ANZAC DAY 2015 – Remembering those in our family who served in WW1 & WW2

Flight Officer E. S Weir RAAF

Flight Officer E. S Weir RAAF

Today in Australia it is ANZAC Day – a time to remember those who died & fought in all wars & conflicts but also a time to reflect on their service.

I cannot imagine having to go to war.

I cannot imagine having one of my son’s go to war.

I find it difficult to understand what leads people to have to conquer & dominate others especially through war. I do not understand those who seek to make others bend to their way of life especially through violence & destruction.

I do understand the need to defend against those who would want to conquer another country & to hurt others.

Within my family & my husband’s family we have had those who went to war to defend those who needed help. I knew most of these men. They were all the loveliest, kindest & humble men – war to them must have been very hard. Few spoke of the horrors, some spoke of the losses of friends, but all spoke of the great lifelong friends they made. The difficulties of facing & participating in war always take a toll. Here is a little of those in our family who served in both WW1 & WW2.

Emanuel Wier was from the small western NSW town of Narrandera. He was my father-in-law’s Uncle, my husband’s Great Uncle. He was just 26 years old when as part of the 20th Australian Infantry Battalion in the Somme region of France he died ‘from his wounds’ on the 12th August, 1916. He is buried in the Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt-L’Abbe, Picardie, France He never married, never had children & I cannot imagine the horror of fighting in the trenches. His memory was honoured within his family when my father-in-law was named after his Uncle – Emanuel Weir. There are variations of the spelling of their surnames. I imagine this is because the actual spelling was Wiehr – of German descent. As with members of my family of German descent, they anglicised their names in order to join the armed forces in Australia. Those with German names were not allowed to sign up. Thus some became Weir & others Wier.

Emanuel Frederick Weir - was killed on the Western Front WWI

Emanuel Wier – was killed on the Western Front WWI

Frederick James Shawman was my great great Uncle Fred – a kind, quiet & gentle man who was born in Iluka at the mouth of the Clarence River on the NSW North Coast. His Grandfather was the first pilot at Yamba, Frances Freeburn. His mother Jane was the first white woman born there. Like Emanuel Wier my Uncle Fred had to change his surname to join up to go to war he had been born Frederick James Schaumann. Uncle Fred never married nor had children. I remember visiting & talking with him in the little old timber house with the frangipani trees out front where he lived with his sister & alone in his later years. In his final years he lived in the RSL nursing home ion the Northern Beaches in Sydney closer to where he could visit his younger sister who we called ‘Aunty Biddo’ who lived in Manly. We would travel from the other side of Sydney to take him out & visit Aunty Biddo – two quiet & beautiful souls but with a twinkle of mischief in their eye. He came to stay with us once for a few days & it was then that he talked with my Dad about some of the horrors of his time in the trenches of France. We saw & heard the nightmares. Fred Shawman was part of the 20 Infantry Battalion – 18 to 20 Reinforcements (November 1916 – July 1917) and the trench warfare they endured was horrendous.

Arthur Stanley Gray was my Dad’s Uncle, his mother’s brother & my favourite great Uncle. My Dad was born & lived at Southgate outside Grafton on a farm in a small house. It was here where his Uncle Arthur returned after serving in New Guinea in WWII. Uncle Arthur was part of the ground staff building airfields both in Port Moresby & Milne Bay. He told us that as ground staff they were not allowed to carry rifles & the of the raids the Japanese would make on them. They would have to run to find places to hide from the armed nightly attacks. He suffered from malaria & severe dysentery and although this was recognised within his service his emotional distress was evident. We knew him as ‘bomb happy’ & but when he returned & lived with my Dad’s family it was my Dad who was woken at night with Uncle Arthur’s screaming nightmares. it Dad who would sit on him, holding him down til he could settle. The warfare & bombing had taken it’s toll. I remember every holidays visiting my grandparents in Yamba & of Uncle Arthur as a lovely man with a great sense of humour & fun who loved fishing with my Dad & grandfather. He loved his garden & always grew vegetables but he loved growing Hibiscus & his garden was always kept beautifully. He always made me smile & loved all of us kids. He had a daughter from his first marriage but later married Aunty Ena (nee Walter) who had served in the war as part of the WAAF.

Donald Earl Vidler was my Mum’s first cousin & was a Flight Officer/Pilot in WW2 who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross – DFC. He was my second cousin & someone who we would see regularly as he lived in the Sutherland Shire not far from us. My memory of him is of a kind, genuine, caring and honorable man with a keen sense of humour and mischief. He was originally a Spitfire pilot but later transferred to Bomber command where he went on to fly Lancaster bombers. I have been told that was not a usual airforce career progression – once you were in either in fighters or bombers it was not often you transferred between them. He flew with distinction & I have told more of his service previously on this blog – click here to see the original post. The value of his service is highlighted also within the comments within that blog post where people knew Don both here in Australia & when he was in the RAAF in the UK, have added additional information & remembrances of him.

Emanuel Stephen Weir was my father-in-law & he signed up & trained in the RAAF & served in the RAF in the UK in WW2. He was a quiet reserved man with a strong sense of duty. Like the other men I have talked about ‘Manning’ spoke a lot of the friendships he made, a little of his training but rarely of the harder times. He had trained in Canada & entered service in the RAF in the UK late in the war. But the training from all I have read was hard & often treacherous with many dying on the airfields of Canada before they even made it to fight in Europe. We have a lot of his memorabilia from that time & all of our three sons spent a lot of time in his final years with him. Our family – my husband, three sons & my parents all helped care for both Manning & my husband’s mother Judy in the last few years of their lives and it was a privilege to have been able to spend that time with them. They are very proud of what their Grandfather did in serving his country and will never forget him. Two of my son’s a few years ago when on a scholarship trip to the UK, took the time to visit the Wellington Museum at the Unit where Manning had spent some time. They went through all the memorabilia & spoke with one of the fellows there that would have served in the same area as their grandfather. I have written previously a little about Manning’s service – you can find the original blog post by clicking here.

