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Nothing else needs to be said…

May 23, 2008

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Lancaster Bomber G for George

August 22, 2007

Canberra, pronounced “Canbra” by locals and properly by everyone outside the country, is a large country town which we otherwise defer to as our capital city. It is home to an outstanding war memorial – the Australian War Memorial no less. It does an excellent job of being a memorial to our fallen and to visit is a moving experience. When I first went to live in Canbra in 1981 every spare day (I was a shiftworker in those days) was spent wandering the halls and absorbing the history. And burning off numerous rolls of 35mm film in bad light. In pride of place was G for George, an iconic aircraft which flew 88 missions from 1942 as part of 460 SQN RAAF. More than 200 crew flew in her and her survival made her famous – as did her return to Australia as part of a war bond drive. Now she is “airborne” in the War memorial in a new, spectacular, world class hall dedicated to some amazing aircraft and all set up in a very “live” environment. The hall alone is worth the visit. It is one excellent reason to visit Canberra. There are a few others but I need a few days to remember what they are. I’ll get back to you on that.

Brunei Customs Officials Get Their Own Back

July 2, 2007

The first law of travel is “Never irritate the person in uniform who lets you in or out of a country.” There are some very sensible reasons for that. They are not paid very much. In a country’s defence and security they often are the first in line but the last to know. They work horrible hours. In many countries they are not empowered to make a decision on the spot. Often these officials are caught up in a very bureaucratic milieu. And, they usually love their uniform, are proud of their country and just want to do their job well. OK, in places like Zimbabwe they want some extra dollars as well.

omar ali saifuddien mosque 13 , bandar seri begawan - brunei

A different law, but far more immutable goes something like this – that young Air Force Officers (boys actually), but especially pilots and aircrew, have a swagger gene, closely linked to the “I’m indestructible gene.” These are in the same strand of DNA which contains the “I know everything gene.” Wrap that genetic make-up in crew suits, put squadron badges on them and they think they can walk anywhere, go anywhere, do anything.

In 1991 when visiting Brunei, I watched an Air Force C130 crew arrive in Brunei. They expected to be able to swan into the country through an airport that was being rebuilt and not endure the required checks, stamps, visas and other paperwork. Immutable law clashes with first law of travel. First law of travel wins out. The aircrew, after “misbehaving,” arrive in the Sheraton (no less) and encamp for the night. They drink late and party as much as is possible in BSB (the capital) – which is actually pretty restrained. Unbeknown to them the hotel staff had placed them in rooms facing this mosque – only 600 metres away. Calls to prayer were broadcast at 90db (that is, loud to very loud) at 5am the following morning, only a few hours after they retired. Directly into their windows. Worse, a sermon or similar dialogue had started at 3am.

I had the blessed good fortune the next day to watch a grinning team of customs and immigration officers smiling at the sorry lot of aircrew working on their aircraft, complaining of disrupted or complete lack of sleep. I was not convinced the boys understood the connection. It was a nice touch and should have been expected in this very small, close knit town.

(Click on the photo to be taken to a terrific collection of photos by “geertsonck” )

Friends and Planes Do Not Mix

March 11, 2007

JD perished in the crash of his friend’s aircraft only two weeks ago. At the point when we expected JD’s details to be published in the papers Garuda Flight GA200, a 737-400 crashes in Indonesia. One of the survivors is Mick Hatton, close colleague and friend with whom I served while in the Air Force. I read his name in the papers but in the initial reports his name was not associated with the Air Force. So I figured it really could have been anyone. But the following day the press revealed his rank so I guessed it may well be my friend. That evening I saw TV images of him on a stretcher on a Yogyakarta hospital floor. The following day TV footage captured him hobbling off his flight home to Darwin with his arm in plaster and looking a bit worse for wear. It’s a thin joke around some at the moment – If you know me, stay away from planes!

There is a lighter side to all the press that I know Mick will appreciate, as will anyone who has served in the military. Mick is a military policeman. And a Senior NCO at that. Over the last few days Mick has been reported in the press as an officer, and as a pilot. He is neither and the standard retort of a “I am not an officer, I work for a living” comes to mind. He is a gentleman though! And even though he looks pretty beat up here (in bed) with fellow air force crash survivor, he is a fit fellow and will bounce back. Even though he can’t catch me on Castle Hill!!

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