As you know I was adopted when just a wee baby and I've explained who my adopted (adoptive?) parents were. My dad had been widowed when his son was very young and with Len having been born in March of 1911 and me in January of 1932, Len was nearly 21 when I was born. He had left the farm by that time and was working in Perth. I think he used to come home on visits as I have a very old photograph taken near the farm in 1932 and Len was part of the group and I was a tiny baby.
We moved to Perth following Mum's illness in about September of 1937 and at this time Len was working for a firm of taxis known as Yellow Cabs. He had to wear a chauffeur's suit complete with leggings and a cap and he always looked very smart when he left for work. When we first arrived in Perth we had rooms in a big house at the east end of Wellington Street but after a short while rooms became available in the house where Len had a nice little flat situated in the back garden.
I think it was when we moved into Goderich Street that I began to get to know my big brother much better. I guess in some ways, owing to the age difference, perhaps he was more like an uncle. I do know though that we became very close and he was always very nice to me.
In the year prior to the declaration of the beginning of WW2 Len decided to join the Royal Australian Air Force. He was stationed at what was then called Pearce Aerodrome and one of first his tasks was to colour by hand a life size photograph of King George VI. I think it was then placed in the Officer's Mess. He had always been quite artistic in his youth and he eventually became a photographer in the air force.
During WW2 he was on loan to the American Air Force situated in Darwin and actually took part in a big air raid on the Japanese oil wells in Borneo. As his job was to photograph the result of this raid theirs was the last 'plane over the target. They were chased way off course by Japanese fighter 'planes and as on their homeward journey over the Timor Sea the fuel gauge showed EMPTY.
They had no idea if they would make it to the northern shores of Australia so the fellows began saying goodbye to each other and even paying back small loans to each other. I feel they had an extraordinarily good pilot as he managed to keep the 'plane airborne and glided in and made a landing on a northern beach. As the 'plane dug into the sand it nose dived resulting in all the men being plummeted towards the nose. They had all congregated at the rear of the 'plane thinking this was the safest place for them to be. Poor Len ended up under the pile of men and his was the only injury....a very bloody nose.
A 'plane flew over the next day and dropped water and provisions to them but they had no idea how long they would remain on this deserted beach. After a few days two aborigines carrying spears and other paraphernalia came out of the bush. One of the Americans said he knew how to speak to aborigines and went towards them shouting "Yahoo Yahoo" to which the aborigines said "Good Morning." They had come from a mission station and spoke very good English. I believe the American looked somewhat abashed.
They led the men through the bush to the mission and Len said he was amazed how easily the aborigines moved through quite thick bush and the crew had trouble keeping up with them. Eventually they returned to a nearby beach and were picked up by a lugger and then returned to the air base in Darwin.
I think Len was actually involved in several aeroplane crashes during his spell in the air force which may have had something to do with his contracting Meniere's Syndrome in later life. He was discharged from the airforce in 1946 with the rank of Flight Lieutenant although at one time had held the rank of Acting Squadron Leader.
I was always very, very fond and proud of my big brother and also of his wife Jean who he married in Perth in 1940. With Len being away Jean joined the Australian Women's Army Service although if I remember rightly she was always stationed in or near Perth.
The two of them were always lovely to me and I often stayed with them for a few days. As we grew older we unfortunately grew apart somewhat. I often felt they didn't approve of me obtaining a divorce from my first husband although they were always very nice to my second husband.
I have always been so very glad that I spent some time with Len the night before he died in 1986. He contracted lung cancer and I remember well his bravery in facing up to his impending death. His wife had been very ill with shingles so he had put off going to the doctor as he was so busy caring for her. He had noticed a severe shortness of breath but by the time he went and saw his doctor it was too late. The cancer had taken too big a hold if his body so we lost him when he was 76. His widow went on to live a full life and died in 2004, aged 87. They had two daughters and 4 grandchildren.
Len, I think of you often, both of you in fact, and remember you with a fondness that will never die. I too remember that beautiful baritone voice you had and the numerous nights we would stand around the piano, at our home or yours, all singing but in particular listening quite often to you singing on your own. They were wonderful times that I will never forget. Thank you for being my big brother.