Launch Event – ‘Wildflowers’ & ‘Geoff Hannah & his Students’ – Northern Rivers Gallery

Just a little Gallery of images from the Launch Event for my current exhibition at the Northern Rivers Community Gallery in Ballina.

The Gallery was renovated after my launch & now has some lovely timber doors out onto the Gallery Cafe deck which has certainly enhanced the space for visitors.

Flight Officer Don Vidler – DFC – ANZAC DAY 2013

In Australia the 25th April is ANZAC Day – it is a time to remember those who died, fought and supported those who fought in wars and conflicts. It is not a time to celebrate war but to remember the contributions of many who found themselves going into war or conflict to defend their country.

Last year I wrote about and recorded the diary of my father –in-law Emanuel Weir who was a Flight Officer in WW2.

This year I am writing about Don Vidler a Flight Officer/Pilot in WW2 who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross – DFC – and who was not only my second cousin but someone who I grew up seeing regularly and with fond memories of these family times. My Nanna was originally a Vidler before she married my Pop and became a ‘Moss’. Don was my mum’s cousin and we would get together – both our families lived in the Sutherland Shire. He was a favourite with my Nanna!

My memory of him is of a kind, genuine, caring and honorable man with a keen sense of humour and mischief.

This is a favourite photo of mine of Don – it is how I remember him with a broad and ready smile.

I took it at the Anzac Day Sydney march in 1981 as part of my Essay on Anzac Day for my HSC Art major work.

Don Vidler 4WEB

This is a little of his story.

Donald Earl Vidler was born in Ballina in 1919. His father died in an accident when Don was 3 years old and Don left school at 13years after gaining his QC Certificate to work to help and support his mother who owned a store in Ballina. This was the time before Widow’s pensions and Social Security and Don worked hard to help his mother including some time cutting sugar cane by hand – a hard and physically demanding job.

Don joined the Airforce in 1942 and like my husband’s father was posted to, and trained in, Canada as a pilot under the Empire Training Scheme. On completion of his training he was posted to England as a Spitfire Pilot. However his time as a Spitfire Pilot ended abruptly when he was transferred to Bomber Command. Apparently Don and his friend Harry Powell decided to do some air-to-gunnery practice and when turning to attack, Don fired his guns too soon resulting in him shooting the tail off the towing aircraft. By all accounts he and his friend Harry thought it was hilarious but the authorities did not, and he was transferred to Bomber Command.

On a wet and cold night at around midnight on the 8th September 1944 Lancaster LM270D2 of the 626 Squadron RAF, Wickenby of which Don was the pilot was returning to base at Wickenby after a training exercise. He was faced with the possible head on collision with another Lancaster from a neighbouring air base who was also on a holding pattern. Don took evasive action to avoid the collision turning his nose down whilst the other aircraft turned its nose up, narrowly missing a cottage and crashing into a field at 200mph. The undercarriage was torn off, the airplane was on fire and its ammunition was exploding.

An account by John Crompton was to be published in the Lincolnshire Life in November 2000 including:

“Gordon Horner (Navigator) was able to open the cockpit escape hatch and to extricate Don Vidler (Pilot), who was unable to move from his seat. Horner pushed Keith Guy (Bomb Aimer) and Vidler through the hatch. He then managed to free John Fincher (Wireless Telegrapher), whose foot was trapped under his table. Horner and Fincher then escaped.

Don Vidler assembled the four crew members, and they at oce began looking for the other three crew members. David Hooker (Mid Upper Gunner) was found by Horner, unconscious under the starboard wing, and Tom Griffiths (Rear Gunner) was found extensively injured, outside his rear turret. Vidler and Horner attempted to re-enter the aircraft to find the seventh man, but he, Eric Madge (110749) had, in fact, been killed.”

Don had employed evasive action which resulted in a loss of control and the crash of his aircraft. The Flight Engineer was killed and the Rear Gunner broke both his legs in the crash. First to the scene were two teenagers from a nearby farm, and under extreme personal danger, assisted in the evacuation and first aid of the injured crew. One of teenagers, Charles Wright, a Boy Scout, received a Silver Medal – the highest Scout Award presented to him in Lincoln Cathedral, the other Ralph Scott, letters of Commendation from the Commanding Officer of the Squadron, and other sources for his bravery.

Don Vidler - Ralph Scott Comendation WEb

The list of injuries is recorded below.

Destruction of training aircraft which crashed on return from a cross country exercise.

626/D2                        LM270                                    Crash site – Wickenby

Pilot.                P/O D.E. Vidler                       Fractured ribs.                        

W.R. member No. 242

Nav.                 F/S G.J. Horner                      Fractured nose.

W.T.                F/S J.F. Fincher                      Lacerated face.                        

W.R. member No. 233

B.A.                 F/S K.B. Guy              Contused nose and both legs. 

W.R. member No. 346

Eng.                 Sgt. Madge                  Killed

M.U.G.                       F/S Hooker                 Internal injuries.

R.G.                F/S Griffiths                Compound fractures.

