Ronald Andrew (Ron) WARDLAW

WARDLAW, Ronald Andrew

Service Number: 76310
Enlisted: 22 June 1942
Last Rank: Leading Aircraftman
Last Unit: No. 31 Squadron (RAAF)
Born: Gympie, Queensland, Australia, 1 May 1923
Home Town: Maryborough, Fraser Coast, Queensland
Schooling: North Arm State School, Queensland, Australia
Occupation: NCR Technician
Died: Cancer, Caloundra, Queensland, Australia, 12 October 2000, aged 77 years
Cemetery: Privately Cremated
Show Relationships

World War 2 Service

22 Jun 1942: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Leading Aircraftman, 76310, Aircraft / Repair / Salvage Depots
22 Jun 1942: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman, 76310
11 Mar 1943: Embarked Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman, 76310, Ron was posted to No. 54 Squadron RAF in Darwin on the 22nd March 1943
16 Apr 1943: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Leading Aircraftman, No. 54 Squadron RAF
18 Jan 1946: Discharged Royal Australian Air Force, Leading Aircraftman, 76310, No. 31 Squadron (RAAF)
18 Jan 1946: Discharged Royal Australian Air Force, Leading Aircraftman, 76310, Aircraft / Repair / Salvage Depots
Date unknown: Involvement Leading Aircraftman, 76310, No. 31 Squadron (RAAF)

Help us honour Ronald Andrew Wardlaw's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Sue Smith

Ronald Andrew Wardlaw is my father and I am honoured to share briefly, the story of his life.

Dad was born on the 1st May 1923 at Gympie, Queensland, the eldest child and only son of John and Alice Wardlaw.  He had two sisters, Peggy and Jean.  They family lived in several places during Dad’s growing up years, including several years at the wider Wardlaw family property at Moree in NSW, but his primary schooling took place at North Arm State School.  Prior to World War 2, the family was living in Brisbane and after leaving school, Dad worked for Rocla Pipes at Keperra. 

Dad enlisted in the RAAF on the 22nd June 1942 at the No. 3 Recruiting Centre in Creek Street Brisbane.  He was aged 19.  His occupation is listed in his service records as a fitter’s assistant.  His service number was 76310 and his rank was AC1, Aircraftman Class 1.  Dad started a diary that day and he left Brisbane that night, reporting to No. 3 RD, Recruit Depot, in Maryborough the following day.  On the 10th July 1942 he was posted to No. 3 STT, School of Technical Training, at Ultimo in NSW and arrived in Sydney on the 12th July to commence training as part of Trainee Group 5.  In August Dad spent 13 days in the Prince Henry Hospital with mumps.  Just 3 months later he was again admitted to hospital, the 113 AGH at Concord.  This time he had jaundice and spent 10 days recuperating. 

On the 16th January 1943 he was re-mustered as an instrument repairer and sent to No. 5 AD, Aircraft Depot at Forest Hill NSW on the 21st January 1943.  This unit’s role was to repair & service aircraft &receive aircraft from the factories & prepare them for front line duties in the Pacific theatre.  A month later he was posted to No. 1 ED, Embarkation Depot, at Ascot Vale in Victoria then to No. 4 ED at Mitcham in South Australia on the 11th March.  He left Adelaide by train on the 13th March bound for the Northern Territory.  On the 19th March he arrived at No. 55 OBU, Operational Base Unit, at Birdum then 3 days later was posted to the No. 1 Fighter Wing in Darwin with “A” Flight of the 54 Squadron, a British Spitfire Squadron.  He arrived in Darwin on the 22nd March 1943.  In April 1943 he was re-classed as a Leading Aircraftman, re-mustered as an instrument maker and posted to No. 55 OBU at Birdum.  On the 9th August 1943 Dad was posted to the No. 52 OBU at Berrimah.  He witnessed several bombings while in Darwin and the following excerpts are taken from his diary.

Sunday 2nd May 1943: “Well I have actually seen the Japs Bombers.  They flew in pattern formation overhead & dropped about 50 bombs.  6 of our kites are written off, 2 shot down, 4 forced down on beach.  Well it has been rather an exciting day.” 

