Jean Haughton-James, patron of the Memorial Aerodrome Committe and Evans Head Living Museum, and Governor-General Quentin Bryce during the RAAF reunion at the Evans Head aerodrome.
Jean Haughton-James, patron of the Memorial Aerodrome Committe and Evans Head Living Museum, and Governor-General Quentin Bryce during the RAAF reunion at the Evans Head aerodrome.

Governor-General's flying visit

IT WAS lucky for Evans Head that when Australia's Governor-General Quentin Bryce was a young girl she played on the same Brisbane street where Jean Haughton-James lived.

It was Mrs Haughton-James, 93, who personally invited Mrs Bryce to a commemoration ceremony at the Evans Head Aerodrome on Saturday.

When the Governor-General arrived in a cavalcade of three white cars with husband Michael Bryce, she stepped out into a hot blustery wind to a 3000-strong crowd that clapped loudly at her arrival.

Little plastic Australian flags embedded around the memorial plaque blew wildly in the wind as if they, too, were welcoming her excellency.

The 70th anniversary reunion of the Number One Bombing and Gunnery School acknowledged the 1100 men who trained at Evans Head and were eventually killed in war. It also acknowledged all those who served at Evans Head air base.

For the 20 ex-service men and women there it was a time to reconnect with their past.

For Mrs Haughton-James, Evans Aerodrome is full of fond war memories.

As one of only eight women who served at the Evans air base during WW II, she had to drive everything from ambos, tip trucks and transport trucks when all the men had been sent to war.

“It was unheard of, women driving trucks in those days,” she said.

“We had a very busy schedule and had to drive garbage and sewage trucks, and take trainees to Lismore and Casino.”

Mrs Haughton-James remains involved with the base as patron of the Evans Head Living Museum and the Memorial Aerodrome Committee.

The ex-service men and women who served at the Evans base stood proudly as Tony Wilson gave a Bundjalung 'welcome to country' and Mr Bryce described what the 'drome', as locals call it, would have been like in its heyday.

Page MP Janelle Saffin, representing the Minister for Veterans Affairs, reminded guests what the day was about.

“Today is about respect,” she said.

As the biggest RAAF training base in the Southern Hemisphere, Evans Aerodrome has a firm place in history.

Jean Haughton-James and the 1100 white crosses in the ground at the 'drome' are a vital part of that history too. Lest We Forget.



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