond, George Drury. Navigators: Myself, Ray Kelley, Ron Allen, Dave Childs, Eric Lusk, Phil Edwards, John Brooks, Bill Davis.

Someone on the OTU staff, possibly Bruce Rose, invited us to sort ourselves out into pilot and navigator pairs, and they would fly together as crews from then on. George Drury and I teamed up at that time and we flew together on 17 sorties with 30 Squadron in 1943. George had the distinction of being the first Pilot to be selected immediately after training to fly Beaufighters. Most previous pilots to be selected were experienced staff pilots or flying instructors, because the Beaufighter was considered to be the number one aircraft of the RAAF at that time.

Len Greenhill and Col Butterworth were the fellows supervising the navigators on the course. I doubt that they did much in the way of navigation instruction in the classroom, although they may have done a few Dead Reckoning plots. They probably organised the cross-country exercises and looked at our charts and logs afterwards.

Towards the end of our course the Public Relations people wanted to make a newsreel of OTU activities, including some formation flying. I was detailed to fly with the CO, Bruce Rose. Before he came in to land he warned me to hang on tight, put the nose down in a steep dive, and from about 5,000 feet aimed the nose straight for the cameraman standing on the tarmac. By the time Bruce levelled out at some incredibly low height, the white-faced cameraman had probably burrowed a hole, straight through the bitumen tarmac.

After becoming familiar with the Beaufighter I was asked by the OTU CO, Squadron Leader Bruce Rose to accompany him, as his navigator, on a flight to Port Moresby and thence to Darwin to visit the two Beaufighter Squadrons, namely 30 and 31 which had been moved to these locations, during the past three months, after forming up at Richmond and Wagga respectively. Bruce Rose had already been flying Beaufighters in England and had been recalled to Australia to monitor the formation of the two Beaufighter Squadrons and then form the OTU at Wagga for the training of replacement crews for the squadrons.   He was a highly skilled and capable pilot despite the fact that he had an artificial leg which was the legacy of his operational flying in England with the RAF.    On the flight, we staged through Townsville, arriving at Wards Strip (near Port Moresby) on 24 October 1942 where he discussed flying and operational matters with Brian Walker, CO of 30 Squadron, and his flight commanders. 30 Squadron had had their baptism of fire, the first loss being George Sayers and Sergeant Mairet. We spent two days there and then flew direct to Batchelor where he had further discussions with Wing Commander Charles Read, CO of 31 Squadron, and others before returning to Forest Hill.
Eight aircrew were posted to No 30 Squadron from the Beaufighter Conversion course at Forest Hill:

Bob Bennett, and his navigator, Phil Edwards,
George Drury with myself as his navigator,
George Gibson, and his navigator, Eric Lusk,
John Drummond, and his navigator, Ron Allen.

George Gibson and Eric Lusk collected a Beaufighter A19-73 from Laverton and flew that up to New Guinea, arriving at Wards the day before New Year’s Eve, 1942. Bob Bennett and Phil Edwards were passengers in that aircraft. George and I also took a Beaufighter up to the Squadron, arriving there three days before Xmas. John Drummond and Ron Allen were passengers in our aircraft.

We carried out numerous operational missions with 30 Squadron including participation in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, which commenced on 3rd March 1943. No. 9 RAAF Operational Group Port Moresby played a vital role in the planning this attack and 30 Squadron Beaufighters together with other RAAF Squadrons and the US Airforce carried out these plans in the air. The 12 Beaufighters, from 30 Squadron, led the attack hitting the enemy from below 500 feet, lining up their targets as the bombs from the Flying Fortresses were exploding. With four cannons in its nose and six machine guns in its wings the Beaufighter was the most heavily armed fighter aircraft in the world. The destruction of the Japanese convoy, consisting of 8 Naval vessels and 14 Merchantmen/transports as well as 32 Japanese bomber aircraft, 27 Japanese fighter aircraft and about 4000 Naval and Army personnel was described as a turning point in the war in New Guinea and was acknowledged by General MacArthur. It was the first time in the history of war that a Naval force was entirely destroyed by an Air Force. The losses suffered by the Allies was, 6 aircraft destroyed, 4 aircraft damaged and 16 air force personnel killed. I am well aware of this statistic because one of the aircraft lost was Beaufighter A19-75, the aircraft which George Drury and I flew on the second day of the Battle, on 4th March, during mopping up operations.

When we came back from the first day of the Bismarck Sea sorties, our own aircraft was unserviceable as we had a few bullet holes as a result of the day’s action. On the second day, the Squadron had to go out at full strength to carry out low-level sweeps of the Huon Gulf and surrounding sea and coastlines. The job was to strafe and sink barges and rafts containing equipment and Japanese troops who had survived the sinking of their ships. Because of some medical condition, Blackjack wasn’t allowed to join in those operations. So we were allotted his aircraft, A19-75. He said “you can use my aircraft but make bloody sure you bring it back and don’t bend it”. With these admonitions ringing in our ears we took off with the other aircraft and proceeded to the target area where we attacked some aircraft on the ground at Malahang and in return received a burst of ack ack in the starboard motor and in the fuel lines and were unable to transfer fuel from one side to the other, hence George had to fly back on one motor. The loss of power meant we could not climb back over the Owen Stanley Ranges to base. George asked me for a course to the nearest airstrip and added “Make sure it belongs to us”. I gave him a course to Dobodura which was about 70 miles east and we were proceeding reasonably well until about 15 miles from Dobodura when the port motor lost power and George informed me that he would have to crash land immediately as we were over a small clearing in the jungle about the size of a football field. Our aircraft hit the ground and charged through a patch of kunai grass into the trees and continued on its way into the jungle until brought to rest jammed between two very large trees and completely covered by the smaller trees which it had mown down as it ploughed through them. Fortunately, neither of us was injured, and there was no fire associated with the crash, so I stayed with the aircraft while George hot-footed it into Dobodura and came back with a vehicle and an aircraft guard.

