Category Archives: Memoirs

Vale Raie Harding (14/10/24 – 1/2/20)

By Jill Hosken, Celebrant
(with contributions from Tim, Stephen and John Harding)

Being born in 1924, Raie Harding grew up in very different times and throughout her long life she has witnessed more technological, political, economic and social changes than are ever likely to be experienced in one lifetime.

Raie was an only daughter born to Tom and Ruby Purvis and the family initially lived in South Caulfield before moving to Middle Brighton.  With her Dad being an engineer and in regular work, despite the depression years Raie had a happy and settled childhood – nevertheless it is unlikely she could ever have envisaged the wonderful, rich experiences life had in store.

Raie aged about 20

Her secondary years were at the prestigious MacRobertson Girls’ High, a selective entry school but with the unfolding of WW2 she left early and after completing business studies attained work at the Victoria Hotel in Little Collins St.  In addition to her office duties, Raie helped organise events and tours to entertain the visiting US military officers (including swing bandleader Artie Shaw), many of whom were based in Melbourne – organisational skills which came to the fore later in life.

She’d known Bruce Harding, a local Brighton lad, since her early teens and when he returned from war service, they reconnected and ultimately married in the Melbourne Grammar School Chapel in 1948.  The newlyweds  bought a double block opposite Rickett’s Point, on the corner of Lang St and Point Ave surrounded by dirt tracks and ti-tree for the princely sum of £182/10.   Despite the shortage of building materials, with Bruce being a qualified builder, he was able to construct what was to become the family home. 

Bruce and Raie’s wedding day, 1948

Over the ensuing eight years, they were blessed with three sons Tim, Stephen and John and even though they were pretty good as boys go, Raie still had her hands full!!  Nevertheless, she relished her role as a mother and nurturer and always supported her three sons in their endeavours ensuring they had the best of opportunities and many wonderful experiences. 

With four active males under her roof, Raie craved some girl time and was known to occasionally “borrow” a neighbour’s daughter, Sue McGregor who shared on hearing of Raie’s passing, how as a young girl, she loved opportunities to be in Raie’s company, learning to cook and sew.

Beaumaris back then was very isolated – there were no local shops and before getting a car, Raie would catch a bus to Black Rock to do the weekly shop.  However, she was one of the first women in the neighbourhood to have a car, a Land Rover – probably the first SUV to be seen in the area! 

The neighbours were like extended family – the boys related how each afternoon, the Point Avenue mothers would gather at one another’s home on rotation, vegies in hand and join together over a sherry as they prepared their respective evening meals.  The neighbourhood kids enjoyed the freedom of playing in the bush or riding their bikes or going to the beach – the only condition being they were home by 6 for dinner.  

Raie aged about 30

Her sons appreciate the long leash they were given but also knew there were expectations such as good manners, respect and ethics which stood them all  in good stead for the future.

In 1956, the year John was born, Bruce and Raie purchased “Shady Acres” in Macclesfield – a farm at which they spent many a weekend or school holidays getting back to basics with no power and no mod cons.  Here they grew Angus beef cattle, Angora goats, pine trees and later on wine grapes – they also had horses which all the boys rode – a skill that Raie never quite  mastered, despite having lessons and so when friends visited, often after enjoying a BBQ lunch they’d all head off for a ride, Raie was very unimpressed to be left cleaning up!  

Raie holding Bruce’s horse at ‘Shady Acres’ in 1967

Later Raie and Bruce purchased a holiday home at Metung where sailing on the lakes and many happy times were enjoyed by all.  When “Shady Acres” underwent some remodelling in the 80’s, Raie, being a very gifted seamstress sewed all the drapes, bedspreads and even the new upholstery for the lounge suite.  

Raie rode a bicycle instead of a horse on the family farm

At home she also sewed, enjoyed creating a welcoming garden and for a time, having a neighbour who was a very talented artist and potter, Raie took up pottery.  Raie also was a wonderful support to Bruce in his business and many a dinner party was enjoyed at their Beaumaris home by colleagues and friends alike.  She was the consummate hostess and a gifted cook – she embraced cordon bleu cooking (very in vogue in the 70’s) and had all the fancy cookbooks of the era.  

The boys recalled how their Mum would do a practice dinner party dinner on a Tuesday – always a new taste sensation.   Raie also gave dedicated support in Bruce’s community work with the Beaumaris RSL and Legacy to which they gave a great deal of time supporting war widows and their children.

Perhaps it was through this that piqued Raie’s interest in Social Work – this together with her desire to prove, in the very male dominant world of the time, that despite limited education opportunities, women had a brain.  So, aged 46, Raie enrolled in an Arts Degree at Melbourne Uni and Tim related how he enjoyed sitting in Politics lectures next to his Mum.  In 1978 Raie proudly graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Social Work. 

Raie at her BSW graduation, March 1978

Over the years she and Bruce enjoyed a number of overseas trips and a well-remembered one was when she visited Steve whilst he was in London during the 70’s and they then toured Europe together.

After completing some extensive renovations (including electricity), Bruce and Raie moved to “Shady Acres” living there until Bruce died after a short illness in 1996.   After coming to terms with this new reality, Raie moved back to Middle Brighton where she enjoyed a full and active life.  She could often be found at Victoria Golf Club where through her 40 years of membership many strong friendships were forged

Playing golf into her early 80’s Raie then moved on to Bridge and enjoyed lunches and gatherings at Victoria with friends.  She loved any opportunity to go to the movies, enjoyed shopping – was always on the hunt for a bargain and loved hopping on the train to visit Steve, Susie and the girls in Adelaide!

Raie had a very loving relationship not only with her three sons Tim, Steve and John, but also with her daughters-in-law Lisa and Susie. She was very grateful for the help they gave her, especially towards the end of her long life.

