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31 SQDN Beau Assoc 2021 March Newsletter PDF

 

 

COOMALIE CREEK FLY-IN 2021

Richard Luxton is keen to hold it again this year and as far as we know the “back to the track” restored army vehicles convoy is heading to Coomalie for 2 nights and 1 day. They will be arriving on the evening of the 11th August, and departing on the morning of the 13th August.

All of this subject to Covid Restrictions at the time of the event.


Peter Demaine MBE

Sadly, we have lost yet another original member Peter Demaine on the 29-4-2021. Peter was a Navigator with 31 Sqn.

Please see below for Peters story

After I had turned 18, my army ambitions had changed in favour of joining the RAAF and becoming a Spitfire Pilot. Around 1st Dec1941,

I was accepted for aircrew training and there was a nine month wait to be called up – too many boys, wanting to be Spitfire pilots?  With the Japs in the War, I was called up into the Army on 7/2/42, kitted out at Royal Park {on the day the first American Troops arrived in Melbourne and then later changed the name of the place to Camp Pell} and sent to Army Headquarters Signal (located at Park Orchards between Ringwood and Warrandyte} where with four other aircrew volunteers, I became part of  a line laying unit – telephone lines on poles and temporary lines in the bush.

By Sept 1942 we were in Brisbane ready to go by train to Cooktown to build the first telephone line to the tip of Cape York Peninsula.
Just before we were due to leave the four RAAF boys were sent back to Melbourne to be discharged from the Army to then be called up into the RAAF – another stroke of luck as the signals unit had a tough time in North Qld.

Initial training was at Somers Camp on Westernport Bay and much to my dismay, I was categorised as a Wireless Air gunner and all but two of us were sent to Canada (another stroke of luck as many of them lost their lives serving with Bomber Command in Europe). I trained at Ballarat and West Sale and was then sent to Mount Gambier for Nav Training.   At Mt Gambier, I met another trainee Ron Leckie, and on completion of the course we were both commissioned and posted to 35 Transport Sqdn based at Pearce North of Perth.

This was in late 1943 and our leading aircraft were two De Havilland four engine biplanes – very slow, only a few passengers, and nothing bigger than a wheelbarrow in the way of freight – took all day to get to Broome.

In November, we were re equipped with C 47 aircraft ( Douglas DC3’s), wonderful aircraft, all metal with many passengers and could carry
a Jeep.

As you will see from my Log Book, I was then posted to No 5 OTU (Operational Training Unit) to crew up with a Pilot and learn to operate a Beaufighter before being posted to either 30 or 31 Sqdn. The OTU had moved from Wagga to Tocumwal prior to a permanent move to Wiliamtown, north of Newcastle.  Our CO was Black Jack Walker who had a distinguished career as CO of 30 Sqdn in New Guinea – his OTU was only a temporary occupant at Tocumwal and whilst we were there he had some dispute with the base Commander by the name of White Walker. In the midst of a meeting in the officers mess, Black Jack buzzed the building in a Mosquito aircraft, just missing the roof.

Our sojourn at Tocumwal was full of interest and I crewed up with a wonderful pilot, David Doughton from Melbourne. Like me, he was a keen golfer but a much better one than I – after the war he was Royal Melbourne Club Champion for two years running. We were posted to 31 Sqdn and before moving to Coomalie we were put through a “hardening course” to toughen us up for the rigours of operations. The course was held at an RAAF camp near the end of The Colonel Light Gardens tramline just east of Adelaide with vineyards all around – now all part of suburban Adelaide. We were route marched daily, sometimes with respirators on and full battle kit with .303 rifle and all – I suppose we were quite fit by the time we finished.

We flew from Adelaide to Batchelor with an overnight stop in Alice Springs. A 31 Sqdn truck picked us up and as we entered the Coomalie base, the driver said he would take us round by the strip to give us a look at it – the Camp was some mile or two away.

 

Extract from another letter from Peter.

I was posted to “Test and Ferry” at Laverton where amongst other ops we used to go to there then Aircraft Factory at Fisherman’s Bend to take delivery of new Beaufighters and fly them to Laverton – the runway at Fisherman’s Bend took us off over the Yarra river and at the start of the runway there was a sign to warn pilots to be aware of “Ships moving in the River”.

I, with a pilot, did one long flight from Gorrie (some 600km south of Darwin) to deliver a Beaufighter aircraft to Morotai – when we arrived, we could not find anyone to own the aircraft. After a few days it was decided that it belonged to a Beaufort Squadron based at Tadji on the mid North coast of New Guinea, so we proceeded there and we were then detailed to fly a Beaufort back to Australia – it had taken part in 100 raids on Japanese positions in New guinea and had 100 bombs painted on the nose – we were told that it would take part in a” War Bond Rally “.

We were to fly to “Jacky Jacky” strip on the tip of Cape York Peninsula and the shortest way to get there was up over the Owen Stanley Range. Up we went and for a short time we were above the level at which we should have been equipped with oxygen  – as we climbed up thru cloud the pilot suddenly said “ there is no airspeed on the airspeed indicator” I said, “we are still flying must be something wrong with the instrument” Oh he said I have forgotten to turn the heat on the Pitot Head and it must have frozen up – the heat was turned on and the instrument came to life.

As we descended towards Cape York we were in dense fog and for the only time in my career I used the Radio Direction Finding Loop ( then fitted to all aircraft) to bring us right down over the strip. We delivered the aircraft to Wagga but we were not involved in any War Bond Rally.

In May 1945 I was posted to” The General Reconnaissance School” at RAAf Bairnsdale to attend No 13 Staff Navigation Course and just as the war ended I successfully qualified as a Staff Navigator and was posted to 30 Beaufighter Sqdn as the Nav Officer.

I eventually joined the Sqdn at Morotai with nothing to do – the CO was Darcy Wentworth (who had been my C.O at Coomalie) and he was the only person in the Sqdn who did not line up at the camp kitchen for meals. One morning as we all stood in a long queue waiting for a serve of breakfast, there was a loud cry from the CO’s tent “ take those F*** Beans away and bring me something better” – we all cheered.

The only flying we did was to fly the Beaus back to Wagga in October 1945.

To fill in the monotony at Morotai, a fellow officer decided that I should take to smoking. American cigarettes came free with the rations and it only took about a week to have me hooked – on my return home my father was very disappointed to learn that my cigarette ration would not be available to him – fortunately I stopped smoking in 1973.

I was discharged at the end of 1945 (from the MCG which was an RAAF Base) and went back to work with ICI at Deer Park where in 1949, I met Joan Henderson and we were married in 1951 and a long and very happy marriage followed – Joan died in 2008.

I had a very interesting time with ICI and had a long association with the Nobel Explosives business.

My final job before retiring in 1985, was the Chairman and MD of ICI New Zealand, based in Wellington NZ.

Regards, Peter

 

COMMENT

You will be sadly missed Peter. –  By the 31 Sqn Beaufighter Association – LEST WE FORGET