Merkel, Reginald John

Reginald, or Reg, as he was known to his mates, was born in Thurgoona, near Albury, New South Wales, on the 21st July 1918 to parents Alice and Conrad. His family lived on a farm, dairying mostly. Reg was to recall the fog was so thick one morning, his father got lost in the paddock when he went to get the horse. During the Depression, Reg said the family survived on a barter system with their neighbours. 

World War II came, and Reg worked as a civilian at the local ammunition dump. This was government ownership until it was decided that the Army would take it over. Reg didn’t want to be part of the Army, so he enlisted in the RAAF on the 16th March 1942 at Albury. He spent to time at bases at Benalla, Mildura, where he married Isabel Jackson from Albury in September 1942, and Darwin. He was then sent overseas in 1944. Unfortunately, that is all we know about Reg’s life in the RAAF, apart from the two photos. Both appear to have been taken while he was with 457 Squadron in the Northern Territory. In the group of six, Reg is in the back row, on the far right. 

Reg appears to have spent all of his time during the War with 457 Squadron, He was discharged from the Squadron on the 14th December 1945.

After the War, Reg was sharefarming at Holbrook when fires ravaged the district in 1952. Soon after, he moved his family down to Korumburra in Gippsland, Victoria, but they didn’t stay there for long. It was too wet, cold and windy. Reg found a property at Myrrhee that he liked. It was dairy country, creek flats and hills, so he moved the family there in 1954. 

Reg was committed to the local community. When a new school building was officially opened in 1963, Reg was School Committee President. He was a volunteer member of the Myrrhee CFA, serving through the ranks for 30 years at least. He retired as President at the age of 66 in 1984. 

In 1969 Reg and Belle gave up dairying and moved into Wangaratta. Reg had retained part of the farm and he was a familiar sight on the roads for many years as he travelled out to Myrrhee keeping an eye on his stock.

Years passed, Belle passed away and some time later at the age of 78 Reg bought a Combi Van and began a trip each year up through Eastern Australia. He had made friends in different locations whom he would call on. In 2003, Reg upgraded to a camper trailer and so at the ripe old age of 86 in 2004, he travelled to Darwin and around the western coast of Australia on his own. He kept in touch by sending postcards every 10 days or so, but he would have moved on by the time anyone could contact him. 

Reg had enjoyed good health for most of life, but sadly his last two years were not so good and we all wish him well on his next journey.

The Merkel Family
Steve McGregor
The Spitfire Association