Reginald, or Reg as he was known to his friends, was born on the 16th October 1921. He enlisted in the RAAF in Victoria on the 29th February 1941 and traveled to Rhodesia in the 12th Draft.
(Web Master: On the 14th December 1940, the 1st Draft of RAAF aircrew trainees arrived in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to commence pilot training under the Empire Air Training Scheme to support the RAF during World War II. A further 11 drafts followed over the next year, the last arriving on the 11th January 1942. This must have been Reg’s draft. In total, 674 Australians were sent to Rhodesia. Of these, 514 graduated as Service pilots, the last group on 30 April 1943. Of those who failed to qualify as pilots, 61 became navigators and eight were made air gunners. Twenty-one of the trainees were killed in flying accidents. Commissions were granted to 156 members under training.)
On completion of his training, Reg was sent to the Middle East where he joined 450 Squadron. He was engaged with the “Desert Harassers” flying Kittyhawks on fighter and army co-op missions. 450 Squadron was one of the most famous RAAF squadrons of the Second World War. Its nickname was derived from the taunts of the German propaganda broadcaster, “Lord Haw Haw” who, during the Squadron’s operations in the Western Desert branded it a band of “Australian mercenaries whose harassing tactics were easily beaten off by the Luftwaffe”. The Squadron bore its name with pride.
While Reg was with the Squadron, which had commenced operations on the 20th February 1942 it took part in the campaigns in Tunisia (February – May 1943), Sicily (July – August 1943) and Italy (August 1943 – May 1945). Although designated a fighter squadron, its principal role was ground-attack in close support of the land forces. This role required the Squadron’s ground organisation to be highly mobile and, particularly in north Africa, it would leap-frog detachments from one forward landing ground to the next to keep pace with the fighting on the ground. During the fighting in Italy, the Squadron was often employed on “cab rank” duty in which aircraft would circle close to the battlefield ready to be called in by ground-based controllers to attack targets impeding the army’s advance. The commander of the German Army in Italy would later reflect upon the impact of the Allied fighter-bombers: “The effectiveness of the fighter-bombers lay in that their mere presence alone, over the battlefield, paralysed every movement.”
The photo is of a 450 Squadron Kittyhawk IV, FX515/OK-K, taken in Italy in May 1944. (Courtesy Mike Mirkovic)
On completion of his tour, he was posted to an RAF OTU in Palestine as an instructor on Spitfires.
He then volunteered to return to 450 Squadron for a second tour. Unfortunately, on the 17th December 1944, just after his arrival, and while he was on a mission attacking a road bridge at Lugo, near Revenna in Italy, he was shot down in flames by anti-aircraft fire. Reg was only 23 years old.
Reg’s aircraft was found buried in the remains of a house when Allies took the town a few days later. They buried him there, and his remains were subsequently reinterred in the Ravenna War Cemetery near the village of Piangipane in Northern Italy. Padre Fred McKay conducted the service. The photos are coutesy of Australian War Memorial.
Reg was the son of Thomas Harold and Eunice Jessie Hast, of Caulfield, Victoria, Australia.
Another of our finest young men.
With thanks to Keith Webb of the Temora Aviation Museum
Updated by Vince Conant
The Spitfire Association