Three years ago, acknowledging she needed support and after doing her own research Raie made the decision to move to Karinya Grove Aged Care in Sandringham where she has been well cared for. 

As she always had in the past, Raie continued to participate in and enjoy all the family gatherings and celebrations – birthdays, Christmases and retirements along with Carl and Jayne’s wedding.  Raie particularly enjoyed visits from her beloved grandchildren – Georgia and Kate all the way from England, as well as from William and Angus. She loved hearing about their lives and various achievements.

She especially enjoyed celebrating her 95th birthday last October at Karinya with family and friends in attendance. All would agree, even with her decline in acuity in these past years Raie always made the best of things and did what she could to ensure those around her felt loved, connected and cared for. 

“Lastly I must say thank you for the great privilege and all the joy and pleasure that I have experienced as Mum to my three wonderful boys and and their families. I leave you with all my everlasting love and the wish that most of the hopes and aspirations you may have had for the great journey of life that we began together will be realised.’ – Raie Harding

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A Magnificent Man and his Flying Machines

by Tim Harding, B.Sc. B.A.

(An edited version of this article was published in the Sandringham
& District Historical Society Newsletter, May 2019)

Major Harry Turner Shaw OBE (1889-1973) was an Australian pioneer aviator, both in wartime and peace, and later a boat builder. He lived at ‘The Point’ mansion overlooking Ricketts Point, Beaumaris from around 1922 until he sold it in 1959. He and his wife then moved to their former servants’ quarters and coach house ‘Pointside’, which still stands as a renovated family home at No. 17-19 Lang Street, Beaumaris.

In the 1920s and 30s, Major Shaw had a private airstrip on the estate at what is now Nautilus Street. He used to fly to and from his engineering factory at Fisherman’s Bend, sometimes even flying home to Beaumaris for lunch. The existence of this private airstrip was not widely known, and so sometimes there were reports to police of a possible air crash when he landed.

Aerial view of Beaumaris looking south to ‘The Point’ estate and Ricketts Point. Major Harry Turner Shaw took this photograph from his aeroplane in 1927. His private airstrip (now Nautilus Street) as shown by arrow, is at the centre of the picture. Source: Bayside Library Service (image on public access).

Harry Turner Shaw was the son of Thomas Turner Shaw (1864 -1949) and Agnes May (nee Hopkins). Agnes May Turner Shaw (1865-1967) lived in good health until the ripe old age of 102 (I once met her at a garden party at Pointside). Harry was raised at a 30,000-acre sheep station called ‘Wooriwyrite’, on the Mount Emu Creek near Mortlake in Victoria’s Western District. His father and grandfather were breeders and producers of fine Merino wool.

Harry was educated privately before attending Geelong College from 1903 until 1906. He then studied engineering at the Melbourne Working Men’s College (which later became the RMIT).  He appears to have inherited his father’s interest in things mechanical.  (Thomas Turner Shaw invented a patented fence post lifting machine and was a one of the first motor car owners in Victoria).

Major Shaw’s younger sister Mary Turner (Mollie) Shaw (1906-1990) was born in Caulfield, but raised at Wooriwyrite. She was one of the first women to be employed as an architect in the early 1930s in Australia. She also became a distinctive figure as an architectural historian, when she started writing books and articles (including a book about Wooriwyrite).

As I mentioned in the last (February 2019) issue of this newsletter, I was brought up at No. 6 Point Avenue, Beaumaris, on the corner of Lang Street. I knew Major Shaw (we called him ‘the Major’), his family and servants very well.  His daughter Raithlyn was a lifelong close family friend of ours. I have a vague recollection of being bitten or kicked by their malevolent Shetland pony named ‘Mintie’ when I was very young.

The Major married Violet Laura Willis, daughter of Herbert and Alice Willis, of Koolomurt sheep station near Harrow in Western Victoria. I knew her as ‘Mrs. Shaw’. She was taller than the Major, and although debilitated by arthritis was very much in charge of the house and servants in the traditional landed gentry manner. She was always very nice to us children. When I knew her, Mrs. Shaw drove a large Rover saloon car. Once a week she would drive to Dandenong South to collect rents from her caravan park ‘Shawlands’, which still exists today (owned by the Dandenong Christian Reformed Church). The Major himself drove a small 1930s German DKW car with a two-stroke engine that sounded like a lawnmower. Why he drove such a dinky little car while his wife drove a large Rover is lost in the mists of history.

Neil Follett, Editor of Aviation Heritage magazine wrote of Shaw’s war service: ‘He travelled to England in May 1913. After the outbreak of World War One, he missed the first intake of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), enlisting as a dispatch rider with the Royal Engineers on 19 September 1914. Sometime in 1915 he transferred to the RFC and trained as a pilot at Shoreham, Kent. He soloed on a Maurice Farman Longhorn on 13 December 1915 and two days later received his FAI licence (No 2196), before going to Gosport [on the English south coast] on 1 February 1916’.

Maurice Farman S. 7 Longhorn Reconnaissance and Training Biplane c.1915. Source : Wikimedia Commons

As the Royal Air Force was not established until 1918, the RFC at this time was part of British Army – hence his rank of Major rather than an Air Force rank. He served and saw action in France as a Flight Commander before returning to Home Establishment as a flying instructor at Doncaster. By the end of the war, he was Officer Commanding No 27 Training Wing RFC as Acting Lieutenant Colonel. Somewhere along the way, he had also become a certified aircraft engineer.

On 26 June 1916, Major Shaw wrote in a letter to his father Thomas Turner Shaw: ‘I was playing round among the clouds over their [the Germans] lines yesterday, at from 1500 to 2500 feet—playing ‘tig’ over and under and round the small drifting clouds, trying to ‘spot’ our bursting shells and ‘wireless’ corrections to our guns….then I was cruising round at about 400 feet, doing no harm to anyone, when suddenly I heard a hungry metallic sort of bonk behind me, and found a nasty black smoke puff* only about ten yards distant, and right on my level. I put on the brake—or rather jambed the right rudder hard, which had the effect of making me skid about a hundred yards and drop a hundred feet. The rest of his shooting was wide and wild, but he must have had a couple of dozen shots at me in about as many seconds. I didn’t like him!’ [*Of exploding anti-aircraft fire, called ‘Archie’ – the word ‘flak’ was German and not used by the British during the First World War].

