Anzac Day Tribute to Flying Officer P W Rowling

In World War II, 40 Carey families suffered the loss of their beloved sons. These Carey alumni had brothers and sisters who also served in the Armed Forces, and families that anxiously waited for news at home. The dreaded communication that arrived by telegram and official letter was never forgotten and, in many cases, has been preserved in sad memorial.

We salute and honour all Carey families who lost their sons, but this Anzac Day and at our Anzac Day assemblies on the first day back of Term 2, we commemorate and honour the memory of Percy (Paddy) William Rowling.

Early life
Paddy William, eldest son of Richard James Rowling and Mary Frances Rowling of Williams Road Horsham, was born on 14 August 1912 at Dimboola in country Victoria.

Paddy began his early school days in Sale before the family relocated to Warracknabeal. In 1925, he attended Ballarat Agricultural College and later completed his education at Carey where he boarded from June 1927 to December 1928.

Paddy took a keen interest in the general life of the School, representing Carey in athletics and as a member of the football team that won the Championship of the Schools’ Association of Victoria in 1927. In that same year, he was also the 440 yards champion and held the Open Mile Championship.

Paddy passed his Intermediate in five subjects, completing the requirements for his Certificate in February 1929.

Carey's resident staff and boarders in 1928. Paddy is second row from the back, third from the left.

Post-Carey
As the Depression loomed, Paddy began his working days. It wasn’t easy to obtain work; however, his first job experience eventuated, working with Beaurepaires in Ballarat. Then, as the situation became harder, he went to work with an old Carey schoolfriend Clarrie Beard on his farm in Quambatook where he would spend two years. Paddy was one of Quambatook ‘Football Club’s keenest members playing with distinction in the centre, on the wing, and roving where his determination made up for his lack of inches.’[1] When not playing football, Paddy was also a prominent member of the local Quambatook jazz band.

In 1936, Paddy’s football career came to an end when he sustained a serious injury to his cheekbone and decided it would be foolhardy to continue.

Paddy then joined his father as a livestock salesman with Dalgety & Co. based in Charlton, Victoria. He was well known throughout the district, especially amongst the sheep breeders.

Meanwhile, dark clouds were gathering over Europe. War seemed inevitable and most of the young men around Charlton decided to join the militia.

Enlistment
Paddy enlisted on 6 January 1941[2] and after initial training in Australia and at bases in the UK, Paddy was posted to No. 50 Squadron of the RAF as a Flying Officer on 29 May 1942, based at Skelingthorpe, Lincolnshire.

He served for exactly five and a half months, taking part in most of the major operations of the period as well as raids over Cologne, Dusseldorf and Hamburg. On 17 October 1942, Paddy was one was of 50 Australians who took part in the RAF bombing raid (known as Operation ROBINSON) against the Schneider Works, an arms factory in Le Creusot in France.

Short as his career was, it was longer than many of his friends.

Paddy with the No. 50 Squadron of the Royal Air Force in 1942.

Paddy’s final days
Paddy was a prolific letter writer and left a detailed diary of his time in the RAAF. These letters and diary entries were later published in a book[3] compiled by his youngest sister, Noella Lang:

Last letter home (15 December 1942)

Dear Mother and all at home,

I am afraid I have a guilty conscious beside me at the moment together with the last letter I attempted. I have been away on leave again, and find that I still have it, so I’ll see if I can make this one equal in length to three ordinary letters as it’s just on three weeks since my last was posted.

I really did expect to be finished by this time, but such is not the case as I still have a couple of trips to do.

I haven’t flown now since the end of November, which is one helluva long time when you’re used to being on the job every time. I missed two or three good trips while on leave, which would easily have finished me off but will be quite satisfied if I can stay on here until Xmas. We have big plans in hand for a party and Xmas dinner here that I don’t want to miss. This I’ll miss if they give me a couple of trips in the next couple of days as I will probably go as an instructor to some training unit immediately, which won’t suit me so well. Still, if I can, I’ll work it to my own way, or perhaps work an extra trip or two in…

Well my dears, I’m afraid I’m at the end of my letter time. Glad to hear you are all well, and Dad don’t be frightened to use that money of mine if the spell is going to out you right. There must be quite a few quid there by now. I’ve also had Xmas telegrams from you and Eva and Ada. Well cheerio for this time with all the love in the world and hope to be home for next Xmas.

Lovingly yours,

Paddy

Xxxx

Three nights later, on his second-last scheduled operation, FLYING BATTLE, Paddy was killed along with his entire crew. As was not uncommon, the plane and its seven crew were never traced. The letter to his mother and all at home arrived three weeks after the family had been informed that Flying Officer P W Rowling was posted as Missing in Action (MIA) on the 16December 1942. The official date of death recorded was 18 December 1942. He was 30 years old.

Lest we forget.

Helen Wolff
Archivist, Community Engagement

[1] ‘Prominent Personalities in Country Sporting Clubs’ Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic.: 1869 - 1954) 7 November 1936: 71 (SECOND EDITION). Web. 2 Feb 2022 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22387407

[3] Rowling, P.W & Lang, Noella (1997). The rest of my life with 50 Squadron: from the diaries and letters of F/O.P.W. Rowling. Access Press, Northbridge, WA