Sunday 20th June 1943: “Well, did I say NO excitement!  We sure got it today.  The dirty little yellow...came down strafing us.  I was never scared before, but when a man sees about 9 of “Nippon’s” kites coming at tree-top height, well, I calls that getting scared, especially with bullets whistling about.  Well it was good fun while it lasted - like hell.  I had a feeling as though I wanted to hold on to somebody.  It was a strange feeling.  The “Spities” & “Zeros” were having a dog-fight about us.  It was really a great show on our part.”

Monday 21st June 1943: “Well everybody was keyed up about the big do yesterday, and believe me, there are quite a lot of the lads just as bad as me.  It is exactly 12 months since I went into camp, by the day, but 12 months by the date tomorrow.”

Tuesday 22nd June 1943: “Things still a bit shaky on it.  Expecting another do.  Sure enough, about 9.50am the “Red” comes on and we 26 down into the bush.  We were there for nearly an hour, but as we heard later, it was just as well they didn’t get this far, or else we would have been no more.  Anyway, the scare was more than enough for most of us.  I have been rather worried the last couple of days that I haven’t paid much attention to my correspondence.”

Monday 28th June: “Well, another raid today, but the bombers were very high.

Friday 13th August: “Well, it’s the 13th & it’s Friday.  Went to the pictures but didn’t see them through because the “Nips” payed us a visit.  Saw “Brother Orchid” & just started on “Sun Valley Serenade”.  Could have said a lot of things.  Came home without the lights because there was a “Yellow” on.  Arrived home (camp) about 10.00pm. “All Clear” given about 10mins later, then a “Yellow” again in about half an hour. Then the horns blew.  Well to tell the truth, I was scared.  It was such a beautiful night for a raid.  Well about 20mins after the “Red”, we could see the Ack Ack flashes, then heard the bombs dropping.  But they dropped wide of their objectives.  That was the first night raid.  The “Spits” went up but the Ack Ack too thick to do any good.  One Bomber shot down.  Didn’t get much sleep.”

Tuesday 17th August 1943: “Rather an exciting day.  457 shot 3 Reccos in the morning, then about 4.00pm they shot another one over.  “Killer” made short work of him.  Rather a good day’s work.  We also had a “Red” warning about 11.00pm.  Nothing eventuated from it.” 

Tuesday 7th September 1943: “Rather an exciting day.  1 Recco, escorted by about 20 “Zeros”, came over.  5 shot down, 9 probables.  Lost 1 kite & Pilot.  Mr Hinds & “W”.”

Tuesday 14th September 1943: “Was one of the Firing Party for Mr Hinds’ funeral.” 

On the 24th September 1943 Dad got a surprise posting to the 31 Squadron based at Coomalie Creek where there was an airstrip.  He arrived there the next day and commenced work in the instruments section, worked mostly on Beaufighter planes which he preferred to the Spitfires. 

On the 4th October 1943 Dad was transferred to “B” Flight then 10 days later the Squadron was moved to Darwin.  The following excerpts are taken from his diary.

Saturday 9th October 1943: “Well the boys are away on the Bash, “Selaru”.  Six went out, 4 came back.  The other 2 crash landed in Darwin.  “Butch” Gordon (S/L) brought his “Crate” back on 1 motor, then had to crash land.  Had one of the ground staff with him. He shot down 2 twin-engine fighters.”

Monday 18th October 1943: “The “Beaus” were putting on a turn when one hit the trees.  A terrible crash. 3 killed.”

Tuesday 19th October 1943: “Six “Beaus” went on a “Bash”.  Found new Jap strip.  Lost one “Beauie”.  The Pilot & Observer were lovely chaps, Mr Cridland & Mr D. Perries.”

Monday 1st November 1943: “Bash” on.  Led by “Butch”.  Had his under-carriage shot up.  Landed safely.  All aircraft returned.”

Thursday 11th November 1943: “Bash” on.  Led by “Butch” & Ray White.  All returned safely. “Butch” blew a Bofors gun up.  Also was hit by one of its shells.  When he returned the D.F.C. was waiting for him.  We also had a raid that night or in the early hours of Friday morning.  9 planes came over, 2 shot down.  One of “Spits” was lost for a while.  He turned up later.  They dropped their bombs about 200yds from where we were.  Even heard the bombs dropping.  Eventually got back into bed at 5.00am after 3 hours of waiting.”