Since first writing this article, one of Major Shaw’s daughters has told me that he was shot down three times in France. There were no parachutes at this time, but fortunately he managed to crash land on the British side of the front line, rather than the German side where he would have been captured.

Major Shaw himself used to tell me stories from his war exploits. Sometimes these were told in his large workshop at ‘Pointside’ where he built prototype wooden boats; and other times when we were both sitting on the horizontal poles at Ricketts Point beach, where he took his Great Dane dogs for a walk. For a young boy like me, the Major was my own personal Biggles! A particular childhood recollection I have is of the Major telling me: ‘One day in the air I saw the red aeroplane of the Red Baron [German air ace, Baron von Richthofen] in the distance. So, I hid in a cloud and came up behind and underneath him, where I fired a row of .303s into his fuselage!’. He told me that he hit the Baron’s plane but not the Baron himself. Presumably he jambed his rudder again and dove away before he could become the Baron’s 81st kill. The Major also told me that he kept a rack of small bombs by his feet in the cockpit, and when he saw a suitable target on the ground, he would drop a bomb by hand over the side of his plane.

Major Shaw’s canvas flying helmet and aviation tool box, 1918.
Source: Museum Victoria.

The Geelong College Pegasus Journal reported that Major Shaw was awarded the ‘Mons Star’. This medal was given only to the men of the first seven divisions who were actually serving in France for the Retreat from Mons and the Advance of the Marne. He was also entitled to wear the red and three blue chevrons for his length of active service, which dates from the outbreak of the war. He was later appointed an OBE in 1919 for his meritorious war service.

On 25 October 1917, Major Shaw wrote in a letter home: ‘Flying has come to stay. The machines of the future will be simple and inexpensive. The ordinary man of mechanical taste could get a working knowledge of its riggings and engine in a few days. Up-keep should compare quite favourably with an ordinary large car. Breakages will depend on the pilot to a large extent, and a couple of smashes would of course boost the up-keep tremendously’.

In 1919, Major Shaw returned to Australia on the ‘SS Nestor’, and on 8 January 1920 established the Shaw-Ross Engineering & Aviation Company at Fishermen’s Bend. His business partner was H. Galsworthy Ross who, with two passengers, was killed in a crash at Port Melbourne on 22 May 1922. The Shaw-Ross company had an agency for Bristol and Farman aircraft; and in 1921, they imported several of the first post-World War I aircraft into Australia. Major Shaw also had an aerial photography business named ‘Airspy’, with a photographer named Hansen.

In 1924 Major Shaw was elected as committee member of the Victorian Section of the Australian Aero Club and later chaired the Air Convention, a lobby group comprised of various aviation interests. He was influential in selecting suitable sites for aerodromes, including Essendon Airport in 1921. (Moorabbin Airport was not established until much later, in 1949). Major Shaw became the No. 3 commercial pilot’s licence holder in Australia, and he was one of the first tenants of Essendon airport when it still had a grass runway.

Major Shaw (centre) inspecting potential aerodrome sites in 1921 near Old Man Plain in north-western Victoria. Source: Civil Aviation Historical Society & Airways Museum

On 25 February 1950 Melbourne’s Argus newspaper carried the following Report: ‘Pioneer pilot will retrace flight. The aviator who made the first civil Melbourne Sydney flight in 1922 has never flown in a modern passenger aircraft – until today. In 1922 Major Harry Turner Shaw piloted a 50-h.p. single-engined Farman aircraft at an average speed of 60 mph, and was awarded the Oswald Watt Memorial Medal for the year’s best flight by an Australian. Today he will retrace his pioneer flight (at 180 mph or more) in an Ansett DC-3, which will take three hours for the trip that once took him four days (‘including engine trouble’). Major Shaw, who is now 61, and lives in Beach Rd., Beaumaris, made his 1922 flight to attend a Sydney air regatta. He took off from an aerodrome ‘opposite the cement works in the Williamstown ferry short road’, and got as far as Moss Vale (NSW) before the engine spluttered. Repairs took two days, but he reached Sydney in the next ‘hop.’ ‘I wasn’t even in time for the regatta’, Major Shaw said yesterday, ‘but I stayed in Sydney for two days, and then flew back, spending a night at Tumut. There were no such things as airports on the route then’.

Major Harry Turner Shaw (right) with his boat building business partner Gerald Benson (left). Date on calendar looks like January 1947. Source: Black Rock Yacht Club via Sandringham & District Historical Society

Major Shaw and Gerald Benson were partners of the Melbourne boat building firm of Benson & Shaw, on the Mordialloc Creek. (Their boat building factory later became the Bolwell car factory). The Major had built sailing boats late in the Second World War. He used a jig on which he had built a Sabot for a tender in the early 1930s. The plans came from the American ‘Rudder’ magazine which he had started reading in 1904. Another six boats followed in 1945 as soon as the firm of Benson & Shaw was established at the end of the war. In Shaw’s own words: ‘Both Gerry Benson and I sailed at Black Rock. I only weighed nine stone wringing wet, so was suited to Sabots. When we sold out, we had built over 3,000 boats, some 250 being Sabots. We built them as dinghies as well as for sailing. I built a special Sabot as a motor boat which did 28mph with a 14hp motor. Our work was condemned for being too light, but today 80% of builders have copied our ideas. I was an aircraft engineer and used ideas I had in the construction of aircraft’.

