Farmer, pi­lot re­mem­bered

Southern Riverina news - - FRONT PAGE - ~ So­phie Burge

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.

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