Canberra Commemorative Gathering

Reunion Overview

The commemorative gathering, honouring the re–presentation of Lancaster "G" George, Remembering the 1018 of our squadron and other Australian airmen who gave their lives in the air war over Europe "For our tomorrow they gave their today".

Honouring the Memory of our comrades who have since passed away.

The Commemorative Gathering held in Canberra, possibly the last of 460 squadron gatherings  from the 2nd December till the 6th December, 2003, has left a lasting impression in the veterans mind that after 60 years the veterans are receiving acknowledgment in Australia from the Australian Government of their service in the fight for the freedom we all value so much.

The gathering was hosted by the Hon Minister for Veteran Affairs, Danna Vale MP, and her very enjoyable visit to us on our Welcome night, the next day hosting us and welcoming us to a morning tea reception in Kings Hall in the New Australian Parliament building was a highlight for many of our people. She is a wonderfully gracious lady loved by all who had the pleasure of meeting her. That she enjoyed talking with everyone and her enthusiasm in presenting all those ladies who love an Australian airman with an Air Force badge was a highlight of the gathering.

We were also honoured with a visit by the Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force, Air Marshal Angus Houston AO AFC. Prior to him flying off to Iraq early Wednesday morning he had expressly requested to attend our gathering and to welcome the squadron members to Canberra.  In his address he spoke of the Royal Australian Air Force training 27,000 aircrew and of 29% of them being killed in action. He also spoke of our flying on operations, our records and pointing out that our record of service has become the yardstick for future generations of men serving in the Royal Australian Air Force. It was also very pleasing for everyone to have the opportunity of meeting and talking with both the Minister of Veteran Affairs and the Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force.

The Dutch Ambassador Dr Hans Sondaal who was possibly saved from starvation in 1945 by the "Manna" food drop graciously entertained the squadron members for lunch on Wednesday as 460 squadron was one of the heaviest of the squadron participants flying in 127 Lancaster loads of food. His Excellency and his lovely wife made a lasting impression during a very moving and sentimentally charged visit.

The Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territories entertained us to a cocktail party on Wednesday evening and very graciously praised our courage and our record in our fight for freedom in a war torn Europe. He also left us with a glowing tribute of Canberra as a city and we most certainly agree, it has grown into a worthy capital of Australia.

To have a man of the calibre of Air Marshal, Ray Funnell AC accompanied by his lovely wife Susanne, to speak so highly of and to unveil the plaques honouring Hughie Edwards VC DSO DFC in the Hughie Edwards VC Park was very pleasing. A highlight of this unveiling was a fly over of a Lancaster. It was amplified suitably and caught many of the gathering including many ex Lancaster veterans looking into the sky and searching for that elusive plane with the unmistakable sound of their beloved Lancaster. The gathering was also addressed in a very touching family way by younger brother John Edwards who had flown in from Perth for the unveiling of the plaque honouring his brother Hughie.

Air Commodore Keith Parsons, CBE. DSO. DFC. AFC. one of Australia's  more highly decorated veterans of WWII spoke in remembrance of Hughie Edwards who he replaced as Commanding Officer of 460 squadron in late 1944. To the surprise of the gathering he spoke of teaching Hughie Edwards to fly, and not only had he taught one VC winner to fly but had also taught another one, Bill Newton who won a VC in the Pacific area. What a record for an Air Commodore who also has the distinction of qualifying for a caterpillar badge for having bailed out over Germany as a Group Captain. Group Captains were not usually flying over the enemy lines.

John Grigsby deserves a lot of praise in gaining some newspaper space as it is difficult to get press coverage. I was personally sorry not to meet up with John at one of our later functions.

Whilst I believe there are new works approved in the Hughie Edwards Park by The National Capital Authority (Air Marshal David Evans team) Arthur Skimin and his crew are planting more trees to soften the area and to give an autumn toning. I feel this will enhance the area and will help to provide an all weather amenity which will be much appreciated by future visitors to the Hughie Edwards VC Memorial Park and adjacent RAAF Memorial Grove.

Air Marshal David Evans AC AO DSO DFC rendered a speech at the National Museum acclaimed by many as being a wonderful description of life on the squadrons in England.

Our next major function was at Government House where our new Governor General  Major General Michael Jeffrey, AC CVO MC welcomed us in a magnificent speech and then circulated and conversed with many of our group, very much to the delight of everyone, and more especially the ladies.

It was my pleasure to visit the Gilmore Primary School in company of Arthur Skimin and Vic Grimmett DFC and our wives. Following a description of a raid over Germany by myself, Vic Grimmett invited a question time delighting the children. I then presented the school with a Certificate of Appreciation for their marvellous donation of $8,000 of tree guards for the Hughie Edwards VC Park, and as a memento of our visit I had pleasure in presenting a copy of my book "Flying into the Mouth of Hell" for the school library.

The Director Major General Steve Gower AO, and staff of the Australian War Memorial have set up a wonderful simulated display featuring Lancaster "G" George in a raid on Berlin in early December, 1943. The simulation is so good that many tears were shed, even by some veterans, and also many moist eyes of the people viewing the display, against a background simulating flak barrage and searchlights. The sound was loud, realistic, and terrific. This simulation is a wonderful therapy even after 60 years to the surviving veterans of Bomber Command. A therapy that was not then known necessary, nor even considered, and is now a means of enabling those survivors to start to speak of memories which were seared into their brains forever.

The very well attended commemoration service on the Saturday morning with the Royal Australian Air Force Band and guard party adding to the impressiveness of the service which was of a high order and was deeply appreciated by the squadron members and their wives, and others including relatives who attended. I was honoured and proud to be invited to recite the ode.

I returned home immensely proud of my contribution, in endeavouring to receive some recognition for my squadron and my mates.

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