Posts Tagged 'Sydney'

Anzac Day in Sydney 2017

I was in Sydney as usual for Anzac Day in April – more than a month ago, I know. I’ve been away and then concentrating on other priorities ever since, so I’m only just getting around to posting a few photos.

Along with Bryan Cook I was, once again, honoured to carry the banner for the 463-467 Squadrons Association along the shortened march route down Elizabeth Street. Just one veteran from the group participated in the march, the unsinkable Don Southwell, and he was in a wheelchair. The time is soon approaching when we will no longer have any veterans taking part with us. Until that day, though, I’m happy to continue carrying the banner – but there can’t be too many more to come.

There were several veterans marching with the Bomber Command Association in Australia group, and one or two other squadrons. One of my favourite moments of the day was watching and listening on as, positioned in their wheelchairs in a small circle they all chewed the fat while we waited to form up:

The rather amazing Frank Dell, who was shot down in a Mosquito over Germany one night in 1944. He walked to Holland and actively worked with the Dutch Resistance for the remainder of the war.

149 Sqn Flight Engineer Tommy Knox – a man I’m proud to call a friend

Don Southwell and Keith Campbell looking on as Frank Dell signs an impressive print of a Mosquito 

The march officially concluded on Liverpool St, literally around the corner from the Pullman Hotel where we were to have lunch. So Brian and I simply kept on going, leading Don and his wheelchair in our own private parade, right to the door of the hotel!

Four veterans graced us for lunch, and as usual I made sure I got photos of them:

Don Southwell

Bill Purdy

Keith Campbell

Alan Buxton

The lunch was of the usual high standard put on by the Pullman, and I was asked afterwards to say a few words about my experiences collecting interviews for the IBCC project. This was the first time I’d spoken about some of the stories I’ve gathered (and some of the stories about what happened when I gathered them) and I think it was well received.

And then after lunch, Bryan and I retired to a pub in The Rocks for a scotch and soda each. The barmaid raised an eyebrow at the odd combination, but understood once we’d explained.

You see, scotch and soda was the favoured drink of a much-missed Lancaster pilot named Don Huxtable.

I suspect we might have started a nice little Anzac Day tradition…

Jim Bateman

Tony Adams

Tony and David Kingsford-Smith

Members of the Australian Army Cadets Band once again came into the lunch venue to play a few tunes

Frank Dell tells some of his amazing story to David Davine, who spends his spare time looking for veterans to sign some magnificent prints of paintings of aeroplanes… a TV crew looks on.

 

(c) 2017 Adam Purcell

Bomber Command in Sydney, June 2014

While many of the Bomber Command veterans who still live in Sydney travelled down to Canberra for the commemorations held there in early June, a small number attended a ceremony held at the Cenotaph in Martin Place in the middle of the city. I’m still waiting for ‘official’ photos from one of the organisers but, in the meantime, here are three photos from the 460 Squadron Veterans and Friends Group, courtesy of committee member Ray Berghouse.

460 Squadron veteran Fred Sargeant with his wreath

460 Squadron veteran Fred Sargeant with his wreath

Fred Sargeant laying 460 wreath

Fred Sargeant laying the 460 Squadron wreath at the Cenotaph

A rare photo of the four Bomber Command banners together in Sydney: Left to right, they represent 460 Squadron, the Bomber Command Association, 463/467 Squadrons and 462/466 Squadrons.

A rare photo of the four Bomber Command banners together in Sydney: Left to right, they represent 460 Squadron, the Bomber Command Association, 463/467 Squadrons and 462/466 Squadrons.

 

Images passed on to me via Richard Munro, Honourary Historian, 460 Squadron Veterans and Friends Group.

ANZAC Day 2013

Sydney turned on an absolute sparkler for ANZAC Day yesterday. The sky was clear, blue and brilliant, it was warm in the sun (but with that delicious autumn chill to the air in the shade) and the air was almost perfectly still. Perfect conditions, then, for an ANZAC Day march.

I flew up from Melbourne early, catching the fast, clean and efficient (but horribly expensive) airport train into the city centre and arriving with enough time to spare to walk around and enjoy the atmosphere for a little while. The contingents from some current naval ships in particular, stepping off as I crossed Castlereagh Street, displayed some very impressive marching. I headed for Elizabeth Street and the usual starting point for the Air Force veterans.

