454 and 459 RAAF Squadrons
Flight Lieutenant Arthur (Boy) Gostwyck CORY
459 RAAF Squadron
Service No. 413743
Date of Birth: 23 Nov 1911
Place of Birth: NORTH SYDNEY, NSW
Date of Enlistment: 13 Sep 1941
Date of Discharge: 25 Feb 1946
Rank: Flight Lieutenant
Boy Cory's Memoirs of World War II
I was accepted as an Air Crewman after an interview in Moree in September 1941. I gained an education and had more than my share of luck whilst in the Air Force. I was called up to Bradfield Park for my initial training.
Three of my uncles were members of Boollaroo Shire Council, Moree; the O.C. of my group at Bradfield Park had been the engineer. He at least knew my name from the other 120 and was of help from time to time. It was he who turned down my request to be a navigator - "Your education record is not good enough - you may make a good pilot!!!"
I was posted to Mascot - 79 hours in Tiger moths. My ground subjects were not so good but I topped the flying tests. In April 1942 I went to Canada, twin-engine Ansons were good to fly but were fitted with un-supercharged Jacobs engines due to all the original engines being sunk coming out from England. Our aerodrome was 3,500 feet above seal level, hence the flying performance was poor. There were five other Australians on the course.
The day before final Wings Exam I went to hospital with appendicitis. I was operated on within two hours - three doctors and two nurses, all happy to have something to do. Next morning Sister Hardy ordered me to get up and make my bed. I, feeling sore and worried about missing the exam said, "You go to hell". Her response; "You'll be put on a charge". She had two stripes on her shoulders and I had nothing. I made my bed. We became very good friends in the weeks to come and we share letters and Xmas cards every year since.
The lucky part was I had to repeat the course upon returning from sick leave. My four mates went straight to England and onto Bombers - most unhealthy in those days - only one came home.
After doing the course twice I had to come out near the top (third). I was awarded a commission, Pilot Officer, and was selected to do a post-graduate course at Prince Edward Island - my memories are of 30 degrees below zero and 30 knot wind! Here I qualified as a navigator with Astro navigating capability!!
To England - 14 in the cabin, two meals a day for five days - the game of Black Jack on the floor never stopped, day and night. After arriving Ken Adamson, my mate from Prince Edward Island days and I were posted to Embarkment Depot, Blackpool. Here we were issued with summer uniforms and had to report at 8.00 am each day. In the group were six women. I remarked to Ken, "They're a pretty drac lot". Ken, more experienced replied, "They will look a lot better after a few days at sea". One was a Matron. We were the only Australians. She spoke to us and introduced us to the group - two nurses, Scotty and Mary, two VADs, Nancy Street, whose father was the permanent Under-Secretary for Air, an army officer and one whose name I have forgotten.
After a week at Blackpool we boarded Orontes *, a ship well known to Australians. Ken and I shared a single-berth cabin on "A" deck. To my amazement the RAF OC appointed me OC Women! (Matron's doings). My little 1/4 inch stripe compared to Matron's 2 and a half inch stripes (Air Commander level) left no doubt who would be Boss. My duties were simply to ensure all the women were in the lounge room with life jackets properly fitted whenever we held a boat drill or if we were on submarine alert.
Orontes was sailing under peacetime conditions apart from the number on board - 6,000 - very good food, ten pence for a beer, 4p for whisky, 2p for gin. The convoy was slow at about 15 knots. Smokey Joe was an old ship at the tail of the convoy, which just couldn't keep up without making smoke. Each day if fell further behind and each morning we were always pleased to see it had survived the night when it could pour on the coal and make smoke and therefore speed. We were nine weeks on this trip to Egypt.
Nancy Street celebrated her 21st birthday in April. (Her twin brother was one of 50 executed by Hitler after they had escaped. Ken and Nancy became very good friends. Matron and Scotty, whose father owned the Red Hackle whisky distillery in Glasgow, were the only ones who had any money in the group. The rest of us were broke after a few weeks without pay, so we borrowed.
We sailed up the Red Sea and arrived in Egypt. On arrival at Ginaclies (S.W. of Alexandria in the desert) we found chaos. Here we were supposed to do an Operation Training Course but there was nothing but tents and men. We were sent back to a camp on the Suez Canal where we sat for ten weeks. We hitch-hiked to Cairo from time to time. Always welcome at the RAF hospital where Matron was in charge.
