Qantas flies WWII Veterans to London celebration

Sydney | Published on 25th June 2012 at 2:05

A group of 31 Australian veterans will board Qantas flights to London today on their way to a special commemorative event recognising their service in Bomber Command during the Second World War.

The party will attend the dedication of the Bomber Command memorial on 28 June as well as a range of other events honouring the sacrifice of 55,000 Bomber Command personnel from across the British Commonwealth.

The group of veterans will be flying in Business, have special check-in facilities and be fast-tracked through customs and into the Qantas business lounge at Sydney Airport. Many will be travelling on the Qantas A380, operating QF1 Sydney-Singapore-London, for the first time.

Qantas International Chief Executive Officer Simon Hickey said Qantas was proud to be supporting the veterans’ travel to London, continuing the historical relationship between the airline and Australia’s defence forces.

“This is a wonderful moment celebrating a group of men who truly represent the best of Australia,” Mr Hickey said.

“As pilots, navigators and technicians, they were at the very cutting edge of aviation – flying in extraordinary conditions with extreme skill and bravery. It’s fitting that their achievements should be recognised with a dedicated memorial in London and we are honoured to be playing a part in their journey.

“Qantas’ story has always been intertwined with the Australian military. Our co-founders, Paul McGinness & Hudson Fysh, served with distinction during the First World War, at Gallipoli and in the air over the Middle East in the Australian Flying Corps, where both were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

“Qantas was integral to the Second World War effort, operating flying boats great distances over water in radio silence to keep mail and communication lines open. After the war, Avro Lancaster aircraft from Bomber Command were modified to become Lancastrian passenger aircraft operated by Qantas and British Airways on the Australia-UK routes.

“And of course as a modern airline we have provided transport services to the ADF for many decades, a role that continues to this day alongside the important maintenance work we do on a number of RAAF fleet types.

“Many former Bomber Command aircrew joined Qantas and Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) to further their aviation careers after the war. One of the veterans travelling today, 88 year-old Jim Bateman, worked as a navigator with Qantas. King George VI personally presented Jim with the DFC for his service as a Bomber Command navigator in the war, touring with the RAF’s No. 149 Squadron before becoming an instructor.

“Individual stories like Jim’s bring home the scale of the contribution Australians made to the Allied war effort across many fields – but in particular to Bomber Command.

“We look forward to ensuring that all the veterans flying to London today have a comfortable, enjoyable journey with Qantas.”