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1974 and currently as a home office. It’s just been granted a
heritage listing which came with a grant for restoration work.
There’s also a new, partially built house on the block, with soaring
roof planes, minimalist lines, open spaces. It’s not only brilliant
architecture, it’s great design. To Café Roma for lunch, then to
ABC HQ; they plan to send a TV film crew down to Coomalie on
Sunday and we had a briefing with the presenter. Picked up two
wreaths from a florist at Winnellie which are the goods; native
flowers, ferns and stuff complete with “Lest we forget” ribbons.
Back to Batchelor past a bushfire near the 47 Mile; there was a
largish one just over near the termite mounds in Litchfield NP on
Wednesday which closed access to the park (no-one injured), and
a small one which came within a house block of RL’s place on
Thursday. Over to the Tavern for tea, more yarns then bed.
Second ABC radio interview this Saturday morning 13 Aug, then
over to the strip to check on the RAAF Cadets who were down for
a training exercise. RL briefed them and their commanders on
taking part in tomorrow’s “Return of 609” re-enactment of 15
August 1945. Drove RL’s front-end loader (and immediately had
the urge to push down something/anything!), delivered drums to
the main dam, prowled around the creek bank where Mossie parts
have been exposed (most likely dumped after the A52-605 fire),
sigs unit, base of old control tower and so on.
Sunday 15 August 2010 was the 65th anniversary of VP Day. I
drove down to the Adelaide
River War Cemetery and laid a
wreath at the foot of the cross.
Standing near the gates, I rang
Macca and was speaking to
him 15 minutes later.
Incidentally two people who
heard it were Bob Stevens (Hon
Sec., Treasurer and Editor of
‘Aussie Mossie’) of the MAAA
who immediately rang me, and
my wife Pattie who’d been
listening as well.
Quick trip up the Track to
Coomalie where things were
starting to hot up. An RV
aerobatics display kicked things
off, then Nick Bellfield in his
restored WW2 Harvard flew a first pass from north to south,
peeling off over Jim Gillespie’s crash site as a mark of respect. He
then made a series of low passes from south to north with the
crowd lining the strip (just like in 1945) and punching the air in
jubilation. It looked the goods, especially with the RAAF Cadets
involved. Photographers in the crowd will have some memorable
shots from that lot! The ABC film crew (James, presenter and
Dane, cameraman) were there and Dane shot some magnificent
footage of the fly past. They’d interviewed RL and myself earlier,
and took more footage up at the Chapel, which was our next
The Commemoration Service was a moving occasion. It was
conducted by Canon Clyde Wood, former Anglican Bishop of the
NT and Rev. Ian McDonald (who had conducted the 60th.
Anniversary service in 2005) in the beautiful 31 Squadron Chapel
set among the gum trees. During the service Richard Luxton
spoke about the base during WW2 and the importance of its
historical and heritage links. I gave a short speech in memory of
Squadron Leader Jim Gillespie and his tragic death in a crash just
a few days before the end of the war and in memory of all those
who didn’t make it home, then laid a wreath at the foot of the
cross. Listening to the “Ode to the Fallen” is always an emotional
experience for me, and in a quiet moment after the service I
mentioned to RL that I feel a real affinity for this place. He replied
“Your Uncle’s still here.” We smiled, and nothing more was said.
We mingled after the service down at the old hospital site for a
cuppa, then back to Batchelor to pack up. Left the car at Darwin
Airport, then had a sight-seeing tour around Darwin to finish up in
the centre of town at the Darwin Festival which was in full swing.
After excellent Asian food at a marquee in the gardens we returned
to Westralia to watch the 7 o’clock News on ABC. Sure enough,
Coomalie was mentioned in the lead-in grabs, then a two-minute
segment later in the bulletin; that classic photo of 609’s return was
shown, then a fade-in to Nick Bellfield’s fly past earlier in the day.
Commentary was provided by James, with cuts to RL’s and my
interviews; a first class presentation. Back to the Festival to catch
an excellent Filipino-Indigenous Australian music group (Darwin
Rondalla, who played guitars, bass and some mandolin-like 14-
stringed instruments), and finally back to the airport for a Redeye
Special flight back to Melbourne. It was a thoroughly absorbing ten
days, and yes, it’s always good to get home.
Terry snaps the strip at Coomalie as his Drifter flight makes short finals
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