Meadow Springs resident reflects for Anzac Day


John Bailey now and (below) during the war.               d452648
Meadow Springs resident reflects for Anzac Day
John Bailey now and (below) during the war. d452648

Motivated by the threat of wartime invasion, he would do his duty to serve and protect his country.

On April 25, Mr Bailey will join a small group of other RAAFA ex-service men and women at Meadow Springs to remember all those who have served and died for Australia in war, especially his mates.

Having just turned 18, in 1941 Mr Bailey enlisted with the RAAF and spent months training at RAAF Pearce Air Base, before moving on to the training base at Cunderdin and Geraldton, learning to fly Tiger Moths and Avro Ansons.

“At the time that I was awarded my wings, everyone seemed to be sent to the UK to fly bombers for the air war over Europe,” he said.

“But then the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor within a day or two and I was immediately posted to Pearce Air Base on local flying duties with 25 Squadron.

“One of my earliest involvements was the search for HMAS Sydney, which disappeared off Carnarvon in late 1941. No one knew what happened, and by early 1942 it was thought that there would be wreckage or bodies washed ashore and I spent six weeks flying along the coast from Geraldton and Broome looking for clues.

“I never found anything and now we know why, because the Sydney sank straight to the bottom.’’

After time spent protecting the skies over WA’s coastline, Mr Bailey was sent to train in Victoria, where he learned to fly Kittyhawk fighters and was posted to the RAAF 75 Squadron in New Guinea for nine months.

“We covered the whole of New Guinea,” he said. “We lost about seven pilots during that time but I was lucky.

“I was hit a few times but always managed to get home.

“The only hazard was the two ground staff chaps who looked after my aircraft.

“If I came home with bullet holes, they’d say to me ‘for goodness sake, can’t you take better care of it’; I was just the pilot, after all.”

After the war, Mr Bailey continued work with ex-service men and women for four years with the Commonwealth Government’s Department of Post-War Reconstruction, where he was confronted with the reality of life after war for many returned prisoners of war.

“I saw so many of these poor chaps who’d been captured in Singapore as POWs and so badly treated that those who came back were in a hell of a mess,” he says.

His son “caught the flying bug too” and has a collection of vintage aircraft. The pair continue to enjoy regular flying adventures together.

For Mr Bailey, Anzac Day is an opportunity for Australians to remember and commemorate the sacrifices made by service men and women in all conflicts.

“We never miss it,” he said.