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Alan Ely's contribution:


I saw tributes to Bill Brooker this evening, I can't ever remember meeting him in my travels but certainly have heard stories and seeing this tribute prompts me to pass on another ...not in the regimented confines of CR's or demolitions carried out under the supervision by trained experts, but rather enthusiastic amateurs.

The story starts in No 21 Sqn (City of Melbourne) Fighter Sqn, in the mid 50's. At that time the Sqn was commanded by T W Murphy having taken over from the steely- blue-eyed killer Victor Benjamin ****** (Surname hidden to protect the innocent) but was later OC Darwin.

Thomas William wanted to make some sort of splash - walked into Armament Section and informed all (at least those who were interested) that all explosives the Sqn was entitled to for the year were ordered and that the @#$* Armourers were going to earn their pay, (Did we have news for him - and not all good). Perhaps I should mention some of those Armourers, Keith Merriman, Rick Hinton, Bob Tuck, John Northey and the character I immediately thought of when reading about Billy Brooker - Jimmy Freeney, better known as Shorty.

Jimmy ( back from 78(F) Wing Malta) turned up out of the blue one day and was immediately informed that next Tuesday was OC's parade and since it was winter, Blues were the go.

Fortunately Shorty's kit (in a tin trunk) was available at "L" Group, unpacking it in the section we soon realised we had a real live one among us...one of the first things that came to light was a piece of very nasty looking shrapnel and (Blues looking decidely green) - Shorty never enlightened us and certainly never impressed the OC.

The Armament program called for HE Bombing, 500 pounders and SOP's called for hangups to be jettisoned "Safe" in a shallow dive, but of course we had a Sgt pilot who knew better and after the first bomb hung decided "why waste the practice" and jettisoned in a 60deg dive, bombs safe.

Merriman,Tuck, Freeney and a few others (including me) and our ArmO were off to Werribee to recover the 2 x 500's and carry out a demolition. We went down 3 Freeneys (about 15ft) and found the remains of the bomb carrier, the boss decided we had done our bit and instructed us to find all the other unexploded bits and pieces laying around (60lb HE rocket heads, pre-war Naval shells, Arty shells etc)
and tip them down the holes followed by several slabs, lit the fuse and into the old Inter and off, very sad explosion. Never got the 500 pounders, but whilst retreating came across a 1000 pound MC, Boss took one look and decided it was inert and only a space model used during the Sabre carriage trials, but felt it should be destroyed in case the farmer who leased the land complained about it. One slab in the middle, short fuse and amble off - not me or Tuckie, it was down behind a tree whilst the rest sat in the comfort of the truck cabin. Have you ever seen 3 fellas come out of the drivers door at once ?, while Tuckie and I got showered with branches, leaves etc.

Jimmy Freeney's fetish with shrapnel became apparent when he raced around getting red hot pieces and dropping them down everybody's gum boots.

Many years later whilst at ARDU the ArmO told me he had been instructed to issue and sign a "free from explosives" certificate for the Werribee Range - he asked "would you be happy doing this ?" No, No, No boss, I said, remembering at least 2 x 500's that had never been recovered.

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