A Trip Down Memory Lane

96-year-old WWII veteran pilot Ron Benson reacquainted himself with a beloved Boomerang aircraft during the Tocumwal Airshow in New South Wales on 14 September.
96-year-old WWII veteran pilot Ron Benson reacquainted himself with a beloved Boomerang aircraft during the Tocumwal Airshow in New South Wales on 14 September.
 
The former RAAF Flight Lieutenant is one of the last surviving WWII Boomerang pilots in Australia and it has been 74 years since he last flew a Boomerang aircraft.
 
“I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1923, and I moved to Australia with my family at the tender age of 3.”
 
“I left school after Year 10 and was working as a junior clerk with Elder Smith & Co Wool Brokers in Geelong, Victoria when WWII broke out.”
 
Although interested in ships, cars and girls at the time, Ron decided to become a pilot as he was “interested in low flying”.
 
“I signed up to join the RAAF in 1942 when I was 18 years old. My concerned mother at the time warned me not to fly too fast or too low!”
 
“Before I joined the RAAF I had never been in a plane before, so try to imagine my excitement when I started training in the Tiger Moth aircraft at No.5 Squadron!”
 
After the initial training Ron was posted to Mareeba, Queensland before being posted to No.4 Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron in New Guinea in November 1943.
 
“My main role was a tactical reconnaissance pilot and I frequently used bombs, smoke bombs, machine guns, cannons and photography equipment during missions.”
 
“I undertook many operational missions in both Wirraway and Boomerang aircraft over New Guinea and New Britain.”
 
Ron pointed out the area around New Guinea and New Britain was one of the most difficult areas to fly in the world.
 
“On average I flew one sortie every second day and I had 5 close calls during the war.”
 
“My most memorable moment was in the mountainous terrain of New Guinea when I was completely surrounded by clouds. I had a quick prayer and asked to be saved. Suddenly, a hole appeared in the clouds below, exposing a small airstrip and I managed to land safely.”
 
Ron discharged from service at the end of WWII in 1945 and he considered the 3 years RAAF experience as the highlight of his life.
 
“I was incredibly proud to have clocked up 246 hours on the Wirraway aircraft and 175 hours on the Boomerang from my time in the RAAF.”
 
“I have thoroughly enjoyed the excellent training and comradeship. I have nothing but praise for the organisation and I will treasure this experience forever.”
 
Ron moved on to study medicine and later became a General Practitioner. He continued general practice until his 70s, and he worked as the Medical Superintendent at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital during the 1980s. After retiring, Ron kept himself busy by writing papers on social issues.
 
Ron looks forward to joining RAAF’s Centenary celebration in 2021.