I spent some time digging around on the National Archives of Australia website and found some records of my Great Uncle’s involvement in World War II.
The information that I found for this article is publicly available, and relates directly to the service of John Kevin Wood — Great uncle to myself and my brothers Michael, Patrick and Robert, and my father Jim’s uncle — his father’s brother.
We knew him as Uncle Jack. He always had a cheeky smile.
OFFICERS RECORDS — Directorate of Postings
Service Number — 403540
Date of birth — 15 Jan 1921
Place of birth — Taree, NSW
Marital Status: Single
Place of enlistment — Sydney
Next of Kin — Louisa Wood — His mother — 31 Florence Street Hornsby
Person To Be Contacted In Case Of Casualty: Mr E (unknown surname) 4 Phyllis Avenue Thornleigh
Nationality listed as “British”
Religion: Roman Catholic
Height: 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 metres)
Weight: 133 lbs (60kgs)
Scars: Linear scar over the left eye
Sports: Golf, football, cricket
Uncle Jack was a railway employee (porter at Waitara station) who joined the RAAF Reserves in the 1st August 1940 — this was the same day that Hitler declared his intention to intensify his air and sea warfare against the English to “establish the necessary conditions for the final conquest of England.”
Jack enlisted at the Royal Australian Air Force’s #2 Recruitment Centre in Sydney on Saturday 1st February 1941. He was aged 20-years-old.
On the morning that Jack enlisted for the war, Adolf Hitler gave a passionate speech before 18,000 people at the Berlin Sportpalast on the eighth anniversary of the Nazis’ coming to power. Hitler declared that any ship carrying aid to England within the range of German U-boats would be torpedoed, and also warned the United States that if anyone on the American continent tried to interfere in the European conflict, Germany’s war aims would quickly change.
Uncle Jack was immediately considered ‘fit for full flying duties’ by a medical officer and then mustered to Air Crew V at No 2 I.T.S. Lindfield by a RAAF Flight Lieutenant Attestation Officer. He was approved to join the the single largest aviation training program in history, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. 28,000 Australians were trained to fly planes for World War II. He was employed for the duration of the war, and “12 months thereafter.”
16 days later, he was re-mustered to Air Crew V(G).
Days after Adolf Hitler gave Yugoslavia an ultimatum to join the ‘Axis’ or face invasion, Uncle Jack was assigned to the Royal Canadian Air Force. He left Sydney on Friday 21st March. And arrived in Canada on the 7th April 1941. Stationed at a pilot training school in Winnipeg on the 19th April 1941 just as a nighttime German air-raid on London killed 13 firefighters, the largest single loss of firefighters in British history.
Jack spent 75 hours doing his elementary flying training in the Cornell aircraft at the RCAF airbase in Virden, Canada. 136 hours ‘service’ training in the Anson II aircraft at the RCAF airbase in Gimli, Canada.
On the 30th July 1941 he went AWOL for 2 hours and 24 minutes (0001–0225) — he says he missed the last bus back to the №3 Wireless School in Winnipeg, Manitoba — he received 72 hours detention. The same occurred on 27.08.1941.
After spending summer in Winnipeg, Uncle Jack was detached from the Royal Canadian Air Force on Saturday 11th October 1941 and the following day was attached to the Royal Air Force — this occurred as Adolf Hitler’s forces launched an attack on the island of Hiiumaa in the Baltic Sea.
He departed Canada by boat on Sunday 12th October. Arriving in the United Kingdom on Friday 24th October 1941. While he was at sea the Germans took large parts of Moscow.
After spending the winter with the Royal Air Force in the UK, Uncle Jack departed by air for an assignment listed as ‘10ADU’ on Friday 25th May 1942.
On the 8th October 1942 he was reported missing by the RAAF — the plane he was navigating was brought down by a German aka bomb over the Sahara Desert.
A Long Walk Home
“While bombing Tobruk the battle of El Alamein in October 1942, Flight Sergeant John Wood, RAAF, and Warrant Officer R.S. Spence, Royal Canadian Air Force, were shot down in the desert. For 27 days they walked through 560 kilometres of enemy territory, evading German and Italian patrols and surviving on emergency rations of bully beef, malted milk tablets and one can of tomato juice. From wrecked vehicles they scavenged drinking water and rubber tyres for new soles when their boots gave out. When they were finally picked up by a British patrol, they had each lost 13 kilograms.” (These words written and put on display with this photo by the Australian War Memorial).
Uncle Jack was reported safe on the 4th November 1942 after he and his colleague walked 560kms. (There were five people in the plane. Two died instantly. One airman later died after sustaining a fractured leg in the crash).
His records state that after being shot down he was stationed in Malta till 17.1.1943.
Jack was trained to fly the Anson and Vickers Wellington. The Wellington was a twin-engined long-range medium bomber that was mostly used at night — His Royal Air Force paperwork stated that he was ‘most proficient’ flying the Wellington IC.
He moved to the Royal Canadian Air Force’s base at Rockliffe near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on the 22nd May 1943 where he taught the next generation of pilots. In March 1944 he was based in Calgary, and ceased to be attached to the RCAF when he left for Australia on Saturday 10th March 1945 — the same day that the United States Army Air Forces conducted a devastating firebombing raid on Tokyo.
Six months before the end of World War II, Jack was assigned to general duties on Friday 2nd March 1945. On Saturday 8th September, a week after WWII end, he was transferred to the reserves — “surplus to present personnel requirements.”
On the Tuesday 26th September 1944 he was decorated with the Africa Star Ribbon and Rosette which was granted for operational service in North Africa.
He also received a ‘Pilot’s Flying Badge’ with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Late in his service, ‘Joan Wood’ was assigned as his next of kin – listed as being based in Winnipeg — this was his wife — An Australian nurse that he met in the UK.
Jack’s paperwork was stamped “Eligible for Returned Service Active Badge.”
He was married to Joan Maude “Woodie” Wood. And was a devoted father of Coleen and LeAnne.