Chapter 32a


"Pat" Melican

Service Details

"Pat" was born in Townsville 1927. From Marist BrothersCollege he joined the Air Training Corps at the age of sixteen. He completed a Railwaysapprenticeship and joined the RAAF November 1947 and was posted to Iwakuni and thence 77Squadron Kimpo in 1951. Following his Korean service he was posted to Point Cook and soonafter was discharged to take up a family business appointment. He has retained hisinterest in service matters and is currently active in Legacy and the Korean VeteransAssociation.


Around the end of May, 1951, I departed for Japan from Sydney, beingthe only RAAF member on board a DC4 Skymaster which was loaded up with Oz Army blokes,most of them leaving Australia for the first time, as I was. It's difficult to rememberaccurately but I think we stopped at Darwin for dinner and at Labuan in Borneo forbreakfast and a welcome shower. Before take-off, we saw a pair of DH Mosquitoes leavingand looking very impressive overhead on their way to somewhere. Our course took us closeto Brunei and our attention was drawn to the armada of small boats and ships converging onBrunei, also the name of the capital, where the Sultan was about to be married. We were onour way to Hong Kong, landing there late in the afternoon. After a quick shower and shaveat the International Hotel at Kowloon, most of us set off to have a look at the fabulousand famous island of HK. I had chummed up with a young soldier from Townsville and we wentsight-seeing together. We decided to dine at an authentic Chinese restaurant and what wereceived was an abomination in the mouths of men and the sight of God so we moved on andate the kind of Chinese food we were accustomed to getting at home at another place calledthe "California Cafe", which happened to be the name of the place in Sydneywhere I had a meal with "Bluey" Carr a couple of days earlier. We had beenwarned before leaving Sydney that we were not allowed to take more than five pounds of Ozcurrency out of the country so I had replaced some forty quid in my passbook accountbefore I left. The inherent impulse to Do the Right Thing and my natural concern to avoidupsetting my country's economy made me stand out from all the others as the only onestupid enough to go abroad with nothing more than a fiver in his pocket. Everything was socomparatively cheap and my only purchase was a silver bracelet for Aileen. Somehow, mymate and I got friendly with a pair of Yank sailors in the "California Cafe" andthey joined us in our wandering. Before leaving the soldiers at the Hotel in Kowloon, oneof them, an ex RAN member oddly nicknamed "Sailor", suggested that we all meetfor a drink at the Hotel Metropole which was easily found as it had a big neon sign on theroof. Eventually we stumbled upon it and went to the door marked "Entrance" andread the sign that beckoned the unwary (us!) to savour the high-class food and the musicof famous American bands. The entrance was small but then, all lift doors are small. Wewere soon to discover that the Hotel Metropole was no more than a very large room at thetop of the building, the fine food could be seen in preparation, being sandwicheshurriedly made by a pair of aged Chinese gents, while yet another was busy winding up agramophone on which he played the classic music of the Dorseys, Glenn Miller, Kay Kayseretc. The patrons were about evenly divided between sailors of the US and Australiannavies, most of them dancing with local girls on the crowded floor. We four sat at a tablewith our beers and not long after, for some reason undiscovered at the time, a brawlstarted between the two navies. My guess, as it is now, would be that it had something todo with one of the girls, all of whom quickly vacated the dance floor and so gave theseafarers ample manoeuvering space to release their new-found hostility. Our Yank tablecompanions looked at us, we all four shrugged our shoulders and assumed the roles ofspectators until the US Shore Patrol arrived. Time was moving on and we fare-welled theYanks and set out for the Star Ferry and the short voyage back to Kowloon. We had alreadydecided to return to the Hotel by rickshaw but my friend, with a problem that only accessto a toilet would solve, opted for a taxi. I took the nearest rickshaw and informed theoperator of my desired destination. We had not reached cruising speed before he asked meif I'd like to meet one of the local girls. Being a long, long way from home and freshlyaware that 'you never know your luck (good or bad) in a big city' - the stern warningwords of the Army captain in charge of the soldiers on the draft to Japan were stillringing in my ears - I politely declined. He assured me that the girls possessed allmanner of charming attractions and this time I firmly declined. He persisted further,telling me that they were especially well disposed towards us lads from Oz and I feltobliged to show my disinterest by shouting at him, "I don't like girls!". Thisdidn't have the deflating effect on him that I'd expected because the penny, so hethought, had dropped and he half-turned, leering with all the understanding that hisone-track mind could contain, to offer the alternative invitation to "meet a niceboy". I could see that any further conversation with this operator would be a wasteof time so I decided to give him a lecture on the system of apprentice training inQueensland and I was going quite well when we came to an intersection lit by one smallbulb that would have been struggling to produce twenty-five watts. At the same time, astream of rickshaws were about to cross the intersection at right angles to me and I hearda voice shout, "Is that you, Air Force?" which I acknowledged and was thereuponcordially invited to join the procession of Army-occupied rickshaws to a place where"some of our blokes are in a bit of strife". Within a couple of minutes, wearrived at another intersection where an argument between several of 'our blokes' and agroup of the local heathens suddenly turned into a brawl. This was the manner of myinitiation into the manly art of street-fighting which is something you have to pick up'as you go along'. There's nowhere you can go to learn about it: they don't conductcourses at any of the sporting centres. As a beginner, two things struck me. The first wasa Chinese fist to my forehead and the second was that the influence of the Marquis ofQueensbury's famous Rules had not yet reached this dimly lit patch of the Asian continent.I had no idea whether I or any of us would finish up dead in the harbour or whether eachof the combatant sides would emerge satisfied that the other side had received a welldeserved thumping. Fortunately, it didn't last long enough to reach any conclusion becausethe Seventh Cavalry, in the form of eight Hong Kong policemen and a white officer, arrivedin two jeeps and dispersed us in less than a minute. The Chinese dissolved into thedarkness and we returned to our waiting rickshaws, where the operators were patientlyhoping that they'd be paid eventually, and again sallied forth into the night. Naturally,I was putting up a bold front in spite of an uneasy feeling that I knew would notdisappear until I reached that safe haven called the International Hotel.

Part of the process of going to a posting abroad is being inoculatedand vaccinated and in my case, this was carried out at the Base hospital at RAAF StationRichmond, my point of departure. Loitering in the transit pool was a friend from PointCook, a fellow airframe fitter named Keith Ballard who was also on his way to Japan. Weboth attended the required 'ceremony' in the hospital and in the event, my vaccinationappeared unsatisfactory to the medical F/Sgt. and so it was repeated and declared asuccess two days later. This meant that I wasn't able to go to Japan with Keith and so hadto wait for the next departure. Getting us there and back was in the safe hands of Qantas.It happened that one of the stewards on our DC4 was the brother of another airframe fitterat Point Cook who rejoiced in his locally awarded nickname of "Tozzer". Onreturning to the Hotel from our brief odyssey on the Island, I showed him the braceletthat I had bought for Aileen. He asked what I paid for it, I told him, he asked what theshopkeeper had asked for it and I told him that was what I paid. He was horrified at bothmy lack of sophistication and refreshing innocence in discovering that I didn't attempt tobargain with the man. I admitted my ignorance and was heartened by his offer to give mesome tuition in this art when we went over to HK for a second look around next day. Thiswas possible because we had a twenty-four hour delay to acknowledge and show our respectfor a typhoon rampaging in the China Sea between us and Japan. Next day, on our way to theStar Ferry, we paused outside a shop which had both its display windows completely full ofwatches. He told me to pick a watch which I did and which had a value equivalent to fortypounds. He called the Indian shopkeeper to the door and asked what was the lowest pricehe'd take for it, just like that. The Indian, not slow to notice my companion's Qantasuniform, said whatever was the equivalent of twelve pounds. I could hardly believe my earsas we thanked him and went on our way. Our way took us past a barber shop where we had ashave, haircut , shampoo and scalp massage which set me back the princely sum of twoshillings and sixpence Australian. Included in this was the cup of tea and the assortedcigarettes we enjoyed as we waited to be given the treatment.

By lunch time, we had parted company and I went for a stroll around thestreets which were full of shops offering wide ranges of practically anything salable. Inmost cases, goods on display had marked prices and you could forget about buying from theshops where no prices were shown. I have a vivid memory of standing outside such a shop,staring at the goods displayed in the windows, when the reflection showed a big black carcoming to a halt behind me, a Rolls-Royce, of course. The chauffeur opened the car doorand out stepped an old Chinese lady, dressed to kill, followed by two beautifuldaughter-type girls wearing the cheongsams that China is famous for. It was 'eyes frontand single file' into the shop without even a glance at the foreign serviceman making thefootpath look untidy. I also recall that there were a lot of touts for the money changerswho operated out of narrow "hole in the wall" premises in surprisingly largenumbers. I often wondered if the percentage of business failures among the locals was lessthan among their counterparts in other countries. On the evening of our arrival, a hordeof tailors were measuring some of the soldiers for suits of English fabrics and ready fordelivery next morning. I forget the cost but recall that it was very cheap by Ozstandards.