Blackjack’s pride and joy “parked” at Dobodura

On arrival back at the Squadron, at Wards, the next day, we were ushered into the CO’s tent and his first words were, “Where have you two bastards been and where is my bloody aircraft?” The aircraft had been his favourite and been tuned and fitted to his liking. George was speechless at such a reception so I said, “Well sir your bloody aircraft, as you call it, is jammed between two of the biggest trees that I have ever seen on the North Coast of New Guinea, near Popondetta (near Dobodura), probably not recoverable and we have been organising a flight back to Moresby with an American transport Squadron”. Blackjack’s attitude changed immediately and he said, “I’m really glad to see you back again boys, and I guess I can get another aircraft. By the way let your parents know that you are OK as we had to advise them that you were missing on operations”.

Curly Wearne had got off the mark pretty quickly for as soon as one of the other Beaufighters reported that we’d been seen to prang, he sent telegrams off to our folks to inform them that George and I were missing in action. That caused a bit of a stir at home, but they got the good news not long afterwards. Curly was a nice old guy who did his job quite well, doing everything by the book, and perhaps not terribly imaginative. But I suppose that his adjutant’s job required him to stick to the rules all the time, and, as an older man, to maintain a little bit of discipline and respect by being a trifle remote from the extremely young officer and NCO aircrew.

The Squadron’s campsite in June Valley was quite a pleasant place, the tents and other facilities being scattered around the site in a random fashion to minimise damage from an enemy attack. The marquee, which was used by the Operations people and where we had our briefings and debriefings was beside the road down to the strip, and more-or-less next to the CO’s tent.

George and I continued operational flying with 30 Squadron but George was hospitalised for some time, during which I flew with several other pilots including Wing Commander Brian Walker, the CO of 30 Squadron, Flying Officer Dick Roe, Flight Lieutenant George Gibson, Flying Officer Bob Bennett and Squadron Leader Bill Boulton.

General Blamey was said to be the fellow who insisted that New Guinea was to be ‘dry’. So, officially, there was no alcohol in the June Valley camp. However, when various Beaufighters were ferried up from the mainland, it was a standing procedure for them to stage through Townsville, and take on a load of liquor, by arrangements with one of the messes at RAAF Station Garbutt, or through Messrs Cummins and Campbell, the wine and spirit merchants in the town.

Somebody (probably Don Bain or Dick Beynon), had acquired a fridge and this was put in the Aircrew Mess. We were thus able to have water that was colder than the stuff we could get out of our canvas water coolers, as well as cool cordial, made from powder. Perhaps for want of something to do to fill in our time, it was decided to build a bar on which we could lean and pretend that, while drinking our sherbets, we were leaning on the counter of our favourite drinking hole down south. This took place shortly after Flight Lieutenant Eddison and other replacement crews arrived from the OTU in March 1943, and the structure was named after him.

The tin bashers down at the strip did us proud by fabricating a big metal sign, with the name cut out of the sheet, “Grumpy’s Bar” and it was made all the more impressive when we put some lights behind it. The christening took place one or two nights after George Gibson and Eric Lusk brought a replacement kite to Wards, and naturally enough, it was stuffed with grog. We had a good ding that night. Sadly, Grumpy went in only a few weeks after that.

Port Moresby was raided quite a few times while we were there, and one of the first things I did was to help dig a slit trench right beside our tent. No bombs came down in our camp area, although some of them landed in the nearby scrub. I was amazed at the noise the bombs made as they came down,  it was rather frightening. And they came from a long way up, and you could watch them as they got nearer.

Although Wards Strip was the target of a few Japanese day and night raids, I’m sure it was never put out of action. A few of our Beaufighters were written off as a result of the raids, and the fuselage of one aircraft was absolutely riddled with small holes, obviously caused by the shrapnel from an anti-personnel bomb. The ground staff merely pasted fabric over some of the holes. Indeed, for some parts of the fuselage they wrapped fabric all the way round. Don Angus and Bruce Robertson painted a handful of wireless ‘sparks’ near my cupola, together with a message to their wireless mates down south before George and I flew A19- 37 back to Forest Hill when we went south in June.

Another aircraft which was badly damaged as a result of an air raid, was of particular interest to George and I. It was A19-11, and we had once flown too close to the coconut palms at Gasmata and damaged the leading edge of the main plane. It had been repaired, repainted, and made to look like new. After a local area test flight we parked it in its dispersal bay at Wards, but during a raid a few days later a Japanese bomb landed about 10 feet away, lifted the aircraft up, dumped it back on the ground again, with such extensive damage that it was beyond repair and it was salvaged for its components.

I found Moss Morgan and Fred Cassidy to be very friendly guys and very easy to get along with. They were admirably suited to each other as a crew and seemed to operate very successfully as a team. George Gibson and Eric Lusk, as I’ve said, arrived at June Valley a few days after us.

John Drummond was a very experienced pilot. We first struck him at the Air Observer’s School at Cootamundra, where he was a staff pilot in the Ansons. He was perhaps something of an introvert, for he never seemed to do anything extraordinary, but what he did do, he did very well. In modern parlance, he was a quiet achiever. He got on with the job and did it well. We had found that to be so as trainee navigators at Cootamundra, and we were all quite happy to fly with him.

