A few close shaves on his journey through WWII

The 91-year-old who lives at RAAFA Cambrai in Merriwa was just 18 and working for the NSW Government Railways when he decided to join the RAAF, hoping to become a pilot.

He achieved his goal, becoming a Warrant Officer fighter pilot flying Kittyhawks with 78 Squadron, which was attached to the 5th American Air Force in the South Pacific.

Bill was based on Noemfoor and Morotai islands throughout the war, and had more than a few close shaves.

�Being young at the time you think the world is yours,� he said. �Often our targets were the barges that the Japanese used to transport troops and supplies, so our aim was to cut off that transport.

�One day I was returning from a strike during which I was hit by ground fire. I was approaching the landing strip when I realised the hydraulics were completely gone, and I was unable to lower the undercarriage, which is the wheels and flaps. We were all trained in how to crash land in situations like that, so I managed to put the plane down on its belly on an emergency landing strip.

�On another occasion I was landing with the canopy open when I was hit by the wing of my No. 2�s aircraft, as he was coming in to land too fast and slewed sideways. The impact threw the canopy forward and I was knocked unconscious, sustaining neck and shoulder injuries. My aircraft was a total write-off.

�I lost some good mates up there.�

Bill was involved in 58 strikes. His operational tour concluded at the end of the war in the South Pacific before he returned to Mildura in NSW as an RAAF flight instructor. He married his first wife during the war and had three children, but later divorced. He met his second wife, Rene, in 1956, and together with their two children the family moved to WA in 1968, as Bill took up the role of state service manager with Remington Rand.

Bill and Rene have lived at RAAFA�s Cambrai Village for 15 years.

He takes part in RAAFA Cambrai�s Anzac Day commemorative services each year, and will do so again this weekend with his daughter, grandson and two great-grandchildren.

For Bill, Anzac Day is a time to remember his wartime mates.

�It�s pleasing to see the involvement of today�s youth in the Anzac commemoration services. I hope that they recognise the futility of war,� he said.

DAWN SERVICE

The RAAFA Cambrai Anzac Day dawn service is at Memorial Park, Merriwa, 6am, with an address from Flt Lt Russell Cocks, and centenary plaque unveiling and a fly past at 6.26am.