Next day, we were off to Japan, arriving there during the afternoon andthere was my friend, Keith Ballard, standing on the tarmac and functioning as a welcomingcommittee of one. As greetings were exchanged, I was becoming aware of a Bad Smell whichjust missed qualifying as a Stench. Keith told me that it came from the enormous acreageof paddyfields between the Base and the city of Iwakuni. These paddyfields were fertilizedby the collected human excrement from the local area and that's just what it smelled like.I was not heartened by his assurance that the smell would no longer be noticed after twoday's residence but mercifully he proved to be correct. In his kindness, Keith had foundme a room in the Airmen's' Mess to share with three others whose living andbehavioural standards were no worse than mine, so he said. These were Beck, Boyd andMiller and three more agreeable blokes it would be hard to find. Boyd was in SignalsSection and was subject to shift work but it all fitted in nicely and created no problem.What was a problem was his incredible snoring. Few things are as likely to inspire men toremedy this problem by committing homicide upon the source of their nocturnal misery andBoyd was always genuinely contrite about his uncontrollable sin. So much so that he neverexpressed any sort of objection to our only recourse in restoring peace to our allottedspace by throwing slightly heavy blunt objects at him and his bed. Generally, this waseffective for a couple of hours and the reason we three kept oranges close at hand, thesebeing Boyd's preferred missiles.

Getting cleared onto the base was a process that differed only to theextent of the requirement to be given stern lectures about the dangers lurking outside theBase that could cause grave harm to an airman's morals and health. These meant visits tothe Padre and the Service Police. The padre was my old friend, S/L Dave Beyer, who waspleased to hear of my engagement and who very kindly spared me his lecture and took meinto see the Service Police where, on his advice, they exempted me from theirs.

Life in the Airmens' Mess was going to be a new and pleasantexperience. I discovered that our quarters were serviced by Japanese room-boys who carriedout their duties efficiently. These included keeping our rooms and everything else in"Inspection" order daily, meaning polished floors and corridors, windows, brassdoorknobs, showers and toilets to that level of perfection one would expect to find in thesort of hotel that none of us could ever afford to grace with our presence anyway. Herewas an Air Force where Panic Night was a thing of the past - and there was more. Theroom-boys attended to our laundry and all of these amenities were provided by JapaneseReparations funds. For the average airman, it was just like having one foot in Paradise.

On arrival at Iwakuni, I found that a lot of old colleagues from PointCook were there as were a number of pilots from Nos. 1 and 2 Courses with whom we were allwell acquainted. Accordingly, a 'gathering of the Point Cook clan' was arranged in theAirmens' Bar on this, my first night on strength. Several sergeant pilots and a couple ofofficer pilots attended and a great talkfest ensued during which we exchanged all mannerof relevant news about each other since our various last meetings. Dave Beyer was invitedbut a previous commitment prevented us from enjoying his excellent company and goodhumour. This was also the occasion of another discovery about an airman's sojourn inIwakuni. I had arrived on June 1st and Summer in that hemisphere was well under way. Beer,in the Airmens' Mess, was cold to begin with and was served in frosted glasses bywhite-jacketed waiters. It was 'Asahi' beer and according to the label had been brewedespecially for the British Occupation Forces with a very low alcohol content. For thosewho were unaccustomed to beer drinking as a hobby or pastime, this was good news becausethere was virtually no after-effect. Time, as usual, moved on and the dreaded hour of 10PM crept up on us. The bar closed and as we were about to scurry off to our beds, DickBessell remembered that he had a 24-pack carton of American Pabst beer in his room in theSergeants' Mess and invited us to help him drink some or all of it, provided we couldinvade that semi-hallowed place without making a noise. There were about a dozen of us whoaccepted and we were soon ensconced in Dick's room where the talkfest continued until someasked Dick to "get The Book". This turned out to be something like a loose-leaffolder in which Dick, over a period of years, had recorded the salient features of everyGood Joke he ever heard. One of the sad things about really good jokes is that they arenot always remembered and having learned this all-important Lesson of Life, he endeavouredto record such stories in precis form for future and ready reference. The Book was broughtforth and Dick regaled us with some of the best stories we'd ever heard and our laughter,mixed inextricably with the merriment we had on board when we left the Airmens' Mess, washeard by the Chairman of the Mess Committee, an ageing Warrant Officer of theMeteorological Section who, clad in his dressing gown, knocked on Dick's door and soonpeered at us over the glasses on his nose as he intoned, "Gentlemen, this is neitherthe time nor the place for a party" and shuffled back to his room. We decided that,having had a good innings so far, the time had come to disperse and so we went our variousways.

In April 1951, 77 Squadron commenced the conversion to Gloster Mk.8Meteors and so ended its long association with the Mustangs. With my limited 'on the job'training on other aircraft, the Meteor was a whole new experience and I had thedisadvantage of being a 'young in years and service' corporal when I reported for duty at491(M) Squadron on the following day. More than a few of the airframe fitters in that unitwere of LAC rank and with twice my service but the ensuing slight resentments vanishedover the following months. The CO was a Squadron Leader whose path and mine had not yetcrossed and who appeared on odd occasions in our hangar where the WO Engineer, KenFletcher, reigned supreme. The Meteor was not constructed for ease of repair andmaintenance and learning its best and worst features was a difficult process. We workedsix days a week with Sunday free for whatever recreation and relaxation we chose. KeithBallard was already working as an evening announcer at the RAAF Auxiliary Radio Stationand recruited me to the same job. I was able to do this as well as enroll in a shortcourse of "College Algebra" with the American Information and Education Unit.This course ended a couple of days before I went to Korea. There, I discovered, thesituation was tents!

To my great delight, my very good mate, Keith "Bluey" Carr,was posted to 491 Sqdn. from Richmond where I had his company for the few days I was therebefore coming to Japan. Keith was one of the originals on No. 1 Course but was droppedwhen an eyesight deficiency was detected. He chose to remain in the RAAF and, aftertraining as an Instrument Repairer at Wagga, was posted back to Point Cook where wedeveloped a friendship that has survived until this present day. He was wonderful companyand when the evenings were free, we used to promenade around the streets of Iwakuni andtake in the sights. There were two engine mechanics in 491 who possessed Rabbit motorscooters and who were anticipating being posted back to Wagga for a fitter's course. I hadextracted a firm promise from them to sell the scooters to Keith and me when that timearrived and it came soon enough. I think we paid five pounds apiece for them. The nextstep was to get ourselves licensed to ride the scooters outside the base and this entailedthe mere passing of an eye test at the Sick Quarters. The test was carried out by an RAFmedical orderly of LAC rank whose very demeanour suggested that he hadn't been thebrightest kid in the class. I was first up. The test was to cover one eye and read oneside of a chart, then to cover the other eye and read the other side of the chart. The RAFLAC was satisfied and Carr stepped forward for his test. He covered his bad eye with hisleft hand, read the chart and then covered his bad eye, again, with his right hand andread the other side of the chart. We both received the necessary bits of paper from thenone-too-bright LAC and went on our merry way to go Rabbiting.

The Rabbit scooter was a real asset on Sundays as one could go haringoff in any reasonable direction for whatever reason and become a little better acquaintedwith the local country around Iwakuni. Keith and I went exploring and sightseeing on fouror five occasions before my sudden move across the water to Kimpo, the base where ourMeteors were situated. It was not a posting but a move known as an 'attachment' for a meretwo weeks so I put enough gear in my kitbag and something like a short flight in a DC3from 30 Transport Unit delivered me to the British Airhead at the airport of Seoul. Itshould be noted that the Rabbit was a simple machine to ride. There was no provision for apassenger as it was a comparatively small scooter. It was powered by a two-stroke engineand was equipped with a valve lifter on its single cylinder. To start, the rider depressedthe lever on the handle-bars which lifted the valve and thus prevented the build-up of anypressure in the cylinder and holding it there, ran along for a few yards, then dropped thevalve whereupon pressure built up in the cylinder and ignition occurred. The rider thenhopped on, roared off to his destination, usually at the breakneck speed of twenty mph,with the Rabbit responding to the throttle or brake. To stop, it was only necessary tooperate the valve lifter. Forward motion was governed by its Centrifugal Clutch.

77 Squadron Meteors were dispersed about two hundred yards west of therunway which ran North - South and standing on the steel matting so dear to the US AirForce. It was very good stuff, its only fault being that in severe winter conditions, andthese prevailed in Korea, the steel surface would attract a coating of ice which could bea hazard to the movement of both man and machine. The CO was Wg. Cdr. Gordon Steege and myboss was Flight Lieutenant Ernie Kalucy, ably assisted by WO Bill Cavanaugh. Things wentalong fairly well and when my two weeks were close to their end, Cavanaugh noted that Ihad settled in nicely and asked if I'd like to stay on 'a bit longer'. I said that I wouldas I liked the unit and a lot of the people in it among the pilots and ground staff andthe general atmosphere of the place. I asked for a day off to go back to Iwakuni to securemy gear and advise the Mess Secretary that I was moving out of my shared room. Here I mustdigress to tell a tale quite unconnected with Kimpo.

