|Contributing Author/s||Edited: Bruce Read and Geoff Litchfield|
Andy was posted to Richmond and on arrival was assigned to a hangar which was out of bounds to most personnel. A special pass was needed to gain entry and therein he spent some weeks toiling, unpacking and assembling aircraft. Included in the crates were two, four gallon containers of pure water from the County of Cork, which amused him as it was raining acts and dogs at Richmond at that time. They all knew that the aircraft were Spitfires, but to utter that name was nearly a court martial offence. They were to be referred to as “Capstans”.
After some weeks of toil at this task, he was called to the Orderly Room and told to get his clearances and call back. On completing this task and reporting back, he was given a rail pass and a meal warrant and told to catch the train to Clarendon and then the Melbourne Express that night. Full of mystery, his pass showed his destination as a place called Lara. Try as he might, he could not ever remember hearing such a name. This gave him much to ponder over during the long and cold trip to Melbourne.
On arriving, he reported to the RTO for further instructions and decided to make a few enquiries as to where Lara was and what was there, only to be told that the flies were bad and to keep his mouth shut. Not being very quick on the uptake, even then the penny had not dropped and so he was none the wiser. Eventually he arrived at Lara, which appeared to be nothing more than a small country siding. Two young girls and an old man alighted with him. Again, he studied his train warrant, taking particular note of the date. No. It was not April Fools’ Day, so again he was back to wondering.
He sat down and waited and after some time and several pipes-full, a Blitz wagon came along. After conferring with the driver, he convinced Andy that he was in the right place and that the driver was there to pick him up. They set out into the country and the driver told him that there were only six or seven AHG’s and himself there at present. They were heading for a sheep station called Wooloomanata.
Andy couldn’t work out where he would fit in on a sheep station, not knowing very much about sheep. He did know that they were mustered once a year, shorn, crutched, castrated and sprayed for lice and that was the limit of his knowledge. Maybe he did need a haircut, but he couldn’t see that he would fit in anywhere. Eventually they arrived at their destination. The driver acted as cook. They sat down to a mug of tea and opened a tin of sausages. The aroma of tea brewing and the sausages, seemed to attract the rest of the crew and they gathered around as the questions flowed freely. “Where are you from?” “What are you here for?”, etc. They had no more idea than Andy.
He was shown a tent and where to pick up a bale of straw, cut the ties and spread it on the floor and that was the bed. Having had a very uncomfortable night the night before, he felt the need for sleep and so it wasn’t long before he hit the hay. Being winter time and in an empty tent and having only two blankets, it turned very cold and he was pleased to see daylight come. they all had breakfast and he joined the gang pitching tents and spraying them with some anti-fungicide preparation.
During the next fortnight more bods began to arrive – cooks, guards, storemen, fitters, clerks and so on until the tents were filled. With each new batch came the new information that they were headed here or there. Such information you folks would have known as sh..house rumours!
The big day came and at last an Officer arrived, with bars and ribbons. He called them together and informed them that they were to be formed up to become an Australian Fighter Squadron, to be known as 79 Fighter Squadron. He did outline the plans which looked rather grim and said that if anyone didn’t feel that they were equal to the task, to fall out now and they would be replaced. Speed was essential as they had to be formed up and get to there destination in the shortest time. In about seven weeks, they set out for Goodenough Island.
Andy indicated that there were pages more that should be written on this subject and appealed to any members of the old Squadron to add to this short beginning.