Ron Allen was a character. Ron and I got around a little bit together at Cootamundra and had a deal of fun together. We might have done the place over properly except for the fact that he had his wife there. He was a very affable sort of a guy, fairly laid back. Nothing much worried him, yet he was a fairly good operator. He was a pretty clued-up guy, you wouldn’t think so just to look at him, but when you saw his performance you’d realize that he was quite on the ball.

George Gibson was a real professional guy. He did everything according to the book – although I don’t mean that in any disparaging way. A good fellow, though not what you would call one of the boys. We got on with him quite well, as well as with Eric Lusk, with whom I had quite a few enjoyable outings before we went up north.

Bob Bennett was another professional, but he was totally different from George Gibson. A most competent pilot, whose navigator was Phil Edwards. Phil was a proper character. He and Dudley Wright were particular mates at the wireless school and the pair of them was the absolute despair of the instructors. They had done some wireless work and Morse code before joining up, and being pretty bright fellows, were not inclined to sit quietly during rather boring lectures. They were larrikins.

Dick Roe had flown overseas of course, before going to New Guinea and was a good member of the Squadron. Peter Fisken, his navigator, was a very experienced guy too. He’d been in the Air Force for quite a time before that, having been in Rabaul with the Wirraway Squadron before it was taken by the Japanese.

Alec Spooner was a very ambitious guy. He ended up doing a pilots course after he left the Squadron. I have an idea that he ended up flying Mosquitos.

In my opinion, Ross Little was a hard guy to get to know. I thought he was a little bit stand-offish, for what reason I wouldn’t know. Maybe the fact that he was a flight commander had something to do with it.

Neither Ross nor Torchy Uren were tremendously popular, though nobody doubted for one minute their flying skill or operational capabilities. Torchy’s temper was well-known.

Apparently Bob Harding and the Beaufighter didn’t get on too well together, and I think he pranged a kite coming up from Richmond, and perhaps another one at Wards. In any case, he got on the wrong side of Blackjack. The upshot being that not long after we arrived in New Guinea, he and his navigator, Hedley Cane, went back to do the OTU course at Forest Hill. The pair of them came back to the Squadron at the beginning of March 1943. Three or four other replacement crews arrived during that month too. George Drury was detailed to lead these new crews on a practice flight to demonstrate the strafing tactics/procedures used in the Squadron. Bob Harding had a spare crew on board, Frank King and his navigator, Jack Tyrell. The practice runs were against the wreck of the old Macduhui. We had done our strafing run, and Bob Harding followed us down in a dive, but his aircraft’s wing hit the ship’s mast and the Beaufighter catapulted into the drink. The two pilots, Harding and King, were killed. The two navigators, Cane and Tyrell, were miraculously rescued.

Blackjack didn’t seem to be the sort of fellow you could get to like. He was swashbuckling, a superb pilot who could fly anything he could get his hands on. His closing remarks to a bunch of replacement pilots were along the lines that if they wanted to do aerobatics they must ensure that they had plenty of height and plenty of speed.

I played a few games with the 30 Squadron cricket team. They were just social games against other RAAF or Army teams, and we mostly played on a pitch in Port Moresby. Eric Lusk was our leading bowler.

We had three motor bikes in the Squadron. Blackjack had his big Harley-Davidson which had been pinched from the Americans, and each of the flights had a machine. I occasionally managed to borrow one of the machines from the flight and go for a spin around the place.

The RAAF issue of buoyancy jackets were bulky things filled with kapok or something similar and were a nuisance to wear in the air, and as much of the early flying was over land, many navigators took the damned things off. Later on we wore the American style of Mae West, which were inflated by a gas bottle, operated by a toggle. These came from Don Bain’s “store”. He and Dick Beynon were ace purloiners and lifted everything they could get their hands on – whether it was tied down or not. They must have had more stuff squirreled away than what was in the Equipment Store.

It’s my understanding that Don Bain, who was an avid motor-cyclist, “acquired” the motor-bike for Blackjack, and that Don and Dick managed to equip every member of aircrew with the American throat microphones. From then on we didn’t have to wear those wretched cloth helmets fitted with that oxygen mask which incorporated a mike.

Dobodura was a terrible place. On one of our missions in January 1943 the cloud build-up was so intense that we couldn’t get back to Moresby through The Gap, so we had to stay on the northern side of the Owen Stanley Ranges for the night. We landed at Dobodura and were accommodated in an Australian Army hospital for the night. There had been so much rain and the ground was so soft and muddy that the wooden legs of the stretchers in the wards had sunk down so far that the canvas was resting on the mud. We didn’t get a great deal of sleep that night because the 25 pounders were banging away at the Japanese in the nearby jungle. The Salvation Army chap was doing his good deeds handing out tea and biscuits to all.

In May 1943, Squadron Leader Bill Boulton was scheduled to take Air Commodore Joe Hewitt around the traps just before the moves of the RAAF squadrons to Goodenough Island. Bill’s navigator, Keith McCarthy, was medically unfit, as was George Drury, so I was detailed to go along as the navigator. We spent a day and night at Milne Bay while the Air Commodore had a look around, and next day we took off to go to Goodenough. We took off eastwards across the waters of the bay, and the normal thing would have been to fly on for some twenty miles or so, go around the finger of land on the northern side of the bay, and they fly northwards towards Goodenough. It seemed that Bill wanted to impress the Air Commodore with his flying ability so as soon as we got the wheels up he did a sharp turn to port and tried to literally claw his way up the side of the mountain range that formed the northern spine of the bay. My eyes were fixed on the airspeed indicator, which was hovering about the 90 knot mark, and how we never slipped backward or stalled during that steep climb I’ll never know. I imagine the Air Commodore had a stiff word or two to say when we got to Goodenough.

