ANZAC Day's Hidden Heroes by Owen Zupp

Owen Zupp - Saturday, April 22, 2017

 

(Image: news.com.au)

 

 

As ANZAC Day approaches once again, I cannot help but think of the different world we live in today. My memories of this solemn day drift back nearly half a century and are of cold, dark mornings and ‘old’ men in coats, ties and hats. Bag pipes warming up in the background and my breath condensing into a mini-fog before my very eyes.

My father would stand solemnly, his medals in a drawer at home and only the dark brown “Returned from Active Service” badge on his lapel offered any insight into his two wars. In contrast, my mother always wore her medals. Regardless of how it was demonstrated, there was always reflection and a sense of pride.

Those who did not return were always remembered in our home in fading, yet framed, photos. Family, friends and even a fiancé who had made the ultimate sacrifice. As a lad, my parents would visit their widows and mothers and I would trail along, not always understanding the significance of those visits until I later foraged through a photo album and found an image, or a clipping, or an obituary. They were my first ANZAC experiences.

Today the clippings are not so frequent. Our men and women that serve in the front lines are rarely on the front page. And if they are, their faces are blurred or their name tag is blacked out. They are almost our hidden heroes.

The modern world and its blinking, instantaneous internet has taken our warriors and potentially made them, and even their families, targets. Targets for those who would commit evil and even trolls who wish to provoke and raise their profiles, typing in the darkened confines and safety of their closet.

 

 

When my father was flying missions in Korea, my mother may have excitedly seen his face in a newsreel in the cinema or read of a mission or an award in the newspaper. Each time, it would proudly state, “Phillip Zupp of Toowoomba, Queensland”. Today we may catch a glimpse of Flying Officer X with his dark, tinted visor fully lowered on his helmet, or an anonymous pilot walking around his aircraft. No names, no clues.

I realise it is a different time and a different world, but I still lament that those in our services on active duty cannot be recognised for their sacrifice in the way that they once were. Unless of course, that sacrifice is of the ultimate variety and their homecoming is marked by draped flags and lowered heads.

Perhaps more than ever, it is important that we value ANZAC Day and recognise our veterans of modern conflicts. For this may be the only time that we get the opportunity to see their faces and thank them for their service. And yes, it may be too little and too late, but we should still make a genuine effort to recognise them and stand them alongside those who stepped ashore in those early hours on April 25th more than a century ago.

To my family, my friends and to those I never knew. Thank you for your service.

 

 

 

 

"The Forgotten Few". Gloster Meteor Mk. 8. An Aviation Image by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Monday, June 11, 2012

The Gloster Meteor Mk. 8

as flown by "The Forgotten Few", 77 Squadron RAAF Korea.

 

Painted in the markings of Sergeant George Hale, this flying Gloster Meteor can still be seen at the Temora Aviation Museum.

The Forgotten Few. An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Forgotten Few.

An Aviation Blog Review.

By Owen Zupp.

 

Today, for something a little different, here's a book review on a title that covers an often overlooked chapter in our aviation heritage; the Korean War. The book by Doug Hurst is appropriately titled, "The Forgotten Few". I had the pleasure of first corresponding with Doug during his research for this wonderful book and subsequently met him at the Australian War Memorial and also when I have spoken on aviation related topics at the National Press Club.

 

The Australian participation in the Korean War has for many years been largely overlooked. Much like the conflict itself, it seemed to be lost between the enormity of World War Two and the controversy of Vietnam. Doug Hurst’s newly released “The Forgotten Few” has gone a long way to resolving this oversight for those who served with 77 Squadron RAAF.

 

In a thoroughly researched and well written effort, Hurst has integrated the first hand experience and opinion of those who actually flew in the conflict. The resultant book is a tremendous balance of history and entertainment, which would be of equal interest to a veteran or their grandkids. It traces 77 Squadron’s early commitment flying Mustangs from their Japanese bases through their subsequent conversion and operations in the Gloster Meteor F8. From bomber escorts to ground attack and air-to-air engagements, the squadron and its pilots are thrust from role to role and base to base with minimal time to keep pace with an equally dynamic conflict that raged up and down the Korean Peninsula. Further underpinning the text are insights into the strategy, tactics and politics of the war which add yet another dimension of interest and understanding.

