The Spitfire Association
A brief account of the beginning and formation
After the cessation of hostilities of World War II, most members were happy to return to civil life. Set out to find a good job and raise a family. Sometime later, serious thought was to have a reunion and again meet war time friends. Probably about 1948- 50, a reunion of sorts, prompted members of 457 Squadron to realise the importance of this and a roll of members was produced, probably by Jim Grant, and placed in the hands of P/0 Bruce R Little, and containing the names of 150 odd members, with addresses.
Bruce was not overly keen and as a new bod in a Government Department was a bit short of time and declined to carry on. After some canvassing this fell to my hand, and prompted by many, I took it on. We and I, I mean Jim Grant, Paul Dehlsen, Jack Newton with gentle nudges by others, we battled on for a couple of years and a committee was formed and was the real beginnings of the Association. The Committee as such was: – Patron, Clive R. Caldwell, Tosha Tennant ex 457 Chairman, Ron Lambert Secretary, Paul Dehlsen Treasurer, Jim Grant Association Secretary, with John S Newton, Evan Batchelor, all 457, with John Bisley, John Hibbert 452 Squadron, Harry Smith, Steve Oulih, J Tuckson all 7RSU, with Jack Thomas ex RAF with 457 Squadron.
It is important to note that this meeting took place at Paul Dehlsen’s residence back veranda and took place probably about 1960. It was later resolved that this organisation would be called No 1 Spitfire Fighter Wing, made up of members of 452 & 457 Squadrons RAAF, 54 Squadron RAF, 7RSU RAAF and a further roll was produced.
A reunion was planned and a mail of about some 160 plus letters were sent out. This was typed up by Paul Dehlsen’s wife, Hazel. We all addressed the envelopes and licked stamps to get the show on the road. It was a disappointment. Of the 150 plus sent out, about 50% were returned, unknown.
We started again. As a traveller in NSW I followed hunches of where people thought so and so lived and found a lot of bods, who also knew where others could be Shaddock of 452 Squadron. I remained on the Committee for a period of some 28 years.
Keith Shaddock did a good job for us, and continued until ill health found, etc. We, the committee all did our fair share of this and so we gradually got under way? It proved to be very successful and before long our mailing list grew, so we decided to mail out a news sheet, again, the original typed up by Hazel Dehlsen. More stamp licking, etc., followed. The returns from this and subsequent news sheets was very good, reaching all states and P.N.G. where Don Maclean was living and working a plantation.
Our happy band continued and our reunions grew. About 1962, 79 Squadron was invited to join, and Doug Vanderfield their C.O. became a regular member. October 1963 saw No 5 Fighter sector bods join in and so our numbers grew. Wing HQ Darwin blokes also joined about this time and us roll now stood at about 450 plus. Members of No 80 wing also were represented on our roll and the future was secure.
About this time, 1964 saw me change jobs and I became a permanent interstate traveller, this brought in more names but I had to relinquish the job of Honourable Secretary to Keith demanded he retire and shortly afterwards he passed away. Whilst not always able to attend our Committee Meetings, I remained a strong supporter of our Anzac Day Marches and Reunions and helped see it through, and until now supported our committee when called on etc. and attended our trips to Darwin with the sterling job done by our Editor, my friend Bruce Read, our organisation will prosper.
I congratulate Ray Bowes for a job well done and much appreciated by all.
To you, Barry, and your committee, my heartfelt thanks for carrying the ball further.
Yours truly, I Ron Lambert ex 457 Squadron, RAAF 14877.
(5 years, 6 months, 2 weeks, 1 day) April 20th, 1940 – November 2nd, 1945.
Whilst this may be a little incorrect, blame me and my old memory.