Name: BURNELL, Cyril Frederick Henry
Service: Royal Australian Air Force
Service #: 63749
D.O.B: 27 Sep 1910
Place/Birth: Hobart, TAS
Date Enlisted: 7 Apr 1942 Bradfield Park, NSW
Next of Kin: BURNELL, Victoria Winifred
Date/Discharge: 11 Dec 1945
Rank: Leading Aircraftman
Posting at Discharge: 2 Personnel Depot,
Bradfield Park, NSW
WW2 Honours: None for Display
Prisoner of War: No
My father was Cyril Frederick Henry Burnell born at Hobart, Tasmania on 27th Sep 1910. During the Second World War, Dad served with the RAAF and held the rank of Leading Aircraftman. He enlisted on 7 April 1942 following the bombing of Darwin, which happened on 19th February 1942. He had tried to enlist one year earlier, but was unfortunately injured in a car accident, which left him in Ryde Hospital at the time he was due for the Medical Examination. Later he applied for Flight Crew but was not accepted. He had seen an advertisement in the 'Daily Telegraph' where the RAAF were looking for 'Fabric Workers' and because he was qualified as an Upholsterer, he applied. He passed all the tests except for an X-Ray, (something was just not right) so he was again denied entry to the RAAF. One month later he had another X-Ray, it was clear and he was finally accepted.
His initial posting was to Bradfield Park (now Lindfield) for intensive training, then to Ultimo for Technical Training, then to Ascot Vale, Vic to Engineering School and then on to Rathmines Radio School. Rathmines was also a seaplane base so Dad was to become familiar with the Catalina aircraft. It wasn't until October 1943, Dad was posted to Canberra, ACT for further training and then he was assigned to Number 13 Squadron (Darwin Defence Unit).
It was during this period, Mum, Beryl and I caught a steam train down from Sydney (my first steam train ride) to Canberra and we spent two days with him. Mum was worried about Dad's safety and didn't know whether she would see him again.
Soon after, on 26 Jan 1944 Dad arrived at Hughes Air Base, which is south of Darwin and joined Number 2 Squadron. One year later in Jan 1945 he was re-assigned to Number 4 Repair & Servicing Unit at Pell Air Base, NT. Two months later, he was posted back to Bradfield Park for further training, then on to Richmond Air Force Base, and then again sent to Ascot Vale in Victoria for more training. During the middle of this particular course, hostilities with Japan had ceased on 15 August 1945. The War was over.
On 19 Nov 1945 he was drafted back to Sydney (Bradfield Park) and finally discharged from the RAAF on 11 Dec 1945.
In researching Dad's military history I discovered that he had previously been a member of the Naval Reserve (a compulsory system) for two and one half years. At the outbreak of the Second World War, the Naval Reserve was suspended.
Although we might like to think our Dad was a war-hero, he was just one of many determined men who wanted to do their share to help protect our great Country. It takes guts to put your hand up when war breaks out; so in my eyes, they are all heroes, including our Dad.
Just as a footnote;... In June 2016 my wife Stella and I spent 10 days in the Northern Territory visiting all the places where my Dad had been posted during WWII. We took in the War Museum and the RAAF Aviation Heritage centre in Darwin, but in particular, the Pell Airfield Base, which still has a few remnants of the WWII RAAF Maintenance area. A nice feeling to walk in your father's footsteps and experience just how difficult it must have been for all the enlisted personnel at the time. We even saw a few dingoes on the outskirts of the site.
Facts: Courtesy National Archives of Australia, Canberra ACT (Series A9301)
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Pell Air Base
All that remains is a concrete slab where the LAC's pitched their hut. Someone was handy
and laid sandstone flagging surrounding a garden bed (just to make it feel more like home)
A propeller trench where aircraft engines were repaired and serviced.
Bits and pieces found throughout the site after the war had ended.
Crest No. 13 Darwin Defence Squadron RAAF - Crest No 2 Squadron RAAF
A History of 2 Squadron RAAF (WW11)
Number 2 Squadron was reformed at Laverton in Victoria on 10 January 1937. At the outbreak of the Second World War the unit searched for enemy vessels in Australian waters using Anson aircraft. After being re-equipped with Hudson aircraft, the squadron moved to Darwin in April 1941 to perform anti-submarine activities and general reconnaissance.
