James William "Jim" Stone (1912 - 2005)
This biography of Jim Stone was written by his son Matt.
Left: Jim Stone whilst Regional Director Vic/Tas. Click on the image for a larger view.
(Photo: CAHS collection)
James was born on 12th October 1912 at Stockwell, a small community at the northern end of the Barossa Valley in SA, where his father was a school teacher. James was the eldest of 6 children, 4 girls & 2 boys (James, Veda, Claire Lois, Evan & Iris). Both his parents, William Thomas Stone and Mary Charlotte Stone (nee Agars), were descendants of very early settlers in the new colony of South Australia. The Stones farmed in Gawler Willowie in the mid north and Hookina in the far north of SA where William Thomas Stone was born. The Agars family settled originally in the Clare area before moving to Elliston on the far west coast of SA, where Mary Charlotte was born.
William Stone did not like farming, so in 1903 he travelled to Red Hill to attend night school with the object of taking up a teaching career. He joined the SA Education Department as a primary school teacher in 1905 and continued with his teaching career until he retired as a Head Teacher in 1951.
William & family moved from school to school over the years, firstly to Balhannah where Veda was born and then to Tungkillo. The move to Hallet saw James commence Grade 1 in 1917. Sisters Claire & Lots were also born in Hallet. James' primary education continued as he followed the family to Lobethal (where Evan & Iris were born) and then finally to Kangarilla where he obtained his qualifying certificate when he completed Grade 7. When the family moved to Tumby Bay in 1925 his formal education ceased as no high school facilities were available. He became a Junior Teacher under the supervision of his father until 1927, when the position of Junior Teacher was abolished.
The Depression Years
For the next 5 years James worked on wheat stacks, delivered meat for the local butcher and was a shop assistant at the local hardware store and timber yard, all in the Tumby Bay area. Because of the deteriorating situation caused by the Depression, James was forced to accept a pay cut from 15 shillings per week ($1.50) to 7/6 per week (75 cents) to hold his job.
Notwithstanding the severe economic situation, community leaders ensured that social and sporting activities were maintained in Tumby Bay. At 17 years of age James played senior cricket and football for the town and was actively involved in the regular old time dances (treasurer), the local library (assistant librarian), and the athletics carnival (treasurer).
In 1932 the Education Dept. invited applications from persons interested in undergoing training to become teachers in one-teacher schools. James applied and, after successfully sitting the appropriate exams, was accepted for a one-year training course at the Teacher Training College in Adelaide in 1933. On completion of his training he worked in the following one-teacher schools on the Eyre Peninsula:
James found teaching very rewarding and his acceptance into the community social and sporting activities most pleasing. It was thus with great regret that James left teaching in 1940 to enlist in the RAAF, effectively ending his career as a teacher.
On the 10th December 1940 James joined a group of fellow South Australians for the train journey to Perth, WA, the centre for their aircrew training. This was initially at Pearce for their theory of flight, navigation, etc, and then to Cunderachie, some 80 miles east of Perth, for elementary flying training in Tiger Moths. The next step was Geraldton, on the coast, 250 miles north of Perth for service flying training in Avro Anson aircraft. On completion of his training, James was appointed to the rank of Pilot Officer and was selected to do a special navigation training course at RAAF Laverton in Victoria.
On the 31 October 1941 James departed Australia for a 10 day voyage by sea to join No. 8 Squadron at Sembawang in the centre of the island of Singapore. He was to carry out co-pilot duties on the Lockheed Hudson, a twin engine bomber/reconnaissance aircraft.
Reconnaissance flights from Sembawang reported Japanese naval movements along the Thailand coast. In anticipation of Japanese attack, the No. 1 Hudson Squadron was moved from Sembawang to Kota Bahru, a short distance from the Thai boarder. No. 8 Hudson Squadron moved to Kuantan, 150 miles south on the Malay peninsula east coast. Before dawn on the 8th December the Japanese attacked Kota Bahru with naval gunfire and landing troops nearby.
The Nos. 1 & 8 Squadrons found themselves in active combat, attacking ground forces and Japanese shipping. Both Kuta Bahru & Kuantan aerodromes were bombed by Japanese aircraft based in Thailand causing a significant loss of aircraft. On the 9th December both squadrons retreated to Sembawang with the remaining serviceable aircraft. On the 19th January Sembawang was bombed. On 20th January ground staff and superfluous aircrew were moved to Palembang in eastern Sumatra. On 14th February carrier borne aircraft bombed Palem bang.
No. 8 Squadron personnel returned to Australia by sea. James transferred to No. 1 Squadron which retreated with the remaining aircraft of both squadrons to Semplak, an aerodrome near Djakarta. Early in March carrier-borne aircraft (Zeros) attacked Semplak and destroyed most of the remaining Hudson aircraft. After the attack, ground staff were able to make a few aircraft serviceable by cannibalising other aircraft for spare parts. On the 6th March James was assigned to co-pilot a flight from Bandung in Java to mainland Australia. Departing at midnight, the aircraft made a 10 hour flight to land safely in northern Western Australia in a paddock at Mardie Station. Fuel & spare parts were flown in from Pearce and Hudson aircraft A16-26 was then flown to Laverton, Victoria, for an overhaul.
