AT 97, WWII veteran Jack Meyer is just three years younger than his beloved RAAF, which is celebrating its centenary this year. His older brother, Frank, would have shared its 100th birthday, but was listed by 13 Squadron as ‘Missing in Action’- prompting Jack to enlist as soon as he was able. This is their story.
FRANCIS Norman (Frank) Meyer, Service Number 290745, was born in 1921, the year the RAAF was founded. He joined the RAAF in February 1940 at the age of 18 and by 30 January, 1942, he was serving as a Flying Officer in Ambon, Dutch East Indies, when the Japanese invaded.
One serviceable Hudson flew out of Ambon with as many personnel as it could carry. Frank was one of 11 RAAF personnel who did not make that flight and they tried to quickly repair a remaining Hudson in order to evacuate. Unable to make repairs, they were left to plan other options.
The group made their way across Ambon to escape by boat to the island of Ceram. Arrangements had been made with the RAAF to rendezvous there to be evacuated to Darwin. They were captured by a Japanese Patrol boat, taken prisoner to Laha on Ambon and executed. Their deaths as Prisoners of War was recorded as 20 February, 1942 – the precise date was not known. About 300 Australian Army members of Gull Force were also massacred at that time.
His younger brother Edmund John (Jack) Meyer, Service Number 436335, was born in 1924 and was just 17 when he heard that Frank was “Missing in Action”.
Jack said: “As to be expected, it had a profound impact on me and I let it be known to my father that I wanted to enlist in the RAAF as soon as I could. At the time I was 17, and a Corporal in the Air Training Corp, 78 Squadron. My father, after receiving confirmation advice that Frank was “Missing in Action”, wrote a letter of appreciation to the RAAF. He did this because of the support it provided the family in clarifying, the best it could at that time, the circumstances surrounding Frank.”
Jack’s father wrote: “We are delighted to know that he was granted the privilege of being associated with that fine body, the RAAF, in the defence of his country. It was bad luck, it’s the fortune of War that he was out so soon. However his brother, an enthusiastic member of the AFC, only awaits his 18th birthday next month to follow in his footsteps with, we hope, a little better luck.”
Jack says: “It wasn’t until mid-1946 that detailed information leading up to Frank’s capture and death was provided to my father as a result of trials and interrogation of the Japanese forces who served in Ambon at the time.”
At 18 and one month, Jack had joined the RAAF.
“I was enthusiastic to be in the RAAF. I was unable to be a pilot so trained as an Air Gunner. I was too young to go to the UK, but with some satisfaction I was later assigned to 13 Squadron, my brother’s squadron”.
Initially trained on Hudsons, Jack and crew were posted to the reformed 13 Squadron, flying Venturas. He said, “On our first flight, approaching take off speed, something happened and we ended up doing ‘ground loops’, just missing the hanger and other aircraft.”
Initially flying escort duties and anti-submarine patrols, the crew relocated to Gove.
“We carried out anti-submarine patrols and armed reconnaissance, flying out of Gove and Truscott. We were assigned bombing raids on shipping and supply barges in and around the then Dutch East Indies of Sumba, Sumbawa and the Flores. We were targeted with anti-aircraft, machine gun and small arms fire, but with no major incidences.”
Jack recalled that “on one mission we spotted a Japanese vessel at anchor, but needed to reload to bomb it, so instead we attempted to use our guns, but problems with the gun turret forced us to return to base.” A lucky escape.
“Towards the end of the war we flew in and out of Morotai, ferrying high-ranking Defence personnel to the RAAF Command base there, for them to participate in conferences with the Americans. On our flights to, and stays on, Morotai and New Guinea, we also experienced being bombed by the Japanese Airforce.”
Jack said: “The relationship between members of the crew was very supportive and we enjoyed a camaraderie that was typical of a RAAF bomber crew.”
Jack served with distinction and would have made Frank proud. He was discharged on 14 November, 1945, with the rank of Warrant Officer. He then rejoined the S.G.I.O, and by 1948 was with the Commonwealth Bank. He completed his career in 1982 as Manager of its Belmont Branch.
“I joined the RSLWA, Maylands Sub-Branch, in 1945 but didn’t remain a Member,” he said. “In 2007, following the death of my wife, I joined the Air Force Association and the North Beach Sub-Branch. I attend as many meetings as I am able and enjoy the friendship and support it offers. I also used to deliver Sub-Branch newsletters to those members who lived in my area and were unable to attend meetings”.
Jack, reflecting on the fact he is three years younger than the RAAF, said: “I’m proud of the contribution I made, as it was my passion to serve with the RAAF from a young age.
North Beach Sub-Branch President John Rolfe said: “Jack is an active and respected member, attends our meetings, commemorations and social events. It is important that we all respect and honour our World War II Veterans and their service.”
After all, it’s the dedication and service of people like Frank and Jack that has helped make the RAAF what it is today. – by Brian Jennings