Our Squadron was involved in the big October raid on Rabaul, and because it was supposed to be marginally shorter from Dobodura, we staged across there from Goodenough. American Liberators, Mitchells, Bostons, and Beaufighters had assembled there, but 30 Squadron was late getting off because the Mitchells, which had taken off immediately ahead of us created such a dust storm that our pilots couldn’t see the runway. Bill Boulton and Keith McCarthy led our formation, while Dick Stone and Morris Hadwell tagged along as reserve aircraft.  They would take the place of anyone who wasn’t able to go on.

We weren’t too far out when I noticed quite a lot of oil streaming out from the port motor and when I told George he said that the pressure was OK at that time but he would keep an eye on the gauge. We continued to lose oil and it wasn’t long before George had to shut down that motor, and as we couldn’t get to the target on one motor, we had to turn back. Dick Stone took our place in the formation, and sadly, he was shot down on that mission. That was at Tobera, in A19-97, on 12th October.

I’m not sure that I was apprehensive about going out on a sortie. Naturally, there was a degree of concern, caused more by adrenalin, excitement, and a sense of adventure than any feeling that we might not make it back to base. We had some sort of a plan in the back of our minds about what to do if we were shot down. We had our escape and evasion kits, our silk maps, a revolver and six rounds of 0.38mm ammunition, and I suppose we thought that we’d be extricated by our own side before anything serious happened. Most of our sorties at that time were over New Guinea itself, where there was plenty of water, and enough food at the many native plantations to sustain us until we were rescued.

Having survived our crash landing at Dobodura without a scratch, if I ever had to make a choice between bailing out, or, staying with the aircraft for another crash landing, I would choose the latter. Although, when I think back, I suppose my biggest concern was that the Beaufighter might catch fire and incinerate the crew, the more so since I had seen that happen at Wards to an American crew. There was probably an attitude of taking each day as it came and if you survived that, well and good. I doubt whether any of us were fatalistic and entertained a belief that we wouldn’t come through our operational tours and get back home.

In the early months of our tour the navigators had to manually cock the cannons and fit new ammunition drums to the breeches: I always wore my tin helmet while I was doing that for if George put on some negative G’s you were inclined to bash your head against the inside of the fuselage. Later, we got the bin-fed cannons, and could cock the guns hydraulically by depressing small foot-pedals. That action pulled the breech block back and held it there. You had to remember to kick the pedal up again or the gun wouldn’t fire. I never had a cannon misfire in a Beaufighter, but a number of other fellows did at Goodenough, and that arose because we were using American 20mm ammunition, some of which turned out to be faulty. There were also a couple of incidents where fellows came back from a job with sprung floors just above the cannon ports, and right under the pilot’s seat. No casualties, though.

We got some very good results from our use of the F24 hand-held camera, although it was an awkward thing to handle in the confined space of the navigator’s cupola. It was pretty easy to lose a trailing aerial from the Beaufighter but it never happened to me, probably because the frequencies we were using didn’t require that thing to be strung out through the floor.

Because George Drury had a minor medical problem and required further treatment, we were posted south a little short of the normal tour-length. We left on Thursday morning 3rd June 1943 in A19-37, which we were ferrying back to the mainland because it had sustained some damage in an air raid, and was in need of repairs. As mentioned before, Bruce Robertson and Don Angus had painted a handful of “sparks” just near my cupola. We were loaded with parcels which fellows wanted their families to receive.

I spent the next three months with Test and Ferry Flight at Laverton and flew with ten different pilots on various Test and Ferry flights until once again George and I were posted back to 30 Squadron, in September 1943, presumably to complete our tour. The Squadron was now based at Goodenough Island. That was a most delightful place, very refreshing after being at Moresby and a few visits to Milne Bay. The swimming pool there was well patronised, being quite close to our camp on the side of the hill, and only a couple of minutes walk away.

A highlight of the time when we were operating from Vivigani strip (on Goodenough Island) occurred on the afternoon of Saturday 23 October 1943, when we went out on a last-light patrol near Cape Orford, in New Britain, in an endeavour to intercept Japanese floatplanes which had been reported as flying in that area, usually at dusk. At about 1800 hours, I reported to George that there was a bandit below us and heading in the opposite direction. George immediately peeled off and gave chase to what turned out to be a “Jake” (Aichi E13A Navy Type O reconnaissance seaplane), and closed to within 200 yards and began firing, with the result that the Jake was hit by the concentrated fire of four 20mm cannons and six .303 machine guns. Within minutes he caught fire and crashed into the hills adjacent to the coast. Our aircraft was slightly damaged in the port motor exhaust, by bullets from the Jake’s rear gunner, but that didn’t bring too many problems for our return to base. A blinding flash from the port motor made flying a little difficult for George but he was guided by the Navigation lights of one of the other Beaufighters. It was also horribly dark when we got back to Vivigani, and we were a little concerned during our approach and landing because the duty pilot wouldn’t turn the strip lights on for us until the very last minute of touchdown. That was to foil any Japanese raider who might have been attempting to follow in our “shadow”.

George Drury and I were posted from 30 Squadron in November 1943, with George going to Test and Ferry Flight at Bankstown, whilst I was posted to Test and Ferry Flight at Laverton.

