Brian was born in Marrickville in New South Wales on the 4th October 1917 and he enlisted in the RAAF in Sydney on the 21st June 1941.
Initially, he started training to be a pilot in Australia and was then transferred to England, where he completed his training. He elected to serve overseas, but in November 1942, he was repatriated to Australia with many other RAAF personnel and units. This was to counter the the Japanese attacks on Darwin, which had started in February 1942.
Upon arrival in Australia, he was posted to 55 OBU (Operational Base Unit) at Gorrie Airfield near Larrimah in the Northern Territory for a first tour of operations. He then spent some time with 457 Squadron when it was based in Livingstone. The photo of Brian, extreme left, back row, with other members of the Squadron’s pilots, was taken in October 1943. The full complement is as follows:
Back row: Flying Officer Brian F. Hegarty, Flight Sergeant R.J.K. “Jim” Thompson, Warrant Officer C.R. “Roy” Briggs, Flying Officer W.J. “Jack” Halse, Pilot Officer Allan C. Beckwith, Flying Officer S.W. “Bill” Reilly, Flying Officer Ian Chandler.
Second back row: Flying Officer Ian S. Mackenzie, Flying Officer H. Ken Barker, Pilot Officer W.J. “Bill” Basey, Flying Officer South Creagh, Flying Officer Larry Alderson (Defence Officer), Flight Sergeant T.F.R. “Frank” Payne, Flying Officer Neil C. Ligertwood, Squadron Leader “Pat” Egan (Dental Officer), Flying Officer L.G. “Lock” Munro, Warrant Officer C.V. “Vin” Madigan, Flying Officer P.E. “Phil” Goldin (Intelligence Officer)
Second front row: Flight Lieutenant D.R. “Doug” Edwards, Flight Lieutenant Wally Aldford (Adjutant), Flight Lieutenant Peter H. Watson DFC (OC A Flight), Squadron Leader K.E. “Ken” James (Commanding Officer), Flight Lieutenant D.H. “Don” Maclean (OC B Flight), Squadron Leader D.L. “Des” Peate (Medical Officer), Flight Lieutenant John S. Newton.
Front Row: Sergeant Trevor R. Russell, Pilot Officer F. “Freddie” Feuerhardt, Flight Sergeant W.S. “Bill” Hardwick, Spitty, Pilot Officer A. Evan Batchelor, Sergeant G. “Mac” Jude, Flight Sergeant Harry Whiting.
Later on, Brian served as an instructor at No 55 OBU. Finally, he was discharged from the RAAF on his own request on the 27th January 1945 from No.10 Elementary Flying Training School, Temora, New South Wales.
As an interesting aside, Gorrie Airfield was a RAAF airfield built during World War II. The establishment at Gorrie comprised of over 6,000 RAAF personnel who were responsible for aircraft and vehicle maintenance for the RAAF and US Army Air Force. It was home to the following RAAF units:
No. 9 Stores Depot (SD)
No. 14 Aircraft Repair Depot (ARD)
No. 18 Replenishing Centre (RC)
No. 55 Operational Base Unit (OBU)
The airfield was named after flying officer Pete Gorrie, who was killed on operations in the Celebes on the 12th January 1942 while flying a Hudson bomber. Construction commenced on the 15th December 1942 by No1. Flight Engineering Construction Section and was was ready for operation on the 26th April 1943. It was established as an important echelon centre. Out of the flight range of Japanese bombers, 14 ARD and 55 OBU serviced every type of aircraft in the Territory. Field teams from Gorrie traveled around the Territory repairing and recovering crashed and unserviceable aircraft. The airfield was constantly busy. For example, in September 1943 some 110 aircraft had used the airstrip and by January 1944 this number had risen to 298. At the height of its operation, building infrastructure included 90 Sidney Williams huts, 8 Bellman Hangers, recreational huts, barracks and messes. From February 1945 to the close of war, Gorrie gradually diminished in strategic and operational significance. It finally closed on 29 October 1945.
Phil Listemann and Steve McGregor
The Spitfire Association