When I turned eighteen in August 1936 I joined the Australian Militia Forces. A friend of my boss, was a captain in the artillery in the militia, so I went and joined there and for the three years or bit more I thought it was great. I became the gun sergeant on a 25 pounder gun. I thought I was top dog. I could hit an anthill over a hill, you know, at two or three thousand yards away.
So when war broke out I said to my mates 'I'm not staying down here. If I can do it anybody else can. I'm going up there.' So I volunteered for the air force but the funny thing about it was the first thing I went to do, I went to the recruiting office to do an adaptability test to see if I was suitable to be a wireless operator. I failed.
Meanwhile I put in for air crew and in May 1940 I was called up for the second course of the Empire Air Training Scheme. Alex Kerr was on the first course. So we all join up. Most of us were public school educated, everybody was reasonably so, and we were about 150 from Queensland, I imagine, and probably 200 from New South Wales.
We went to Grand Central station here and we were lined up and they said 'Well, there's pilots, navigators and wireless operators.' Everybody wanted to be a pilot, you know, everyone wants to be a pilot, and everybody passed the qualifications medically. So they just read a list of names out and said 'You're pilots.' Next list. 'You're navigators. You're wireless operator gunners.' And I was a wireless operator/gunner and I'd failed the adaptability test and you didn't think anything of it.
That's your play. You volunteer to fight for your country, I mean, King and country, it was a big thing. Empire Day was fantastic in those days, all the celebrations that used to go on. People ask me 'Why did you go?' You just went. It was part of your training and lifestyle. You just did these things. Well I was up in the air. A moving target. 'They won't get me.' They did.