Being an impatient driver for many years, I’ve often thought ‘silly ol’ fool’ whilst driving when some old codger fumbles his way through traffic in a vehicle akin to an aircraft carrier until I met a man. A real man I had no idea who might be behind the wheel of the next hindrance to my pole position at the next red light.
The man I speak of comes from South Australia and through a desire to participate in the call to arms he is now one of us living in a leafy part of Perth. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in October 1942 at the age of 20, having already served twelve months in the Australian Army.
His desire was to be a pilot in The RAAF and through the list of bases and towns you see from page 100 of 101 in his detailed flying log book he flew Gypsy Moths , Avro Ansons, Wellington Mk 3’s and the almighty Lancaster S for Sugar to deliver the message to Germany to end the madness.
He did his duty with his mates 35 times in a ship of the air that would glide as he put it once you made 20000 feet like a feather in the wind. Powering back at altitude, there were no flames or sparks coming from the magnificent Merlins and they never fired a single round in anger. They would have fired should an opponent threaten their well being save giving away their position to the night fighters with a powerful flash of the machine guns.
With a force of ONE THOUSAND aircraft at times, they were aerial dodgem cars making their way to the targets from 100 airfields forming up in the dark with no lights, radar, communications and primitive navigation techniques. The pilots could only sense their way over as the wing of an allie could come within feet of your ear, where would you go save bang into your mate under you not aware you were just above.
The passive way this gentleman tells the story of he and his friends and the unfortunate tale of he and his crew being stood down for a mission due to a touch of the flu. The crew that took their place sadly did not return as was the case for 1000’s of teenagers as they pressed home the orders from Bomber Command.
They did their duty , an adventure unimagined in the sleepy towns of Australia several years before when these boys were still in primary school and the world changed forever for many.
Douglas Ross Arrowsmith, DFC, OAM returned to the arms of his sweetheart Helen in Perth and he took up a position with a bank rising to manager after doing the obligatory run around the country branches saving the hide of many a farmer during tough times because the bank manager used to know his customers unlike the bottom line approach today.
Doug runs the local RSL, organises his local ANZAC service , speaks regularly at primary schools and is inundated by the media for his fabulous tales flying over The English Channel and shares the most delicious banana bread and home made biscuits with all and sundry that enters his home.
Doug is doing a Donald Bradman approaching the century mark at an energetic 97 and lives on with his two children, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren plus me.
Doug and his daughters have just returned from Canberra after another 460 Squadron dinner to celebrate those fallen friends and to remember their past.
The next time you consider a joust with a gentleman or lady on the roads, consider your actions as they might just be your hero.