“SOMEHOW, I usually felt safer and happier in the air, as though I had escaped from all the unpleasant and worrying aspects of life.”
The above is an excerpt from the late William Herbert John Colville’s 38-page memoir about his experience training pilots in reconnaissance and as a weather observer for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in Europe during World War II.
William, who originally came from Tullamore near Parkes, trained RAF pilots here in Tamworth during the war, before heading overseas to help the RAAF.
Today is your last chance to see an aviation history exhibition focusing on Mr Colville’s amazingly well-preserved clothing and flying helmets at Tamworth Regional Gallery as part of the recent successful Festival of Flight.
Tamworth Aero Club president Adele Mazoudier said the exhibition helped illuminate the three components of the festival – the past, present and the future.
“It just seemed appropriate to have a display at the gallery (focusing on) an everyman, on someone from here who lived here and trained here” Ms Mazoudier said.
“It’s a lovely story.”
She said the sense of anticipation was palpable as Mr Colville’s son, John and she opened a trunk containing William’s artefacts, all wrapped in brown paper parcels and tied in string.
John Colville, a grazier from Quipolly, is immensely proud of his dad’s war effort.
John said his dad never saw combat – but he adored flying and the care shown by his dad in preserving his items was
moving; his memoirs are also on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
“He was very meticulous and it just showed how he loved that life,” Mr Colville said.
Like many men who’d been to war, William did not talk about it, John said, “except with me he spoke a lot about the flying – he was an absolute fanatic”.
William held the unofficial altitude record over Europe – 42,000 feet and in an unpressurised plane.
He also held the record for the most number of different types of aeroplanes used during his training of pilots at Tamworth during the war.