Radar Gunner by Dick Dakeyne, DFC – Book Review

Wishing to enlist in his father’s First World War battalion, Dakeyne was told he could not serve overseas until he was 19 years old; no such restriction applied to the RAAF.

Radar Gunner
Dick Dakeyne, DFC
Coolalinga NT: David M Welch, 2015
Hardback 142pp RRP $29.95

Enlisting on his 18th birthday in 1941, he underwent training at wireless/air gunner, Morse code, gunnery and observer schools in New South Wales and Queensland. In February 1943 he was trained at HMAS Rushcutter to use an Australian top secret radio set capable of picking up radar transmissions. [By joining the RAAF he actually had to wait longer to see active service.]

Dakeyne’s first posting was as a Radar Counter Measure (RCM)/gunner crew member in Liberator bombers with the 319th Squadron USAF stationed at Fenton Field, 100km south of Darwin. The installation of the RCM equipment in aircraft was extremely slow, so most of his missions was a waist gunner. When the 319th moved to Port Moresby, he remained at Fenton with the USAF 380th Bomb Group serving in the 530th Squadron. During a Japanese air raid, whist sheltering in shallow weapon pits, a colleague had a leg blown off and prompt action by Dakeyne ensure the survival of his close mate. Wishing to reach more distant potential targets (2400 miles to Java), the squadron operated from Corumna Downs, 30 miles from Marble Bar. He completed his first tour of 30 missions in the period May – December ’43.

His second tour was with the USAF 90th Bombardment Group stationed on Biak Island off the north west coast of New Guinea from March to August 1944. On posting back to RAAF command in Brisbane he learnt of his award of the Distinguished Flying Cross. In December he was able to travel to Willoughby (NSW) to marry. Two posting in April 1945 to 24 Squadron RAAF and 201Flight in Darwin saw the end of his active service in December ‘45 with 48 missions totalling 528 hours of combat flying.

Seizing the opportunity for further study under resettlement, Dakeyne completed a Bachelor of Arts with honours in Geography (but without any teaching qualification) at Sydney University. In August 1950, with a family of three girls, he spent the next eight years in Kenya. In 1959 he was offered a position as a Geography demonstrator at Sydney University, then in 1961 being offered a study grant for field work involving short stays in New Guinea villagers each year over a four-year period. Dakeyne was made a Senior Tutor in 1967 and also became a student counsellor for two years. In retirement, from 1980 to 1988 he was a Uniting Church lay preacher.

There is plenty of fascinating detail arising from being embedded in a United States unit for most of his active service. In 1946 he was informed by the Australian Government that they had declined on his behalf the US Medal of Freedom (without Palm)! The text is extremely readable and generously punctuated with high quality photographs covering his entire life. There are five annexes that cover his history in the RAAF, a brief Index, and the book’s endpapers are extracts from his Flight Log-Book.

An important work that complements our understanding of our colleagues in arms.

Reviewed for RUSIV by  Neville Taylor, August 2020

Contact Royal United Services Institute about this article.

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