The Wartime Albums & Collection








Alan Thomson was born in Brisbane on 13 May 1920, and grew up in Brisbane and Bundaberg. He was educated at Brisbane and Ascot State Schools, and then Brisbane Grammar School. He left school before matriculation and joined the Commonwealth Bank, starting as a junior clerk at Brisbane's Queen Street branch. In the late 1930s he enrolled in a weekend flying course run by the Queensland Aero Club at Archerfield, during which time he logged up some three and a half hours flying time with an instructor. He joined the RAAF in July 1940 and attended 2 ITS Bradfield Park, 6 EFTS Tamworth, and 3 SFTS Amberley, before being posted to 1 BAGS Evans Head, where he spent over a year, clocking up 580 hours on Fairey Battles. He was posted to 2 OTU Mildura in September 1942, where he carried out conversion to P-40 Kittyhawks.  




His first operational posting was to 76 Squadron at Strauss, Northern Territory in late November of the same year. Japanese intrusion over the Northern Territory at this time was sporadic at best, and 76 Squadron along with 77 Squadron (Kittyhawks) saw little action, although each squadron was to claim one aircraft destroyed each. He was to stay with 76 Squadron for almost a year, following them to deployments at Onslow, Bankstown, Milne Bay and front line deployments to Goodenough and Kirriwina Islands. He then spent all of 1944 as an instructor at 2 OTU Mildura, and in early 1945 attended the RAAF Staff School at Mt Martha, Victoria. In late May he was posted to 75 Squadron (Kittyhawks) and became acting C/O of the squadron during its move from Morotai to Tarakan in late June 1945, and subsequent operations during the Borneo campaign. On 29 October, some six weeks after the Japanese surrender, Alan was involved in a serious landing accident (flying A29-1007) described in the following excerpts from a letter to Alan's father from fellow squadron pilot Norm Crawford (see part II for full letter):


"Alan was on a test flight; he told me he intended to be airborne only about fifteen minutes, just a short flight. I saw him come in to "buzz" prior to landing, and watched him all the way in. Everything was normal, I saw his wheels start to come down, I swear I did, after that the wheels were out of my vision. I next had a good view of him, as he came over the fence to land. I was horrified to see, his wheels fully retracted. He was carrying a "belly" tank full of fuel. He held off, and of course, when the aircraft touched down it was the "belly" tank, which hit first. It exploded immediately, and the aircraft slid along the run-way on its belly. Just before it came to a standstill (moving very slowly) I saw Alan jump out of the "cockpit", by this time the whole aircraft was burning".


"Alan has third degree burns on his face, on the right side of his body and armpit. Second degree burns on his arms, chest and back".


Suffering from his burns and shock he was evacuated to Brisbane, he spent several months in hospital undergoing treatment for his burns. He was discharged from the RAAF on 18 April 1946. He was awarded a DFC promulgated in the London Gazette on 25 June 1946, and received the following citation:


"Flight Lieutenant Thomson has completed two tours of operations against the enemy from the Trobriand Islands and Borneo, displaying daring and ability and keenness to destroy the enemy. He has participated in 29 sorties and 26 strikes and the successful results achieved by No. 75 Squadron, operating from Tarakan, are largely due to the courage and determination displayed by him. Flight Lieutenant Thomson has led his squadron on many successful strikes against the strongly defended Samarinda area with utter disregard for personal safety".


After leaving the RAAF Alan returned to the Commonwealth Bank but never again flew another aircraft. Although he did retain a lifelong interest in aircraft and aviation. Alan passed away in 2002.


Go To Part II