I spent the next six months at Laverton flying in many and varied aircraft with twenty different pilots. They were all excellent pilots having flown many hours in operations and otherwise, but four of them, in my opinion, were supreme and I refer to Squadron Leader D R Cuming, Wing Commander Jim Harper, Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Baker and Flight Lieutenant John Miles.

I flew many hours with “Gel” Cuming and recall our flight to Archerfield, in a Beaufighter, and from there to Eagle Farm each day for a week where he had been requested to test fly some Japanese aircraft which had been restored by the RAAF.

I also flew quite a number of hours as Navigator with Malcolm Baker who had extensive flying hours as a test pilot on all types of aircraft.

Jim Harper was the CO of Test and Ferry at Laverton and was an extremely accomplished and experienced pilot, whilst John Miles had been flying in New Guinea before the War and was one of the pilots employed by the Department of Aircraft Production to test fly Beaufighters after assembly at Fishermans Bend.

In June 1944 I was posted to No 3 Air Observer’s School at Port Pirie, to undergo No 6 Staff Navigator’s Course which I began on 2nd July 1944 and completed on 30thAugust 1944, flying with seven different pilots.

I was then posted to 31 Squadron at Coomalie Creek, Northern Territory in September 1944, as Squadron Navigation Officer. George Carnegie, another navigator who had previously served in No 30 Squadron, was already there as the Squadron Signals Officer. I spent 13 months flying in the Beaufighters of No 31 Squadron, with a variety of pilots whose navigators were either temporarily unfit for flying duties, or who had been posted south on completion of their operational tour. Those pilots included David Strachan, Pat Boyd, Allan Cobb, Don Bowman, John Gibbings, Sid Sippe, Ron Edwards, Jack Black, Jack McFarlane, and Graham Lawrence. I recall that when Flight Lieutenant Strachan tested his aircraft he would usually perform a roll or two and then practise landing on one motor.

Early November the CO of 31 Squadron, Squadron Leader Pat Boyd asked me to fly with him as his Navigator had completed his tour of operations and had been posted south. Amongst the operations we flew together from Coomalie Creek was the Rocket projectile Strike on Vila Celestino on Japanese occupied buildings at Hatoelia on Timor Island on 16th November 1944. This Rocket Projectile strike was the first time rockets had been used in this theatre of operation. The attack force, comprising six Beaufighters was led by Squadron Leader Boyd. The accompanying B25, from 18 Squadron, was flying above and photographing the results of the Beaufighters attack and reported the building as being a complete wreck and burning fiercely.

Photograph of the buildings destroyed after the strike at Vila Celestino

On 1st December 1944 31 Squadron was transferred from Coomalie Creek to Morotai and spent the next six days flying aircraft and equipment to the new base, spending five days at Noemfoor Island, en route. Once established at Morotai, numerous operational missions were flown attacking Japanese Headquarters and installations in the Halmahera and Celebes Island groups. On all these missions I flew with Pat Boyd who by then had been awarded a bar to his already awarded DFC.

At the end of December Pat was finally posted south having spent a longer period than necessary with 31 Squadron and had performed some outstanding feats of operational flying. He was replaced with Squadron Leader Jack Black.

Pat was a most experienced and capable pilot having flown Beaufighters in England with such success that he was seconded to Bristol Aeroplane Company Ltd in England as a test pilot and on returning to Australia he was posted to 31 Squadron in 1944 where he served with distinction. He was another of the very few pilots who enjoyed rolling a Beaufighter which, considering the size and weight of the aircraft, was no mean feat and certainly not an aerobatic to be undertaken by the faint hearted. I am convinced that on several occasions he performed this aerobatic to test my reactions.

With Pat’s departure from the Squadron I discovered that Flight Lieutenant Jack Entwistle had been posted to 30 Squadron, which was located about 300 metres from our base, and that he had arrived without a Navigator. I already knew Jack from when he was an original member of 31 Squadron at Darwin so we came together as crew even though we belonged to different Squadrons. I flew a lot of missions with Jack who, of course, was an excellent and most experienced pilot and we meshed extremely well as a crew. One of the privileges of being a Navigation Officer with no pre-determined pilot meant that it was possible for me to be selective with whom I flew. Naturally, I endeavoured to select the best and most experienced. That, of course, is no reflection on the other pilots because I respected all pilots who flew Beaufighters since they were not an easy aircraft to fly and somewhat unforgiving of errors of judgement. Consequently, all who flew them were reasonably capable pilots.

During the three months I flew with Jack Entwistle, two flights of extreme range come to mind. One was a strafing attack on a Japanese headquarters in the Celebes Islands, when we were airbourne for 6 hours and 10 minutes, and the other was a sea search which took 6 hours and 40 minutes. Both were long periods of time to be sitting in one position in a Beaufighter, particularly for the pilot.

During this period of time another highly regarded and experienced Beaufighter pilot appeared on the scene to succeed Group Captain Fyfe as the CO of 77 (Attack) Wing in the person of Wing Commander (later Group Captain) Charles Read DFC who was the original CO of 31 Squadron at Darwin. The three Beaufighter Squadrons (30, 31, and 93) were formed as units of No 77 Wing and located at Morotai and Tarakan.

I was reliably informed that Charles Read as CO of the Wing intended to do quite a deal of flying , both operational and inspectorial for the area under his command and I was not surprised when he suggested that I might, perhaps, like to fly with him as his Navigator.

In the meantime I continued to fly on operations with 30 Squadron pilots Jack Entwistle and Mal Baker. Because I was flying a lot with Jack Entwistle I could only fly a few missions with Charles in January and February 1945.

