RAAF’s No. 32 Squadron marked its 32nd birthday since its re-formation on 1 July by honouring its last remaining WWII veteran with a tour of RAAF Base East Sale.
Edward (Ted) McConchie, 98, trained on Beaufort aircraft at RAAF Base East Sale in 1943 when No. 1 Operational Training Unit and its wireless facilities were a concrete shelter near a main gate enclosing muddy fields strewn with partially constructed facilities.
He was then posted to No. 100 Squadron in Papua New Guinea, where the unit flew numerous anti-submarine patrols, bomb strikes and supply missions, including dropping mail and code books to coast watchers surveilling Japanese occupation in the islands.
McConchie was eventually posted to No. 32 Squadron at Camden, Bundaberg and Lowood, where he served until he was discharged in August 1945.
“It was a beautiful day to fly,” McConchie said. “I hadn’t been back to Sale since 1943 and the flight over Bairnsdale and the lakes took me back to what the area was like back then, country towns surrounded by farms.
“Everything’s certainly changed a lot and the base is a magnificent facility today. During the war, I was a wireless operator and air gunner and my eyes are still pretty good. When we were coming down, we saw a Roulettes formation training on the horizon.”
No. 32 Squadron Commanding Officer Wing Commander Andrew Daley said, “The event foregrounded the dedication, sacrifice and exemplary service of past and present members.
“We were honoured to host Messrs McConchie and Woodward to thank them for their service and to celebrate the proud history of 32 Squadron that continues with ongoing operations today.”
McConchie was joined on the tour by fellow Beaufort veteran and World War II pilot Allan Woodward, 98, and former No. 32 Squadron commanding officers Group Captain (Ret’d) Peter Cleary, Wing Commander (Ret’d) Mike Oram and Wing Commander Adrian Mavros (Headquarters Air Academy B300 Transition).
No. 32 Squadron was originally formed at Port Moresby in February 1942 with personnel drawn from other units. It commenced reconnaissance and bomber operations from the very day of its formation.
Its Hudsons covered vast tracks of ocean searching for enemy shipping, and encounters with with Japanese fighters saw with many aircraft returning to base with wounded and dead crewmen on board.
“Port Moresby soon came under regular air attack and on 24 February Japanese bombers struck, demolishing much of the Unit’s camp, and destroying one aircraft on the ground,” reads the RAAF’s official bio.
“Despite this, operations continued unabated, and on 7 March the Squadron attacked a Japanese convoy leaving an 8,000 ton transport ship ablaze and listing heavily.
“In September 1942 the Squadron was withdrawn to Southern Australia and was re-equipped with Australian built Beauforts the following year. No 32 Squadron spent the remainder of the war patrolling off Australia’s East Coast, until the unit was disbanded in November 1945.
“Equipped with HS748 aircraft, No 32 Squadron reformed at East Sale on 1 July 1989, operating in support of the School of Air Navigation and in the transport role.”
Australian Aviation recently reported how RAAF’s No. 32 Squadron is undergoing a period of modernisation by replacing the paper maps and chart system to train navigators with a new digital console onboard its KA350.
The “next-generation” mission airborne training system (MATS) mirrors ground simulators and can provide recruits with instant feedback, realistic emulations of events and provide post-mission analysis.
It has been developed by Jet Aviation in collaboration with Sydney-based software company Cirrus and Defence’s own Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group.