Graeme was born on the 6th February 1918 in Swansea, Wales. His family migrated to Sydney and this city is where he signed up on the 3rd March 1941. Like many thousands of other RAAF volunteers, he would have found himself part of the EATS (Empire Air training Scheme) and, via a circuitous sea route, back in his homeland.
Personnel records show him serving in 140 Squadron RAF from the 16th June 1941 until the 28th May 1943 where he would have flown reconnaissance aircraft deep into enemy territory. The hours that he logged flying Spitfires would have seen him as an asset with his move to 452 Squadron, a Squadron with a renowned reputation for tactical flying – the underlying factor in the destruction of nearly 70 enemy aircraft before the Squadron’s withdrawal from England to defend Northern Australia.
(Web Master: 140 Squadron was a photo reconnaissance squadron equipped with Supermarine Spitfire Is and Bristol Blenheims, both equipped with cameras. The Squadron flew photo reconnaissance sorties over northern France, using the Spitfire during the day and the Blenheim at night. It was later equipped with specialized photo-reconnaissance versions of the Spitfire.)
The Spitfire Association has a copy of Graeme’s Half Yearly Return of Flying Hours, which unfortunately is barely readable. However, we can ascertain that he flew the following aircraft at various stages during the War: DH88, Harvard, Yale, Anson, Miles master, Spitfire, Mustang, Percival Proctor, Oxford and Wirraway.
According to the following aircraft log for Spitfire F.VC A58-111, Graeme was involved in an accident on the 1st January 1944:
Accident 01/01/44, when A58-20 was involved in ground collision with A58-111 (flown by F/O E.G. Etherington of 452 Squadron) on landing at Strauss Field. Ground looped aircraft to miss. Pilot of A58-20; Flight Sergeant A.R. Richardson not injured. Grame’s aircraft was converted to components.
The aircraft log for A20-633, a Wirraway, records Graeme’s last flight:
Accident 1810 hrs 20/11/44. When participating in a low level search for a missing airman, LAC M.E. Wise (88327), the aircraft stalled in a turn that was too low to recover from, sending the aircraft crashing into heavy forest near a sawmill, 15 miles due east of Sattler Strip, Northern Territory. The aircraft caught fire after impact. Crew; Flying Officer G.I. Etherington died on the way to hospital, with Flying Officer T.C. Smith being killed in the crash.
Graeme’s death was of course, a tragedy. He was an experienced combat and reconnaissance pilot, surviving the intensity of the European conflict only to be killed accidently on a search and rescue mission – God Bless Him. The photo is of a Wirraway.
Graeme is buried at the Adelaide River War Cemetery in the Northern Territory. The inscription on his headstone says, “Played the game until it finished. Livd a sportsman until the end.”
David Hamilton and Ron Rigg
Updated by Vince Conant
The Spitfire Association