Friday, February 27, 2015


Previously another move, a death in the family when Uncle Ted died, Len in the RAAF and so life goes on.

Excerpt from ''THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston.  (pp-98-103)  The photos of Len and his family are my own.


Meantime Len was absorbed into the war effort and lent to the American Army Air Force on active service.  We heard little of his whereabouts, of course, and were always worried if his cards or letters did not reach us regularly.

Jean joined the Australian army (AWAS) as a typist/telephonist, and sometimes spent her weekend leave with us.  She felt embarrassed as she did not know many hymns. so we often had long sessions with Moody and Sankey over the piano, which we all enjoyed.  Jean left her bank book with me and I banked her allotment regularly so that, at the end of the war, she had accumulated some hundreds of pounds."  (This is Jean in her army uniform):

"At one time I sent Len some eggs which I hope would reach him in time for Christmas.  I obtained a large biscuit tin and some sawdust into which I carefully packed as many new laid eggs as possible, after having rubbed them with "Keepeg" to prevent them from going bad.

I took the parcel to the G.P.O. in Perth after having marked it carefully wherever possible 'FRAGILE - HANDLE WITH CARE" etc.  I asked the man at the parcel counter to treat it kindly, but just as I turned away I saw him throw it a long way into a distant heap of parcels, and could only hope the eggs would not be a sticky mess when they arrived.
 In due course Len wrote that the parcel arrived in time for Christmas Day and that he had shared the eggs with other officers in the mess and they all enjoyed them.  I wondered at the time if he was telling me the truth or letting me down lightly if the eggs had not arrived intact.

Occasionally, when the boys were on leave, we produced tinned salmon and other such delicacies which we had hoarded for the purpose, only to be told that they were tired of tinned food and looked forward to a good old roast dinner and some of Mum's scones and cakes, apple pies etc.  After that we did not feel guilty if we managed to get a few extras when shopping and were able to enjoy them ourselves."  (My mum made the most delicious fudge chocolate cake, much loved by everyone).

When things were hotting up in the war in the Pacific Len wrote that he may not be able to write for a week or two, so we deduced there was something doing up north and we all became rather anxious.  After a long delay Jean received a telegram stating that Len was alive and safe.  Later we learned that the USAAF plane "Shady Lady" had crash landed on the northern tip of Western Australia. " **(They were very fortunate to make it as far home aas they did as the fuel gauge in the B24 showed empty and the engines were in danger of shutting down. )

"American planes always carried good emergency rations so they did not starve.  After a few days some Australian natives from a nearby mission who were out on 'walkabout' approached the airmen.  The men were in need of water and the natives were able to show them where they could get water.  After several days a lugger came around the coast to pick up the crew.  It was fortunate that nobody was hurt when they crash landed although Len did sustain a blood nose.  Shortly after this happened Len had a period of leave and we gave him a welcome home party.

Len gradually gathered rank and was a Flight Lieutenant in a responsible position when the VP Day was announced.  He was one of the fortunate airmen to return home although he had some disabilities and received a small pension.  He received a nice letter from General McArthur in appreciation of his service with the the American Army Air Force." (Actually the American crew of the Shady Lady were all awarded the Purple Heart for their part in the raid on the Japanese held Borneo oilfields but as Len was Australian he was not entitled to receive that award.  That is why he received the personal letter from the General.)  (This is Len in his RAAF handsome brother):

"Len chose to return to civilian life and obtained a position with Gibneys Photogaphic Studio as a photographer, travelling around the countryside taking pictures of beautiful spots in W.A. for reproduction in a magazine.  Later Len became the manager of Gibneys Studio."  (Some of Len's photographs were also used in a Western Australian calendar).

"Meantime Len's wife, Jean, had been hoping for a family and had almost given up hope when, after some years. she found she was pregnant and on 27th August, 1948 their daughter Penelope was born.  Two years later, on 26th July, 1950, a second daughter, Wendy, was born."  (This is a photo taken in 1950 showing Jean with Penny (aged 2) and baby Wendy):

"Jean's savings added to Len's gratuity made it possible for them to then go into business for themselves and, while the children were still young, they purchased a mixed business in the suburb of Riverton which included a newspaper round, keeping them both on their toes".  (They also had a sub-post office and I thought an off licence but I may be wrong about the latter).

