Tribute to air heroes
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.”