A commander's experience

In the Private Records collection at the Australian War Memorial is a folder containing a series of letters from Wing Commander Hugh Moore to his wife, Lorrell. Written between May 1954 and March 1955 when Moore was commanding officer of No. 1 Squadron RAAF during the Malayan Emergency, the letters provide an interesting and candid glimpse into Moore's life in Singapore.

For the most part the letters concern themselves with the day-to-day – domestic life, shopping, social events, illness and football – but occasionally they delve into operational matters. Often this means little more than comments on the fact that as each month passed the number of sorties flown eclipsed those of the previous month. In one or two instance, however, Moore goes into more detail. A letter dated 17 November 1954 illustrates the point:

'My night trips this month', he wrote, 'have exceeded those of any month since the squadron has been in Malaya. Seems to be achieving something too as we have been credited by General Boume with having caused sixteen surrenders in one area in the last couple of weeks.' Having demanded a 48 hour break for his men Moore went to write:

'After an exceptionally busy three weeks I managed to get the squadron a full 48 hours off duty. We are supposed to get one of these every month but have only had two since I have been here. Thought it was too good to be true, and sure enough it was. The terrorists did over a Police post last night and were recalled to immediate readiness this morning. Spent all day set to go and begging to be allowed to have a go, but the Army insisted they had everything under control and expect to capture the raiding party at any hour. It is now 11:00pm and we have been released until tomorrow morning. I am betting guineas to gooseberries that the Army lose contact in the next 24 hours and we spend the next three nights trying to stir something up for them. Still there is really no reason for you to be burdened with all this, except that if you realize that I am hopping mad you will excuse the writing and not put it down to sickness.'

Ordinarily Moore was far more circumspect in writing about operations, apparently his anger on this occasion fuelled his expansive comments.

One of the letters written to Lorrell has been reproduced here. While it is not one in which Moore goes into great detail about operations, it is typical of the collection as a whole and was selected for that reason. For those who seek a taste of how a senior officer expressed himself to his wife, someone to whom he could write as a husband and as an ordinary man, rather than as an officer and leader of men, the letter is of some interest. Its selection, from the many in Moore's file, however, rests ultimately on the paragraph towards the end in which he describes with evident pride the high rating that he and his crew were given by RAF examiners, one of whom joined them on an operational flight. Moore, as the citation which appears on this site shows, was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for having improved night bombing techniques and for the high standards that he set in the squadron during his time as commander.

Also in Moore's file is a small white envelope containing three photographs of Lincoln Bombers, two of the aircraft in flight and another of them lined up on the tarmac at Tengah. Each bears a caption written by Moore, all three appear here with Moore's original captions included.

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DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), A commander's experience, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 4 December 2023, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/malayan-emergency-1948-1960/australians-operations/raaf-operations/commanders-experience
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