Authored by Ian C. Purdie VK2TIP
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Sqn-Ldr Richard Robert [Dick] PURDIE M.B.E.(M), VK2ARP (VK2RP) my father, was a professional radio operator / telegraphist and a certified "First Class" wireless operator who had enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) during WW1 on 3rd March, 1918 as a boy of 15 years. His service number was 6433. Here is the National Archives of Australia digital copy of the front page of his Naval Record. This is the other side of his Naval Record.
Dick remained in the RAN until 1927 when paying-off to establish his own radio business. This business, like so many others, foundered during the great depression. He was immediately able to obtain work as a telegraphist around a number of outback N.S.W. Post Offices employed by the Postmaster Generals Dept., handling all kinds of traffic at high speeds.
Owing to his skills and naval technical background he was induced to join the newly formed Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on 6th May, 1930 as a wireless operator. During WW11 he was part of MacArthur's famed RAAF signals intelligence unit.
At the conclusion of WW11 Dad was posted to 143 RADAR Unit.
During WW11, Mum and Dad did find some time for recreation. I understand this photo was taken outside Randwick Racecourse some time in the latter half of 1941 when mum was pregnant with me. Stern and stiff-backed as ever, a rigid disciplinarian.
Just before war broke out in September 1939, Dad was a Warrant Officer stationed in Victoria Barracks in Melbourne. He simply went to work one day and Mum never saw him again for a long time. Initially he was engaged in supporting Victorian Police interning German Aliens. He then moved to Parkes in N.S.W. where they set up training Wireless-Air-Gunners [WAG's] for the Empire Air Training Scheme.
Out of one such class not one man returned...
On a humourous note, when war was declared he was told to round up every qualified radio operator he could lay his hands on to assist with the expected influx of trainees. Dad duly enlisted into the R.A.A.F. quite a number competent ham operators, most from WW1.
Unfortunately, too many were minus a leg, an arm, an eye or whatever. Didn't make any difference to Dad, these guys were the "ants pants", highly competent, military background and best of all, experienced "elmers".
Unfortunately the Commanding Officer didn't quite see it that way, discharged them all with a letter of grateful thanks and gave Dad a giant rocket. He told the old boy: "If we're that desperate then God help us..."
My niece kindly scanned these photos for me. The one upper left is Dad with a fellow officer in, I think, Martin Place Sydney. The year I don't know but it would be our winter and certainly 1943 or earlier.
Later winters he was on Moratai in the south-west Pacific, landed 6th June, 1944 [coincidence?], dodging air raids and being cared for by his personal Japanese POW's. They were two Japanese Naval Radio Operator's Dad and his American counterpart had "saved". They had all worked one another in the years before WW11. Strange world...
Somewhere there exists a photograph of my father and his American friend receiving their morning shave from these two Japanese Naval Radio Operators. Interestingly, the US Marines considered my father and his friend to be totally "crazy". I'll try and locate it!
Dick remained with the RAAF until the end of the Korean War thereby earning the unique distinction of having served Australia throughout three wars. In 1954 HM Queen Elizabeth 11 presented my father with his medal in the Order of the British Empire [M.B.E. (Military)] for services to Australia in general and Wireless in particular. - See medals to left.
His later years were spent as a Postmaster, principally in our home town of Pendle Hill N.S.W. Dick was then to be forcibly retired, literally, on the spot when management accidently discovered he was celebrating his 72nd birthday. The finks...
The final years were regular skeds with old navy and air force pals until they all disappeared one by one. As his son, my saddest moment was fulfilling an obligation to notify all those listed in his "book" of his passing - there was no one left - he was the last of the "originals".
-- A very grateful son, Ian C. Purdie VK2TIP
The photo above was taken around 1952 by my brother-in-law with the trusty box brownie and is my brother Barry [in R.A.N. uniform], my sister Joan, myself [VK2TIP NOW] aged 10, my eldest brother Ken [deceased R.A.N.] acting "the fool" [out of R.A.N. uniform], my dear old Mum Elsie, originally from Wolverhampton, England and finally Dad VK2ARP.
Here is the National Archives of Australia digital copy of the front page of my deceased brother Ken's Naval Record. This is the other side of his Naval Record. Note how the RAN on the other side of the record qaintly entered - "Discharged Dead 29/4/60".
That is my sister and brother-in-law's house in the background, then a poultry farm on acreage, now residential lots with a freeway through the back and a six lane highway in front. Progress... My sister, a widow, continues to live about 100 or so metres up the road.
Tragically for us, my eldest brother Chief Petty Officer Ken C. Purdie died some eight years later [April, 1960] while still serving in the R.A.N. and was buried at sea somewhere off Aden. He had also served in Korea.
Another great Australian, who was highly decorated and wrote the book "Hells Bells and Mademoiselles" was Joe Maxwell V.C. Here's my Book Review Page on that book [incomplete]
[UPDATE] Like so many people, I am researching my family tree. Details I know of my Grand Father, Robert Purdie are that he was born in Ayrshire, Scotland in 1837 [yes that's right] and died in Clermont, Queensland, Australia on 8th April, 1923. I believe he migrated to Australia around about 1865. He lived to be the same age as my Dad i.e. 87 years.
My Grand Mother was Jeannie Jones but I have no further details except when they married, Robert was 65 and Jeannie was about 27. Yep...
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the author Ian C. Purdie, VK2TIP of www.electronics-tutorials.com asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this web site and all contents herein. Copyright © 2004, all rights reserved. See copying and links. These electronic tutorials are provided for individual private use and the author assumes no liability whatsoever for the application, use, misuse, of any of these projects or electronics tutorials that may result in the direct or indirect damage or loss that comes from these projects or tutorials. All materials are provided for free private and public use.
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Updated 10th September, 2009