WW2 air gunner celebrates 100th birthday

Squadron Leader Edward “Ted” McConchie (retd) celebrated his 100th birthday with fellow service members from 100 Squadron at RAAF Base Point Cook in Victoria on July 6.

CAPTIONSquadron Leader Ted McConchie (retd) smiles in front of a CAC CA-18 Mustang at RAAF Base Point Cook, Victoria. Story by Flying Officer Rosetta Gigliotti. Photo by Leading Aircraftwoman Paris Rigney.

Mr McConchie was a former wireless operator/air gunner in a Beaufort bomber aircraft in WW2 and served with 100 Squadron in Papua New Guinea during the war.

He was honoured with a private tour of air-worthy heritage aircraft in the 100 Squadron hangar, which included a Tiger Moth that he flew in during transits and training.

On sighting the old bird, his eyes widened.

“Charters Towers had a Tiger Moth,” he said. “We used it to taxi and commute to Townsville. The original Tiger Moth wings were fabric.”

Commanding Officer 100 Squadron Wing Commander Jason Easthope enjoyed chatting about the squadron’s Tiger Moth in the hangar with Mr McConchie, especially with reference to the wing material.

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CAPTIONWW2 veteran, Squadron Leader Ted McConchie (retd), shares stories while touring 100 Squadron Hangar and inspecting the Tiger Moth, at RAAF Base Point Cook, Victoria. Photo by Leading Aircraftwoman Paris Rigney.

“They still are fabric” WGCDR Easthope said.

“This is an original and we only fly her on nice days with light winds.”

That was something Mr McConchie was delighted to hear.

He was cheered and applauded by Air Force personnel and members of the public at the interactive flying display of the 100 Squadron CAC CA-18 Mustang.

“Although 100 Squadron showcases the rare flying machines of the past, this pales in significance compared to celebrating a WW2 veteran turning 100,” Wing Commander Easthope said.

“These dwindling opportunities are truly special moments.”

Mr McConchie cut his birthday cake, standing with members of 100 Squadron and was presented with a unit patch, coin and cap.

An old photograph of Ted with his crew, pilot Tony Warden, wireless officer/air gunner Ken Davies and navigator John Snewin, taken in Bundaberg was proudly placed next to his cake.

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CAPTIONWW2 veteran Squadron Leader Ted McConchie (retd) celebrates his 100th birthday with a cake cutting, hosted by 100 Squadron at RAAF Base Point Cook, Victoria. Photo by Leading Aircraftwoman Paris Rigney.

Mr McConchie said it was “magnificent” celebrating his 100th birthday at the 100 Squadron hangar.

He attributes his survival of the war to luck, given how many mates he lost during operations in Papua New Guinea in 1943-44.

To them, he said, “Thanks for your friendship.”

During a strike against the enemy at Rabaul, on December 14, 1943, Mr McConchie witnessed the bombing of a Beaufort A9-472, which killed its pilot and severely wounded its air gunner.

Standing just a few metres away during the Japanese bomb attack, he said they were very lucky to still be here to tell the tale.

Avoiding bombs aside, he shared his advice for a long and healthy life: “Keep moving and do what you can and hope luck stays with you.”

Wing Commander Easthope said: “On modern operations, when we sit with our young aircrew, who may be anxious about going into combat, we talk about people like Ted who were courageous and tenacious.”

Mr McConchie operated the radio and had a daunting role sitting in the dorsal gun torrent, as air gunners were often the highest casualties in aircraft with a tail gun.

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CAPTION: 100 Squadron taxis out to the runway at Point Cook, June 2022.   Photo by Tim O’Connor.






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