Sunday 21st November 1943: “Kites took off on “Bash” going to Taberfane.  Lost one B 25.  One shot up, came home on one motor.  One “Beauie” missing another hit by Bofors shell on port main plane just behind dingy.  Sgt. McMillan (Obs) hit by shrapnel. Knocked his identity disk off his wrist.   Another piece behind his neck in his “Mae West”, broke off his pencil & a bullet lodged in his harness.”

Monday 22nd November 1943: “Beauies” searched for “145” without success.  Another “Bash” on tomorrow.”

Monday 6th December 1943: “Duty Crew organised a” flip” with F/O Archer.  Two of us went up, “86” & “152”.  We were in “152”.  “86” didn’t come back.  Went in just off the coast.  Saw a patch of smoke, went to investigate & found Keith Henry in the dingy.  F/O Archer stripped off his “Mae West” & dingy.  I took them to Jack Holland (Obs).  We opened the hatch & dropped 2 “Mae Wests” & a dingy to him.  We circled again, then made for home.  We climbed to 3000ft slowly at about 220 knots, levelled out at 260 knots.  Came in over Adelaide River.  Could see our strip from there.  Came home feeling rotten.  Didn’t tell Mum.” 

A memory that I have from my childhood is the background story to the above entry in his diary that Dad shared with us, his family, and I must share this before I move on. 

Before the boys boarded their assigned planes, the orders were switched, which meant the crews changed planes.  This meant that Keith Henry changed places with Dad so he was killed instead of Dad.  The pilot of Keith’s plane was P/O Ken Gerdes and the navigator was F/Sgt Andrew McMillan.  The accident report I found in the service records of F/Sgt McMillan states that the two planes left Coomalie Creek at 4.30pm to carry out a test flight and shooting exercises in Anson Bay.  During the exercises "86" reported it was having trouble and was heading for the coast south of Peron Island.  At approx. 5.10pm the crew of my Dad's plane, "152", saw that Keith's plane had crashed into the sea 8 miles south west of Peron Island.  Keith was seen clinging to a partially inflated dinghy.  No other survivors were found.  Dad's crew dropped 2 Mae Wests and a dinghy to Keith then returned to base.  The "152" returned to the scene to direct help from shore.  At 6.40pm Keith was retrieved from the dinghy.  He was conscious but seriously injured suffering from compound fractures of both knees and massive internal injuries.  He told his rescuer that he hadn't seen the other 2 crew members after the crash.  Keith was conveyed to Batchelor Airsrtip and then to Coomalie Creek where he was admitted to the No.1 MRS at 8.10pm.  Sadly, he died from his injuries at 10.40pm.  His funeral was held the following day at 3pm attended by 30 members from the 31 Squadron.  He was buried at the Adelaide River War Cemetery.  Keith, Dad and F/Sgt McMillan were all aged 20, P/O Gerdes was 22.  The bodies of Gerdes and McMillan were never recovered.  Dad’s plane, A19-152, survived the war and was struck off on the 8th August 1949. 

Dad also shared with us the story of “Butch” Gordon, who he mentions in some of the diary entries above and in the following diary entries.

Thursday 16th December 1943: “Another “Bash” today.  They took off at 5.30am.  Went to the same place.  “Butch” & “Fergy” got a twin-engine fighter each.  Bashed up some more ships.  Real good day.  “21” got shot up a bit.”

Wednesday 5th January 1944: “’Butch’ shot down another kite which gives him a total of 6 making him an Ace Pilot.  Boy!  What a man.”

Friday 11th February 1944: Nothing much doing so far.  “Butch” & F/O Archer took 2 Kites south, “51” & “21”.  They arrived back today with a new one.  “Basher” Barnett brought one up also.  Also “Blackjack” Walker put on a turn with a “Mozzie”.  Boy!  what a turn.  Dived on the strip with one motor (port) & went up in a climbing roll.  We stood with our mouths open & how.” 

Sunday 27th February 1944: ““Butch” brought about a dozen Nurses to see our Section.  Had quite a nice chat to “Butch”.  Half an hour afterwards he was putting on a turn & testing “165” when both motors cut.  So, another great man meets death.  He had just received his bar to his D.F.C.  He lived for about 4 hours.  Died about 9.00pm.”

