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Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Page: 8849

Mr GRIFFIN (Bruce) (12:55): I also rise to honour the veterans of Bomber Command, the many thousands of young men who gave their lives—Australians and those from across the Empire, as it was then—and the many thousands who survived but even today live with the results of their service.

Some 10,000 Australians served with RAF Bomber Command in World War II. The great majority were recruited into the RAAF and then trained under the Empire Air Training Scheme across the Empire, in Australia, Canada and Southern Rhodesia, now modern Zimbabwe. A number of Australians in Bomber Command were in the RAF, having joined that force before the war, or went specifically to Britain to do so, as many young men did in the early part of World War II.

As I mentioned, Bomber Command was always a multinational force. Aircrews were a mixture of men from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and many other countries. Even in the designated RAAF bomber squadrons, about 30 per cent of aircrew were non-Australian. From 1941 on, men from the RAAF flew with virtually every RAF bomber squadron. Australia also provided some RAAF ground crew for the Australian squadrons, although most support and administrative tasks were carried out by local personnel. Australians served in all bomber aircrew musterings as pilots, navigators, flight engineers, bomb aimers, wireless operators and air gunners. A number rose to be squadron leaders and wing commanders, and served with distinction.

As has been mentioned by other speakers regarding the nature of casualties with respect to Bomber Command, it was a very tragic and difficult part of the armed services. Casualty numbers were huge. Of some 125,000 aircrew, around 55,000, or some 44 per cent, were killed on air operations. Of these, 3,486 were Australian airmen—a casualty rate of 35 per cent for RAAF bomber aircrew and nearly nine per cent of the total Second World War dead, as recorded on the roll of honour at the Australian War Memorial. Also, more than 650 died on operational training in Britain.

Recently it was great to see pictures from the United Kingdom, where the dedication of the Bomber Command memorial took place. This was mentioned by earlier speakers. A delegation of veterans attended and they were supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs. There have been some issues raised with respect to elements of support provided for those who were, if you like, additional veterans who went beyond the official delegation. I understand that some of those issues are being looked at. The support provided to veterans beyond the official mission was something I started when I was minister with respect to the dedication of some fighter squadron plaques at the Air Force church in London. Previously no government had provided additional support beyond official delegations in order to allow additional veterans to attend. It was a process which was criticised at the time, but it was done in conjunction with the Air Force Association. A similar process was endeavoured to be built upon on this occasion. Although there were difficulties which need to be looked at, the fact is that additional support had not been provided before. It was an attempt to ensure that more veterans were able to take part. It is something which I think needs to be worked on into the future.

To all those who served, we give the nation's grateful thanks. We remember all those who made the ultimate sacrifice and their families, who have suffered subsequently. They fought in a war which consumed a world and gave their all. We stand here today to honour their memory and their suffering. We wish that all who see that Bomber Command memorial in London will remember the tremendous courage, the tremendous sacrifice and the tremendous tragedy of those who fought in World War II in Bomber Command on behalf of the free world.