Arthur’s final flight: RAF veteran takes to the skies one last time

World War II pilot Arthur Cornwell (96) ahead of his Tiger Moth joy flight at the Royal Aero Club in Jandakot.  Picture: David Baylis. d493525
World War II pilot Arthur Cornwell (96) ahead of his Tiger Moth joy flight at the Royal Aero Club in Jandakot. Picture: David Baylis. d493525

AT 96, Arthur Cornwell thought his flying days were over.

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) veteran had not flown in a plane since an impromptu trip to Rottnest almost 30 years ago, but yesterday he got to relive his youth once more.

Staff at Southern Cross Care in Shelley, where Mr Cornwell resides, got in touch with the Royal Aero Club in Jandakot, who organised a 30-minute flight in a Tiger Moth plane piloted by one of their members.

Mr Cornwell enrolled in the RAF as a fresh-faced 17-year-old in 1940 during the midst of World War II and served initially as a key part of Britain’s offensive against the Germans in their bomber command unit.

As the war progressed, he shifted to their ferry command unit, helping transport aircraft to various British outposts across the globe.

Mr Cornwell spoke fondly of his time as a pilot and credited it with turning him into a “man of the world”.

“We delivered aircraft to various places, French Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Palestine, the Persian Gulf, even as far as Karachi,” he said.

Photos from Arthur Cornwell’s career as a pilot. Photo: David Baylis. 493525.

“I flew everywhere between Casablanca and Cairo and met all sorts of people and all sorts of races and religions.

“It was very enlightening and interesting work.

“It was a very good life; I was a very, very lucky man.”

After the war ended in 1945, Mr Cornwell served another year with the RAF as an adjutant at airfields in northern Italy and Palestine.

“When the war in Europe ended, we had a large influx of trained pilots and the air ministries didn’t know what to do with them, so us more experienced types were shuffled off to desk jobs,” he said.

“After spending long months dealing with others’ demobilisation papers, my own drifted across my desk one day and that was it.”

Despite the somewhat abrupt end to his time with the RAF, Mr Cornwell’s love of flight remained evergreen and following his relocation to WA, he joined the Aviation Heritage Museum in Bull Creek.

Mr Cornwell’s itch to return the skies was always evident and Southern Cross Care head of pastoral care and volunteer services Ian Simms said they were determined to turn his dreams into a reality.

“He’s been preparing for this for days. At first, I think he wasn’t really sure it was actually happening,” Mr Simms said.

“He said since he retired, there were two events in his life which were memorable and this was the second one.”

The Tiger Moth plane carrying Arthur Cornwell prepares to depart. Photo: David Baylis. 493525.

Ever since he had been taught to fly in a monoplane all those years ago, Mr Cornwell had dreamt of flying in a biplane.

Yesterday, he said he was happy to bring his journey full circle.

“This is going to be my final flight. This is my swansong.”