Well before I left Iwakuni, all members of the Airmens' Mess werecalled to a meeting and told that the Commonwealth governments had decided that Japancould now be excused from paying reparations and that this would mean that we would nolonger enjoy the services of the room boys unless we agreed to pay Mess Fees, hithertounheard of in their application to airmen. The choice was between paying these fees andhaving all the chores done for us or not paying fees and doing it all ourselves. Almost toa man, all Oz personnel agreed to pay the fees, the only refusals coming from a dozen orso RAF airmen. The fees, incidentally, amounted to ten shillings per month. What wasreally essential was the Base commander's stipulation that the agreement had to be totallyunanimous and each day, we noticed the number of names of the 'blacklegs' disappearingfrom the large notice board where they had been displayed. Eventually, only one nameremained, that of LAC Dane of the RAF. He was adamant in his refusal to conform andunshakable in his resolve to stick to his guns. He never failed to tell of how he hadransacked King's Regulations from cover to cover in a bid to discover any precedent orjustification for payment of Mess fees by airmen. No doubt he had scanned the AtlanticCharter and had a quick look at the Magna Carta as well. For some now forgotten reason, Iwas talking to the Mess Secretary, Corporal Harry Gascoigne, in his room when theabominable Dane came in, having been summoned there by Harry. Dane said that he had notchanged his mind which meant that the requirement of 'total unanimity' had not been met. Iwondered if his uncompromising attitude was the result of his feeling possessed by aninsane sense of power which this situation gave him and my musings were suddenly shockedby Harry's next move. This was to tell Dane that the Base Commander had reviewed theimpasse and for the sake of morale among the troops, the fee paying deal could proceed butthat Dane, the non-payer and therefore not entitled to be serviced in any way, would haveto be allotted a room for his sole occupancy and care. Dane was delighted to the extentthat I was horrified. Harry gave him the key to whatever the room number was and away hewent. The short statured Dane waltzed off and I knew his rejoicing would be due in part tothe rare boon of Privacy in that otherwise excellent Mess. Harry assured me that Danewould soon return and with ten shillings and this in fact was what happened. Yearsbefore, when the Mess was built, it was destined to be the Officers' Mess but because ofthe great number of rooms it contained, some wise head decided that it should go to theairmen, God bless him for that! The building is in the shape of a back-to-front letter'E', the long arm at the end running East-West. The bottom floor of this wing containedthe Airmens' Dining Room and Bar while the top floor was the Ballroom, which was the roomHarry allotted to that malignant gnome, Dane, who paid his ten bob to Harry and departedwith his receipt but this time, not rejoicing. Before I left him, Harry read to me thelist of things Dane would have had to do every Monday night, how many double doors withbrass doorknobs to be polished, the double windows to be cleaned and with curtains to bewashed , to say nothing of the half-acre sized floor to be swept daily and polished weeklyetc.etc. If there was a conspiracy between Harry and the Base Commander, I never heardabout it.

Having returned to Kimpo for what was an indefinite period, indefinitebecause no future time of return to Japan had ever been mentioned to me, I found that Iwas looking at my situation from a different point of view because I was now a 'regular'and not a 'visitor' as before. Prior to this change of status, I had not been included inany of the rosters for getting troops out of their cots around 4 am to prepare fouraircraft for the standby "Able Alert' which commenced an hour before dawn by whichtime the pilots would be in the cockpits, battery carts would be plugged into the aircraftand eight airmen of assorted trades would be standing by to assist the Meteors make aquick departure in the event of an order from the Controller, "Dentist", toscramble. It was customary for the leader pilot to be listening out on Dentist's frequencyand in the event of a scramble order, he would immediately start up his engines, the soundof which would move other airmen to give a couple of hard bangs on the fuselage near thecockpits of the other aircraft. These pilots would usually have their radios on theAmerican Armed Forces Radio Service and would change to Dentist as they commenced theirstartups. Once one engine was running, sufficient electric power would be generated tostart the other engine and the battery cable would be disconnected and the socket coverlocked by the nearest airman.

The purpose of all this was to provide first warning defence of theBase in the event of an air attack. Such scrambles were rare but the possibility wasalways there and in fact a backup of two aircraft, Baker Alert, relieved Able at the endof two hours and remained on standby for just one hour. On Able Alert, once the pilotswere in place and all systems were ready to go, the corporal in charge would take four ofthe troops in a small truck called a "puddle jumper" to the American 'dininghall' for a quick breakfast and next take the other four to have their breakfasts. I hadalways imagined that all the people in 77 Squadron would have been living on 'hardrations' - bully beef, Army biscuits left over from WW 2 and mugs of luke-warm tea - butit was not like that with Uncle Sam's tucker. You were served a cereal, fried or scrambledeggs (these latter were delicious and infinitely superior to what our RAAF cooks gave uswhich were generally referred to as "yellow peril"), great slices of apple-curedVirginia ham, toast and coffee. As to the quantity served per person, there was always aprominent sign saying "You are welcome to seconds". The menus varied from day today and the Yank food was always popular with the troops. The pancakes were superb.Somewhere along the way, a few of our blokes asked if tea was ever available and sureenough, a day or so later, a great urn of tea appeared beside the coffee. The urn wasgreat but not the tea. For those who enjoyed a strong cup of tea, it was still far toostrong. Wherever the cooks obtained the tea making formula, it was not the right place.But before the matter could be rectified, quite a few Yanks had become converts to the teadrinking fraternity and the strength of the tea remained as it was - tres formidable.

By September of 1951, Kimpo, the forward USAF base in Korea, wasreasonably well set up but did not boast a PX, the American military name for what wewould call a 'canteen' and a relic of the old Army term, Post Exchange. Having an acuteawareness of the needs of the average GI, a variety of items normally purchased in a PXwere issued free to all who came to the evening meal. Happily, this included theAustralians and we were delighted to be given cigarettes or tobacco, the choice being forrolling cigarettes, smoking in a pipe or just plain chewing, plus candy, chewing gum andoccasional issues of razor blades, socks and underwear, soap and toothpaste. In thosefaraway days, there was no realization of the damage that smoking caused to the health ofthe average keen smoker and I was one of these. There is no doubt that the ease with whichwe could get cigarettes contributed to my fondness of smoking and this situation prevailedfor at least a few months. Added to this was the weekly issue of fifty first class Englishcigarettes in a sealed tin generously provided for every man in the Commonwealth forces bythe late famous English philanthropist, Lord Nuffield. When the dreaded day arrived andthe PX was a functioning fact of Kimpo life, we could still buy our cigarettes for onedollar per carton of two hundred, US dollars being much cheaper in those days.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Americans are, for the mostpart, compulsive givers and their generosity to us, as the only non-US unit on the base,was extensive. When the Americans discovered our winter gear, adequate for Australia butnot for the extremes of the Korean winters, consisted of woolen vests and 'Long Johns'(two sets of each) they handed out their winter clothing to every man in the Squadron andthis made all the difference. Furthermore, there were no strings like signatures for itemsissued: this stuff was gift stuff. Then there was the matter of hospitality and this wasreadily forthcoming also. The Yanks don't have Messes as we do but prefer to havecounterparts called "Clubs" and because the USAF didn't have NCO pilots as wedid, they made our non-commissioned pilots welcome in their Officers' Club and all mannerof valuable contacts, both working and social, were made: flyers were mixing with flyers.Our unit had an Officers' Mess which, in Kimpo, catered for all ranks of sergeant andabove. The airmen had what was grandly called a Mess which was really an enlargedwooden-framed double tent which had been constructed by our pilots in their off-dutyhours. We had a bar with scrounged, stolen and donated chairs and tables and a stock ofthe usual canteen goods for sale. We, the corporals and below, were not overlooked by theYanks who invited every airman to enjoy the amenities of their Top Three Club whichcatered for the three senior ranks of sergeant, Staff, Technical and Master. In the earlydays, their Club had modest beginnings but as time went by and the profits from the barsales increased, so their premises grew in keeping with their prosperity. By the time mynine months at Kimpo had come to an end, the Top Three, sometimes called the"Honsho", Club had prospered to the stage where there were lots of tables andchairs, bought and paid for, and a juke box was just being unveiled. I heard later that itwas a freebee and was rigged to play without the requirement of being fed with coins. TheUSAF 'other ranks' were in the Club business too and they were called "The LittleJoes". The rules prevented them from having no alcoholic drinks but beer which wasvery mild in alcohol content. On the other hand, the Top Three could sell just aboutanything and I remember a brush I had in one of their earlier premises with whisky,Seagram's Canadian V.O. It was priced at seventy cents a shot but on Nickel Night, whichwas every Saturday, any drink that you ordered cost no more than a nickel, a mere fivecents. It was explained to me that it was a good way to reward the faithful patrons of theClub and it also gave to the men who sent most of their pay home a cheap night out if theywanted to "tie one on". There was some kind of rule that didn't approve anaccumulation of big profits.

