MEMORIES: Jack Bice, from Lennox Head, reflects on his WWII service.
MEMORIES: Jack Bice, from Lennox Head, reflects on his WWII service.

Jack has been in a flying boat

LENNOX Head's Jack Bice has the unusual record of having landed in a plane on water more than 100 times.

It's not that he was that unlucky to be a passenger on aircraft having to ditch in the drink that many times.

Mr Bice, 94, served during World War II as a wireless operator and air gunner in the Royal Australian Air Force's 11 Squadron which operated Catalina "flying boats".

He said the large aircraft used for reconnaissance was very stable in the air.

However, landings and takeoffs could be very different.

"A good landing on water is the most delightful thing - it's so smooth," he said.

"In rough water, it's a very different situation."

He said open sea landings could often be the most terrifying, with pilots having to perform what was called a "stall landing" and drop the tail of the aircraft so it made contact with the water first.

Mr Bice's squadron served in the Battle of the Coral Sea, losing two aircraft, each crewed by nine men, shot down by Japanese fighter planes operating from aircraft carriers.

Mr Bice said it was the "luck of the draw" that he wasn't in one of those aircraft as he had been sent on leave.

The Battle of the Coral Sea took place between May 4 and 8 in 1942.

Prime Minister at the time, John Curtin, described it as the battle that saved Australia.

The Ballina Sub-Section of the Naval Association of Australia will hold a commemorative ceremony at 5pm at the Ballina cenotaph in memory of the 71st anniversary of the battle.

A representative from the US Consul and the Royal Australian Navy will attend. Inquiries: Max Lewis 6628 0086.


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