Initially plywood was used in the construction of aircraft and it was these two men, through their vast experience in this field who realised that plywood could be adapted for marine construction as well. Ultimately in 1946 they built the first plywood boat in Australia. They also built a twin-hulled fibreglass power boat called the ‘Shawcat’.

Major Harry Turner Shaw was an intriguing and colourful Beaumaris identity – possibly even a little eccentric. But he was also much more than that – a distinguished war pilot and a pioneer of the Australian aviation, aerial photography and boat building industries. It was a pleasure to have known him.

References:

Anon. (1918) ‘Military Distinctions’ The Pegasus – Journal of The Geelong College Vol X, No. 3, December, 1918.

Anon. (1950). ‘Pioneer pilot will retrace flight’. The Argus newspaper, 25 February 1950 page 6, Melbourne.

Anon. (undated) ‘Flying Helmet – Major H.T Shaw, RFC & RAF, circa 1918’. Museum Victoria <https://trove.nla.gov.au/version/248098806&gt;

Disney, Graeme and Tarrant, Valerie (1988) Bayside Reflections. City of Sandringham, Sandringham.

Serle, Jessie. (2012) ‘Shaw, Mary Turner (Mollie) (1906–1990)’. Australian Dictionary of Biography Online.  Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, University of Melbourne.

Turner Shaw, Harry (1918) ‘Letters from Old Boys at The Front’. The Pegasus – Journal of The Geelong College Vol X, No. 3, December, 1918.

Turner Shaw, Mary (1969) On Mount Emu Creek. Robertson and Mullens, Melbourne.

About the author: Tim Harding is a member of the Sandringham and District Historical Society. He has studied history, philosophy and science at Monash University; and works part-time as a regulatory consultant.

 

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ANC Fisheries Delegation

by Tim Harding

In the early 1990s, I was put in charge of developing a new Fisheries Act for my state of Victoria, Australia. This work had major policy implications, as well as legal reforms. So when a delegation from South Africa’s new ANC Government came to Victoria, I was allocated the task of meeting and talking to them.

In my private life, I had long been opposed to apartheid, and I had attended protests against the visiting Springboks’ racially-selected rugby team. But as a public servant I had to be non-political. Nevertheless, I was smart enough to understand that I when I walked into the room to meet the South African Government delegation, I needed to first greet and shake hands with the black ANC politicians rather than the South African public servants (who were all white). I shudder to think what would have happened if I or one of my colleagues had not done this. During the meeting, I of course always deferred to the black politicians, even though their white public servants obviously knew more about fisheries policy and legislation.

After the meeting, we all went to the pub for lunch and got along fine, buying drinks etc. I think the ANC politicians were pleasantly surprised to find that they experienced no discrimination whatsoever in an ordinary Australian pub, whose staff would have no idea who they were. I’m glad I had this experience, and I hope that my fisheries policy advice was of some help to the new ANC Government.

 

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Memories of Point Avenue, Beaumaris

by Tim Harding

(An edited version of this article was published in the Sandringham
& District Historical Society Newsletter, February 2019)

Point Avenue is named after ‘The Point’, which was a Victorian-style mansion overlooking Ricketts Point in Beaumaris.  It was built in 1890 by wealthy wine and spirits merchant Matthew Lang (1830 – 1893), after whom Lang Street is named. Lang was Lord Mayor of Melbourne from 1889 until he was elected to the Legislative Council in November 1892.  He died at The Point in March 1893. The boundaries of Lang’s original estate are thought to be roughly Beach Road, Reserve Road, Haydens Road and what is now Florida Avenue.  The western end of Point Avenue was the front driveway to the estate, and the first leg of the eastern end of Point Avenue was the rear access driveway leading to the coach house.

In 1919, The Point was purchased by Thomas Turner Shaw, who later left it to his son, the pioneer aviator Major Harry Turner Shaw (1889-1973), whom I personally knew.  (Major Shaw is an historic figure worthy of an article of his own).  The Shaws gradually subdivided and sold the estate, creating Point Avenue, Lang Street and surrounding streets.  They finally sold the mansion in 1959, after which they lived at what is now ‘Pointside’ in Lang Street, but which was originally the servants’ quarters, coach house and horse stables.

thepoint

The Point mansion (centre) in 1959, just before it was demolished. The curved street in the left of the picture is Point Avenue. Beach Road is in the foreground.

I grew up at No. 6 Point Avenue which was on the corner of Lang Street. My parents purchased the land from the Shaws in 1948 for 182 pounds and ten shillings.  They later did a further subdivisional deal with neighbours to create 80 feet frontages to the south side of Point Avenue, instead of the usual 60 feet.

What is now the eastern end of Point Avenue was a caravan park, with an English-style ‘village green’ in the centre.  This was possibly attractive to the ‘ten-pound poms’ who lived there.  As a result, I grew up with the mistaken impression that British people were all poor with funny accents and missing teeth.

Residents of the western end of Point Avenue were attracted to its natural bush environment; and they later successfully campaigned to stop the Sandringham Council from making the street with the usual footpaths and guttering.  As a result, Point Avenue remained an unmade private road with the residents themselves responsible for filling in potholes and any other maintenance.

One of the leaders of this campaign was the late Colin Macrae, who lived with his wife Joan at No. 2 Point Avenue, and who became the second President of the Beaumaris Tree Preservation Society (now the Beaumaris Conservation Society).  The important fossils at the Beaumaris Bay Fossil Site were a major interest of Colin’s. Fossils he found are now in the collections of Museum Victoria and the Sandringham & District Historical Society.  His discovery of fossil remains of a significant extinct penguin at this site led to it being reported in a 1970 paper by a Harvard University palaeontologist, with the species being named after Colin as Pseudaptenodytes macrei.

Colin Macrae’s wife Joan (nee McIntosh) was a potter, who gave pottery classes to the ladies of Beaumaris (including my mother).  The members’ exhibition gallery of the Beaumaris Art Group in Reserve Road is now named after Joan Macrae.