As to the incident with the Seagram's, it was part of Life's LearningProcess. There was this Yank S/Sgt. named Kovacs who had done a lot of favours for 77Squadron and my frequent offers to buy him a drink in the Club were always politelyrefused but with a promise to accept my offer when he "got his orders", thealmost holy phrase that meant 'going back to the States.' I saw him when I went into theDining Hall that night and he called out that he had his orders and that he'd like to havethe often promised drink. In due course, I went into the Club and saw Kovacs - was hisname Charlie? - and a couple of other sergeants leaning on the bar and 'putting a fewaway'. I joined them and said that I'd have what they were having and that was Seagram's.I should explain here that my previous experience with whisky was confined to having atentative taste of an early Oz attempt at whisky distilling called Corio Whisky andpopularly known to drinkers by the unflattering name of COR Ten. (COR was the name of theCommonwealth Oil Refineries). My recollection is that it tasted like alcohol-enrichedbattery acid and it was my feeling that just one egg cup full would induce a state ofcollapse in a bull elephant. I have already referred to the low alcohol content ofAmerican beer and when I found that this Seagram's tasted so smoooooth and had novicious bite to it, I presumed that it must be a low alcohol item like the beer. AnotherYank friend of mine, a S/Sgt. named Tom Doolan, came over from his table and said,"Take care, Mulligan, these raunchy bastards are going to get you drunk'. I thankedhim for his almost avuncular concern and hopefully put his mind at rest by my assurancethat this Seagram's went down like mother's milk and therefore held no perils for mewhatsoever. It wasn't long after that before I realized that my legs were not functioningand I grabbed at the bar to support myself, realising as I did so that I was about to givea memorable, if not superb, impersonation of a newt. This brings me to admit that I haveno idea nor knowledge whatsoever of why the newt, a tiny, four legged and generallyunremarkable reptile of carnivorous persuasion has been forever portrayed as the symbol ofall that is alcoholically paralytic. Moreover, it does appear extraordinary that thenewt's continually maligned character and sober reputation in the reptile community hasnot been vigorously defended by some caring zoologist. Perhaps a champion will emerge intime and so put an end to this unkind and unjustified metaphor. My friend Doolan came tomy rescue and refusing any assistance from my erstwhile drinking mates, took it uponhimself to get me back to my tent in our Squadron area. At this point, a confrontationtook place between another patron of the Club and Doolan. I barely managed to focus upon ashort, squat sergeant, slightly less shikkered than I, who was remonstrating with Doolanwho, this interloper believed, was about to eject me from the Club for my failure toperform well in the Sobriety Stakes. Doolan explained his good intentions and the newcomerto our drama insisted on coming along to be assured that my treatment at Doolan's handswas all that I, were I able to indicate, would desire. The time of year must have beenaround March or April, whenever the thaw after the winter snows had taken place, becauseas we three staggered through the darkness with Doolan in the middle, supporting me andthe other drunk, we never missed falling into most of the slit-trenches, by now halffilled with the coldest water I can ever remember falling into. Eventually, we arrived atmy tent where my fellow tent dwellers removed my wet overalls, boots and socks and tuckedme under the blankets for a long, long sleep. To my considerable surprise when I woke upon the following morning, fully expecting to have a hangover such as Edgar Allan Poe mightwell have written several agonizing verses about, my head was as clear as a bell andcompletely pain-free.

KIMPO. Korea. 1952: For the second time in the post-war years,serving airmen were invited to apply for a commission. When this news was received fromour parental No. 91 Composite Wing at Iwakuni in Japan, it was accompanied by the notentirely unwelcome tidings that all applicants would be interviewed by the Group Captaincommanding the RAAF Base at Iwakuni. Here was a proposal that suggested that Air Board wasagain confirming its belief that among such airmen was a potential reservoir of candidatesable to meet the stern and demanding criteria that would lead them to commissioned rankand the mutual benefit and satisfaction of all. Thus there was a discernible ripple ofinterest among some of the troops and non-commissioned pilots; several of the latter werenot strangers to leading sections of eight and twelve Meteors with many of these beingflown by their seniors in rank.

Ripples of interest notwithstanding, there were cresting waves ofenthusiasm among that group of airmen who had been "deported" from Iwakuni andits many delights to the "Siberian" atmosphere of Kimpo and its complete lack ofunrighteous temptations. These were the "deadbeats", many of whom provedredeemable, who were always in strife and never embarrassed by those sorry catalogues oftheir sins, their Conduct Sheets. Theirs was the Vision Splendid, an all expenses paidovernight visit to the brighter lights of Iwakuni and an inevitable rejection as"Unsuitable for promotion beyond the rank of Leading Aircraftsman" by a GroupCaptain who always had the best interests of the RAAF at heart. The Orderly Room clerktold of how the Adjutant recoiled in horror when he saw that eight of these outcastssubmitted applications.

The previously notified order of events was changed suddenly anddrastically. A signal was received from Iwakuni advising that the Group Captain would makea flying visit to the Squadron and conduct interviews "on site". This wasfollowed by an untidy scurrying of the "deportees" to the Orderly Room towithdraw their applications. The Adjutant, now visibly relieved, regained his composureand dignity and decorum was restored for the period of the Group Captain's visit.

These musings relate to life as I knew it forty plus years ago, in whatis to me the distant past. Someone once said "The past is a foreign country. They dothings differently there" and this is true. Our memories were much better then and wecould more easily place events in something of an accurate sequence in time. While many ofmy memories of the Kimpo days are easily accessed and as fresh as if certain incidentsoccurred only last week, putting many of them in correct sequence proves difficult. Rightnow, I am thinking about some American friends I had in the reconnaissance Wing next to usand these were the blokes who lived in what was virtually one of the local landmarks knownas "Keesling's Tent". On the outside, it looked like any other tent but inside,the visitor was struck by the work of a demonic but good-humoured architect who haddivided the interior into a walled-off Sleep Salon in the rear containing six bunks whilethe front section was converted into a 'social area' boasting an alcove for four at leftand assorted seating furniture opposite. The 'guiding light' of the establishment was RayKeesling and it would not be an exaggeration to say that he presided over all that tookplace there in a benign but firm manner. Noise was always at minimum level, sobriety wasexpected and usually received from 'inmates' and visitors, and good-natured camaraderieprevailed. On a shelf near the alcove, there was a boldly marked "Swear Box",profanity being an offence punishable by fines placed in the said box. The resultingaccumulations were checked from time to time and when a predetermined amount had beenreached, the total expiations on hand were exchanged for a carton of Pabst beer whichwould then be used by the 'inmates' and their close friends to practise the periodicSobriety Exercises.

One important amenity that should be mentioned was the camp stove inthe left rear of the social area. Anniversaries were occasionally celebrated to coincidewith the Exercises above; two that I remember were the Opening of the Panama Canal andFlood Control in Nevada. These evening events were usually enhanced by a supper of sorts,the food being organised by the Mess Sergeant called Tex Farrabee. It required no morethan an invitation to Tex who would arrive with bread for toasting, butter, an appropriatenumber of "Minute Steaks" and anything else suitable for human consumption.These were great occasions. Everyone had a good time and nobody got stoned. Anything tamerthan that would be close to a YMCA atmosphere. I cannot recall how I came to be acquaintedwith Ray but, whenever it was, it had to be one of my luckier days. Furthermore, he had aconnection with the Supply Section and gave me a surplus single size, very comfortable airmattress. Later, after I had bought a disgracefully oil and paint stained GI greatcoatfrom one of our blokes posted home, Ray swapped it for a new one which has served me wellover these intervening years and which I have now given to my son who has more use for itthan I. In this same period, I struck up a friendship with another Yank named DickJohnson. When my time came to leave Korea, Ray was absent on R and R leave and I missedsaying my good-byes but Dick was keen to keep in touch by correspondence which is still inplace these forty-three years later. In 1992, when I was going to the USA to attend"Oshkosh", I managed, by the greatest fluke, to find where Ray was in Yuba City,CA, and had the great pleasure of having a week with him and his wife, Carole.

The daily routine of ground staff during the operations out of Kimpowas based on a seven day week and when an airman had completed seven such weeks of duty,he was given seven days leave in Japan which could be spent in a manner and at adestination of his own choosing. Traveling by air, courtesy of King George and under theindifferent auspices of No. 30 Transport Unit, the airman settled into the Spartaninterior of a DC3 for the short trip back to Iwakuni, planning the means by which he wouldderive the maximum pleasure and benefit from the Rest and Relaxation period awaiting him.Occasional brave souls of independent mind would disappear for a week into the boondocksof Japan and return with glowing reports of how their time was well and satisfactorilyspent. A few more would opt for a week at the Ebisu Army Leave Centre in Tokyo while mostwould choose the Australian Army conducted Leave Hotel at Kawana on the north side ofTokyo. This was as close to an airman's dream of Paradise as was possible, more so if hewere visiting from Kimpo where the living was not so gracious and relaxed. The train tripfrom Iwakuni to Kawana lasted about four hours and all ranks on leave from the threeServices were then taken to the hotel by a bus in the charge of an Army sergeant nicknamed"Plonky" to match his surname of Penfold. Escorting the returning personnel tothe train and collecting the incoming batch from the train was half of"Plonky's" duties. The other was in operating the projector in the Hotel'sindoor cinema on two nights per week.

