© 2009 454 & 459 RAAF Squadrons
454 RAAF Baltimore Light Bomber Squadron
RAF Desert Air Force Middle East and Italy
Flight Lieutenant Geoffrey Hamilton BRADLEY, Pilot
Service Number 437111
Served November 1944 -- August 1945
The following summary is based on Geoff Bradley's own CV, his daughter's family tribute and 454 records.
He was brought up on a South Australian farm near Mt Gambier and returned to the same district post war. His first aircraft experience was a low level “beat up” of his 3rd Light Horse Regiment out on manoeuvres. His reaction was to apply for an immediate transfer to the RAAF Reserve and then pilot training. By then he was playing the saxophone - by ear and not sight-reading music - with his father, also a "natural" untrained pianist; they played for local dances. His love of big bands and jazz became a passion.
By February 1943 he was flying Tiger Moths at Parafield EFTS; then Harvards in Canada; and finally to Gianaclis, Egypt on Baltimores. He has written his personal memoirs of the war years for family and friends. Maybe a copy will be available eventually for the AWM's 454 Archives.
Geoff Bradley joined No. 454 RAAF Baltimore Squadron on 6.10.44 at Falconara base in Italy in November 1944, attached to Desert Air Force of "Alamein to the Alps: fame. His operational service ended as German forces surrendered on 2nd May, but he remained at Villa Orba, near Udine, until 454 was disbanded on 14 August 1945.
The crew Flt Geoff Bradley - Pilot; Warrant Officer Peter Matthews - Navigator/Bomb Aimer; and Flying Officer Jack Shipway and Flight Lieutenant "Pappy" Kershaw, both Wireless Operator/Air Gunners - flew many offensive daylight formation bombing sorties from Falconara aimed at softening up the "Gothic Line: defences straddling Italy south of the Venice-Florence line. His squadron nickname was "Diamond". (Maybe there is an anecdote to explain!).
On their first daylight formation sortie to Pola Harbour in Yugoslavia, across the Adriatic Sea, the crew had a very torrid introduction to fierce accurately predicted defence. After many such sorties the Squadron was converted, in January 1945, to night intruder individual bombing and strafing harassment at low level, of the stubbornly retreating but fiercely resistant German forces in the Po River Valley and Lombardy Plains areas, during the last great battles of the Italian campaign. The crew were regulars on these sorties.
Indeed it is claimed they flew the last RAF sortie to Villach in Italy on the night of 1st and 2nd May.
He was remembered by his then Commanding Officer, Wing Commander AD Henderson OBE (Air Commodore - Rtd) and 454 Squadron members as a highly skilled, courageous, thoroughly responsible and much respected operational pilot.
His post war steady deterioration in health concerned us all. he had retired from his farm in 1980 because of it and managed administrative work in his son's auto firm until his serious disablement progressively restricted mobility.
[Above story is from the Association's 2000 Bulletin]
Geoffrey Hamilton BRADLEY
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