The RAAF Revisited. By Owen Zupp.
The RAAF Revisited.
The RAAF, or Royal Australian Air Force, has played a major role in my life – although having never served. My parents both served with the RAAF – twice. And my wife’s parents also both served in the Air Force. My childhood school holidays were spent on RAAF bases as a young Air Training Corps cadet and I later re-joined the cadets as a flying instructor in later life. When my own children came along, time became scarce and I resigned.
Yesterday, I revisited one of the air bases of my youth. The fences are taller than I remember, and the security measures are in line with the world we now live in. Still, as Kirrily, my son and I ventured along the roadways, the sporting fields, hangars, and lodgings were very familiar.
Of the most significance, we passed the original Headquarters building. This was particularly poignant as it was within those walls that my father, a young Sergeant-Pilot met my mother, a young administrative Corporal. Dad was destined to ship out to the Korean War the next day, but his paperwork had gone missing. He proceeded to borrow my mother’s phone to launch a verbal tirade about how he was departing with his RAAF squadron-mates tomorrow, with or without paperwork.
All the while, and without permission, he started to help himself to the sweets that were in her top drawer. Ultimately, the administrative issue was resolved, he asked her out to the movies that night and flew out the next day, bound for Korea via a training stint in Japan. They corresponded while he was away, while at headquarters, mother nervously received the notifications of the death of Australian pilots as they were killed in action. (My mum had lost her first fiancé during World War Two just weeks before their wedding – he too was a RAAF airman.)
Despite more that 200 missions and several close calls, my father returned and weeks later my parents were engaged. Dad went straight to Flight Instructors Course at East Sale in Victoria, where they shared a two-day honeymoon as dad studied. Mum once calculated that they had spent less than 100 hours in each other’s company before their wedding day and yet it was a lasting union to be admired.
From the old RAAF Headquarters building, we passed the former front gate, still standing proud. And the cinema where my parents had shared their first evening. Now all these years later, we were passing family landmarks and stirring memories at an amazing rate.
And why were we here? On June 10th 1952, my father flew his 200th fighter mission in Korea. Now, on June 10th 2020, I was to join the Royal Australian Air Force reserves as an officer. With my father’s original Air Medal lapel pin from Korea on my suit and my hand on my mother’s wartime bible, I took the oath. If only they could have been there. But then again, they were.