HIGHS AND LOWS: WWII veteran Vernon Lilley recalls his time in the Royal Australian Air Force.
HIGHS AND LOWS: WWII veteran Vernon Lilley recalls his time in the Royal Australian Air Force. Philippe Coquerand

Anzac Day lives on for this Gympie WWII veteran

A LOT has changed for World War II veteran Vernon Lilley, 96, who entered the 608 Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force at the age of 19.

Mr Lilley said his position in the air force was as an "observer."

 

WW11 Veteran Vernon Lilley recalls his time in the Royal Australian Airforce.
WW11 Veteran Vernon Lilley recalls his time in the Royal Australian Airforce. Philippe Coquerand

"Our training took us from Sydney to New Zealand to America and Canada," he said.

"I received training on machine gunning and things like astro-navigation."

He was sorted into a crew with two New Zealanders, along with friend "Pommy" Ken Archer.

Soon afterwards, Mr Lilley was relocated to England before deployment to North Africa and the Mediterranean.

While 608 originated as a bomber squadron, by the middle of the war it was based on the Sicilian Coast, largely flying reconnaissance missions across the Mediterranean Sea.

"We were using the radar to search for submerged enemy submarines around Gibraltar and North Africa," he said.

 

WW11 Veteran Vernon Lilley recalls his time in the Royal Australian Airforce.
WW11 Veteran Vernon Lilley recalls his time in the Royal Australian Airforce. Philippe Coquerand

By October 1943, the squadron was again re-purposed, providing convoy escorts towards Italy until it was disbanded the following year.

Mr Lilley soon found himself posted to Bucharest, Romania.

"I stayed there until around June or July 1945 before I was sent back to Australia," he said.

"On the way there, when we had gotten to Cairo, we found out the war was all over - they'd dropped the atomic bomb."

One of the most significant moments Mr Lilley recalled of his service was when he found out his crew mate Ken Archer was killed in an accident.

"We were together since about 1942 - after I'd left Romania, he was still posted there and got married," he said.

"One night after visiting his squadron commander he was accidentally shot as he opened the door to his quarters."

Once the war was over in 1945, Mr Lilley was discharged in Brisbane and returned home to Gympie.

Mr Lilley believes the legacy of Anzac soldiers is alive and thriving in Australia.

Gympie Times


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