New book showcases Indigenous RAAF service
Courtesy of the Department of Defence
First Nations people have proudly served the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in various capacities, from the Second World War to today. For a long time, their experiences and contributions have been under-recognised. But with a new book due for release next year, First Nations Aviators, they are beginning to receive the attention they deserve.
The below extracts are drawn from First Nations Aviators.
David Valentine Paul
When the Second World War broke out, David Paul was accepted to train as a pilot in the RAAF. Having been sent to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), under the Empire Air Training Scheme, David graduated with his wings in December of 1941.
David was posted to 454 Squadron in North Africa to fly Baltimore bombers (an American-built light bomber). While there, he flew 95 sorties over the Aegean Sea. David provided armed convoy escorts and anti-submarine patrols for the many Allied troop and supply convoys from Egypt and fuel tankers from the Levant oil terminals, which were destined for Malta and other Eighth Army forward bases.
Facing consistent threats from Axis garrisons and formidable air units, a Messerschmitt Bf-109 shot down David’s aircraft on December 4, 1943. He was captured and spent the rest of the war in Stalag IV-B, Muhlberg, Germany.
David’s loss was heavily felt by everyone in his squadron. The operations record book entry of 4 December reads: ‘In the interest of truthful reporting it has to be admitted that the loss of Horsley and Paul has shaken the Squadron far more than the loss of any other crews during November’.
On 28 March 1944, while still a prisoner, David was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his outstanding leadership, initiative and determination.
Yasmin Watson enlisted with the RAAF in 2011. After her initial training, she gravitated to aeronautical life support fitting.
Yasmin was responsible for servicing and maintaining all manner of safety and survival equipment, giving her the opportunity to work with crews on numerous aviation platforms across the Australian Defence Force, including helicopters, trainers, fighter jets and transport aircraft.
Among her many achievements, Yasmin received full flight-line qualifications, allowing her to do jobs outside of her role, such as refuelling and servicing various craft, as well as flying with the C-17 Globemasters anywhere in the world.
Today, Yasmin is looking forward to working alongside the Navy’s recent acquisition of Seahawk Romeo helicopters, equipped to conduct both anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare.
Yasmin believes her success within the Air Force stems from making the most of failures: ‘I believe failing shouldn’t have the negative stigma that it carries; we gain so much by failing – I believe we should fail early, fail often, but always fail forward’.
First Nation Aviators contains many stories of Australia’s indigenous Air Force personnel. It will be available for purchase from major book retailers in early 2023.
You can read the full article on the Department of Defence website.