Trib­ute to air he­roes

Rachel Ri­ley

Townsville Bulletin - - DEFENDERS - RACHEL RI­LEY

A MOV­ING cer­e­mony, in­clud­ing the lay­ing of wreaths and the bless­ing of plaques, has been held to com­mem­o­rate the 75th an­niver­sary of a num­ber of World War II events in Townsville, in­clud­ing the for­ma­tion of RAAF squadrons in the city dur­ing the war.

The year 1942 was a crit­i­cal time for Townsville.

The threat of in­va­sion loomed large, and the city un­der­went a trans­for­ma­tion into one of the big­gest air bases in the South Pa­cific.

New RAAF squadrons were formed in Townsville – No. 75 Squadron, No. 33 Squadron and No. 41 Squadron – and sup­port units such as No. 5 Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Unit and No. 1 Wire­less Unit.

Be­tween July 25 and 29, 1942, nine bombs were dropped on Townsville by long- range Ja­panese fly­ing boats. There were three sep­a­rate raids, with no dam­age.

How­ever, it brought the war to Townsville’s doorstep.

Yes­ter­day’s cer­e­mony in­cluded the bless­ing of plaques, one recog­nis­ing the crash of Em­pire Fly­ing Boat A18- 12 from No. 33 Squadron on Fe­bru­ary 27, 1942 and one com­mem­o­rat­ing the crash of a mod­i­fied Beau­fort air­craft A9- 733 from No. 5 Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Unit on Novem­ber 15, 1945.

The guest of hon­our was World War II veteran Keith Nor­ton, 93, of Townsville, who served with No. 12 Squadron RAAF in New Guinea and Bor­neo.

It also fea­tured a pho­to­graphic dis­play show­cas­ing the RAAF squadrons formed in Townsville, the bomb­ing of Townsville, the es­tab­lish­ment of the United States’ 5th Air Force in North Queens­land and the es­tab­lish­ment of No. 2 Air De­pot, United States Army Air Corps in Townsville.

RAAF Base Townsville Se­nior ADF Of­fi­cer Wing Com­man­der Phil God­frey said it was an hon­our to meet Mr Nor­ton and at­tend the cer­e­mony.

“It’s most im­por­tant that we stop to re­mem­ber those who paid the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice for the free­doms we’ve got to­day,” he said.

“The base in Townsville, was a strate­gic air­head in World War II and was vi­tal to the de­fence of Aus­tralia as it was a key lo­ca­tion to win­ning back Pa­pua New Guinea and the west Pa­cific.

“To­day, we are the launch pad for north­east­ern Aus­tralia and an im­por­tant hub for hu­man­i­tar­ian re­lief and re­cov­ery ef­forts lo­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally.”

LEST WE FOR­GET: Wing Com­man­der Phil God­frey with World War II veteran Keith Nor­ton of Black River.

Rev Dr Wayne Mel­rose, chap­lain for the RAAF As­so­ci­a­tion.

Nae Bum­ford, Mu­si­cian Jaiden Red­man, Mu­si­cian Steven Pic­ture: WESLEY MONTS

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