In May 2012, the 90th Birthday celebration was held at Caboolture for Flt Lt Wally Dalitz. Wally has had a fascinating life and 90 of his friends turned out to celebrate the great day with him and his achievements.
Wally was born in Nhill in country Victoria and had a happy and adventurous childhood around the township getting up to the sort of mischief most young boys do. His love of aviation started early when he started building model aircraft and he continued this activity for some years – his passion for all things flying was fanned further by frequent visits to the local landing field. Nhill is not just any country strip; it was a refueling and stop off location for many early aviators making their way between Melbourne and Adelaide. In the 1930s Wally was privileged to witness the likes of Nancy Bird Walton, Bert Hinkler, Amy Johnson and Charles Kingsford Smith pass through the town on their travels. Wally recounted with some emotion the first time he saw the Southern Cross land at the airstrip after riding all the way from his house to view the great Man (Kingsford Smith) and the Trimotor – quite a sight in a small country town in the 1930s. In fact at the age of 8 years old Wally along with his sister father all flew in The Southern Cross at Nhill as Wally’s very first flight and Wally was lucky enough to have a good view of Sir Charles piloting the aircraft throughout the flight. If you are going to make a career in flying this wasn’t a bad start!
After attending school in Nhill, Wally started his first job at the PMG as a telegraph messenger at 14 and progressed through the PMG as a postal assistant and telegrapher – learning Morse code – a skill which would come in handy later.
War broke out and on his 18th birthday in 1940 and Wally enlisted at the Melbourne Exhibition Grounds as a pilot trainee but had to wait until he could be accommodated on a course – Wally was called upon to commence training on 31 Jan 1942 and reported to Sommers, Victoria and commenced training with Navigation in the mornings and drill in the afternoons. Following basic training Wally was posted to Western Junction RAAF near Launceston Tasmania in May 1942 and began to get to grips with the Tiger Moth and was instructed by F/O Stan Paul. Unfortunately he came down with the measles shortly after and was moved back two courses – his colleagues on his original course were later posted to Canada and then the UK so perhaps the measles did Wally a favor as the loss rate in the UK on Operations was appalling. Wally resumed training on course number 26 and was instructed by Walter Campbell (Later Sir Walter Campbell Governor of Queensland) who was a mentor and father image to Wally at this time despite his being only a year older (Wally maintained a lifelong friendship with Sir Walter until his death in 2004). Wally did well as a pupil and soloed relatively quickly – he completed a total of 60 hours by the time he left Tasmania,
Wally was then posted to Deniliquin NSW between 19 September 1942 and 13 Jan 1943 flying Wirraways which he regards very highly as a training aircraft. Following his time at Deniliquin Wally was posted to Tamworth NSW to the Central Flying School from 19 February 1943 to 26 March 1943 as a trainee instructor on Avro Cadets – completing the course and accumulating 45 hours on the pretty Avro which he also rates highly as a ”beautiful machine” much nicer to fly than the” twitchy” Tiger. In April 1943 Wally was posted back to Western Junction as an instructor on Tiger Moths and was to serve in this capacity for 13 months and more importantly he had to endure two Tasmanian winters!
Wally’s next posting was to Parkes NSW in April 1944 for two months on Oxfords as a trainee instructor. Next Wally went to Point Cook again on Oxfords as an instructor for a couple of months and flew in and out of Mallala quite a lot In September 1944 Wally was posted to Mallala and stayed there still instructing on Oxfords until December 1944.
About this time Wally contracted appendicitis and spent two weeks on leave at Glenelge. Upon return from sick leave it was routine to see the Flight Surgeon and Wally confessed that he had had enough of instructing and was anxious to do something a bit more adventurous “up North”– it must have worked – he was told to take 5 days more leave he had owing and was then posted to Bairnsdale on a General Reconnaissance course where he was paired with a Navigator which obviously meant he was intended to go to multi engine types. Following completion of the course Wally was posted to Tocumwal to fly B24 Liberators and started looking the aircraft over and getting familiar with the type. At this stage however the RAAF was only just coming to grips with the large 4 engined heavy and sufficient aircraft were not available to run the course so instead Wally and the rest of the course were posted back to East Sale to train on Beauforts. The prospect of the Beaufort did not fill Wally with confidence as there had been a series of tragic accidents traced back to a construction flaw (Which unknown to Wally had been cured a few months before) so he thought of the type as a “Widow Maker”. Whilst training on Beauforts, the type nearly lived up to its reputation on one flight when Wally was flying with Instructor Keith “Slim” Summerville and practicing single engine failure on take-off then shortly after getting airborne and restarting the engine the other engine failed – unfortunately this meant the aircraft only had partial electrics and hydraulics so it could only lower one side of the landing gear and had no flaps! The aircraft was then crash landed and was not that badly damaged and much to Wally’s relief no damage to him either!
Upon completion of the course Wally was posted to 8 Squadron at Tadji PNG and arrived 15th August 1945 just in time to participate in the Last Operational Beaufort bombing mission ever as part of a 27 aircraft formation which bombed the Japanese held village of Kiaravu near Wewak – The mission was uneventful but was a historic day for Wally and the RAAF 8 Sqn. Wally had truly been just in time – he went on to fly 7 more missions in PNG before the war ended but they were largely pamphlet dropping, Photo surveys and looking for crashed aircraft On 11 Jan 1946 Wall transferred to 100 Sqn Beauforts at Finschhafen PNG until 5 Feb 1946.. Wally loved the Beaufort despite his initial misgivings and reckons he could still fly one today.
Following the War, Wally went back to Nhill and worked in a Menswear shop however he maintained his love of flying and was an instructor at Nhill Aero Club and then at Wimira Aero club flying Tiger Moths amongst other types. Later Wally moved to Perth where he worked as a Commercial Instructor flying Chipmunks etc. In 1988 Wally moved to Brisbane and continued to fly – he still flies with friends in aircraft like CT4s and Piper Bonanzas.
When he moved to Queensland Wally participated in many historic aviation activities taking a great interest in Lang Kidby’s Vimmy and Avro Avian projects and was an early participant in the Ralph Cusack project to get Beaufort A9-141 flying again – Wally is a constant presence and inspiration in the restoration Hanger and his goal in life is to fly in her when she returns to the skies of Queensland in the not too distant future
It was a pleasure to see Wally appreciate the celebration of his 90 years in the Hanger at Caboolture surrounded by friends and aircraft he flew and loved including the Wirraway and Beaufort. Wally was presented with a Mounted and engraved Beaufort Control column and one highly Amusing feature of the day was watching Wally Awarded a knighthood in the Royal Order of Knight Commander the OBN – (Over Bloody Ninety!!) Wally Dalitz is truly one of the few remaining RAAF icons of WW11 – Well done Sir Wally!!
© John Parker 2013