Having survived the bombing of Darwin during World War II, there was no way Flight Lieutenant Roger ‘Brian’ Winspear (retd) was going to let COVID-19 ruin his 100th birthday on September 26.
He marked the milestone with a small gathering of friends in Hobart and a phone call from Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld.
Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld said he had a delightful conversation with Flight Lieutenant Winspear.
“Brian told me the Air Force has been so good to him, to which I replied: ‘But, Brian, you have been so good to the Air Force and to your country’,” he said.
“Brian’s contribution during the war years cannot be understated.
“He is one of our heroes.
“What sets Brian apart, though, is the fact that his contributions to our country did not stop at the end of the war – his life has been a life of service to the community.”
Flight Lieutenant Winspear enlisted in the Air Force at the outbreak of World War II in 1939.
The Tasmanian qualified as a wireless operator/air gunner in 1940 and was posted to No. 2 Squadron at Laverton, Victoria, where he flew in Douglas DC2 transports and Lockheed Hudson light bombers.
The squadron relocated to Darwin and was there when the city was bombed by the Japanese in 1942.
Flight Lieutenant Winspear remembers one of the raids.
“I looked up and the sun glinted on the side of the bombs,” he said.
“There were thousands of them. They were directly overhead.
“I stuck a cork in my mouth to help stop concussion from the bomb blasts and got right down in the bottom of a trench.
“I was lucky to only sustain bomb-splinter injuries to my hands and an eye.”
Flight Lieutenant Winspear’s squadron was later posted to the Indonesian city of Kupang in West Timor where it provided air cover for 1500 Tasmanians of the ill-fated 2nd/40th Battalion and flew reconnaissance missions.
He discharged in November 1945 with 600 flying hours in his log book, 700 pounds in his pocket and a ticket home.
After the war, Flight Lieutenant Winspear successfully fought to get recognition for his squadron’s actions in Darwin and Indonesian theatres during 1942-43, with the squadron awarded a US Presidential citation.
He settled in Bicheno, Tasmania, and become a well-known business owner, tourism developer and community figure.
In 1993, he was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to the tourism industry and the community.
Flight Lieutenant Winspear said he had every intention of celebrating Air Force’s 100th birthday next year.
“I’m in good health and I intend donning my original uniform for the occasion,” he said.