LM270 626 SqaudronWEB

Don went on to fly Lancaster bombers over Europe with his crew.

The recollection of the particular mission is recorded by John Fincher – one of Don’s crew in the Eulogy that he gave for Don at his funeral.

“One of our most memorable trips was on the 17th December 1944; we were part of a large force of Lancasters attacking Ulm. Over the target we were attacked by two JU88’s; only Don’s exceptional strength and flying ability saved us. No doubt his strength came in part from his work cutting cane – a hard and difficult task. Don hurled that Lancaster around in very evasive corkscrews. But even then the JU88’s inflicted very heavy loss to our aircraft – rudders, elevators and tailplane were severely damaged and parts shot away. Bullets and cannon shells tore holes through the fuselage and around the rear gunner. The aircraft was extremely difficult to control and Don and Keith struggled to keep it airborne. Don’s strength was such that in an effort to control the aircraft, he bent the rudder bar with his feet. One of our Flight Commanders remarked that without Don’s strength and determination we would never have returned.

We landed on a special emergency drome at Woodbridge and rather than have the Squadron send an aircraft to pick us up. Don decided that we would return by train.”

Don Vidler Citation DFC WEB

The citation for Don’s award of the Distinguished Flying Cross – DFC – says:

            “Flying Officer VIDLER has completed a number of successful sorties attacking such heavily defended targets as HANOVER and COLGNE.

            His tremendous keenness and fine fighting spirit have been outstanding and have set a magnificent example to his crew.

            In December, 1944, during a mission to ULM his aircraft was attacked by an enemy fighter whilst over the target area, but nevertheless he succeeded in dropping his bombs before taking evasive action. His aircraft was severely damaged and most of the control surfaces of the tail were shot away, but by superb airmanship he maintained control of the aircraft and brought it safely back.

            At all times, Flying Officer VIDLER has displayed exceptional skill, coolness and devotion to duty.”

A Telegram was sent to Don’s mother in Ballina – she must of been very proud of her son:

“Congratulations are extended to you by the Minster for Air and Air Board on the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross to your son Flying Officer D E Vidler in recognitions of his gallant service stop advice of this award has just been received from the Air Ministry.”

Don Vidler Telegram to mother DFC WEB

As his friend and fellow crew mate John Fincher said in his Eulogy: “When I say that Don Vidler was a very special and remarkable person please remember that Don on leaving school, with only a Primary School education, flew Spitfires and Lancasters over England and much of Europe – a remarkable achievement.”

Photos of the 626 Squadron and crew.

Don Vidler Plane 1WEB

Don Vidler Plane 2 WEB

Here is an extract from a letter he wrote to John Fincher in 1947, written by Jack Yeats an English Engineer who shared a hut at Wickenby airbase with Don and John Fincher.

“I know I am something of a sentimentalist, I’m glad of that, if I weren’t I wouldn’t want to see a lot of old friends, hear a lot of old voices that I haven’t seen and heard for a long time. One of these days I’m going to Wickenby and walk past the old huts – the mess and see and old runways again. I suppose it’s all there yet – even if no lanes are left.

Sometimes at night I can’t sleep and I go over some of the things that Wickenby and old 626 stood for, the nostalgia it brings at times is overpowering. Clay Bridge Corner – the little winding road up to the Camp, the tense busy atmosphere in the locker room – the undercurrent of excitement – faces of friends; outside – the quietness of the sky. The moon – at times an unwelcome guest – how mysterious the stars seemed flying at night, the uncertainty of everything – even the next second; remember John the view of Happy Valley, the wonderful, terrible sight of thousands of searchlights grotesquely leaning sideways and the pin points of flak from a myriad studded pin cushion. The thrill of interrogation that made it all seem worthwhile.

I remember the old mess, the conversations over the pool table, round the fire, over the bus, the little cinema. Above all the friendships that existed, the laughs, the worried and everything else that made up the life at 626 and 12 Squadrons at Wickenby, friendships and comradeship were the two things that made things bearable. How unreal it all seems now, did it really happen John?”

Don Vidler 2 ANZAC DAY MARCH 1981

A photo of Don I took in 1981 Anzac Day march in Sydney with two of his friends from the Airforce. Don marched every year.

I think these words are poignant and give a depth to why ANZAC day is important. It is an understanding that I gained from caring for my father-in-law, that the friendships were important alongside the service. To remember those who fought, to honour those who died and an opportunity for those who still remain amongst us to be able to catch up remembering friendships and comradeship brought forth out of adversity, and honour those bonds.

Now & Then – Ballina & Yamba: Wild Surf & Beach Foam

After a couple of difficult weeks again with my shoulder overuse injury I was back at the Physio in Ballina. I will need surgery on the shoulder within the next few weeks – something I am not looking forward to. I am however looking forward to the likelihood that it will greatly improve my pain levels and allow me to work more consistently on my lino carving! Thinking positively! Recovery will be a slower process and will mean that I will have to concentrate on artwork other than lino carving for a while. So that means more drawing (that I love doing) and I would like to get back to doing some photography work especially upgrading skills  within the digital photography realm. Another printmaking field I’d like to explore is solar plate etching & am hoping to find some short courses to do.

Anyway after the physio I couldn’t resist a lovely walk on the beach. It has been very very wet here over the past few weeks and it was great to have a day with less rain & a window of opportunity to go for a walk on the beach! I didn’t have my SLR camera with me but did have my iPhone. The surf has been pretty wild and as a result the beach foam was pretty spectacular.





