Edgar Victor Pitt (Ted) BRAY

BRAY, Edgar Victor Pitt

Service Number: 442418
Enlisted: 17 July 1943, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Flight Sergeant
Last Unit: No. 8 Squadron (RAAF)
Born: Victor Harbor, South Australia, 16 June 1925
Home Town: Victor Harbor, Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia
Schooling: Victor Harbor High School
Occupation: Student
Died: Natural causes, Adelaide, South Australia, 5 February 2011, aged 85 years
Cemetery: Centennial Park Cemetery, South Australia
Memorials: Victor Harbor WW2 Roll of Honour
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World War 2 Service

17 Jul 1943: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2 (WW2), SN 442418, Adelaide, South Australia
18 Jul 1943: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2 (WW2), SN 442418, 4 Initial Training School, Empire Air Training Scheme
9 Sep 1944: Transferred Royal Australian Air Force, Sergeant, No. 1 Squadron (RAAF)
10 Jan 1945: Transferred Sergeant, No. 6 Squadron (RAAF)
10 Jul 1945: Transferred Sergeant, No. 8 Squadron (RAAF)
10 Sep 1945: Discharged Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Sergeant, SN 442418, No. 8 Squadron (RAAF)

The War Years

AIR FORCE

Then came the two years and a bit of life in the R.A.A.F. I believe now that there was not a whole lot of patriotism in my act of “joining up”. It was the thing to do and boys of my age looked forward to our eighteenth birthdays to rush down to the recruiting office. I am pretty sure that all the boys in my year at school joined one or other of the services as soon as they could. Mine was a fairly gentle easing into the Air Force. I did my initial training at 4ITS , the South Australia Initial Training School for aircrew at Mount Breckan, Victor Harbor. It was within easy walking distance of home for the few days leave we had in our time there. ITS was mostly drill and aptitude and physical tests. Finding that I could not cross my eyes quickly enough, I was ruled out of becoming a trainee Bomber pilot (my first choice) and like the majority of us, was channelled into training as a W.A.G. (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner).

So, to 2WAGS , Parkes, N.S.W. (Wireless Air Gunners School). We spent many hours every day at a morse code key, either receiving or sending – the dots and dashes and their combinations imbedded in our minds for ever. Accommodation was in galvanised iron huts (unlined). Parkes can be very cold in winter. We had been issued with flying gear, but , so far, had not worn it in the air. But one of the garments was a padded jump suit - just the thing to wear to bed to combat the cold. It was, generally, a six day week , with Sundays for washing and cleaning up – and Church in town for those who were so inclined. Just after we arrived in Parkes, three of us (Steve Taeuber, Howard Trenouth and myself) were invited to Oscar O”Reilly’s for lunch after Church. The invitation was repeated each week and he very kindly insisted that we come to his home for Christmas dinner. Already we were friendly with Aileen, John and Wally and on this blessed Christmas Day met the fourth member of the family, Noreen, who lived and worked in Sydney. There was a very good photo of her on the O’Reilly piano and I had pondered what this very lovely girl was really like. During that Christmas Day and the few days after, the love that has grown over so many years was born. Noreen went back to Sydney and work in the Australia Museum, and I continued with morse code and radio theory. I don’t know just how many letters we exchanged – several hundred!
There was further radio training at 1WAGS, Ballarat, gunnery at 1AGS, West Sale, GRS at Bairnsdale, and then to 1OTU (Operational Training Unit)at East Sale. Now that we were qualified sergeant WAGs, we were ready (?) for combat duty and had to be sorted into crews. (It had been decided that we would be drafted into Beaufort squadrons.) This was, what seems to me now, a strange process. Those of us not already teamed up were put into a large room and told to stay there until we had sorted ourselves into crews. Steve Taeuber and I had already decided that we could work together and somehow we found Frank Mobs, a navigator and Jim Hudson, a pilot. Never, for a moment, did we regret the choice. A Beaufort crew consisted of a pilot, navigator and two WAGs. In flight, the latter two alternated between the upper gun turret and the radio/radar desk.

Each time we took to the air,the details of the flight had to be recorded in a “Flying Log Book.” I still have mine and it is a very valuable reminder of what happened over sixty year ago.

The first entries were made in the training schools; many different pilots and in various kinds of aircraft, only identified by their code numbers but included Tiger Moths, De Haviland Dragon, Airspeed Oxford, Avro Anson. It was when we were training at the OTU that the entries detailed, for the aircraft, A9. (the Beaufort registration) and the Pilot, W/O Hudson.

As a crew we were posted first to 4PD. Personnel Depot at Daw Park, an Adelaide suburb . Then to 1 Squadron at Gould in the Northern Territory, some sixty miles south of Darwin.