At first, I couldn’t find many from 463-467 Squadrons. But then the banner arrived, safe in the care of Bryan Cook, and suddenly they all melted out of the crowd:Setting up the Banner

In all there were six veterans marching, with one more traveling along the march route in a truck provided by the Australian Army. They were Don Browning, Hugh McLeod, Don Huxtable, Bill Purdy, Don Southwell and George Douglass, with Harry Brown in the truck. As usual, shortly after setting off from Elizabeth St we reached King St… and stopped, again, for about forty minutes:

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I placed my end of the banner in the safe hands of veteran pilot and rear gunner Hugh McLeod for a few moments, and quickly snapped a photo of an animated conversation which was taking place between Bill Purdy, David Southwell and Don Browning (who had again come prepared for the long wait with his own walking-stick-with-inbuilt-stool):

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As much as we complain about the delay I’ve found in the last few years that it’s during this stop that some of the best conversation happens among those marching. And this year we were joined at this point by a group of people wearing kilts and carrying bagpipes and drums who inserted themselves into the column in front of us. They looked suspiciously like a pipe band… They turned out to be the Castle Hill RSL Pipe Band, who had already ‘done their bit’ making one round of the march course earlier in the day. But one of their members was also marching in memory of a relation with the 466-462 Squadron Association, which was the unit in front of us. So they decided to support him and ‘go round again’. All of which worked in our favour. They sounded superb, and at the end of the march I overheard Don Southwell exclaim, “That was the best march of recent years…. we were all in step!

A friend was watching the ABC Television coverage of the march and spotted us as we went past the cameras. He later sent me a photograph he had taken of his screen:

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At the conclusion of the march I tried to find the band to thank them for their music but they had done like pipers generally do and taken off in a hurry to the nearest pub. Meanwhile, we headed across the road for lunch at the Pullman Hotel, the same venue as has been used in the last couple of years. Once again, the food was great, the service attentive and the conversation outstanding. I was lucky enough to find myself on a table in the company of no fewer than three of our veterans (Don Huxtable, Hugh McLeod and George Douglass). At one point, Association President Don Browning was telling a story about a raid he was on, with appropriate deadpan asides added from Don Huxtable who had been on the same trip (“I recall the weather was awful… do you remember that Don?” “Fifty-foot ceiling, mate!”). When Browning related that his bomb aimer had called for them to go around again, I heard a grim chuckle from Hugh: “I’ve experienced that too…” There were stories flying left right and centre and it was a very enjoyable afternoon. We were again joined by the young musicians of the Australian Army Cadet Band, who played a few numbers and got a certain old pilot to drum along with them:

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In all, a really good day. There were lots of familiar faces to catch up with, and a few new people to talk to as well. I even met Col Edwards, whose uncle was Bob Coward, a 463 Squadron mid-upper gunner who was killed over Holland in 1944. Col first got in touch with me through the Lancaster Archive Forum and again through a comment on this blog. Bob Coward’s crew took a second dickie pilot along with them on one of their operations. The pilot? One Don Huxtable, who at yesterday’s lunch was sitting at the same table as Col, three seats along.

A few further photos from the day follow. Click on the image for full-size.

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A top day, and well worth the flying visit to Sydney. I’ll be back next year.

(c) 2013 Adam Purcell

Four posts in a week! There will consequently be a short delay before I publish the next update on SomethingVeryBig. Next post is due on May 10.

ANZAC Day 2012

ANZAC Day dawned cold and wet in Melbourne. The conditions didn’t stop 35,000 people attending the Dawn Service at the Shrine of Remembrance. I wasn’t one of them, though – instead, I got on board a Virgin jet and headed towards the north.

Descending into Sydney, the city looked an absolute picture. It was one of those sparkling autumn days that I don’t think you really get anywhere else in the world. Only the whitecaps on the rolling seas hinted at the presence of some wind.

I caught the train into the city. Emerging from the pedestrian tunnels out of St James station, I smelt rosemary and heard marching drums somewhere in the depths of the city. Yes, the March was well and truly underway.

The Air Force veterans traditionally hit the circuit around 11am so I had a bit of time to spare. A marching band moved past, its mighty horns echoing off the skyscrapers. Walking out of the tunnels I spied a familiar figure. It was Tommy Knox, a Stirling flight engineer from 149 Squadron who I had met in Canberra last year. He was clutching a free cup of tea that he’d been given by Legacy volunteers at the train station. I’d received a letter from Tommy just a couple of days before. We had a quick chat before he hurried off to find the rest of the ‘Odd Bods’, the group he marches with.

