News of freedom spreads

News of Redland City’s soon-to-be forged bond with Australia’s largest air force “wing” is spreading quickly throughout military circles.

Mayor Karen Williams said the fact the Redlands would bestow the age-old honour of Freedom of Entry to the City to the crack No.95 Wing on 12 April 2014 had been warmly welcomed among its 2600 highly trained personnel, who provide operational security at every Royal Australia Air Force (RAAF) base in Australia as well as generate the ground support force for Air Force activities around the world.

“Freedom of Entry to the City is much more than a colourful display of pomp and ceremony, to this day it remains a significant milestone and honour for defence force personnel,” she said.

“We are inviting all Redland residents to line Middle Street from 10.30am to witness this historic event, which is also formal recognition from the RAAF of the important role our city played in the defence of our nation leading up to, and during, World War 2,” she said.

Division 6 Councillor Julie Talty said Freedom of Entry to the City dated back to the Middle Ages when cities were fortified by walls to protect residents from invaders – right of entry to outside soldiers was a privilege rarely granted but came as a sign of respect for the protection and friendship offered.

She said the ceremony would include a formal parade of about 150 marchers representing all nine of No.95 Wing’s squadrons, accompanied by a band and air force cadets.

“All officers and warrant officers will march with swords, and other ranks with rifles,” said Cr Talty. “It will be a sight not to be missed.”

Cr Williams said the Freedom of Entry to Redland City event would take on even greater significance in the lead-up to Anzac Day and the centenary of the start of World War 1 at the end of July.

Many long-time locals can recall the aerial acrobatics in the skies above the Redlands as pilots from No. 23 Squadron based at Archerfield were put through their paces in preparation for combat during World War II.

Unfortunately, as these highly skilled young airmen trained to become the “best of the best”, the tactical training flights sometimes went tragically awry.

Such was the case on 13 February 1942 when six aircraft took off to practice air-fighting techniques over the lower end of Moreton Bay. The drill was to train in pairs – reports state that four aircraft ventured south above Jacobs Creek and South Stradbroke Island while two were above Ormiston/Thornlands when … they collided mid-air.

Debris was scattered widely, including some at Ziegenfusz Park at Thornlands and some at Cleveland cemetery, where a memorial to the tragic incident was erected in 1995 to honour the four airmen killed: Sgt Gordon Williams of Brisbane, Sgt Alan Lord of Ulladulla, Sgt George Ross Hardy of Toowoomba and Sgt Frank Pledge, also of Brisbane.

Although these young men never saw action, their loss of life was a consequence of training for the defence of Australia and the significance was certainly not lost when the Japanese bombed Darwin just six days later. There is a memorial in their honour at the Cleveland Cemetery in Russell Street.

No.23 Squadron lost another aircraft – and six of its personnel – just 18 months earlier when the aircrew of a Lockheed Hudson, also based at Archerfield, failed to return from navigational exercises at sea on 12 August 1940. Its wireless had faded 20 minutes after take-off, and nothing more was heard. A search found no signs of wreckage, just an oil slick about 30km east of Jumpinpin, between North and South Stradbroke islands. 

Incidentally, the Hudson story has an element of mystery in that there were unsubstantiated reports its wreckage had been located off Southport, and similarly unsubstantiated reports that the Red Cross recorded the crew, on 20 March 1941 in France disembarking from the German sea raider, Kulmerland, which was suspected to have operated off the Queensland coast.