 

In January 1945 pilot Ken Souness and his Navigator Gordon Cant had to ditch their aircraft as a result of enemy ack ack damage and suddenly found themselves in a dingy surrounded by water. Fortunately, Gordon had been able to contact base to advise they were in trouble and would be ditching about 60 miles from Morotai. As a result of the signal Ron Provost and I were detailed to locate the dingy and direct a Catalina to their spot in the ocean and give them top cover if necessary. The top cover was not necessary so when Ken and Gordon were safely aboard the Catalina both aircraft returned to base at Morotai.

On the 11th February 1945 the RAAF carried out a large raid on Japanese occupied sections of the town of Tondano in the Celebes. On this day the anti-aircraft defence was half-hearted.

Three days later the eighteen Beaufighters went back again, dipping in over the hills to the north of the town to attack an industrial area grouped by the powerhouse, warehouses and gun positions. This time the Beaufighters flew into an intense, accurate barrage. Half a dozen planes were hit. Our plane, flown by Jack Entwistle, had lead one of the squadrons and received twelve direct hits from a 20mm gun after dropping our depth charges. Portion of the rudder and controls were shot away. Two of the shells exploded in the fuselage and blew up the air bottle which controlled the hydraulic braking system. I received minor shrapnel wounds to my wrist when a piece of shell cut my metal watch band. With smoke pouring from the tail of the plane, Jack thought that the plane was “doomed” and headed for the lake to the south of the town, hoping that if he put her down, the escorting Catalina circling off the coast would rescue us. Over the lake the fire went out so Jack decided to make a bid for home. Back at Morotai a safe landing was achieved by using the full length of the airstrip.

Jack Entwistle and Dave Beasley inspect the damage

In March Jack was assigned to fly a staff Officer to Sydney by the quickest possible route. Our route was to be Morotai to Gove, Cloncurry and Mascot in an estimated time of 13 hours. However our plans came unstuck when we blew a tyre landing at Gove. As they had no replacements, on hand, we had to wait a day at Gove for a new tyre. We continued the flight with less haste and finally flew as far as Melbourne before returning to Morotai.
On the 31st March I was in the “Ops Room” when a signal was received from Ken Souness and Gordon Cant to the effect that their No. 2 aircraft crewed by Ross Roberts and Basil Phillips had ditched as a result of enemy ack ack damage in Haroekoe Strait between Haroekoe Island and Amboina Island and that they proposed to cover the dingy until a Catalina, which had been advised of the situation, could arrive. Bob Bowman immediately decided that two Beaufighters crewed by Ron Edwards and myself and Tom Ellis and Eric Coleman would proceed to the location of the dingy, in a hurry, repeat hurry, where one of them would remain as cover until the arrival of the Catalina and the other would escort Ken and Gordon’s aircraft on their return to Morotai, during which flight there was a distinct possibility that Ken and Gordon’s aircraft may have to ditch from lack of fuel. It so happened that that Tom and Eric undertook the protection whilst Ron and I escorted Ken and Gordon’s aircraft back to base at Morotai hoping and praying that they would have sufficient fuel  to complete the flight. This turned out to be the case, but only just, because Beaufighters cannot fly very far on 15 gallons of fuel, believe me, and that was all they had left when they finally arrived at Morotai.

Jack Entwistle was promoted to Squadron Leader and posted to 22 Squadron as the CO. Consequently I only flew with him once more during March and reverted to flying with several pilots from my own 31 Squadron. These included Flying Officer Frank Careedy, Flight Lieutenant Ron Edwards, Flying Officer Ron Cockcroft, Flight Lieutenant Jack Macfarlane and Squadron Leader Jack Black, CO of 31 Squadron. I also received a promotion to the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

During May and June Charles Read was involved in the impending establishment of 77 Wing at Tarakan, an Island off the coast of North Borneo and was obliged to make numerous visits of inspection to the area but, at that time, we were unable to land at Tarakan because the airstrip there was still under construction. So we travelled to Sanga Sanga Island in the Southern Phillipines where a base was established for detachments of 77 Wing aircraft whilst the Tarakan strip was built.

During our stay at Sanga Sanga we flew operational missions to Labuan in support of the AIF troops who were occupying that island and mopping up pockets of Japanese troops.

Providing air support for AIF troops at Labuan airstrip 10th June 1945 W/C Charles Read pilot, F/Lt Dave Beasley navigator

Finally Tarakan airstrip was available and so too was a new Beaufighter which Charles Read had decided to use for his future flights. In April 1945 the Australian built Beaufighter Mk 21 Serial A8-196 was accepted by the RAAF from the Department of Aircraft Production and test flown by Production Test and Ferry Unit at 1 AD Laverton. The aircraft was then flown to Morotai and delivered to 31 Squadron on 19th June 1945 by a ferry crew. Charles Read had been flying various Beaufighter aircraft which were available from 31 Squadron during April, May and June, accompanied by me as Navigator but now decided that, with the imminent transfer of the Wing Headquarters to Tarakan, he would have A8-196 allocated to him for his use in both operations and visits to the Squadrons under his command.

Consequently, Beaufighter A8-196, flown by Read and Beasley flew from Morotai to Tarakan and became the first of the larger aircraft to land on the recently constructed Tarakan airstrip on 28th June 1945. This proved a most harrowing experience for, although the RAAF Airfield Construction Wing had been working feverishly to reconstruct the airstrip which had been abandoned by the Japanese, they had to contend with a multitude of problems including the removal of land mines on the site and surrounds and a very wet and poorly drained terrain. But they had no alternative and despite these problems and lack of materials by virtue of their best efforts an airstrip of sorts was constructed. It was a strip that tested, to the extreme, the capabilities of all pilots attempting to land or take off from it but, by then, most Beaufighter pilots were highly skilled and experienced airmen and very few mishaps occurred.