It would be safe to say that the Big Attraction at Kawana was Golf. Thehotel had two eighteen hole courses, one being for the 'mugs' and those in need ofpractice and the other for the serious players. The set-up for the Golf Addict was nearperfect. After enjoying a splendid breakfast in bed, delivered at the time he specified,the bedside phone was used to talk to the Clubhouse and shoes of the correct size plusclubs, also of a size appropriate to the player's height - left handers' clubs were alsoavailable - were ordered for an appointed time. New balls could be purchased but mostplayers were content to play with 'repaints' at one shilling each. Caddies were on hand toassist in every possible way, which included winkling misdirected balls out of thesurrounding woods, and their remuneration was set at one hundred yen for eighteen holes. Agood caddie earned more. These caddies were Japanese girls, generally aged from thirteento sixteen years and were always neatly attired in immaculate whites, cap, shirt, slacksand sneakers. On the occasions when players were in short supply, these kids wouldpractice the game of Golf and became very competent. On the day that I agreed to play around with Col Horne and "Mac" Mc Lintock - I don't think he had a Christianname either - it became obvious that because I had never played golf before, I would havedone better to have come equipped with a billiards cue and prodded the cantankerous ballaround the course. My shots were consistently bad with my caddie valiantly searching thescrub and always managing to do a good retrieval. While she remained aloof and maintaineda perfectly inscrutable expression, my tally of strokes at the second hole would haveearned me a life-ban from any half decent bush golf course in Oz. Very obviously,continuing to play could only contribute to the tremendous humiliation that I was feeling,so I bowed to the inevitable and salvaged the tattered remnants of my honour by invitingmy caddie to change places with me. I doubt if anyone could have agreed with greaterspeed. The game proceeded but it lacked any feature that would have made an impression onmy memory.

Kawana Hotel was just one of the Imperial chain of hotels and had beentaken over by the Oz Army as a leave and recreation centre. It did not lack any civilizedamenities. As well as its indoor cinema theatre, it had two spacious dining rooms, alibrary, a gymnasium, barber shop with masseur, an Olympic pool, a tennis court and awonderful kitchen staff with great chefs. On my first visit to Kawana, the tariff perguest was one shilling and threepence (13 cents) per day which, by the time of my secondvisit, had been savagely increased to one shilling and ninepence (19 cents) per day. I hadmy first leave from Kimpo in November 1951 and this second leave, because I had only hadone leave of seven days in a total of nine months, had been increased to two weeks by mySquadron's Engineer Officer, Flt.Lt. Kalucy. Two of the sergeant pilots from 77 were thereat the same time, Colin King and Kevin Smith, who were still enjoying a mateship thatbegan on No.5 Course at Point Cook. We three had become very well acquainted at Kimpo andtheir company at Kawana was most welcome. Both Colin and I were keen on photography andone of our local strollings took us into the nearby village from which our hotel took itsname. We had a short but interesting chat with an ageing Japanese man who was a priest ofthe local Eel Worshippers' Temple and who felt it necessary to give an occasional shorttap on the wooden 'gong' he carried with him. If I ever discovered the reason for this, ithas been well and truly lost in the mists of the last forty years.

Their leave completed, Colin and Ken returned to the Squadron andresumed flying duties. On my return to Iwakuni, I reported to No.30 Transport Unit towhich I had been posted "on paper " some two months earlier while I was stillwith 77. I was told to report to Sqn.Ldr. Carl Leopold, the top dog in the Maintenanceworld, and found that I had innocently incurred his considerable displeasure. I was on thecarpet because I had not reported to him before I went on leave to obtain his approval formy two weeks absence. I was able to produce my leave authorization from F/L Kalucy on thespot but that wasn't sufficient to mollify his anger and I had to absorb his unjustifiedtirade in silence. This was surely good grounds for applying to the Base CO for a"Redress of Grievance" but prudence indicated that whether or not I received it,I would have made an enemy for the rest of my Air Force life and so I let it go at that. Afew days later, one of the sergeants from 491 Sqn. told me that my name was brought up ata NCOs' meeting by Leopold who suggested that I was a smart-arse and that no opportunityshould be missed for "putting me in my place". For the rest of my time atIwakuni, I walked as if on eggs.

Because of the nature of my duties for most of my time with 77Squadron, I was very familiar with the numbers of each Meteor and the name of the pilot towhom any aircraft "belonged". So it was that I had something of a mixture ofshock and sadness when I heard that a Meteor had been lost on Ops. and the number was thatof Colin's aircraft. Wherever possible, a pilot usually flew his allotted aircraft butthere were many times that it was flown by others but the odds were that Colin was in it.As it happened, another pilot who was a newcomer to 77 signed for Colin's Meteor as theywere preparing for a mission so Colin signed for the one that would normally be flown bythe new man. Colin's Meteor failed to develop full power on take-off and went over the farend of the strip, the new man being killed in the crash. Earlier on, Kevin Smith, flyingon a ground attack mission with Colin and two others, found the "disputedbarricade" that would end his life. In the final analysis, we lost forty pilots outof 77 Squadron and seven others were made prisoners of war, all being repatriated inSeptember 1953.

Our pilots belonged to a mixture of age groups. Some were experiencedwar-time pilots who stayed in the Air Force, some were war-time air gunners and navigatorswho were post war trained pilots and many were complete newcomers to the pilot trade. Twowho had been WW2 navigators were Ken Murray and the Kiwi, Vance Drummond, both of No.4Course and close friends. Vance was shot down and became a prisoner in December 1951.While still a trainee, Ken had helped me celebrate my corporal stripes, modestly and withdecorum, in the Riverside Inn in Richmond. I was already in 77 when he and Vance arrived.The time came when Ken was about to go on his hundredth Meteor mission. I had ampleknowledge of this coming up in the afternoon and asked Ray Keesling if he could locatesufficient remnant type parachute silk to turn into a scarf for Ken, the arrangement beingmade by telephone. Ray said it could be done and even offered to stencil somethingappropriate on it. I suggested "Black Murray" as he was commonly called, withthe day's date and it was given to Ken when he came down to get into his A77-446. Standingon the side of the aircraft, I had just finished helping him strap into the ejection seatwhen a jeep, with horn blaring, came to a stop at the edge of the steel-matted tarmac. Thedriver, another pilot named Val who was the Bar Officer, hurried over to the aircraft andhanded me a small pad to pass to Ken for his signature. The note simply said, "4cases of beer" and carried that day's date. All pilots observed a traditionalprocedure of signing a bar chit for 4 cases of Asahi beer when their hundred missionsfigure had been reached. Two of these went to the Airmens' bar and two to the other Messbar frequented by sergeants and above. "A bit rude, isn't it?" said Ken aftersigning. Val just grinned and said," We look forward to your safe return but do takecare. It can be dangerous out there". Ken did come back. In fact, he came back 330times including his second tour and among his Service souvenirs are the DFC, AFC and theDFM.

There was a period when we were without a formally appointed CO andduring this time, the Squadron was in the care of Sqn. Ldr. Bill Bennett who had a spellas a POW in Germany after being shot down while flying a Spitfire in WW2. He bailed outand then discovered his parachute had failed to open. His return to earth was not direct,in fact, he had to come down via the pine fir that he had landed in but this took only afew seconds. After his unorthodox entry into the tree, he proceeded earthwards by havinghis pre-entry velocity very effectively reduced as each branch he hit on his way downbroke, slowing his rate of descent sufficiently to reduce his injuries to a broken leg andscratches. It seems that his fall was witnessed by the enemy who extricated him from thesnowdrift he came to rest in and their officer gave Bill a letter to certify that he hadfound his way back to the planet without benefit of a serviceable parachute. The Germandoctors put a plate in his leg using a technique not known at that time to the Brits. Ican recall many nights when some of us were working late, often by torch-light, at thestrip when he would arrive in his jeep and invite us to his tent "whenever youfinish" for a bite of supper before bed. He'd do a headcount and drive off to find aYank messing officer whom he would inveigle into parting with the required number of"Minute" steaks plus bread and butter for toasting. Anything from four to eightof us would arrive at his tent where his camp stove would be in readiness to cook thegoods while we downed cans of Yank beer. I doubt if his predecessor ever knew the firstname of any of the troops who worked on the Meteors whereas Bill - we all called him 'Sir'when he was promoted - and most of the other pilots knew us by our Christian names and wetheirs. I had six years in the RAAF and the nine months I spent with the Meteors and theblokes who flew and maintained them was the Prime Time of it all. Happily, most of thefriendships I made in the Air Force are still intact and most of those relate to 77Squadron. It was a great Unit.

