FRIENDSHIP, BANTER AND A UNIQUE ‘REUNION’
No 617 Squadron, Australian Air Force Cadets recently held its annual dining-in night at the Unley RSL.
A dining-in night is a formal military ceremony to foster camaraderie and esprit de corps within a unit, while heightening the enjoyment of a meal. The practice began formally in 16th-century England, but it is known that Roman Legions held formal dinners during the pre-Christian era, and Vikings held similar ceremonies in the 2nd century to celebrate battles and honour their heroes.
Formal dining was incorporated into the British Army’s regimental mess system during the 18th century. During World War 2 in particular, a large scale dining-in night for members of Bomber Command would be an opportunity to see who did not return from the most recent missions, and honour their sacrifice.
No 617 Squadron is based at Unley High School, and primarily draws its cadets from the Unley region in the southern suburbs of Adelaide. The squadron parades on Monday nights during school terms, from 6.30 to 9.15 pm.
The Guest of Honour for the squadron’s dining-in night was Mr Guy Bowering.
The Commanding Officer of 617 Squadron, Flying Officer (AAFC) Chris Trewin said, “It was a great honour to have Mr Bowering give the address, being a former student of Unley High School, a retired RAAF officer, and a member of nearby Mitcham Branch of the RAAF Association”.
Mr Bowering told the squadron the story of a rare ‘travelling wardrobe’ which had been given to him to care for.
On opening this large suitcase, it was found to contain the personal effects of a Mr William Seebo Edge, born in Semaphore, SA in 1913, who was a World War 2 RAAF Navigator. Mr Edge had lived in Frederick Street in Unley until he died in 2004.
Mr Bowering being asked to be custodian of this travelling wardrobe represented a reunion of sorts, highlighting a remarkable series of coincidences some four decades apart.
William Edge and Guy Bowering had both attended Unley High School, one in the 1930s and the latter in the 1970s.
Mr Edge had first served as a part-time soldier in the Citizens’ Military Forces (CMF) in the 1930s, at the 3rd Light Horse Regiment depot in Arthur Street. Mr Bowering had also served as an Army Reservist, with the Adelaide University Regiment in the early 1980s.
Mr Edge enlisted in the RAAF in 1941, and saw operational service in North Africa and the South West Pacific until 1945, discharging with the rank of Flight Lieutenant. Mr Bowering also joined the RAAF, in 1983: he too saw operational service overseas and after a total of 20 years’ service retired in 2015 with the rank of Flight Lieutenant.
The story of discovering the contents of this suitcase kept the cadets enthralled – among the items were Mr Edge’s Unley High School tie bar, items from his CMF service and tickets from a Ball held at Unley Town Hall in the 1930s. There was also all of his RAAF gear: his uniform, cap, survival knife, silk escape map and the altimeter from the last aircraft he flew in.
Flying Officer (AAFC) Paul Rosenzweig, 6 Wing Public Affairs Officer, said: “One of the customs and traditions of a dining-in night is to have an empty seat reserved, often with a cap or personal effects on the table, in honour of ‘departed comrades’ who cannot be present for the dinner”.
Thanks to Flight Lieutenant Bowering, this 617 Squadron dinner went a step further – with a unique ‘reunion’ of two Unley High School Old Scholars and RAAF veterans.
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