Wednesday, January 27
Yesterday was Australia Day which has been celebrated by Australians as a holiday since 1939. The above photos feature my late father (deceased 1969) in a group portrait of eight RAAF members of a Glee Party performing at a concert at Australia House, London on Australia Day 1943. My father served as a bomber pilot in the Second World War and information below and the photos have been taken directly from the Australian War Museum archives.
Caption below the first picture : Their concert songs were received with great enthusiasm by the audience. Identified from left to right: pianist Pilot Officer (PO) Hamilton Roland Dacre Budd (pilot) from Broken Hill, NSW (died 1 August 1943 on operations over the Atlantic Ocean); Frank Sutton Walker (observer) from Wellington, NSW; Squadron Leader (Sqn Ldr) Harry Clifford Thrush (chaplain) from Adelaide, South Australia; Sqn Ldr Gordon Gladstone Wood (chaplain) from Wellington, NSW who conducted the choir (died 18 June 1944 in UK); Sergeant (Sgt) Charles Keith Byrnes (pilot) from Moree, NSW; George Claud Notman (observer) from Skipton, Victoria; PO Donald Zalva Pile (pilot) from Melbourne, Victoria (died 26 October 1943 in Scotland); and PO Leslie Walter Roper (pilot) from Melbourne (died 4 September 1943 on operations over Germany).
The subsequent fatalities listed above are a salutary reminder of the high death rate attributable to RAAF command in which my father flew Wellington Bombers. Losses of about 5% per operation gave little chance of survival after a stint of 30 operations.
Earlier on the 3rd January 1943 my father made 6 records for the BBC which took 3 hours to record and included light and popular numbers - ‘I'll Walk Beside You’, ‘Old King Cole’, ‘Pass Me By’ and the beautiful anthem ‘Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace’. The BBC were very pleased and called in some reporter to take pictures for the papers. My father’s diary mentions that Air marshal Williams made a special trip to the studios to hear the records and was very pleased.
In later life the war had influenced my father and my mother knew this and made allowances that today would seem inconceivable. If you would like to read a story about that click on the title or the link icon next to the title.