Veteran Catalina crew member visits Catalina Lakefront Retreat, Rathmines
Guests at the Catalina Lakefront Retreat at Rathmines were thrilled to hear the Reflections of a 96 year old veteran relating stories of the days when many brave men and women put their lives on the line to ensure freedom for our country. Flight officer Dick Udy of Galston in Sydney recounted night-time raids that were part of mine laying programs to lock Japanese fleets in harbours such as Kavieng and other ports in the Indonesian archipelago.
He told how the established procedure of dropping mines from several thousand feet resulted in uncertainty as to whether they had landed in the target area. This procedure was dramatically changed when a visiting naval officer from the UK by the name of Pelgrave Carr instructed mine laying missions to fly at a height of 300 feet above sea level. Out of sight of the enemy, and much easier to hit the target.
One instance where the enemy broadcasting propaganda really removed all uncertainty as to whether the mine laying mission had hit the bulls-eye was when Tokyo Rose bragged that all the enemy “bombs” had landed in the water. Just what the Aussie crews needed to hear.
Dick also recounted one of the most challenging missions that he was involved in when rescuing the crew of a downed Beaufighter from the waters of the Cartier reef off the Northwest coast at Easter 1944. Landing a Catalina in large swells on the open ocean was challenge that risked the lives of all on the mission. When asked about the success of the rescue, Dick broke into a wry smile and said “well I’m, still here, and the guys were sure glad to see us arrive” Dick is now well into retirement, following years of service as a minister of the Uniting Church in Sydney.
The gathering at the Catalina Retreat was the 55th anniversary reunion of the 1964 graduation class of Sydney Adventist Hospital. Many of the graduates present were people who had also contributed to their country by years of service in various assignments overseas.