Returning to Elizabeth Street, I patrolled up and down the assembling throng, looking for people I knew. The first veteran I recognised was Hugh McLeod, a 49 Sqn rear gunner who, at “eighty seven and a half” says he is one of the youngest in the group. Hugh was adopted by the 463-467 Sqn Association some years ago and now joins them for the march and lunch each year. Once the banner arrived, safe in the care of Bryan Cook whose grandfather was a 463 Sqn mid upper gunner, it became the focal point and more familiar faces detached themselves from the growing crowd. In recent years it has become something of a tradition for Bryan and I to carry the banner for the Squadrons and we were again honoured to do so this year.

Only six veterans actually marched this year. Even the indefatigable Don Southwell was absent, having pulled a hamstring recently. He rode in an RSL-provided Land Rover instead. The rest of the bunch was made up by numerous families and friends of veterans, numbering perhaps a couple of dozen in all.

Some photos of the march:

After setting off up Elizabeth Street, we turned down Market Street– where, as has become normal each year, we halted for perhaps half an hour to avoid congestion further down the route. President of the Association Don Browning came prepared, wielding one of those walking sticks with a built-in stool. The other three in this photo took advantage of a handy window sill:

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Meanwhile the wind had picked up. While we were waiting to continue Bryan and I had a good chat with Hugh, our 49 Sqn rear gunner, while he clung gamely to one of the banner’s guy ropes to keep it under control in the breeze:

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Following the march, lunch was at the Sydney Marriott hotel, on the other side of Hyde Park. Once again it was a superb meal. 48 people were present, including the same ten veterans who we had last year. Again a group photograph was organised (ignore the two young blokes holding the banner up in the background!):

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Left to right, they are Don Southwell, David Skinner, Bill Purdy, Alan Buxton, Hugh McLeod, George Douglass, Don Huxtable, Don Browning, Albert Wallace and Harry Brown.

Five of these distinguished gentlemen will be travelling to London in late June for the dedication of the new Bomber Command Memorial in Hyde Park.

During lunch I sat next to Alan Buxton, a navigator. Alan never flew operationally with 467 Sqn – he actually flew his tour with 617 Sqn, the famed Dambusters. In late 1944 he baled out of his crippled Lancaster over Norwich after a harrowing return trip across the Channel with all four engines ablaze, a story hinted at by the tiny golden caterpillar badge with ruby red eyes that he was wearing on his tie. He proudly showed me his Caterpillar Club membership card, which he still carries in his wallet. After VE Day Alan was posted to 467 Sqn at Metheringham, in preparation for the planned Tiger Force operations against Japan. Thankfully the war ended before they were required to fight in that theatre. Alan appears in this photo on the left:

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And so another ANZAC Day passes. It is always wonderful to see these blokes each year, and long may it continue. President Don Browning made a toast to absent friends during the lunch – but added that, as long as there was someone to carry the banner, there would be someone to march with it, and so the spirit of the two Squadrons will live on.

© 2012 Adam Purcell

ANZAC Day 2011

ANZAC Day lives on.

Despite age taking its toll, and in defiance of the rather wet weather, eight 463-467 Sqn veterans took part in the Sydney march on Monday with a group of ten or fifteen descendents and family members following behind. The rain, threatening all morning, held off for the most part while we were marching.

While the rain did fall at times, it failed to keep the crowds away. George St was lined four or five people deep for most of its length as we marched past. I think this fact alone is proof that ANZAC Day remains relevant and keeps its place in the hearts of many Australians.

Ten veterans were at the lunch that followed the march. Left to right, they were: David Skinner, Alan Buxton, Hugh McLeod, Don Southwell, Bill Purdy, Albert Wallace, Harry Brown, Don Browning, George Douglass, Don Huxtable.

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But the nature of the commemoration of ANZAC Day will and must change. The men who fought in WWI are no more. And the men who fought WWII are getting on a bit. Before too many more years have gone by, there will be noone left who ‘was there’. So it will fall to the younger generation to ensure that these men – in the main, ordinary lads living in extraordinary times – and what they did is not forgotten. I’m always touched by the sentiments of the veterans I speak with on ANZAC Day. They are pleased as punch that there are younger people present, at both the march and the lunch. I think they are happy to know that someone will carry the banner down George St, long after they have gone. For me, as one of those younger people, hearing this is rather humbling.

Want further proof that there is a new generation of people remembering? Half way through lunch on ANZAC Day, a group of 20 young musicians entered. 11apr-anzac-day-017 copy

They were the Australian Army Cadets Band and had been playing a few numbers at some of the other ANZAC Day lunches that were taking place around the city. They had a mighty sound and were a wonderful surprise for all present. Lest we forget, indeed!

© 2011 Adam Purcell