Ian, or Joe as he was known to his mates, was born on the 16th February 1915 in Bendigo, Victoria. Apparently, he was nicknamed Joe because of the pre-war Australian Prime Minister, Joe Lyons. Joe enlisted in the RAAF in Melbourne on the 15th December 1940.
The following story gives an interesting insight into parts of Joe’s time in the RAAF:
In about 2000, Wing Commander Dick Creswell, who was 80 at the time, drove down from Canberra to Bendigo to catch up with one of Eaglehawk’s favourite sons, Ian “Joe'”Lyons, who was then 85. They were old flying mates, and they got together to relive old dreams and past glories. (Web Master: Eaglehawk is a suburb of Bendigo.)
The pair trained as pilots together, survived various battlefields, and came through a range of bizarre wartime events that spanned World War II and the Korean War. Wing Commander Cresswell started 77 Squadron in Perth in 1942. Ian, meanwhile, was in 76 Squadron, which was also established in 1942. It operated P-40 Kittyhawk fighter aircraft and saw combat during the War. Following the War, it formed part of Australia’s contribution to the occupation of Japan.
Ian became one of the most awarded and most respected Operations Officers, but he nearly didn’t live to tell the tale. In 1941, he was shot down in the Western Desert. (Squadron not known). He survived the fall, and was picked up by a truck full of Scots guards who were in the area at the time. As an honour, they offered him the front seat, but he rejected it and sat on the tailgate instead. The decision saved his life because shortly afterwards, the truck was blown up and only two men survived. Ian came home to Australia to recoup, but was totally deaf for the following ten months.
He then went to Mildura to train pilots, where he came under the watchful eye of Commander Cresswell.
The pair also recalled a horrific incident at Pohang in South Korea during the Korean War while they were with 77 Squadron. Ian shared a tent with several other men, but the standard of equipment was particularly bad. Eventually, some wires near the canvas came together and the tent was incinerated. Ian survived because he was Operations Officer and had to gather information for the day’s flights. That meant that he was out of the tent at the time. The other men all perished. ‘As a result I read the riot act back in Australia,’ Commander Cresswell said. ‘We weren’t prepared for the war’. The troops were then given American equipment.
Over the years, the two men flew ‘an awful lot of aircraft’ including Kittyhawks, Mustangs and Spitfires. Ian later owned a race-horse which he called ‘Kittyhawk’. He won some money on it, but in the end he ‘wasn’t as fast as the aeroplane.’ He also said, ‘and the only thing that I’ve got on Dick is that I flew Kittyhawks before he did’.
Joe was awarded the high distinction of the Bronze Star by the US Military, and an MBE. (Web Master: The Bronze Star Medal may be awarded for acts of heroism, acts of merit, or meritorious service in a combat zone. Foreign soldiers, as well as officers from the other federal uniformed services are also eligible to receive the decoration when serving with or alongside a service branch of the United States Armed Forces. Thanks to Wikipedia.)
The photo was taken in Kimpo, South Korea in 1951, where some pilots of 77 Squadron were being briefed by the Squadron Operations Officer, Joe, for a mission over North Korea. Joe is third from the left.thanks to Australian War Memorial.
Joe was discharged on the 15th december 1967.
The Spitfire Association