When I first arrived at Iwakuni, I was told about a place called"The Double Seven Club" which was run by the Oz Army and offered a quietatmosphere (daytime only), chairs and tables where you could read or write lettersundisturbed. I think it also boasted a billiards table and most importantly a snack barand a grog bar (beer only) at going prices. I gave it a small measure of patronage andonly just in time to see the above-ground evidence of what was, at that time, a FamousIncident. The essential details of the story run like this: there was some sort of a partygoing on and one bloke had a feeling that he'd had enough and so he headed back to theAirmens' Mess and his bed. Some twenty yards or so from the front door of the Club, therewas a slit trench, one of many dug at a time when it was believed that the IwakuniComposite Wing would be bombed by North Korean or Chinese aircraft. Of course, this neverhappened. In the darkness, he failed to see the slit trench, fell into it, breaking an armand knocking himself out. Minutes later, another of his party mates who had imbibedrecklessly and was now experiencing the unmistakable feeling of Imminent Chunder and who,remembering the location of the slit trench, immediately decided that it would be theideal repository for that of which he wished to divest himself. Perhaps what followed waswritten in the stars and so it happened, player No.2 stood at the edge of the trench andchundered mightily, completely unaware of his mate's unconscious condition and painfuldistress in the darkness of the trench. Now entered Players 3 and 4, departing Clubpatrons, one of whom had a torch and both of whom heard the agonized groans of a man inpain in the trench. What followed next was described by one of the on-looking pair asreminiscent of a graveyard scene from an old Boris Karloff movie as a mixture of profanityand groans heralded the appearance of the now upright and injured drunk held fast in thetorch-light and festooned with the generous Technicolor deposits from Player No. 2. Newsof the incident was widely spread around the Base and probably would have enjoyed no morethan a couple of days currency had it not been for the secretive nocturnal erection of awell made sign on the side of the slit trench containing only two words, "Brady'sLeap".

In pre-Korea days, one of the COs was Group Captain Brian Eaton - hisnickname was "Moth" - and in the process of his deploring the number of poorlyconducted and illegal two-up games being played in unsuitable venues around the Base, putit all in order by permitting an Official Game to be played in the garden area beside theAirmens' Mess on Pay Nights only. The game, in my time, was conducted by a dental orderlyknown as "Francois, the Fangsnatcher's Offsider". His word was law and the CObacked him completely.

In my account of Ken Murray's hundredth mission, I mention a Yank namedRay Keesling who became a very good friend from the time of our first meeting. When I wasposted back to Japan, Ray was on leave in Japan and I never had an opportunity to say afinal "Goodbye" to him. This was in 1952.

I always maintained a vow that if ever I went to the US, I'd try tofind him. When the time came and I was going there to attend the Aviation Convention atOshkosh, Wisconsin, in 1992, and not even being sure that Ray was still alive, I lookedfor him in the White Pages for Denver, a city he used to speak about quite a lot. I foundonly one surname the same but it was an 'Alan'. I wrote and asked him if he knew Ray and afew weeks later, I had a letter back saying that he only knew OF Ray, a distant relationand that in the process of chasing around the family, had located Ray in Yuba City,California, and had sent him my letter. The upshot was that Ray and his wife, Carol, (shewas the Denver connection) collected me from the SF airport on my way back and took mehome to their place for a week that I shall never forget.

Ray had stayed on in the USAF and retired as a Chief Master Sergeant*in 1984. At that time, I was half bald, weighed about three stone more than forty yearsearlier. Ray had all his hair and I guessed he was half a stone heavier. That's what cleanliving does to you.

*Eight stripes! Five on top and three below.

There were many times that I wished that I'd been with 77 when they hadMustangs, such wishes being prompted by hearing the stories told by those airmen whoserviced and moved around with them in the early part of the Korean war. Irrespective ofwhat the generals and future historians may have believed, the Mustangs' ground staffawarded the real Battle Honours to the events surrounding the hurried and undignifieddeparture of the Squadron from a place called Hamhung, that being the general picturedrawn by those who participated in the withdrawal to Pusan in the south. For months later,whenever an airman was recounting any kind of 'hairy' incident involving himself and theKorean hostilities, his story would invariably be down-graded by someone with an earlierclaim to fame with the expression, "You were never there, mate. If you weren't atHamhung, you were never there! ". There was a corporal engine fitter who was, butonly for this present purpose, named Tom who had become notorious for his ability toacquire, scrounge and frequently misappropriate aircraft parts for immediate or likelyfuture use. It was said of him that he would take possession of any useful item below thetelephone wires which was not nailed nor screwed down. To me, his most memorable exploitwas on the occasion when one of our Mustangs required an engine change arising from battledamage. Tom visited a nearby USAF Mustang squadron and was able to scrounge an enginewhich the kindly Yanks even delivered. The next problem to be overcome was to get a Fowlercrane to lift the old engine out and the new one in and Tom knew where there was such acrane in an unguarded location. For some reason, Tom had been refused permission to use itby its owners so, at last light, he and his helpers drove to the location of the crane,hitched it to the "puddle jumper" they had borrowed, towed it to where theengine change was then carried out and returned it to its usual place of abode beforedawn. He was also credited with more than the usual amount of bargaining skill with theYanks, targeting a variety of 'well worth having' items, usually clothing. Yanks were paidonce a month and at the end of the month, when all the spending money was gone and Tom hada bottle of whisky to trade, the Yanks were at his mercy.

On the subject of Pay Days and the nights thereof, there was always adice game behind the Top Three Club. As with the two-up at Iwakuni, this was an OfficiallyApproved game, conducted and supervised by sergeants of blameless and impeccablecharacter. It was played in a small building but big enough to accommodate about fifty orsixty players and spectators standing around a 'billiards size' table where it allhappened. What was a revelation to me was the manner in which certain players caressed andtalked to the dice before a throw, actually giving those inanimate little cubes, thosebrainless little objects, instructions, as though they were intelligent beings. Of oneplayer, I heard the comment "He could throw them bones through a cement mixer and geta seven". There was a "House Rule' that was very strictly observed and that wasthat the Duty Sergeant had to extract ten per cent of all the cash that changed handswhich was then put into an enormous glass jar with a lid. This was changed into US'greenbacks' and given to the Catholic Orphanage in the nearby capital, Seoul. The UScurrency was a special item which was used by US forces for internal use in foreigncountries to prevent black marketers and various other undesirables from accumulating USdollars. The next time I saw the big glass jars was at the entrance to the Dining Hall.Back in those days, when you went to the movies, it was common enough to see, as part ofthe programme, a short feature called "The March of Time". In the US, there wasan ongoing problem with poliomyelitis and in order to raise funds for research and thecosts of hospitalizing its victims, an annual month-long campaign was introduced called"The March of Dimes" in the hope of getting everyone to contribute a dime, tencents, to the fund. This was in the month of March. The big glass jar stood on a table andwas marked "March of Dimes", holding a lot of the 'internal' currency, called"scrip". Next day, as a reminder of the mild rivalry that has existed betweenthe North and the South since the Civil War, there was a second jar with a label attachedsaying "Rebels" and that also was holding a lot of scrip. The original jar, nowlabelled "Yankees", was soon joined by a third with yet another label,"Texans". One night, watching the Crap Game, as they like to call it, I saw aYank friend raking it in and stuffing it into his opened overalls. This was Willie Bristerand later I met him in the Top Three where he told me that he'd had a good night and wasnow about four thousand dollars richer and that he'd cable it to his wife next day withinstructions to get a new Ford. After allowing for the orphans' ten per cent, he certainlydid have a good night. Willie had a perpetual moan about having to pay Income Tax while hewas outside the US. He asked me how tough the Income Tax was in Oz and I told him that wedidn't have to pay it anymore because it was very unpopular with the people in Oz and thegovernment no longer bothered about it. "So where do you get the money to run yourcountry?" he wanted to know and I told him that we were getting Marshall Aid. Ithought poor Willie was going to have one of those 'conniption fits' that I'd heard aboutbut had never seen and so I put his mind at ease before he did in fact blow a fuse.

Quite a few of us had never seen snow before we went to Korea and whenthe first snowfall came early one morning, we did what came naturally and had a snowballfight. The time was not far off before we became heartily sick of the sight of snow andall the inconveniences that attended it. It was at its worst at 4 am when metal aircrafthad to be prepared for pilot occupancy by thawing as much as possible of the cockpit areain which everything possible was frozen solid. The pilot's parachute was an essential partof the Ejection Seat and there was attached to the 'chute a survival pack which included arubber container full of water, now frozen solid, which was not very thoughtfully placedon top of the 'chute right where the hapless pilot had to rest his temperature-sensitive derriere.We, the duty ground crew, had nothing to do except 'stand by' and so were able to move orrun about or do anything likely to keep our circulation system functioning. We also hadthe further advantage of getting away for some breakfast and I often wonder now whysomebody didn't think of giving the pilots electric flying suits such as those used by theRAF bomber crews in WW2. Had the Air Member for Supply been required to deposit hisvenerable bottom on such a block of ice on a deep winter's morning, no doubt there wouldhave been a surge of requisitions burning up the cables to the UK. Hindsight rarelyregisters more than two out of ten on the Satisfaction Scale.

Ron Mitchell, ex-2 Course, and an RAF pilot, Reg Lamb, collided whileturning on base at Kimpo and were killed I was one of the Burial Party flown over to Pusanfor their interment in the UN cemetery there. We used an Australian Flag and a Union Jack.

