William Jack PURDY DFC

PURDY, William Jack

Service Numbers: 430052, SN 430052
Enlisted: 4 December 1942
Last Rank: Warrant Officer
Last Unit: 189 Squadron
Born: Murrumbeena, Victoria, AUSTRALIA, 13 July 1924
Home Town: Murrumbeena, Glen Eira, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Grocer
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World War 2 Service

4 Dec 1942: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman, SN 430052
10 Jun 1943: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Warrant Officer, SN 430052, No. 463 Squadron (RAAF)
14 Sep 1945: Discharged Royal Australian Air Force, Warrant Officer, SN 430052, 189 Squadron

Excerpt from 'D-Day 75th Anniversary' Home Page Story

"The last Squadron involved was No. 463, which included pilot William (Bill) Jack Purdy. The Squadron flew Arvo Lancasters, each equiped with ‘14 1,000 pound bombs,’ and on D-Day, attacked the five German naval guns at Point du Hoc. Bill recalls D-Day as ‘a sight to be seen,’ with ‘5,000 small boats and 300 warships’ blanketing the English Channel. It was almost as if he could have ‘put his wheels down and taxied home,’ such was the proximity of the ships clustered together. On D-Day, all of 463 Squadron’s bombs on D-Day were dropped in an area ‘less than the size of a city block,’ completely obliterating the German defences and artillery. Without the success of this critical mission, the American Ranger Assault Group may not have been able to capture Point du Hoc later that day. Bill’s final memory of the mission is returning back to base and eating bacon and eggs, only to be interrupted and sent back into the fighting. Bill flew in a further 36 sorties during the invasion of Normandy. He survived the war, and was awarded the DFC. In 2014, at the age of 90, he flew lead Tiger Moth in the Anzac Day fly over of Sydney Harbour, proving that even 70 years after D-Day, he is still very at home in the air."

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Biography contributed by Ned Young

William (Bill) Jack Purdy enlisted in the Air Force on the 4th of December, 1942. His training began at Point Cook, and then England, where he began flying Lancasters in No 463 Squadron’s Bomber Command. 

Most men in Bomber Command don’t make it past 5 missions. Bill completed 37, and “felt lucky after every trip”. The hardest part of each sortie for Bill was not the mission itself; rather, it was the hours before, where crew-members sat wondering whether or not they would be returning home that night. Before each mission, Bill would tidy his room and possessions so that, if he didn’t make it home successfully, his kit bag could be sent back to his family. On three seperate occasions, Bill’s Bomber was hit by anti-aircraft fire, yet he was never shot down and never had to bail out. To come back unscathed from 37 missions is something of a miracle. 

The most memorable mission for Bill was the bombing of Point du Hoc on D-Day (6th of June, 1944). Bill later described the battle as “the greatest armada in human history”. Bomber Command had to navigate treacherous conditions on the night of the bombing. Heavy cloud cover and rain meant visibility was extremely poor. Regardless, the 463 Squadron made certain that the German naval guns and concrete defensive structures were completely destroyed, dropping bomb after bomb in a relentless assault.

Bomb raids were responsible for the deaths of around 600,000 Germans, many of which were civilians. For that reason, members of Bomber Command were not embraced by the public as much as other soldiers were, as they represented the darker side of the war. In recent years however, the work of Bomber Command is beginning to be recognised for “the tremendous force it was”. For Bill, his missions were a fight “for existence;” an unfortunate inevitable that Bomber Command had no control over. As Bill put it in 2014 in an interview with ABC News: “Any war is terrible business,…we didn’t bring that…upon ourselves”.

In March of 1945, Bill was sent back to Australia to serve in the Pacific against the Japanese. He was later transferred to the reserves in September as a Flight Lieutenant. In 1951, he was called up as a flight instructor, training pilots serving in the Korean War. He finished his instructing with a commercial pilots license. In 1952, Bill started a frozen food distribution company with a friend he had met during WWII. He sold the business to Gordon Edgell Ltd in 1959. In 1966, he joined Arnott’s Biscuits as Marketing Director, eventually becoming Chairman. He retired in 1995. 

Bill lead the Tiger Moth fly-past of Sydney Harbour on Anzac Day in 2014 at the age of 90; an incredible feat. To the best of my knowledge, as of June 2019, he still resides in Mosman, Sydney, and continues to fly light aircraft.