On the beach side of the Macrae’s at 401 Beach Road lived Richard Franklin, who started his artistic career as a drummer with the Pink Finks rock band (which later became Daddy Cool after a couple of personnel changes).  Richard became a Hollywood film director and a protégé of Alfred Hitchcock.  He directed Psycho II (1983) and later returned to Australia where he filmed Hotel Sorrento (1995) and Brilliant Lies (1996).

The Shaws’ daughter Raithlyn married Creighton Burns, who was Reader in Politics at the University of Melbourne and who later became the Editor of The Age newspaper.  They lived at No. 1 Point Avenue, which was the old gatehouse to The Point mansion. I remember seeing Creighton on ABC TV’s Meet The Press interviewing Prime Ministers and other politicians. He later became Chancellor of the Victoria University of Technology.

Next to the Burns at No. 3 Point Avenue lived the MacGregors, who also had a back gate to Coral Avenue.  The father Bruce was responsible for bringing Tupperware to Australia.  The mother Nan later owned a dress boutique in Black Rock.  The daughter Sue is now a prominent barrister and solicitor in St. Kilda doing mainly legal aid work.

At No. 9 Point Avenue lived the Bunnetts.  The father Lindsay was an architect, who designed some of the famous Beaumaris Modern houses in the 1960s.  The mother was Kay Bunnett who was an artist specialising in Ikebana, including wall hangings.  Sadly, the Bunnetts got into a very bad argument one night, where Kay grabbed an antique dagger off the wall and stabbed Lindsay to death with it.  Kay pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but was not sent to prison because of her age and ill-health.

Across the road from the Bunnetts were the Gashlers at No. 4 Point Avenue.  The father Chick was a legendary amateur snapper fisherman in Port Phillip Bay; and the mother June was a champion amateur golfer.  One of the daughters was named Suzy. I remember at about age 10 Suzy telling me that her mother wanted her to become a model, which naively I scoffed at.  But sure enough, Suzy Cato-Gashler did become a top model and later a notable TV, film and voice-over actress.  She recently appeared in The Dr. Blake Mysteries: Family Portrait (2017).

In the late 1950s, the caravan park at the eastern end of Point Avenue was subdivided into the house blocks you see today.  No. 21 Point Avenue was one of the Beaumaris Modern homes listed in the recently published book of the same name.  It was designed by architect Bill Kerr (whom I later knew as a jazz clarinet player) for the Deutscher family.  The father was Ray who inherited the WA Deutscher fastener manufacturing business.  The son was Chris Deutscher, who became the art dealer of Deutscher-Hackett fame.  Chris and I went to Haileybury together (as did Richard Franklin). I also played in Chris’ jazz band but we were never close friends.

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Not learning Latin

by Tim Harding

Ah, the benefits of adulthood and hindsight! At the authoritarian private school I attended (and hated) I was forced to study the Latin language. Nobody ever gave me a reason for studying it. As far as I knew, Latin was a dead language, so I couldn’t see any point in it. So I basically switched off and daydreamed in class, as I suspect that many pupils do in science or maths classes.

From memory, I was required to attend Latin classes for 3 years, getting lower and lower marks until I achieved 4% for Latin in Year 10 for writing my name on the exam paper. This surprised the Headmaster, because I usually got high marks in other subjects and even came top of the class in a few. The Headmaster (who I also disliked) wrote on my school report ‘It appears that Timothy is not suited towards a career in the Classics’.

When got to university and studied biology for the first time (it was not taught at my expensive private school), I discovered that species had Latin names. I also found out that a lot of scientific terms have Latin or Greek roots, and that if you knew these roots you could figure out the meaning of scientific terms, like ‘telescope’ and ‘micrometer’. If anybody had told me these things at school, I would have been motivated to learn Latin, and I probably would have enjoyed it.

Later in life, I travelled to France, Italy and Spain, studying these languages prior to each visit. I found that if I had known the Latin roots, learning these Romance languages would have been easier. And still later, while doing an Arts degree, I studied Ancient Greek and Roman history, plus Classical Greek philosophy and Linguistics, which I found very interesting. I could possibly have even had a career in the Classics if my silly school teachers had given me one good reason for learning Latin.

 

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Jazz record collecting with Tony Standish

Last week I was pleased to read a nice obituary of Tony Standish in The Age.  A leading importer of early jazz recordings to Australia, Tony died on 17 December 2016, aged 85. I actually didn’t know Tony very well, but I bought a lot of my favourite jazz records from him – often twice. The first time as vinyl LPs in the 1960s and the second time as CDs in the 1980s.

As a teenage schoolboy in the 1960s who didn’t enjoy school, I used to look forward to Saturday mornings when I would catch a train into the city and spend my weekly pocket money on a carefully selected LP record of early jazz music. There were really only two shops in Melbourne to buy these records – Bob Clemens in Little Collins Street and Tony Standish’s above Frank Traynor’s Folk and Jazz Club in Little Lonsdale Street.  Tony Standish was more likely to have the classic jazz recorded in the 1920s that I loved. In particular, I remember buying a box set of almost all the recordings of my favourite bandleader Fletcher Henderson, that was obtainable only from Tony Standish. Later on, I bought the same set of recordings on CD from Tony via mail order in the 1980s.

I think the main reason I didn’t get to know Tony was our age difference – he was in his 30s and I was a shy teenage trombone player. I was in awe of the older jazz musicians and collectors who also bought records from his shop, and so I felt inhibited in talking to them or to Tony himself. Nor did I go with them to the nearby Continental Hotel after Tony’s shop closed every Saturday lunchtime, because I was too young. Instead, I caught the train to Prahran, where I had my weekly trombone lesson with brass band cornetist Norman D’Ath.