One evening, just as daylight was ending, I was in my tent gettingready to go across to the Yanks for my dinner when I had a visitor. He was one of a groupof engine fitters and mechanics who had been sent to stay with us for as long as it wouldtake them to repair a sick engine on a RAAF DC3 sitting at the airport in Seoul.Unexpected 'visitors were usually directed by our Adjutant, Jack Carolyn, to the NCO orairman nominally in charge of a tent having a currently unoccupied camp stretcher. Thevisitors had been delivered to and abandoned at the Flight Hut down at the tarmac area andmy 'guest' had trudged through the snow with his kitbag on his shoulder and carryinganother smaller overnight bag. He was shivering in the cold and was fairly grubby when hecame in after some hours of work on the Dak in Seoul and introduced himself as George Hoeyas he headed for the oil stove. "George Bluddy Hoey!", I said to myself. FlightSergeant George Bluddy Hoey in the flesh and at my mercy, the same bastard who blighted mylife and buggered up my date with the teacher from Townsville some four years earlier whenI was a new recruit at Amberley. I was already relishing the thought of hiding his bootsand socks in the deep snow outside when I realized that the intervening four years ofgrowing up had expunged the hostility I felt towards him at Amberley and that I shouldextend to him the sort of hospitality I would expect if I were in his place. Accordingly,I lent him a towel, escorted him to our greatest amenity, a hot shower, and later todinner with the Yanks. Back in my tent, we chatted amicably with the other tent-dwellersuntil day was declared at an end. Next day, the offending engine having been restored toair-worthiness, he spent a final night in our tent after a less edifying evening with hisfellow sergeants and we parted good friends.

I believe that, in 'now and then' terms, each of us devotes a measureof time, large or small, to the contemplation of Life and Death. How often have we said orthought, when we hear the news of a friend's death, why did it have to be him at thistime? Can it be that each of us has been created to live out a span of years,pre-determined by our Creator, in which to perform a specific function for our own benefitor that of others ? Are we, in fact, parts of a carefully designed Plan which gives us thewherewithal for the opportunities of living through a share of the entire catalogue ofhuman experiences, so many and so varied, that give substance, and perhaps some meaning,to the greater and more valuable experience of Learning about whatever may be essentialand relevant in any one, or more than one, life or lifetime? Obviously, we, asindividuals, leave our fingerprints, consciously and unconsciously, on other livesaround us. These may well be our contributions to the Final Reckoning which will surelytake place when this planet and its last inhabitant come to The End. The casualties ofwar, whose names were once known to many but are now remembered by just a few, are a partof the process, their loss the price we have to pay for indulging that dark side of ourhuman nature. And on which altar do the survivors lay their gratitude, that of Luck orDestiny? Contemplate the worth of a human life and determine wherein its value lies. Isthe owner of that life one who is a contributor of his special gifts and talents to thepopulation as a whole or simply to his near and dear ones who will weep at his departurefor their personal or selfish reasons? If he lacks specific gifts and talents, does hemake the world a better place simply because he is a part of it? Who knows? I know thequestions but not the answers.

There was always one, possibly two, battalions of the Royal AustralianRegiment "up in the line", meaning the Front Line where the fighting took placewhen animosity and hostility had reached the point where the people in the higher echelonsdecided that a skirmish of one sort or another would produce an improvement in 'their'side's position, being a positive result for one side and hard luck for the other. It wasnot unusual for the Diggers to find their way to Kimpo seeking overnight hospitality andtransport to the Seoul airport to catch a ride to Japan for their leave when they departednext day. This choice was the better of two alternatives, the other being lodged in theTransit Section at the British Airhead at Seoul airport where they would be fed exoticdelights such as fried bread for dinner and porridge for breakfast after spending thenight in a bug-infested camp stretcher. These chaps frequently spent long periods infoxholes within sniping distance of the enemy and this must have been a severe test ofendurance during the winter. One such Army visitor was a corporal from West Australia, acarpenter who did his bit in a rear echelon and was grateful for the small mercy ofexemption from seeing the sights of Central Korea from a foxhole. At that time, I was thesmug possessor of a bottle of the demon grog, Seagram's VO, which was snugglingcontentedly in the safety of my kitbag. Listening to the accounts of the foxhole frolics,I felt that retaining this whisky while some poor Army sods were freezing and probablywishing that they were in a nice warmed tent would constitute a sin against Nature andHumanity. The whisky was a gift from Tom Doolan who acquired it on his last R and R leavein Japan. This was after the episode of my Newt Impersonation and meeting with the Son ofSitting Bull - the other drunk was a Navajo Injun - and Tom's gift was not for drinkingbut for trading with his craving countrymen around month's end. And so the bottle ofSeagram's went to war and became an early casualty. About two weeks later, I had a notedelivered to me by someone else's Army visitor from the bloke who received the whiskyexpressing his considerable gratitude. For just a few seconds, I felt very noble hopingthat I'd never have to tell Doolan about it and recalling those lines of W.S. "Howfar that little candle throws its beams, so shines a good deed in a naughty world".

I remember an occasion at Kimpo when I was returning to my tent wellafter dark, in the course of which I would pass a number of parked fuel tankers which werealways guarded by at least one USAF sentry. The sentry on duty this night was PrivateNervous himself. My mind was a million miles away when a not very confident voice stoppedme in my tracks and the conversation that followed went something like this:

"Stop!" which I did. "Who are you?"

"An Australian far from home and striving mightily for the UnitedNations in defence of the principles of the Atlantic Charter." I felt certain thatthis would assure the unseen voice in the darkness of my goodwill and bona fides.

"Where are you going?"

"Up there", I replied, pointing in the direction of our tentlines.

"Up where?", he queried Very obviously, this chap wasn'tabout to allow just anybody to wander casually and nocturnally around hisprecincts.

"Up there", I said and to add a touch of whimsy to ourencounter by snatching a couple of lines from Oliver Goldsmith's "The DesertedVillage" which the good Brothers required me to learn about fifteen years earlier, Iadded, "where once a garden smiled and still where many a garden flower growswild".

"What's your name?"

"Oliver Goldsmith", I lied cheerfully. Some few secondslater, having decided that I didn't sound like some North Korean saboteur intent ondemolishing the tankers in his care, he called out, "OK .Pass, Oliver"

The Squadron's Engineer Officer, Flt. Lt. Kalucy, was my immediate bossand for some months before I returned to Japan, I worked in his close proximity. In whatwe called the flight hut close to the tarmac and the aircraft, he sat at his desk at theend of a larger and higher desk about eight feet long on which it was the practice forpilots and ground crew to make their appropriate entries in the Maintenance Schedules.This was the area over which I presided with the vigilant eyes of a hungry bird of prey.Whether large or small, every item of unserviceability of an aircraft had to be entered inthe Form E/E 77, the M/S above, so that it would be noted by the appropriate trade groupand, where possible, rectified with a confirming signature added. Any adverse comment by apilot on the aircraft's behaviour or performance was similarly entered and noted. Thus,when a '77' was placed on the desk indicating its serviceability and availability forduty, I would have already checked that all trade groups had signed off the aircraft asfit to fly. Most pilots would scrutinize prior entries of unserviceability and check thatthese had been fixed or rectified and would then turn to the front of the '77' to see thatthe daily inspection had been carried out and that the aircraft had been refueled sinceits last flight. A thorough pre-flight inspection of the aircraft, as well as the '77',put the pilot a little closer to the peace of mind he would enjoy, however temporarily,when he returned from his mission.

Next to the Engineer Officer was the Warrant Officer Engineer whoseduties were more 'hands on' than those of the EO. When I first went to 77, it was on theoffer of the WOE, Bill Cavanagh, a man who had the happy knack of getting the best out ofpeople. We got on well together as was the case with his eventual replacement, WO"Paddy" Field. Two of the most important people in the Kimpo 77 community werecivilians whose surnames, if I ever knew them, are long forgotten. Ted was the expert fromRolls-Royce for anything to do with the Meteor's Derwent engines and Jock, from theGloster Company, who knew everything about the Meteor airframe. On those days when theweather prevented operations and serviceability was at the highest possible 'local' level,we would be assembled to get a lecture from Jock who was as Scottish as a barrow-load ofhaggis and who was reputed to wear a sporran with his pyjamas. As each oft-repeatedlecture was ending and before he rolled up the diagrams, he would always ask, "Anyquestions?" and one day, an airframe corporal (not I!) calmly answered, "Yes,Jock. Can you get VD off a goat?", this being the most irrelevant question he couldthink of. There were a few chuckles and Jock, straight faced and unsmiling, went alongwith it and said, "It's not within my competency to give you a correct answer so Isuggest that you put the question to Mr. Bentley (our RAF medical officer at the time) whowill be better able to acquaint you with the likely consequences of your quainthabit". The corporal solemnly thanked him for the advice and with no furtherquestions, the lecture ended.


