STATEMENTS ON INDULGENCE:70th Anniversary of the Operations of Bomber Command

Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (12:14): They were in many ways the forgotten heroes of World War II, perhaps due to high civilian casualties from bombing campaigns against the German mainland to disrupt industrial weapons production and German air force operations. However, in the words of the great British Prime Minister Winston Churchill:

The fighters are our salvation but the bombers alone provide the means of victory. 

That they did. 

Ten thousand Australians served in Bomber Command during World War II. Up to 3,500 were killed in action and 650 were killed in training accidents in Britain. Of the 125,000 total aircrew serving in Bomber Command, a total of around 55,000 made the supreme sacrifice on operations. 

More Australians were killed in the Bomber Command than any other service during World War II. It was not until five years ago that Australia commemorated Bomber Command, and on 28 June 2012 Queen Elizabeth II fittingly unveiled a monument in London's Green Park. The thousands of men killed were finally recognised and it was the first chance in almost 70 years for surviving crew to recognise their fallen friends formally. At the ceremony Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Stephen Dalton, said Bomber Command's 'service and raw courage' had been acknowledged, and how appropriate that was. Some 6,000 veterans and families of the deceased from Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand watched a Lancaster bomber drop thousands of poppies in a fly-past. It was a momentous and memorable moment for those who attended the ceremony. 

Unfortunately, initially the government was only going to fund fully eight veterans to attend this unveiling of the long-awaited Bomber Command memorial and only part-fund a further 40 ex-pilots, officers or tail gunners. Thankfully, the government saw the good sense to send more Australians. There are not that many of them left, but those who went certainly came back with great memories and great tales to tell. They felt as though their service, their honour and the sacrifice of their mates had been duly recognised. 

Due to ill health, one of Riverina's bravest, former air gunner in the 186th RAF Squadron Jim Mallinson from Griffith, was unable to attend the June ceremony but he has many fond memories of the squadron he fought with in the Royal Air Force Bomber Command. Jim Mallinson was an air gunner in the 186th RAF Squadron in 1944, surviving a remarkable 39 missions. It is people such as Jim who need to be praised forevermore for the tasks he and his colleagues performed, which helped enormously to bring about victory in Europe. 

Professor Hank Nelson, a highly respected Pacific historian who wrote Chased by the sun: courageous Australians in Bomber Command in World War II, published by ABC Books in 2002, also penned a paper called 'From Wagga to Waddington: Australians in Bomber Command'. This paper recounts the tale of two Riverina men, Alfred Doubleday from Yanco and William Brill from Ganmain, and their journey from kids on the farm to fighter pilots in World War II. Brill was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in May 1942 for attacking a target after his plane had been badly damaged by anti-aircraft fire. 

After acting as an instructor with the RAF, he returned to the bombing campaign in January 1944 as a flight commander with No. 463 Squadron RAAF, operating Avro Lancaster heavy bombers. Brill's leadership and determination to complete his missions despite damage to his aircraft—on one occasion inflicted by another Lancaster's bombs from above—earned him the Distinguished Service Order. Brill's Bar to his DFC was for his skill in evading three German night fighters, not an easy feat, and he was also the recipient of a Bar to his DSO. Promoted to wing commander in May 1944, he took command of No. 467 Squadron RAAF after the death in combat of its then leader, Group Captain John Balmer. Returning to Australia, he remained in uniform after the war and continued to serve the Air Force, and therefore the nation, until his death of a heart attack at the age of just 48 whilst in the Department of Air in Canberra in 1964. 

Brill, Doubleday and Mallinson, all men of extraordinary courage whose daring, derring-do, pluck and valour—helped in the difference between winning and losing the worst global conflict mankind has endured. The sacrifices of Bomber Command and the bravery shown by all in this fearless flighting force ensured that good triumphed over evil.

Cristy Houghton