When I was young and right up until I was married, all the holidays that my Dad took found us as a family headed all the way from Sydney to Yamba where my Grandparents lived. My Dad grew up outside Grafton and then Yamba and he couldn’t wait to get back there to go fishing in his beloved Clarence River. In retirement he found a lovely spot with his own wharf to fish off just outside Grafton.  He had moved to Sydney in the 1950’s to find work and later my Mum joined him. It was such a long drive taking about 12 hours driving on the winding and dangerous Princes Highway way back then from Loftus to Yamba. Not a good process for someone like me with motion sickness making the trip fairly tortuous. I used to have to take those awful motion sickness tablets – not sure what was worse the car sickness or the taste of those tablets! Nothing really worked & invariably there was at least one stop whilst I was sick.

The trip I must say has definitely improved. It is about 8 hours now with mostly double lane divided roads and nearly all of those old dangerous roads like around Bulahdelah are now gone thank goodness!

In 1974 there was a major flood from Cyclone Zoe and the one road out of Yamba was cut off. This was most fortunate for me, as someone who was not exactly fond of school this ‘natural disaster’ came at the end of our holiday time and meant we ended up missing a few extra days of school! As a teenager I remember being most excited as this was the first flood I had actually experienced. Living on the North Coast in the last few years in particular, floods have been a common occurrence, from small to moderate and the impact can be from nuisance to devastating.

These photos are from an extreme weather incident that hit the Yamba/North Coast NSW around from memory 1979/80. I was a keen black and white photographer processing and printing all my own photos from Year 10 at High School and these negatives were from this time. I saved up a couple of years later and bought the best enlarger and lens I could afford and spent endless hours in the ‘darkroom’ which essentially was our bathroom with black plastic blocking out light from the window and the door. The processing trays of chemicals were set up over the bath! These photos are some I took of the beach foam at that time. They show Main Beach Yamba and as you can see the foam levels were absolutely huge! It must have been about 10 feet deep! I scanned the B&W negatives and photoshopped them – my film processing skills and photography skills back then were pretty basic so the negatives are a bit limited but they do show an incredible sight. I remember thinking at the time it looked like thick snowfall, beautiful as is was still white but dangerous as well. It would be very easy to have got lost in amongst all that foam, thank goodness everyone had the good sense to watch from afar!

The surf foam and the distinctive North Coast Pandanas.

This shows the foam reaching right up to the Surf House.

This is looking across the beach towards the light house and entrance to the Clarence River. Iluka is on the opposite side of the river entrance and can be seen faintly in the distance.

The handrails that lead into the sea swimming pool that is alongside Main Beach shows the height of the foam that was rolling into shore in deep waves.

This photo below is an old slide my Dad took in about the 1960’s I think – it shows Main Beach at low tide looking from the opposite side where the lighthouse is and gives a sense of the amount of foam that was on the beach.

‘Off to War’ The journey of Emanuel Weir – WW2 Veteran – Anzac Day 2012

For Anzac Day 2012 I thought I would tell part of my father-in-law – Emanuel Stephen Weir’s journey of service to becoming a pilot originally for the RAAF and then to serve in the RAF in Europe in WW2.

We have two records of part of my – a very short outline I asked him to write but we did not find until after his death and a diary of his journey on the ship ‘Mt Vernon’ over to Canada for further training in the Airforce. He was part of the ‘Empire Training Scheme’.

He loved taking photos so we have a good collection of his photos some of which I have included.


His story in his words begins:

‘End of 1940 – Medical. Army call-up.

30th Battalion – Milson’s Point Sydney.

Not called up. Manpower decision – I was in a protected occupation. Manufactured: Khaki Pullovers, Putter tapes, Machine Gun webbing – Hattersley Loom from UK, RAAF pullovers

Manpower Officer – John West (Ex Crosba Knitting Mills) advised me that I could possibly enlist in Airforce as Aircrew. With a school mate – from the Rural bank – we enlisted. He was accepted within 6 months, I spent the next 15 months as a reservist. Supplied with a lapel badge & identity card. Attended:

1)     Saturday monrning – morse code – Civilian women group in Sussex St – Mainly instructing Navy Reserves.

2)     Two late afternoons a week in Gas Company Showroom – Castlereagh St between Martin Place & Hunter Street.’


I know ‘Manning’ as we called him was not happy that it took him so long to get into the Airforce because he was involved in a ‘protected occupation’. He was an extremely bright man and it is no surprise he was chosen for pilot training in the Airforce. He was interested in how things worked and could explain to us in great detail how all the various planes he was involved with in the war all worked. He was a fierce Ice Hockey player who had a quiet manner that belied his strength of character.


In 1943 he was:

“Eventually called up & did initial training (ITS) at Bradfield Park – 3 months, then 8EFTS at Nerrandera (3 months) on Tiger Moths. 2 ED – Embarkation Depot Bradfield Park”


He loved flying Tiger Moths and for his birthday one year we sent him on a flight which brought back many memories. Whilst very ill and in hospital on the Gold Coast not long before he died he was quite excited one day as the local joy flight Tiger Moth was flying nearby his hospital room.


There is an excellent book that gives some insights into the training of pilots and crew for Bomber Command. It a terrific book that is not only factual but is a great read – I highly recommend it.