 

For much of the war, the pilots of 77 Squadron faced a one-in-four chance of being killed or taken prisoner. For those who met this fate and for those who served and survived, this book is not only an accurate record, but also a fitting tribute to a band of brothers who etched their own very significant mark in the war torn skies of Korea. Deservedly, this record goes a long way towards telling their story and ensuring that they are no longer “The Forgotten Few”.

 

Title: “The Forgotten Few” 77 Squadron RAAF in Korea
Author: Doug Hurst
ISBN:   978-1-74175-500-8
Pages: 253 pages and 12 pages of images.

 

 

"Here Comes the Caribou!" An Aviation Image by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Thursday, May 03, 2012

Here Comes the Caribou!

CLICK HERE to read about Caribous, Cattle and Crossbows. 

 

"Tail Up!" The P-40 Kittyhawk in action. An Aviation Image by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Friday, April 27, 2012

"Tail Up!"

The P-40 Kittyhawk in action.

"Hawk Taking Flight." An Aviation Image by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Hawk Taking Flight."

A Royal Australian Air Force BAE Hawk 127 takes to the air at Broome, Western Australia.

"Crowd Pleaser." A RAAF CA-18 Mustang An Aviation Image by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Tuesday, April 10, 2012

 

"Crowd Pleaser."

A RAAF CA-18 Mustang makes its final approach under the keen eyes of the growing crowd.

CLICK HERE for more 'Mustangs and Memories'.

 

Check back soon for the next "Five Tips" article. This time we look at undertaking flight tests and upgrading your licence.

"Matt Hall, Red Bull and Impossible Airfields." An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Friday, March 16, 2012

(Image via Matt Hall Racing)

There's Always More in Store for Matt Hall.

As Matt Hall readies himself and his aircraft to set the crowd on fire at this weekend's Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne, Australia, for some it may be the first time his name has hit the headlines in a little while. However. while all may have seemed quiet at Red Bull Air Race headquarters in 2011, Matt Hall has been doing anything but marking time. The former RAAF fighter pilot has been hard at work on his air displays, launching new ventures and readying his team for the return to air racing.

 

No Bull.

There were many puzzled looks and unanswered questions when it was announced that the Red Bull Air Race would take a break in 2011 and many of those emanated from the race teams. Out of nowhere the drama and excitement of Formula One air racing was pulled from the headlines and placed into storage in order to, “…fast track the technological advancements currently in the making to improve the already high levels of safety…” and “…revise the main organisation and commercial areas…” Essential issues no doubt, but necessitating the cancellation of a season? Surely, there was more to it.

As I sit with Matt on a quiet afternoon in the NSW Hunter Valley, the adrenalin of screaming engines, towering pylons and max-G turns seems a world away. And so it is, although hopefully not for long. Matt explains that the Red Bull Air Race was like so many aviation undertakings; a great concept, but an average business. The main reason that this occurred was that in a commercial sense, the air race grew much bigger and faster than anyone had foreseen or planned. In a handful of years it had grown from some stock aerobatic aircraft flying a low-level course to highly specialised racing machines entertaining crowded foreshores of the world’s most picturesque cities.

The original business plan saw income being generated by such contributors as sponsors, TV rights, ticket sales and income from the host cities. With Red Bull being synonymous with the air race and plastered over every aeroplane, its brand tended to drown out the message for potential sponsors while television rights suffered the same problems when it came to selling advertising. The income was not quite as forthcoming from some host cities in latter seasons and ticket sales failed to pay their way as well. As they say, “No bucks, no Buck Rogers.”

In terms of technological development, Matt says that there were some key safety measures that had been targeted for implementation. Importantly, a ‘monocoque’ cockpit that would effectively create a singular, immensely strong ‘safety cell’ around the pilot as used in Formula One racing cars. Furthermore, there was a need for seats to be removable, so that pilots could be removed ‘in situ’ from a downed aircraft, minimising potential injuries on extrication. Another safety measure was to relocate the fuel from the wings and into a central fuselage tank.

