By Christobel Mattingley
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Additional info for Battle Order 204
The young airmen arrived late in the blacked-out capital and it was not until morning that they were confronted with the scars of the Blitz. Seeing the skeletons and shells of buildings, and other sites razed to the ground, shocked them. ’ they exclaimed. ’ they thought. Looking eagerly from the bus taking them to their next train, David was agog at the postcard images he recognised as they drove – Nelson on his column flanked by lions in Trafalgar Square, under Admiralty Arch following the Big Ben, Westminster, in wartime London (AWM neg.
Finally the Moth came to a stop. He switched off, clambered out and took a deep breath of the bright morning air. David had completed his first solo. Over the next four weeks he made forty-five flights, totalling sixty hours, half of them solo. He learned to recover from spins, to sideslip and to do climbing turns and steep turns. David loved the cross-country facet of training. He particularly enjoyed navigating visually over predetermined courses, identifying landmarks – railways, rivers and towns.
Leaving behind those people and places he had known and loved, perhaps never to see them again. He was about to face challenges and dangers he could hardly begin to imagine. Now promoted to Sergeant, David returned to Melbourne, sleeping on deck as the Nairana was overcrowded with servicemen. At No. 1 Embarkation Depot at Ascot Vale Showgrounds, he was glad to have time for one last visit to the family of Des Hadden, his friend since schooldays, who had made him so welcome on weekend leaves. Then the young airmen travelled overnight by train to No.
Battle Order 204 by Christobel Mattingley