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  • Writer's pictureKinglake Historical Society

Anzac Remembrance

On Anzac Day each year, Australians gather in communities across the country to remember those who have served Australia in time of war, and in particular to remember those who did not return.  Kinglake residents attend the Kinglake Lions Club commemoration each year to pay tribute.
2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the Royal Australian Air Force established in March 1921.  During World War 2, a number of RAAF bomber, fighter and reconnaisance squadrons served in Britain, and with the Desert Air Force located in North Africa and the Mediterranean, while others served in the South West Pacific area.
From the Kinglake district, 18 young men and 2 young women joined the RAAF from 1940. 
R.P. Chalmers     R.A. Coller                       R.P. Coller                        J. Collins
N.A. Davies        P.M. Duncan                    L.R. Easdown                   R.W. Easdown
J. Inman              J.A. Johnston                   K.J. Kelly                         B. Lorenz
E.H. McDonald   J.F. McMahon                  R.G. Pearson                     F.L. Ryan
F. Thomson        J. Vlatko                           Florence Orchard                Lillian Russell
They were farewelled by the Kinglake District Send Off Committee at special functions held in one or other of the three Kinglake halls and attended by the families of the district.  Each new RAAF member was presented with an engraved medal and 5 pounds in cash.
Some of the young men were selected to join the aircraft maintenance crews who played a vital role in keeping planes in readiness for action and had to be able to complete a 'turnaround' check and refuel in 12 minutes when necessary.
The two young women joined the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force who took many support roles - truck driving,  packing parachutes, operating communications, working in repair shops or in mess rooms or hospitals - which allowed men to be released for active service.
For those men selected for service in air crews, basic training took place at Point Cook.  From early 1940, when the all-out attack on England was launched, the disastrous loss of British pilots meant that replacements were desperately needed from the British dominions.  Australia joined the Empire Training Scheme and RAAF trainee pilots were sent first to Canada for advanced training and from there to England for experience in local conditions before joining the crews of the British Royal Air Force.  
Seventeen Australian squadrons served in Britain and the Desert Air Force.  By the end of the war in 1945, 217,000 men and women had served in the RAAF, of whom 10,562 were killed in action.
Pilots and their crews required immense skill and courage. Success was vital and eventually achieved.  Winston Churchill acknowledged that never before had so many people owed so much to so few.
Sadly, for most of the 20 young people from Kinglake, the Kinglake Historical Society currently has very little information of their war service. 
It is noted on the World War 2 Honour Board in the Community Centre that Sergeant N.A. Davies of Kinglake West was killed in action. 

Flight Lieutenant Peter Duncan & Flight Officer Ernie McDonald.

Information from their families tells us that Corporal John McMahon was killed shortly after arriving in England when the Luftwaffe bombed the Bournemouth air base, and his cousin, Flight Sergeant Ernie McDonald, did not return from a weather reconnaisance flight over Iceland.  Both were from Kinglake.
We have learned from his family that Sergeant Rob Easdown of Kinglake Central was shot down on a bombing mission but managed to parachute safely to land near the Netherlands border.  After wandering and hiding for 11 days, he was captured and spent months in a German prison camp until being released by American troops.
The other 16 Kinglake RAAF personnel returned home safely but no doubt their experiences left an indelible mark on their lives.
Lest We Forget

Deidre Hawkins
Kinglake Historical Society
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