A detachment of four aircraft was sent to Koepang on 7 December 1941 and then to Penfoie on 11 December. The detachment provided cover to Australian troops moving within the islands and attacked Japanese shipping at Menado and Kema early the following year. A Japanese bombing raid on the Koepang base on 16 January damaged a number of planes. Further losses of aircraft, equipment, and men saw the detachment withdrawn to Darwin on 20 January 1942 and to Daly Waters on 18 February.
A total of 13 crew members were lost during 1942, the squadron’s most active period of operations. Between May and October, No 2 Squadron attacked Japanese positions and shipping at Ambon, Timor, Koepang, and other islands in the Banda Sea. In recognition of No 2 Squadron's heroic stand in this, Australia's Darkest Hour, the unit was awarded the US Presidential Unit Citation for “outstanding performance of duty in action” - The highest honour that can be bestowed on a combat unit by the United Sates Government.
In 1943 as the Allies gained control of the sky, No 2 Squadron made daily attacks on Koepang, Lautem, Penfoei, and Dili. Training on Beaufort bombers commenced late in the year. Working in concert with other units, the squadron opened the new year with attacks on enemy shipping and villages in Timor used by the Japanese and native informers. A combined attack on a Japanese convoy on 6 April saw a cruiser and several other vessels seriously damaged. Between May and June 1944 the squadron was withdrawn from operations and re-equipped with Mitchell aircraft, commencing its first operations on targets in Lautem West on Timor Island on 27 June 1944.
The end of 1944 was spent targeting enemy barges and freighters, now relied upon to supply their outer garrisons. In early 1945 these tasks were continued in conjunction with No 18 Squadron. No 2 Squadron moved to Borneo shortly after the end of the war and played an important role in locating prisoner-of-war camps and dropping supplies to camps in the Celebes. The squadron assumed transport operations until it moved to Laverton in December, when it was reduced to a cadre basis and eventually disbanded on 15 May 1946.
(Thanks to RAAF Museum)
My Personal Life
To begin with, my father, Cyril Frederick Henry Burnell married my mother, Victoria Winifred Wray in 1936 and they had a daughter named Winifred, who was unfortunately still-born in 1937. This shattered them at the time but, ...
Soon after Roy Burnell (that's me) was born on 14th October 1938, just prior to World War II.
For the first seven years of my life, I really only knew my mother and sister Beryl, who was born in 1941. During the War we were renting a semi-detached house at Chandos Street, Crows Nest NSW.
My father served firstly in No 13 Darwin Defence Squadron, then No 2 Squadron and finally to No 4RSU Maintenance Squadron with the Royal Australian Air Force from 1942-45 .
Following the war, we moved to another rented house at Willoughby. This was where I completed my schooling. I also had a brother Fred (born in 1946) and another sister Jennifer (born in 1948).
By 1955 we moved to the beach-side suburb of Dee Why. Dad and mum built a house there, so no more renting. It was here in my teenage years, where I spent most of the summer months surfing, playing tennis or attending dances each week either at the Dee Why Swimming Club or at other venues around Sydney. I also played Rugby League football during the winter months, which was a sport that I really loved. I later became a Rugby League Referee.
My working career started in the Banking Industry with the National Bank, where I worked for 7 years.
Then in my late 20's, I became involved in Scuba diving and underwater photography, which was quite adventurous to say the least.
I was married to Robyn Stearn in 1970 and we had 3 sons, Charlton, Shannon and Shayne.
I wanted to widen my horizons and switched to the Insurance Industry, firstly with NRMA, then to Phoenix Assurance. My insurance career lasted 29 years. I also worked various part-time jobs such as driving a taxi, as a waiter serving food and wine in clubs and restaurants to make additional money and to buy some nice things such as a swimming pool.
However in 1991 I had a pituitary tumour removed from my head, which forced me into early retirement. Once I recovered, in 1995 I began market research with AC Neilsen, which I found quite interesting and it gave me an opportunity to meet many people.
It was in 2003 after having divorced my wife Robyn, that I met up with Stella, who I had known back in the NRMA days. We hit it off and together we purchased a lovely unit at Redcliffe, Qld overlooking Moreton Bay. In 2008 we were married and have been extremely happy ever since.
Because I have a deep interest in historical matters, I also became a volunteer worker at the Redcliffe Museum for several years.
Life in retirement really is quite wonderful - My wife Stella and I, now have plenty of time to travel the world and visit those exotic places we've only dreamed about! It also allows us to spend quality time with our grand-children.
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