Farmer, pilot remembered
The Southern Riverina is this week remembering Gordon Pyle as a generous man with a great sense of humour following his death on Thursday.
He died following a prolonged battle with ill health.
His daughter Robin described him as a farmer and a true academic, saying he represented the ‘‘perfect balance of a human being’’.
‘‘He had empathy, he had class, but most of all he had a presence when he walked into a room without even trying,’’ Robin said.
‘‘He was never a ‘try hard’ though, he was a natural.’’
Despite his health battles later in life, Gordon’s wife Jean said the 94 year-old lived a fulfilling life in and around Finley, where he was born on June 3, 1921.
He was the third generation of the family to live in the Southern Riverina, with his grandfather James first selecting land in Berrigan in 1879. Coincidently, it was the same year bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang descended on Jerilderie.
Gordon’s father Robert had drawn a block on the Tuppal settlement, out of Finley, where Gordon spent his early days until his father bought ‘Ellangownan’ — a property in the Blighty area in 1924.
Gordon stayed there until he finished school. He attended primary school in Finley and, because there was no high school in Finley at the time, completed secondary school at Yanco Ag College. He was a prefect at Yanco and had success in the school’s rugby squad.
Out of school, and soon after meeting his beloved Jean, Gordon joined the war effort.
He joined the 20th Regiment Finley Troop of the Light Horsemen from before the war and, at the age of 19 and at the outbreak of World War II, he applied for Air Crew Training in 1940.
He was a Flight Lieutenant and active in ‘D-Day’ efforts, during which his plane was shot when he was coming back over the coast of London.
Miraculously, his plane glided to the ground and he survived. For this, he was awarded a prestigious Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).
In total, he did 34 tours in 50 Squadron and when that was finished, he volunteered two trips in the 4th, 6th and 7th Squadron and was later a Tiger Force WWII Bomber Command in the UK.
Speaking about his war experiences as part of the 2005-06 Conargo Shire Oral History Collection, Gordon said the men in his Squadron — chosen while they were playing a game of pool in Skellingthorpe, UK— were a mix of those ‘‘plucked off the plough or out of the saddle” with the more traditional English “silver tailed Oxford undergraduates.”
In a 2012 ceremony to commemorate the service and sacrifice of Australians who served and died in Bomber Command from 1939-1945, Gordon reunited with Squadron member Flying Officer Noble Frankland.
The historian, biographer and director-general of the imperial arms museum from 1960-1982 featured Gordon in his book History at War.
At home, Jean waited patiently for Gordon to return from war, and they soon started a family welcoming Robin and Greg. They were married 64 years and had two grandchildren, Anna and Gordon.
Jean said she was proud of her husband’s efforts overseas, and said he returned to become a great community and family man.
‘‘He was a very good husband and we got on very well,’’ she said.
‘‘I was very lucky having him and hope he thought the same of me.
‘‘Anna and Gordon were exceptionally close and she’s spent a lot of time with him . . . she’s a great kid. I remember when she was a baby, we had to look after her while Robin was hosting a party in Ulladulla.
‘‘Gordon proudly paraded baby Anna down the street and he came back beaming and told me that all the ladies were making a fuss over her — he adored her.’’
Farming and animals were a great passion for Gordon, who worked the family’s St Ronans home block out of Finley.
He also developed a strong passion for horses, which led to him helping build show jumping courses around the country.
At St Ronans, he hosted a well-known three day horse event that even garnered participants such as Olympic rider Andrew Hoy, who reportedly broke his tooth on the course.
‘‘He loved his horses and even designed the champion courses for Berrigan, Finley and Deniliquin shows,’’ daughter Robin said.
Gordon also loved his Cats; the Finley and Geelong Cats that is.
If he wasn’t playing for the Finley Football Club, he was always there to help out, Jean said.
‘‘He adored football whether it was the Finley or Geelong Cats, he just loved it,’’ his wife recalled.
Football seemed to be a family affair, and Gordon even played a few games with Blighty where his brother Bob, having founded the club, was the inaugural captain.
Later in life, Gordon was made a life member of the Finley Show Society and Finley Pony Club.
Upon retiring from the farm 23 years ago, Jean and Gordon moved into Finley where they remained.