So it was genuinely reasons of design safety and commercial organisation that drove the air race wheels to a halt, as it was decided that these issues were better rectified in isolation, rather than patched up on the run. For the likes of Matt Hall who had personally invested a significant sum into his new MXS-R race aircraft, the news had an obvious commercial impact. However, personally Matt admits that the year off has been a great chance to catch his breath, spend time with his family and get a real sense of his own company’s business model. Matt explains that, “I ran hard race for eighteen years in the RAAF, only to leave and enter a sprint”. An indication of the demands on an air race pilot was evident when Matt discovered that 212 nights of the previous year were spent in hotel rooms!

With a new CEO at the helm and all business models being examined, the air race may be in limbo, but it is far from gone. Whether it re-emerges as a handful of racing ‘Expo’ flights or a fully fledged Formula One circuit will be founded upon sound business principles this time around. Matt Hall is keen to race once again, but the hiatus of 2011 has offered an opportunity to realign his compass and establish a series of new projects that will continue to complement his air racing when the competition returns.

 

 

                                          

                                                                Matt Hall's MXS Aircraft at Dusk.

 

Irons in the Fire.

While the issues with the Red Bull Air Race undoubtedly had an effect on Matt Hall’s plans, they were never going to slow him down. As both an individual and as a brand, he is seen as ‘bankable’ as sponsors like Massel have been there from the outset and are in for the long haul, while recently Aeroshell have come on board, representing a vote in his future direction. Just as he bounced back from skipping the water in the Windsor air race to finish on the podium in Germany, Matt is gearing up to take on new challenges.

One new aspect of his company, ‘Matt Hall Racing’, is addressing corporate clients in the various aspects of the challenges that confront any professional. From the outside looking in, what Matt does in an aeroplane can seem virtually impossible, however he emphasises that, “...it is actually very achievable using the correct strategies and risk management principles”. Additionally, Matt’s proven ability to recover quickly from set-backs on the race circuit or in a combat situation are qualities that can be applied very readily in the corporate sphere as well.  However, the lecture theatre for these addresses are not limited to well lit auditoriums, the sky is literally the limit. Armed with a newly re-engined Extra 300L sporting Matt’s corporate colours, executives can see first hand how Matt practices what he preaches; making the impossible achievable. Still, for those not necessarily in the corporate set, a flight with Matt is not out of reach. He is currently busy developing the opportunity to take some fortunate individuals aloft, “as part of a boutique package which ties in with accommodation and the vineyards here in the Hunter Valley”.

Matt has also been active flying a range of air displays, many of which incorporate the dramatic components of air racing at sea level as well as the attention grabbing manoeuvres such as the hover, tumbling and torque-rolling. The MXS-R race plane is ideal for these displays and remains in race configuration, although Matt has “toned the engine down in the interests of longevity”. For many, the highlight of these displays occurred at the Avalon Air Show in January. With 11,000 views on YouTube, his cockpit camera gave one of the purest insights into the physical demands of his high-G environment. However, the physical demands are equally balanced by the mental challenge of such a performance, from the moment of conception to the execution in front of an awe-struck crowd.

Matt explains that the Avalon display began with a core concept and the music. Firstly, the display, “had to be safe and it had to be spectacular”. Such that it was designed for an engine failure to occur at any point and Matt would be able to land the aircraft where HE wanted. This was achieved by never being below 150 knots when flying below 1,000 feet, which is rather rare in aerobatic displays. For the music, he sought a piece that possessed the correct degree of “build up” in tempo, becoming more aggressive with time. This facilitated Matt to commence with high speed passes initially for the “look at it go” factor, before evolving into more dramatic manoeuvres. Once selected, namely Queen’s “One Vision”, Matt exercised regularly to the music and began putting the pieces in place. The elements included hitting the 4-point roll ‘on beat’, crowd-centre and tail-sliding the MXS-R coincidentally with the music stopping. Such a display is challenging to plan, but phenomenally difficult to execute when synchronised to the crowd’s loudspeakers and the vagaries of wind and weather are added.

