Leonard Victor WATERS

WATERS, Leonard Victor

Service Number: 78144
Enlisted: 24 August 1942, Brisbane, Queensland
Last Rank: Warrant Officer
Last Unit: No. 78 Squadron (RAAF)
Born: Boomi, New South Wales, 20 June 1924
Home Town: Cunnamulla, Paroo, Queensland
Schooling: Nindigully State School
Occupation: Shearer
Died: Natural causes (pneumonia), Cunamulla, Queensland, 24 August 1993, aged 69 years
Cemetery: St George Cemetery, Qld
Memorials: St George The Pilots Memorial
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World War 2 Service

24 Aug 1942: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Warrant Officer, SN 78144
24 Aug 1942: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2 (WW2), SN 78144, Brisbane, Queensland
24 Apr 1943: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Leading Aircraftman
1 Jul 1944: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Sergeant
14 Nov 1944: Transferred Royal Australian Air Force, Sergeant, No. 78 Squadron (RAAF)
1 Jan 1945: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Sergeant, No. 78 Squadron (RAAF)
1 Jan 1946: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Warrant Officer, No. 78 Squadron (RAAF)
18 Jan 1946: Discharged Royal Australian Air Force, Warrant Officer, SN 78144, No. 78 Squadron (RAAF)
18 Jan 1946: Discharged Royal Australian Air Force, Warrant Officer, SN 78144

Len Waters.

Discovering an Aboriginal Hero at St George in Queensland

It is a sad truth that, if you do not have certain social advantages, you can be hugely talented and never get to fully use those talents.

It is a profound criticism of the way that society works that too many people of genius, deprived of an education and the ability to use their full potential by nothing more than poverty or family disadvantage, can live a life stunted by their lack of social advantage.

Take the case of Len Waters (he is an exception to these rules – but he was saved by luck), the first and only First Nations Fighter Pilot who, because of World War II, moved far beyond the narrow world that 1930s Australia offered to First Nation peoples.

Leonard Victor Waters was born at Euraba Mission in New South Wales in 1924. Being Aboriginal he was not expected to achieve anything at school. He attended Toomelah Public School and Nindigully, a tiny town south of St George in Queensland, where he studied until three months short of completing Year 8.

He had grown up in an era when it was not compulsory for First Nations children to go to school beyond Grade 4 because the Government of the day believed that First Nations people would not aspire to an occupation that required higher education.

He left school when he was 13 and went to work as a ring barker (ie killing trees by ring barking them) and shearer – like his dad.

The First Nations website (https://webapps.acu.edu.au/onthejob/life_job/famous_people/Len_Waters.htm) takes up the story: "Len was an 18-year-old shearer from Nindigully, Queensland, when he joined the RAAF on August 24, 1942 as a flight mechanic, (despite the formal barriers to non-European enlistment in other services the Royal Australian Air Force was willing to take people of non-European descent).

“When the RAAF called for aircrew trainees he applied and was accepted for pilot training. He undertook his initial training at No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School (1EFTS), Narrandera, NSW, before graduating as a Sergeant pilot from No. 5 Service Flying Training School (5SFTS), Uranquinty, NSW. His training continued at No. 2 Operational Training Unit (2OTU), Mildura, Vic, from where he was posted to No. 78 Squadron on 14 November 1944.

“As a member of 78 Squadron based at Noemfoor in the Netherlands New Guinea, Morotai and Tarakan, he conducted 95 ground attack and fighter sweeps over Japanese held positions and islands in New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) during late 1944 and 1945.

“By the end of the war he had completed 95 missions in his Kittyhawk fighter which was called "Black Magic". The name "Black Magic" was not his idea, it was the previous mount of John Blackmore. It was perhaps fate that decided Leonard getting this aircraft!"

What this account fails to point out, which is recorded in the very handsome Pilot’s Memorial on the banks of the Balonne River at St George is that Len was not just lucky by accident. He was genuinely clever and much smarter than most of his Australian Air Force colleagues.

The memorial records: “In December 1943, Leonard volunteered for aircrew, was selected and commenced training in Victoria. He studied with 148 other students (48 were accepted as pilots. Leonard came 4th overall.)”

It continues: “After the war, he returned to shearing and the task of raising a large family at Cunnamulla, St George and Brisbane. Leonard Victor Waters died in Cunnamulla on 24 August, 1993 aged 69. He was buried with full military honours at St George, Queensland.”

Oh, yes, and in 1995, to celebrate the end of World War II, Australia Post released a special edition of stamps and one of them had a photo of Len Waters. He may not be a household name but he has been acknowledged and he is a genuine Australia hero.
Courtesy of Aussie Towns.

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Biography

Len Waters was born at Euraba Mission and was one of 11 children of Donald and Grace WATERS. He was Australia's first indigenous RAAF pilot and specifically trained as a fighter pilot.

Training initially as a mechanic, he volunteered for flying duties and after undergoing rigorous studies and training he graduated as a Sergeant (pilot) in 1944.

He flew P-40 Kittyhawks in the South West Pacific theatre, where he completed 95 missions, mainly close air support. By the end of the war he had risen to the rank of Warrant Officer.

"78144 Sergeant Leonard Victor Waters... was the only known Australian Aboriginal fighter pilot of the Second World War. He joined the RAAF on 24 August 1942 and was trained as a flight mechanic. When the RAAF called for aircrew trainees he applied and was accepted for pilot training. He undertook his initial training at 1 Elementary Flying Training School (1EFTS), Narrandera, NSW, before graduating as a Sgt pilot from 5 Service Flying Training School (5SFTS), Uranquinty, NSW. His training continued at 2 Operational Training Unit (2OTU), Mildura, Vic, from where he was posted to 78 Squadron on 14 November 1944. He flew 95 operational sorties with 78 Squadron, operating from Noemfoor, Morotai and Tarakan. Sgt Waters was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 1 January 1945 and to Warrant Officer on 1 January 1946. He was discharged from the RAAF on 18 January 1946. Leonard Waters died on 25 August 1993." - SOURCE (www.awm.gov.au)

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