Allen & Unwin



By January 1942 some 30 new aircrew training schools had been opened…Elementary Flying School[s]…Some of the schools, such as Narrandera, were developed on prewar town airstrips [and used Tiger Moths as the initial training planes]…p26-27 …Narandera [was established on land that baked in the summer sun]…Flying conditions were often ideal in the still early morning air, but later in the day thermal currents and massive drifts of cumulous clouds and threatening thunderstorms could bounce a plane around the sky…The turbulent air was a tough test of aircrew’s capacity to keep the mess food in their stomachs, especially for navigators, radio operators and gunners…At Elementary Flying School those selected to be pilots were issued with their log – the record that would run fro the duration or end suddenly, the last entry written in another hand and closing with the word ‘Missing’. On the inside cover the trainee read, ‘This book is an official document and is the property of his Majesty’s Government’. But the brief formal entries, often just one line to a flight, became for many airmen – or their families – their most personal record of war. At Elementary Flying School the trainees climbed into a Tiger Moth, sat behind the instructor and listened to his shouted advice that came down the primitive speaking tube. For many it was their first flight. That first flight and their first solo some ten flying hours later were remembered with a clarity reserved for few other firsts in their lives…p28-29


'Off to the Airforce" 1943


After he passed away in 2006 we found a tiny book with even tinier writing – it was his diary from his trip on hte “Mt Vernon’ embarking Sydney on 11th August, 1943 and arriving in Penhold Canada on Monday 30th August 1943.

“After 2 weeks leave sailed for Canada on American – Mount Vernon – a converted liner.”



EMBARKING SYDNEY 11th August, 1943


Wednesday 11th August 1943

Embarked on Mt Vernon at ‘Loo [Woolloomooloo, Sydney]. Raining & a miserable day. Picked a 6 berth cabin but later tossed out. Selected for galley duties for next week. Spent night on boat in harbour.

Thursday 12th August 1943

Very warm in bunks, rows & rows & in tiers of 5. Galley duties agreeable, little work, 24 hours on and 24 off. Plenty of good food. 10.30 left dock, a few people on Domain to wave. Passed thro’ Heads 1.30. Boat rocking & rolling in heavy swell, quite a few sick. I feel quite well. After tea, a couple of hours in galley, feeling a little squeamish. Two old campaigners, Jack Wheatley, Alf Seamer, took me on deck for a couple of hours and then went to the pictures. “Amelia Rutman??, Loretta Young. Off to bed 8.00pm E.S.E.

Friday 13th August 1943

First night at sea, slept very well. Ship still rolling in heavy sea. American food varied and rather rich after RAAF camps. Fresh fruit, oranges & pears. Fish for lunch. Still cloudy Cu & bb with high C. Midday am reading magazines, having finished duties for day. 12.30 Finished lunch, am finding it hard to stomach Yankee meals. Still mix everything together. After tea sat on Promenade deck till 9.00pm. Very rough sea & a gale blowing from S. Travelling almost E.

Saturday 14th August

What a night, one continual roll & the worst pitching effect yet. After breakfast slept till 11.00am then commenced duties again. Have a terrific headache, no lunch except chocolates. I wonder what a good meal Aussie cooked, looks or tastes like. Even one of Narrandera meals would be welcome. But steak & eggs – what a thought. Sea calming down & clouds clearing a little, Ns. After tea & duties Jack, Alf & myself talked in the Aft deck until 9.00pm. Very hot in the bunks, not sufficient air. North of N.Z about 4.30. Turning E.

Sunday 15th Aug.

Too hot to be very comfortable last night. Too lazy to have breakfast but on duty at 7.30 so helped myself to eats in galley. Lovely day, few clouds Cu. Much warmer on deck moving E. 10.00am finished duties just had cold salt water shower (wash & shave in fresh water). Lunch in a few minutes. Changed my place of abode. Now in a three bunk berth with Allan & Alf. Sunbaked all afternoon. Warm night slept on deck.

Sunday 15th Aug (crossing Date Line)

Slept rather well, although deck a little hard. Guards woke us up at 5.00am to enable them to wash deck, crawled back into my bunk. Still going E.N.E few clouds. Am regaining my colour little by little. Shorts & shirt & sandals now my dress. Very homesick to-night also Mc [Allan McCartney]. So decided to run around deck, almost died, no energy. A beautiful full moon, calm sea & music and no women. Lay on deck & thought of Sydney. Sleeping in bunk to-night.

Monday 16th Aug

Breakfast of spoilt sausages, crispies, sweet toast & syrup. Finished duties about 9.00am. Shower & then sunbaked ‘till 11.00. Reading all Yank magazines. Lunch, another shower & more sunbaking, what a life! Dodged a march around the deck. Boat drill every day afternoon always we carry a lifebelt. I usually have about 6 a day. Leave them everywhere. Fried Devon & potatoes plus usual rubbish 1 slice pineapple. A “penguin slice” for some meals. Real Aussie ice-cream. Off to the canteen to buy a carton of Yank ice-cream 10c. Not much good. Don’t like the ship’s Coca-Cola. Ice cream now 5c. After tea lay on deck & listened to radio for 2 hours and then walked decks & watched moon & sea. Very cloudy, looks like a storm coming in from N. Still going E.N.E.

Tuesday 17th Aug. 1943

What a night. I feel like a ton of bricks, very tired. Baked beans for breakfast, porridge, slice of hot cake & an apple. Cs clouds – no sun today. Will finish my sewing – maybe. Went on parade to-day, couldn’t sit in open, raining all morning. Cleared up after lunch, still cloudy. Almost finished my sewing – ran out of cotton. Sunbaked on deck for an hour or two. After tea, cooled off on aft promenade. Clear night – no clouds, have decided to sleep on open deck. Two ships passed us in opposite direction, going home.