Even so, Matt finds the preparation and flying of an air display relatively straightforward compared to air racing. At the heart of each air display are familiar, core components. If conditions call for it, Matt can increase the safety margins of a display by reducing the G-forces or flying it a little higher, with no real effect on the crowd’s experience. In contrast, Matt explains that in air racing, “every race track is different and within that every day is different given the conditions”. Similarly, “if you back off on the G-forces, you can’t physically make the turn and if you fly higher, you lose points”. The is also a huge amount of mental preparation in flying the race circuit and Matt goes into virtual isolation for an hour before the race to clear his head and avoid any distractions. As with all of his endeavours, the correct balance and timing of both mental and the physical components are essential.

On a broader scale, that balance is necessary to keep all of his current undertakings and future ventures in perspective. He has recognised the role of the new social media such as Facebook, Twitter in conjunction with his website, but still maintains the ability to deal competently one-on-one with people from all walks of life. It’s a skill set that serves him well and demonstrates the Matt Hall Racing is a much broader entity than purely Red Bull air-racing; although he looks forward to returning to that challenge too.

 

 

                            

                                I have even had the chance to fly with Matt. Great pilot, great bloke.

 

More in Store.

 

Whether it is corporate presentations, air show displays or racing on the circuit, the high level of professionalism Matt displays never waivers. Yet for all the pressure, when removed from the cockpit where his focus is singular, he is at heart one of the most affable guys you could ever meet. For my money, that’s another point worth noting; knowing when to switch on and how to switch off.

Perhaps one of the truest indications of Matt’s persona exists in his race number of ‘95’. He could have picked an old squadron number, or the designator of one of his past military fast jets, but he didn’t. He deferred to the savvy judgement of his young son, Mitchell, who thought it appropriate that Dad’s number should be that of “Lightning McQueen”, the ‘rookie that could’ in the original Cars movie. As we all know, that Hollywood blockbuster has just launched a successful sequel and one cannot help but believe that for Matt Hall there is also a lot more in store. Stay tuned.

 

Make sure that you check out Matt Hall Racing and the 'Impossible Airfield' at the Formula One Grand Prix.

And here's the perfect note to finish on, Matt at work at Avalon.........

 

                              

Super Hornet. An Aviation Blog Image by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Friday, February 10, 2012

          One of the RAAF's F/A-18F Super Hornet takes to the sky for an aerial display.

The Wooden Wonder. An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Monday, February 06, 2012

Hi All, here's something a little different today.....

 

The De Havilland aircraft company had a fine tradition of civilian training and touring aircraft prior to the outbreak of World War Two. From Humming Birds and Hornet Moths to Dragons and Albatross, the British company produced a vast range of machines. At the upper end of the speed spectrum was the twin-engined monoplane, the DH88 Comet. Manufactured from wood, the Comet blew away the competition in the 1934 MacRobertson Air Race from the UK to Australia, though just as significantly, it planted the seed for a revolutionary military aeroplane. The DH 98 Mosquito.

The Mosquito was originally conceived as a high speed unarmed bomber. In 1940 with Great Britain facing its darkest hour and a shortage of resources, it needed aircraft and it needed them quickly. Though the Air Ministry had some reservations about the unarmed aspect of the design, it could not argue with de Havilland’s expertise in wooden aircraft production techniques. Additionally, the fact that its construction called for minimal amounts of treasured metal resources offered up a viable alternative.

After a series of changes in the aircraft’s perceived role, the original order was modified to a requirement for 20 bombers and 30 fighters. The prototype initially built in a hangar disguised as a barn at the home of de Havilland, Hatfield. It narrowly missed being destroyed during a successful Luftwaffe bombing raid on Hatfield that did spell the end of a number of materials and over twenty people. However, the Mosquito survived and undertook its maiden test flight in November of 1940 at the hands of Geoffrey de Havilland’s son of the same name. During the subsequent trials the Mosquito’s speed established it as the fastest combat aircraft on either side of the conflict; a title it held for the next two years.

Into the Fray.