During July and August Charles Read and I, as his Navigator, undertook various flights to Squadrons and detachments under his command in A8-196. Then with war ending it was decided by various members of 31 Squadron, with Charles Read’s approval, that A8-196 would be stripped of the war time camouflage, consisting of Jungle Green on the upper surfaces and Sky Blue on the under surfaces, and returned to its natural metal colour.

This quite large and tedious operation was carried out by 31 Squadron Maintenance Group under the direction of Flight Lieutenant Frank Stewart who co-opted the assistance of any air crew who were available. After the paint had been stripped from all surfaces of the aircraft the metal surfaces were polished for two reasons. Firstly to improve the appearance of the aircraft and secondly to increase the speed of the aircraft by about 10 knots.
The maximum speed of a Beaufighter aircraft at that time, at sea level, was approximately 270 knots which converts to about 310 mph and further converted to about 498 kph. So with the paint stripped off and the panels polished A8-196, The “Silver Beau” would be capable of over 500 kph. It was the first silver Beaufighter to grace the skies up north.

With the war over further missions of inspection and discussions about the return of the Squadrons under his command to Australia were undertaken by Group Captain Read and I flew with him as his Navigator. In September 1945 we visited to places such as Labuan, Moratai and Balikpapan. Interestingly, wherever A8-196 landed on these, and future trips, it was much admired as it was the only silver RAAF aeroplane at that time and affectionately known as the “Silver Beau”.

My final flight with Group Captain Charles Read DFC was during October 1945 when he was summoned to RAAF Eastern Area Headquarters presumably to finalise plans for the withdrawal of 77 Wing to Australia.       On this trip with Charles, we flew from Tarakan via Morotai to Wagga and then Richmond.                              We were down south for about ten days and returned to Tarakan and on to Labuan.

My association with Charles Read over a period of eight months included a considerable amount of flying, both operational and non-operational, and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to fly with yet another excellent pilot and fine person. It is interesting to note that Charles Read remained in the RAAF and was promoted to become Air Marshall and Chief of Air Staff and knighted for his service to the RAAF and his country.

When we returned to Labuan I received a pleasant surprise to find that my good friend Flight Lieutenant Mal Baker  had been assigned to fly A8-196, the “Silver Beau” to Wagga to be stored and I was to accompany him as Navigator and then on to a posting at Test and Ferry at Laverton. This meant that I had had the privilege of being the Navigator of A8-196 for practically the whole of its Squadron service. We left Labuan and arrived in Melbourne on 28th October 1945 then on to Wagga.

Back at Test and Ferry Squadron at Laverton I was required to make an unusual trip as Navigator in a Douglas DC3 transport plane piloted by Flight Lieutenant Ken Simonson. The trip lasted 12 days and we travelled to Port Moresby, Finschafen, Lae, Tadji, Hollandia, Biak, Morotai, Ambon, Darwin, and back to Laverton. A leisurely trip and quite different to what I had previously experienced.

Arriving back at Laverton I discovered that I had been recommended to join 93 Squadron (Beaufighters) which was being reformed at Narromine and equipped with new aircraft to prepare it as an escort Squadron for the P51 Mustang Squadrons (81 Fighter Wing) which were based at Labuan. The Mustangs were proceeding to Japan as the Australian contribution to the Occupational Airforce under the command of Lieutenant General Northcott. I learned also that I was to fly with the CO Squadron Leader Cyril Stark as his Navigator and was immediately attracted to the proposal and accepted it with delight.

We spent three weeks at Narromine test flying the new aircraft and preparing for the trip. We then flew to Darwin via Cloncurry thence Morotai and finally to Labuan.

We departed Labuan on 28th February 1946 escorting 76 Squadron aircraft (P51 Mustangs) and proceeded to Clark Field (Phillipines) where we had a stay over of ten days due to bad weather between there and Japan. I personally, was injured in a motor vehicle accident so the CO left Clark Field with another Navigator. I took the latter’s place with his pilot, Flight Lieutenant Ron Cockcroft, to escort 82 Squadron P51s from Clark Field to Bofu in Japan via Okinawa, arriving on 13th March, where once again bad weather delayed our departure for a further five days.

Finally we arrived in Japan and landed at Bofu on 18th March after a frightening trip in and out of rain squalls, at sea level, over the last half of the flight from Okinawa. It was on this flight that 82 Squadron lost three of its twenty eight P51 Mustangs along with an escorting Mosquito De Havilland.

After eleven days in Japan, which allowed us to visit Tokyo we flew back to Clark Field where we spent another fourteen days undertaking aircraft maintenance and waiting for suitable weather conditions to allow us to return to Australia. Whilst there, Cyril and I were invited to take a two hour test flight in a Boeing B 29 Superfortress. It was a remarkably large aircraft in those days. We departed Clark Field on 15th April and arrived in Morotai the same day.

93 Squadron was disbanded shortly after our return to Narromine and both Cyril and I were posted to No. 1 Aircraft Performance Unit at Laverton. This unit was formed with a nucleus of crews, pilots, navigators and radio operators from Test and Ferry squadron for the purpose of research into flying performance and safety.
The CO was Wing Commander Geoff Marshall, a brilliant pilot and administrator and included, under his command, some of the best pilots and crews still remaining in the RAAF after the cessation of hostilities. Pilots such as Squadron Leader “Gel” Cuming, Flight Lieutenant “Digger” Shiells, Flight Lieutenant Don McCord, Flight Lieutenant Harry Baldwin, Squadron Leader Cyril Stark, Wing Commander Brill, Flight Lieutenant Lee Archer and Flight Lieutenant Sid Brazier together with Navigators and radio Operators flew a variety of aircraft in assessing performance details. Aircraft such as B24 Liberators, Beauforts, Beaufighters, De Havilland Mosquitoes, Avro Lancasters, Avro Lincolns (Australian built), and some older aircraft, Wirraways and Avro Ansons were among those assessed.

