On September 16, RAAF Edinburgh aviators and the Air Force Association (South Australia) co-hosted the annual Battle of Britain commemorative service at the Air Force Memorial, Torrens Parade Ground, Adelaide.
CAPTION: A wreath tribute at the Battle of Britain commemorative service at Torrens Parade Ground in Adelaide, South Australia. Story by Flight Lieutenant Claire Burnet. Photos by Leading Aircraftwoman Annika Smit.
The occasion was held to acknowledge those Winston Churchill referred to as ‘The Few’ – the allied pilots supported by ground crews who fought in the skies over England in the air campaign that resulted in the first military defeat of Germany in World War 2 (WW2).
1 Remote Sensor Unit (1RSU) provided the catafalque party, while Australian Air Force Cadets were well represented with a guard of honour, reciting the poem High Flight as well as a reading.
CAPTION: The laying of the wreaths during the Battle of Britain commemorative service at Torrens Parade Ground in Adelaide.
In the keynote address, Commanding Officer 1RSU Wing Commander Peter Crookes told the story of South Australian Wing Commander Alexander Lewis Hamilton, who joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) and survived two operational tours, one during the Battle of Britain and another with 464 Squadron (RAAF) flying Mosquitos.
“His story highlights the courage, sacrifice and airmanship battling against all odds needed and displayed to defend Britain,” Wing Commander Crookes said.
“The life of a Battle of Britain pilot was somewhat surreal. They could be scrambled up to four times a day to intercept an incoming raid of vastly superior numbers and, if they were lucky, adjourn to the local pub in the evening thinking of the mates they had lost that day.”
Wing Commander Hamilton was one of eight South Australians to fly in the Battle of Britain. Remaining in the RAF after the war, he retired to Australia in 1961 only to die in a boating accident off the south New South Wales coast in 1977, aged 62. It was a tragic end for a Battle of Britain veteran who had survived two operational tours, four flying tours and countless hours flying over ocean.
Federal and state government MPs were among the dignitaries attending the ceremony, along with Governor of South Australia Frances Adamson. Special guests included WW2 veterans 101-year-old Ray Merril, 100-year-old Don Looker and 99-year-old Angas Hughes. Five representatives of the Hamilton family travelled from Canberra, Melbourne and the NSW south coast for the ceremony to honour their father and grandfather. John Hamilton, son of Wing Commander Hamilton, recited the poem Per Ardua.
For young 1RSU aviator Corporal Daniel Arbizo, being a member of the catafalque party was an amazing experience.
CAPTION: Governor of South Australia Frances Adamson with members of RAAF’s 1 Remote Sensor Unit, and the family of Battle of Britain veteran Wing Commander Alexander Lewis Hamilton following the Battle of Britain commemorative service in Adelaide.
“It was an incredible opportunity to reflect on the past and better understand what those who came before us experienced so that we can better understand what may be required of us in the future,” Corporal Arbizo said.
In closing remarks, Wing Commander Crookes noted that as a nation, Australia has largely undertaken wars of choice in recent decades and that the high-risk operations that bring great cost (that our WW2 veterans were familiar with) may be an anathema to our younger serving veterans and Australia today.
He asked attendees to reflect on the legacy of ‘The Few’ and allow it to inspire current and future aviators and our nation in confronting future challenges.