1 SQUADRON,
Gould, Northern Territory, September 1944

The first few Log Book entries just show “Convoy”. We would fly out over the Timor Sea, make contact with a small number of ships sailing round the top of Australia either to Darwin or, the other way, to ports on the east coast. Our purpose was to fly a box grid around them to locate any lurking submarines. It was monotonous flying for all of us but particularly for the WAG at the radio/radar desk. Our primitive radar screen was only about 6” by 4” and covered with a rubber mask. It was always a relief to swap jobs with the turret gunner. The only submarine we ever saw was a “friendly”, cruising on the surface in a “safe” corridor, heading for Darwin.
The longest flight (8.5 hours) took us into the Arafura Sea where we bombed and strafed Japanese bases on the island of Adaoet. The Log Book shows that we dropped two 250lb bombs on a Japanese Camp – “Results unobserved”. On the way home we ran down an enemy barge and put its anti-aircraft gun out of action. There was no automatic pilot on our aircraft – tough on Jim on these very long flights.
In January 1945, 1 Squadron was re-equipped with “Mosquito” aircraft and the Beaufort crews were allocated to other Beaufort squadrons. We were posted to 6 Squadron based at Dobadura in Papua New Guinea. We were not allowed to tell our dear ones where we were sent, just “South Pacific” area, but Noreen and I worked out a code so that, if she had a good atlas, she could work out where I was. I simply changed the third initial in my name on the letterhead of successive letters (i.e. F/S Bray E.V.D. next letter. F/S Bray E.V.O etc. It worked well enough to slip through the censors – usually Frank Mobbs, our navigator.
It was during the few days leave between postings that I stayed with the McLeods in Gordon, NSW, where Noreen had been living for some years. We spent as much time together as we could and it was there that I asked her to marry me. Fabulous!!! She said, “Yes”. Then followed a phone call to her Dad. He must have known how nervous I was, as he gave his consent quickly.

6 SQUADRON
Dobadura, New Guinea

More convoy work here. We would often pick up the convoy early in the day, cover it with the same kind of box pattern we used in Darwin, fly on ahead to Kiriwina or Milne Bay and pick up the same convoy next morning. On one occasion we covered three British naval ships (HMS Formidable, an aircraft carrier, a heavy cruiser and a destroyer) – very touchy, these Brits. – frantic Aldis signals warning us to keep our distance. Maybe their aircraft recognition was not so good and they thought we were Japanese “Bettys”.
We had several supply drop missions over in New Britain – Wide Bay and Jacquinot Bay. These ‘storpedoes’ had to be dropped from a very low altitude and the army was almost always in mountainous country – exciting and a bit hairy..
One unusual task while we were based at Dobadura was to fly to Merauke on the south side of Papua to ferry a flight of Kittyhawks from Merauke to Biak. Kittyhawks had no navigational aids and they needed us to guide them safely over the high mountains. The Kittyhawks were much faster than our aircraft and had to circle out ahead and behind us. But the main problem was the high mountains. At the highest point we were flying at 17,000 feet, the Beaufort’s maximum altitude, and the peaks were all around us. We did not carry oxygen !! When we were just over, or through the highest point, Jim asked me to get a weather report from Biak. With the lack of oxygen, my wrist just would not work on the morse key and I had to thump out the dots and dashes with a closed fist. Anyhow, we completed the job and flew back to Merauke via “The Neck” at a much lower altitude. We should have repeated the exercise the next day with another flight of Kittyhawks, but the New Guinea weather took a hand and we had to fly back to Horanda.

8 SQUADRON
Tadji, New Guinea

In July 1945, we transferred to 8 Squadron, Tadji. Actually, the airstrip where we were based was named Tadji, but the camp was at nearby Aitape. 8 Squadron’s camp was almost on the beach – only a few paces and we were right in the water. It was a wonderful surfing beach and we spent a fair bit of our off-duty time in the water. We would swim out as far as we could, catch a big wave, and body surf right up to the beach.
Here most of our flying was much different. The AIF was advancing on Wewak and every now and then came to a halt when the Japanese had dug their heels in. Then they called on the RAAF at nearby Tadji. One typical log book entry reads, “14/7/45: 10.55am: A9 574, F/O Hudson: Strike: Support for advancing AIF. Made four runs, dropping bombs on smoke indicators near `The Blot’ – Tadji-Wewak-Tadji; 1.05 hours.” Most of our flying from Tadji was similar, with an occasional sweep up the Sepic River to bomb and strafe known Japanese positions.

Our last strike was on August 3, 1945 and the log book records,”3/8/45, 11.00am, aircraft A9 544, F/O Hudson, Strike, Bombed and strafed village in Gwalip group (fired 2,000rounds).

The Aircrew record of Operational Tour for 442418 F/Sgt Bray E V P with 1,6 and 8 Squadrons reads: Tour commenced 20/9/44 by posting to 1 Squadron and finished 4/8/45 by posting from 8 Squadron
Total flying time in the RAAF : daytime – 492 hours; night – 51.35; a total of 543.35 hours.

After the usual round of getting “clearances” from all sorts of sections of the squadron, we found flying transport “south” and home leave. I stopped off in Sydney to see my sister Kathleen and to pick up Noreen who was coming with me to meet my family. The only way o travel was by train and Noreen had to wade through a considerable amount of red tape to get permission to travel interstate. Looking back, I am sure that for Noreen, it was a further commitment to our future together. We were on the overnight Melbourne to Adelaide express. At one stop there was excitement on the platform and a rumour that the war was over. At the next station, wild excitement!! It was true. It was really finished and we had come through it. What better way to celebrate than to take my girl one step closer to our marriage ?
The RAAF was pretty smart in discharging those who were on leave. The process involved IQ tests and fitting me out in civies. Then a wait of a few weeks for our wedding.
In that interval I had my first bout of malaria. We were certainly in a malaria-prone area in New Guinea and had been regularly taking attebrin tablets as a suppressant. They contained a dye that turned our skin yellow – especially noticeable in those of us who had fair skins. Mum called in Dr Shipway, our local GP, but he had never seen a case of malaria and treated me with quinine – not the most effective cure, but I got over it in time.

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Biography contributed by Nigel Bray

Ted spent time in Rabaul PNG as a Methodist minister and enlisted in the reserves (RNGVR) from 1959-1963. He remained on the reserve list for several years on returning to Adelaide