Back to Ginaclies. There was only one Hudson in service for me to fly. It was worn out and no-one serviced it - had to wait five days for the puncture to be repaired in the tail wheel. Those training on Baltimores were better off - Ken was among them. On December 17 he was shot down in a clash with two 109s over Crete - a navigation error, they missed the gap of the Kaso Strait between two islands and tracked over a German aerodrome. The same night I lost the Rolex watch Reg Hobson had given me.
Posted to 450 Squadron in October 1943 - two years training and traveling! 459 Squadron was at Gambut near Tobruk. Hudsons operating only at night, anti-submarine, convoys etc in the Mediterranean - very good planes and excellent service. Four of us in the crew - navigator Noel Skerritt was very capable, never lost us, and we always arrived home within minutes of his predicted time.
After the last submarine was sunk in the Mediterranean we went to bombing German shipping up amongst the Dodecanese Islands. We moved to Palestine where our tents were set up amongst the gum trees, not far from the sea - a far change from the desert. Although only a Flight Lieutenant, more than once I was in charge of half the squadron - eight aircraft - on bombing missions. I was old compared to the other pilots, even our Flight Commanders.
One night over Rhodes, German anti-aircraft guns had us in their sights - 36 holes also cutting the rear webs in the main spar, no engine or crew damage. Our airspeed showed 360 knots as I applied maximum horsepower of 4,800. The aircraft was then only useful for spare parts! We were down to five fully operational pilots at one time - 16 is the usual complement. The doctor grounded me for 14 days. I went to a guest house where no-one spoke English. I had to pay extra for two eggs for breakfast.
After 500 hours of operational flying I joined the RAF Staff College of Navigation for a rest. Here we flew Venturas at night with two navigators doing the post-graduate course I had done on Prince Edward Island.
On a trip from Cairo to Khartoum - 1,000 miles due south - when we were supposed to arrive at Khartoum at 10.00 pm it wasn't there! - we were lost !! The usual procedure was to do a square search but after 30 minutes flying under navigators' instructions, I sacked them and took over. By this time we had no idea where we were - the radio had been of no use since we left Cairo. It was a dark night. Nothing could be seen in the desert. I took a star shot on the Pole star Polaris. This gave us our latitude south of Khartoum - west or east, we didn't know. The radio compass would not read Khartoum so we were a long way away. It is a long story as to how I eventually calculated our position - one hour flying from Khartoum (200 miles). The petrol gauges were showing 15 minutes flying time left. The five of us parachuted down and were found by a Bedouin cameleer. After two days sitting under a tree waiting to be found we mounted camels. After eight days riding we reached civilisation.
We were greeted by the English District Commissioner, who invited us into his beautiful home on the banks of the Nile. The men were treated to hot baths. "I think we might have smelt a little bit". After more than a week of living on camel's milk and goat, the dinner that night took my breath away. What a dinner! The silver and china, crystal goblets all round, three kinds of wine, four courses, then some very nice pre-war coffee. The experience was a world away from the North Start district property "Belara" where I grew up.
Nora Cosgrove phoned both telegrams to my mother. The first to report that I was missing and then to report I was safe. A few months later my mother's letter began, "I have received a telegram from the Air Force to say that you are missing over the desert but I believe you'll come home on a camel".
Bluey Page and I were due to return home to Australia. We decided to pull strings and go to England instead. We went there by BOAC. On arrival no-one wanted to know us. The place was awash with aircrews looking for operational duties. Eventually I managed to get a posting to East Fortune near Edinburgh, a Beaufighter O.T.U. Then Hitler shot himself.
Awaiting a boat home I managed a few months in Bradford doing a Wool & Textile Course. Australians were very popular in Bradford. Home on the Acquatania - no Prime Minister to greet us, after not six months, but five years. However I did get a rail ticket to North Star first class.
The ORONTES was the second ship with this name owned by the Orient Line (part of the P&O group). She was a 20,097 gross ton ship, length 638.2ft x beam 75.2ft, two funnels, two masts, twin screw and a speed of 18 knots. There was accommodation for 460-1st and 1,112-3rd class passengers. In 1940 she was converted to a troopship and took part in the North Africa landings in Nov.1942. In 1943 she was present at the Sicilian landings at Avola, and put ashore 4,000 troops from her landing barges. She then returned with a fresh load of troops which she landed at Salerno, Italy. In 1945 she was engaged in trooping to the Far East in preparation for the invasion of Japan and in 1947-48 was reconditioned as a one-class ship. She resumed the London - Australia service on 17th June 1948 and continued on this service until March 1962 when she arrived at Valencia, Spain for scrapping.