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Sidi Barrani, Egypt. C. 1941-11. Pay parade for personnel of No. 3 (Tomahawk) Squadron RAAF at their base in the Western Desert.
Jack was a long-standing member of 3 Squadron Association and served with the Squadron as an Aircraft Hand in Palestine, Syria, Egypt and Libya, from April 1941 to May 1942. (Jack was very fortunate to be rotated back to Australia shortly before the Squadron began their “big retreat” back to El Alamein, with Rommel snapping at their heels!)
Born near Cootamundra NSW, Jack was formally named after his father, John Henry. Although we’re not sure how his nickname “Jack” arose, obviously there would have been the need to distinguish him from John Snr. The family also appears to have raced a horse named “Jack Faunt” in the Cootamundra district when our Jack was about seven years old, so we can only wonder whether the horse was named after the boy, or the other way around?!
Jack had been born into a very large extended family. The Bulletin newspaper of April 22, 1899, carried the claim that the 89-year-old James Faunt, of Cootamundra, NSW, had the largest number of living descendants of anyone in Australia. The number given then was 64 grandchildren and 29 great-grandchildren – and our Jack was a further addition!
Jack is mentioned in the Sydney Morning Herald as passing his ‘Sheep and Wool’ Training at Cootamundra in August 1937. He enlisted in the RAAF on 29 July 1940 and his application forms show that he had been working as a labourer in Rural Construction for the previous 12 months and had several years of experience maintaining machinery.
In his year with 3 Squadron, Jack rose in rank from AC1, to Leading Aircraftsman, to Corporal, so obviously he was well-trusted by the Squadron leadership during their many moves across the desert in his period of service. Upon his return to Australia, Jack re-mustered as a Driver Motor Transport and served for a year and a half with No.1 Air Observers School – conveniently located at his home town of Cootamundra NSW!
His next posting in 1944 was a little more exciting - the Air Force’s “No.5 Mobile Works Squadron” (5MWS), performing hazardous combat engineering in the islands to Australia’s north. Jack joined the main body of the airfield engineer force at Lae, New Guinea, in April 1944, where he received training in infantry tactics. The Landing at Aitape took place on 22 April, and 5MWS came ashore the next day. The airfield at Aitape was ready to be used from Anzac Day 1944 and was later expanded further by the aviation engineers.
On 6 July 1944, 5MWS landed on Noemfoor Island, just off the western coast of Dutch New Guinea, where it again formed part of an aviation engineer force tasked with repairing and expanding the island's airfields. Allied forces had first landed on the island on 2 July, and it was still not secure when construction work began. As a result, 5MWS personnel were required to man perimeter defences, during which they captured 12 Japanese personnel.
NOEMFOOR ISLAND, DUTCH NEW GUINEA. 1944-12-27. A MEMBER OF NO. 5 AIRFIELD CONSTRUCTION SQUADRON RAAF,
AT WORK IN A CORAL QUARRY WITH A BULLDOZER. CORAL IS USED FOR ALL ROADS ON NOEMFOOR ISLAND AND MAKES AN EXCELLENT SURFACE.
While at Noemfoor, 5MWS was redesignated No. 5 Airfield Construction Squadron (5ACS) on 18 July 1944, part of the Australian First Tactical Air Force, which was the RAAF's main mobile force.
In January 1945, 5ACS moved to Biak Island, near Noemfoor, where they worked on improving an airfield complex used by the US Army and USAAF.
In mid-May 1945, 5ACS was shipped to Morotai, a huge base in the north of the Indonesian archipelago. They remained on this island until June when they departed as part of the Australian-led invasion of North Borneo. 5ACS landed at Labuan Island, Borneo, on 11 June 1945 and worked on repairing and maintaining the island's airfield until the end of the war on 15 August.
Jack returned to Australia and received his discharge from the RAAF on 3 December 1945, having served out nearly five and a half years. Jack received very high appraisals from his commanders during his times in the various war zones and he was obviously a very proficient and most useful team member.
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