I always had a fascination with aircraft, sparked by Dad’s job at the Government Aircraft Factory and his former life as an armament fitter in the Royal Air Force out of Malta. I loved it when he would take us to the air shows at Laverton RAAF Base to see Mirages, Phantoms and the new F-111s put through their paces, while Iroquois and Chinook helicopters dropped cars as part of their demonstrations. While most kids had posters of pop stars and footballers my bedroom was plastered with Hercules, Caribous, Orions and Mirages.
In the days before computers and flight simulators there weren’t too many ways for a young fella to indulge in his love of aviation apart from running around like an idiot with his arms spread out and making “gneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer” noises. My first toy aeroplane was a battery-powered pressed-metal Boeing 707 that taxied haphazardly around the kitchen floor with red lights flashing in its engines. I later had some fun toys like U-Fly It and Vertibird but nothing captured my imagination more than making plastic model kits of aeroplanes. I loved opening the box and seeing all the parts, breaking out the glue and going for it. However, I had little patience and my efforts were usually pretty ordinary. I never painted them, unless you include excess glue, so I had a room full of poorly made grey planes engaged a rather bland fishing line-assisted dogfight above my bed.
Then one day I got an Airfix model kit of an Avro Lancaster as a present and was lucky enough to have my cousin Phillip build and paint it for me. Phil, who went on to become a sign writer, was awesome at this sort of thing. The paintwork, from the matt black underbelly to the familiar brown and green camouflage upper surfaces, was top notch. He even painted the thumbnail sized pilots with great detail. My Lancaster took pride and place on the tallboy in my bedroom and I treasured it so much I didn’t even pick it up to play with it. It was painted in the livery of G for George, which belonged to 460 Squadron RAAF and flew 90 missions over occupied Europe; a record at the time. It was later flown to Australia and is now immortalised at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Sadly, my little G for George would not enjoy the same fortune and came across a far greater menace than Hitler’s Luftwaffe – my preschool sisters.I remember the day well. I was nine years old and came home from school in a happy mood to be greeted by Mum acting rather odd. I could feel her eyes glued to my back as I walked down the hallway to my room where I was met with the most appalling sight – G for George had crashed! My beautiful bomber was on its belly, undercarriage sheered off, propellers bent, guns snapped off, even the little plastic aircrew were dead and scattered around the wreckage! I shall spare you the horrific fate of the tail gunner, suffice to say it was surely against the Geneva Convention. I never did find his tiny head.
The flaps were hanging off the wings and the bomb bay doors were completely detached. G for George had well and truly bought it!
I screamed and went straight to my sisters’ room to seek vengeance only for Mum to get in the way and attempt to claim responsibility by claiming the plane was the victim of an unfortunate dusting accident. This was no dusting accident; this was the savage, orchestrated destruction of an aviation icon by evil minds and tiny hands. Mum continued to insist it was her, but the nervous smirks on the Twins’ faces told me otherwise.