Wilfred ('Woof') Arthur

Full name:
Wilfred Stanley Arthur, DSO, DFC
Born:

Sydney
NSW
Australia
Died:

Darwin
NT
Australia
Occupation:
Student
Education:
Yelarbon State School (Yelarbon, Queensland), The Scots College (Warwick, Queensland)
Highest rank:
Wing Commander
Enlistment:
4 September 1939 Victoria Barracks
Decorations/ commendations:
Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM), Mentioned in Despatches (MID)
Service:
Royal Australian Air Force
Service Number:
565
Conflict:
World War II 1939-1945
Military event:
Battle of Milne Bay, Egypt and Libya 1940-1943
Unit:
No. 3 Squadron, No. 76 Squadron, No. 75 Squadron, No. 71 Wing, No. 2 Operational Training Unit, No. 78 Wing

Early life

Painting of clean-shaven man with short dark, wavy hair and blue eyes, wearing a military shirt with two rows of ribbons and a winged badge

Murray Griffin's 1958 oil painting of RAAF Group Captain Wilfred Stanley Arthur, DSO, DFC. AWM ART27539

Born to Stan and Betty Arthur in 1919, Wilfred Stanley Arthur grew up in the Queensland farming community of Yelarbon. His father, originally from Inverell, had served with the Australian Army Veterinary Corps in Egypt and France during World War I. At the time of his son's birth, Stan ran a small farm called 'Keetah' and was the local cattle tick inspector.

Arthur was most often called 'Stanley' like his dad, although he acquired many nicknames throughout life, such as 'Bandy', 'Wilf', 'Wolf' and 'Woof'. Arthur achieved good marks at the Yelarbon State School. In 1935, he boarded at Scots College, Warwick, where he excelled academically, at many sports and in the college cadets corps. He graduated from school in 1938.

Busy wartime service

Arthur enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on 4 September 1939, the day after Australia declared war on Germany.

Arthur earned his wings on 3 March 1940 and served briefly with No. 22 (City of Sydney) Squadron RAAF. Then he was posted to No. 3 Squadron RAAF and embarked for the Middle East in July 1940, arriving in Egypt in August.

On 12 December 1940, Arthur shot down his first enemy aircraft. On 30 November 1941, he shot down another 4 in a single sortie over eastern Libya. For this action, Arthur was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).

While recovering from burns in hospital, Arthur met an American-Armenian girl, Lucille 'Lucie' Petraki. They married on Christmas Eve 1941 in Alexandria and returned to Australia in March 1942. One report said that Lucie was disguised as a soldier on the troopship.

Arthur joined No. 76 Squadron RAAF in Townsville in April 1942. In October, he was promoted to squadron leader.

Then in January 1943, he took command of No. 75 Squadron RAAF at Milne Bay.

In April 1943, despite his failing guns, Arthur led the squadron against a large Japanese formation at Milne Bay. He survived to receive the Distinguished Service Order (DSO).

Read how one newspaper reported Arthur's award: Awarded D.S.O. (26 May 1943, Warwick Daily News, p 2).

In June 1943, Arthur became Wing Leader of No. 71 Wing, moving to Goodenough Island off Papua. Then in August, aged 24, he was promoted to group captain, a considerable achievement for an officer his age.

Arthur was injured in an aircraft accident in November 1943. After recovering, he commanded an operational training unit at Mildura, Victoria, before being posted to command No. 81 Wing at Noemfoor off West Papua.

In 1944, Arthur served in Australia as Commanding Officer of No. 2 Operational Training Unit. A son, Haig, was born to Arthur and Lucie on 5 February 1945. (In 1967, Haig served a tour in Vietnam with the Australian Army.)

In April 1945, Arthur took command of No. 78 Wing operating from Morotai Island in the Netherlands East Indies and was involved in the 'Morotai Mutiny'. This event was a protest by senior pilots against using RAAF fighters in a ground-attack role.

Arthur commanded 78 Wing in operations over Tarakan in May 1945. In July 1945, Group Captain Wilfred Arthur was on the island of Tarakan off Borneo's west coast. Australian troops had captured Tarakan in May, the first of 3 major operations on Borneo. Arthur's Wing had flown in support of the invasion.

Arthur was on Tarakan when Japan surrendered on 15 August 1945. He was discharged from the RAAF in February 1946.

2 cross-shaped metal medals on ribbons, one gold with a navy and maroon ribbon and the other silver with a navy and white diagonal-striped ribbon

Wilfred Arthur's Distinguished Service Order and Distinguished Flying Cross. AWM REL27812.002

Life after the war

After the war, Arthur tried dairy farming in East Gippsland, worked in administration roles in Melbourne and Sydney, and then a government project role in South Vietnam.

Arthur finally settled in Darwin in 1967 and remained there until he died in 2000. He is buried in the Adelaide River War Cemetery.

Sources

  • AD Garrison, Australian Fighter Aces 1914-1953, Air Power Studies Centre, Canberra, 1999.
  • Arthur Wilfred Stanley, RAAF Officers Personnel files, 1921-1948, NAA: A9300, ARTHUR W S
  • Arthur Stanley Oswald Darley, AIF War Service Record, NAA: B2455, ARTHUR S O D
  • 'Wilfred Stanley Arthur', Traces of War, accessed 27 May 2020, https://www.tracesofwar.com/persons/41721/Arthur-Wilfred-Stanley.htm
  • Arthur Ashe, 2015, 'From School leader to Decorated Ace', Warwick Daily News, 18 July, accessed 27 May 2020, https://www.pressreader.com/australia/warwick-daily-news/20150718/282260959147891

Last updated: 18 November 2022

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2022), Wilfred Stanley Arthur, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 6 February 2023, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories/biographies/wilfred-stanley-arthur
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