Tony Standish facilitated the nucleus of my extensive collection of early jazz recordings, that I now draw upon to present my jazz radio programs on RPP FM and 3CR AM. I couldn’t have assembled this collection without him.

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Philip Opas QC

Philip Henry Napoleon Opas OBE QC was born in Melbourne on 24 February 1917 and died on 25 August 2008, aged 91. His antecedents were Portuguese and Jewish.  His accountant father Joseph Opas was the first to recommend to the Victoria Police that a special company squad of accountancy-trained men be set up to combat business fraud.

Educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, Opas’ schooling was cut short at the age of 15. Still a teenager, he was apprenticed to Roy Schilling as a law clerk and graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Laws. He enlisted with the RAAF in 1939 when the second world war broke out. Twelve months’ war service was permitted to count as six months’ articles, a rule under which Opas was the first lawyer in Australia to qualify. In 1942, while on leave from New Guinea, he was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of Victoria as a barrister and solicitor. In 1946 after the war, he signed the Victorian Bar Roll and read with R.V Monahan (who was later appointed to the Supreme Court bench and became Justice Sir Robert Monahan). Opas was a junior barrister for some fifteen years before taking silk in 1958. His practice was wide and varied, ranging from constitutional matters to local government.

In 1966, Opas became defence counsel to Ronald Ryan, in a lengthy and well-publicised murder trial that was to become the defining moment in Opas’ long career. Despite the tenacious defence of his client, Ryan was eventually found guilty and executed (the last person to be hanged in Victoria) in 1967. Shortly after, the Victorian Bar Ethics Committee recommended that Opas be struck off the Bar Roll for touting. Opas was represented at a public hearing by the late Richard E McGarvie, and acquitted. Disillusioned and dispirited, he left the Bar in 1968 and went to work with CRA, ConZinc Rio Tinto before returning to the Bar in 1972.

In 1973, Opas was appointed chairman of the Environment Protection Appeals Board, and later to the Town Planning Appeals Tribunal. He held a number of similar positions specialising in local government and planning during the 1980s before retiring in 1989.

I was a scientific officer with the Environment Protection Authority from 1972 until 1982, when I was promoted to the Department of the Premier and Cabinet as Senior Policy Adviser, Natural Resources. Whilst at the EPA, I and my scientific colleagues were initially dumbfounded and then appalled to observe Philip Opas QC, during a hearing of the Environment Protection Appeals Board, place a drop of crude oil in a beaker of water, drink it and then immediately declare that crude oil in water was not pollution. In fact, I thought his behaviour was moronic and unbelievably dismissive of scientific evidence. Perhaps he suffered from the common sense fallacy. Naturally, he got a lot of cheap tabloid publicity for this silly and irresponsible stunt.

Possibly as a result of this cheap publicity, he was later appointed the position of CEO of the City of Doncaster & Templestowe, a position for which he had almost no relevant qualifications or experience. In this case, the councillors of the City of Doncaster & Templestowe were the morons. Leaving aside whether Ronald Ryan was guilty of murder, Philip Opas QC should be admired for his tenacity in trying to save his client from being hanged. But in the non-legal aspects of his career, he appears to have been out of his depth.

Reference

The Victorian Bar Oral History <http://oralhistory.vicbar.com.au/opas_bio.asp&gt; Viewed 3 December 2016.

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Geoff Taylor: author, bomber pilot and sailor

by Tim Harding

Geoffrey (‘Squizzy’) Taylor was born in 1920 in England and came to Adelaide at the age of three. By the age of 14 he had won a cadetship and became the shipping reporter on the ‘Adelaide News’. He went to Brighton in Victoria at the age of 19 and joined Goldberg Advertising.

When World War II was declared he joined the RAAF in 1939 and became a Lancaster pilot with Bomber Command. After being shot down by German ace night fighter pilot Friedrich-Karl Müller in 1943, Geoff Taylor spent the rest of the war as a P.O.W. in the notorious Stalag IV-B Prison Camp, near Mühlberg in the Prussian Province of Saxony in Germany.

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Photographed on a local flight, Geoff Taylor’s bomber LM326 is seen here against a background of countryside east of Grantham.

Whilst sorting through some family photographs recently, my wife and I found this photograph of Geoff’s crashed bomber. The inscription on the back of the photograph reads: ‘Lancaster Mk.II Serial No. LM326, No. 207 Squadron, Bomber Command (EM-Z). Crashed near the village of Aerzen, near Hamelin, SW of Hannover on the night of 18.10.43.’

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Geoff was demobbed and returned to Australia in 1945, joining the “Age” as a reporter. His main interest was flying, and he also loved to sail. He was a member of the Royal Brighton Yacht Club from the end of the War to 1991. He was a good friend of my father, Bruce Harding, and was in the same yacht syndicate, the ‘Vallhalla’ (which means ‘home of the gods’). I admired and liked Geoff a lot.

Geoff Taylor loved to write and published 12 books including ‘Piece of Cake‘, (his autobiography) and a book for children.

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He completed the manuscript ‘Hours of Glory’ of a biography of the young South Australian aviator Charles James (“Jimmy”) Melrose (1913-1936) which was not published. It was awarded the Inaugural Alan Marshall Award for the best unpublished manuscript. He suffered a severe stroke in 1991 and died at an East Brighton nursing home on 19 December 1992. His widow Mrs A. Taylor donated his papers relating to his research and book about “Jimmy” Melrose to the Mortlock Library in 1993.

Source:

Melbourne suburban newspaper article: “Farewell to a man of many talents after a life of adventure” c. December 1992.

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The Battles of Leyte Gulf and Surigao Strait – an eyewitness account

‘The Battle of Leyte Gulf, formerly known as the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in historyIt was fought in waters of the Leyte Gulf, near the Philippine islands of Leyte, Samar and Luzon, from 23–26 October 1944, between combined American and Australian forces and the Imperial Japanese Navy.

