The Passing Out Parade was supported by the Australian Government’s Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund and was coordinated by South West Arts in partnership with South West Music Regional Conservatorium and Outback Theatre for Young People.
By Diana Bridgeford
I reached the rank of Flight Lieutenant during the Second World War having moved from Griffith to Deniliquin to commence training as an airforce pilot at the Airforce Flying Training School.
The school opened in Deniliquin in July 1941.
There were 15 of us who started in the first batch of trainees and this soon increased to 200. By the end of 1944 over 2,500 men had been trained in advanced single aircraft before the school closed in April 1948.
During 1942-1943 the average number of aircraft at the school was 130 Wirraways, one DH Tiger Moth, one DH 48 and two Wackett trainers. We used to bomb the bombing ranges on the stock routes, away from towns and houses.
Local women served hot meals to the trainees every day, and local men barbecued steaks on wire netting. They also organised finance to upkeep a dance hall adjacent to Airforce House, at the corner of Wood and Wellington Streets, for the Saturday night dances.
It was at one of these dances that I first met Rosie. The dances were very popular and we soon learned to waltz and tango with the help of our partners. Rosie and I fell in love and it made the whole training so much easier to take, though I did love flying.
As well as local girls, some of the female staff joined in. We also played cards.
I married Rosemary Millear, who used to drive to the training school on Friday afternoons to collect three or four trainees … and do the shopping in her little open hatch
Prefect, a dirt road all the way. We had to be back by 7am on Mondays.
Part of our training was to fly 24 hours straight so we had experience in all types of conditions, although we couldn’t fly during dust storms when visibility was down to inches.
The dust filled your mouth and got into your clothes and eyes, the grit was horrible. During the drought the dust blew and blew.
I had to do two months flying to complete my training before I could become an instructor. I really enjoyed instructing, a very responsible job, the lives of these young men in your hands.