Jim, as he was known to his friends, was born on the 8th December 1914 in Melbourne, Victoria. He enlisted in the RAAF on the 4th March 1940.
Jim was selected for pilot training and graduated as a fighter pilot. He then spent some time with No.1 Operational Training Units Nhill, Victoria, and No.2 OTU Mildura, NSW.
While Jim was instructing at No.2 OTU Mildura, he was involved in a tragic mid-air collision at 1400 hrs on the 21st January 1943. ADF Serials reports that whilst he was in a Section mock combat exercise some three miles from Mildura, A20-277 (Jim’s Fairey Battle aircraft) was struck by A20-349 (another Fairey Battle) piloted by Pilot Officer G.E. Taffe at about 7,000 ft. The collision caused the tail of A20-277 to break away completely, sending both aircraft crashing out of control. Sergeant John Michael David Ryan Serv #414139 (Jim’s pupil) was killed, while Jim survived after baling out of the aircraft. The crew of A20-349, Pilot Officer G.E. Taffe and Sergeant A.F. Bates Serv #413510, was killed. Both aircraft were complete write-offs. The photo is of some Fairey Battles at an unknown location in Australia.
In November 1943, Jim was posted to 457 Squadron and he served with the Squadron until November 1944. At that stage of the war, 457 Squadron was based in Livingstone in the Northern Territory as part of 1 Fighter Wing, defending Darwin. It remained there until it transferred to the newly formed 80 Wing and moved to Sattler on the 13th May 1944. During the Squadron’s time as part of Darwin’s air garrison, it detached aircraft on several occasions to Milingimbi, Drysdale, Perth and Exmouth. While at Livingstone, the Squadron was re-equipped with an updated version of the Spitfire, imported from Britain, which arrived in a grey and green camouflage scheme. This led to the Squadron nicknaming itself the “Grey Nurse Squadron” and adorning its aircraft with a distinctive shark’s mouth on the nose. By early July 1944, the air defence of Darwin had been handed over to several Royal Air Force squadrons, allowing 457 Squadron to be employed in ground attack, and occasionally maritime attack roles, against targets in the Dutch East Indies.
Jim was involved in another accident on the 27th January 1944 when he was landing at Livingstone in heavy rains during a storm. The build-ups are are notorious at that time of the year during the Wet Season. Luckily, again, Jim was not injured.
Accidents come in threes, or so they say, and Jim was involved in yet another incident when he was up north. An edited version of ADF Serials report for his Spitfire A58-164 is as follows: Accident 1910 hrs on the 16th March 1944. Flight Lieutenant J.S. Menzies was ferrying a Spitfire from Livingstone to Corrunna Downs via Drysdale Strip (both airstrips are in Western Australia) as lead aircraft of a flight of three Spitfires (A58-164/54/208). They were forced to return to Wyndham as a local storm front obscured Drysdale some thirty miles out. After two low circuits, Pilot (Jim) decided to land from north onto the north-south Strip. After landing, his aircraft deviated some 10 feet to starboard at 20 mph speed and struck a built up taxying square, causing the aircraft to pitch over on its nose and overturn. Jim was trapped until crews helped extricate him. He was slightly injured.
The photo is of Jim’s Spitfire, ZP-B. It is looking a little worse for wear because it was dismantled in-situ after the accident and various components were returned to Livingstone Strip.
Jim’s injuries must have been more serious than the above report indicated. He had to be sent back south, and regrettably his health did not improve and he never fully recovered. He was discharged on the 12th July 1946 from No.6 RAAF Hospital.
The Spitfire Association