• At the age of 21 Lewis enlisted in the RAAF at Brisbane on 28th April 1941. He latter attended Initial Training School at Sandgate followed by Elementry Flying Training School at Archerfield.

  • In August of 1941 he attended Service Flying Training School at Wagga and then Bombing and Gunnery School at Port Pirie.

The Curtis Kittyhawk P40M

A Royal Australian Air Force Squadron of American Curtis Kittyhawk P40M aircraft.

The Kittyhawk, which was a development of the Tomahawk was a very strong and tough fighter, it was powered by an American Allison V12 engine, which gave it a top speed of about 360 mph. and a ceiling of around 27,000 feet. its range was approximately 1200 miles. Armament consisted of six 0.5 calibre Browning machine guns, three in each wing plus 1500lbs of bombs. It was used very effectively as a fighter-bomber.

RAAF Squadron 86

86 Squadron Merauke Dutch New Guinea 1943

Lewis was posted to 86 Squadron, which was formed in Gawler South Australia, in March of 1943. The Squadron began preparing to become "Operational" and after two months of hectic activity they relocated to Ross River Airstrip, near Townsville.

86 Squadron commenced its active service when it left Australia for, the Capital of Dutch New Guinea on the 28th June 1943. It was felt at the time by General Thomas Blamey that it was possible for Japanese forces from the Netherlands East Indies to occupy the Merauke area and so threaten Northern Australia and the left flank of General MacArthur's advance in the Eastern sector of New Guinea. As a result of this 86 Squadron became responsible for the defence of the Merauke area. 

Whilst Merauke was not a very nice place and the climate was most opressive, it had one redeeming feature, many of the Indonesian population were charming. It was like a small native village that was flat and swampy for 60 miles inland the highest point was 11 feet above sea level. The airstrip was completely overlaid with American interlocking steel mesh, which provided an effective footing for the aircraft.

86 Squadron Mascot

On the night 86 Squadron left Gawler onthe journey north, an enterprising young airman, egged on by his mates , climed to the gable roof of the eagle foundry in Gawler and removed a cast iron eagle from its perch. This was concidered to be a perfect Squadron mascot--the method of acquisition did not worry any one. A very nice pedestal was fashioned for the eagle and it stood in the Airman's messas the Squadron Mascot. After the war, with the permission of the real owner of the eagle a suitable plaque, dedicating the eagle to the memory of our first Squadron casualty, a Gawler boy who was our youngest aircrew member, was attached to the pedestal, and it was presented to the people of Gawler. The eagle is still on display today in the foyer of the GawlerCouncil Chambers.

The Inscription reads:-
Presented by the members of 86 Squadron RAAF to the citizens of Gawler in memory of the late Pilot Officer Ivor C Hatcher who lost his life in air operations in South West Pacific September 8th 1943

Kittyhawk A29-370

"Merauke 1943 F/O Brickhill's plane burning after prang. Pranged taking off, burst tyre-Brickhill unhurt" Taken by Colin J Hutching's

On the 20th of November 1943 F/O Brickhill prepaired to take off from Merauke airport for convoy patrol in a Kittyhawk S/No A29-370. During the take off the aircraft suffered a burst tyre causing the plane to veer off the runway into dence jungle and burst into flames. The log book entry shows the aproach these young men (he was 23 years old at the time) had at that time:

 

"HaHa Aircraft blew tyre on take off and after mowing down best part of New Guinea jungle burst into flames......BUT THEY CAN'T KILL ME!"

  • Pacific Star

  • Returned from Active Service Badge

  • 1939-45 Star