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WWII Veteran flies on

Old 25th Mar 2014, 04:03
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WWII Veteran flies on



A World War II pilot who is turning 91 in April is proving age is no barrier in his quest to honour his mates this Anzac Day from the skies above Sydney.

Bill Purdy will fly the lead Tiger Moth in the Anzac Day fly-past over Sydney Harbour.

He flew nearly 40 missions in Lancaster bombers during WWII. Despite that being 70 years ago, he is still very much at home in the air.

"It's certainly a tribute and I would like it to be a tribute to everyone that took part and particularly those who didn't make it because a lot of them didn't," Mr Purdy said.

As an 18-year-old, Mr Purdy had to get his parents' permission to join the war effort.

He was sent to England as part of the Empire Air Training Scheme and then joined Bomber Command.

The risks were great. Most men did not make it past five missions flying a Lancaster bomber.

Every mission was 'terrifying'

He managed a remarkable 36 missions, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross presented by King George VI.

"The number that survived 36, I guess, was fairly small," he said.

"I don't know if you know the actual statistics in Bomber Command but there was something like 120,000 from the time the war started until it finished and there were 74,000 casualties," he said.

Mr Purdy says every mission was terrifying.

"You tidied up your room so it wasn't going to be too much trouble for someone to get your kit back to Mum and all that sort of stuff," he said.

"It was that couple of hours between the time that you went to the briefing and the time that you took off was the hardest that you could ever believe.

"You didn't make friends, close friends. You were friendly with everyone on air base, but the odds were they wouldn't be there the next morning when you came back."

But he did not make 36 missions without many close calls.

"On three separate occasions we were hit by anti-aircraft fire," he said.

"When we came back, the bomb aimer had a little sliver taken off his neck where he'd been leaning back over his bomb site and the navigator had a piece that came down through the top of the roof and buried itself in the table.

"You always felt lucky after a trip."

The bombing raids killed perhaps up to 600,000 Germans, many of them civilians.

Perhaps this is largely why after the war, those involved were not embraced by the public and politicians, and were instead seen as the darker side of victory.

"Any war is bloody and terrible business not to be indulged in lightly," he said.

"But we didn't bring that war upon ourselves. We were fighting for existence.

"Poor old Bomber Command had a pretty rough deal after the war and it's only recently I think people are starting to realise what a tremendous force it was."

D-Day 'a sight to be seen'

He was in the air on D-Day, when the Lancaster bombers took out a radar station and naval gun, ensuring a smooth passage for the Allied troops.

"No-one will ever see the sight again," he said.

"There were 5,000 small boats on the way to the beach, 130,000 troops and they were escorted by just under 300 warships, including six battleships.

"It was a sight to be seen - as I've said so often I could have put my wheels down and taxied home on them I think.

"The whole sea was just covered with them."

Reconnecting with Lancaster mates

Then he came home to Australia, forging a successful career heading one of Australia's most well-known brands, Arnott's.

But as he got older he reconnected with his Lancaster mates and returned to planes.

Seventy years on, the ranks of Bomber Command are thinning.

It is only now that Mr Purdy has felt a need to speak out about what they did and the great sacrifice the unit made.

"When people are tending to get nostalgic about these things, I think I'm one of the few that are still around that can tell what it was like," he said.

At 90, he is unstoppable. He is fit to fly and manages the climb into a Tiger Moth with ease, fuelled by a determination to honour those who were not as lucky as him.

"You never got close to anyone. You lived or died with your crew, basically," he said.
There are not many of these blokes left; we should acknowledge their service and sacrifice.
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Old 25th Mar 2014, 04:34
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I happen to know Bill reasonably well - he was a 463 Sqn skipper. I was having a look through the 463 Sqn operational records a couple of months ago and saw that Bill came back with an 'aiming point' photo from each of his first three trips. When I mentioned that to him he promptly sent me a copy of one of them, from a Munich raid on 24 April 1944. The original is still in his logbook.
He apologied that he would not be at the annual lunch on ANZAC Day this year... when he explained why - the Tiger Moth - I thought that was one of the better excuses I've heard!! There's some footage in an ABC report here: Veteran WWII pilot Bill Purdy still flying Tiger Moths at 90 - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Fit as a fiddle and still holds a current PPL. Quite a bloke!
Adam
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Old 25th Mar 2014, 04:53
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Superb, an inspiration.

Thanks for posting.
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Old 25th Mar 2014, 09:14
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in ten years time will he be the first australian pilot to still be active at 100?

I bloody hope so. <thumbs up smilie here>
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Old 25th Mar 2014, 09:22
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My uncle was W/C 460 Sqn, DFC and bar, 34 missions.

What those guys did was truly amazing - visited RAF Hendon (museum) in London recently and just gobsmacked at the stuff they have there including a Lancaster from 467 Sqn (RAAF) - serious beast with 4 Merlins on the wings. How they managed to climb into the cockpit night after night when every mission over 5 you were defying the odds I'm buggered if I know.

Heard an interview with Bill Purdy on the ABC tonight, what an incredible bloke!!
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Old 25th Mar 2014, 09:37
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"How they managed to climb into the cockpit night after night when every mission over 5 you were defying the odds I'm buggered if I know."


And at age 18 !

I know we al thought we were bullet proof at that age but even so,
the guts, courage they showed was amazing.
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Old 25th Mar 2014, 09:47
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Agree with all the above posters! But what I find sad in a way is that there is not a restored and flyable Lancaster in this country!

I seem to remember rumours/stories etc of a Lanc that sat abandoned over in WA somewhere back in the late 60's early 70's that eventually disappeared!

Really wish there was one still around, other than G for George in the AWM.
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Old 25th Mar 2014, 11:00
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the guts, courage they showed was amazing
I remember several conversations with my uncle on how hard it was to climb on board once you got to 20, 21, 22 ... missions - and how some just could not bring themselves to do it despite their guts and courage.

