Tuesday, 26 May 2015

History Tuesday................Len Waters

Have you heard of Len Waters?

I bet you haven't a clue who he was, I know until I watched an episode of

So I decided to write a post and tell others about him he was born Leonard Victor Waters on the 20th June 1924 at the Euraba Mission in northern New South Wales.

He was the first Australian Aboriginal military aviator, and the only one to serve as a fighter pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) during World War II. Aborigines at the time suffered significant discrimination and disadvantages in Australian society, such as restrictions on movement, residence, employment, and access to services and citizenship. Waters was working as a shearer when he joined the RAAF in 1942.

Training initially as a mechanic, he volunteered for flying duties and graduated as a sergeant pilot in 1944. He flew P-40 Kittyhawks in the South West Pacific, where he completed 95 missions. By the end of the war he had risen to the rank of warrant officer.

Although the military had officially barred or restricted the recruitment of Aborigines in earlier periods, these impediments were significantly relaxed after Japan entered the war and Australia came under direct attack. He volunteered for service in the RAAF on 24 August 1942 and was accepted. He began training as an aircraft mechanic, but later volunteered for flying service, and commenced initial training in Victoria, in December 1943.

The interviewer thought he looked "a bit rough" but "should make a fighter", he believed his lack of education would be a disadvantage, and studied nights to make up for it. Keen to be a pilot, he was concerned that he would be allocated to duty as a wireless operator because he showed an aptitude for Morse code early on.

The first aircraft to which he was assigned had already been named Black Magic even before he took over its controls.

He grew up at Nindigully, near St George in Queensland, and was educated to the seventh grade at Nindigilly State School. Hearing tales of pioneering aviators Charles Kingsford Smith, Amy Johnson and Charles Lindbergh, and reading stories of Biggles, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, he had, as he put it, his "head in the clouds" from an early age.

After leaving school when he was 14 to support his family, working alongside his father as a ring barker and being pain 10 shillings a week for seven days work, this was about 1/6th of the average way at the time. He later worked as a shearer.

Following his discharge from the RAAF in 1946, he attempted to start a regional airline but was unable to secure financial backing and government approval, he went back to shearing and died in 1993 at the age of 69.
In 1995–96, Waters was commemorated in several ways: Australia Post depicted his portrait on a stamp and that of his P-40 Kittyhawk fighter "Black Magic" on an aĆ©rogramme, Black Magic Port was named after his personal Kittyhawk; Len Waters Place, a park in Inala, was opened; Moree Plans Shire Council dedicated Leonard Waters Park in Boggabilla, New South Wales; and Len Waters Street in Ngunnawal, Australian Capital Territory, was named after him.


Huggybear said...

Yes Jo-anne, I knew all about him
A credit to his family and Australia, but I bet if you
went to Boggabilla no one would have a clue who he was.
I lived in the 1950's near Boggabilla.
A man of great enterprise and enthusiasm to serve his country and was sadly let down.
I hardly think that these "memorials" do the man any justice, belated as they were.
Sorry if anyone is offended.
Colin (Boomi/Moree 1950/60's - now in Brisbane)

Janie Junebug said...

A very interesting post, Jo-Anne. I like your history posts. My dad was a pilot, but definitely not an Aborigine.


Desiree said...

This was such a delightfully, heartwarming story of a man who had come from a disadvantaged background, at a time in your history that was as shameful as ours in South Africa. His achievements were hard won under difficult circumstances and, in my humble view, cast shame on those who deliberately tried to hold him and his people back. How sad that after all he had attained, he was denied economic freedom (access to funding) to follow through on his dreams after the war. Sadly, this is the legacy over and over of "the superior white race" and that, clearly, is said tongue in cheek. I am white and feel ashamed by the way many whites treat others.

whiteangel said...

Interesting Jo-Anne. Have been through Boggabilla

CWMartin said...

Interesting after just watching a deal on the Tuskeegee Airmen on H2 yesterday.

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

It would have been better to have treated him right when he was alive over having memorials after he has passed

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

Thank you I like doing them and sharing things many of us do not know about

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

So true it is a disgrace the way he was treated after the war

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

Thank you

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

Thank you

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Jo-Anne,
How sad that after the war he did not receive any financial support and had to abandon his greatest dream...

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

I agree it was a disgrace

Ramblingon said...

THIS is a fascinating piece of history and I am glad you included it for us. It was a disgrace indeed to "pay"him for his service by not helping him to resume his life and make it better.'

Update on mum

After getting up this morning and throwing a load of washing on to wash I get a phone call from Sandra just as I was thinking of ringing...