I was in Brisbane for a work trip for the last week or so of January. It didn’t stop raining all week.
I had a short chance to stop by the Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith Memorial that is on the road leading to Brisbane Airport. Under a large curved roof, preserved in a glass ‘hangar’, is Smithy’s original Fokker Fokker F.VII/3m three-engined aircraft, the Southern Cross. It’s a very important part of Australia’s aviation heritage and it is fantastic to see the old aeroplane is being well looked after.
But what does this have to do with Bomber Command, I hear you ask? Well, if I’m honest, very little. But a short distance from the Southern Cross is a tree. Under the tree are three plaques dedicated to 460 Squadron, arguably one of the most famous of the Australian bomber units.
Beneath one of the plaques is a representation of a boomerang, symbolising the motto of the Squadron: ‘Strike and Return’. Sadly, many of the airmen of 460 Squadron struck… but did not return. In fact, the Squadron suffered by far the highest casualty rate of any Australian unit in WWII: out of around 2700 airmen who served in the Squadron, more than 1000 were killed in action – 589 of those being Australians. 181 aircraft were lost on operations in the four years of the Squadron’s existence.
One of 460 Squadron’s aeroplanes survives. It is, of course, W4783 G for George, today forming the centrepiece of the Australian War Memorial’s Striking by Night sound and light exhibit. It is an extremely impressive memorial. And in Queensland, under a tree near Brisbane Airport, those three plaques also help ensure that the deeds of this Squadron are not forgotten.
© 2012 Adam Purcell