Thursday 30th March 1944: “Lost a new Pilot & Observer on first Bash”.  F/L Fitton flying “182”.  Brand new Kite & crew.  Another bash today.”

June 1944: “Well, nothing very interesting has happened, only PRU have a “Mozzie” now.  Gosh! 1st June, 1 “Mozzie”, 1st Opp.  They are a lovely looking kite.  W/C Mann has been posted south & “Wenty” is CO now.” 

This was the last entry in Dad’s diary. 

On the 23rd June 1944 Dad was posted to the No. 3 Personnel Depot at Sandgate and from there to the No. 8 SFTS (Service Flying Traing School) in Bundaberg QLD.  In mid August 1944 he was posted to No. 5 SFTS in Uranquinty NSW and a month later to No. 1 STT (School of Technical Training) at the Melbourne Showgrounds in Ascot Vale VIC.  He was there for several months until early June 1945 when he was re-mustered as an instrument maker and classed as AC1.  A week later he was posted to No. 5 OTU (Operational Training Unit) at Wagga Wagga NSW.  In early September he was re-classed as LAC (Leading Aircraftman) and in late October posted to No. 13 ARD (Aircraft Repair Depot) at Breddan QLD.  His last move was to No. 3 PD (Personnel Depot) at Sandgate QLD before being discharged on the 18th January 1946.

During his time in service Dad corresponded with the best friend of his sister Peggy, a young lady named Elaine Morsley.  The friendship blossomed to a romance which lead to a lifetime commitment when on the 27th May 1950, Dad married Mum at Shorncliffe Methodist Church where Mum’s father was the minister. 

They lived in Maryborough initially where Dad’s parents and sisters were living.  There they raised 4 children…John, Anne, Peter and myself, then the family moved to Sandgate in 1959 where a 5th child was born in 1963…Beth.  Dad joined NCR, National Cash Registers, as a technician and spent several months away from the family in Sydney in preparation for converting all the cash registers over to decimal currency.  Dad was a dedicated Scout Leader, organised and participated in door knock appeals every year for the Salvation Army Red Shield and the Blue Nursing Service and if anyone ever needed a helping hand with anything, Dad was there in a flash.  He and Mum were active members of the Shorncliffe Methodist Church serving in leadership roles.  Four of their 5 children were married in that same church. 

Dad took an early retirement after a brush with melanoma cancer and they retired to their newly built home Caloundra on the 7th June 1981.  Over the ensuing 19 years Dad served again in the local church, was an active volunteer for the Cancer Council and he and Mum welcomed 13 grandchildren into the family.  In 1993 they received the Premier’s Award for outstanding community service to Queensland and on the 27th May 2000 they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. 

Over the years Dad attended several reunions of the 31 Squadron and was an active volunteer for the Queensland Air Museum in Caloundra for many years.  He was instrumental in organising and dedicating the memorial plaque to the Beaufighter and Boston Squadrons that stands at the front of the Queensland Air Museum.  Dad passed away peacefully at home with his family around him on the 12th October 2000 aged 77.  The following article is from the Queensland Air Museum website.

“We note with sadness the passing of member Ron Wardlaw on 12th October 2000 after an extended battle with cancer. Ron spent his youth in centres as far apart as Moree and Gympie. His first employment was as a grocer’s delivery boy and later he joined Rocla Pipes. He enlisted in 1942 as an instrument fitter in the RAAF and served in the N.T. with 31 Sqdn on Kittyhawks, Bostons and Beaufighters. After the war he joined NCR as a cash register technician. He and Elaine married in 1950 and raised a family of five. Apart from work, Ron served in the Maryborough and Shorncliffe areas as a church officer and scout leader. Following an episode of cancer 20 years ago he was active in fundraising for the Cancer Fund and other charities. Since retirement to Caloundra he has acted as a wildlife ranger, and helped with Elaine’s music activities, as well as playing the spoons himself. He joined the museum shortly after we moved to Caloundra and was active in opening the door on extra days and in providing hospitality. A member of the Boston-Beaufighter Association, he was instrumental in dedicating the plaque at the front of the building. His funeral overflowed the chapel on Monday 16 October 2000.”

Respectfully Submitted                                                                  Sue Smith

Daughter of Ron Wardlaw                                                          June 2020