He had lots of stories - the barrage of flack as you crossed the coast of France, the attacking fighters, getting lost over Germany with a new navigator - brave men indeed!

But also lots of demons after the war, what with firebombing Cologne etc - eventually turned him to drink.

So great to see a survivor still flying the Tiger Moth - more power to him!
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Old 25th Mar 2014, 11:14
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Book please....

Sounds like Mr Purdy should knock out a book, so in the future people will be able to read about his "adventures" and will know how it was..

A couple of excellent reads are "No Moon Tonight" and "A Piece of Cake".

When the odds were so heavily stacked, to climb aboard night after night, takes a special nerve and dedication to "doing my bit /duty "

Brave men and true, indeed

Tragic that the Bomber Command Memorial in London took so long to eventuate, to commemorate the colossal numbers lost
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Old 25th Mar 2014, 14:02
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Triton, I think that the fire bombing of Dresden was the really regrettable
target for quite a few Bomber Command crews. It wasn't really a military target and was consequently poorly defended. But it was a reprisal raid and these things happen in wartime. Bomber Command's losses had been massive.

Years ago, I spoke with the (now late) RAAF 462 Sqn pilot, Ernie Stanton
who took part in the Dresden raid. We had a beer at his bar in his lounge. Ernie was originally a Tasmanian so the beer was Boags! 462 Sqn operated Halifax bombers from RAF Driffield in Yorkshire along with 466 Sqn. Ernie lived locally to me. In his lounge was an oil painting of Halifax E . HD. ('E' being the aircraft "tail number", 'H' meaning 4 Group, Bomber Command and 'D' being the base, Driffield.) His navigator was the oil painter.

Imagine my surprise to find out the following.. My Dad had been a member of the RAF Air Training Corps during the war. On 17th Aug 1944, aged 15, he managed to score himself an Australian Halifax test flight in E . HD for 30 minutes at Driffield. It may not have been the same airframe, as the lost aircraft were generally replaced with aircraft with the same registrations. I suppose that was for morale purposes and not to scare new aircrews of what the losses really were! Although they soon found out..

It's really heartening to hear that Bill Purdy is still flying.
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Old 25th Mar 2014, 14:35
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I seem to remember rumours/stories etc of a Lanc that sat abandoned over in WA somewhere back in the late 60's early 70's that eventually disappeared!
pinky that's a load of tosh.

the lancaster sits in the bull creek aviation museum in Perth.
corrosion hasn't been too kind to it.

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Old 25th Mar 2014, 14:51
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G'Day Pinkey et al,

The Lancaster did sit for many years 'defending' the public car park at Perth Airport, out in the open, subject to weather, birdshit etc.

T'was a great event when it was relocated to the Bull Creek museum, and stored 'proper'.....

Thanks for the photo .'W'
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Old 25th Mar 2014, 15:59
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Well, you learn something new every day !

I didn't know we had another Lancaster here in Aus.
Thanks for the info.


On WWII Aircraft, they must be busy with the ?? B24 ?? that is being restored at Werribee, Victoria
as people seem to be there most times I drive past the hangar now.
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Old 25th Mar 2014, 20:15
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Wonderful story and an example of the "greatest generation"....stoic and full of confidence with high standards.

By the way there is a legion of lost opportunities with significant WW2 RAAF significant RAAF types. The RAAF Museum knocked back an ex-RNZAF Sunderland because we didn't have a building for it! A flying Lanc was a possibility when the French Navy pensioned theirs off from New Caledonia. One flew into Australia enroute to Scotland for a private collection. In addition when the Indian Air Force stopped flying B-24's in the 1970's again we were offered one if we paid for the ferry to Oz. We didn't and these aircraft went to Canadian Air Force museum, the RAF museum and private collectors.


That's OK we'll pay millions for abstract paintings and "stolen" Indian artefacts!
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Old 25th Mar 2014, 20:25
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" That's OK we'll pay millions for abstract paintings and "stolen" Indian artefacts!"

Cutting TBM, very cutting

But true
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Old 26th Mar 2014, 07:24
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Avro Linc...

instead of Lanc. Wasnt there a group going to import /rebuild an example in Oz.
Anyone know anything about that.? Pipe dream max???

The Bull Creek machine...something to behold.!
The Lanc gives new meaning to "bomb bay"...its enormous. The load carrying capacity was legend.
I cant imagine what it must have been like on take off knowing you were sitting on 20,000 lbs of HE. Scary stuff.
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Old 26th Mar 2014, 08:09
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...the 1970's again we were offered one if we paid for the ferry to Oz. We didn't and...
...and the then Oz Labor government spent 2,000,000 (1973) U.S.A. dollars to buy the painting Blue Poles..










.
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Old 26th Mar 2014, 10:19
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for the history buffs

I note that the Bull Creek machine appears to have a rear turret with two (presumably 20mm) cannon - I thought the standard was 4x 0.303" machine guns. Anyone know if there was a design change and when?
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Old 27th Mar 2014, 11:37
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Could Mr. Purdy perhaps be persuaded to add to the legacy that is the "Gaining a pilot's Brevet" thread in the Mil forum?
Kookabat?
Unfortunately, the instigator "Cliff Nemo" and his successor, "Regle" have both passed on, but they've left a legacy to the younger generations, including me, who weren't there.
The thread is like a book, a fascinating story of the trials and tribulations of Service life in WW2 and beyond.
Fortunately, others have seen fit to share with us,but Anno Domini marches on.....PLEASE point any Veterans of your aquaintance in the direction of the thread,I am sure their contributions would be valued.
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Old 27th Mar 2014, 12:21
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He is on emails - I'll see what I can do
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