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Alastair (Al) Gordon Bridges

Alastair (Al) Gordon Bridges

Wanniassa, Australian Capital Territory

Al was born in Glasgow, Scotland, immigrating with his family to Australia when he was two years old. Whilst growing up, Al developed a keen desire to become a pilot and fly aeroplanes.

At the age of twenty-one, he joined the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) commencing a career that would span several decades, enabling him to fly aircraft in many locations across the globe.

From March 1967-1968, Al was posted to 9 Squadron in Vung Tau, Vietnam, where he flew UH-1 Iroquois helicopters to recover wounded Australian soldiers, civilians and members of the Viet Cong. Flying in a war-zone was a difficult and dangerous job for pilots and their crew. On one occasion, Al had to hover close to the tree tops while a wounded soldier was winched out of the jungle. On the ground, Australian soldiers were exchanging fire with the enemy, and Australian artillery was shelling very close to their position. Al recalls feeling embarrassed when the wounded soldier later asked to meet him and the crew to express his gratitude for the daring rescue.

After returning home from Vietnam, Al married his fiancée Sandra and remained in the RAAF until 1988, during which time he continued to fly a variety of aircraft, including the DH-4 Caribou in New Guinea. After retiring from the Air Force, Al worked with the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation, and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. Al is now very committed to his work at the Australian War Memorial, volunteering at the school wreath-laying ceremonies. On occasion, he meets a visitor to the Memorial with whom he served in Vietnam, and has remained friends with crew he worked with during his deployment.

Thinking back on his time in Vietnam, Al was impressed by the dedication of the servicemen and women in Vietnam. A determination to look after others and get the job done is a lasting memory.