There were a few occasions when Australian pilots who had been shotdown or forced down over North Korean territory were rescued by American helicopters. Twoof these were from 77 Squadron and the other was a Navy pilot who trained at Point Cook onNo.2 Course, Neil Macmillan, with whom I was mildly acquainted. He came into Kimpo on twooccasions while I was there. The first time was when he just appeared out of the blue andtaxied his Firefly onto our 'hard standing' after having sighted the Meteors on hislanding run. I walked over to find out why it had come to Kimpo and recognised him as hewas leaving the cockpit. He told me that the reason for his visit was to have a bombremoved from his aircraft which had 'hung up', its non-release having been advised to himby another Firefly on the same mission. His flight commander had told him to have itremoved because he could not be permitted to land back onto the carrier with a live bomb.At the time, the USAF base at Suwon was the nearest likely place to get the bomb removedbut when he told the tower there why he wanted to land, they said he'd have to goelsewhere because they had a lot of returning aircraft on the way back and they would beput at risk if his live bomb were to be dislodged in the landing and maybe create a largehole in the runway plus a great deal of demolished Firefly wreckage which would compromisethe chances of uneventful landings. Neil was very understanding and headed for Kimpo wherehe told the tower that he had an armament problem to attend to. I can still remember thelook of horror on his face when I asked him, "What bomb?". I could see no bomband neither could he. By this time, his observer-navigator mate was out on the tarmac andboth of them got to work on their map to see just where they had been since makinglandfall. Neil needed access to a phone so I took them down to Stan Bromhead, our Ops.Officer, with an invitation to come to the Airmens' Bar for a drink after they'd been fed.When he arrived later in the evening, we had another minor Point Cook reunion as quite afew of the ground staff he knew from his training days were then in 77. Neil had a smallproblem which I was able to bring to a happy ending. He had managed to become the owner ofa US issue .45 automatic but didn't have a holster for it so I volunteered to go over tothe Yank lines and scrounge one for him. This was easy as I knew a Yank who had all mannerof bits and pieces that could be used for trading and in the parlance of the business offavours, he "owed me one". I should explain that Neil had told me that he'd haveto get back to the carrier if his departure would get him back for arrival in a"Landing On" period but that wasn't possible at that time. All told, we had a'good night'. His next visit was per courtesy of a Yank chopper which extracted him andhis observer from imminent capture when they were shot down during a ground attackmission. The other aircraft on the mission provided cover and fire at the enemy until thechopper was able to pick them up while under enemy fire. Some years later, after he hadleft the Navy, he was killed when the chopper he was flying hit power lines at LakeEildon.

The two RAAF pilots who were pulled out by choppers were Cec Fry andKeith Meggs in the Mustang days. I have no knowledge of the details. There were quite afew times when 77 was called on to provide a Cover Air Patrol to protect downed US pilotsas they waited for rescue by choppers. As Val Turner said, it could be dangerous outthere.

Leaving 77 Squadron and going to No. 30 Transport Unit to work on yetanother strange (to me!) aircraft, the DC3 Dakota, was the beginning of the last phase ofmy time in this, my only overseas posting. Fortunately, there was another corporalairframe-fitter there who had been in 77 for a while, Nick Robinson, and we were on verygood terms. He helped me to ease myself into the new Unit and contrived to get us workingtogether with a view to teaching me something about Dakotas. I had never worked on anAmerican designed aircraft before this and I was agreeably surprised to discover that thiswas a machine that had been built to provide ease of maintenance whereas everything elseI'd had to work on was comparatively awkward or downright difficult. Among the manyJapanese employed by the RAAF at Iwakuni was a large proportion of ex-Japanese Air Forcetradesmen who, while their status was split between "heavy and light" laborers,they did in fact do a lot of the inspection and servicing work on the aircraft, ostensiblyunder a RAAF airman's supervision. The Dakotas did most of their flying between Iwakuniand Seoul, two or three aircraft each making a daily trip. I believe Seoul was thedestination chosen because it was where they could collect any Australian soldiers on thesick or wounded list. On return, the med-evac. aircraft would be met by a RAAF ambulance,usually driven by a Japanese, and with a RAAF nurse and Medical Officer on board. Somepatients would be lodged in the RAAF hospital on the Base and the more serious would betaken by ambulance to the British General Hospital at Kure. This place had the reputationof a prison camp. Patients were not allowed to sit up in bed or on the edge of a bedwithout permission and the drill for the morning inspection by the MOs was that patientsmust "lie to attention".

One of the first things I did after reporting to this Unit was todiscover that I had a nagging pain in my stomach and went to the hospital where I threwmyself on the mercy of a young RAF doctor, David Hill, who had spent a couple of monthswith 77 and who had 'doctored' me at Kimpo when I was flattened by some weird Asian virusthat was becoming fashionable at the time which happened to be in the depths of winterwhen the snow was more than a foot deep outside my tent. I remember it so well. I woke upin pain, feeling as though a small hungry crocodile was inside my stomach and gnawing atevery organ within snapping distance. Seconds later, I was stumbling out of my campstretcher into the pitch darkness outside the tent to embark on a 'chunder-fest' beforeplodding down to grace the six-holer with my pained presence. I don't think I've ever beenso sick or depressed , before or since. After about three of these circuits, I crawledinto the Medical tent where I roused Corporal Miller who, in turn, roused David Hill wholooked after me for the next four days and kept me alive by feeding me some sort of sulphatablets and the promise of a decent funeral if he erred on the dosage. So there I was,describing my stomach pain to David who told me that it could be a duodenal ulcer and thatI'd have to go to the Hospital at Kure for diagnosis by a specialist there. Having heardthe horror stories about that place, I was in a state of fear when he said that I mighthave to stay there 'for a while'. He was very sympathetic and agreed to give me a letterexplaining that I was a rare kind of electronics specialist whose skills were urgentlyneeded at Iwakuni. In the event, this worked as planned, and as fervently hoped, and I wassent back to Iwakuni with instructions to have all my meals at the Base hospital where Iwould be given the 'correct' diet. My problem was diagnosed as a duodenal ulcer.

The prospect of eating all my meals at the hospital gave me little joy,especially after I became acquainted with the regimen of diet. The operative word was"bland" and after nine months of first-class food with the Yanks at Kimpo and afortnight of the same at Kawana during my leave, the contemplation of an ongoing diet wasan anathema of the worst kind. Having regard to my new-found Epicurean tastes andlong-time discriminating palate, "bland" was something of an obscene word and Iwas stuck with it. In fairness, I should point out that the food in the Airmens' Mess atIwakuni was very good and of a standard never achieved by the "bait layers"masquerading as cooks in the Mess at Point Cook. The hospital cooks did their best to makethe meals they gave me as attractive as their instructions would allow and I can rememberonly one occasion when I was considerably less than thrilled with what I was given forlunch. One of the RAAF nurses, Sister Wilson, in an effusion of sympathy for mydeprivations, told me that she had made a special lunch item for me and proudly produced astuffed, baked tomato. She even sat down with me to witness my delectation of what was, tome, the ultimate culinary obscenity. It has always been my contention that the tomato wastruly one of our Creator's choicest gifts and that if it had been part of His plan to haveit abused and vandalized by any sort of cooking process, then surely He would have madethis clear through the words of the OT prophets or the saints of the NT. So there I was,with every hypocritical bone in my shameless body pretending to enjoy it and I'm sure thatSister Wilson was enjoying the The Moment as well.

There was quite a large number of Japanese men and women employed atIwakuni by the RAAF. Cooks, guards, drivers, clerks and a variety of others all lumpedtogether under the banner of "labourers". On the Dakota unit, there was a groupwhose job was to clean the returned aircraft, inside and out, in readiness for the nextday's flying. Not long after I came back to Japan, there was some sort of industrialstrife involving all "Native staff" as they were known which was centred, so Iwas told, on the conditions and terms of employment received from the Americans. It wastherefore incumbent upon all such employees to go on strike for the sake of solidarity andthe showing of at least a bit of muscle. The "senior" Japanese on our payrollwas the ex-Army Finance Branch colonel who virtually "controlled" BaseSquadron's Orderly Room where he had been employed since the early days of the Occupation.It was he who organised the strike. He prepared a list of "essential" staff whowould be exempted from the strike, such as ambulance drivers, cooks and the patrollingnight-time guards, leaving the burden of fighting for victory to those whose absencewould not cause any serious inconvenience to the RAAF. The gang whose job it was toclean the Dakotas were "out" with the others but they told us that they would beon the job at 4 a.m. on the day after the strike to get the aircraft cleaned and ready togo. They were as good as their words. What was surprising was that they didn't thinkanything was wrong with that.

The RAAF operated the BCOF Auxiliary Radio Station at Iwakuni and I wasat the bottom of the announcers' ladder when I went to Korea but just before I came back,most of the announcers had been posted back to Oz and suddenly, I was seized upon becauseof my previous experience and was given the 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. shift on alternate nights.The Signals Officer monitored our broadcasts and any departure from formality in ourpresentations would incur his displeasure. Before I left Kimpo, the Iwakuni Jeep Clubceased to exist and 'they' sold my Rabbit and gave me what I paid for it - five pounds.

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