On 20 October, United States troops led by General Douglas Macarthur invaded the island of Leyte as part of a strategy aimed at isolating Japan from the countries it had occupied in Southeast Asia, and in particular depriving its forces and industry of vital oil supplies.

The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) mobilized nearly all of its remaining major naval vessels in an attempt to defeat the Allied invasion but was repulsed by the U.S. Navy’s 3rd and 7th Fleets. The IJN failed to achieve its objective, suffered very heavy losses, and never sailed to battle in comparable force thereafter. The majority of its surviving heavy ships, deprived of fuel, remained in their bases for the rest of the Pacific War.

The battle consisted of four separate engagements between the opposing forces: the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle of Cape Engaño and the Battle off Samar, as well as other actions. It was the first battle in which Japanese aircraft carried out organized kamikaze attacks. By the time of the battle, Japan had fewer aircraft than the Allied forces had sea vessels, demonstrating the difference in power of the two sides at this point of the war.’ – from Wikipedia

The Battle of Surigao Strait

The following is a letter dated 16th November 1944 by my late father, Bruce Harding (then aged 20), who was an anti-aircraft gunner on the heavy Australian cruiser HMAS Shropshire.  It provides a gripping eye-witness account of the Battle of Surigao Strait from his vantage point on the upper deck of the ship.  The letter was taken back to Australia by a friend of my father’s who was going on leave, and so it escaped military censorship. The original of this letter has been offered to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

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HMAS Shropshire in action

16 November 1944

My Dear Family,

I had not intended to write in detail about our experiences of the last month, but today I received a letter from Mother threatening me with murder if I held my tongue on this subject.

Geoff Whitten will no doubt be able to deliver this to you, failing that he will post it on at the first opportunity. I doubt if this letter contains any ‘censorable information’ but if I were you I should not make any of it too public.

At the beginning of October we knew something was in the wind. The ship’s rumours or ‘buzzes’ as we call them are generally fairly correct despite the wild guesses frequently made. We knew we were to take part in the landings on Leyte Is. in the Central Phillipines.

In the early days of October, the mustering of the shipping was in full swing and the arrival of powerful naval units in our usually quiet harbour made our small ‘task force’ very insignificant. Up til this time, we had been the naval strength of this area. Every type of vessel from battleships, cruisers, aircraft carriers to destroyers and landing craft were gathering and fueling and taking on stores, troops and equipment.

About 10 days before ‘D day’ we left our harbour with a large fleet and our small unit oiled [fueled] next day at another base, and in the afternoon stood outside while the invasion convoy steamed out to sea. I’ve marvelled at the immensity of the invasion fleets and Atlantic convoys but they were dwarfed by this one [300 ships in total].

Immediately the scores of ships and landing craft were clear of the harbour we took up our position in the lead and the destroyers provided a circle around the whole convoy as anti-submarine guards. Our pace was slow – painfully slow because we had a long journey and the smaller ships had to conserve oil. Fortunately, the weather was fine and the sea calm, although we often thought of the troops in the open barges at the mercy of the tropical sun. To travel a week in an open boat and then storm a beach and fight is no mean task.

Far in the rear of the convoy we could just see the aircraft carriers with their ‘guardian angels’ on deck ready to take off in an emergency. The long journey was uneventful except for the approach of an enemy reconnaissance plane which was shot down by one of our fighters unfortunately lost on his return journey to the carriers.

Two days prior to the landing we changed our dress from shorts and sandals to shirts and long trousers plus boots and socks. Very uncomfortable in the heat but a necessity when action is possible. Everyone on board was given a lecture on our job in the coming event; and with a large canvas map of the area we had a mindful view of the situation. On this day our minesweepers were to sweep the approaches to Leyte Gulf – a dangerous job as they were within easy range of the enemy’s air bases.

During these two days we were expecting an attack from land-based Japanese bombers but apparently the Nip didn’t know of our approach to his shores.

On Thursday night after supper we went to our action stations and slept at our guns and action positions, quite expecting a restless night but I heard nothing until four o’clock in the morning of the landing when we were given soup or coffee.

Since midnight those awake on watch on deck were keeping an eye on a mine caught on our port paravane which left a glistening wake near the ship’s side – too close for comfort. With the slight rolling motion of  the ship the mine surged towards the ship and then away from us at regular intervals – a few silent prayers were offered believe me!

Dawn broke with the convoy still stretched out for miles astern of us and enemy aircraft in the vicinity. A number of ships had reported mines swept up and were detailed off to destroy them in an outlying cove. As we swung at right angles to the course of the convoy, to rid ourselves of this uncomfortable little bundle of ours, the mine broke adrift and lay in the path of the oncoming fleet. We dropped a flare to denote its position making it easy for the other ships to avoid it.

In the meantime, we anti-aircraft crews were scanning the clear sky for a twin-engined Japanese bomber making his run towards us. He approached from the West and went the full length of the convoy with nearly every ship firing at him. The tracer ammunition presented a wonderful sight in the half light. How the Nip escaped so much flak I don’t know. I should advise his people to take a ticket in the Nippon lottery. He held his bombs for the aircraft carriers but they fell wide and he followed them into the sea.

In the meantime, the battleships had commenced their bombardment and we had taken up our preparatory position near them. Our fighters could be seen overhead waiting for aerial opposition. The battleships were laying down a particularly heavy barrage, and we were scanning the shoreline in the hope of getting a crack at opposing shore batteries, but for a while they wisely held fire. Our turn came with the completion of the heavy bombardment and the approach of the troops. For 3 hours we fired at specified targets with 8″ and 4″ guns, and we were pleased when the reports came through – “ammunition expended – none wasted”.

As you can imagine, by noon, we were all tired, dirty and soaked with perspiration, and all as deaf as door-nails. Dinner [lunch]  reminded me of our Sunday night high tea at home – a cup of tea in one hand, a sandwich in the other – no insults Mother!