James was then posted to No. 6 Hudson Squadron at Richmond, NSW, where he took part in seaward reconnaissance. He then was posted to the Bairnsdale Operational Training Unit for a full conversion as a first pilot (Captain) on Lockheed Hudson Aircraft. On successful completion of the conversion he was posted to No. 6 Squadron in Port Moresby where he took part in reconnaissance, supply dropping and bombing of Japanese ground troops. He was Mentioned in Despatches for his services in New Guinea.
In 1943, having completed his tour of duty in New Guinea, James was posted to squadrons which carried out transport duties: firstly to No. 24 Squadron flying Douglas Dakota aircraft and then to No. 37 Squadron, based at Essendon in Victoria, flying Lockheed Lodestars, the passenger version of the Lockheed Hudson.
James remained in 37 Squadron until his demobilisation in March 1946, having given 5 years and 3 months of service to the RAAF. He retired with the rank of Squadron Leader and as Commanding Officer of 37 Squadron. Some highlights of his 1400 hours flown with 37 Squadron were being assigned to pilot Sir Thomas Blamey on his Christmas visit to the troops in New Guinea in 1943, and to pilot the Prime Minister (Mr. John Curtin) on a flight from Melbourne to Perth in 1944.
With the surrender of Japan in 1945, James considered that the job for which he had enlisted was complete and that the time had come to consider his future: a post war career and marriage. An introduction by Tom Bennett, a fellow pilot in 37 Squadron, to his sister Nancy, an RAAF nursing sister from WA who was based in the Heidelberg Military Hospital (Victoria), was a prelude to many social and sporting outings when their off-duty times coincided. Mutual attraction led to a proposal of marriage, which Nancy accepted subject to the approval of her father. A quick trip to Perth by James convinced her father, Mr Tom Bennett, the Postmaster at Claremont, that he was the right man for his "darling daughter". They were married on 2nd March 1946.
Civilian Life - A Career in Civil Aviation
Approaching demobilisation, James decided against a long term career in the RAAF because of doubtful prospects. He also decided not to return to teaching because of his poor formal academic qualifications and a loss of almost 6 years' seniority as a result of his service in the RAAF. On the other hand, he saw that his experience in the RAAF had provided him with exceptional pilot, administrative and operational aviation experience, suitable for a career in what was the up and coming field of civil aviation.
At the time the Commonwealth Department of Civil Aviation was recruiting staff with current aviation experience. James was successful in his application for the position of Examiner of Airmen and Airways Surveyor in the DCA and was appointed with effect from 31st October 1946. On his retirement on 10th December 1977 he had been with DCA for almost 31 years in a variety of positions.
In the immediate post war years, the accent in the Department was on the planning of facilities, services and standards necessary for both domestic and international civil aviation. Towards this end, James was involved in the prescription of standards for aircrew licensing and air traffic control, designation of air routes and design of instrument approach procedures for airports. He was a member of a joint United Kingdom/Australia group to survey existing aviation facilities in the Far East.
In 1952 he was appointed Australian Representative on the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a United Nations agency based in Montreal, Canada, with the responsibility for prescribing standards for international civil aviation. James held this position for four years. Again in 1965 he returned to Montreal as Australian Representative, this time for a three year term.
Back home he became Regional Director Victoria/Tasmania Region, a position he retained until his retirement from the Public Service in October 1977. In the early '70s James oversaw the provision of services (i.e. air traffic control, communication & fire units) required for the new Mlebourne/Tullamarine Airport. On leave from the Public Service in 1974, he became a member of an ICAO Technical Assistance Group established to advise African countries on aviation organisational matters and training requirements. On this project he visited Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Botswana, Lesotho, Sudan, Mozambique and Pakistan on one or more occasions.
Between 1947 and 1956 Nancy and James had 4 boys: Kimberly James; Ian Thomas (1950); Matthew Roberts (1952); and Anthony William. All were born in Melbourne, with the exception of Anthony who was born in Montreal, Canada.
With a view to final retirement, James and Nancy looked for a location which provided water and warmth for their anticipated gardening activities, an attractive country atmosphere and which was centrally located to the probable lives of the family, To this end, they purchased 7 acres of land 10 miles west of Echuca, close to the Murray River - importantly with a liberal water allocation from the river. The comfortable home, plus swimming pool, gave them 25 happy and rewarding years and provided a happy hunting ground for grand-children.
All good things finally come to an end, and so it was with 98 Pianta Road. When gardening and generally managing the property became difficult, it was obvious that the time had come to look for a retirement unit in Echuca. With Anthony's help, Nancy acquired the perfect unit for comfortable living at 277 Pakenham Street in May 1996. The move there was made in May 2002, since when the unit lived up to their highest expectations.
James William 'Jim' Stone passed away in Echuca on 12 April 2005.