Wednesday 18th Aug. 1943

Wonderful sleep, crew manning guns about 5.00am woke me. Much warmer nearing equator. Was sunbaking to-day when a sudden tropical downpour caught us, lasted about 5 min & then cleared. Have to be wary while tropics. Sunbaked – no – roasted all afternoon, & then cooled off under shower. After tea selected bedding sites for night. A Yank aired his views etc. Told us his successes in Sydney even down to their names & phone no. a regular Romeo. Pointed out our faults & gave us quite a few hints – the sap. We have a baby on board about 3 weeks old. Also quite a few “Aussie” girls going home to States. I hope they are the only type the Yanks are marrying – I know two – live in Rozelle – “nice” types. I suppose they had to marry someone. Still heading E.N.E.

Thursday 19th Aug. 1943

Tried to sleep on open deck but a sudden storm chased us into the Prom deck. Almost N now, saw beautiful sunrise this morning. Never seen waters so blue & smooth. Crossing equator tomorrow & spent 3 solid hours sunbaking. Am quite brown now but want more. Found a cool spot this afternoon – lovely breeze – & read magazines. Often feel quite hungry, but Cooks are a wake-up & watch us too closely. Yanks pestering me to buy my watch or swap. John has same trouble. A shortage of fresh water, now cut off during the days. Duty – finish about 6.30 to-night. Poor devils in queue for mess. We being “duties” have priority & just walk thro’. Tea is ready now – Iced tea & terrible concoction is very popular or plentiful with Americans.

Friday 20th Aug. 1943

Finished duties now. Average about 4 parades daily now – usually lose myself. Sat in sun & watched flying fish all morning. Have attained in 7 day a suntan equal to Bondi’s best. Fish for lunch, rather dry – cold storage. Crossed Equator at 13.25, men were marching around deck, we were reading in a lifeboat. Still sunbaking, although sun is rather hot. Moving a little E of N. Haven’t written any letters yet, deadline next Mon 23rd. Just have to write to Val. Beds on the Prom, have to be booked before 4.30 or else sleep below. Sleeping on deck is almost necessary for a good nights rest.

Saturday 21st Aug. 1943

Baked beans for breakfast, never have any beverages at meals now. Drink water only discovered an iced water fountain but it has been disconnected now – wouldn’t it . Still hungry, a miserable lunch roast beef & potato & the usual uneatable salads, no sweets. Officers mad with the service parades damn near all day. A route march this morning – shot thro’ after a lap or two. Wrote a letter to Ron Cohen & am writing to Val now. Still moving E of N. All I’m wearing now, a pair of shorts. A damned rotten tea, stew & some rotten beetroot cubes, onion. A swell piece of cake though. Must be losing weight thro’ perspiration. A tropical storm is in the offing. Lights usually out by this 7.00pm.

Sunday 22nd Aug. 1943

Breakfast, rice & milk, a type of mince meat & boiled egg (I had two). Sunbaked instead of attending church. Must be a day for rejoicing, free ice-cream & cool drinks. Lunch – roast turkey, apple pie & ice-cream. New duties announced, the Sarges must have had enough. Woe is us LAC’s. A hell of a temperature, a real tropic day & the radio is playing “A White Xmas”. Quite a few clouds around but sea is as level as possible & as blue —. After two pages to Val decided to tear it up & scribble a “V-mail” reputedly much faster. Slept on deck again, moving approx N.E.

Monday 23rd July 1943

A very still day. A mass of Cs. No sun at all just sat out of the wind & read. Meals same as usual, not enough of any thing suitable, plenty of trash. Community sing last night conducted by Padre. After he left some wise guys sang a parody on the “Marines Hymn” – needless to say everyone joined in & today we were severely lectured – poor marines. Sat on Promenade deck & listened to wireless then a ship’s concert was broadcast of speakers. Slept indoors.

Tuesday 24th Aug 1943

Had a haircut this morning, first for six weeks. The boys said either a haircut or a violin. A LAC, presumably an amateur did the job. On a box, no towel, no mod. Cons, or the fantail. Every time the ship rocked out went a dash of hair. Weather much cooler, expect to land Thursday. I can’t fully realise I’m going farther away from home. 7.30pm just passed a ship about the same size going in the opposite direction, boys trying to hitchhike. Went to see “Captains of the Clouds”.

Manning on ship 'The Aquitania' on his way home to Australia

Wednesday 25th Aug. ’43

Another cloudy day, parades all morning, so Alf & I slept in peace. John doubled for us. He had to wash the walls of mess today. Quite a lot of thieving going on. Must mind my bankroll. Saw a school of whales today. Arriving in ‘Frisco to-morrow morning, have to pack my case.

Thursday 26th Aug ’43

One hell of a fog. Just passed an island – Goat Is. 28m from ‘Frisco. Following a row of buoys, passed two tankers, going out & one in. Fog still low, a small fleet of mine-sweepers & another craft. Can just make out land. Land now clear, can see “Golden gate”. Beautiful, rugged harbour approaches. Tops of “Gate” Bridge obscured by fog. Anti-sub nets all around harbour. Passing Alcatraz – What a harbour. A small a/c carrier just going out. Docked at last. No.33. Pushed around everywhere, off ship & now to stand on wharf. No leave in ‘Frisco. Stood on wharf & then marched to ferry. By ferry to Berekely & then on to train. Waited on station for about 5 hrs. Robbed for my first money transaction, too busy talking to count change. Boarded train, one person to each two seats & a sleeper. “Old” carriage. Oh yes! Had dinner in diner. Roast turkey & Veg. Soup, & ice-cream. Off to bed , left ‘Frisco 9.15pm.

