3 Squadron LIFETIMES
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Jock in front of 3SQN Mustang CV-P. Cervia, Italy, 1945.
Prior to joining the RAAF in 1943, Jock had already been a teenage Air Training Corps member in his home town of Horsham (Western Victoria) for two years. There he had been tutored by veterans of the First World War. He learned practical skills such as aircraft recognition, Morse code and navigation, which gave him a head-start in his later RAAF training.
Jock’s interest in aviation had been sparked by observing aircraft near his home. As a boy, his first flight had been a joy-ride in the famous ‘Southern Cross’, flown by Charles Kingsford Smith on a barnstorming visit to Horsham. - There were no seatbelts; Smithy had simply said, “We’re off!” and away they went... Jock was hooked!
One of Jock’s friends owned a Gypsy Moth biplane and said to him:
"If you're going to fly - two things: keep your nose DOWN and your speed UP - and you'll be alright."
On the 29th of January 1943, aged 18, Jock rode on the train to Melbourne with a mate to sign up for the Air Force. Jock thought only of ‘Adventure’ – saying: “The chances are that you mightn't return - but let’s have some fun beforehand!" He did his recruit training at Somers, Victoria. After three months of assessment there, Jock was told that he had been selected for Pilot Training. He transferred to No.11 Elementary Flying Training School at Benalla in Central Victoria. While there, Jock’s bed was a straw paillasse on the floor of a 25-man barracks-room, with some woollen blankets, but no sheets. Jock rated it: “Alright, if you’re tired enough...” Jock’s Flying Instructor had known him back at Horsham and was a hard taskmaster, but he made sure that Jock knew how to fly safely.
After three months on Tiger Moths at Benalla, Jock was selected for further single-engine training at No.7 Elementary Flying Training School at Deniliquin NSW. There he flew Wirraway trainers, a much more powerful aircraft than the Tiger Moth. Jock witnessed many of his fellow trainees having crashes, some of them fatal. (More RAAF Pilots were killed in training accidents than died on operations during WW2.) Jock’s flying skills kept him safe and after about four months at “Denni”, as they called their base, he graduated in his ‘Wings’ ceremony, observed by his proud parents who had travelled up from Horsham.
This was not the end of his training, which continued overseas. Jock embarked from Melbourne for Europe in 1944 - exactly one year after he had joined the Air Force, on the huge Dutch liner Nieuw Amsterdam. They travelled via South Africa, West Africa, and clockwise around the North Atlantic, to disembark with 8,000 other passengers in the little port of Gourock on the Clyde River in Scotland. From there Jock went by train to the large Australian personnel depot established in seaside hotels in Brighton, looking over the English Channel. A huge surplus of manpower was building up for the D-Day invasion and while waiting for further Operational Training, Jock had some refresher training on Tiger Moths at the King’s personal airstrip near Windsor Castle.
On the 6th of June 1944 (“D-Day”) – Jock flew his little fabric biplane south to sight-see amongst the milling invasion fleets of gliders and towplanes, Flying Fortresses and Spitfires. It was an overwhelming sight. – “Get the hell out of here!” was Jock’s thought!
Windsor was very handy to London – which was good – but London was then being bombarded by German V1 “doodlebugs” (the first “cruise missiles”) – which was bad! Jock saw several doodlebugs, but fortunately came through his jaunts into London unscathed. (Several RAAF members were not so lucky. One doodlebug scored a direct hit on Australia House with a tonne of high explosive).
At Brighton, Jock resisted all enticements to become a Bomber Pilot and was very fortunate to eventually be selected for Operational Training on Fighters. He flew Miles Master trainers (which featured a duplicate Spitfire cockpit for the trainee) from the pretty rural base of Ternhill in Shropshire. In August 1944 Jock was suddenly posted to the Middle East. He got the impression that the D-Day invasion had gone so well that new pilots like himself were (thankfully!) not required in France to replace losses, as had been planned.
Jock shipped out of Liverpool and though the Mediterranean to Egypt, where he did conversion training on Kittyhawks at RAF Fayid (near the Suez Canal) and met many veterans from the two Australian fighter squadrons that were operating in Italy. – Jock was now firmly in the RAAF replacement pilot stream. After a further conversion course onto Mustangs at Salerno in Italy, Jock arrived at 3 Squadron at Fano airbase in North-Eastern Italy in 1945, a couple of months before the war ended. He flew a total of 25 combat missions in the superlative Mustang fighter, all of them involving hazardous dive-bombing and ground-attack, dodging the ferocious German flak. During this time No.3 Squadron was the only RAAF squadron to fly Mustangs in combat anywhere in the world. - They contributed notably to the destruction of German transport, military supplies and fixed defences, which allowed the British 8th Army to break-through with minimal casualties in April 1945 and sprint towards the Austrian Border.
The end of the war in Italy left Jock with some wonderful tourist opportunities and some sporadic recreational flying before they were eventually shipped back to Australia and civilian life. Jock was discharged from the Air Force on the 6th of December 1945 as a Warrant Officer. He had just under three years of amazing experience in the service.
Jock has been involved with Legacy ever since 1958 and many ex-service families have benefited over the years from his dedication.
Jock has also played a major role in organising the Victorian Branch of No.3 Squadron Association for decades. As President, he has performed countless good deeds – especially for the bereaved families of those 3 Squadron veterans who have preceded him up to that big barracks-room in the sky...
Keep your nose down and your speed up Jock, and you’ll be right!
This tribute is based on Jock's extensive Veterans' Affairs interview.
3 Squadron LIFETIMES