Richard, or Dick as he was known to his friends, was born on the 29th November 1918 in Mt. Morgan, Queensland. He joined the RAAF on the 24th May 1940. Dick was not a member of The Spitfire Association, but he will be remembered by those who entered the EATS on very early courses.
His long flying career began on No.2 course EATS (Empire Air Training Scheme) which was based at RAAF Station Forrest Hill near Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. There he learnt to fly on Wirraway and Avro Anson aircraft. He then embarked for Canada to complete his training, and graduated at Camp Borden. Then it was on to the UK where he flew Spitfires with 452 Squadron RAAF.
452 Squadron was the first Australian squadron formed in Britain during the Second World War. Its first personnel gathered at RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey on the 8th of April 1941 and the Squadron became operational there on the 22nd of May of that year, flying early model Supermarine Spitfires. In July, the squadron was moved to RAF Kenley, where they became part of No. 11 Group RAF and rapidly developed a formidable reputation in operations against German forces.
Following his tour of operations with 452 Squadron, Dick joined Test and Ferry Flight before being posted back to Australia in 1942.
It wasn’t long before he was flying with 75 squadron in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. While Dick was with the Squadron, an ADF Serial report on his P-40 Kitty Hawk A29-26 shows that on the 3rd March 1943, he was returning from an escort operation with some other pilots. They found that their Milne Bay strip was out due to a severe storm, which forced them to carry out forced (emergency) landings on Goodenough Is. Dick decided on a wheels down landing, but on the landing run, his Kitty Hawk hit a depression and then a rock. This caused the undercarriage to collapse, however, he was not hurt.
Following a stint at Mildura’s Operational Training Unit (OTU), Dick then served as a Flight Commander on 84 Squadron till the end of hostilities. He was discharged on the 29th October 1945.
Immediately after the war, Dick joined ANA (later to become Ansett) and remained with the airline for 32 years, retiring as a Boeing Captain in 1978. During his commercial flying career, he was the longest serving President of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP). His strong leadership of the AFAP provided the platform for the high standard of working conditions experienced by Australian air pilots, as well as contributing to the excellent safety record of the Australian airline industry.
Dick spent his later years in Labrador on the Gold Coast in Queensland and died on the 9th May 2000 aged 81yrs.
Jeff Wilkinson and Paul Carter
The Spitfire Association