Rupert, or Bill as he was known to his friends, was born on the 15th October 1915 at Yarragon in Victoria and he enlisted in the RAAF on the 26th September 1941. Of interest is the copy of a letter sent to Bill when he first attempted to join the RAAF in 1940. During that time, volunteers were far in excess of the training capabilities of the Air Force.
Finally, after being called up and completing his training, Bill was shipped to England where he found himself in the thick of it. His first tour was with 610 Squadron in 1942 where he would have flown the Supermarine Spitfire VB and VC. 610 Squadron’s claim to fame was that it was one of Douglas Bader’s three Spitfire squadrons of the Tangmere Wing. In April 1942, the Squadron moved to East Anglia and spent the next few months flying shipping reconnaissance missions. In October 1942, it moved to the north of Scotland, to help provide cover for key naval bases. The photo below is of a sortie of 610 Squadron Spitfires.
Like many of the Australians, he was then transferred back home to face the Japanese threat. After returning to Australia he was moved to 457 Squadron from March 1943 to January 1944, where he had one confirmed victory at Darwin.
Bill then became an instructor back at Narromine, which at that time was being used by No.5 EFTS (Elementary Flying Training School) and No.8 OTU Operational Training Unit). An edited version of the accident report is as follows: Accident 1430 hrs 20th September 1944 some 7 miles south of Narromine when aircraft A20-526 (Bill’s Wirraway)crashed after a mid-air collision with Wirraway A20-120 whilst involved in a 12 aircraft formation exercise. A20-526 immediately went out of control after being struck in the airscrew by A20-120’s starboard wing, which broke off. Flying Officer Rupert Henry William Gregory Serv#401944 (the Instructor pilot) survived after bailing out, and Flying Officer John Allen Walton, Serv#16671, was killed. After Flying Officer Gregory bailed out, it was seen that Flying Officer Walton attempted to force land the powerless A20-526, however the aircraft stalled and nose-dived from 2,000 feet. The pilot of A20-120, Sergeant A.R. Collins, Serv#439746, was also killed.
Bill was discharged on 22nd October 1945 from No.8 OTU and became a member of the RAAF Reserve for a period of time.
Phil Listemann (Author of the History of 457 Squadron) and David Hamilton
Updated by Vince Conant
The Spitfire Association