The Mosquito’s first operational sorties were in the role of Photo Reconnaissance (PR) in August 1941, a task it was ideally suited to with its high speed. Early in 1942, the aircraft began to see service as fighters and bombers. The Mosquito had far exceeded the original specifications and through minor modifications was able to carry 500 pound bombs in place of the originally planned 250 pounders. The first bombing raid was a daylight strike on Cologne after a “1000 bomber” raid had taken place the previous evening.

The versatility of the Mosquito became apparent and aside from being a fighter, bomber and photo recon aircraft, it successfully served as successful night-fighter and even participated in the “Hunter/Killer’ pairing of Turbinlite operations. The Mosquito was also extensively used in the precision-navigation role of ‘Pathfinder’ where it would fly in advance of the main bomber force to mark the target with incendiary ordinance. BOAC (the forerunner to British Airways) even used civilian registered Mosquitoes during the war to run the gauntlet between Britain and neutral Sweden on a regular air service. There seemed very little that the Mosquito could not do.

Special Roles

In its time, the Mosquito was called upon to fill some rather niche roles that have gone down in folklore. Two of these were 618 Squadron’s use of the bouncing bomb ‘Highball’ and the breaching of prison walls in ‘Operation Jericho’.

While much has been written of Barnes Wallis’ bouncing bomb and the Dambusters raid on the Ruhr Dams, there was an alternate deployment of the bouncing bomb planned for use by the Mosquito. This version of the bomb was known as ‘Highball’ and while the Dambusters used a cylindrical style bomb, ‘Highball’ was far more spherical.  Also conducted under a great veil of secrecy, 618 Squadron was tasked with using the bomb in an anti-shipping role with its number one priority the sinking of the German battleship the Tirpitz. Unfortunately, despite all of the effort and training, 618 Squadron never had a shot at the Tirpitz and eventually the squadron was deployed elsewhere.

A task for the Mosquito that did see notable fruition was ‘Operation Jericho’. Conceived in 1943, this mission involved an attack on the Amiens Prison in France which was holding amongst others, numerous members of the French Resistance who were scheduled to be executed. The daring low level attack took place on the 18th February 1944 and included squadrons from the RAF, RAAF and RNZAF. Its plan was to destroy the prison walls to facilitate the escape of the inmates, with an alternate plan of destroying the prison outright should this fail. It did not, and while there was loss of life, hundreds of prisoners were able to escape.

The Numbers

To quote specifications for the Mosquito is akin to comparing racehorses; there are so many types and so many variables.

In essence, the Mosquito was a twin-engined combat aircraft of primarily wooden construction. It was operated by two crew, including the pilot, and whether the second crewman was a navigator, bomb aimer or radar operator was dependent upon its designated role.

Powered by two Rolls Royce Merlin engines, it could carry nearly two tonnes of bombs deep into the heart of Germany. As a fighter it could carry 4 × 20 mm Hispano cannons in the fuselage and 4 × 7.7 mm (.303) Browning machine guns in the nose. Some photo reconnaissance versions had a service ceiling of 40,000 feet and a number of marques had a top speed in excess of 400 mph.

Ultimately, nearly 8,000 Mosquitoes were built and of these around 6,700 were delivered in wartime. As an aircraft it was not purely versatile, it was truly prolific as well.

The End.

As with all types, a number of Mosquitoes met ignominious ends on scrap heaps at the end of the war. However, several models survived and the Mosquito production line remained open until 1950. They saw service with air forces around the world and saw action with the Israeli Air Force during the Suez Crisis. A less adventurous tasking involved duty as target tugs while others took to the seas as a carrier-borne variant sporting folding wings.

To the very end, the Mosquito continued to fill roles that no other aircraft could. The model continued onto the Mk. 43 which was a trainer with the RAAF, but there were so many variants and marques before the final propeller stopped.

I had the pleasure to be interviewing a ‘Battle of Britain’ veteran who in 1942 received a new posting to a Mosquito squadron with some trepidation. He had heard very little of the new type other than the fact it was wooden and therefore seemingly a backward step in fighter technology.

He went on to fly the Mosquito more than any other aircraft and commanded a Mosquito squadron post war. He never lost his affection for the ‘Mossie’ he grew to love and sixty years later still had a twinkle in his eye when remembering de Havilland’s “Wooden Wonder”.

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