The first wave of troops were on the beach, the rocket firing barges had done their job and were returning to a safe position in the gulf. Our naval dive bombers were in action coming down from a great height and worrying enemy shore installations. The going was tough ashore but a beach head was established by late afternoon and we were watching for troublesome shore batteries. We couldn’t understand the lack of enemy air activity but the answer came that night and we missed our beauty sleep.

Dawn broke with low flying Jap aircraft over the area carrying bombs and torpedos. It was just becoming light enough to see nearby shipping when one plane flying very low drew heavy fire from our force and flew between us and [HMAS] Australia about half a mile away. Although she was hit many times, the plane struck the foremast of the “Aussie” with her starboard wing and landed on her upper bridge in flames spraying petrol and explosives in all directions. The fire was under control within 20 minutes but many were injured [Ed: 30 Australian navy personnel were killed, including the ship’s captain]. AA gunners over the whole area were busy and tracer shells could be seen everywhere.

That dawn began a very busy day for us – the Jap had his victims but we took the toll of his pilots. At one time we saw 50% of his planes making their final dive together. Two spiraled to Earth in flames. One slid down a steep hill a ball of fire and two others plopped into the sea near the landing beach like shot ducks.

For ten days until our fighters were established ashore the enemy airforce put all they had into a vain effort to wipe out the invaders. Of course we were given little respite and remained at our guns for all this time. The lads on deck didn’t go below and those between decks didn’t see daylight. During the lulls we slept. To me, my old army boots seemed the softest pillow I had ever had. Fortunately, the weather was fine although a couple of nights of wet weather spoilt our chances of sleep, and we were forced to sit up or walk around until daybreak.

During this period our job had reverted from bombardment support to defence against possible intrusion by enemy shipping. Things became more interesting when we were told that an enemy naval force was intending to enter our newly claimed harbour and we should contact them at midnight. That afternoon we fueled from a huge tanker sheltering from air attack in a smoke screen thrown out by our destroyers. The crew of the tanker startled us a bit by telling some of the lads that she had oiled [refueled] 3 ships since her arrival – we were the 4th. All 3 were now at the bottom [of the sea]. The same tanker was sunk by torpedo bombers that next morning.

At dusk, the fleet formed up in battle order. It was a powerful force but I think it best not to expose the actual strength [Ed: 6 battleships, 8 cruisers, 28 destroyers and 39 PT boats]. Shortly after midnight, our destroyers launched torpedo attacks on the enemy fleet and the fireworks started. An Aussie destroyer firing Australian-made ‘tin fish’ closed to short range and scored a direct hit. Our part seemed small compared with some of the huge guns in action, but it is believed that out of 30 broadsides we scored 21 hits on an enemy battleship [the Yamashiro] – a good job done by the lads below on the big guns. We members of the AA defence of the ship had an easy task but a grandstand view of the whole business. In the blackness of the night, the tracer shells showed up clearly and we could follow the bout. It was not until the unpleasant whine of shells over our ship was heard that we realised perhaps Nip will throw a few back. We counted only two close ones, but believe me we ducked! With a great flare the enemy ships caught fire one after the other and their return of fire gradually petered out – we knew we’d won.

Dawn revealed four columns of smoke coming from those ships still sinking. And a Jap destroyer, the only one still on top was faithfully standing by her doomed friends. No doubt she was picking up survivors and preparing to destroy any remnants of the lost force to prevent us taking information. No fewer than 4 destroyers and 2 cruisers brought their guns to bear on this bloke, and within 5 minutes the smoke cleared and he had followed the others to the bottom.

Of the survivors, only 3 accepted aid from us – the others preferred to remain in the water. Maybe they believed that we are cruel captors but I rather think that the majority held hopes of reaching shore some 4 or 5 miles away. I understand their courage didn’t last for long and many eagerly grasped lines thrown to them in the second offer of rescue.

The job done we returned to our patrol area and the ‘nuisance air raids’. We had many exciting incidents before our fighters took control of the air over us during which time many good lives were unfortunately lost.  One plane launched a torpedo in our direction at dusk one evening mistaking us for a moving target. I think the fact that we were stationary saved us from a smack in the ribs – some of the lads watched the track of the ‘tin fish’ cross our bows. Another Jap two-engined bomber came so close to us and flew directly across the ship in the moonlight at mast level that had I been on my toes I could have let him have my tin hat fair and square!

A typhoon prevalent in this area happened along to add to our discomfort and by gosh it blew!

As we stood out in the Gulf we saw very little of the natives. Some paddled out in primitive canoes and seemed eager to befriend us. Most spoke excellent English – one greeted us by saying ‘where have you been? We have waited long for this day’. I should say Jap treatment was harsh. The Jap money circulated was worthless and they held rolls of it in their hands begging for clothes. I believe in the southern part of the island the inhabitants reached the ships with no clothes and prepared to give anything they had for a pair of shorts or a shirt. Some of the young women were very attractive with dark wavy hair and naturally received most attention from the sailors.

As you know, a month showed the land forces in control of most of Leyte Island and our job was done. We need no longer ask ‘where will the Jap make his stand’. We only hold one small island of a large group and I should say we’ll fight for the rest of them. No only will we fight a race of hard fighters but we will fight a fanatical belief that to die is a victory won. [Ed: Letter ends here without sign off – was it the last page?]

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Grandfather Eric Harding – Military Medal Citation 1917

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A congratulatory card from Major-General Sir John Monash GCMG, KCB, VD., after whom my university is named.  Eric MMHere is an English newspaper clipping (exact date and source unknown) about the award of this medal (with thanks to Sarah Reay, granddaughter of Mary Ellen Butler, Eric’s 2nd cousin, who kept this clipping from 1917).

Eric clipping

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