Friday 27th Aug ’43

Awoke about 6.00am. A very good night, soft bed & pillow, have lower berth with windows. Just passed a freight train, two engines in lead, one in centre, two at back & what a length everything is done in a big way. Breakfast, “fried” eggs, “chips” porridge & coffee. Snow capped Mt Shasta (14,181ft) & beautiful tree clad mountains everywhere. Often pass small villages and mountain streams & lakes too numerous & picturesque for words. My dream towns lie about this line. Eugene “saw the prettiest girl ever”, reminded me of Val. Have to cheer up now. Almost impossible to be blue in such beautiful country. Passing tho’ many picturesque towns – right down the main street of Salem. Reached Portland after passing along Hillamatte?? River. No leave. All lined up walking up & down platform, a concerted effort by the boys & the officers couldn’t stop us, so spent an hour in the R.R.R. Off again this time for Vancouver.

Manning - Train trip to Penfold - Airforce 'Empire Training Scheme' - Canada 1943

Saturday 28th Aug. ’43

No blackout here, even on the coast. Leaving ‘Couver by 10..00am train, no leave again. At the rate of travel may miss train, I hope so. Just crossed border about 9.30am. Stopped at White Rock, a small Canadian fishing town, girls out windows, half-dressed, very enthusiastic in their welcome. Children all along line asking for Aust.  Souvenirs, gave them money & stamps, match boxes just to hear them speak. ‘Couver at last, just asked some children where the Indians are “Mad Aust” they called us. Missed our train – 6 hours leave. Lunched in town, hot shower & swim at YMCA. Toured the town buying everything, one the girls nice – still prefer Aussies though. Back on the train – poor D.I’s can’t control the boys. Travelling C.P.R cars much cleaner. Passing thr’ Rockies – in the dark. Stopped at a small town, talking to 3 very nice Canucks & a lovely brunette leaning out of window in my pyjamas. Fancy having to leave such company.

Sunday 29th Aug ’43

Right in the middle of the Rockies – tremendous mountains – unsurpassed in beauty. Mountain still snow capped – permanent. Mountain waterfalls & streams everywhere. This type of country all day – very disappointed in the scarcity of wild life, saw one moose, one deer and a few birds 7 ducks little else. Stopped at Banff, a beautiful tourist resort & saw a Mountie, red-coat. Next big town Calgary where we change for Penhold. Three hours leave at Calgary. Looked town over, still quite light here at 9.00pm. Ice skating just opened again, indoor, now off the Penhold.

Monday 30th Aug ’43

Had be side tracked during the night & our two cars one parallel near Penhold. What a desolate town, a couple of houses. Arrived at the camp about 13,000 miles from Australia to fly Oxfords – wouldn’t it. A beautiful spot, all building made of shingles, red rooves & green walls. Double decker beds. Alf sleeping above me. Matresses, sheets & pillows. Commenced study immediately after a pep talk or two. Wet canteen & dry canteen, can buy everything.”

“Then to Frisco by rail (sleeping cars) up west coast to Vancouver. Across ‘Rockies’ by CPR to Calgary – changed train – 2 carriages with 60 beds. Woke early next morning at Penhold to hear & see Oxfords. (Airfield near township of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada)”

“Marvellous accommodation – H shaped building. Centrally heated – sheet & pillows on double deck beds – meals A1 Hotel choice.


Of course been a keen ice hockey player Canada brought the advantage of a strong ice hockey tradition that Manning was able to particpate in:


“Arrived early September – 1st light snow. 1st leave to Calgary for a 48hrs by bus (Bought a pair of CCM skates – top of the brand – prolite(?) – matched, last of stack).

Outdoor rink at camp – indoor rink at Red Deer. Invitation game at Red Deer. Christmas at Banff.

Months leave – Toronto, Detroit, New York – 2 weeks. Back to Montreal – with local family to St Sauver(?) for skating & skiing.”


“5 months training and graduated on Oxfords as Bomber Type.”




Allen & Unwin



Airmen were always joining and leaving groups, initial training schools, the schools that gave them their specialist training, and the schools that prepared them for operations. It was against these cohorts that men measured their progress – and their luck. Those who travelled for long periods in small groups formed another cohort…For 74 days, as they crossed the Pacific and Atlantic, they went ashore together, played cards, entertained and bored each other and formed another cohort. From the seafront hotels at Brighton they dispersed again, into the schools that prepared them for operations, and then most went into Bomber Command, but not with more than three or four in any one squadron. Now when they looked down names in the visitor’s book at Codgers Inn, or lists of casualties, promotions and decorations they had many groups to measure themselves against…p49

On the train to Malton navigation school in Ontario they saw:

The land of the birch bark canoe, deerskin moccasins, crystal clear streams, quick flowing rapids, high fir trees, beaver and squirrels, French trappers and Indian braves, the blazing stars above the mountains, and the beauty of the Northern Lights.

