Gladys Waters, wife of Len Waters, Australia’s first Aboriginal Fighter Pilot

Running time
1 min 30 sec
Date made
Place made

The 3-nine-39 radio and video series tells the untold stories of veterans, widows and family members from the Second World War.


And then as a result, Australia is also at war. 3-nine-39, the day the war became real for Australians.

Ray Martin:

I’m Ray Martin. September the 3rd 1939, see’s Australia enter the Second World War. Around a million people enlist out of a population of just 7 million.

In 1944, Len Waters becomes Australia’s first Aboriginal Fighter Pilot. He flies 95 operations in Kitty Hawks against the Japanese around the Islands North of Australia. On one of those operations Len’s plane is hit and he almost doesn’t make it back to base. Len’s widow, Gladys Waters, picks up the history.

Gladys Waters:

They had to go out flying, they were about three hours out from their camp doing a clean-up and this Japanese shell landed up between Lenny and the back of his seat with the fuel tank. He was terrified and he said, that he would have landed on eggshells that day because he was that frightened. But they had to clear the aerodrome of the plane’s cause the shell hadn’t gone off. He was terrified about it. But he got it down and no one was hurt in any way. Two and a half hours it took him to get back to the camp with that shell behind him. Wans’t he lucky. 

Ray Martin:

Len Waters, Australia’s first Aboriginal Fighter Pilot, was one in a million as 80 years on we remember the Second World War.

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