Willie was born on the 14th February 1920 in Hamilton, Victoria, and he enlisted in the RAAF in Adelaide on the 29th March 1941.
Extracts from Willie’s Flying Log Book (see below) show that he reported to No.1 Enlistment Depot on the 1st June 1941. Shortly after that, he was shipped to Africa and arrived at Clairwood Camp in Durban on the 3th June 1941. A few months later he moved to Hillside Camp Bullawayo in Rhodesia where he probably started his flying training. He then continued his training at No.26 EFTS Guinea Fowl, SFTS Thornhill, and Camp Pollsmore before being shipped to England where he arrived at the end of March 1942. He completed his training at No.52 OTU at RAF Debden, flying Hawker Hurricanes, on the 25th August 1942.
Willie doesn’t appear to have been in England for long as he is then recorded as being in the Worli Transit Camp at Bombay, now Mumbai, for about a week at the end of November 1942. He was obviously on his way back to Australia because he arrived at No.2 OTU (Operational Training Unit) Mildura on the 2nd January 1943. No.2 OTU was specifically for fighter pilots. During the course of the war, 1247 pilots graduated from the Unit and 53 trainees were killed in flying accidents. Willie was lucky. Three days after he arrived, he ground looped a Spitfire, A58-100, after landing, but was only slightly injured.
Finally, on the 9th March 1943, he joined 452 Squadron in Darwin flying Spitfires.
At that stage of the War, 452 Squadron had just returned to front-line service on the 17th January 1943. Re-equipped with Spitfires, it was based at Batchelor in the Northern Territory and had joined 1 Fighter Group defending Darwin. The Squadron had relocated to Strauss on the 1st February when Willie joined.
Willie was in the thick of it right from the start. On the 2nd May, he was at readiness when the Squadron was ordered to scramble for Air Raid No.54 launched by the Japanese. The Squadron took off at 0955 hrs with Wing Commander Clive “Killer” Caldwell leading the Wing. An enemy formation of 21 bombers escorted by 25-30 fighters was sighted at about 27,000 feet approaching Darwin and 452 Squadron was the last to attack.
After about 15 minutes of combat, Willie, due to a shortage of fuel, decided to break away and return to base. However, he ran out of fuel and made a forced landing in the shallows at Tumbling Waters, just south of Darwin. Willie was reported missing, but he later reported back to his base.
Willie’s luck finally ran out on the 20th June 1943. He was one of 46 Spitfires from No.1 Fighter Sector, Troppo White Section “B” flight, that was scrambled at 0940 hrs on a mission to intercept Japanese Air Raid No.55 against Darwin by Ki-48 Lilys escorted by A6M Zeros. The large enemy formation was intercepted at 24,000 ft. roughly 10 miles north of north of Cape Hotham northeast of Darwin. When the Spitfires were about to attack the bombers, a formation of enemy fighters were observed and attacked. In this engagement, Willie was evidently shot down and his aircraft was never seen again. He was assumed to have crashed into the sea.
Willie was officially declared dead the day of the mission. He had only flown 380 hours, which included 145 hours on Spitfires. He is remembered at the Adelaide River War Cemetery, just south of Darwin.
The Spitfire Association