The 463-467 Squadrons Association (NSW) holds a luncheon every November, on the Sunday after Remembrance Day. For as long as anyone can remember it’s taken place in the rather classy surroundings of the Killara Golf Club in Sydney’s North Shore, and this year was no different. I was able to wrangle the day off work so I flew up from Melbourne last Sunday to attend.
I was staying at my sister’s place in Marrickville so I travelled to Killara by train, walking to the station in teeming rain. One of the stops along the way was Town Hall and here I noticed a tall, slim older gent and a middle-aged woman among the passengers getting on the train. I caught a fleeting glimpse of his tie and it looked rather familiar. They sat across the aisle from me in an otherwise nearly empty top deck compartment and continued the conversation they had been engaged in when they boarded the train. First I overheard the word ‘Killara’, then, a little later, ‘Southwell.’
Clearly, I decided, we were going to the same place. So I moved across the seat and introduced myself. The older gent was Tom Hopkinson, a 463 Squadron mid-upper gunner. He was up from Canberra for the function, staying with his second cousin Pamela who was travelling on the train with him. We had a great little chat on the way and while sheltering from the rain waiting for our lift to arrive at the station to take us to the golf club. It’s not very far away and last year, I thought to myself, I got sunburnt as I walked it…
A nice little crowd had gathered in the atrium area when we arrived. Most of the usual suspects were around, though there had been one or two cancellations as a result of the weather (it was still bucketing down outside).
The next couple of hours saw some good conversation amongst forty-odd guests with twelve veterans in total present. I found myself seated between Ron Houghton, a 102 Squadron Halifax skipper, and my frequent neighbour at these sorts of events, 49 Squadron rear gunner Hugh McLeod. The Golf Club put on a good meal again and, as is traditional, Don Browning proposed a toast to the ladies, present and elsewhere, for their support of their veteran husbands, fathers and grandfathers, which is the reason that this function is known as Ladies’ Day.
A remarkable photograph followed. By my count we had three pilots, a navigator, a bomb aimer, three wireless operators, two mid-upper gunners and two rear gunners in the group. Between them they covered almost every position in a typical heavy bomber crew. Unfortunately there were very few Australian flight engineers, and none were present here or I would have suggested we find ourselves a Lancaster and go flying.
Seated, left to right: Ron Houghton (102 Squadron Halifax pilot), Don Huxtable (463 Squadron pilot), Don Browning (463 Squadron wireless operator), Harry Brown (467 Squadron wireless operator)
Standing, left to right: Hugh McLeod (49 Squadron rear gunner), Roy Pegler (467 Squadron bomb aimer), Max Barry (463 Squadron rear gunner), Albert Wallace (467 Squadron mid-upper gunner), Ross Pearson (102 Squadron wireless operator/air gunner), Bill Purdy (463 Squadron pilot), Tom Hopkinson (463 Squadron mid-upper gunner), Don Southwell (463 Squadron navigator)
I also made sure that I got a photo with Albert Wallace. In June last year I received a comment on somethingverybig.com from a veteran called Albert Wallace. Unbelievably, it was a different Albert Wallace, who lives in Canada. At the opening of the Bomber Command memorial in London earlier that year he (Canadian Albert) was amazed to meet an Australian veteran of the same name who had also been a mid-upper gunner. I helped both Alberts get in touch with each other, though unfortunately they did not get a photo with both of them together!
Left to right, in this photo we have Ron Houghton, Hugh McLeod, Albert Wallace and myself.
A couple of photos to finish off, then. Bryan Cook and Don Huxtable:
Hux had a minor heart attack a few months ago but though he looks a little more frail than I have seen him in recent years it clearly has not affected his mischievous nature. Here he is clowning about before the group photo:
Again, a great little function and well worth making the trip up from Melbourne. I’ll be back next year.
© 2013 Adam Purcell