Canada was hard work, high quality instruction, confirmation of romantic preconceptions of the landscape, and generous hospitality…Over 40 years later [airmen say the days in Canada] were’ amongst the happiest in [their lives]’…p41

Aircrew went east or west around the globe. They went ashore in Fiji, New Zealand, Hawaii, Iceland, and in many points in the Americas and Africa. They left Australia after Initial Training School or with their wings, they travelled in comfort and squalor. Most had no experience of operations before going to Bomber Command and only a few had been in many air battles. They left Australia when war was still far away and when much transport was still run by civilians and they also left Australia when war was close and pervasive. They went according to plan and suffered diversion, delay, accident and administrative stuff-ups. There were many ways to get to the air war over Europe. In their letters and diaries aircrew wrote much about their travels to war. The sea voyages gave them time to write and the censor allowed them to say more abut their travels than about the details of training or later operations…The journeys, protracted and boring but with flashes of the extraordinary – Hollywood, Niagara Falls, the Empire State Building, Table Mountain and Lagos – helped the clerks, farmers and the Rawleigh’s rep change how they saw themselves. The journeys were always full of intense anticipation and many airmen would spend as much time travelling and waiting as they did on operations…p53



After completing his training in Canada Manning embarked for the UK:



“Embarked for UK – solo 7/8 days Nieun Amstrd (?), Greenck (Glasgow) to Brighton by train (Back to earth with a thud).

Brighton – accommodation in private hotel. Mess in large beachfront hotel about 10 min walk. Brighton has a very good ice rink.

2 week leave – Oxted Private family. Conducted trip to London – daytrips.

To a holding station – flying tiger moths north of Salsbury Plains. 1 month mixed – Australian, English, New Zealand – taking navigators on map reading exercise – Clyffe Pypard – Salisbury – Taunton – Briston – Brecon – Wales. Used Tiger to spend 48 leave in Liverpool (RAF Navigator House).

5 Group H/Q – Moreton Hall – Lincolnshire (met Guy Gibson) – movements officer – 3 months Kidlington – outside Oxford – neighbour of Blenheim Palace – flying Oxfords 20 AFU. To Moreton-in-Marsh – 21 OTU ‘Wimpeys’ (Wellingtons)



Manning always spoke highly of his crew and they of him. One of his closest friends ‘Snow’ spoke to my husband about his father and how much they appreciated his calm and unflappable manner whilst flying.


Had own car with w/op – Ford 10 – very cramped with 5 bods – other 2 anti-social. Cigarette ration (600 per month) handy for all types of bribery – mainly petrol, 100 octane & the Ford virtually flew.”

Manning lost many close friends in his time and one he always spoke fondly of was Alan McCartney who was killed in action.



Allen & Unwin



In World War II, average of 2.3 per cent of aircraft were lost on each Bomber Command operation. That figure includes aircraft making flights to collect meteorological information or dropping leaflets and does not include aircraft that crashed in the United Kingdom when leaving or returning. A more accurate rate of loss on what were normally thought of as bombing operations is close to 3 per cent. For aircrew, that could seem to allow a reasonable chance of survival. Before major battle most men at the start line – and the officers who did the planning and the medical staff waiting to receive the casualties – would have thought that a 97 per cent chance of surviving was acceptable odds. With a loss rate of 3 per cent Bomber Command could replace aircraft and men, and morale and efficiency could be maintained – it was a sustainable rate. But an airman with 30 operations to fly to complete a tour could make a simple calculation: 30 times three was 90. A 90 per cent chance of death was close enough, as they said at the time, to dead certainty…p183

In the last six months of the war the average loss on raids had fallen to around 1 per cent – more at night, less in daylight operations. Yet even with this loss rate the chances of surviving 30 operations was still just 74 per cent. With one-quarter of the force becoming casualties, Australian aircrew in Bomber Command were, even at these bets of times, still in greater danger of being killed in combat than men serving in any Australian army battalions in 1944 and 1945…p187

All civilians who go into the services and combat have disrupted lives. But the men who went to war in Bomber Command were likely to have their lives transformed as well as disrupted. The many courses and selection tests, the journeys and the experiences in the air and on the ground in Europe were likely to lead to changed careers and identities…p278


Australians may have forgotten those who served in Bomber  Command, but surviving aircrew cam back with memories that were dense and varied – from the exhilaration and horror of flying, to weeks of boredom in reception centres, nights at the Strand Palace, and seeing the flesh at the Windmill. Speaking at a squadron reunion in Melbourne in 1998, Peter Isaacson asked his audience:

“Can you see the briefing room with the map on the wall, the strands of coloured wool stretching across England, across the Channel or North Sea, across Europe to a place on the map deep in enemy territory…

Do you recall the murmur of the debriefing, the savoury smell and taste of cigarettes, the sight of anguish on the faces of the men as they read the names on the operation board which did not have landed time against their names?”

They all could…p280


When visiting the Australian War Memorial not long before he died Manning went to the newly installed Lancaster Bomber exhibit – ‘G for George’ he was so impressed with the display and the sense of ‘realism’ it brought. It was missing he said one thing though … the smell … of the fuel & the plane … it was the one of the strongest memories he carried with him.


Manning greatest regret was not being kept on in the Airforce after the war – in his notes in bold capitals underlined he wrote “AIRFORCE DID NOT WANT“. One of his greatest joys had been flying aircraft. He came back settled back into Australia married Judy and became an accountant. He was a father to 3 children (one died just after birth) and a Grandfather of 4. My three sons loved their ‘Da’ as they called him and especially loved their time spent with him when he moved up to be close by us for the last few years of his life. Here are our three boys with both their much loved Grandfathers – their other Grandfather ‘Pa’ is a lot younger than Manning but served as part of the National Service (Nasho’s) in the 1950’s..

They talked much and they laughed often together.

All my three sons are very proud of what their Grandfather did in serving his country and will never forget him.This photo is of my youngest son Anzac Day 2007 after the local March and discussing the medals with his Grandmother Judy (Manning’s widow). She then was retelling the story of how they met the day he returned from war on the beach at Bondi.

They will pass his story down the generations I am sure.


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