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Vale William Dowling "Bill" BOSTOCK

Three Westland Wapiti aircraft of No.3 Squadron RAAF flying above the Hawkesbury River in 1932, during Bill's spell as Commanding Officer.

We have been contacted by 73-y.o. Rick THORN, who offers the following spectacular account of one of 3SQNís most famous ex-Commanding Officers, Bill BOSTOCK, who rose high in the RAAF in WW2:

- Bill was my grandfather, of whom Iím very proud. 
My mum was Billís youngest daughter. 
Iím writing a history of his life for my family... 

On 5th November 1941, while Deputy Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice-Marshal Bostock visited 3 Squadron in North Africa.  The Squadron (of which Bill had been C.O. in Richmond, 1931-36) was based at Sidi Haneish at that time.  In September 1941, Bill had been ordered by the Air Board to undertake overseas Inspections of RAAF units in all theatres of war.  - In a report he wrote later, Bill said that his schedule was upset by the fact that a ONE-day-visit to Tobruk was extended to 11 days due to German air attacks keeping him bottled in!  Early in December he was enroute to the UK when recalled prematurely, due to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Itís sad that Bostock, who delivered outstanding performance during Australiaís critical WW2 years, 1942-45, is instead remembered mainly for the RAAF command disputes.  These were exacerbated due to the Australian Governmentís relationship with General MacArthur.  Bostockís leadership within this command was praised during and after the war by MacArthur and USAAF and Allied air commanders Generals Brett and (especially) Kenney.

I feel a little sorry for Air Marshal JONES; thrust, surprisingly it seems, into the melting pot.  He and Bill had been friends and colleagues in the past.  I really blame the Australian Government for its inability to solve the divided RAAF command issue for all those years.  Minister for Air Drakeford seems somehow to have had it in for Bostock, doing his best to sideline him, but was thwarted by a more circumspect PM Curtin and US military leadership, who would not condone a replacement for Bostock as AOC RAAF Command unless an officer of equal ability was found.  (Despite attempts to do so, none were.  Nor could a supreme RAAF leader be appointed above Bostock and Jones.)  Bostockís treatment by the Government at warís end had a whiff of vindictiveness, I think.

Bostock had a long and proud history of service to his country, starting back on the morning of 25th April 1915 when, as a young Light Horseman, he landed on the bullet-swept beaches on Gallipoli.  In 1916 he was present at the Battle of Romani in the Sinai Desert and in 1917 was flying Bristol Fighters over France and Belgium almost daily - returning to the aerodrome more than once with damage caused by machine gun and artillery fire.

Between the wars he proved a capable, clever and intelligent man.  He served with distinction from the very beginnings of the RAAF and by 1939 was Deputy Chief of Air Staff.  When the Japanese threatened Australia in 1942 Bostock was embedded with Allied air forces as commanding officer of RAAF, responsible for all aspects of RAAF operations around the entire Australian coast.  Meanwhile Jones was promoted to AVM and CAS. 


In 1945, during the final months of the war, General Kenney actually gave AVM Bostock entire responsibility for the air operations in support of the three amphibious landings on Borneo, during which he temporarily had elements of USAAF and other Allied air forces in his command.  These operations were successful and Air Force execution of the invasion was praised by American military leadership.  Kenny specifically called for Bostock to be present with him at the signing of the Japanese surrender on board USS Missouri in September 1945. 

Bill preparing to depart for the Japanese Surrender ceremony
 in Tokyo Bay in 1945. 
[AWM 019067]

After the war Bill was elected to the Board of the Australian War Memorial for many years.  He became a grazier, and, between 1949 and 1958 served as Federal MP in the Menzies Government for the Victorian electorate of Indi. 

In 1969, more than a year after Billís death (his funeral was conducted at St Pauls Anglican Cathedral Melbourne, with full military honours) General George KENNEY wrote to Nanette, Billís wife, from New York.  Kenneyís letter brims with heartfelt friendship and respect for:

"...my old friend and companion in arms during WW2, a veteran air combat leader and field commander, respected and admired by his associates and constantly setting an example of courage, integrity, loyalty and devotion in the service of his country...  I decided (1942) to reorganise my command and get some combat leadership up forward where the war was.  That was where it had been lacking and those fine Australian and American lads in Northern Australia and New Guinea needed and deserved that leadership... 

I didnít have to look far for that leadership. Air Vice-Marshal Bostock took over command of the combat units of the Royal Australian Air Force... 
I am truly proud to have called him my friend and colleague; that loyal capable officer and gentleman, William Bostock...Ē

Among several local and international awards and honours (for his long service in war and peace) the US Government, by order of the President, awarded AVM Bostock their Medal of Freedom with Silver Palm.

ďFor meritorious service which has aided the United States in the prosecution of the war against Japan in the South West Pacific Area from 7 December 1941 to 6 November 1944...Ē

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