As an aircrew member of No. 1 APU, I was selected as Navigator in the flight crew of a C47 Dakota aircraft being used to transport chemicals and equipment to 81 Fighter Wing Headquarters for the eradication of mosquitoes and other insects which were endangering the health and welfare of the personnel serving with the BCOF at Bofu and Iwakuni. We departed Laverton on 25th July 1946 and returned to Darwin on 18th August. During our time outside Australia we spent 14 days transporting equipment and personnel to and from Bofu, Iwakuni and Tokyo, Japan.

At the beginning of September 1946 No. 1 APU transferred its location and activities from Laverton to Point Cook where quite an assortment of flying was performed, for the next two months, by most members of the unit.

At the end of October 1946 Squadron Leader “Gel” Cuming advised me that he would be flying an Avro Lancaster Lincoln from Amberley to Ohakea (New Zealand) to escort six Mosquito aircraft which had been purchased by the New Zealand Government from the Australian Government and that he would like me to act as Navigator for the flight. We flew to Amberley on 1st November 1946 and over the next few days met with and discussed the flight with the New Zealand crews who would be flying the Mosquitos. We departed Amberley on 7th November and landed at Norfolk Island for an overnight stay. Then we continued our flight to Whenuapai (Auckland) and finally to Ohakea, near Wellington. We stayed there for three days before returning direct to Point Cook on 12th November.

After several more travel and test flights in December and January 1947 I began to consider my future and, whilst I hated to admit it, because of my attachment to flying and the RAAF I could not determine that my future lay in remaining in the RAAF, particularly when a posting came through for me to move down to the Navigation School at East Sale. I wasn’t very thrilled with the proposed job as an instructor so I applied for a discharge which was officially dated 3rd March 1947.

This brought to an end nearly six years association with some wonderful people from all spheres and ranks with whom I considered it my privilege to mix and an association which I thoroughly enjoyed then and now often recall with great pleasure.

Being a navigator, particularly in two place aircraft, gives one the unique opportunity to assess the temperament, ability and airmanship of the pilot under all conditions. I had numerous opportunities in this regard having flown with, in all, 100 different pilots of which 37 were pilots in two place aircraft.

Wing Commander Geoff Marshall noted on my discharge…

“Flight Lieutenant Beasley concludes his service at No. 1 Aircraft Performance Unit, Point Cook, with an extensive flying record which is a credit to him. The brief record herein does not show that these duties have been carried out with the highest efficiency. We feel that the statement needs to be added that we regret his demobilisation because of the loss to our efforts which are directed towards the achievement of high grade flying.”

 

Statistics

During my service with the RAAF:-

I achieved a Grand Total of 1304.5 flying hours as recorded in my log book

I flew with 42 different pilots in training and 58 different pilots in Ferry and Operational flights.

I flew in 25 different aircraft namely – Airspeed Oxford, Avro Anson, Avro Lincoln, Beaufighter, Beaufort, Boeing B29, DH 84, DH 86, DH Glider, DH Gypsy Moth, DH Mosquito, Douglas C47, Douglas DC2, Douglas DC3 (A65), Fairey Battle, Liberator, Lockheed 12A, Lockheed Hudson, Lockheed Lodestar, Lockheed Ventura, Martin Marauder, PBY Catalina, Short Empire, Vultee Vengeance, Wirraway

I have been credited having flown the greatest number of operational missions as a Navigator amongst the four Squadrons (30, 31, 93 and 77 wing) flying Beaufighters during the war in the SWPA namely, 77 operations during two tours, one with 30 Squadron and one with 31 Squadron (at the same time being seconded to 30 Squadron which was located nearby)

 

Squadron Pilot Operational Flights
30 Squadron (first tour) George Drury

Bill Boulton

Brian Walker

G Gibson

17

2

1

1               Total    21

31 Squadron (second tour)

seconded to 30 Squadron

Jack Entwistle

Mal Baker

18

2               Total    20

31 Squadron (second tour) Pat Boyd

Charles Read

Ron Edwards

Sid Sippe

Jack Black

Bob Bowman

Frank Careedy

Ron Provost

David Strachan

15

10

4

2

1

1

1

1

1               Total    36

                                                                                                               Grand Total    77

 

Postscript

Following his discharge from the RAAF, in 1947, Dave joined his wife, Marjorie, in Wellington NSW. In April Ian was born. A daughter Judith was born in September 1949 followed by a second son Alan in July 1953. Dave worked in his father-in-law’s business, in Wellington, until 1950 when he and Marjorie purchased a Menswear business in Lithgow. Marjorie and Dave enjoyed a wonderful life in Lithgow with the business flourishing and both becoming actively engaged in various community and sporting activities. Dave was an Apexian, a Mason and a Rotarian receiving the Paul Harris Fellowship Award for his contribution to Rotary.

 

In later years Marjorie and Dave happily spent their retirement in Port Macquarie and Turramurra and enjoyed their 7 grandchildren.

Dave died on 1st July 2003 aged 81 and Marjorie died on 9th July 2014 aged 91.