Exhibition shares local service stories

April 20, 2018

Ron Richards and his wife Lorraine at the No. 7 Service Flying Training School exhibition opening night.

Local man Ron Richards is one of the many contributors who donated memorabilia for the No. 7 Service Flying Training School ‘Plane Necessity’ exhibition at the Peppin Heritage Centre.

The 7SFTS was based at Deniliquin Airport during World War Two.

Mr Richards donated a photograph of his father Les and said he was happy to share his dad’s story.

‘‘The photo features my father in his uniform taken in Deniliquin while he was armaments officer.

‘‘I think the exhibition is a great idea because it (the Flying School) is a big part of Deniliquin’s history. It’s also a major part of my history.

‘‘Moving with my father and family to Deniliquin is the reason I have called it home for so many years,’’ he said.

Les joined the Air Force about 1933 before the Second World War had started. When war broke out he was already qualified and was posted away.

‘‘About the time of the Coral Sea Battle the family were evacuated out of Evans Head (in NSW) by a troop train whilst my father was shifted north to New Guinea — I recall places named Wewak, Aitape and Finschafen,’’ Ron recalled.

‘‘During this time he also disarmed bombs on the islands.

‘‘It was very intense as I recall, with much aircraft activity and crucial fighting to maintain control for Australia,’’ he said.

The family went back to Adelaide while the battle was raging up north until eventually Les was posted to 7SFTS Deniliquin as head of the armament section in 1942.

‘‘There used to be a gunnery and bombing range on Hay Rd just past Wanganella, where pilots practised their plane bombing and shooting, while my father checked their accuracy,’’ Ron said.

Eventually Les’s family joined him and settled into life in Deniliquin in 1943.

‘‘We had rooms at Mr Parrot’s home in Wick Street, however our first home was 10 Junction Street. It was a lovely cottage, warm and welcoming,’’ Ron said.

As a civilian Les was employed at 7SFTS Deniliquin airfield until the camp was decommissioned. Eventually he built a home in Edwardes St and took up a position with the local electricity power station.

He later started Richards Cycle Store at 53 Cressy St which later moved to different locations, including near the Town Hall, then to 367 Cressy St until his retirement.

Ron took over and moved the business to Napier St store where it prospered until it was sold in 1978.

During the years that Les lived in Deniliquin he was active in the St John Ambulance Service, scouting movement, Camera Club, first treasurer for Deni Rovers Football Club and for many years was secretary of Deniliquin Chamber of Commerce.

He passed away in September 1976 at the age of 76, losing his battle with cancer.

â–  The ‘Plane Necessity’ exhibition is being held at the Peppin Heritage Centre in George St, Deniliquin until April 27. Memorabilia is still being collected as part of the project and anyone who is willing to donate is encouraged to phone Marg Jefferies on 0427588155 or Denise Thomas 0407091960.

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