By Ross Eastgate

THERE was a unique bond between the men who flew Australia’s early combat aircraft.

They trained hard, fought hard, played hard and on too many occasions in the primitive airframes they flew, died hard together.

The third spatial battlefield environment still is brutally unforgiving.

The bond was all based on trust with the occasional bit of superstition.

Lancaster crews would ritually have a final, nervous pee on their aircraft’s tailwheel.

Lucky charms tucked into a flying suit pocket, from a rabbit’s foot to a pair of the local barmaid’s knickers.

Unlucky for the rabbit perhaps.

However, the crews who were best placed to survive worked on practised skills, trust and absolute faith in their ground crew to keep their aircraft serviceable.

When and if they survived, lifetime friendships followed.

Take Townsville’s former Warrant Officer Kerry Shipp DFM and Wing Commander Jack Lynch as two perfect examples.

Jack is a flying legend, piloting in his career multiple types from Sabres to F111.

When Australia was looking to establish a helicopter capability to support Australian forces in Vietnam, Pilot Officer Lynch was a natural candidate.

Helicopter crews were a new mistering and there was much experimentation to find the right mix of pilot and crew.

Because aircraft might need to provide their own technical support while away from their home base, engine fitters were selected as crewmen, including door gunners.

LAC Kerry Shipp was selected for crewman training and he and his fellow South Australian Lynch developing an easy but strong bond.

Jack relied on Kerry and the other technicians to keep the aircraft serviceable, they in turn as gunners and aircrew relied on the pilots to get them through their mission and home again safely.

It was a win all round.

Recently Kerry Shipp had two major operations within three days to remove huge melanomas from his chest.

He is stoic but not well.

With hospitals under pressure, it seems beds for COVID patients are a higher political priority than difficult surgical cases.

Kerry has fought the good fight but has been sent or elected to go home.

Jack Lynch is fighting to have his old mate receive whatever he needs to provide the care he, and, just as importantly, his wife needs.

From his Brisbane home, he has pleaded for those with influence to step in for a veteran in need.

Don’t expect him to give up the fight easily.


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  • Len Moore January 22, 2022  

    Hang in there Kerry, we are thinking of you mate and get well soon.

  • Red/ACB! January 22, 2022  

    Seeing a photo of any 9Sqn Huey, in SVN, will always bring a smile & a good memory.
    For sure, it was from those ‘supportive days’ by 9Sqn, of the Troops on the ground, that all helicopters were removed from the RAAF, and allocated to Army.
    It was then that it was discovered that not only US helos could fly at night.

  • I would prefer not to please January 24, 2022  

    Great Story. They were a great at the end of an operation . While waiting in the cover for your turn to be air lifted back to base, you would hear the sound of eight to twelve huey,s in the distance comming to pick you up. That was the best sound in the world. At the same time there were two or three
    Cobra Gun Ships flying overhead, checking the pick up point to ensure, as much as they could be, that the pick up point was secure

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