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Aerogram September 2015
Bomber Command Commemorative Day
in Melbourne 2015
“Here they come!”
The cry went up among the crowd waiting outside the Shrine of
Remembrance in the blustery winds of early Sunday afternoon
the 7 June 2015. And there they were, right over the target and
bang on 1:00pm as briefed. Five aeroplanes from the RAAF
Museum’s Historical Trainer Flight – two Harvards, a Winjeel
and a pair of CT-4s swept down St Kilda Road and roared over
the crowd. The ‘Sound of Round’ echoed off the buildings, the
formation continuing South making a big left-hand turn and
then coming back across the Shrine again, this time from East
to West. The crowd broke into spontaneous applause.
A few minutes later the second formation appeared, out of the
south this time and made up of seven Warriors and a Cessna
from the Royal Victorian Aero Club. Flying lighter aeroplanes
than the Air Force pilots, these guys were copping the full force
of the windy, bumpy conditions as they turned to the west from
dead over the Shrine. But it looked and sounded fantastic. The
old flyers on the ground certainly appreciated the dedication
and commitment of the pilots from both formations.
It was a fitting conclusion to the Bomber Command
Commemorative Day ceremony which had finished in the new
Auditorium inside the Shrine just a few moments before. The
Auditorium was only officially opened last year and this was the
first time it has been used for ceremonial purposes. With cold
and blustery conditions outside it was certainly a much more
comfortable venue for the estimated 140 or so people who
packed it to the rafters for the service.
The MC was the unflappable Brian Smith: Squadron Leader
Ron Ledingham, Shrine Governor and Bomber Command
Commemorative Day Foundation (Vic) committee member,
opened the ceremony by discussing its importance to the
Shrine and to the Bomber Command community.
John Brownbill RFD KSJ, an Army chaplain, looked after the
religious aspect of the service and set the scene with a few
words on Bomber Command and its part in the Second World
Committee member Jan Dimmick – her late husband Frank
was a 460 Squadron navigator – read the Epitaph from a poem
called Requiem for a Rear Gunner:
My brief, sweet life is over, my eyes no longer see,
No summer walks, no Christmas trees,
No pretty girls for me.
I’ve got the chop, I’ve had it.
My nightly ops are done.
Yet in another hundred years, I’ll still be twenty one
The guest speaker for the ceremony was former Victorian
premier and current Chairman of the Victorian Centenary of
ANZAC Committee, the Hon Ted Baillieu. He picked up on
Jan’s “21 years” theme, remarking that WWII started 21 years
after the Great War ended. We commemorate anniversaries
like ANZAC and the end of WWII, he said, for three reasons: to
honour those who served, to educate current generations, and
to pass the torch of remembrance on to future generations.
Then came the wreathes, including one from Carey Baptist
Grammar School, which has now officially adopted this
ceremony as part of the Shrine’s ‘Adopt an Ex-Service
Organisation’ initiative. This was their first involvement with the
ceremony, and it’s a partnership we hope can continue long
into the future – first-hand evidence of the passing on of Mr
Baillieu’s metaphoric “torch of remembrance”.
On the way out following the service we just had enough time
to take a group photo of all the veterans present:
And then the roar of radial engines heralded the arrival of the
flypast. Afterwards afternoon tea was served in the foyer area.
And it was here that something remarkable happened:
On the left of the photo below is, of course, Don Southwell.
Don had come down from Sydney with his son David for the
ceremony, representing the ‘national’ Bomber Command
Commemorative Day Foundation. He’s talking to Steve
Downes, centre, and Lachie McBean, right. Steve, a wireless
operator, and Lachie, a pilot, were on the same crew. The only
two Australians in the crew, they were posted to 467 Squadron
right at the end of the war so they never flew any operations.
But they had gone through training together. Then the war
ended and everyone was posted away or discharged from the
Air Force entirely. “We were best mates while we were on the
same crew”, Lachie told me, “but we never knew much about
what each other had done before the war, and then we were
all posted away and lost contact.”
Until recently, Lachie thought that Steve had been killed in a
post-war car crash. But about three months ago Lachie’s wife
From Adam Purcell and Friend Mike Leicester
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