RAAF centenary focus of Anzac Day

·3-min read

The centenary of the Royal Australian Air Force has been the focal point of Anzac Day ceremonies, with the telling of stories of bravery by Air Force men and women.

At the national Anzac Day Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Mel Hupfield told the crowd that while many Anzac Day stories speak of the trenches of Europe, he wanted to mark the "equally vicious fighting in the skies above".

Delivering the commemorative address, Air Marshal Hupfield told the story of Squadron Leader Peter Jensen, who joined the RAAF in 1921, just days after it was founded.

At 19, Mr Jensen trained as a wireless Air Gunner and flew with the 461 Squadron over the Atlantic Ocean hunting the German U-boats, sinking many and helping eliminate the threat to Allied shipping.

On one occasion, he spent 17 hours in a life raft after his flying boat was shot to pieces by enemy aircraft, Air Marshal Hupfield said.

"Even so, on each occasion when the time came, he got up, donned his flap jacket, climbed aboard and did what had to be done.

"I don't tell his story because he is extraordinary, I tell his story because he felt himself to be ordinary - Peter was just one of the many who gave their country and their community a lifetime of service," Air Marshal Hupfield said.

Mr Jensen died on April 8 2021, just a few days before his 100th birthday.

The air force band played at the service while the Air Force Chief received the banner parade.

At the national dawn service held earlier on Sunday, prayers were said by Principal Air Chaplain Mark Willis, while the didgeridoo was played by Flight Lieutenant Tjapukai Shaw

In Brisbane, at the dawn service held at Anzac Square, Queensland Governor Paul de Jersey also paid homage to the men and women of the RAAF.

"In its centenary year, while we pause a little longer in acknowledgement of the RAAF, our gratitude and unalloyed respect belong to all who have served, all who are serving.

"Over the past 100 years, the planes and technology have changed beyond recognition. What hasn't altered, is Air Force personnel's commitment to service and their country," Mr De Jersey told the crowd on Sunday morning.

He noted that Queensland played an integral part in the air defence of Australia and the Pacific during World War II.

Horn Island, off the northern tip of the state, was attacked by Japanese aircraft at least eight times, while Townsville and Mossman also came under attack, he said.

In 1942, the RAAF 75 Squadron was formed in Townsville, and 76 Squadron was formed in Brisbane - and both were vital in the Battle of Milne Bay, the first land defeat of Japanese forces in the Second World War.

Mr de Jersey also told the story of Australia's first known Aboriginal pilot, Len Waters, who flew more than 90 missions from the island of Noemfoor in the later stages of World War II.

In one instance, Mr Waters was airborne for more than two hours with with a Japanese 37-millimetre cannon shell wedged undetonated in his cockpit.

Meanwhile at a service in Sydney, opposition leader Anthony Albanese also paid tribute to the RAAF.

"The RAAF's history is truly a proud one, we give thanks to all who have served, and those who serve still," he said.