A few years later they sold the Riverton business and bought a dry cleaning business in addition to which Len took over a part-time post office and fancy goods shop. attached to which was a hair salon.  Considering that neither of them knew anything about these types of business one must give them full marks for running and disposing of them profitably in due course."

NOTE: From here on, although this is written in the present tense, please remember it should be read in the past tense as, of course, not only did mum die in 1985 but Len in 1986 and Jean in more recent years.

Len's last job was an office in an insurance company in the city and he remained there until his retirement.  He and Jean now have a nice War Service home in Floreat Park, one of Perth's better suburbs, and they had a comfortable income.  Len had developed Meniere's Disease which affected his hearing so badly that he had to wear hearing aids and he also learned to lip read very well.  He also suffered a serious heart attack.

Len has built a fully equipped sports room adjacent to their garage, containing a billiard table, bar and all necessary accessories.  Backing on to this Jean has a delightful fernery and they have a very lovely garden.

Jean has become a member of the Anglican church, plays golf regularly and keeps in close touch with her sisters and their families, in addition to which she phones or visits me from time to time which I appreciate.

When on a holiday in England they visited my nephew Eddie and his family.  My sister Amy was living in a self-contained flat on their property.  It was a pity their stay was so brief as Amy made a great fuss of them and would have loved to have them stay longer.  They are the only ones who have seen any of my family since I left England back in 1920."

**Last week I learned quite by accident that a film had been made about the flight of the Shady Lady to take part in the bombing of the Borneo oilfields held by the Japanese.  It was the longest flight attempted in aviation history.   My wonderful son-in-law downloaded the film for me and made it into a DVD.  Phil and I watched it on Sunday night last.  It was a wonderfully made film and very, very accurate.  As I watched the ending where the plane managed to make landfall and make crash landing on the northern tip of Western Australia I felt so grateful to the American crew who managed to bring my brother safely home to Australia.  I then learned that one of my nieces and some of her family had actually viewed the film when it was shown in Perth two years ago and even been involved in some of the research.  I was rather upset that nobody had considered I may be interested and bothered to contact me at the time.  After all Len was my brother and when I was 11 I remember him coming home on leave and telling us all about that flight.  If you Google "Shady Lady" you will find quite a few stories about this epic flight.

That concludes the section of mum's story about Len and his family.  Len succumbed to lung cancer and died in 1987 when he was 76.  Jean moved into a very nice retirement village and continued to play cards with her friends and and still saw a lot of her family and her two daughters and their families.  Jean died in 2004, aged 87.  I was very fortunate to see both of them on the day prior to their death and attended both funerals.  At Len's funeral a friend of his, that he had sung with during his singing career, sang Amazing Grace.  I never hear that song without thinking of my brother.


  1. Hari OM
    Ohhhh, Mimsie............ I have a an interest in all this part of history, but very particularly, air history, and although I knew of the Shady Lady, to now have (albeit tentative) personal connection with it gives me shivers! I have located the movie [HERE IF ANYONE ELSE IS INTERESTED] and will absolutely be watching it.

    Goose bumps I tells ya.... Hugs, YAM xx

    1. Yam, it is amazing that you are interested in air history and know so much about Shady Lady. It was a short episode in my brother's life but such an exciting one. I think he was only on loan to the USAAF for a matter of several weeks. He did get some photos as I've seen them but perhaps he wanted more.
      It is great that you and I have such a keen interest in this. xx

  2. your brother was a very nice looking glad he survived the crash and went on to raise a family

    1. He and dad were both quite good looking fellows and rather nice with it too.
      We were glad he survived and his little family meant everything to him.

  3. I had trouble reading the rest after the fudge chocolate cake! I love them and it's been so long since I had one. I kept looking towards the kitchen, think I should make one soon. I'm glad Len and Jean did so well for themselves after the war, they certainly tried a lot of different things which all flourished.

    1. Sorry you had problems reading beyong the cake River. Was it the print or perhaps just too long?
      Len and Jean worked hard and deserved their success although I am sorry to say they, to my way of thinking, got a little bit 'snobby' when they were older. Mum may have enjoyed that but me...I'm just a middle class girl at heart and never could be accused of being a snob.