Ray was born on the 12th November 1921 in Sydney, NSW and he enlisted in the RAAF on the 31st January 1942.
Initially, Ray was posted to 85 RAAF Squadron, which was formed on the 12th february 1943 at RAAF Station Guildford near Perth to provide air defence to Western Australia. The Squadron did not see combat during the war, although it attempted to intercept Japanese aircraft on several occasions in 1943, but without success.
It was initially equipped with six obsolete Brewster Buffalo fighters as no better aircraft were available. On the 30th April, it received 11 more modern and Australian-designed Boomerangs, which were operated alongside the Buffalos. Following the arrival of its Boomerangs, 85 Squadron began intensive flight training. During the first month of operations, nine Boomerangs were involved in accidents and one of the Squadron’s pilots was killed. In addition to its air defence responsibilities, the squadron was also tasked with refueling and maintaining civilian aircraft which passed through Perth.
On the same day as it received its Boomerangs, 85 Squadron established a detachment of six of these aircraft at the Potshot air base at Exmouth Gulf which had been established to protect the US Navy submarine support facilities there. On the night of the 20th May, two Boomerangs attempted to intercept two Japanese bombers, but did not make contact. The Japanese aircraft dropped their bombs into Exmouth Gulf. The next night, two Boomerangs were scrambled to intercept three Japanese aircraft, which had overflown the airstrip. While one of the Australian pilots believed that he sighted the exhaust flames of a Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bomber, he was unable to intercept it as his aircraft ran low on fuel. Another attempt to intercept hostile aircraft in July was also unsuccessful. On the 30th September 1943, 85 Squadron was ordered to make an emergency deployment to Derby in anticipation of a Japanese incursion into the Indian Ocean. Four Boomerangs arrived there on the 1st October and another nine arrived the next day. The Japanese vessels did not enter the Indian Ocean, and this deployment came to an end on the 13th October when the aircraft returned to Potshot.
In January 1944, 85 Squadron’s last Buffalos were retired. The squadron made another emergency deployment to Derby in February, and 18 Boomerangs operated from the town’s airstrip from the 17th to the 26th February 1944, when they returned to Guildford. Further deployments to Derby were made to protect a seaplane base, which was periodically established at Yampi Sound to support RAAF and United States Navy minelaying attacks on Balikpapan in Borneo.
No. 85 Squadron began to be re-equipped with Spitfire Mark V aircraft in September 1944 and the last Boomerangs left the unit on the 12th January 1945.
Ray was then posted to 457 Squadron. On the way to join the Squadron, he arrived in Papua New Guinea on the 1st August 1945, but as it was only a month before the War in the Pacific ended, he wasposted back to Australia on the 13th September 1945. Ray was discharged on the 29th April 1946 from Station HQ Laverton.
The photo is of Ray’s Assessing Officer’s Statement in July 1944 when he was with 85 Squadron.
Phil Listemann (Author of the History of 457 Squadron) and David Hamilton
The Spitfire Association